Tuwaiq Sculpture event turns Riyadh streets into art gallery

A total of 30 pieces of rock sourced from the Tuwaiq area just outside of Riyadh will soon be transforming the city into a borderless art gallery under the hands of local and international artists. (AN photo by Abdulrahman Alshalhoub)
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Updated 23 January 2023

Tuwaiq Sculpture event turns Riyadh streets into art gallery

  • Sarah Alruwayti told Arab News: “Sculpting has been in Saudi throughout history, it’s a traditional artform. What’s amazing about Tuwaiq Sculpture is that it gives you the chance to witness these stones being turned into works of art

RIYADH: Sculptors from across the globe will soon be transforming the streets of Riyadh into a borderless art gallery, using locally sourced stone from Tuwaiq, an area just outside of the capital, for the fourth edition of Tuwaiq Sculpture.

This year’s theme is “Energy of Harmony” and the artworks will be on display in Durrat Al-Riyadh from Feb. 5-10.

Sarah Alruwayti, Tuwaiq Sculpture manager, told Arab News: “Sculpting has been in Saudi throughout history, it’s a traditional artform. What’s amazing about Tuwaiq Sculpture is that it gives you the chance to witness these stones being turned into works of art.

From 10 am - 5:30 pm until Feb 2, visitors can access guided tours on-site to view the artists at work, live-sculpting raw blocks of granite and sandstone. (AN photo by Abdulrahman Alshalhoub)

“I used to see sculptures in museums and galleries as a kid, and I never believed that someone could actually carve these amazing, gigantic art pieces using their hands. I think it’s a great way to encourage the younger generation and to enhance (creativity) and the culture of sculpting as well.”

Curated by London-based Marek Wolynski creative producer, the event will feature bespoke, original designs by the artists and their assisting teams, created specifically for Tuwaiq Sculpture.

“Tuwaiq Sculpture intends to build bridges between tradition and modernity, and it’s a unique platform for people to meet, collaborate, exchange knowledge, and most importantly, create public artworks that will then inform the cityscape of Riyadh for generations to come,” Wolynski told Arab News.

Saudi artist Wafa Alqunibit uses Arabic calligraphy to present the 99 names of God proclaimed in the Islamic religion. In her artwork titled “Harmony,” the word “al-Samī,” meaning the one who listens, stands in curved letters, demanding respect in its mountainous granite form. (AN photo by Abdulrahman Alshalhoub)

From 10 a.m until 5:30 p.m. until Feb. 2, visitors can take guided tours to see the artists at work, sculpting raw blocks of granite and sandstone.

The finished large-scale artworks will eventually be distributed across the city, and are part of a venture to beautify Riyadh and enhance creative expression and dialogue under the Riyadh Art program, one of the largest public-art initiatives in the world

“The theme ‘Energy of Harmony’ really inspires artists to create iconic sculptures capturing those manifestations of introducing and witnessing transformative change. It’s all about mutual understanding. It’s all about the balance we all strive for in our lives,” Wolynski said.

In its fourth edition, Tuwaiq Sculpture symposium has hosted visual artists from all corners of the globe under the theme ‘Energy of Harmony,’ soon to present its outputs in an on-site exhibition in Durrat Al Riyadh from Feb 5-10. (AN photo by Abdulrahman Alshalhoub)

English artist Rob Good’s “Rain Stone” sculpture attempts to portray natural rainfall by juxtaposing the softness of clouds with the harshness of granite. He has used different hues of beige, purple and gray to symbolize a desert landscape. These are not clouds drifting on a sunny day, but rather ones foreshadowing a rainstorm.

Good has carved three wide stones overlapping each other to mimic the fluffy silhouettes of clouds. People will be able to interact with the sculpture, walking through its gaps, or simply sitting and contemplating the philosophy behind the work.

