Historic Jeddah Program unveils hidden gems of Al-Balad

The Historic Jeddah Program, in collaboration with the Heritage Commission, ensures that archaeological resources are documented, registered, and preserved. (AN photo by Hashim Nadeem)
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The Historic Jeddah Program, in collaboration with the Heritage Commission, ensures that archaeological resources are documented, registered, and preserved. (AN photo by Hashim Nadeem)
Historic Jeddah Program unveils hidden gems of Al-Balad
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The Historic Jeddah Program, in collaboration with the Heritage Commission, ensures that archaeological resources are documented, registered, and preserved. (SPA)
Historic Jeddah Program unveils hidden gems of Al-Balad
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The Historic Jeddah Program, in collaboration with the Heritage Commission, ensures that archaeological resources are documented, registered, and preserved. (AN photo by Hashim Nadeem)
Historic Jeddah Program unveils hidden gems of Al-Balad
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The Historic Jeddah Program, in collaboration with the Heritage Commission, ensures that archaeological resources are documented, registered, and preserved. (AN photo by Hashim Nadeem)
Historic Jeddah Program unveils hidden gems of Al-Balad
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Dr. Laurence Hapiot, director of the archaeology department of the Historic Jeddah Program. (AN photo by Hashim Nadeem)
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Updated 05 February 2024
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Historic Jeddah Program unveils hidden gems of Al-Balad

Historic Jeddah Program unveils hidden gems of Al-Balad
  • Dania Baeisa, senior project engineer, told Arab News: “The discoveries that we found here in the Al-Shuna site were fragments of artifacts that tell a story about this site and how it was a center of global trade

JEDDAH: The Historic Jeddah Program, in collaboration with the Heritage Commission, has made a groundbreaking announcement about the discovery of about 25,000 remnants of artifacts at four historic sites.

The artifacts, dating back to the first and second centuries of the Hijri calendar, shed light on the rich history of Jeddah and its significance in the broader context of trade, architecture, and cultural exchange.

This announcement comes as part of the archaeological project overseen by the Historic Jeddah Program, which includes sites such as the Uthman bin Affan Mosque, the Al-Shuna site, parts of the eastern trench, and the northern wall.

The Uthman bin Affan Mosque, which is considered one of the oldest in Jeddah, has unveiled artifacts dating back to the ninth to 10th centuries.

Otto Bagi, senior project manager at the mosque, explained that the site’s significance was affirmed by the misalignment with the Kaaba and the discovery of an octagonal pillar dating back to the 19th century. These findings strengthen the belief in the mosque’s importance.




The Historic Jeddah Program, in collaboration with the Heritage Commission, ensures that archaeological resources are documented, registered, and preserved. (SPA)

Bagi told Arab News about the secrets behind the Uthman bin Affan Mosque.

He said: “Why do we assert that this mosque may indeed be one of the oldest, if not the oldest, in existence? According to local tradition, it is considered one of the oldest, if not the oldest.

“We began our work here three years ago, and we have some indications that this local tradition might actually be true. There is archaeological evidence supporting the claim that this mosque dates back to the ninth to 10th centuries at the moment.




The Historic Jeddah Program, in collaboration with the Heritage Commission, ensures that archaeological resources are documented, registered, and preserved. (SPA)

“Beyond the initial reason I mentioned, which is the misalignment of the mosque with the Kaaba, there is another significant factor to consider. A pillar was discovered in the central layer dating back to the 19th century during excavation. As we delved deeper, reaching the foundational layers, we unearthed a peculiar discovery — the pillar’s base was not round but octagonal in shape. Further excavation revealed the octagonal base of the pillar, located approximately three to four meters below the surface. This evidence, coupled with additional findings, solidifies our belief in the historical significance of the mosque.”

Dania Baeisa, senior project engineer, told Arab News: “The discoveries that we found here in the Al-Shuna site were fragments of artifacts that tell a story about this site and how it was a center of global trade. The area of Al-Shuna is approximately 5,000 square meters.”

The announcement comes in light of the project’s efforts to revive Historic Jeddah, launched by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, which aims to preserve national monuments, highlight historically significant sites, enhance the historic importance of Jeddah as a cultural center, and achieve the goals of Saudi Vision 2030 in preserving archaeological sites.




Dr. Laurence Hapiot, director of the archaeology department of the Historic Jeddah Program. (AN photo by Hashim Nadeem)

The Al-Shuna site, with a history reaching back to the 13th century, offers a unique glimpse into Jeddah’s past.

