The way we were: Rare photos shed new light on Saudi Arabia’s past

Late Saudi King Faisal leaving the old Riyadh governorate building with then governor of Riyadh Prince Salman. (Photo courtesy: Omar Murshid)
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Updated 29 August 2021
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The way we were: Rare photos shed new light on Saudi Arabia’s past

  • Omar Murshid acquired his collection through special auctions featuring photographs taken by foreign employees who worked in Saudi Arabia decades ago

MAKKAH: A Saudi expert has acquired a collection of rare photos of Saudi Arabia that shed light on older eras and historical events in the Kingdom.

Omar Murshid, an expert in digital exhibitions, acquired his collection through special auctions featuring photographs taken by foreign employees who worked in Saudi Arabia decades ago.
He “traveled back in time” more than 40 years after acquiring the photographs from the personal archive of US journalist Najib Najjar, who was a frequent visitor to the Kingdom, especially its capital Riyadh, in 1974.
Najib’s archives depict Saudi history and were featured for the first time in newspapers.

Murshid told Arab News that the first photo he had showed the late Saudi King Faisal bin Abdul Aziz Al-Saud leaving the old Riyadh governorate building, and behind him the governor of Riyadh region at the time, now King Salman.
The second photo was of the old governorate building with the details of its facade from a local architectural perspective, showing the cavalry and guards lining up at its entrance.

HIGHLIGHT

The first photo showed the late Saudi King Faisal bin Abdul Aziz Al-Saud leaving the old Riyadh governorate building, and behind him the governor of Riyadh region at the time, now King Salman.

The third photo showed the cavalry and guards lining up near Al-Safat Square and Al-Adl Square in the historical region, with its famous clock, in preparation for welcoming a head of state visiting Riyadh.
The fourth picture showed the head of the National Guard at the time, the late King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz Al-Saud, while receiving a number of employees of the National Guard.

Finally, a fifth photo showed King Faisal bin Abdul Aziz Al-Saud, the princes, and a group of citizens while performing the Al-Ardeh traditional dance of Najd, during national celebrations at Al-Malaz Stadium.
Murshid said that he was unable to determine the type of cameras used at the time, however he was able to get the photos through an American journalist who worked with official US delegations at the time.
He said that cameras were among the most important of human inventions, initiating a revolution in transmitting events and information, and documenting them. Murshid said that cameras had developed rapidly due to the digital revolution.




Omar Najib’s archives depict Saudi history and were featured for the first time in newspapers

“We are talking about the nature of technology and the time pace distinguished by the spread of photography through slide films. Then we present a detailed description of a number of selected photos and conclude by explaining how we transform them into digital photos,” he said.
He talked about the beginning of the use of slides, issued in 1935 by the Eastman Kodak Company. This consisted of positive photos of 25 mm Kodachrome film — fixed with rectangular cardboard or plastic for protection — in 2 x 2 inch (5 x 5 cm) squares; the most widespread form of slide photographs.

Murshid said that a viewer could see slide content in many forms, either by looking at them under spotlights or on a screen by using a projector, the most widespread method during the 1960s and 1970s.
“Their usage was extended in public life to include commercial activities, advertisements, and artistic exhibitions, museums, universities and research centers,” he said.
Murshid pointed to the importance of these slides in recording history, whether showing the human aspect, the architectural side through buildings, historical landmarks, the artistic and aesthetic side, or the civilizational side that depicted lifestyles of a particular era.
On the importance of slides from an artistic and historical perspective, he said: “The artistic perception of slides reminds me of oil paintings which distinguished the arts of previous ages before the invention of the camera. For each photo expresses the moment of capturing the photo to feature a story with lot of details of the lifestyle, architectural designs, the people’s wardrobe, their habits and traditions, in addition to the tools and technologies widespread and used at the time.”




Head of the National Guard at the time, late King Abdullah, while receiving members of the National Guard. (Photos/Omar Murshid)

“From a historical perspective they are considered as material evidence that embodies human civilization and links it to the past, describe events in the form of a photo, records historical landmarks and architectural designs of buildings that might develop or change over time so that their photo would be the best witness of them,” he said.
That was why slides showing useful content were seen as priceless treasures by libraries specialized in the field, and also by research centers and museums, he said.




King Faisal (center), members of the royal family, and a group of citizens while performing the Al-Ardah traditional dance of Najd, during national celebrations at Al-Malaz stadium in Riyadh. (Photo/Omar Murshid)

The sources of such slides were numerous, Murshid said. However, acquiring them was not an easy task for many reasons. The most important reason was the disappearance of this technology and its rare use, in addition to the damage that might affect some old slides due to bad storage, the huge stores of these slides, and the difficulty of sorting them and identifying the people, places or period of the photos.
This was why they were offered for sale through intermediaries at low prices. The deal was done on big collections of slides, and the buyer had to work on sorting them and try to identify the people and places in them.