“This granite is beige, and it can go quite dark when it’s highly polished. But I will leave them quite roughly sanded so that they remain light until the rains come and make them wet. And then they will transform, so it’s kind of that extra kind of push for people to get out and enjoy them,” Good told Arab News.

Curated by London-based Marek Wolynski, the theme inspired bespoke and original designs handmade by the artists and their assisting team specifically for Tuwaiq Sculpture. (AN photo by Abdulrahman Alshalhoub)

“I love the idea that people can move through them and children can run around them and play. I suppose I’m into clouds at the moment (because) we attach a lot of symbolism to clouds.”

In her piece, “Harmony,” Saudi artist Wafa Alqunibit is using Arabic calligraphy to present the 99 names of God proclaimed in the Islamic religion. The word “Al-Samī,” meaning ‘the one who listens,’ stands in curved granite letters.

“My aim is to represent religion through art,” Alqunibit explained. “The challenge for this symposium is using granite, which is much tougher than alabaster or marble, but I used the point and empty spaces to create this name.”

“Lockdown Window,” by Italian artist Marino Di Prospero, challenges the idea of infinity through surrealism. Di Prospero’s block of brown granite will soon become a frame overlooking the surrounding environment. Twisting in on itself on such a large scale, the structure will make it impossible to pass through the “window,” just as many people were unable to leave their homes during COVID-19 lockdowns.

Aside from the public art on display, Tuwaiq Sculpture will also include workshops, panel discussions, school visits, and masterclasses ranging from beginner to intermediate levels.

Faris Al-Harmah will run a Traditional Door Art workshop, the Madain Center will stage an intermediate-level Wood Sculpting workshop, and elsewhere, visitors can learn about jewelry-making, sculpting using metal wire, gypsum-sculpting, and more.

Panel discussions will focus on the theme, “Preservation of Culture Through Art.” Guest speakers include Saudi architect Saleh Al-Hathloul, Diriyah Gate Development Authority’s Director of Arts and Culture Dalya Mousa, and Director of Performance Arts at the Royal Institute of Traditional Arts Dr. Samir Al Dhamer.


Swiss music to be highlighted at Riyadh concert

Swiss artists Marc Aymon and Milla Besson. (Supplied)
Updated 27 min 47 sec ago

Swiss music to be highlighted at Riyadh concert

  • Marc Aymon and Milla Besson performing at event

RIYADH: The Swiss Embassy in Riyadh — in cooperation with the French Embassy and Alliance Francaise — is hosting a music concert on April 18 at the Cultural Palace in Riyadh’s Diplomatic Quarter. It aims to showcase French-language Swiss music through performances by Swiss artists Marc Aymon and Milla Besson.

Born in 1982 in Sion, Switzerland, Aymon has released four albums and his music has reached audiences across South America, Iran, the US, Africa, and the French-speaking world. Aymon has performed at various concerts and festivals, including the Paleo Festival in Nyon in 2006 and 2013.

Aymon and Besson recently gave an exclusive French-language interview to Arab News in which they told of their love of Swiss culture.

Aymon said: “It (Swiss culture) represents the authenticity of nature, elegance, precision, and quality.

“Swiss culture is inspiring just about everywhere. It’s a wonderful country to leave and return to. I believe in movement. I like to be a Swiss artist who arrives on time, who is very precise and fussy, but who doesn’t hesitate to change all the plans and go through the window when all the doors remain closed.”

His passion for music has been recognized on European and global stages. He added: “It’s a passion for memory, for archives, for the emotions we all share.

“I fell in love with an old song from 1890 and thought it was beautiful before I knew it was part of Switzerland's heritage.”

Aymon will be performing for the first time in Saudi Arabia with Besson.

He added: “We’re going to be playing in a magnificent auditorium, a very large room equipped with a great sound system.

“I’m looking forward to unplugging my guitar, in total acoustic mode, (and) asking people to stop filming us with their phones to experience a moment of disarming simplicity.”

