RIYADH: A seventh-century mosque in Saudi Arabia's Al-Baha region is set to undergo a comprehensive renovation process, Saudi Press Agency has reported.
Built in the 670s, the Al-Safa historical mosque will be repaired under the second phase of the Prince Mohammed bin Salman Project for the Development of Historical Mosques.
The renovation project will ensure preservation of the mosque’s unique Sarat style and its historical value while restoring its aesthetic elements and renewing its construction with natural materials including stone from the Sarawat Mountains and local wood used in ceilings, columns, windows, and doors.
Located in the Baljurashi Governorate, the renovation process will keep unchanged the mosque’s footprint and its capacity.
The mosque’s current area is 78 square meters, and can accommodate 31 worshippers. The restoration will be executed as per a set of methods that preserve the mosque’s historical and design values.
The mosque is surrounded by adjacent buildings separated by narrow passages in the village in the high mountains, where there are many forms of construction, including stone buildings characterized by narrow openings.
Al-Safa Mosque is supported by two distinct columns of juniper trees, which the Prince Mohammed bin Salman Project will redevelop, in addition to preserving the inscriptions on the mosque's columns and developing them with inscriptions of the staircase unit, in a step that will also revive the ancient architectural traditions of the Al-Baha region and highlight its ancient historical heritage.
It is said that the first person to build the Al-Safa Mosque was Sufyan bin Auf Al-Ghamdi, and at the time, the mosque had a prominent social role, as it was considered a place for villagers to assemble and discuss their affairs and resolve their disputes between the Maghrib and Isha prayers.
The second phase of the project has covered 30 historic mosques across the Kingdom's 13 regions, including six mosques in Riyadh, five mosques in Makkah, four mosques in Madinah, three in Asir, two in each of the Eastern Region, Al-Jauf, and Jazan, and one mosque in each of the Northern Borders Region, Tabuk, Al-Baha, Najran, Hail, and Al-Qassim.
The project aims to achieve a balance between ancient and modern construction standards in a way that gives the components of mosques an appropriate degree of sustainability and integrates the effects of development with a set of heritage and historical characteristics.
The renovation process is being carried out by Saudi companies specialized in heritage buildings, with an emphasis on involving Saudi engineers to ensure the preservation of the authentic urban identity of each mosque since its establishment.
The Prince Mohammed bin Salman Project for the Development of Historical Mosques serves four strategic objectives: restoration of historical mosques for worship and prayer, restoration of the urban authenticity of historical mosques, highlighting the cultural dimension of Saudi Arabia, and enhancing the religious and cultural status of historical mosques.
The project also contributes to highlighting the cultural and civilizational extent of the Kingdom as one of the pillars of the Saudi Vision 2030 by preserving authentic urban characteristics and utilizing them to contribute to the development of modern mosque designs.
Al-Ahli and Ettifaq goalless depite ex-Liverpool legends
Updated 32 min 32 sec ago
RIYADH: While nine-man Liverpool were unlucky to lose to Tottenham Hotspur on Saturday in the English Premier League, in the big game of the Roshn Saudi League, there were a number of ex-Liverpool legends in action as Al-Ahli drew 0–0 at home to Ettifaq.
As the clash — not as dramatic as the one that took place in London — kicked-off, Ettifaq were in fifth with 16 points from seven games, a point and a place above Al-Ahli. In terms of positions, that’s where they stayed after the stalemate. A win would have taken Ettifaq just a point — or two in the case of Ahli — behind league leaders Al-Hilal after eight games of the season. As it is, both are within touching distance of pole position.
The fact that this was such an eagerly-awaited clash was a measure of how far both have come since last season. The visitors Ettifaq may have finished seventh in May but were just nine points clear of the relegation zone and 22 behind third place. At the same time, Al-Ahli were in the second tier and fighting for promotion, a struggle that was ultimately successful. Much has changed in the months since. Finishing in first is unlikely but both have ambitions of a top four spot.
So far this campaign the men from Dammam have been revitalised under head coach Steven Gerrard and they are now four games unbeaten in the league. His fellow former Liverpool captain Jordan Henderson is still playing in midfield alongside Gini Wijnaldum, also with the Reds as they became champions of Europe in 2019.
On the opposite side in Jeddah was another Anfield legend in Roberto Firmino. The Brazilian now leads the line at Al-Ahli along with former Manchester City star Riyad Mahrez and Allan Saint-Maximin, who arrived in Jeddah from Newcastle United. There are few teams in the world that have such attacking talent at their disposal.
Despite that, there was not much action to speak of though Al-Ahli will feel that they did enough to get a goal or two.
Saint-Maximin set up Firmino for what seemed to be the opening goal after just 17 minutes. The flair-filled French star picked up possession just over the halfway line, advanced to the edge of the area to square the ball for the South American to sweep home. It was a fluid move but Saint-Maximin was adjudged by VAR to have been just offside during the build-up.