Saudi Arabia’s envoy opens ‘Al-Mangour: Loved and Beloved’ exhibition in US

Princess Reema bint Bandar, Saudi Arabia’s US ambassador, opened the exhibition “Al-Mangour: Loved and Beloved” in Washington.
Updated 54 min 53 sec ago
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Saudi Arabia’s envoy opens ‘Al-Mangour: Loved and Beloved’ exhibition in US

  • The work by Saudi Arabia artist Ahmad Angawi was presented by the Saudi Embassy and the International Finance Corporation
  • Al-Mangour is a traditional Hijazi craft that consists of wooden latticework forming a mesh-like screen

RIYADH: Princess Reema bint Bandar, Saudi Arabia’s US ambassador, opened the exhibition “Al-Mangour: Loved and Beloved” in Washington on Wednesday.

The work by Saudi Arabia artist Ahmad Angawi was presented by the Saudi Embassy and the International Finance Corporation.

The exhibition, held at the IFC’s headquarters, showcases the beauty of Al-Mangour, the traditional Hijazi craft that consists of wooden latticework forming a mesh-like screen.

Al-Mangour is a traditional Hijazi craft that consists of wooden latticework forming a mesh-like screen. (@rbalsaud)

The craft reflects the spiritual relationship between humans through a story of two halves that form one unit — the “loved and beloved.”

The exhibition included musical performances and traditional cuisine.

In her speech, Princess Reema stressed the importance of traditional arts in strengthening cultural identity and solidifying national heritage, and building bridges with other nations.

She lauded Angawi for preserving and developing the traditions of the Hijaz region.

Among those in attendance were the IFC’s Director Makhtar Diop, officials, diplomats and artists.


Saudi ambassador presents credentials to emperor of Japan

Updated 23 May 2024
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Saudi ambassador presents credentials to emperor of Japan

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to Japan, Ghazi Faisal Binzagr, on Thursday presented his diplomatic credentials to Emperor Naruhito during a reception at the Imperial Palace in Tokyo.

The envoy, who took up his post in January, conveyed to the emperor the greetings and appreciation of King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, and their best wishes to the government of Japan and its people for their continued progress and prosperity, the Kingdom’s foreign ministry said.


MDLBEAST building a creative tribe through music, says chief creative officer

Updated 12 min 2 sec ago
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MDLBEAST building a creative tribe through music, says chief creative officer

  • Ahmad AlAmmary talks about MDLBEAST vision, his own musical background for 6th season of ‘The Mayman Show’

Riyadh: MDLBEAST is building a tribe for the region’s music lovers through its initiatives such as the Soundstorm festival, the platform’s Chief Creative Officer Ahmad AlAmmary, also known as DJ Baloo, said. The Saudi veteran DJ and producer with over 20 years of experience under his belt sat down with Arab News’ “The Mayman Show” for the launch of its sixth season, talking about MDLBEAST’s ambitions and his own background.

His role taps into his ability to find solutions on many levels, he shared.

 

 

“It’s been my role since the onset of this whole project. My background sits between design thinking, brand development, and brand strategy, and music,” the CCO said, adding that the role feels like a perfect fit for him.

“Creatively, you know, every day is its own day. There’s no system for creativity. Its context is whatever comes your way, whatever problem you’re solving — that’s where your creativity sits,” he said.

AlAmmary said it was MDLBEAST’s goal to become involved in all facets of the creative music industry since its launch in 2019.

 

 

“From the onset, the big splash was Soundstorm, but we had every intention of launching our record labels, our music conferences, and XP Music Future,” he said.

The platform launched around the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, which provided an opportunity for it to focus on entertaining.

“So, whether or not you (could) go to an event, we were still around there to … provide the music and to provide the entertainment,” AlAmmary said.

After pandemic restrictions eased, it allowed him and the team to stay on the path they paved. MDLBEAST started with flagship live events and some record labels.

 

 

“We had … launched MDLBEAST Records, Qabo, Wattar, Maestro-Lab and, most recently, Mahoul Records. Each of these labels, for example, serves … a niche. Above and beyond, our conference is a really unique experience that gathers people from around the region. We have a day and night experience. During the day, it’s all about learning and networking, connecting, and collaborating. And at night, that turns into a regional music showcase,” AlAmmary said.

