Revival of historic sites captures Baha’s timeless charm

Revival of historic sites captures Baha’s timeless charm
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In a bid to preserve and celebrate its rich cultural heritage, the Saudi Heritage Commission has cataloged more than 194 archaeological and heritage sites across the Baha region. (SPA)
Revival of historic sites captures Baha’s timeless charm
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In a bid to preserve and celebrate its rich cultural heritage, the Saudi Heritage Commission has cataloged more than 194 archaeological and heritage sites across the Baha region. (SPA)
Revival of historic sites captures Baha’s timeless charm
3 / 5
In a bid to preserve and celebrate its rich cultural heritage, the Saudi Heritage Commission has cataloged more than 194 archaeological and heritage sites across the Baha region. (SPA)
Revival of historic sites captures Baha’s timeless charm
4 / 5
In a bid to preserve and celebrate its rich cultural heritage, the Saudi Heritage Commission has cataloged more than 194 archaeological and heritage sites across the Baha region. (SPA)
Revival of historic sites captures Baha’s timeless charm
5 / 5
In a bid to preserve and celebrate its rich cultural heritage, the Saudi Heritage Commission has cataloged more than 194 archaeological and heritage sites across the Baha region. (SPA)
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Updated 13 February 2024
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Revival of historic sites captures Baha’s timeless charm

Revival of historic sites captures Baha’s timeless charm
  • Serving as vital components of national identity, the sites showcase a mosaic of cultural and social diversity while contributing significantly to the economy
  • The villages and historical landmarks stand as awe-inspiring testaments to ancient architectural prowess

