Thu. Mar 23rd, 2023
The village of Laynah, located 105 km south of Rafha in the Saudi Northern Borders region, is one of the most important historical sites in the Kingdom due to its ancient water wells. The wells, which are thousands of years old, are the subject of legends and stories explaining their origin, drawing tourists and visitors from across Saudi Arabia.
According to researcher and heritage and antiquities expert Abdulrahman bin Mohammed Al-Tuwaijri, local legends say that the wells are among the oldest in the north of the Arabian Peninsula.
Al-Tuwaijri told SPA that the wells were carved in distinct shapes across the solid rocky soil of the local village, but only a few of the 300 original wells remain in the area.
Tour guide Khalaf bin Jabal Al-Shammari told SPA that much of the information on the Laynah wells is based on hearsay. “There is no academic research on these wells, but many stories and references confirm that the historical number of wells is estimated at more than 300 spread on a hard rocky height, dating back tens of thousands of years. It has not been proven historically who dug them, as many ancient civilizations lived in the region as evidenced by the archaeological treasure trove of Hegra.”
Al-Shammari said that Laynah is one of the most important archaeological sites and one of the oldest settlements in the Arabian Peninsula. The village is located on the ancient trade route between Najd and Iraq, and throughout history provided traveling caravan convoys with respite from harsh desert conditions.

MAKKAH: A group of 25 Pakistani bikers arrived on their motorcycles in Makkah, after riding for 22 days and 14,000 km from Pakistan, via Iran and the UAE.
The group started their journey in Lahore on Jan. 6 and arrived in the holy city on Jan. 28. The group, called the Cross Route Club, is planning to stay in Saudi Arabia for 19 days.
The bikers decided to embark on the journey after the Saudi government announced that overseas visitors willing to perform Umrah can extend visa periods to three months, allowing them to use travel permits to visit cities other than Makkah.
Arab News met with the members of the club in Makkah during their special reception, held at the Ministry of Sports’ offices in the city, attended by the Pakistani consul general and other local authorities and dignitaries.
Aun Muhammed Khan, a lawyer and member of the Cross Route Club, told Arab News that while in Makkah to perform Umrah, the group aimed to promote peace, brotherhood and friendship, and to explore Saudi Arabia during their stay.
Khan said that the idea for the trip came from Mukaram Tareen, the chairman of the Cross Route Club. “We were supposed to perform Umrah by traveling to Makkah from Lahore on bikes in 2019, but due to the coronavirus pandemic, our plan was postponed,” he said. “As soon as we got the first opportunity, we came through.
“Culturally, Saudi Arabia is a very diversified and vast nation, and as Muslims, it is the most important place on Earth. Crown Prince (Mohammed bin Salman’s) vision for tourism is the key for us. We are responding to his request to come and explore Saudi Arabia.”
Khan said that as bikers, the trip was heavenly for them as they were able to pass through long roads and beautiful landscapes.
He thanked the people of Saudi Arabia for their generosity and warm hospitality. “We received a great reception here and whenever we go out with our motorcycles … the support and love we are receiving right now is just incredible,” he said.
Mohammed Suhail Akhtar, who is specialized in training development back in Pakistan and an active member of the Cross Route Club, said: “This is a magnificent experience, and for me, it is one of the best adventures I have ever had on my bike because we had the chance to meet local people from different countries and at the same time explore local cities in Saudi Arabia, Iran and the UAE.”
Akhtar, who previously traveled to Saudi Arabia in 2009 by plane, expressed his happiness at the huge transformation the Kingdom has experienced since his last visit. “Things have really changed, and we noticed that since we arrived at the Saudi border,” he said.
The group plans to visit tourist sites in the Kingdom to promote tourism opportunities in Saudi Arabia, a main pillar of the Saudi Vision 2030. 
After the 19-day stay in the Kingdom, the bikers’ convoy will depart for home via Kuwait, Iraq, Jordan, and Iran.
NEW DELHI: There is great potential for partnerships between Saudi Arabia and India on climate action in the run-up up to this year’s G20 summit and beyond, according to Dr. Ausaf Sayeed, the secretary for consular, passport, visa and overseas Indian affairs at the Indian Ministry of External Affairs.
During a briefing in New Delhi, he said both countries are leading players in their respective regions in terms of environmental action and the battle against climate change.
“India and Saudi Arabia are emerging economies as well as members of the G20,” Sayeed told Arab News. “As responsible regional leaders, both countries have committed to fighting against climate change and environmental degradation, through ambitious initiatives.”
Since India assumed the year-long rotating presidency of the G20 on Dec. 1, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has set numerous targets for climate action, green development and climate finance, and Sayeed predicted strong partnerships with Saudi Arabia on these issues in the near future.
“I am sure that the coming months and years will see our relations strengthen in several new areas, including renewable energy and green hydrogen, petrochemicals, pharma … and other new technologies.”
He described existing relations between the Kingdom and India as close and said they have only become stronger as a result of their shared views and goals on climate action.