There is also talent at the other side of the pitch for the Jeddah giants. Just before the break, Edouard Mendy showed why Al-Ahli had splashed the cash to sign him from Chelsea. Ali Hazazi crossed from the right for Moussa Dembele to connect with a firm header. The French striker had already scored six league goals for Ettifaq this season so far but his effort was tipped over by the Senegalese shot stopper.
With 18 minutes remaining, the Liverpool connection almost put the visitors ahead. Henderson found Wijnaldum in the area and the Dutch midfielder shot over from close range. It was perhaps the best chance of the entire game as was shown as all Ettifaq players had heads in hands as it was not taken.
Both teams pushed for the winning goal but it was not to be and Ahli and Ettifaq had to settle for a point each.
Elsewhere, Al Fateh defeated Al-Wehda 5-1 to move into seventh above the visitors.
No reprieve from hardship in South Sudan for people fleeing Sudan conflict
South Sudan is no stranger to humanitarian crisis, having had its own share since achieving statehood in 2011
Experts say the country is in no position to handle the large and sudden influx of displaced people from Sudan
Updated 38 min 9 sec ago
NAIROBI: Civilians displaced by the conflict in Sudan have sought sanctuary in the world’s youngest country next door, the Republic of South Sudan, only to face a daunting new set of challenges.
An estimated 250,000 people — including a large number of South Sudanese who had been living in Sudan — have crossed the border since fighting erupted in Sudan in April, with many now housed in overcrowded camps lacking food, sanitation and basic healthcare services.
High malnutrition rates and outbreaks of diseases such as cholera and measles among the new arrivals testify to the dire health conditions, which aid agencies operating in the area say is one of the many serious causes for concern.
The UN has given warning that the number of people fleeing Sudan could double by the end of the year unless a settlement between the warring parties is reached soon.
Aside from being unprepared to absorb this tide of humanity in search of shelter and sustenance, South Sudan’s own political and economic shortcomings render it an ineffective broker in ending the conflict in Sudan.
This is despite the mediation efforts of South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir, who recently hosted Sudan’s de-facto leader and head of the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF), Gen. Abdel Fattah Al-Burhan, in the capital Juba.
250,000 Sudanese refugees and South Sudanese returnees who have crossed the border since the conflict began.
5 million Total number of people uprooted by the conflict, including 1 million who have fled to neighboring countries.
7,500 People killed since the onset of violence, according to conservative estimates of the Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project.
South Sudan is no stranger to hardship and adversity, having had its own bloody conflicts since gaining independence in 2011. Like its northern neighbor, from which it seceded, South Sudan is also grappling with political instability and ethnic conflicts.
Add to the mix South Sudan’s limited resources and primitive infrastructure, and the country is in no position to handle such a large and sudden influx of impoverished people.
“The majority of these refugees are women, children, and young adults, with a notable concentration of youth between the ages of 12 and 22,” John Dabi, South Sudan’s deputy commissioner for refugee affairs, told Arab News.
Particularly, Juba and the border town of Renk have come under pressure from a sudden explosion in population, which has led to an acute shortage of basic necessities, including food, medicine and shelter.
Then there is the impact of a fickle climate, as South Sudan’s rainy season leads to the flooding of entire districts and turns roads into impassable mud tracks, hindering aid deliveries and access to remote refugee camps.
Predictably, South Sudan’s economy is a shambles, despite the recent launch of the National Economic Conference, which is meant to accelerate development.
Firas Raad, the World Bank representative in South Sudan, recently urged the government to strive for more stable macroeconomic conditions, robust public financial management, and effective governance reforms to improve conditions for its people.
The parlous state of the country’s economy calls into question Juba’s credibility as a mediator in Sudan’s conflict, Suzanne Jambo, a South Sudanese policy analyst and former government adviser, told Arab News.
“South Sudan still struggles to achieve a stable transition to a permanent status, including a unified army, agreed-upon constitutional arrangements, and fairly elected representatives, not to mention conducting the elections,” she said.
Instability in South Sudan is not just influenced by governance and economics. The ethnic and tribal contours of the Sudanese conflict are all too evident, with millions fleeing to neighboring countries and exposing the political divisions within Sudan and along its porous borders.
For instance, the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) group has been recruiting fighters from among Darfur’s Arab tribes.
Given the possibility of further escalation of ethnic tensions, experts believe coordinated efforts are essential for the proper distribution of humanitarian aid as well as conflict prevention and resolution strategies.
Sudanese civilians arriving in South Sudan represent a mosaic of backgrounds mirroring the country’s ethnic, racial and religious diversity. To minimize the chances of inter-communal violence, separate settlements, rather than traditional refugee camps, have been established.