RIYADH: In a bid to preserve and celebrate its rich cultural heritage, the Saudi Heritage Commission has cataloged more than 194 archaeological and heritage sites across the Baha region. These sites, including 72 traditional villages, have been classified and labeled with “barcode” plates, as outlined by the Heritage Commission’s data.
In Baha, picturesque scenes unfold as traditional villages and ancient structures dot the landscape, weaving through rugged terrain, vast expanses and diverse climate. These sites stand as testaments to a rich historical legacy, blending tradition, culture and craftsmanship.
Serving as vital components of national identity, the sites showcase a mosaic of cultural and social diversity while contributing significantly to the economy. They have also become magnets for travelers seeking to unearth the secrets of ancient civilizations crafted centuries ago by human hands.
The villages and historical landmarks stand as awe-inspiring testaments to ancient architectural prowess, with their homes, mosques, castles and forts echoing the rich heritage of bygone eras. Utilizing locally sourced materials such as stone, timber and sand, the inhabitants crafted roofs, pillars, doors and walls that seamlessly blend with the natural landscape.
Indigenous trees like juniper, spiny jujube (ziziphus spina christi), acacia and wild olive were skillfully shaped into intricate designs, their surfaces coated with a black tar. As time passed, the hues of these engravings evolved, adding depth and allure to the structures. Moreover, the construction also features granite and basalt rocks, adorned with exquisite marble accents, further enhancing the architectural marvels of the region’s historical sites.
Under the patronage of Prince Hussam bin Saud bin Abdulaziz, the governor of Baha, historic villages and sites in the region are receiving heightened attention and support. Prince Hussam has often emphasized the importance of these cultural riches in conserving the region’s history and contributing to national identity.
In his statements, Prince Hussam emphasizes the rich historical narrative buried in these sites, as well as their significance in communicating the tale of the region’s past and identity. He also highlights the abundance of archaeological and heritage villages scattered throughout the rugged landscapes of Baha, spanning from the highlands to the Tihama sector.
The governor advocates for the meticulous preservation of these villages, calling for collaborative efforts between government bodies, led by the Heritage Commission, and the local community, such as the development initiatives in several heritage villages that have been transformed into vibrant tourist destinations. Notable examples include the Thee Ain archaeological village, Al-Atawlah village, Al-Abadil village and Al-Mousa village.
These revitalized sites have become focal points for national tourism that extend a warm invitation to visitors and residents alike to delve into the rich tapestry of heritage nestled within the heart of Baha.
Mohammed Salem Al-Ghamdi, an elder in the region well versed in the architectural legacy of the area, said: “Since time immemorial, our ancestors have demonstrated a remarkable penchant for constructing stone and mud dwellings in close proximity, their shapes ranging from squares to rectangles or triangles, dictated by the landscape’s contours. These abodes typically feature two stories, with the ground level dedicated to livestock and provisions, while the upper floor serves as living quarters. The maze-like alleys and pathways foster a sense of closeness among residents, nurturing bonds of unity, affection and friendship.”
Al-Ghamdi said that the heritage villages stand as testaments to the resourcefulness of ancient civilizations, despite their limited means.
Moreover, the historic edifices in Baha echo with tales and anecdotes that chronicle pivotal moments in human civilization, serving as invaluable records of cultural evolution. They not only celebrate the region’s rich cultural heritage, but also exemplify the architectural brilliance of bygone eras.
In the picturesque village of Thee Ain nestled in Al-Makhwah, a tale unfolds through its bustling construction, as recounted by Yahya Al-Aref, a native of the village. With a history spanning more than 400 years, Thee Ain contains about 58 ancient stone houses, some intricately carved into the rugged mountainside. Earnestly dubbed the “Marble Village” for its distinctive architecture, these multi-story residences stand as silent witnesses to centuries gone by.
Surrounded by lush palm groves, banana plantations, fragrant basil and citrus trees, Thee Ain emanates an aura of authenticity, weaving together rich heritage, ancient origins and breathtaking aesthetics.
The heritage village of Al-Atawlah holds its own narrative. It is home to the Rubuh Quraish Market and the fortress of the Al-Othman sheikhs, along with the region’s first formal school.
Adjacent, the historic mosque, a centerpiece of the village, is undergoing a revival under Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s initiative aimed at revitalizing historical mosques.
Venturing further, neighboring villages like Al-Khalaf and Al-Khalif unveil their own treasures, and are renowned for ancient Islamic inscriptions etched into basalt stones, including verses from the Qur’an and timeless supplications. Similarly, the cultural tapestry of Al-Mousa and Matair Al-Aish reverberates with echoes of history, each boasting a significant heritage waiting to be discovered.
Amid the heritage villages, a tapestry of historical richness unfolds in the region, showcasing not only quaint settlements, but also a treasure trove of historical sites. One such gem is the palace of Bin Raqoush nestled in Bani Saar, to the north of Baha. Erected in the year 1249 AH, the palace comprises five grand houses, some soaring to three floors, each intricately crafted in a distinctive architectural style.
A symphony of heritage unfolds within, featuring a tribal council chamber, an adjoining mosque, servant quarters, a wellspring of water and an intimate inner courtyard. Two additional houses encircle this palace, collectively forming a harmonious residential complex.
Further enhancing the historical mosaic is the Bakhrush Fortress, positioned in the northwest of the Qura governorate. This ancient citadel, with its soaring walls and twin towers, stands as a sentinel to the region’s storied past.
Meanwhile, the Al-Akhawayn Fortress surveys Al-Malad village with steadfast pride, perched atop a lofty hill and flanked by venerable heritage houses. Adding to this historical tapestry is Al-Ayed Heritage Guesthouse in Bani Kabir village, a haven of heritage museums that narrate the rich history and cultural legacy of the region.
These living artifacts, be they villages or historical sites, find themselves under the watchful eye of relevant authorities, with the commission spearheading efforts to breathe new life into these historical marvels.
Initiating a phased restoration of Thee Ain heritage village, the commission aims to secure its nomination for UNESCO’s prestigious World Heritage list. Simultaneously, significant attention has been directed toward revitalizing the Bin Raqoush Palace and turning it into a vibrant tourist destination.
Central to these endeavors is collaborative engagement with local communities, ensuring that restoration activities align with their needs and aspirations. This inclusive approach serves a dual purpose: Strengthening Saudi cultural identity while fostering a deeper sense of national cultural awareness and safeguarding heritage and social values.
Ali bin Mohammed Al-Suwat, mayor of the Baha region, underscores the region’s commitment to enhancing its heritage sites. This encompasses infrastructural improvements, aesthetic enhancements and the development of access routes. Municipal efforts are concentrated on the rehabilitation and paving of roads leading to these cultural treasures, accompanied by the installation of lighting infrastructure.
These initiatives not only accentuate the charm of heritage villages, but also cater to the region’s tourism and heritage development objectives.
Recent projects have seen pathways in heritage villages adorned with natural stone, covering extensive areas of more than 4,000 square meters. Furthermore, the installation and upkeep of more than 235 lighting poles along the pathways have illuminated the historical sites. Notably, with more than 900 square meters of electrical cables laid, 250 decorative external lighting fixtures have been strategically placed in prominent heritage sites such as the As-Sawad, Al-Hillah and Al-Abadil villages.


Saudi Arabia to host Islamic Development Bank Group annual meetings and golden jubilee

Saudi Arabia to host Islamic Development Bank Group annual meetings and golden jubilee
Updated 17 April 2024
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Saudi Arabia to host Islamic Development Bank Group annual meetings and golden jubilee

Saudi Arabia to host Islamic Development Bank Group annual meetings and golden jubilee
  • As the bank celebrates its 50th anniversary, the meetings will have the theme ‘Taking Pride in Our Past and Shaping Our Future: Authenticity, Solidarity and Prosperity’

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia will host the annual meetings and golden jubilee celebrations of the Islamic Development Bank Group in Riyadh between April 27 and 30, under the patronage of King Salman.

