AlUla archaeological discoveries reveal influence of starry canopy on ancient civilizations

Special AlUla’s ancient civilizations, positioned at the crossroads of trade, communicated with diverse cultures, many of which were heavily influenced by astronomy. (Instagram/experiencealula)
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AlUla’s ancient civilizations, positioned at the crossroads of trade, communicated with diverse cultures, many of which were heavily influenced by astronomy. (Instagram/experiencealula)
Special AlUla archaeological discoveries reveal influence of starry canopy on ancient civilizations
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The al-Gharameel area in AlUla is a heaven for stargazing, where around 6,000 twinkling stars can be seen. (Supplied)
Special AlUla archaeological discoveries reveal influence of starry canopy on ancient civilizations
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An exploratory study has recently unveiled a fascinating link between the historical sites of AlUla and the cosmos. (Supplied)
Special AlUla archaeological discoveries reveal influence of starry canopy on ancient civilizations
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Starry sky of AlUla unveiling the ancient connection between archaeology and astronomy. (Supplied)
Special AlUla archaeological discoveries reveal influence of starry canopy on ancient civilizations
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AlUla’s ancient civilizations, positioned at the crossroads of trade, communicated with diverse cultures, many of which were heavily influenced by astronomy. (Supplied)
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Updated 22 September 2023
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AlUla archaeological discoveries reveal influence of starry canopy on ancient civilizations

AlUla archaeological discoveries reveal influence of starry canopy on ancient civilizations
  • Astronomy enthusiast Majed Al-Zahoufi points out a consistent pattern that the various civilizations that thrived in AlUla all strategically controlled significant global trade routes

ALULA: The barren expanse of AlUla, known for its historical monuments and enchanting desert landscapes, has long captured the imaginations of those who traverse its ancient grounds.

An exploratory study is unveiling a fascinating link between the historical sites of AlUla and the cosmos, demonstrating an old connection between civilizations and the stars that continues to influence the region today.

HIGHLIGHTS

• A team of archaeoastronomy specialists aim to piece together a comprehensive picture of how AlUla’s sky influenced ancient societies’ worldview.

• In Gharameel, around 6,000 twinkling stars adorn the sky, an awe-inspiring sight only possible when light pollution decreases.

Situated in the northwest of the Kingdom, AlUla’s archaeological sites offer a unique window into the significance of astronomy in the region’s history. Stories shared by guides, as well as evidence from ancient civilizations, reveal how the vast desert’s starry canopy played a pivotal role in guiding travelers and commercial caravans, helping them navigate the vast expanses over the centuries.

Majed Al-Zahoufi, a passionate guide and astronomy enthusiast, has cultivated a deep connection with the desert. His journey into the realm of stars began almost a decade ago through avid reading and personal observations.

Al-Zahoufi told Arab News that his exploration of these subjects is firmly rooted in reality and not at all uncommon. Drawing from his extensive knowledge of Arab history, civilizations, and astronomy, he pointed out a consistent pattern: “The various civilizations that thrived in AlUla, such as the Dadans, Lihyans, Nabataeans, and Minaeans, all strategically controlled significant global trade routes.




The Gharameel rock formations are composed of sedimentary layers shaped by ancient marine and riverine environments. (Supplied)

“Among these routes were the renowned incense routes utilized by traders from the southern Omani region to traverse towards the northern parts of the Arabian Peninsula. This crossroads of trade facilitated interactions between diverse cultures, including the Greeks, Babylonians, and Assyrians.”

These ancient civilizations, positioned at the crossroads of trade, communicated with diverse cultures, many of which were heavily influenced by astronomy. Some even worshipped the stars.

Throughout history, cultures worldwide have recognized the profound interplay between the Earth and the sky. Celestial bodies, like luminaries, held the key to navigation, determining seasons and guiding various cultural practices. This connection between civilizations and the cosmos remains evident in the rich tapestry of AlUla’s past.