Besson, who was born in 2000, is a Swiss singer-songwriter who has been collaborating and composing with singers Aymon and Jeremie Kisling, and the duo Aliose, since 2019.

She said: “We all have important encounters that shape our lives. Marc Aymon was the first person to take my music seriously, to see in me what I didn’t dare to see, and to offer me my first stages and studio experiences. He helped me to make my mark, to become solid and free artistically.

“This is my first time in Saudi Arabia and Riyadh. Like any first time there’s a certain mystery and excitement about it. I'm looking forward to discovering this new country, its people, and its culture.”

The concert takes place at 7:30 p.m. on April 18 and tickets can be obtained from https://dqa-et.e-ticket.app/events/9bac8509-623a-4696-b0ee-e1f988982f2a.

UNICEF hails KSrelief’s role in advancing education in Yemen

Updated 14 April 2024

UNICEF hails KSrelief’s role in advancing education in Yemen

  • Over 800,000 children thriving through Saudi educational support, reports UN fund

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia, through its aid agency KSrelief, has allocated $6.2 million to support approximately 827,000 children in Yemen, ensuring their access to quality education opportunities. This initiative was undertaken in collaboration with the UN Children’s Fund, UNICEF.

UNICEF recently noted that the funding provided by KSrelief has facilitated access to public and private education for girls and boys from vulnerable groups, the Saudi Press Agency reported.

Peter Hawkins, the fund’s representative to Yemen, said: “One in every four primary school-aged children in Yemen is currently out of school. Moreover, educational outcomes for those able to attend do not align with their age.

“Thanks to contributions from partners such as KSrelief, UNICEF continues to address the educational needs of vulnerable girls and boys in Yemen.”

The funding enabled over 527,000 children to participate in national final exams for the 2022-2023 academic year.

Additionally, 300,000 male and female students received school bags and recreational supplies, aimed at motivating them to return to school while alleviating the financial burden on their families.

Moreover, the Kingdom’s support through KSrelief has enhanced teaching and learning practices in classrooms by training 7,520 male and female teachers across 17 governorates.

Additionally, hygiene supplies were distributed to 71,956 children and 120 schools.

KSrelief’s assistance also facilitated UNICEF’s outreach to nearly 4.9 million individuals, including caregivers, through the implementation of five awareness campaigns. Outreach activities reached approximately 26,000 community leaders and officials, as well as 2,500 families.

KSrelief remains a steadfast partner of UNICEF, providing continuous funding for life-saving interventions that enable UNICEF to address the most critical needs of vulnerable children in Yemen, SPA stated.

Meanwhile, in Yemen’s Hajjah governorate, KSrelief’s mobile medical clinic rendered essential medical services to 2,072 beneficiaries in one month. The clinic’s diverse services included treating patients for epidemiological diseases, providing emergency care, and offering internal medicine and reproductive health services.

In the Saada governorate of Yemen, KSrelief’s ongoing projects aim to address the primary healthcare and water needs of displaced individuals in the Razih district. In one month, medical clinics operating under this initiative treated patients for various ailments, including epidemic diseases, emergencies, internal medicine issues, and reproductive health concerns.

The project also provided nursing services, surgical assistance, and medical referrals, alongside conducting waste disposal programs and supplying potable water to the district.

Saudi Arabia’s caves: more than just rock cavities

Updated 14 April 2024

Saudi Arabia’s caves: more than just rock cavities

  • Formed over millions of years and efforts to turn them into tourist sites
  • Geometric features, unique sculptures and ‘virgin’ tourist attractions

MAKKAH: Over 300 caves have been discovered in the Kingdom’s deserts. A divine gift to Saudi Arabia, these earth treasures were formed in the ground in the shape of unique geometric landmarks, natural sculptures and fascinating limestone and gypsum shapes.

Large numbers and different types of deep and superficial caves and “duhool” (caves lying below the earth’s surface) are found in the Kingdom. They formed over millions of years following the dissolution of limestone rocks due to rain and floods leaking into the ground through cracks and faults, resulting in cavities of different sizes and lengths.