“The relationship between India and Saudi Arabia is historic and is assuming new dimensions and heights each passing day,” Sayeed said.
“I am very hopeful for a great future for both of our countries with our young populations and visionary leadership.”
The establishment of the Indian-Saudi Strategic Partnership Council in 2019, featuring high-level representatives up to and including prime minister and crown prince, had helped propel bilateral relations to new heights, he added.
“The ministerial-level meetings of the Strategic Partnership Council took place in 2022 and we are looking forward to the first meeting of the council between Prime Minister Modi and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman soon,” Sayeed said.
He noted that relations between India and Saudi Arabia have been significantly enhanced and strengthened in recent years in many fields, including politics, commerce, energy, defense, security and culture.
“You may expect more political and economic engagements between the two countries this year, both bilaterally and through G20,” he added.
Both nations have invested heavily in new technologies, such as green hydrogen, and “there are great opportunities for us to work together both at government and private-sector levels in these areas,” said Sayeed.
He also highlighted some of the Kingdom’s efforts to mitigate the effects of climate change, including its decision to join the International Solar Alliance in 2019 and its launch of the Saudi Green and Middle East Green initiatives in 2021.
“We welcome the Saudi Green Initiative and Middle East Green Initiative and have participated in their meetings,” he added. “We hope to contribute further to the work on climate change during our presidency of G20 this year.”
RIYADH:  Saudi Arabia’s aid agency distributed about 4,500 food packages to more than 28,000 people in Afghanistan, Niger, Ethiopia, and Somalia, state news agency (SPA) reported.
King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Center (KSRelief) delivered on Sunday 500 food parcels in flood-stricken Afghanistan, benefiting 3,000 people in Logar Province.
As part of a humanitarian project to support drought-affected communities, KSRelief teams distributed 1,548 parcels to 9,288 people in Ethiopia, and 1,500 more food packages to 9,000 beneficiaries in Somalia.
In Niger, 7,176 people received 1,000 food packages.
In a statement, KSRelief said the distribution reflects the Kingdom’s mission to enhance food security and support the disadvantaged across the world.
JEDDAH: After several years in the making, Jeddah’s Islamic Arts Biennale is offering visitors from across the Kingdom and around the globe ‘eye-opening’ access to Islamic art.
Themed “Awwal Bait,” or “The First House,” the event is taking place at the 1983 Aga Khan award-winning Western Hajj Terminal, which began accepting guests on the Jan. 23 launch.
The 118,000-square-meter space is housing five galleries, two pavilions and one grand canopy, 280 artifacts, as well as more than 50 new commissioned artworks from around the Muslim world.
Rakan Al-Touq, the vivacious vice chair of the Diriyah Biennale Foundation, and also general supervisor of cultural affairs and international relations at the Ministry of Culture, hailed the event’s launch success.
Wearing a crisp white thobe and flashing a genuine smile, Al-Touq was visibly moved by how the event came together.
“We were super excited — this is a project a few years in the making, since 2019. It’s also been a passion project for me, personally. And we have a stellar group of people who came together for this project — a small but mighty team,” he told Arab News.
Al-Touq stressed the need for non-commercial experiences in which all hands are brought on deck to elevate concepts and cultures within Islamic art.
Bringing together never-before-seen priceless artifacts juxtaposed with freshly commissioned contemporary pieces within the space was like building a jigsaw puzzle from scratch, he added.
• Bringing together never-before-seen priceless artifacts juxtaposed with freshly commissioned contemporary pieces within the space was like building a jigsaw puzzle from scratch, said Rakan Al-Touq, the vice chair of the Diriyah Biennale Foundation.
• The Islamic Arts Biennale is also meant to serve as a global reframe of Islamic art as a discipline, with the diversity of curators at the Islamic Arts Biennale a notable achievement.
To create a cohesive and visually stunning space in which different areas and sensibilities were represented was quite a feat, Al-Touq said. Securing the iconic location to launch the world’s very first Islamic biennale was also significant to him and the team, he added.
Al-Touq said that the cooperation and support from the Saudi leadership, including Prince Badr Al-Saud, the minister of culture and governor of the Royal Commission for AlUla, has ensured the success of the monumental project.
The vice-chair’s praise went beyond the glamorous opening night ceremony, attended by many members of the royal family and public.
He took pride in the fact that half of the artists taking part in the event are Saudi.
“In 2019, we were planning for 2023 and the meeting point of doing something that is so, frankly, related to the identity of the Ministry of Culture and to Saudi Arabia, in a format that has never been done.
“To think about a biennale format for Islamic arts, that can bring together ancient history and current, and hopefully inspire future productions of art, just felt like the right thing to do.
We’re just really moved and we just feel like students, wide-eyed observing and learning, and taking it all in. It’s going to be amazing to take that all back into our classrooms.
Dr. Stephennie Mulder, Professor in Islamic Art at University of Austin, US
“The team and the Diriyah Biennale Foundation started looking at options of locations and how we ended up here at the Hajj Terminal is also an important thing,” Al-Touq said.
