RIYADH: Organization of Islamic Cooperation Secretary-General Hussein Ibrahim Taha on Tuesday met Ludovic Pouille, the French ambassador to Saudi Arabia. They discussed how to enhance relations between the OIC and France to achieve their shared interests.
The two sides also discussed several matters of common concern, as well as updates on regional and international issues.
Saudis patiently watching as Riyadh-Tehran deal unfolds
Almost two weeks after deal signing, Saudis are reminded of past incidents but optimistic of peace deal to start new page
After seven year rift, Saudis apprehensive of Chinese-brokered deal between Riyadh and Tehran but understand the need for a more stable and secure region
Updated 21 March 2023
JEDDAH: Apprehension, wariness, skepticism, cautious optimism: These were just some of the reactions among the Saudi public indicative of the mixed mood that followed the unprecedented announcement of a Chinese-brokered deal between the Kingdom and Iran. In short, people are watching with interest and waiting to see how it all plays out.
Seven years ago, the world watched in horror as the Kingdom’s embassy and consulate in Iran were attacked and set on fire by Iranian protesters. This led to the severing of diplomatic ties, which were only restored less than two weeks ago. The scenes in 2016 brought back memories for many people of the torching of the Saudi and Kuwaiti embassies in Tehran in 1987.
Mixed feelings and reactions or not, the agreement to restore diplomatic ties between Riyadh and Tehran has certainly been a major talking point since it was announced on March 10. There are still more questions than answers about exactly what it means, but the three parties involved in the negotiations have asserted that the rapprochement is part of a process after a zero-sum game that continued for nearly a decade.
The Saudi Press Agency reported that Riyadh and Beijing have agreed to respect state sovereignty and not interfere in each other’s internal affairs. This a problematic notion, however, given the history of Iranian aggression toward the Kingdom, including the 1987 Makkah demonstrations, the 1996 Khobar tower attacks, the 2011 plot to assassinate the then Saudi ambassador to Washington, Adel Al-Jubair, and the 2019 missile attacks on the Kingdom’s oil facilities in Abqaiq and Khurais, to name a few incidents.
Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan said that the Kingdom’s agreement with Iran to restore diplomatic ties does not mean that the countries have resolved all of their disagreements but that it underscores a mutual desire to “resolve disputes through communication and dialogue.”
The rapprochement follows years of tensions across the region so it is no surprise that Saudis took to social media to share their opinions on the agreement.
Many expressed support for their government’s decision, saying that that they hope and believe it could be a significant step forward, as the deal includes the reactivation of a security agreement, signed in 2001, for cooperation on efforts to combat terrorism, drug smuggling, money laundering and other criminal activity.
“The Saudi-Iranian agreement will bring forth greater security benefits to the Gulf region, the Middle East and the broader global community, as the Kingdom’s position is always to seek security and stability in the region,” retired Maj. Gen. Saleh Mohammed Al-Malik, a professor of military and security media at Naif Arab University for Security Sciences, told Arab News.
“I hope that this agreement will limit Iranian interference in the countries of the region and that security and stability will prevail in the Middle East so that governments can devote themselves to reforms and development in a way that serves the entire region; namely (in) Yemen.
“There is no doubt that this (agreement) will contribute to directing national economic blueprints to achieve visions such as (Saudi) Vision 2030 goals, aimed at comprehensive and continuous development for their respective nations.”
The full details of the agreement between Riyadh and Tehran are yet to be clarified but some Saudis suggest they are immaterial because they believe a focus on internal affairs and building the Kingdom’s capacity across the board should be a higher priority than relations with their neighbors across the Gulf.
Others believe the deal could contribute in a positive way to the development of Saudi Arabia and, perhaps, Iran as well.
“We don’t know what is going on in Iran except from what we see on our screens,” one Saudi citizen told Arab News.
“Whatever it is, it shows a country divided, a people who are suffering and resisting. They want a prosperous Iran and there’s no need to liken (hopefully) its progression to that of Saudi Arabia; they can create their own path, one that suits them personally.
“Every country is growing except theirs; it’s time to join the club.”
Saudi Arabia and its citizens have dealt with a number of regional challenges in recent years in ways the wider world is not used to. Saudi officials and citizens have long pointed out that the Kingdom and Iran share many long-standing religious, historical, geographical and cultural connections, and that such common ground can only strengthen efforts to resolve disagreements between “rivals” through negotiation.
