Najdi Ardah — a testament to vibrant Saudi history

The most popular Ardah style in the Kingdom is the Najdi Ardah. (Supplied)
The most popular Ardah style in the Kingdom is the Najdi Ardah. (Supplied)
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Updated 24 February 2024
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Najdi Ardah — a testament to vibrant Saudi history

The most popular Ardah style in the Kingdom is the Najdi Ardah. (Supplied)
  • Saleh Nasser Al-Abdulwahed, leader of the Saudi Ardah group, told Arab News that the Najdi ardah “stands as a testament to Saudi history”

MAKKAH: Saudi Arabia is home to a rich tapestry of folkloric arts, each with its own distinct features, but all with the same purpose: to express the Kingdom’s history, culture, and heroism.

Over time, these artistic traditions have become essential components of a variety of events and holidays. They predominantly take the form of ardah — group war dances which were originally intended to terrify enemies by showcasing the performers’ military prowess and the power and courage rooted in their past.

Of the many types of ardah, the most popular style in the Kingdom is the Najdi ardah, also known as the Saudi ardah.




The most popular Ardah style in the Kingdom is the Najdi Ardah. (Supplied)

Saleh Nasser Al-Abdulwahed, leader of the Saudi Ardah group, told Arab News that the Najdi ardah “stands as a testament to Saudi history.”

The Najdi Ardah begins with the recital of a poem, after which the drummers begin, establishing the rhythm for the dancers to follow. The group leader then takes the stage, wielding a blade and demonstrating well-practiced movements that match those of warriors in battle. He expertly maneuvers the sword, occasionally laying it on his shoulder, lifting it high, or holding it on its side. He also uses precise finger movements to move the blade in a circular motion, demonstrating his expertise.

Usually, the dancers will be dressed in their finest military outfits.

FASTFACT

The Najdi Ardah begins with the recital of a poem, after which the drummers begin, establishing the rhythm for the dancers to follow.

“Ardah performers don Al-Murawden military uniform, featuring long sleeves. They complement it with Al-Zaboun, a finely crafted wooden cashmere fabric adorned with a cashmere shawl, meticulously made by hand, resembling the ‘dagla’ gown,” Al-Abdulwahed explained. “Additionally, the performers may opt for Al-Saya, a tailored white summer fabric, or the Jokha, which is usually reserved for dignitaries such as kings, princes, and knights.”

He noted that warriors typically choose red clothing, though the shades could vary from a bright, blood-like tone to a more muted burgundy.

The performers will also typically be heavily armed, wearing a dagger, a gun holster, a bullet holder known as mujannad, and a sword. When wearing the uniform, the participant positions his pistol holster to the left and mujannad to the right. Various types of sword are used, each with its own sheath.

The Najdi ardah is a cultural touchstone for many Saudi nationals, and remains widely practiced today, not only in the central part of the Kingdom, but all over the country. It is frequently showcased at weddings. Its involvement in such ceremonies creates a sense of joy and delight, enthralling both older and younger generations.

Folk arts in other regions

The Hejaz region is one of the Kingdom’s most diverse in terms of folk arts. It is renowned for the Majrour art form, characterized by two facing rows of performers wearing tied and belted headbands. Each individual holds a daf in hand, contributing to the performance with special tunes and melodies.

The Yanbawi tarab is a form of collective musical expression, featuring the use of a stringed instrument called a simsimiyya, which is closely tied to maritime culture.

In Taif, the ardah Al-Zir takes center stage during special occasions and holidays. This dance involves the use of swords, guns, and daggers, and is a significant element of cultural festivities.

In the northern region, the traditional arts of Al-Samari and Al-Dahha come to life with two opposing rows of performers creating harmonious rhythms, playing melodies such as Al-Mashoub, Al-Zubai, and Al-Hajini.

 


Saudi independent musician takes road less traveled

Saudi independent musician takes road less traveled
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Saudi independent musician takes road less traveled

Saudi independent musician takes road less traveled
  • Artist SOVL speaks on the challenges and joys of making music independently

RIYADH: As the music scene diversifies in Saudi Arabia, from psychedelic rock to electronic dance, young artist SOVL is bringing a new flavor to the mix.

