CAIRO: A team of Egyptian and German experts uncovered a complete zodiac symbol on the ceiling of the Hypostyle Hall on the southern side of Luxor’s Temple of Esna.
The discovery was made during a project to record, document and restore the temple’s original colors, carried out by a joint team of experts from the Egyptian Center of Documentation of Antiquities and the University of Tuebingen, Germany.
Mostafa Waziri, secretary-general of Egypt’s Supreme Council of Antiquities, said that the symbol was undetected during previous projects in the temple.
He added that the finding would contribute to increasing the flow of Egyptian visitors and foreign tourists to the site.
Hisham El-Leithy, head of the Egyptian expert team, said that the zodiac depicts the twelve signs from Aries to Pisces, in addition to images of the outer planets including Jupiter, Saturn and Mars. It also depicts the so-called seven arrows, in addition to some stars or constellations that were used by the ancient Egyptians for time measurement.
Christian Leitz, head of the mission from the German side, said that a number of signs depicting Egyptian deities and animals, including snakes and crocodiles, were also uncovered. Images of a serpent with a ram head and a bird with a crocodile head, as well as a serpent tail, were also found.
The Temple of Esna is one of the most prominent tourist and archaeological attractions in Esna, south of Luxor Governorate, in southern Egypt. The site is located on the west bank of the Nile River.
Construction on the Temple of Esna began in 186 B.C. It took about 400 years to build and complete its inscriptions, which were finalized in 250 A.D. The temple consists of one hypostyle hall that includes 24 columns with depictions of Ptolemaic kings and emperors.
Last year, Egyptian-German experts uncovered images of 46 eagles arranged in two rows on top of the entrance gate of the Temple of Esna.
From Red Motorcade to grand reception: How royal wedding paid homage to Jordanian, Saudi culture
Updated 02 June 2023
DUBAI: The Middle East’s newest power couple, Jordan’s Crown Prince Hussein bin Abdullah II and Saudi Arabia’s Rajwa Al-Saif, tied the knot on June 1 in a ceremony and following reception that was filled with nods to both Jordanian and Saudi history, heritage, and customs.
Getting married days before the 30th wedding anniversary of the groom’s parents, King Abdullah II and Queen Rania, one of the biggest royal events in Jordan since 1993 began with an elegant wedding ceremony in the manicured gardens of Zahran Palace.
The Saudi bride arrived at the palace in a 1968 Rolls-Royce Phantom V, custom-made for the late Queen Zein Al-Sharaf, the crown prince’s great grandmother.
After the religious ceremony, the couple took part in a royal motorcade procession through the streets of Amman, waving to cheering crowds as they headed to Al-Husseiniya Palace for the grand reception.
The Red Motorcade, as it is officially known, has its roots in the era of King Abdullah I, the founder of Jordan, who would arrive at significant national events atop one of a procession of white horses, accompanied by riders dressed in dark blue trousers and red blazers.
The motorcade consisted of eight bright red armed Land Rover vehicles and 11 motorcycles, but on special occasions, horse and camel riders join the line-up and the Jordanian Armed Forces Band plays military music on bagpipes.
The Land Rovers and motorcycles cordoned the main motorcade vehicle, a 1984 Range Rover, which carried the newlyweds.
The Range Rover was especially customized for the visit of the late Queen Elizabeth II to Jordan by UK company Wood and Pickett.
During the British queen’s state visit, which took place in March 1984, the vehicle was used by the late King Hussein to drive the monarch and her husband the late Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, to Petra and other locations in the south of Jordan.
The custom Range Rover, which has been dubbed the Sheer Rover, has been elongated and features a cut-off roof. New white leather upholstery has also been installed, including four individual Recaro electric seats.
Apart from the religious ceremony, the wedding reception also incorporated Jordanian and Saudi design elements.
The crown prince and his bride were greeted by the customary zaffeh, a lively musical procession featuring drums, bagpipes, singing, and clapping.
The smiling couple were then led to the outdoor reception courtyard by a rousing military zaffeh performed by the Jordanian Armed Forces Band, sporting the traditional red and white headdress and dress uniforms.
Guests entered the reception on a path that evoked the Jordanian desert, featuring a 20-meter-long handwoven traditional Bedouin rug, created by the Bani Hamida Women’s Weaving Project in the village of Mukawir in Madaba.
Inside, guests were greeted by the sight of native olive trees surrounded by a dune-like display of dates, which represented both Jordanian and Saudi cultures, an ode to the newlyweds’ home countries.