Dr. Laurence Hapiot, director of the archaeology department at the Historic Jeddah Program, spoke of the preservation of ancient remains amid the modern city. She said the site, with four meters of elevation, had revealed pottery, animal bones, shells, and even cannonballs, reflecting its diverse historical functions.

Regarding Al-Shuna, Hapiot told Arab News: “What you see here is the back of the tower and one entrance that we revealed by removing some modern concrete shops that were here. It’s amazing because despite the vibrant life in Jeddah and centuries of development, this area was preserved, with modern shops built all around, preserving these ancient historical remains. So, this is a very significant site, displaying four meters of elevation in the heart of a city that is so active.”




The Historic Jeddah Program, in collaboration with the Heritage Commission, ensures that archaeological resources are documented, registered, and preserved. (SPA)

Hapiot added: “On this site we discovered a lot of materials, primarily pottery chairs, but also some animal bones, shells, fragments of metal or glass, and various small finds. Interestingly, we also found cannonballs made of metal and one made of stone.

“It is exceptionally rare to find a building site with elevations in the heart of the city.”

The survey and excavation work, which was initiated in November 2020, has led to the discovery of over 11,000 ceramic artifacts, animal bone artifacts, shell materials, construction materials, and glass and metal artifacts. The total findings, weighing 531 kg, make a significant contribution to national archaeological discoveries.




Otto Bagi, senior project manager of Uthman bin Affan Mosque. (AN photo by Hashim Nadeem)

Studies at the Uthman bin Affan Mosque revealed artifacts dating back to the first and second centuries of the Hijri calendar. The archaeological studies of ebony pieces highlight trade connections extending to Jeddah, including materials from Sri Lanka and porcelain from Jiangxi Province, China.

The Al-Shuna archaeological site traces its architectural remains back to at least the 13th century, with evidence dating back to the 10th century. Pottery materials from Europe, Japan, and China were discovered, providing insights into the trade connections of Jeddah during the 13th and 14th centuries.

Historic cemeteries in Jeddah have revealed tombstones made of limestone, granite, and marble, with inscriptions dating back to the second and third centuries of the Hijri calendar. These inscriptions, which include names, Qur’anic expressions, and verses, are currently undergoing further studies for accurate classification.




The Historic Jeddah Program, in collaboration with the Heritage Commission, ensures that archaeological resources are documented, registered, and preserved. (SPA)

During excavation works at the Al-Kidwa site (Bab Makkah), parts of the eastern trench were revealed, which likely dates back to the late 12th century of the Hijri calendar (late 18th century).

The archaeological studies of the four historic sites included excavations, analysis of radioactive carbon samples, soil analysis and geophysical and scientific studies of the discovered materials. More than 250 wooden samples from 52 archaeological buildings were transported to specialized international laboratories for identification and age determination.

They will also undergo further research in international archives that have collected more than 984 historical documents about Jeddah, including maps and drawings of historic Jeddah walls, Al-Shouna and other archaeological sites in Jeddah, which were scientifically reviewed and studied.

The Historic Jeddah Program, in collaboration with the Heritage Commission, ensures the documentation, registration, and preservation of archaeological materials. The National Antiquities Register and a scientific database safeguard these historic treasures, with documents and photos archived by specialized Saudi teams.

 


Black cloth covering Kaaba in Makkah raised ahead of Hajj

Black cloth covering Kaaba in Makkah raised ahead of Hajj
Updated 23 May 2024
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Black cloth covering Kaaba in Makkah raised ahead of Hajj

Black cloth covering Kaaba in Makkah raised ahead of Hajj
  • The procedure is meant to keep the cover, known as kiswa, free from getting soiled and tampered with as pilgrims performing Hajj circumabulate the Kaaba

RIYADH: In keeping with the annual tradition, officials raised the lower part of the kiswa — the elaborately designed black cloth covering the Kaaba — in Makkah on Wednesday ahead of this year's Hajj pilgrimage.

As approved by the General Authority for the Care of the Affairs of the Two Holy Mosques, the exposed part was covered with a white cotton fabric, two-and-a-half meters wide and 54 meters long on all four sides, according to the Saudi Press Agency.

Carrying out the procedure were 36 specialized technical personnel with the aid of 10 cranes.

As described in the SPA report, the kiswa is lifted in several stages: It starts with unscrewing the bottom of the cover from all sides, separating the corners, then untying the bottom rope and removing it from the fixing rings, after which the cloth is rolled upward. The lanterns are then dismantled and the white cloth are put in place, after which the lanterns are reinstalled over the white cloth until the final stage.