SOVL is a self-taught independent musician who was on a quest to create a top-notch, industry-standard album on his own that reflected his personal artistry and carried a meaningful narrative. He platformed a distinct blend of alternative, modern, and indie rock, all rooted in the DNA of guitar music.

“As an independent musician, it’s a harder process than someone, say, signed to a label. But I try to take advantage of what I have,” he said.

Caption

The Saudi rockstar, 22, debuted his first album “Too Much Is Not Enough” last December. The album represented a bold artistic leap as SOVL, a producer, songwriter, and singer, ventured into the captivating realm of full-length storytelling through his music.

The 10-track work is an emotional odyssey. Open to interpretation, the songs become a canvas upon which the listener’s own feelings are painted.

In a world where the pursuit of “too much” often takes center stage, “Too Much Is Not Enough” offers a message that resonates with all: In the pursuit of everything, we must not forget to preserve the most essential part of our being — ourselves.

I firmly believe that you can write and record music right from your own bedroom and doing so can make the final product more genuine, presenting your art exactly as you envision it.

SOVL, Saudi music artist

But before the full body of work came along, his journey was nothing but relentless.

“When I laid my hands on my first electric guitar in 2019, I was taking a different approach in learning the instrument,” he said. His technique was more makeshift than anything: placing his fingers wherever they landed or strumming whatever sounded right until he began learning some basics of guitar chord theory.

SOVL, Saudi music artist

He later began recording his music on the beginner-friendly GarageBand before moving on to using the Logic Pro software and experimenting with different sounds.

SOVL released his single “What’s Going On?” in 2021, his first official launch into the local music scene as an indie alternative artist. The refreshing sound brings listeners back to the rock gems of the 70s like The Who and The Clash, who inspired much of his music.

He also tries to infuse a bit of Arabic spirit into his music; the oud instrument makes an appearance in some of his songs, including “Ana.”

While making music is the easy part, some other aspects of the industry like marketing and distribution can be difficult to tackle.

A record label, for example, would handle cover art, music video production, and music distribution. “It (would have) been much easier to sign with a record label so they could get all that sorted,” he said.

Regardless of the challenges, SOVL expressed his joy in having the freedom of creative direction: “I’m a strong advocate for the do-it-yourself approach. I firmly believe that you can write and record music right from your own bedroom and doing so can make the final product more genuine, presenting your art exactly as you envision it.

“Don’t get me wrong; there’s absolutely nothing wrong with signing to a major label,” he noted. “It’s a fantastic opportunity for those who have it. However, in a world flooded with too much music content, it can be challenging to stand out and get your unique sound heard.”

For his first album’s cover art, he enlisted the help of his friends. They took an impromptu one-day trip to the Eastern Province for the makeshift photoshoot and ended up filming one of his music videos there as well.

“It takes a whole lot of belief, and my friends have had my back since the get-go,” he said about the experience.

Many independent artists now are utilizing social media platforms like TikTok to promote their music, but SOVL says their approach is a bit “cliche” for his persona.

Personifying a rather mysterious image, hence the anonymous stage name, and presenting a style that is much more nuanced than generic pop, he allows his sound and lyrics to speak for themselves.

His album, although niche in genre, presents an exploration of a rather universal experience. He narrates the battle within to settle for what we already have. The theme is encapsulated in the album cover, which features the artist pouring water into an already plentiful and vast sea.

What distinguishes SOVL is his continuous pursuit to diversify not just genres but the very composition of albums in the novel Saudi music industry. Concept albums, which can tell a larger story than what could be contained in a single track, enhance the listeners’ experience of various notions.

SOVL is adamant about making and releasing music that is authenticated by genuine and soulful feelings, and his name serves as a reminder of that.

He said: “The album is super focused lyrically, on the theme, the sound, and some of the listeners criticized me on that point. Because it was my first album, (they believe) it should be a showcase of what you’re capable of, but on a broader aspect.

“With the Extended Edition, going forward, I’m going to broaden the sound, experiment a bit, but still with the same themes … It’s also to compel the story.”