The venue featured an installation of five large-scale mesh arches, inspired by the architecture of the palace and the desert landscape of Jordan’s Wadi Rum.
Meanwhile, guest seats were adorned with traditional embroidery patterns, handstitched by female artisans from Al-Karma Embroidery Center and the Jerash Women Charitable Society – established to empower local women and promote traditional handiworks.
Tables were made from natural Madaba stone and decorated with hand-blown glass vases and traditional clay pottery made by local artisans.
The decor also incorporated hand-hammered basalt stone from the north of Jordan and local seasonal flowers such as jasmine. Other design elements paid homage to Jordan’s wheat-harvesting season, which is in full swing, with elements reimagining the traditional threshing board used to shred wheat and release its grain.
European languages event in Riyadh is talk of town
Second edition of the European Night of Languages was held recently at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Riyadh
Among the participants testing out their language skills were ambassadors, members of the diplomatic community, and professional language teachers
Updated 01 June 2023
RIYADH: An evening’s celebration of languages was the talk of the town at an event hosted by the EU delegation to Saudi Arabia.
The second edition of the European Night of Languages was held recently at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Riyadh in recognition of Europe’s linguistic and cultural heritage.
The event was organized in partnership with the Riyadh language exchange, a Saudi non-profit group, the Alliance Francaise, Goethe Institute, Education First, SEK International School, and the embassies of the EU member states in the Kingdom.
Among the participants testing out their language skills were ambassadors, members of the diplomatic community, and professional language teachers.
Patrick Simonnet, the EU envoy to Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, and Oman, said: “Languages are the most important thing when you want to reach other cultures, and showing interest in other languages is what the event is about.
“The event is not so much about learning other languages because learning another language in one evening is impossible, but it is more about interacting with cultures of different European countries. So, it is really about the exchange of cultures and bridging the gaps between our respective cultures.”
Visitors attending the event were invited to select the national flags of their spoken languages and those they wished to learn before mixing with other attendees.
Among the languages being spoken were French, Spanish, German, Italian, Portuguese, Danish, Greek, Romanian, Finnish, and Dutch. Games and quizzes, an oud recital, a performance by Portuguese band Almanata, and a European culinary experience followed the event.
Mohammed Matham, co-founder of the Riyadh language exchange group, said: “We are excited to contribute to strengthening people-to-people relationships between Saudi Arabia and the European Union through the power of language learning.”
Marguerite Bickel, director general of the Alliance Francaise, said: “My goal in teaching French here is to promote the French language to support Vision 2030, especially in tourism, as there are a lot of French tourists that are very eager to discover Saudi Arabia.”
Jason Caranicas, deputy head of mission and head of the consular section at the Greek Embassy, said: “There is certainly an increase in the number of Saudis applying for a Greek visa now, and this year for the first time, there are so many direct flights from the Kingdom to several major cities in Greece, including Mykonos and Athens.”
The event was staged as part of European Diversity Month to promote the importance of languages as a bridge-builder between cultures.
Jordan’s Crown Prince Hussein bin Abdullah II weds Saudi national Rajwa Al-Saif at royal wedding
Updated 01 June 2023
AMMAN: It was an affair to remember as Jordan’s Crown Prince Hussein bin Abdullah II wed Saudi national Rajwa Al-Saif, who by royal decree will now be known as Princess Rajwa Al-Hussein, on Thursday at Zahran Palace in Amman, before the royal couple travelled by motorcade to Al-Husseiniya Palace for a lavish reception.
When the crown prince takes the throne, the princess will be Queen Rajwa. The bride wore a custom-made Elie Saab gown, while Queen Rania opted for Dior.
The religious ceremony was held at Zahran Palace, where the crown prince’s parents — King Abdullah II and Queen Rania — wed in 1993. The ceremony was attended by around 140 guests, including members of the Royal Hashemite family, invited royals and heads of state - US President Joe Biden and US First Lady Jill Biden even shared a congratulatory message on social media.
Guests include dignitaries and royals from around the world, including the UK’s Prince and Princess of Wales William and Kate Middleton; US First Lady Jill Biden; Qatar’s Sheikha Moza bint Nasser; the king and queen of Malaysia; the king and queen of The Netherlands; King Juan Carlos I and Queen Sofía of Spain; Prince Sébastien of Luxembourg; Crown Prince Frederik and Crown Princess Mary of Denmark; Crown Princess Victoria of Sweden and Prince Daniel, Duke of Västergötland; Haakon, Crown Prince of Norway and Hisako, Princess Takamado and her daughter, Princess Tsuguko of Takamado of Japan, among others.