This year’s meetings will take place under the theme “Taking Pride in Our Past and Shaping Our Future: Authenticity, Solidarity and Prosperity,” the Saudi Press Agency reported.

The bank describes itself as a pivotal platform for development dialogue, and said it is celebrating 50 years of fostering social and economic growth among its members. As a leading multilateral development bank, it said it expects the event to attract significant international and regional attention.

Participants will include economic, planning and finance ministers from the 57 member countries of the bank, along with representatives of international and regional financial agencies and organizations, Islamic banks, the private sector, development finance institutions, nongovernmental organizations, and chambers of commerce and industry.

Organizers said the annual gathering serves as a vital forum for the enhancement of economic ties and expansion of cooperation among participants. Its agenda includes forums, seminars and meetings on a range of topics, with particularly notable events including the Governors’ Round Table, the 18th IDB Global Forum on Islamic Finance, and the IDB Group Private Sector Forum.

Topics for discussion will include the role of small and medium enterprises in Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 development and diversification agenda, strategies for the financing of efforts to achieve Sustainable Development Goals, the leveraging of Islamic finance for the development of resilient infrastructure, and the establishment of the Arab Coordination Group Forum.

The Future Vision Symposium and the General Assembly of the Union of Consultants in Islamic Countries will also take place during the event.


Saudi foreign minister and Pakistan army chief discuss security and strategic cooperation

Saudi foreign minister and Pakistan army chief discuss security and strategic cooperation
Updated 17 April 2024
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Saudi foreign minister and Pakistan army chief discuss security and strategic cooperation

Saudi foreign minister and Pakistan army chief discuss security and strategic cooperation
  • Prince Faisal arrived in Pakistan on Monday for a two-day official visit, the main aim of which was to enhance economic cooperation

ISLAMABAD: Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister, Prince Faisal bin Farhan, held talks in Islamabad on Tuesday with the chief of staff of the Pakistan Army, Gen. Asim Munir.

They discussed ways to enhance the “strong cooperation” between their nations in several fields, including ways to work together to improve security and strategic cooperation in ways that contribute to international peace and security.

Prince Faisal arrived in Pakistan on Monday for a two-day official visit, the main aim of which was to enhance economic cooperation. He also met President Asif Ali Zardari, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif and Foreign Minister Ishaq Dar.

The prince was leading a high-level Saudi delegation that included Minister of Environment, Water and Agriculture Abdul Rahman Al-Fadhli, Minister of Industry and Mineral Resources Bandar Al-Khorayef, and senior officials from the ministries of energy and investment, and the Public Investment Fund.


Saudi authorities highlight tourism commitments during UN Sustainability Week in New York

Saudi authorities highlight tourism commitments during UN Sustainability Week in New York
Updated 17 April 2024
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Saudi authorities highlight tourism commitments during UN Sustainability Week in New York

Saudi authorities highlight tourism commitments during UN Sustainability Week in New York
  • Tourism minister says he hopes Kingdom can help lead transformation of sector into an environmentally friendly industry that supports communities and countries

NEW YORK: The Saudi tourism minister on Tuesday reiterated the Kingdom’s commitment to sustainable development of the travel sector.

Ahmed Al-Khateeb said that under the leadership of King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, Saudi Arabia has become one of the most promising and attractive global travel destinations.

He was speaking at the start of an event at the UN headquarters in New York that aims to encourage a concerted approach to enhance the resilience of the sector at the highest level and maximize its contribution to sustainability.

The event, which takes place during UN Sustainability Week, was convened by the president of the 78th session of the UN General Assembly, Dennis Francis, in cooperation with UN Tourism.

Al-Khateed highlighted the efforts the Kingdom is making to address the environmental impacts of the travel and tourism sector, and noted that those efforts had contributed to the establishment, with Saudi Support, of the World Travel and Tourism Council and the World Center for Sustainable Tourism.

During the past two years, Saudi Arabia has sought, in its role as chair of the executive council of UN Tourism, to enhance the representation of the travel and tourism sector in international forums, Al-Khateeb said.

This has resulted in UN Tourism and the Kingdom cooperating on a package of initiatives to help achieve this goal, including a Best Tourism Villages award, a Tourism Opens Minds initiative, and a working group to reimagine the future of tourism, Al-Khateeb added. He also noted his country’s efforts to ensure the tourism sector was properly represented on the agenda for UN Sustainability Week. 

Saudi Arabia topped the UN World Tourism list in 2023 in terms of growth among major tourism destinations in the number of international visitors. It also topped the list of G20 nations in terms of the number of international tourists, welcoming more than 27 million last year, Al-Khateeb said. He added that authorities in the Kingdom are developing plans and strategies to attract more than 70 million international tourists a year by 2030.