Mahmoud Al-Shanti, a senior geologist specializing in caves and “duhool” at the Saudi Geological Survey, told Arab News that the SGS is working on locating caves, exploring their interiors and studying their types and formation.

He said these caves are considered a valuable natural national treasure that attract explorers, researchers and those interested in the field.

“As the lava of the volcano stops flowing in the subsoil, the last remaining quantity of the lava rushes forward, leaving behind an often regular longitudinal vacuum,” he said.

“When this quantity stops flowing and completely hardens, it creates a cave or a volcanic tubular tunnel that extends beneath the earth’s surface. Examples of this type of cavities are the Ghar Al-Habashi cave in Harrat Al-Buqum, and the Umm Jirsan cave in Harrat Khaybar, north of Madinah, which is about 1,500 meters long.”

He also talked about “duhool” and caves made of limestone rocks in the northern border areas, the central region and the eastern region of Saudi Arabia. He explained that they are called limestone caves, adding that limestone is a hardened sedimentary rock composed of sediment shells, living remnants, and dead micro and macro marine organisms. All these components gathered and accumulated on top of each other randomly under the waters of lakes and oceans over millions of years, forming rigid and coherent rock layers as a result of constant pressure and cohesion, which resulted in this type of rock called limestone rock.

He said there are other species of mammals that also live inside the caves, such as weasels and wildcats. In the Kingdom’s deserts, there are some carnivores that take shelter in caves, such as foxes, hyenas and wolves. These animals take care of their cubs inside the dark tunnels during the day and go out at night to hunt.

Tareq Mohammed is a young Saudi man in his twenties from Madinah. He specializes in cave tourism and has delved deep into geotourism in the Kingdom.

Mohammed said: “When we talk about geotourism, the first thing that comes to mind are beaches, forests, deserts, mountains, underground wells, hot springs and areas of dormant volcanoes. But Saudi Arabia is also full of monuments and caves.”

According to Mohammed, there are five basic types of cave in Saudi Arabia based on their geological division: ice caves, which are formed of ice in cold regions; marine caves formed by waves, oceans or rivers flowing into large rocks or mountains, creating large cavities over thousands of years; basaltic caves, known as volcanic caves; limestone caves; and sand caves that form inside sandy mountains.

“An example of basaltic caves is the Maker Al-Shaiheen cave, which is classified as the longest basaltic cave in the Middle East with a length of about 3,700 meters,” he said.

The cave, a long tunnel formed by volcanic lava, was made when the surface of the lava began to freeze, with the lava below ground remaining as liquid due to the high temperature.

“The lava continues to flow until it reaches the end of the tube. The dimensions of the cave vary between 4-12 meters in width and 1.5-12 meters in length,” he said.

The Maker Al-Shaiheen cave is located in the west of the Kingdom in Harrat Khaybar, Madinah region.

He added: “Al-Qarah Mountain in the eastern region is an excellent example of sandy mountains. As for limestone caves, they are formed by the dissolution of biodegradable rocks. Rainwater mixed with carbon dioxide dissolves the limestone, leaving cavities underground.

“Al-Murabba (square) cave and the Tahaleb (algae) cave are examples of limestone caves. The Tahaleb cave is characterized by moisture and the presence of some types of algae at its entrance, hence the name,” he said.

“These caves are the most beautiful in terms of their different formations and shapes, such as the different limestone stalactites and stalagmites.”

He added that the central region of the Kingdom is characterized by these types of caves, advising everyone to try cave tourism throughout the year, as the caves’ temperatures remain constant between 24-26 C.

He said that any visit should be led by a specialized guide, who will highlight the characteristics of the caves.

Firas Al-Hazabi, a tourist who is passionate about cave tourism, said it is an amazing and different experience filled with suspense and excitement, adding that these caves are not visited enough by tourists.