“A critical aspect of managing the refugee crisis is preventing inter-community conflicts,” said Dabi, the deputy commissioner for refugee affairs. However, the most pressing issue facing displaced Sudanese in South Sudan is the scarcity of essential resources, he added.
The situation of people who crossed over from Sudan into other neighboring countries appears to be equally dire.
In Chad, where more than 400,000 people have fled the violence in Darfur, aid group Medecins Sans Frontieres says the situation has become so desperate that “people are feeding their children on insects, grass, and leaves.”
Amid severe shortages, “some have gone five weeks without receiving food,” Susana Borges, MSF’s emergency coordinator in Adre, said in a statement. Camps also lack water, sanitation, shelter, and medical care.
“The most urgent health needs we are dealing with are malaria, diarrhea, and malnutrition,” Borges added. According to the UN, dozens of children under the age of five have already died of malnutrition in Chadian camps.
The conflict in Sudan, now in its fifth month, was triggered by a plan to incorporate the RSF into the SAF.
On April 15 a long-running power struggle between the Al-Burhan and his former deputy, RSF chief Mohamed Hamdan “Hemedti” Dagalo, suddenly escalated, prompting the evacuation of foreign nationals and embassy staff.
At least 7,500 people have been killed since the conflict began, according to a conservative estimate from the Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project.
Khartoum, Sudan’s capital, and the troubled western Darfur region, where the worst of the violence has been taking place, have seen “intensified shelling” as the SAF and the RSF target each other’s bases with “artillery and rocket fire.”
In central Khartoum, the SAF controls the skies and has carried out regular air strikes, while RSF fighters dominate the streets.
In South Darfur’s regional capital, Nyala, residents say fighter jets have been targeting “RSF leadership.” However, reports from the ground suggest civilians are routinely caught in the crossfire.
UN figures show the fighting has uprooted more than five million people from their homes, including one million who have crossed international borders into neighboring countries.
Over the weekend, a cholera outbreak was reported in eastern Sudan and investigations launched to check whether it had spread to Khartoum and South Kordofan state.
The conflict has also seen a surge in gender-based violence, as confirmed by numerous credible reports of rape, human trafficking, and increase in early marriage.
Despite multiple diplomatic efforts to broker a truce, the conflict has continued and intensified, leaving those displaced with little prospect of returning to their homes any time soon.
As South Sudan struggles to accommodate its own citizens previously living in Sudan, a recent visit to the country by Filippo Grandi, the UN high commissioner for refugees, suggests the international community is taking notice.
However, Peter Van der Auweraert, the UN humanitarian coordinator in South Sudan, has cautioned there could be a significant decline in humanitarian assistance for the country next year.
UNHCR, the UN refugee agency, says humanitarian aid organizations are struggling to meet the needs of the displaced, with only 19 percent of the $1 billion requested from donors so far received.
JEDDAH: Roll and More serves up Indian street food in a fine dining setting with modern decor. Located in Jeddah’s Hira Street, the restaurant’s ambience is cozy and comfortable. While I anticipated an all-Indian musical playlist, the eclectic soundtrack added a unique touch to the dining experience.
For my appetizers, I selected the fried samosas, which were generously stuffed with spiced potato and served with two sauces: a zesty chili mint yogurt and a sweet, tangy tamarind sauce. I also ordered the butter shrimp tacos, which came drenched in a rich sauce infused with Indian spices.
My main course was flavorful biryani rice infused with an aromatic blend of nuts and Indian spices paired with the chicken butter masala — a tender and mouthwatering delight — accompanied by two slices of buttery naan bread.
I also indulged in the grilled shrimp roll — a generously sized tortilla loaded with tomatoes, lettuce, and some special Indian sauce to complement the shrimps.
To quench my thirst, I could not resist the fresh mango lassi. This refreshing beverage provided a welcome respite from the spices, though its thick and creamy texture might prompt you to order a glass of water.
The dessert — caramel French toast served with a scoop of vanilla ice cream — was a true delight and stole the spotlight from the rest of the meal. The contrasting textures and flavors created a delightful symphony for the taste buds.
Roll and More also offers an array of options for group dining, including rice bowls, roll boxes, and taco boxes, making it a perfect choice for gatherings and parties.
The friendly and efficient staff further enhanced the overall experience.
For more information, visit @rollandmoreksa on Instagram.
50 tourism ministers, 500 guests welcomed to Diriyah for World Tourism Day gala event
Among the guests at the At-Turaif UNESCO World Heritage Site were 50 tourism ministers from around the world
Updated 30 September 2023
RIYADH: More than 500 officials, tourism leaders and experts from 120 countries attended a gala event in Diriyah in the Saudi capital this week to mark World Tourism Day.
Among the guests at the At-Turaif UNESCO World Heritage Site were 50 tourism ministers from around the world, who had been in the Kingdom for a series of conferences, UN World Tourism Organization initiatives and private sector sessions hosted by Ahmed Al-Khateeb, Saudi minister of tourism.
