A history of devoted tradition holds firm in Makkah

1 / 20
The series of images that span nearly 150 years clearly illustrates the historical transition and civilizational development that Saudi Arabia has witnessed as well as the great amount of money and unparalleled effort that it has generously provided in the service of Islam. (Supplied)
2 / 20
3 / 20
4 / 20
5 / 20
6 / 20
7 / 20
8 / 20
9 / 20
10 / 20
11 / 20
12 / 20
13 / 20
14 / 20
15 / 20
16 / 20
17 / 20
18 / 20
19 / 20
20 / 20
Short Url
Updated 31 July 2020

A history of devoted tradition holds firm in Makkah

  • Historians, geographers and painters preserve the past 150 years of Makkah’s history

MAKKAH: Historians, geographers and painters have all contributed to the preservation of the history of the Two Holy Mosques, conveying the urban, cultural and human heritage in all its manifestations and archaeological treasures. 

Arab News took a trip through the 150 years of Makkah’s history to review the images that have found their place in the memory of the world.

Dr. Khadran Al-Thubaiti, former professor of geography at Umm Al-Qura University, said that the role of geographers is not so much in historical aspects as in natural, urban and civilizational aspects.

“The relationship between history and geography is close because the temporal dimension and the spatial dimension go hand in hand,” he said.

He explained that historians have played a major role in documenting the development and change witnessed in Makkah and the Grand Mosque area since the migration of the Prophet until the present. 

The relationship between history and geography is close because the temporal dimension and the spatial dimension go hand in hand.

Dr. Khadran Al-Thubaiti, former professor of geography at Umm Al-Qura University

“No one can deny the prominent role that Al-Azraqi, Al-Fakihi, Al-Fassi and other (historians) have played in mapping the history and geography of Makkah,” said Al-Thubaiti.

Dr. Abdullah bin Hussein Al-Sharif, supervisor of the King Salman bin Abdul Aziz Chair for Makkah Historical Studies, told Arab News that Makkah occupies a special religious and spiritual place in the hearts of Muslims, and has received the attention of Islamic countries from the time of Prophet Muhammad and caliphs through to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, which vigorously serves the pilgrims and visitors.

Al-Sharif said that in the Saudi era the Two Holy Mosques received special care from the great founder King Abdul Aziz, who was eager to reconstruct and develop them and provide the best services to the pilgrims.

“Historians, travelers, geographers, painters, writers and photographers have taken care to document the history of the Two Holy Mosques, pilgrimages, Umrah and visits, as well as the efforts of Islamic countries to serve pilgrims,” Al-Sharif said.

Al-Sharif explained that the series of images that span nearly 150 years clearly illustrates the historical transition and civilizational development that Saudi Arabia has witnessed and the services it has offered, as well as the great amount of money and unparalleled effort that it has generously provided in the service of Islam and Muslims.

“The main goal of the Kingdom, during the reign of its founder King Abdul Aziz and his righteous sons, the kings of the Kingdom after him, Saud, Faisal, Khalid, Fahd and Abdullah, was to take care of the Two Holy Mosques and provide pilgrims and visitors with the best of services so that they could perform their rituals with ease and comfort. King Salman followed in the footsteps of his predecessors and pursued this matter with vigor, drawing attention, in all his meetings and speeches, to the Kingdom’s keenness to proudly serve the pilgrims,” he said.

Al-Sharif added: “Vision 2030 is a national reform plan introduced by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to develop the Kingdom. It represents the continuation of the government’s efforts and the major Saudi achievements in general, and in the Two Holy Mosques in particular. It reflects a great qualitative leap towards comprehensive sustainable development, progress and global leadership.”

He said that the Kingdom’s founder initiated various works to further develop the holy site “such constructing the Kiswa Factory of the Holy Kaaba in Makkah, building a door for the Kaaba, lighting, maintaining and painting the square of the Mosque, tiling and shading the Masaa area (the running course between Safa and Marwa), advising the expansion of the Two Holy Mosques.”

These epic efforts culminated in the expansion of the Grand Mosque in three phases, he said.  The first phase of the expansion was ordered by King Abdul Aziz and took place during the reign of King Saud and was completed during the reign of King Faisal.

“The second expansion, which took place during the reign of King Fahd bin Abdul Aziz, included the addition to the Grand Mosque of the historic Souq Al-Hazoora area, known as the Souq Al- Sagheer. Other modern developments were added, such as squares, escalators and the circumambulation areas (Mataf).”