While the writing and producing process is personal and self-centric, the product may not be everyone’s cup of tea, he said. Pop sensibility is not the artist’s goal, but he understands that broadening the scope of his work, even slightly, will create a more palatable experience for listeners to get into more psychedelic and grunge alternative rock.

“What I’m trying to do here is get people interested in different colors of music,” he said. “This is one that hasn’t been targeted yet here (in Saudi Arabia), but I’m really glad to try and start it.

“The scene here and the talents are still developing their musical identities … If you’re interested in music, just go for it. Once you start and find it’s really interesting, you’re maybe gifted, so try to invest more time on that,” he added.  

SOVL’s goal is to prove, not only to himself but also to his friends and aspiring musicians, that artists can take an indie approach and still achieve their dreams in the world of music.

His album is out now on all popular streaming platforms.

 

 


King Salman Royal Reserve — an ecological haven

King Salman Royal Reserve — an ecological haven
Updated 13 sec ago
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King Salman Royal Reserve — an ecological haven

King Salman Royal Reserve — an ecological haven
  • Fahd Al-Shawaier told Arab News: “The diverse wildlife inhabiting the area is huge … Arabian oryx groups were recently released, and plans are underway to reintroduce species formerly present in the area”

JEDDAH: In the northern part of the Kingdom, the King Salman bin Abdulaziz Royal Reserve, which is recognized by BirdLife International, has strengthened its standing as one of the biggest and most important bird regions in the world through recent expansions.

The additions to the global bird sites within the reserve include the At-Turaif area, Harrat crater, Hail area, and Tabarjal. These areas, situated on major bird migration paths, are considered important protection areas.

The reserve’s diverse terrain, including rocky environments, mountain slopes, and dunes, provides habitat for resident and migratory wildlife species. (Supplied)

Within the expansive boundaries of the reserve, a remarkable 290 species of wild birds have been recorded. An astonishing 88 percent of these are migratory, making a stop in the reserve, while 12 percent are resident.

FASTFACTS

• 58 percent of the total birds recorded in all regions of the Kingdom find refuge within the King Salman Royal Reserve, underscoring its importance for avian conservation efforts.

• The additions to the global bird sites within the reserve include the At-Turaif area, Harrat crater, Hail area, and Tabarjal.

Notably, 58 percent of the total birds recorded in all regions of the Kingdom find refuge within the reserve, underscoring its importance for avian conservation efforts. Alarmingly, 25 species among them are listed on the Red List of Threatened Species.

A jewel in the crown

At the heart of the reserve lies Al-Khunfah Natural Reserve, spanning more than 20,000 sq km on the edge of the Nafud desert. Designated as a natural reserve in 1987, Al-Khunfah boasts a natural landscape characterized by sedimentary formations and sandstone, displaying a diverse color palette ranging from dark brown to white, with shades of gray and light brown.

The reserve’s diverse terrain, including rocky environments, mountain slopes, and dunes, provides habitat for resident and migratory wildlife species. (Supplied)

The biodiversity within Al-Khunfah is spectacular, encompassing a variety of fungal, animal and plant species. Resident and migratory birds, including the houbara bustard and cranes, find sanctuary here, alongside trees such as arfaj, athel, arta, talh, harmal and lavender.

Fahd Al-Shawaier, director of communication and public relations at the King Salman bin Abdulaziz Royal Reserve Development Authority, told Arab News: “The diverse wildlife inhabiting the area is huge … Arabian oryx groups were recently released, and plans are underway to reintroduce species formerly present in the area.”

The reserve’s diverse terrain, including rocky environments, mountain slopes, and dunes, provides habitat for resident and migratory wildlife species. (Supplied)

These efforts aim to restore degraded ecosystems.

Al-Khunfah does not merely house avian wonders; it hosts various reptile species, as well as rabbits and foxes. From the majestic Arabian wolf, sand cat, wild cat, and the false cobra to the elusive desert warbler, wild rabbit and desert hedgehog, the reserve is home to many species.

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290

A remarkable 290 species of wild birds have been recorded within the expansive boundaries of the King Salman Royal Reserve.