“I am sure that if all the provisions of the agreement are implemented, it will restore security, peace and meaningful and constructive cooperation in the region in the service of the entire Middle East and neighboring countries,” said Al-Malik.
The broad initial support for the deal among the Saudi people is nothing new, he added, as they trust their authorities to negotiate such deals for the greater good.
“Saudis are keen on peace and stability,” he said. “They see their goals achieved through Vision 2030, and their trust in the government to support security and stability in the region stems from that.”
Pre-Ramadan pop-up show celebrates local and regional brands in Riyadh
The four-day exhibition consists of curated pop-up shops that feature brands from local and regional designers
Updated 21 March 2023
RIYADH: Art, music, fashion, and coffee are among the perks of attending the pre-Ramadan pop-up show in Riyadh’s Lakum Artspace this week.
The four-day exhibition consists of curated pop-up shops that feature brands from local and regional designers.
The shops boast workshops for visitors interested in flower arranging, along with live art and fashion sketching.
And, for refreshments, there are drinks from the studio’s own coffee shop, Malmoum Cafe.
Art curator Dana Qabbani says that the pop-up show has been created to celebrate local brands and give them a platform to share their work.
She said: “I wanted to celebrate the success of the brands that grew with us 10 years ago.
“These Saudi brands are led by amazing ladies and men, who have proved themselves in the market both locally and internationally.”
One of the featured brands is Tamashee, a well-known high-end Arabian Gulf footwear brand based in Dubai that has expanded to the Kingdom.
Muneera Al-Tamimi, co-founder of Tamashee, said that the brand had collaborated with Qabbani in the past.
She said: “Tamashee has been around for 10 years now. We have worked with the team behind the ‘pre-show’ and Lakum Artspace many times and admire their creativity and choice of unique brands that they bring together under their platform.
“Tamashee thrives to create a soulful narrative from within the region that contributes to advancing the Arabian Peninsula’s identity through our products.
“We cater to our customers who enjoy the cultural experience firsthand through our products when visiting one of our shops or pop-ups.”
Saad Ahmed, who is an assistant at the gallery, said that he enjoyed Tamashee’s products.
He said: “My favorite part of the pop-up show is Tamashee because there are options for men.
“But there are a lot of brands that have exciting gifts and I would recommend them to my mother or sister.”
Formally known as Alaan Artspace, Qabbani says that Lakum Artspace is looking back with its latest venture.
She said: “In the past Alaan was one of the only places that dedicated their space to pop-up shops, music shows, art and seminars.
“When it started it was absolutely groundbreaking, so this is the first pop-up show that resembles the old days.
“There was a demand to create pop-up shops like we used to in the past. The past couple of years, most of the shows have just been art, but with the recent demand for pop-up shows, we decided to take a different approach this year.”
Qabbani added that the studio wanted the community to shop for clothing and accessories before the beginning of the holy month.
She said: “We wanted the experience to be curated, for people to enjoy their time, look at designs and indulge in good food and art.”
When Persian music, culture and spirit were celebrated at Saudi Arabia’s AlUla
Maraya Concert Hall hosted two-night event titled “Persian Night – Music Without Borders” in March 2020
Music transcended borders as Saudis swayed to the beat of Persian songs in traditional Arab attire
Updated 21 March 2023
RIYADH: To mark Nowruz, we relive the moment Iran’s most beloved musicians brought to AlUla a rich burst of Persian culture and spirit.
The two-night event, “Persian Night – Music Without Borders,” occurred in March 2020 at the Maraya Concert Hall in AlUla, Saudi Arabia’s ancient archaeological jewel.
The seven legendary Iranian singers who performed included the king of Persian pop Shahram Shabpareh, classical pop singer Leila Forouhar, Ebrahim Hamedi (known by the stage name Ebi), Sasy, Shadmehr Aghili, Andy and Arash Labaf — all who flew from their homes in the US and Europe to be part of the historic moment.
Shadmehr Aghili opened the night with “Royaye Ma,” one of his famed songs featuring Ebi, where the pair sing of their dream for a better world.
A few songs later, Leila Forouhar, looking dazzling in a beautifully embellished maroon gown, entertained the crowd with elegant Persian moves while performing classics such as the popular bandari song “Jooni Joonom.”