The third expansion, the largest expansion of the Grand Mosque in history, began in the reign of King Abdullah and is continuing in the reign of King Salman. “It raised the capacity of the Grand Mosque, Mataf and Masaa to nearly 3 million worshippers, allowing them to perform the Hajj and Umrah rituals with comfort and ease.”

Historians have taken care to document the history of the Two Holy Mosques, pilgrimages, Umrah and visits, as well as the efforts of Islamic countries to serve pilgrims.

Dr. Abdullah bin Hussein Al-Sharif, supervisor of the King Salman bin Abdul Aziz Chair for Makkah Historical Studies

Al-Sharif explained that the three expansions are part of a system of facilities, works, projects and services to be carried out in the two holy cities and the holy sites, with the aim of providing integrated infrastructure, such as water networks through desalination plants and giant strategic reservoirs, electricity and drainage systems, environmental health and municipal services.

“The development projects also aim to offer adequate housing for visitors and pilgrims,” he said.

Al-Sharif said that modern sea ports, airports, roads, bridges, communications and trains, including the Haramain high-speed railway project and the holy sites project are being executed.

The Saudi leadership also took care of building the Mawaqit, entry points for pilgrims on Hajj roads and the holy sites mosques, including the Al-Khayf Mosque in Mina, the Al-Mashaar Al-Haram Mosque in Muzdalifah, the Mosque of Nimara in Arafat, and the historical mosques such as Al-Ijaba, Al-Raya and Al-Jinn mosques.

Al-Sharif stated that the Kingdom was keen to preserve the health of pilgrims and built medical cities, hospitals and health centers in Makkah, Madinah and the holy sites, providing medical services free of charge.

“The Kingdom has proven throughout its history its ability to host millions of visitors and manage crowds efficiently with its generous hospitality and services. It looks forward to receiving about 35  million pilgrims each year through its Vision 2030 projects,” he said.

He added: “The most important thing is to enable visitors and pilgrims to perform their rituals in a safe and healthy environment. The Kingdom was able to achieve this goal, enabling worshippers to perform their Hajj and Umrah ritual in security, peace, comfort and tranquility from their entry into the Kingdom and until they leave.”


Jeddah center of Japan’s TeamLab promises an inspiring art space for Saudis

Updated 22 September 2020

Jeddah center of Japan’s TeamLab promises an inspiring art space for Saudis

  • Agreement between KSA and Tokyo-based technology group envisions region’s first digital-art museum
  • TeamLab Borderless Jeddah is in line with Kingdom’s Vision 2030 reform strategy’s Quality of Life program

DUBAI: Japan’s TeamLab Borderless has brought to life the idea of a world of digital art without boundaries, a museum where art installations can move from one room to another and come alive in different parts of the world simultaneously.

Artworks such as these will be seen in Saudi Arabia, now that its Ministry of Culture has announced plans for a space in Jeddah to exhibit interactive digital artworks created by the Tokyo-based technology group.

TeamLab Borderless Jeddah, scheduled to open in 2023, will feature an array of interconnected artworks created by a group of physicians, CGI animators, engineers and mathematicians.

Kudo Takashi, TeamLab’s communications manager and brand director, said the plan is to create an art space in Jeddah that is positive and futuristic. “What we create isn’t something we can explain through words,” he told Arab News Japan.

Japan’s TeamLab looks to explore the world “beyond borders,” merging both arts and technology to create their Borderless exhibitions around the world. (Via TeamLab/Supplied)

Takashi said growing up in the UAE, he developed a deep appreciation and love for Arab countries, which inspired him to bring innovation to the region’s art landscape.

Formed in 2001, TeamLab sees itself as an international art collective. Its first permanent exhibition, TeamLab Borderless, opened at Tokyo’s Mori Museum in 2018.

The artworks are displayed across a 10,000-square-meter space. Another permanent exhibition opened in Shanghai, China, in November last year.

TeamLab museums are known for their interconnectivity between installations in different locations. Takashi said entering any of these is like entering a unified digital world.

“There’s no boundary between the visitors and the artwork. If you’re standing inside our space, some flowers will (start to) bloom around you. If you touch them, you’ll activate them,” he added.