The various civilizations that thrived in AlUla, such as the Dadans, Lihyans, Nabataeans, and Minaeans, all strategically controlled significant global trade routes.

Majed Al-Zahoufi, AlUla guide

Al-Zahoufi said: “In my personal observations and readings, I see a close relationship between the Nabataeans, their artifacts, and the sky. Numerous scientific studies validate this bond, showing how the Nabataeans believed in the influence of constellations.”

This ancient connection between civilizations and the cosmos has attracted the attention of modern experts. In May, a team of archaeoastronomy specialists embarked on a field study within the AlUla Oasis.

Their objective is to unveil the reasons behind ancient civilizations' selection of specific sites, decode the symbolism of tomb inscriptions, and decipher the cultures’ perception of the sky. By analyzing architectural details, decorative patterns, and calendar indications, researchers aim to piece together a comprehensive picture of how the sky influenced these societies’ worldview.

Juan Antonio Belmonte, an astrophysicist from Spain’s Institute of Astrophysics, found an intimate correlation between the Earth and the sky through preliminary data collected from a hundred Nabataean tombs. In the months ahead, analytical and statistical studies will further elucidate the connection between the ancient Arab kingdoms and the universe.

Among AlUla’s treasures is the Gharameel area, a haven for stargazing — the further away one goes from city lights, the more stars become visible in the night sky, Al-Zahoufi explained. In Gharameel, around 6,000 twinkling stars adorn the sky, an awe-inspiring sight only possible when light pollution decreases.




The Gharameel rock formations are composed of sedimentary layers shaped by ancient marine and riverine environments. (Supplied)

To safeguard this remarkable stargazing destination, the Royal Commission for AlUla is actively working to minimize light emissions from the city. Visitors can also take midnight excursions to the secluded Gharameel area to immerse themselves in constellations under the untouched AlUla night sky.

The enchantment of AlUla extends to its geological marvels as well. Abdullah Al-Shammari, a Saudi geologist, explained that the unique Gharameel rock formations are composed of sedimentary layers shaped by ancient marine and riverine environments.

“The sedimentation began in this formation at the end of the Cambrian era and the beginning of the Ordovician era (the Paleozoic era) that falls between 470 to 500 million years ago,” Al-Shammari said.

He also highlighted that these geological wonders mirror similar formations across the world, from the Ennedi Plateau in Chad to the Saudi Arabian desert.

The stars, woven into the fabric of Arab culture, serve as poetic inspiration and cultural markers, encapsulating the enduring relationship between man and the cosmos. In the enchanting tapestry of AlUla’s history, archaeology and astronomy dance together, revealing a story that transcends time.

Al-Zahoufi said: “Astronomy isn’t merely a scientific endeavor; it holds a wondrous privilege of unraveling the sky’s mysteries, guiding agricultural practices, and even influencing the arts.

“Arabs also embodied astronomy in Arabic poetry as they praise their kings, flirt with their beloved through the stars because the stars are an authentic culture for the Arabs and a means of entertainment.”

The rebirth of AlUla
Hegra, ancient city of the Nabataeans in Saudi Arabia’s historic AlUla Valley, is emerging from the mists of time to take its rightful place as one of the wonders of the world

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KSrelief extends humanitarian aid efforts to Sudan, Yemen

KSrelief extends humanitarian aid efforts to Sudan, Yemen
Updated 5 sec ago
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KSrelief extends humanitarian aid efforts to Sudan, Yemen

KSrelief extends humanitarian aid efforts to Sudan, Yemen

KSrelief extended its commitment to providing vital assistance to those in need, with recent efforts spanning Sudan and Yemen.

In the Karari locality of Khartoum, KSrelief distributed 233 shelter bags to needy and displaced families, offering urgent relief to 1,357 individuals.

Meanwhile, in Yemen's Hajjah Governorate, KSrelief's Mobile Medical Clinic rendered essential medical services to 2,072 beneficiaries in February 2024. The clinic's diverse services included treating patients for epidemiological diseases, providing emergency care, and offering internal medicine and reproductive health services. 