The bride arrived at the palace in a 1968 Rolls-Royce Phantom V that was custom-made for the late Queen Zein Al-Sharaf and was escorted by the Crown Prince’s younger brother, Prince Hashem bin Abdullah II, and Princess Salma bint Abdullah II. Prince Hashem walked Al-Saif to the gazebo where the Islamic marriage ceremony took place.
During the ceremony, the bride and groom signed the marriage contract. Royal Hashemite Court Imam Dr. Ahmed Al-Khalaileh, who was appointed to the position in January 2021, presided over the ceremony, which was followed by several women performing the Zaghrouta, or traditional ululation.
Afterwards, crowds lined the 10km route as the couple traveled to the location of the reception party in a custom 1984 Range Rover as part of a convoy worthy of an Arab royal wedding.
The motorcade featured eight red 1980s Land Rovers and 11 red BMW motorcycles. The vintage machines belong to the Royal Convoy Unit, part of a special military formation known as the Royal Guards. The Jordan Armed Forces Musical Band performed during the event.
As is customary, the arrival of the bride and groom was announced with a zaffeh by the Jordan Armed Forces Musical Band. All band members wore the red-and-white shemagh, a traditional headdress for men, in addition to their full-dress uniform. After passing through an honorary Arch of Sabers, the couple proceeded through the courtyard amidst a traditional Jordanian zaffeh, toward the greeting stage, where the family greeted more than 1,700 guests. The remainder of the evening featured a variety of performances by local and regional singers, a choir group, Jordanian bands, the national orchestra, and folk dance troupes.
According to the Royal Hashemite Court, the reception space at Al-Husseiniya Palace was designed to showcase Jordanian traditions, craftsmanship, and the country’s natural surroundings. Upon arrival, guests entered on a path that evokes the Jordanian desert, featuring a 20-meter-long handwoven Bedouin rug, created specifically for this occasion by the Bani Hamida Women's Weaving Project in the village of Mukawir in Madaba.
Surrounded by foraged wildflowers that reflect the native landscape of the weavers, guests were welcomed with traditional Arabic coffee and music as they made their way down the reception. Once inside the reception space, guests were greeted by the sight of native olive trees surrounded by a dune-like display of dates, which represent hospitality in both Jordanian and Saudi cultures. The venue featured an installation of five large-scale mesh arches, inspired by the architecture of the palace and the hues of the desert landscape of Jordan’s Wadi Rum.
Guest seats were adorned with traditional embroidery patterns, handstitched by women artisans employed by Al-Karma Embroidery Center and the Jerash Women Charitable Society – all of which were established to empower local women and promote traditional handiworks. Guest tables were made from natural Madaba stone and decorated with hand-blown glass vases and traditional clay pottery made by local artisans. The decor also incorporated hand-hammered basalt stone from the north of Jordan. Utilizing local seasonal flowers, the Palace’s archways wre steeped in jasmine. Other design elements paid homage to Jordan’s wheat harvesting season, which is in full swing, with items reimagining the traditional threshing board used to shred wheat and release its grain.
The reception concluded with the bride and groom cutting the wedding cake.
The royal wedding was almost a year in the making, with the couple announcing their engagement in August 2022. The pair got engaged in Riyadh with members of the Jordanian royal family in attendance, as well as Al-Saif’s parents — Khalid bin Musaed bin Saif bin Abdulaziz Al-Saif and Azza bint Nayef Abdulaziz Ahmad Al-Sudairi.
The Al-Saif family traces its lineage to the Subay tribe, who have been present in the Sudair region of Najd since the beginning of the era of King Abdulaziz, the founder of modern-day Saudi Arabia. Meanwhile, Al-Saif’s mother comes from the prominent Al-Sudairi family.
The royal couple: A closer look at Rajwa Al-Saif and Crown Prince Hussein bin Abdullah II
Updated 31 May 2023
Hams Saleh and Shyama Krishna Kumar
DUBAI: As people across Jordan, and the wider Arab world, prepare to celebrate the wedding of Jordan’s Crown Prince Hussein bin Abdullah and Rajwa Al-Saif from Saudi Arabia, Arab News take a closer look at the royal power couple.
While Al-Saif largely lived outside the public eye until the couple’s engagement was announced last year, Hussein has been in the spotlight since the moment he was born in Amman on June 28, 1994. He was appointed crown prince by royal decree on July 2, 2009.