Borders are mere “illusions,” Takashi said, adding: “Despite our age, location or background, we’re able to connect. As humans we naturally find a way to connect.”

This is apparent in TeamLab’s art, where if a visitor touches a piece in Tokyo it will be affected in Shanghai, demonstrating how interconnected the installations are.

Most of TeamLab’s work is programmed to respond to light, sound and touch. One piece, “Hopscotch for Geniuses: Bounce on the Water,” involves visitors hopping on shapes that appear on the ground, activating images and depictions of fish, insects and other animals.

Japan’s TeamLab looks to explore the world “beyond borders,” merging both arts and technology to create their Borderless exhibitions around the world. (Via TeamLab/Supplied)

Another piece, “Multi-Jumping Universe,” allows people to direct the flow of light and music around them simply through their own movements.

The Jeddah location is near Al-Balad, the city’s old town and a UNESCO World Heritage site.

There are plans for a children’s section, the objective being to inspire the next generation of artists through its exhibits.

The children’ sections at several of TeamLab’s other museums include experiences such as the Sketch Aquarium that highlight the power of imagination.

Children are invited to color in drawings of sea creatures, scan the artwork and then watch as their colored art piece floats in a virtual aquarium.

TeamLab Borderless Jeddah is in line with Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 reform strategy’s Quality of Life Program, which seeks to diversify the country’s economy through cultural and artistic ventures.

Saudi artists will be involved in the project, and arrangements for a similar exhibition in Riyadh are in the pipeline.

Takashi said TeamLab’s aim is to “explore the new relationship between humans and their world,” adding that in the 20th century people entered a new digital era that changed their relationship with the world and others.

The idea behind the installations, Takashi said, is to create an extension of people’s imagination and creativity.

TeamLab’s website puts it this way: “Within the digital domain, art is able to transcend physical and conceptual boundaries. Digital technology allows art to break free from the frame and go beyond the boundaries that separate one work from another.”

Takashi said it is important to consider the feelings and emotions that art installations can evoke in visitors.

“Human beings aren’t logical creatures. Groups can be controlled through logic, but as individuals they can be very emotional,” he added.

In order to elicit feelings and emotions in their patrons, however, TeamLab Borderless installations utilize different software and programs that the company created together with various hardware.

“In Japan’s Borderless, we use over 470 projectors and over 520 high-spec PCs,” Takashi said, adding that the technology is set in place to create a higher dimension in the immersive experience, something the organization is looking to expand on.

Explaining that the shift in perspective from 2D to 3D enhances how we experience art, he said: “We understand the world not just through our eyes and brains; the process is also physical and emotional.”

Japan’s TeamLab looks to explore the world “beyond borders,” merging both arts and technology to create their Borderless exhibitions around the world. (Via TeamLab/Supplied)

TeamLab has reconstructed many ancient Asian drawings using today’s technologies, and it is a sign of the times to come, he added.

Much of TeamLab’s work is inspired by Japanese traditions of immersive technology-based environments and workplaces, symbolized for instance by Takashi Murakami’s postmodern art movement Superflat, which combines the flatness of commercial graphic design and characters from popular Japanese anime and manga (animation and comics) with the influences of fine art.

Takashi maintains that good designs are those that can be used by everyone. “If you’re the only person who can understand a design, it isn’t good,” he said.

As for the relationship between art and design, he said: “If I compare what’s art and what’s design, design is the answer and art is the question.”

He believes that the right answer is always changing. “A good business model or answer may (have been) the correct answer in the 18th century, but not in the 19th century, due to the industrial revolution,” he said.

TeamLab’s aim is to create the questions, and for visitors to find the answers within the interactive artworks displayed in its installations.

Takashi said the overarching question that TeamLab is trying to answer is: “The borderless world is very beautiful, right?”

TeamLab also has a special section for children, which will be implemented at Borderless Jeddah to inspire the next generation of creatives. (Via TeamLab/Supplied)

Art may seem “weird,” but it is simply expanding on the questions asked, and the answer is in “global feelings,” he added.

Summing up the purpose of the Borderless exhibitions, Takashi said it is neither geographical nor political — the key idea is to understand the relationship between humans and the world.

He said TeamLab is “lucky to find good partners in Saudi Arabia who could understand what we’re talking about.” Equally, he is excited about the TeamLab projects that will be announced in the coming year.

Twitter: @DianaFarahANJP