In Saada Governorate, Yemen, KSrelief's ongoing projects aim to address the primary healthcare and water needs of displaced individuals in Razih District. Throughout February, medical clinics under this initiative treated patients for various ailments, including epidemic diseases, emergencies, internal medicine issues, and reproductive health concerns. The project also provided nursing services, surgical assistance, and medical referrals, alongside conducting waste disposal programs and supplying potable water to the district.


Saudi Arabia expresses concern over military escalation in Middle East

Saudi Arabia expresses concern over military escalation in Middle East
Updated 14 April 2024
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Saudi Arabia expresses concern over military escalation in Middle East

Saudi Arabia expresses concern over military escalation in Middle East
  • Arab states echoed Saudi sentiment, condemning regional escalation and call for restraint"

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia on Sunday expressed deep concern over the military escalation in the Middle East and urged all parties involved to exercise restraint, the Saudi Press Agency reported, citing a statement of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs warned of "serious repercussions" on the region and its peoples from the dangers of a wider war, according to SPA.

 

 

Iran on Saturday launched drones and missiles against Israel, making good its threat to retaliate against the Israeli air strike that destroyed an Iranian embassy annex building in Damascus, Syria, killing at least 13 people, including two generals of Iran's elite Revolutionary Guard.

The Saudi ministry "affirmed the Kingdom’s position calling for the need for the Security Council to assume its responsibility towards maintaining international peace and security, especially in this region that is extremely sensitive to global peace and security, and to prevent the escalation of the crisis that will have serious consequences if it expands," said the SPA report. 

The Saudi staement was echoed by the Secretary General of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), Jasem Mohamed Albudaiwi, who emphasized the imperative of upholding regional and global security and stability amidst recent developments in the Middle East.

He urged, in a statement, all involved parties to exercise utmost restraint to forestall further escalation, which could endanger regional stability and civilian welfare. Albudaiwi underscored the necessity of collaborative efforts and diplomatic resolutions to address conflicts and ensure regional security.

He emphasized the pivotal role of the international community in bolstering these peace and stability endeavors, and warned of the potential ramifications of heightened tensions.

Egypt also urged all parties to exercise utmost restraint to prevent further escalation in the region, aiming to safeguard its stability and the well-being of its inhabitants.

In a statement released by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs last night, Egypt underscored that the current dangerous escalation in the Iranian/Israeli arena is a direct consequence of previously highlighted concerns. Egypt has consistently warned against the perils of expanding conflicts in the region, particularly stemming from Israeli military actions in Gaza and provocative maneuvers in the area.

The statement emphasized Egypt's continuous engagement with all relevant stakeholders to mitigate the situation, halt the escalation, and avert the region from spiraling into instability, thereby safeguarding the interests of its people.

Meanwhile, Jordan's Minister of Foreign Affairs Ayman Al-Safadi emphasizes that stopping the Israeli aggression on Gaza, ending the occupation, and advancing the two-state solution are essential measures to halt the escalation in the region.


Saudi, Norway foreign ministers discuss Gaza during call

Saudi, Norway foreign ministers discuss Gaza during call
Updated 14 April 2024
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Saudi, Norway foreign ministers discuss Gaza during call

Saudi, Norway foreign ministers discuss Gaza during call

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan on Saturday received a telephone call from his Norwegian counterpart Espen Barth Eide, the Kingdom’s foreign ministry said.
During the call, they discussed the latest developments in the Gaza Strip and efforts to contain the crisis.
The call comes a day after Norwegian Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Store said that Norway was ready to recognize a Palestinian state together with other countries,


Saudi fashion graduate who dared to dream

Saudi fashion graduate who dared to dream
Updated 13 April 2024
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Saudi fashion graduate who dared to dream

Saudi fashion graduate who dared to dream
  • Manal Marvelous’ tips for aspiring designers have turned her into social media star

RIYADH: Saudi fashion and lifestyle content creator Manal Marvelous discovered her love of design and sewing while at university and soon began sharing her work on social media.  

