Half a million visits to Saudi Arabia's pavilion at Expo 2020 Dubai – Arab News
DUBAI: The Saudi Arabia pavilion at Expo 2020 Dubai has received 500,000 visits, state news agency SPA reported, with this figure making up more than 30 percent of expo visitors.
Visitors to the Kingdom’s pavilion, which officially opened on Oct. 1, have come from Arab countries and further afield. There have also been high-level visits from diplomatic delegations.  
There was an enthusiastic performance of the traditional Saudi Ardah dance to celebrate the pavilion’s achievement of attracting 500,000 visits, the highest number in the history of international exhibitions.
The pavilion has attracted people through activities, events, and themed weeks that reflect the Kingdom’s rich nature, vibrant society, longstanding heritage, and economic opportunities.
There is also a sustainable energy station, a strong presence of Saudi heritage handicrafts, shows featuring popular folklore, and famous dishes from all of the country’s regions. 
Pavilion visitors are taken on discovery tours that reflect the young spirit of Saudi Arabia and its cultural, innovation, economic, and investment opportunities.
The Kingdom’s pavilion is offering more than 1,800 activities, programs, and themed weeks over a six-week period. 
It is considered to be the second largest pavilion after that of the UAE’s, and has already achieved three Guinness World Records for the largest interactive light floor, the longest interactive water curtain, and the largest interactive digital screen mirror.
Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman said on Friday that Saudi Arabia was bidding to host Expo 2030.  The theme proposed by the Kingdom is “The era of change: Leading the planet to a foresighted tomorrow.”
Expo 2030 will take place from Oct. 1, 2030 to April 1, 2031.
DHAHRAN: For thousands of years, mosques have served as sacred ground for Muslims around the world. But there is more than meets the eye, with Ithra’s Islamic Art Conference examining the deeper meaning and spiritual effects that mosques have on their communities.
The conference is a collaboration between the Abdullatif Al-Fozan Award for Mosque Architecture and Ithra, a leading destination for art and culture.
It was held from Nov. 24-25, and involved many perspectives, covered several themes and included studies by a group of elite speakers from around the world.
Items and pieces originally from the Two Holy Mosques of Makkah and Madinah on loan from the National Museum in Riyadh, 84 works from the Museum of Islamic Arts in Cairo under the Supreme Council of Egyptian Antiquities, and 34 objects from Ithra’s collection are showcased.
Ashraf Fagih, head of the programs division at Ithra, told Arab News: “We have philosophers, historians, the museum board of trustees and thinkers all discussing the different aspects of the mosque, not only as a building, but as a living entity which has been a vital part of human civilization since the dawn of Islam.
“When we talk about the objects, we talk about the tangible and intangible parts of the mosque, crafts, endowments, schools of thought and opinions that revolved around the mosque as a living entity. All of that is an essential and crucial part of our identity, not only as Muslims and Arabs, but as global citizens,” he added.
Using recent studies, Abdullah Al-Rashid, director of Ithra, discussed the mosque of the future, outlining its shape and function, and discussing how the 3.5 million mosques around the world will transform with time.

Al-Rashid announced that Ithra is launching a competition related to mosques that will focus on university students. As part of the event, organizers will gather an array of specialists from universities across the Kingdom and collect Saudi youth opinion, creative ideas and visions of future mosques.
The conference facilitates a more profound discussion and a crucial understanding of the historical development of mosques, with a particular focus on Islamic art and the preservation and revitalization of culture.
Its six themes were the evolution of the mosque, beauty, and function of mosque objects, mosque aesthetics, traditional architecture, and the preservation and revival of the mosque from mosque to museum.
One of the outstanding abstracts presented during the first day of the conference was the sonorous audible mosque, a new perspective on Islamic architecture by Michael Frishkopf, professor of ethnomusicology at the University of Alberta in Canada.
Frishkopf told Arab News: “Architecture is for life. It is to be used by people, and people live in social arrangements. In the case of the mosque, there is a spiritual relationship which involves sounds. It is critical for social life, and because of speech and expression, it conveys emotions. So I called the mosque a sonorous object, which is much closer to the spiritual function of the mosque than the visual.

“The root of the word masjid (Arabic for mosque) is sojood, which is the act of prostration. It is a postural sonic act, so a mosque goes away behind the idea of a building, and if we look at the spiritual essence of the mosque, we should focus on prostration. As when the forehead touches the ground the visual field is blocked but the ears are open,” Frishkopf added.
The discussions featured in the conference show the value through time of mosques should be preserved and integrated into the future.
Under the theme of the revival of mosque arts, Minwar Al-Meheid, a Jordanian project manager with a particular emphasis on architectural engineering and design, discussed the Minbar of Saladin at Al-Aqsa Mosque, the most famous Islamic pulpit in design, industry and art, and how it was made with inlaid wood and carved ivory, and crafted with ornamentation and inscriptions by skilled craftsmen.