MDLBEAST highlights up-and-coming brands that are leading the underground scene of Saudi music across a variety of genres, the CCO said.

“It’s just been, you know, a lot of fun … but also a lot of … work. We’re turning around projects left and right,” he said, adding that the platform is now “diving into venues” with the launch of Beast House, for example, “Riyadh’s first music and creative members club,” according to the MDLBEAST website.

 

 

“We developed these smaller pop-up events, with more intimate settings,” AlAmmary said, explaining that the events take place in spaces that have been abandoned, giving MDLBEAST space to flex its creative muscles.

“We can take over and create an experience that is very unique,” he said. “We saw that with Tahlia in Jeddah and Irqah in Riyadh, the abandoned hospital … We’re looking at all of these different spaces and projects as … fun experiences that we can create for our people and platforms for musicians to shine.”

Speaking about his own background, AlAmmary says he owes his creative attributes to his very musical family.

 

 

“My eldest brother, Khalid, actually, he was kind of like the cultural center of our family. Everything from film to music, design, art, you know, we always had a deep interest in the arts because of his influence. Especially with me and house music — that’s where I learned it. I learned it from Khalid,” he said.

The DJ and producer developed an interest in music at an early age.

“By the time I was 17, I already had a collection of music,” he said. “Years later, you know, I started to get things like a residency in Bahrain … I would just travel to Beirut and the gigs would appear.”

 


3rd European Film Festival set to launch in Saudi

Updated 23 May 2024
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3rd European Film Festival set to launch in Saudi

  • VOX Cinemas will host 21 European films over the one-week event
  • The line-up features movies that have won awards including Oscars and the Palme d’Or, the highest prize awarded at the Cannes Film Festival

RIYADH: The third European Film Festival begins next week, taking place in both Riyadh and Jeddah for the first time.
The event, which will run from May 29 to June 6, is being launched by the European Union Delegation to the Kingdom in conjunction with the embassies of EU member states and Arabia Pictures.
It will be hosted at VOX Cinemas Century Corner in Riyadh and the newly opened VOX Cinemas Jeddah Park in Jeddah.
This year the festival is bigger than ever, with 21 European films from countries including Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Lithuania, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain and Sweden.
The line-up features movies that have won awards including Oscars and the Palme d’Or, the highest prize awarded at the Cannes Film Festival.
EU Ambassador to Saudi Arabia Christophe Farnaud said: “I am glad that the European Film Festival has become a landmark event on the Kingdom’s cultural calendar. The festival has been expanding year by year and this time around we are not only showcasing more movies, but also bringing the festival to Jeddah. I hope that this will allow even more Saudi film enthusiasts to attend the festival’s many film screenings and side events.”
Ahmed Teama, CEO of Arabia Pictures, expressed his pleasure at extending the collaboration with the EU Delegation to Saudi Arabia for a third consecutive year.
He lauded the festival as one of the most significant cinematic events in the Kingdom, highlighting its unique appeal to a devoted audience of international cinema enthusiasts.
Aimed at facilitating cultural exchange and promoting European cinema, the festival will also foster contacts between European and Saudi filmmakers.
Among the guests will be Oscar-winning Austrian film director Stefan Ruzowitzky, who will give a special masterclass.
Also attending will be director Kyriakos Tofaridis and screenwriter/director Mijke de Jong as well as Robert Higgins and Patrick McGivney, from Cyprus, the Netherlands and Ireland respectively, who will meet the audiences and run an open conversation with filmmakers and film enthusiasts.
All side-events are free of charge and will take place at VOX Cinemas Century Corner in Riyadh.
Cinema enthusiast Meshal Al-Mutairi told Arab News: “I have seen movies during previous EU film fests and like their movie selection.”
For more information about the festival program or to buy tickets, visit https://arabiapictures.sa/EuroFest or https://ksa.voxcinemas.com


Saudi foreign minister holds talks with Austrian, Ethiopian counterparts

Updated 23 May 2024
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Saudi foreign minister holds talks with Austrian, Ethiopian counterparts

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan on Thursday received his Austrian counterpart Alexander Schallenberg in Riyadh, the Kingdom’s foreign ministry said.

At the beginning of the meeting, Prince Faisal welcomed Schallenberg and his accompanying delegation, wishing them a pleasant stay.

The two sides reviewed ties between the Kingdom and Austria, and ways to support and enhance relations, in addition to exchanging views on regional and international issues.

Prince Faisal also received the Ethiopian Foreign Minister Taye Atske Selassie for talks on developing bilateral ties and joint cooperation, the foreign ministry said.