“My passion for fashion was a coincidence; actually, I had to take one semester of fashion classes in college because of some weird situation I got myself into and I was supposed to transfer after the semester ended, but I fell in love and never looked back,“ Marvelous told Arab News.

Manal Marvelous loves to share how she develops and sews her creations, and her TikTok has 3 million views and 700,000 followers. (Supplied)

“I love out-of-the box and creative ideas I can share with my audience, which consist of girls around my age with similar interests who either love fashion or got inspired to start their journey after watching my content,” she said.

She loves to share how she develops and sews her creations, and her TikTok has 3 million views and 700,000 followers.  

HIGHLIGHTS

• Marvelous took part in the Sony Creators Convention, where she showcased her work on models, and offered advice to aspiring content creators about the business, how to succeed, and how to make their passions their careers. 

• Marvelous believes that with an abundance of talented and creative Saudi designers, as well as the diversity of Saudi fashion and traditional costume, the KSA scene needs more useful fashion events.

• Aside from TikTok, Marvelous supports up-and-coming fashion designers on her YouTube channel, paving a path for them to enter the industry. 

• She said that constructive criticism is always appreciated, and that she tries to hear what people have to say to improve her material, gain insight into her audience, and receive feedback.

“It felt like magic to me how can you transform a piece of fabric into art just by cutting here and stitching there,” she said.

Marvelous took part in the Sony Creators Convention, where she showcased her work on models, and offered advice to aspiring content creators about the business, how to succeed, and how to make their passions their careers.

Manal Marvelous loves to share how she develops and sews her creations, and her TikTok has 3 million views and 700,000 followers. (Supplied)

“My work as a fashion and lifestyle creator takes me around the Kingdom to collaborate with global and local brands ranging from clothing to skincare to makeup,” she said.  

Aside from TikTok, Marvelous supports up-and-coming fashion designers on her YouTube channel, paving a path for them to enter the industry.  

Manal Marvelous loves to share how she develops and sews her creations, and her TikTok has 3 million views and 700,000 followers. (Supplied)

“In my YouTube channel, I share my love of sewing, but with a twist. From sewing pants out of bandannas and a corset with plastic, to recycling my old jeans into a denim jacket,” she said.

Marvelous had the backing of friends and family from the start, and they were her supporters.

Manal Marvelous loves to share how she develops and sews her creations, and her TikTok has 3 million views and 700,000 followers. (Supplied)

She did, however, mention how some elements of social media, like cyberbullying, were deterring her from sharing and how she overcame it.

“Bullying on social media has become the norm lately. What I do and what I recommend everyone do is ignore the comment, especially when it’s obvious that the person is just trying to hurt you.”

Manal Marvelous loves to share how she develops and sews her creations, and her TikTok has 3 million views and 700,000 followers. (Supplied)

She said that constructive criticism is always appreciated, and that she tries to hear what people have to say to improve her material, gain insight into her audience, and receive feedback.

“But people who just want to put you down and make you feel bad should be muted,” she added.

Marvelous believes that with an abundance of talented and creative Saudi designers, as well as the diversity of Saudi fashion and traditional costume, the KSA scene needs more useful fashion events.

“Saudi Arabia has some of the most talented and creative designers in the field, and their work should be appreciated and celebrated nationally and internationally. Having more shows in the Kingdom could be beneficial not only to the designers but to the country as well.”

Marvelous said that the Fashion Commission has been a significant asset to the sector for many years, planning events and providing support for emerging designers through programs such as 100 Brands.

“I advise upcoming designers to never stop dreaming big; this is our time to shine and create the unexpected. There’s space for everyone.”

Marvelous offers three tips for aspiring fashion content creators seeking to be authentic: “Don’t try to copy other creators; it’s good to follow trends, but only when it suits your content and your personality. Consistency is key. Pick the schedule that suits you and make sure to stick to it.”