This shed light on great efforts made across the Arab world to create a substitute minbar, which would revive the remains of the original pulpit that was burned to ashes in a 1969 incident. The new version was reconstructed in Jordan by Turkish and Asian craftsmen and woodworkers, and was then relocated to Al-Aqsa Mosque. Al-Meheid said that the delicate nature of geometry in Islamic art also applies to the ancient mosque and its value.
Shatr Al-Masjid: The art of orientation
Farah Abushullaih, the head of museum at Ithra, told Arab News: “There is an increased interest in and recognition of Islamic art and culture globally, but Ithra’s research has identified established misconceptions and perceptions in this field. The complementing exhibition, “Shatr Al-Masjid: The art of orientation,” the first of its kind in the world, addresses this gap in knowledge and understanding of the significant impact, history and culture around this topic.”
Showcasing mosque aesthetics, evolution and function, the exhibit brings together the most extensive collection of Islamic art masterpieces ever displayed in the Kingdom in unprecedented partnerships on a global and national level. It features several pieces from the greatest Islamic dynasties, from the Ayyubids and Fatimids to the Mamluks and Ottomans, covering different styles and periods over 1,000 years of history.
Items and pieces originally from the Two Holy Mosques of Makkah and Madinah on loan from the National Museum in Riyadh, 84 works from the Museum of Islamic Arts in Cairo under the Supreme Council of Egyptian Antiquities, and 34 objects from Ithra’s collection are showcased.
The exhibit also showcases 10 3D models of ancient mosques from around the world displayed in a sequenced timeline, starting with Thee Prophet’s Mosque. It also shows how other mosques are inspired by their structure, function and architecture.
Dr. Sami Angawi, founder and director of the Hajj Research Center, which he established in 1975, is one of the leading researchers who helped to reach the final result of the 3D modeling of The Prophet’s Mosque in the era of Prophet Muhammad, which is displayed in the exhibition.
“I have been searching and working in Makkah and Madinah for the last 40 years. We have cooperated with Ithra in making this particular model of The Prophet’s Mosque,” Angawi told Arab News.
“Dealing with Makkah and Madinah’s mosques and reconstructing them to be showed in virtual reality through time and place is of huge significance, as we are trying to turn what is documented in books into visual reality. This is one of the results which was conducted with Ithra and we have many other things we are working on,” he added.
The exhibit uses four techniques to enhance and enrich the visitor experience: Audio guides, screens, interactive timelines and virtual reality headsets that showcase five mosques around the world. Once a visitor wears the headset, they will be taken on a tour through the mosques, which gives non-Muslims the chance to feel and walk through the Two Holy Mosques.
Abdullah Alkadi, a professor of urban and regional planning at the University of Dammam, told Arab News that tried to find links between astrolabe and GPS devices as part of his research for the exhibition. “I focused on time and space because everything, every transaction in the world falls between these two aspects,” he said.
“I was also trying to link that with GPS and with old instruments used in the past such as an astrolabe. I was trying to show how the astrolabe was introduced for the last several centuries. It was a navigating system where people can easily know time and directions and they also have used it to determine prayer time, so here lies the connection between the ancient tool and the new technology of GPS. Place and time can be utilized, analyzed and linked to many things from the past, present and future,” he added.
The Art of Masjid
On the sidelines of the Conference, an exhibit titled “The Art of Masjid” showcased contemporary works related to mosques from around the world through collaborations with Turquoise Mountain. The exhibition highlights calligraphy and architectural ornaments, including panels, furniture, prayer mats and more.
The King Abdulaziz Complex for Holy Kaaba Kiswah also took part in the three-day conference, exhibiting tools used for washing the Holy Kaaba, as well as some antiquities, a 3D model of Maqam Ibrahim and more.
Visitors were given the honor of participating in weaving part of Kiswah located over the black stone. The section will be placed later this year, using raw silk threads and silver wire coated with gold water.
Abushullaih said: “Ithra takes the conversation into communities with an outreach project, where the public can share their photos and stories for publication on Ithra’s platform. The combined information from the exhibitions and conference represents the importance of learning, disciplinary development, and the preservation of mosques and cultural heritage.”
DUBAI: Saudi Arabia’s pavilion at Expo 2020 Dubai launched the first activities of its new weekly “16 Windows” cultural program with a debate session on the literature, publishing and translation sectors.
The session, titled “Books and Publishing in Saudi Arabia,” shed light on the capabilities of the Kingdom in the publishing industry.
It was held with the participation of the founder of Arwa Publishing House, Arwa Khomayyis, the author and founding partner of Tashkeel Publishing House, Mujib Al-Shamri, and the founder and general manager of Al-Athar Publishing House, Abdullah Fahd Al-Ghubein. Tariq Khawaji, a cultural adviser and Ithra’s chief librarian, moderated the session.
The participants highlighted the reality of the Kingdom’s publishing and printing industries, which, over the past few years, have been able to achieve great progress. They stressed that the need to provide exposure to Saudi creativity and the richness contained within the Saudi environment was one of the main reasons that encouraged them to establish its publishing houses. The session also discussed the role of book covers and their impact on the shopping process.