By then, he said, the Kingdom aims to have reduced carbon dioxide emissions by more than 278 million tonnes annually, designated 30 percent of land and marine territory as protected areas, and planted more than 600 million trees.

“The Kingdom has taken significant steps to launch the Sustainable Tourism Global Center, with the aim of accelerating the travel and tourism sector’s transition to climate neutrality, protecting nature and empowering communities around the world,” Al-Khateeb said.

He also highlighted major Saudi projects such as the NEOM smart city development and the Red Sea tourism project that aim to ensure they have positive effects on the climate, environment and local communities.

He also expressed the Kingdom’s aspiration for all countries to make concerted efforts, and be open to cooperation, to achieve the goal of sustainable development in the global travel and tourism sector.

Al-Khateeb said that through this important UN event, he hopes the Kingdom can spread a message to the world about the need to preserve the environment, and can help lead and support the transformation of tourism into an environmentally friendly industry that supports communities and countries worldwide.

UN Sustainability Week began on Monday at the UN headquarters in New York and continues until Friday.


Saudi crown prince discusses military escalation in the region with UAE president, Qatar emir

Saudi crown prince discusses military escalation in the region with UAE president, Qatar emir
Updated 17 April 2024
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Saudi crown prince discusses military escalation in the region with UAE president, Qatar emir

Saudi crown prince discusses military escalation in the region with UAE president, Qatar emir

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman received two separate calls from UAE president Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan and Qatar’s emir Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, the Saudi Press Agency said early Wednesday.

The calls discussed the recent military escalation in the region and its repercussions on safety and security, in addition to the latest developments in Gaza.

They also underscored the importance of exerting efforts to prevent the situation from worsening and to spare the region the dangers of this escalation, the SPA added.


Saudi Arabia highlights its environmental and sustainability efforts at Our Ocean Conference

Saudi Arabia highlights its environmental and sustainability efforts at Our Ocean Conference
Updated 16 April 2024
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Saudi Arabia highlights its environmental and sustainability efforts at Our Ocean Conference

Saudi Arabia highlights its environmental and sustainability efforts at Our Ocean Conference
  • The Saudi delegation at the two-day event is led by the CEO of the National Center for Wildlife, Mohammed Qurban
  • During 8 previous events since the conference was launched in 2014, participants announced 2,160 commitments worth $130 billion

RIYADH: Saudi authorities showcased their programs and plans for environmental protection and sustainability initiatives on Tuesday, during the first day of the 9th Our Ocean Conference in Athens.

Delegates at this year’s event, the theme for which is “Our Ocean: An Ocean of Potential,” include representatives of governments and businesses, as well as activists and experts on marine environments, the Saudi Press Agency reported.

They are discussing topics such as protected marine areas, sustainable blue economies, maritime security, the relationship between oceans and climate change, sustainable fishing, and ways to combat marine pollution. Other issues to be addressed during the conference include sustainable tourism in coastal areas and on islands, ways to reduce plastic and microplastic pollution in marine environments, green shipping, and the green transition in the Mediterranean.

The Saudi delegation at the two-day event is led by the CEO of the National Center for Wildlife, Mohammed Qurban. The initiatives in the Kingdom highlighted at the conference revolve around ways to protect oceans and other water resources, and the sustainable utilization of marine resources.

“Our participation in the work of this global conference reflects the Kingdom’s keenness to support the efforts and endeavors aimed at achieving Sustainable Development Goals, protecting the seas, oceans and water resources, and the sustainable use of marine resources in a way that reflects the trends of the Kingdom and (its) Vision 2030 (development plan) to support environmental protection efforts,” said Qurban.

He highlighted several key national projects that are underway, including the Saudi Green Initiative, which aims to expand protected areas of the Kingdom to encompass 30 percent of its total land and sea territory, and plant 100 million mangrove trees by 2030.

“The Kingdom remains resolute in its mission to safeguard nature and its invaluable ecological treasures, with a special emphasis on the Red Sea region,” Qurban said. “We stand ready to deploy all necessary resources and efforts toward sustainable conservation endeavors.”

Participation in forums such as the Our Ocean Conference encourages the invaluable sharing of knowledge, a cross-pollination of ideas, and collaborations in the creation of innovative ways to tackle environmental challenges and promote sustainable practices, he added.

During the previous eight events since the conference was launched in 2014 by the US to fill a gap in global ocean governance at the time, participants have announced 2,160 commitments worth $130 billion, organizers said.

Other items on the agenda this year include ways in which oceans will meet the needs of future generations, ways to encourage governments, businesses and other organizations to adopt long-term commitments that have positive effects on oceans, and efforts to achieve the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals relating to oceans, seas and marine resources.