Shahram Shabpareh included his famous hit “Pariya” in his performance and even showed off some Arabic skills on stage by calling to his fans “ahlan wa sahlan” (an Arabic expression of welcome).
The Iranian stars sang many upbeat romantic tunes, radiating love, joy, and gratitude to an international crowd.
Saudis in the audience were seen in traditional Arab gowns dancing to the beat of Persian songs, embodying the event’s slogan that music truly goes beyond borders.
Whilst on stage, the prince of Persian pop, Andy, told the audience that they would be welcomed in his home in Los Angeles with the same hospitality he received in the Kingdom.
In his own words, the event was “like the Olympics,” and he was not wrong in many ways.
The event was one of honor, and had the same power to set aside politics to celebrate global talents.
Ebi told event-goers how “happy and proud” he felt that there were two women in his band before proceeding to sing his 1989 hit “Khanom Gol,” a song he dedicated on the night to women in Iran, whom he wishes one day can likewise perform on a stage.
The two magical nights provided a beacon of hope to the artists and a window to the endless possibilities the future holds for the region.
Backstage, Leila spoke to the Independent about how witnessing the Kingdom’s social reforms — specifically in the realm of Saudi women’s empowerment — has been a source of fascination and happiness for her.
It was not only Leila who felt compelled by the social changes; Ebi also expressed similar feelings to Arab News.
“Many beautiful things are happening in Saudi Arabia. A lot of great shifts are occurring,” he said, using the event as one example of this transformation.
The iconic Persian night was a part of the annual Winter at Tantora, Saudi Arabia’s first music and cultural festival.
Since launching in 2018, it has become synonymous with cultural exchange, from hosting world-renowned Greek composer Yanni, Italian tenor Andrea Bocelli, and the Kingdom’s legendary singer Mohammed Abdu.
The host city of AlUla — which this year joined Conde Nast Traveler’s “Seven Wonders of the World” and is home to a UNESCO World Heritage Site — plays a symbolic role.
The city sits on the ancient incense trade route that connected Africa, Asia and Europe. For this reason, AlUla is known to the world as an embodiment of cultural interaction.
It is, therefore, no surprise that this would be the place where two of the world’s richest cultures — Arab and Persian — crossed paths.
For Arash, AlUla had awed him as a “crazy, beautiful” place, making him feel like he was on set on “an old Western movie” when galloping on the horses nearby.
He told Arab News that he made it to the event to represent Persian culture to the world and ultimately “to spread love, Persian love.”
And that was precisely what happened on March 5 and 6, 2020. Persian love made its mark in the history books of modern Saudi Arabia, bringing together different cultures that share a profound passion for music, dance and romance.
Saudi art exhibition goes back to future inspiring modern culture
Al-Khudhairi told Arab News: “Tradition is such a loaded word, and it has so much meaning to so many people in a lot of really strong ways
Updated 20 March 2023
RIYADH: Misk Art Institute’s spring display, titled “Brand New Ancients,” presents 17 artists’ existing works derived from oral and material traditions, showing how history can revive itself in innovative ways.
Curated by Wassan Al-Khudhairi and Cecilia Ruggeri, the exhibition was born out of Kae Tempest’s poem of the same title, both telling a story of the past’s impact on future potential.
Al-Khudhairi told Arab News: “Tradition is such a loaded word, and it has so much meaning to so many people in a lot of really strong ways.
“In our contemporary culture today, not just artists, but a lot of people, look at stories, ideas, techniques, traditions that come from the past as ways to tackle our current culture, and even to envision the future.”
Paralleling the theme, the exhibition has been staged using only existing works.
“You can take the work that’s been made two, five, eight years ago, and put it in another context and breathe a different life into it and allow it to have another life through its relationship to the theme and the other works around it,” Al-Khudhairi said.
Kuwait-born visual artist Hamra Abbas has used lapis lazuli stones from Afghanistan to create a mosaic of K2, the second-highest mountain in the world, and titled it “Mountain 1.”
The structure is described as a relic of Pakistani history, embodying perfection, paradise, and truth. The artist used the classical 17th-century Florian marquetry technique of pietra dura, which later became prominent in her local region and used in the Indo-Islamic Mughal architecture style.