The area is also inhabited by many resident bird species such as the Arabian partridge, greater hoopoe-lark, owl and long-legged buzzard, and migratory birds such as the steppe eagle, eastern imperial eagle, vulture and saker falcon.

The reserve’s diverse terrain, including rocky environments, mountain slopes, and dunes, provides habitat for resident and migratory wildlife species. (Supplied)

Al-Khunfah hosts a variety of habitats for reptile species such as the desert warbler, lizard, frog-headed lizard and fringed-toed lizard, among others.

There is one rabbit species in Al-Khunfah, the cape hare, and two fox species, the red fox and Ruppell’s fox, Al-Shawaier said.

Al-Khunfah’s mountains and highlands showcase nature’s splendor across areas such as Bagheith, Al-Asmar, Anz, Abu Talihat, Dhaea, Al-Dhahakiya, and valleys such as Al-Fater, Niyal, Al-Saileh, Al-Aqeelah, Abu Mataya and Wadi Al-Mawrida. Seasonal rains, ranging from 50 to 100 mm, sustain the land, plants, trees and wildlife habitats.

The reserve’s diverse terrain, including rocky environments, mountain slopes, and dunes, provides habitat for resident and migratory wildlife species. (Supplied)

The reserve’s diverse terrain, including sandy and rocky environments, plains, mountain slopes and dunes, provides habitats for resident and migratory wildlife species.

While seasonal rains are crucial for plant growth and diversity, flooding resulting from these rains can pose challenges to certain plant species.

The reserve’s diverse terrain, including rocky environments, mountain slopes, and dunes, provides habitat for resident and migratory wildlife species. (SPA)

The rains work to rejuvenate soil fertility and improve its composition, contributing to the creation of an ideal environment for the growth of plant species, including annual herbs (which are aided by the rains to complete their life cycle), as well as the flourishing of trees, shrubs and perennial herbs during the rainy season, which enhances plant diversity in the area, Al-Shawaier said.

“However, it should be noted that floods resulting from these rains can negatively affect plants, especially those that do not tolerate continuous water immersion,” he said.

Temporary basins are formed, supplying resident and migratory wildlife with their water needs while the basins last.

Al-Shawaier said that the reserve has implemented various programs, initiatives and projects, including surveying and monitoring wildlife, reintroduction programs, post-release monitoring, and initiatives to maintain vegetation cover and habitats.

These efforts are crucial for meeting conservation targets and ensuring the long-term sustainability of this ecological haven.

 

 


Saudi Shoura speaker visits Jordan to strengthen ties

Saudi Shoura speaker visits Jordan to strengthen ties
Updated 34 sec ago
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Saudi Shoura speaker visits Jordan to strengthen ties

Saudi Shoura speaker visits Jordan to strengthen ties
  • Dr. Abdullah bin Mohammed Al-Asheikh emphasized that the leaderships of both countries are keen to strengthen and consolidate bilateral relations to meet the aspirations of their brotherly peoples

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s Shoura Council Speaker Dr. Abdullah bin Mohammed Al-Asheikh arrived in Jordan on Monday for an official visit.

Al-Asheikh leads a delegation from the council who were officially invited by Ahmed Safadi, the speaker of Jordan’s House of Representatives.

Upon his arrival at Queen Alia International Airport in the capital Amman, he was received by Safadi, Saudi Arabia’s Ambassador to Jordan Nayef bin Bandar Al-Sudairi, and several senior officials of the Jordanian House of Representatives.

In a statement, Al-Asheikh commended the progress and cooperation between Saudi Arabia and Jordan in various fields. He emphasized that the leaderships of both countries are keen to strengthen and consolidate bilateral relations to meet the aspirations of their brotherly peoples.

He praised the Shoura Council’s use of parliamentary diplomacy to promote relations between Saudi Arabia and other countries, through which the council seeks to build bridges that consolidate relations, share views, and highlight the Kingdom’s positions on various issues and events.

During the visit, Al-Asheikh will hold talks with Safadi, focusing on enhancing cooperation in parliamentary fields, unifying efforts by coordinating common positions and visions in regional and international forums and platforms, and strengthening mechanisms of dialogue and parliamentary cooperation. He will also meet with Senate President Faisal Al-Fayez, Senate officials and other senior officials in Jordan.