KSrelief extends humanitarian aid efforts to Sudan, Yemen

Updated 14 April 2024

KSrelief extends humanitarian aid efforts to Sudan, Yemen

KSrelief extended its commitment to providing vital assistance to those in need, with recent efforts spanning Sudan and Yemen.

In the Karari locality of Khartoum, KSrelief distributed 233 shelter bags to needy and displaced families, offering urgent relief to 1,357 individuals.

Meanwhile, in Yemen's Hajjah Governorate, KSrelief's Mobile Medical Clinic rendered essential medical services to 2,072 beneficiaries in February 2024. The clinic's diverse services included treating patients for epidemiological diseases, providing emergency care, and offering internal medicine and reproductive health services. 

In Saada Governorate, Yemen, KSrelief's ongoing projects aim to address the primary healthcare and water needs of displaced individuals in Razih District. Throughout February, medical clinics under this initiative treated patients for various ailments, including epidemic diseases, emergencies, internal medicine issues, and reproductive health concerns. The project also provided nursing services, surgical assistance, and medical referrals, alongside conducting waste disposal programs and supplying potable water to the district.

Saudi Arabia expresses concern over military escalation in Middle East

Updated 14 April 2024

Saudi Arabia expresses concern over military escalation in Middle East

  • Arab states echoed Saudi sentiment, condemning regional escalation and call for restraint"

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia on Sunday expressed deep concern over the military escalation in the Middle East and urged all parties involved to exercise restraint, the Saudi Press Agency reported, citing a statement of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs warned of “serious repercussions” on the region and its peoples from the dangers of a wider war, according to SPA.



Iran on Saturday launched drones and missiles against Israel, making good its threat to retaliate against the Israeli air strike that destroyed an Iranian embassy annex building in Damascus, Syria, killing at least 13 people, including two generals of Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guard.

The Saudi ministry “affirmed the Kingdom’s position calling for the need for the Security Council to assume its responsibility towards maintaining international peace and security, especially in this region that is extremely sensitive to global peace and security, and to prevent the escalation of the crisis that will have serious consequences if it expands,” said the SPA report. 

The Saudi staement was echoed by the Secretary General of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), Jasem Mohamed Albudaiwi, who emphasized the imperative of upholding regional and global security and stability amidst recent developments in the Middle East.

He urged, in a statement, all involved parties to exercise utmost restraint to forestall further escalation, which could endanger regional stability and civilian welfare. Albudaiwi underscored the necessity of collaborative efforts and diplomatic resolutions to address conflicts and ensure regional security.

He emphasized the pivotal role of the international community in bolstering these peace and stability endeavors, and warned of the potential ramifications of heightened tensions.

The UAE called for the exercise of the utmost restraint to avoid dangerous repercussions in the Middle East, the foreign ministry said in a statement on Sunday.

The UAE also called for resolving conflicts through dialogue and diplomatic channels.

Iran launched missiles and drones at Israel overnight in retaliation for a suspected Israeli air strike on Iran’s embassy compound in Damascus on April 1, raising the threat of a wider regional conflict.

Egypt also urged all parties to exercise utmost restraint to prevent further escalation in the region, aiming to safeguard its stability and the well-being of its inhabitants.

In a statement released by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs last night, Egypt underscored that the current dangerous escalation in the Iranian/Israeli arena is a direct consequence of previously highlighted concerns. Egypt has consistently warned against the perils of expanding conflicts in the region, particularly stemming from Israeli military actions in Gaza and provocative maneuvers in the area.

The statement emphasized Egypt’s continuous engagement with all relevant stakeholders to mitigate the situation, halt the escalation, and avert the region from spiraling into instability, thereby safeguarding the interests of its people.

Meanwhile, Jordan’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Ayman Al-Safadi emphasizes that stopping the Israeli aggression on Gaza, ending the occupation, and advancing the two-state solution are essential measures to halt the escalation in the region.