CEO of the Diriyah Biennale Foundation Aya Al-Bakree, Al-Touq’s co-pilot in launching the event, said: “We are keen for people to join the dialog and experience the sense of community that the faith can evoke through art.”
The Islamic Arts Biennale is also meant to serve as a global reframe of Islamic art as a discipline , with the diversity of curators at the Islamic Arts Biennale a notable achievement.
Jennifer Pruitt, assistant professor in Islamic Art History at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, traveled from the US to the Kingdom to visit the biennale with her friend, Dr. Stephennie Mulder, a professor in Islamic Art at the University of Austin, US.
Although immersed in the Middle East through their work, the two had very few expectations but were cautiously optimistic about their first visit to the Kingdom.
Before basking in the works displayed at the Islamic Arts Biennale, they spent eight whirlwind hours in Madinah and managed to explore AlUla before arriving in Jeddah.
“It’s been a really exciting and overwhelming experience. My friend and I are here together and we’re both professors of Islamic arts. We’ve read about this space — we’ve read about Saudi Arabia,” Pruitt said.
“I knew that people would be friendly and warm, which everyone has been, in fact. We were commenting on the fact that unlike any trip we’ve taken, we literally haven’t encountered anyone that has been rude or annoying.
“Really everyone has been exceptionally warm and forthcoming,” she told Arab News.
“We’ve been to a lot of Islamic art shows and I think I think we all … we both agree that this is kind of in a really high category of quality and ambition, and execution,” she added.
The pair’s trip to Madinah was eye-opening — something that they were happy to experience first before venturing to the biennale.
“It was really powerful to see people kind of streaming to this sacred spot in Madinah. It was incredibly moving,” Mulder told Arab News.
“What we teach in our classes, which is that the power of Islam is all of these people converging like that … that that the power is not in the relic or in the architecture, but in these places where people pray … and I think that was really embodied seeing all these people from all over the world streaming into Madinah,” she added.
Due to earlier periods of restrictions, Saudi Arabia had been absent from the center of the Islamic art world for a long time.
But the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 and the introduction of tourist visas as well as academic trips has sought to change that.
“For me, like Jennifer, I just wanted to come here and be a student, and learn and observe,” Mulder said.
“We have this feeling that we’re here at the moment … of a people really discovering and being proud of and being able to construct their national narrative collectively.
“And having the freedom to do that — maybe for the first time very openly, and with a kind of joy.”
Both professors said that the enriching experience has encouraged them to change the way they teach upon their return to the US.
Although a picture is worth a thousand words, the pair said that Islamic art archive images are often “sterile,” and fail to encapsulate the feeling of experiencing art in person.
The sensation of standing beneath a monument while the Adhan (call to prayer) reverberates cannot be replicated through archives, they said.
The two professors are also keen to work and collaborate with Saudi archaeologists.
“We’re just really moved and we just feel like students, wide-eyed observing and learning, and taking it all in. It’s going to be amazing to take that all back into our classrooms,” Mulder said.
“I’m going to teach differently now; it’s kind of been percolating for a few days. I was telling Jennifer, even to have photographs of things we didn’t know before.
“We’re both architectural historians — it’s really important for us to have a sense of space and how people move through it.”
The biennale is free of charge for all visitors. It is also hosting 117 education workshops and more than 25 panel discussions.
The public programming schedule, including talks and screenings, is updated in real time.
The Islamic Arts Biennale, launched to the public on Jan. 23, will remain open until April 23.
Tickets can be booked via the official Diriyah Biennale website and on social media channels.
The space is open for visitors to roam the grounds and exhibits between 11 a.m. and 11 p.m. on Saturdays, Sundays and Thursdays, and between 2 p.m.  and 11 p.m. on Fridays.
RIYADH: Mexican artisans are highlighting their creative skills at Boulevard World in Riyadh.
The site, which is Riyadh Season’s largest zone, is showcasing the cultural diversity of Asia, Africa, Europe, and the US in 10 specially designed areas.
Boulevard World offers a unique experience through the location’s restaurants, arts markets, cable car rides, games area and daily shows.
Mexican women can be viewed skillfully applying distinctive art to pottery to highlight their country’s rich artistic identity.
Meanwhile, other talented people, sporting Mexican hats, showcase dolls inspired by famous cartoon characters.
Visitors can also see a replica of the Chichen Itza pyramid — an archaeological site which is a popular tourist attraction — in the Mexican subzone, along with unique artifacts and sculptures from different civilizations.
While visitors to the American area can watch live Hollywood shows while enjoying the country’s signature dishes.
The Moroccan subzone puts its focus on history and culture, including a traditional wedding and a puppet show.
A lion show, dancing, dragons and folk music all give a taste of Chinese culture in that country’s subzone, while the French area boasts several highlights, including a silent show and the Eiffel Tower piano, making it one of the most popular attractions at Boulevard World.
The Indian subzone has been created to attract visitors with its diverse sights, sounds, and smells. Dance and music are central to the experience, and there is a film of the country’s most striking architecture, including the Taj Mahal.


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