 


Thriving gardens: Growing and nurturing plants without destroying soil

Thriving gardens: Growing and nurturing plants without destroying soil
Updated 13 April 2024
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Thriving gardens: Growing and nurturing plants without destroying soil

Thriving gardens: Growing and nurturing plants without destroying soil
  • The foundation of a successful garden is soil health
  • It is critical to take care of the soil before planting seeds by creating organic elements in the soil rather than relying on chemical or synthetic fertilizers

RIYADH: Caring for plants at home reduces stress and increases satisfaction. Gardening allows people to connect with nature and enjoy the beauty of their home garden.
However, it is important to use sustainable methods to ensure that plants are healthy, and the environment is protected from damage. Soil preservation and care are therefore very important for sustainable gardening.
The foundation of a successful garden is soil health. It is critical to take care of the soil before planting seeds by creating organic elements in the soil rather than relying on chemical or synthetic fertilizers.
Compost food scraps, garden waste and other organic products to improve soil fertility will provide nutrients to plants, increasing microbial activity and boosting the health of the soil.
“Synthetic fertilizers aren’t used in the Kingdom. It is rare. Most people use organic products such as animal waste mixed with food waste,” said Haitham Sharbaji, an agricultural technician who works in Riyadh.
Sharbaji, who operates his own nursery, explained how different plants require specific techniques.
When asked about examples of plants that are grown in hot, dry weather like in Saudi Arabia, he mentioned trees including poinciana, racosperma and oleander. According to Sharbaji, these species are especially suitable for the weather in Riyadh.
He highlighted the importance of planting trees in healthy soil.
“Firstly, the soil must be healthy and suitable for the type of plant you want to grow. For example, there are kinds of soil for indoor plants and others for outdoor plants,” Sharbaji said.
“Lighting is also important, as each plant differs in terms of its need for lighting.”
Another method gardeners can use to prevent soil depletion is controlling the rotation of plants. Rotating plants grown in different areas of a garden helps reduce diseases and pests, and prevents nutrient deficiencies.
In addition to changing the position of the plant, covering it with a layer of organic mulch like wood chips or leaves helps maintain soil health. This technique captures moisture as well as moderates the temperature of the soil, which in turn improves the structure of the soil. Over time, it enriches the soil with beneficial organisms.
Chemical pesticides are another tool to avoid or reduce, as they can harm beneficial insects, damage organisms in the soil and disrupt the garden’s ecosystem. Natural pest control methods like introducing insects such as ladybugs and lacewings are a useful alternative.
Water in Saudi Arabia is a precious resource for growing any plant, and using it efficiently is vital. An optimal way to regulate watering plants is to install drip irrigation systems to control the amount of water that is used and deliver it directly to the roots.
People should be mindful of the hot climate in the Kingdom, which may speed up the evaporation of water. Therefore, watering the garden late in the afternoon or evening hours reduces water loss because of low temperatures.
“Water is the biggest enemy for indoor plant soil. The soil that is prepared for indoor plants doesn’t need too much water because it can create toxic fungi,” said Sharbaji.
He recommends watering indoor plants according to room temperatures. Generally speaking, a person can water an indoor plant every 15 to 20 days, he added.
Excessive use of synthetic fertilizers can lead to nutrient imbalance and environmental pollution. It is best to test soil regularly to detect any signs of nutrient deficiencies such as decolorization of leaves or irregular shapes.
Synthetic fertilizers can be useful but only when necessary, and they must be used wisely. This ensures the plant receives the nutrients it needs while minimizing the risk of biomagnification — the increase in concentration of a substance in the tissues of organisms at successively higher levels in a food chain.
By practicing sustainable gardening practices, people can grow and protect their gardens while maintaining soil health. Healthy soil preparation, mulching and natural pest control methods are some examples of healthy gardening, keeping in mind that a thriving garden starts with the soil.