Blocks of stone were painstakingly cut into fragments and then individually polished, shaped, and pieced together to form the 320-kilogram artwork as a symbol for cultural exchange and diversity, gluing together notions and materials from around the world.
Abbas told Arab News: “It was a completely experimental piece. I did not know I could create an image using only lapis. You can’t tell what you’re making for months while you’re making it. It’s only after you polish it that you see the result.”
Pakistani artist Wardha Shabbir’s miniature painting, “In Search of Light,” uses the atmosphere of the city of Lahore, nuanced by bright yellow and orange colors, to portray symbols of loss, despair, hope, and survival inspired by her experience as a woman from Pakistan.
It is an emblem of personal traditions as well as ones handed down through generations, commemorated by the drawings of flora native to the region and mapped across archival paper.
Shabbir said: “I’ve been looking at the city and how it evolved and grew, and all those plants became my foremost influence. My mother was a gardener and when we were younger, we took care of plants more than our toys, so I developed a relationship with them.”
Her drawings depict the experiences, people, economic and political turmoil, and struggles for survival within Lahore.
“This is how I’m taking the (miniature painting) tradition forward. This is how I stand in the world,” she added.
Using the principle that a poem is not a poem unless it has seven lines, Saudi artist Maha Malluh’s presentation, “Riyadh Poem,” is the final piece in her “Food for Thought” series.
The artwork is a seven-piece hanging installation made of 156 aluminium pot covers, reflecting traditional motifs within Islamic culture, such as the seven rounds in Hajj around the Kaaba, the seven heavens, and the seven days of the week.
Saudi contemporary artist Ahmed Mater’s “Ashab Al-Lal: Fault Mirage, A Thousand Lost Years” exhibit layers glass slide images of the past and present, allowing them to instantly interact.
Riyadh-born visual and performance artist Sarah Brahim’s video installation “Bodyland” depicts the inheritance and generational passing-down of grief through genetics.
The institute’s show not only exhibits the recycled crafts of ancient traditions, but also incorporates contemporary understandings of heritage, contextualized in modernity. By digging into the past, “Brand New Ancients” aims to carve a path for the future.
The artists’ works will remain on display at the Prince Faisal bin Fahd Fine Arts Hall in Riyadh until July 15.
Also among the featured artists are Filipino Pacita Abad, Palestinian Dana Awartani, Mexican Abraham Cruzvillegas, American Derek Fordjour, Kuwaiti Tarek Al-Ghoussein, Joana Hadjithomas and Khalil Joreige from Lebanon, Canada-based Lotus Laurie Kang, Qatari American Sophia Al-Maria, Nasser Al-Salem from Saudi Arabia, and Italian duo Ornaghi and Prestinari.
Saudi wildlife center releases 40 endangered animals into King Abdulaziz Royal Reserve
The latest release is part of the ongoing efforts to improve biodiversity and reintroduce endangered species into the Kingdom’s ecosystems
To date, 219 animals on the red list of endangered species have been released into the wild, including Arabian oryx, reem antelopes, houbara bustards, and sandgrouse
Updated 20 March 2023
RIYADH: The King Abdulaziz Royal Reserve Development Authority and the National Center for Wildlife on Monday released 30 reem antelopes and 10 Arabian oryx into King Abdulaziz Royal Reserve.
It was part of the ongoing joint efforts by the organizations to improve biodiversity in the reserve, promote environmental sustainability, and reintroduce endangered species into the Kingdom’s ecosystems, the Saudi Press Agency reported.
Mohammed Ali Qurban, the CEO of the NCW, said the latest release is part of the national plans for wildlife development in line with the aims of Saudi Vision 2030 and its goals to improve the quality of life in the Kingdom.
“The Kingdom has centers at the forefront of global centers that specialize in breeding endangered species and settling them in their natural environments, according to the most accurate international standards,” Qurban said.
“They conduct research on the animals’ living conditions and monitor biodiversity in protected areas by tracking animal groups, collecting data and understanding the risks they face.”
Nasser Al-Nasser, the CEO of the reserve’s development authority, said that to date 219 animals on the red list of endangered species have been successfully released into the wild, including houbara bustards and sandgrouse, in addition to Arabian oryx and reem antelopes.
King Abdulaziz Royal Reserve is one of seven nature reserves in the Kingdom established by royal decree. It is a member of the International Union for Conservation of Nature.