Zurab Pololikashivli, the UNWTO secretary general, was honored at the event for his leadership and contribution to the sessions and activities that took place throughout World Tourism Day.
“Since its historic grand opening in December 2022, Diriyah has already welcomed one million visitors,” Al-Khateeb said.
“Fast emerging as one of the world’s foremost tourism destinations, Saudi Arabia will target 100 million visits annually by 2030 as it looks to accelerate an $800 billion plan to become a travel hotspot and one of the world’s most visited countries.
“Saudi Arabia is already the most visited country in the region, and by the end of the decade, the sector will contribute more than 10 percent toward the Kingdom’s GDP,” he added.
Jerry Inzerillo, Group CEO of Diriyah Company, it was fitting that Diriyah was chosen to host the gala event.
“As Diriyah Company oversees the opening of the birthplace of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to the world, it embodies a vibrant reconnection with the Kingdom's rich history, where a nation was born,” he said.
“Diriyah serves as a bridge between cultures and generations, rekindling its role as one of the world’s greatest gathering places and emerging as a premier cultural tourist destination.
“World Tourism Day reflects a worldwide commitment to preserving heritage, nurturing cultural exchange, and crafting unforgettable experiences for visitors from across the globe. At Diriyah, we are dedicated to bringing these pillars of tourism to life every day,” he added.
Algeria expands English-language learning as France’s influence ebbs
Mali this year changed its constitution to remove French from its list of official languages, and Morocco made English classes compulsory in high schools
Updated 30 September 2023
ALGIERS: More than a year after Algeria launched a pilot program to teach English in elementary schools, the country is hailing it as a success and expanding it in a move that reflects a widening linguistic shift underway in former French colonies throughout Africa.
Students returning to third and fourth-grade classrooms this fall will participate in two 45-minute English classes each week as the country creates new teacher training programs at universities and eyes more transformational changes in the years ahead. Additionally, the government is strengthening enforcement of a preexisting law against private schools that operate primarily in French.
“Teaching English is a strategic choice in the country’s new education policy,” Education Minister Abdelkrim Belabed said last week, lauding the move as an immense success.
English is the world’s most widely spoken language, accounts for the majority of content on the internet, and remains a lingua franca in business and science. As France’s economic and political influence wanes throughout Africa, Algeria is among a longer list of countries gradually transitioning toward English as their primary foreign language.
This year, neighboring Mali changed its constitution to remove French from its list of official languages, and Morocco made English classes compulsory in high schools.
Algeria has more French speakers than all but two nations — France itself and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. According to the International Organization of the French Language, nearly 15 million out of the country’s 44 million speak it. Its officials frame English classes as a practical rather than political shift, noting the language’s importance in scientific and technical fields.
But questions about France’s position in Algerian society have long been polarizing, as teachers and former education policy officials acknowledge.
Retired high school principal Mohammed Arezki Ferdi believes Algeria should have begun the shift to English decades ago.
The current initiative was launched by Algerian President Abdelmadjid Tebboune, who came to power in 2019.
Previous leaders also tried to expand English but failed to overcome the French-educated elites who had long wielded power in the country.
“We lost a lot of time,” Ferdi said.
“We should have introduced English in primary schools when President (Abdelaziz) Bouteflika laid out his reform after coming to power in 1991. But at that time, French-speaking factions in Algeria had a lot of decision-making power in institutions.”
The expansion of English language learning comes as tensions increasingly flare between France and Algeria.
The two share security interests over the political upheavals shaping contemporary West Africa.
However, in recent years, they have sparred repeatedly over immigration, extradition, and how each country memorializes colonialism and the brutal war that resulted in Algeria’s independence in 1962. Algeria plans to expand its current program to fifth grade next year.
It will continue instructing students in French for three hours each week in elementary schools.
When English-language learning was introduced last year, Algerian officials reaffirmed their commitment to French and said it would continue to be taught widely.
But in remarks this week at the beginning of the school year, Kamal Bedari, Algeria’s minister of Higher Education, said expanding the program was to enable elementary school students to take technical courses later on in English — not French.
Though few dispute that English is essential, some worry about how Algeria is implementing such a shift and caution against declaring victory too soon. Ahmed Tessa, a former adviser to Algeria’s Ministry of Education, believes getting students to master English can only happen gradually and will likely require more than simply adding classes.
“We need to get back to basics,” he said. “This is no small task.”
Regardless of how quickly schools transition to English, signs of pushback against French are clear elsewhere.
Authorities have slowly replaced French with English in the official titles of various government ministries. And on his trip last year to Algiers, the country had French President Emmanuel Macron provide remarks from a podium noting his title and the date in English and Arabic, one of Algeria’s two official languages, along with indigenous Tamazight.