On the sidelines of “16 Windows,” the Kingdom’s pavilion hosted, in its Palm Garden, a storytelling session, attended by a large number of children, and which featured some of the works of Khomayyis, while attendees were given the opportunity to write their own stories as well.
The event aimed at teaching children writing techniques to express their emotions, ideas and visions, to enable them to construct stories worth reading and have others learn from them.
The inauguration of the “16 Windows” cultural program aims to support and promote Saudi Arabia’s cultural sector, showing the true essence of the Kingdom by bringing together the best Saudi minds in various intellectual, cultural and creative fields.
The activities were designed to be held over a period of 16 weeks, and will constitute a unique cultural experience that take guests on a communicative and interactive journey, in line with the strategic axes of the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 of building a vibrant, ambitious society and a thriving economy.
RIYADH: A deal has been signed to promote eco-tourism in the Kingdom, the Saudi Press Agency reported.
It was signed between the Ministry of Tourism, the Imam Abdulaziz bin Mohammed Royal Reserve Development Authority, and the Saudi Tourism Authority.
It is aimed at raising the readiness of tourism and environmental sites and initiating opportunities based on development in the Imam Abdulaziz bin Mohammed Royal Reserve Development Authority and the King Khalid Royal Reserve. Areas of Rawdat Khuraim and Thumama Park will also benefit from the memorandum of understanding.
It is part of the initiative to support tourist destinations, in line with the Kingdom’s Quality of Life Program.
The deal will also contribute to enhancing coordination between agencies in preparing plans and programs for tourism attractions and investment, based on environmental and product marketing development.
Prince Saud bin Nahar, deputy minister of tourism regional activation, said the agreement was one of the many methods to enhance joint cooperation between government agencies to develop the country’s tourism sector.
CEO of the Imam Abdulaziz bin Mohammed Royal Reserve Development Authority, Talal Al-Harigi, said the purpose of the agreement was to initiate integration with the national sectors for the development of eco-tourism, which would provide many opportunities for SMEs, diversify the economic base of the local community and the environment, and create direct and indirect job opportunities for Saudis in the development and eco-tourism sectors.
“It also aims at strengthening the existing efforts to protect and develop the reserves, making them available for visits by local and global (tourists), in order to achieve the desired goals for the establishment of royal reserves,” he added.
RIYADH: The Saudi Ministry of Interior recently announced that it has started issuing and renewing residency permits on a quarterly basis. Expatriates have welcomed the change, saying it will reduce their financial burden.
The ministry, represented by the General Directorate of Passports and the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Development, made the change to implement last year’s Cabinet decision.
The new mechanism will enable employers to renew residency and work permits for varying periods of three, six, nine and 12 months. Domestic workers are excluded from this change.
The Jawazat clarified that the new service is available on the online platforms of Absher Individual, Absher Business, and Muqeem.
The HR ministry said services related to work permits can be accessed through the Qiwa Platform and the electronic portal for labor services.
The new mechanism will enable employers to renew residency and work permits for varying periods of three, six, nine and 12 months. Domestic workers are excluded from this change. The Jawazat clarified that the new service is available on the online platforms of Absher Individual, Absher Business, and Muqeem.
Ayman Hassan, an Egyptian expatriate working in Riyadh, said: “This quarterly payment is really very good news for expatriates residing here with their families. Payment of the levy on a yearly basis before iqama renewal is a huge burden on expatriates. Allowing them to pay every three months will help reduce financial burden on them.”
Mohammad Arshad Ali Khan, a teacher at the International Indian Public School, Riyadh said: “This service is a big relief for a huge number of expatriates because many were unable to pay such a huge amount at once. Now quarterly payments will make it easier. We all appreciate the Saudi higher authorities for such a favorable decision.”
Nonie Sagadal Jr., from the Philippines said: “Not only Overseas Filipino Workers will be very happy with this news, but also some OFWs families who have sent their dependants back to Philippines will opt to bring back some of their family members as they have now an easier instalments option. Perhaps now they will consider letting their family members stay on a family visa by using the less burdensome quarterly payments.”
JEDDAH: Saudi Minister of Islamic Affairs Sheikh Abdullatif Al-Asheikh on Friday met Egyptian Minister of Endowments Dr. Muhammad Mukhtar Jumaa.
During their meeting in Jeddah, they discussed a number of issues including cooperation between the two ministries on Islamic initiatives, and spreading the messages of temperance, moderation, and the rejection of extremism.
Meanwhile, Al-Asheikh noted the success of recent talks on similar topics with Yaqut Choilil Coumas, the Indonesian minister of religious affairs.
Coumas pointed out that the two countries had parallel visions, and said Indonesia was keen to benefit from Saudi Arabia’s expertise in serving the Two Holy Mosques.
The Indonesian minister added that as well as tackling groups that tried to exploit Islam for political gain, his country also aimed to build strategic partnerships to train and qualify preachers and imams to achieve its goals.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.