The 28-year-old prince, the eldest son of King Abdullah II and Queen Rania, has three siblings: Princess Iman, 26, who tied the knot with financier Jameel Alexander Thermiotis on March 12, Princess Salma, 22, and Prince Hashem, 18.
The crown prince was named after his grandfather, King Hussein bin Talal, who became king in 1952 at the age of 17 and ruled Jordan for almost five decades until his death in 1999. Hussein’s paternal grandmother is Princess Muna Al-Hussein, a British convert to Islam, and his mother is of Palestinian descent.
He complete his high school studies in 2012 at King’s Academy in Jordan. In 2016, he graduated with a degree in international history from Georgetown University in Washington, D.C.
Like many male members of the Jordanian royal family, including his father and grandfather, the prince attended Britain’s prestigious Royal Military Academy Sandhurst, graduating in 2017.
He often accompanies King Abdullah during official visits in Jordan and has also embarked on several official trips abroad. Most recently, he accompanied the king and queen on a visit to Japan in April.
“The King has been preparing the prince for years,” Samih Al-Maaytah, Jordan’s former minister of information, told Arab News.
“The prince attends all the important meetings of his majesty the king with world leaders in the United Nations, Europe and at international and Arab conferences. So he is being trained directly by the king.”
In April 2015, at the age of 20, Crown Prince Hussein became the youngest person to chair a session of the UN Security Council when he presided over an open debate on the role of youth in efforts to counter violent extremism and promote peace. As a result, in August 2015, Jordan hosted the first Global Forum on Youth, Peace and Security, which produced the Amman Youth Declaration on those issues.
The prince made his debut in front of the UN General Assembly in 2017, when he delivered a speech criticizing the focus on militarization in the Middle East.
He holds the rank of captain in the Jordanian Armed Forces and is often an observer at military drills in the country. He is a qualified helicopter pilot; after his first solo flight in 2018, he was doused with a bucket of water in a traditional military celebration of such occasions.
Al-Maaytah described the prince’s relationship with the Jordanian public as “active, dynamic and close to the youth.” Hussein oversees the Crown Prince Foundation, which promotes education with a focus on technical training and initiatives to benefit young people in Jordan.
The prince also founded the Masar Initiative to encourage youths to take an interest and pursue careers in the field of space technology, and the “Hearing without Borders” project, which provides cochlear implants for deaf children.
“He always visits gatherings with the youth from different sectors, so he is a role model to the youth who have awareness, who are dynamic and passionate,” Al-Maaytah said.
In the rare moments the prince has to himself to pursue his own interests, he likes to share his activities and hobbies with his 3.9 million followers on Instagram. He appears to like to stay active and particularly enjoys basketball, football, hiking, cooking and playing the guitar.
The crown prince and Al-Saif announced their engagement in August last year during a ceremony in Riyadh, in the presence of King Abdullah, Queen Rania and Al-Saif’s family. The royal family of Jordan’s Hashemite dynasty will welcome its newest member on June 1, when the couple are due to wed at Zahran Palace in Amman, but what do we know about the future queen?
Born on April 28, 1994, Al-Saif is the daughter of Saudi businessman Khalid bin Musaed bin Saif bin Abdulaziz Al-Saif and his wife, Azza bint Nayef Abdulaziz Ahmad Al-Sudairi. The youngest of four children, her older siblings are called Faisal, Nayef and Dana.
The Al-Saif family traces its lineage to the Subay tribe, who have been present in the Sudair region of Najd since the beginning of the era of King Abdulaziz, the founder of modern-day Saudi Arabia.
Al-Saif’s mother comes from the prominent Al-Sudairi family. Incidentally, Saudi Arabia’s King Salman is one of the so-called “Sudairi Seven,” an influential alliance of seven full brothers born to King Abdulaziz and Hussa bint Ahmed Al-Sudairi.
After graduating from high school in Saudi Arabia, Al-Saif studied at Syracuse University’s School of Architecture in New York state. She also holds an Associate of Arts Professional Designation in visual communications from the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising in Los Angeles.
After a spell working at an architecture firm in Los Angeles, she returned to her native Saudi Arabia to work at the Designlab Experience design studio in Riyadh.
Since their engagement, Al-Saif and the crown prince have made numerous public appearances together, including a visit in January to the “Fragrance of Colors” initiative in Amman, which aims to teach the blind and visually impaired to draw by identifying colors through their sense of smell. They were briefed by Suheil Baqaeen, the founder of the initiative, on the creative work of students during a workshop at Darat Suheil, a gallery and art space in Jabal Luweibdeh in Amman.