 


Saudi deputy foreign minister and US envoy discuss war in Sudan

Saudi deputy foreign minister and US envoy discuss war in Sudan
Updated 15 min 41 sec ago
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Saudi deputy foreign minister and US envoy discuss war in Sudan

Saudi deputy foreign minister and US envoy discuss war in Sudan
  • They held talks on sidelines of international humanitarian conference in Paris for the war-torn African nation

RIYADH: The Saudi deputy minister of foreign affairs, Waleed Elkhereiji, and the US special envoy for Sudan, Tom Perriello, held talks on Monday in Paris on the sidelines of an international humanitarian conference for Sudan and its neighboring countries.

They discussed the latest developments in the war-torn country, ways in which cooperation between their countries might be enhanced, and other issues of common interest, the Saudi Press Agency reported.

Donors pledged more than $2.13 billion in aid during the conference, French President Emmanuel Macron said, which took place on the first anniversary of what humanitarian workers described as a neglected but devastating conflict.

They said efforts to help millions of people driven to the verge of famine by the civil war have been held up by continuing fighting between the Sudanese army and rival paramilitary organization the Rapid Support Forces, restrictions imposed by the warring factions, and the financial demands donors are facing as a result of other global crises, including the conflicts in Gaza and Ukraine.
 


Islamic Arts Biennale announces participants for Al-Musalla Award

Islamic Arts Biennale announces participants for Al-Musalla Award
Updated 55 min 53 sec ago
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Islamic Arts Biennale announces participants for Al-Musalla Award

Islamic Arts Biennale announces participants for Al-Musalla Award
  • The competition invites international architects to compete in creating the design of the space, to be built on the biennale site

RIYADH: The Diriyah Biennale Foundation on Sunday announced the names of this year’s Al-Musalla Award participants, an international architectural design competition under the Islamic Arts Biennale.

The second edition of the Islamic Arts Biennale will take place in Jeddah from January-May 2025 and is dedicated to the arts of Islamic civilization, connecting its past to its present. 

The 2025 edition of the Islamic Arts Biennale will take place in the Western Pilgrims Hall at King Abdulaziz Airport in Jeddah but will have an expanded focus on Islamic cultural architecture. In its second edition, the Islamic Arts Binneale aims to launch this new award for creating a “musalla” — a small prayer space or mosque.

The competition invites international architects to compete in creating the design of the space, to be built on the biennale site. 

The teams selected to partipate include AAU Anastas Engineering Office from Palestine, Sahel Al-Hiyari from Jordan, East Architectural Studio from Lebanon and the UAE, the Saudi company Dabbagh Architectural Engineering, and Asif Khan from the UK. 

They were each chosen to participate in the competition based on their past work and proven experience and knowledge in the fields of Islamic art and architecture.

The teams are each required to submit a proposal design for the prayer and gathering space that is versatile, sustainable, and meets all requirements. 

There are a few guidelines the participants must follow in the process, including building the space using no less than 50 square meters.

The winner of the award will be announced later this year by the Diriyah Biennale Foundation judging committee which includes Prince Nawaf bin Ayyaf who serves as the chairman of the committee.

He said the award encourages teams to find new ways to integrate the latest building techniques in representing and examining innovative models for architecture while utilizing traditional crafts and time and place.  

He added he hopes that the competition will produce an unforgettable landmark, which will be a source of inspiration for others to participate in future editions of the award, celebrating sustainability, creativity, comprehensiveness, and ingenuity in design.

The CEO of the Diriyah Biennale Foundation, Aya Al-Bakri, confirmed that creating a space through the competition calls for innovation that is closely linked to the goal of the foundation, which seeks to implement creative ideas in various fields.

She explained that Al-Musalla Award comes in cooperation with the Abdul Latif Al-Fozan Award for Mosque Architecture, which addresses new ideas for designing mosques around the world and encourages innovative planning, design, and technical ideas that can shape the identity of mosque architecture in the 2st century.

The chosen design will be witnessed by visitors from around the world to the second edition of the Islamic Arts Biennale for four months in the Western Pilgrims Hall in Jeddah.