The procedure is repeated every year to protect the kiswa from getting soiled and damaged as pilgrims circumambulate the Kaaba.

The annual Hajj in Saudi Arabia is considered the world's largest human gathering, with year 2012 marking the biggest number of participants at 3.16 million.

At the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, Saudi authorities allowed only a symbolic observance of Hajj with just a thousand pilgrims. The numbers were gradually raised as the health crisis was placed under control worldwide. Last year, almost 1.84 million pilgrims performed the "once in a lifetime" journey and the figure is expected to go higher this year.

Every year, on the ninth day of the Islamic month of Dul Hijjah, the black silk cloth is removed and a new kiswa is draped in its place.


Saudi authorities limit entry to Makkah to Hajj visa holders

Saudi authorities limit entry to Makkah to Hajj visa holders
Updated 23 May 2024
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Saudi authorities limit entry to Makkah to Hajj visa holders

Saudi authorities limit entry to Makkah to Hajj visa holders

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Interior announced that visit visa holders are not allowed to enter or stay in Makkah during May 23-June 21 as access to the city will be limited to Hajj visa holders.

The ministry stressed that all types of visit visa are not a permit to perform Hajj, adding that violators will be subject to penalties according to Saudi laws and regulations.


Saudi FM in Tehran conveys king, crown prince condolences for Iran president death

Saudi FM in Tehran conveys king, crown prince condolences for Iran president death
Updated 23 May 2024
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Saudi FM in Tehran conveys king, crown prince condolences for Iran president death

Saudi FM in Tehran conveys king, crown prince condolences for Iran president death

RIYADH: Prince Faisal bin Farhan, Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister, conveyed the condolences of King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to top Iranian officials in Tehran on Wednesday on the death of President Ebrahim Raisi and his companions.

Prince Mansour bin Muteb bin Abdulaziz, Adviser to King Salman and Minister of State, and Prince Faisal were received by Deputy Chief of Staff for Political Affairs to Iran President Mohammad Jamshidi and Foreign Minister Ali Bagheri Kani.

Saudi ambassador to Iran Abdullah Al-Enazi attended the reception.


Saudi nature reserve becomes Kingdom’s ‘first major biodiversity site’

Saudi nature reserve becomes Kingdom’s ‘first major biodiversity site’
Updated 22 May 2024
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Saudi nature reserve becomes Kingdom’s ‘first major biodiversity site’

Saudi nature reserve becomes Kingdom’s ‘first major biodiversity site’
  • Accreditation follows evaluation of King Salman bin Abdulaziz Royal Natural Reserve by the international organization Key Biodiversity Areas

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s King Salman bin Abdulaziz Royal Natural Reserve has been granted accreditation as “the first major biodiversity site in the Kingdom.”

The organization Key Biodiversity Areas confirmed the accreditation, after an evaluation based on international standards, on its website on Wednesday. It said the reserve meets three global standards, including the presence of endangered species, and so qualifies for inclusion. The announcement coincided with International Day for Biological Diversity, which takes place on May 22 each year.

KBA works to monitor and preserve approved sites of great importance as part of its efforts to sustain biological diversity on a global level, the Saudi Press Agency reported.

The Saudi reserve is managed by the King Salman bin Abdulaziz Royal Natural Reserve Development Authority with the aim of protecting endangered species, developing natural habitats, raising environmental awareness among the public, and reducing natural and human threats to the area. It is considered the largest nature reserve in the Middle East, covering a total area of 130,700 square kilometers.


Saudi Arabia participates in UN tourism body meeting

Saudi Arabia participates in UN tourism body meeting
Updated 22 May 2024
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Saudi Arabia participates in UN tourism body meeting

Saudi Arabia participates in UN tourism body meeting

Saudi Tourism Minister Ahmed Al-Khateeb headed the Kingdom’s delegation at the UN World Tourism Organization’s 50th meeting of the regional committee for the Middle East, on Wednesday in Muscat.

During his speech, the Saudi minister stressed the Kingdom’s openness to cooperate with member states to adopt joint regional tourism projects to attract international visitors to the region. 

Al-Khateeb thanked the Omani Minister of Heritage and Tourism Salem Al-Mahrouqi for the hospitality and extended his appreciation to the UNWTO Secretary-General Zurab Pololikashvili and other officials for their efforts to advance the tourism sector globally.