“It was one of the most beautiful moments in my life. Believe you me, she is so simple, elegant, nice and humble,” Baqaeen told Arab News when asked about his encounter with Al-Saif. “And they both were so, so sweet.
“They showed so much sensitivity when talking to the children. When the crown prince and Ms. Rajwa came to our simple Darat Suheil, they gave their positive energy to the children by spending time with them and talking to them.
“It felt like a healing energy … there was no obstacle in the conversation. There was so much freedom to talk. She also asked the children about their dreams.”
Baqaeen said Al-Saif spent time painting alongside the children.
“She showed a lot of skill with the watercolor painting, since she is an architect and has a design background,” he added.
The Royal Hashemite Court has yet to reveal full details of Al-Saif’s future role as a working member of the Jordanian royal family after the wedding, though it is thought likely she will follow in her mother-in-law’s footsteps as a philanthropic force to be reckoned with, first as crown princess and then as queen.
Jordanian, Saudi wedding traditions to look out for at the royal celebrations
Updated 31 May 2023
Haifa Alshammari and Hams Saleh
RIYADH/ DUBAI: With the spotlight firmly trained on Jordan’s royal wedding between Rajwa Al-Saif and Crown Prince Hussein bin Abdullah II, observers might be wondering what wedding traditions the Saudi bride and Jordanian groom will choose for their big day.
Here, we take a look at wedding celebrations from the two cultures that have been passed down through the generations, in anticipation of the historic union.
Wedding practices differ across Saudi Arabia, but Al-Saif will most likely follow Najdi traditions since her family hails from Sudair and live in Riyadh, both of which are in the Najd region.
Born-and-raised Najdi Atheer Alhowaish spoke to Arab News about the region’s time-steeped wedding traditions.
“Tehwal is a dinner party at the groom’s house on the day after the wedding. The groom’s family invites the people at the wedding to Tehwal to welcome the bride to their family,” Alhowaish explained. Similarly, the zowarah is another form of celebration organized by either the groom’s family or the bride’s family after the newlyweds return from their honeymoon.
Another practice sees the groom gift the bride’s mother gold or other jewelry which is offered among a wider bouquet of gifts called the shabka.
While many cultural traditions have evolved, Abdulrhman Mashbri — the owner of La Memorias, a luxury events agency in Riyadh — told Arab News that he has seen some changes in recent years.
“Some families now request their weddings to be outside of the Kingdom, such as in Paris or Dubai. The budget can range from SR100,000 ($26,665) to SR25-30 million.
“In addition to that, some brides who are related to each other search for uniqueness, not by choosing the place nor by the originality of the design, but rather by celebrating their weddings together in one night,” he said.
Prior to the wedding, brides across the Arab world often take part in a henna night — but this is not typical of Najdi celebrations. It is, however, customary in Jordan, where both Al-Saif and her soon-to-be sister-in-law Princess Iman held henna night celebrations before their respective weddings.
In Jordan, the henna party sees women of both families come together to celebrate while the bride’s family also presents her with gifts for her wedding trousseau.
Fast forward to the wedding day and Jordanian staples include the zaffeh, zaghrouta and nukout.
The zaffeh, a traditional part of wedding celebrations in the Levant, is a live procession of music and dance that lasts for around 30 minutes.
The traditional, upbeat music the troupe performs features lyrics that praise the new marriage. Drums (darbuka), horns, bagpipes and sometimes men carrying swords also feature in the traditional procession.
Another mainstay of Jordanian weddings is dabke — a folk dance performed by professionals, before guests ultimately join in the fun.
The dance, which features synchronized powerful stomping of the feet, has different variations. In the most popular, the dancers will be led by a lawweeh (waver), a charismatic improviser who controls both the tempo and the energy of the line.
“Our Jordanian zaffeh is unique. The tunes, the dabke and the dances are one of a kind,” Iyad Albelbeisi, founder of Jordanian planning company Feelings Weddings, told Arab News.
“These traditions are also common in royal ceremonies,” Albelbeisi added.
Throughout the wedding, women perform the zaghrouta, a high-pitched ululation with their tongue that is commonly performed at wedding parties across the region. Another traditional practice at Jordanian weddings is the nukout — money given to newlyweds to help with their new life together.
When it comes to food, there is no question that Jordan’s national dish, mansaf — which consists of large chunks of meat, a yogurt sauce and rice — is a wedding staple.
At royal weddings, just like Princess Iman’s ceremony in March, as well as celebrations among the general public, the multi-tiered wedding cake is often cut with a large sword that is passed down to the groom from his family.