Founding Day is a day for Saudis to celebrate their roots, says expert on Diriyah’s heritage and culture

Zean Alshirian, cultural and historical validation senior officer at Diriyah Gate Development Authority (DGDA). (AN Photo/ Abdulrahman Bin Shalhoub)
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Updated 22 February 2024
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Founding Day is a day for Saudis to celebrate their roots, says expert on Diriyah’s heritage and culture

  • ‘We celebrate the long journey of a great nation,’ says Zean Alshirian, senior officer for cultural and historical validation at Diriyah Gate Development Authority
  • Founding Day, on Feb. 22, marks the establishment of the First Saudi State in 1727, while National Day, on Sept. 23, marks the establishment of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in 1932

RIYADH: Saudis across the Kingdom will celebrate their lineage, heritage and national identity on Feb. 22 at events marking the third annual Founding Day, which commemorates the establishment of the First Saudi State by Imam Mohammed bin Saud almost 300 years ago.

“We’re celebrating rich and deep history … as Saudis, we celebrate the long journey of a great nation,” Zean Alshirian, senior officer for cultural and historical validation at Diriyah Gate Development Authority, told Arab News.

Founding Day, which was established as a national holiday by royal decree in 2022, is a celebration of Saudi identity, she said, a day that connects the nation’s people to their roots and heritage. As such, it honors the first step on a path that led to the modern-day Kingdom, she added.

The First Saudi State, or the Emirate of Diriyah, was founded in 1727 by Imam Mohammed. Known for his bravery, leadership skills and generosity, he brought security and stability to Diriyah and under his leadership it flourished, becoming a hub for culture, commerce and education.

“The first treasury of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia was here in Diriyah, in At-Turaif, (which is now) a UNESCO World Heritage Site,” said Alshirian. “This treasury was built to allocate (resources to meet) the needs of the people here. And that speaks to the peak of where the First Saudi State actually reached.”

The First Saudi State, its development, which was advanced for the time, and its cultural, economic and humanitarian initiatives helped to shape embryonic beginnings of what would become the modern Kingdom we know today. Founding Day therefore gives Saudis a chance to remember the origins of their nation, its people and their traditions, and to celebrate this connection between past and present.

“We, as the people of the Kingdom, are ever so connected to our predecessors, we’re ever so connected to our ancestry,” Alshirian said. “So beginning to understand that our traditions, our cultures, date back to 300, 400 years ago, we can then understand how rich they are.”

To fully understand the groundbreaking nature of Imam Mohammed’s historic achievements, one must be aware of the broader history of the Arabian Peninsula, Alshirian said. Prior to the founding of the First Saudi State, city-states were common but nation-states were not.

“When he (Imam Mohammed) founded the First Saudi State … this was a huge step forward. This was a momentous moment in history, something that signifies his character,” Alshirian said.

He founded the state at the heart of of the Arabian peninsula, in Al-Yamamah region, and by doing so enhanced local security, unity, education and culture, she added.

“So this huge step forward is something visionary from Imam Mohammed bin Saud,” Alshirian said.

The cultural history of the First Saudi State is revealed by the manuscripts of the time.

“We can understand it through their handwriting and the colors that they use. They were connected to their environment,” Alshirian said.

Some people might be confused about the difference between Saudi Arabia’s National Day and its Founding Day, which mark two pivotal, but distinct, events in the history of the Kingdom.

“National Day is Sept. 23, when we celebrate the unification of the (modern day) Kingdom of Saudi Arabia,” Alshirian said.

“But when we talk about Founding Day, we are talking about the founding of the First Saudi State about 300 years ago.”

If we consider the timeline of the evolution of the nation, the establishment of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in 1932 was in a sense the final step on the path, while the founding of the First Saudi State in 1727 was the start.

“When we understand that, we understand the domino effect, the butterfly effect of how this great journey started. So we’re celebrating the beginning of a journey, in a sense,” Alshirian said.

“But the after is as important as the first, and vice versa.”

Alshirian added that it is her hope that Founding Day helps the Saudi people to better understand and celebrate their national roots and history.


Saudi FM’s visit part of ‘concerted efforts’ to close investment deals — Pakistani envoy to Riyadh

Updated 17 April 2024
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Saudi FM’s visit part of ‘concerted efforts’ to close investment deals — Pakistani envoy to Riyadh

  • Ahmed Farooq says size and rank of Saudi delegation showed “keenness” of economic engagement plans with Pakistan
  • Saudi delegation briefed about Pakistani legal, procedural, administrative reforms undertaken to facilitate investments

RIYADH: Saudi Foreign Minister Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud’s visit to Pakistan this week is part of “concerted efforts” to close investment deals that have been under discussion between the two nations in recent years and also discuss new areas of cooperation, Islamabad’s envoy to Riyadh Ahmed Farooq has said. 

Prince Faisal arrived in Pakistan on Monday on a two-day visit aimed at enhancing bilateral economic cooperation and pushing forward previously agreed investment deals. His trip came a little over a week after Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman met Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif in Makkah and reaffirmed the Kingdom’s commitment to expedite investments worth $5 billion.

Pakistan and Saudi Arabia enjoy strong trade, defense and cultural ties. The Kingdom is home to over 2.7 million Pakistani expatriates and the top source of remittances to the cash-strapped South Asian country.

Speaking to Arab News on Tuesday, Ambassador Farooq said during Sharif’s recent meeting with the Saudi crown prince, it was decided that the Kingdom would expand its collaboration with Pakistan across various sectors. Both countries also agreed on a roadmap for expediting investments from Saudi Arabia into strategic sectors of the Pakistan economy.

“Guided by this clear direction of the leadership, the economic teams of the two countries are now in advance talks to finalize partnership proposals in diverse sectors such as energy, renewables, connectivity, mining, agriculture, information technology, construction, human resource development and export and strategic investments,” Farooq said.

“Concerted efforts are underway to close the deals that have remained under discussion in recent years, while identifying new areas of cooperation.”

It was as part of such efforts that Prince Faisal visited Pakistan, the ambassador added, accompanied by a team of top officials across Saudi ministries. 

“The size and rank of the visiting delegation showed the keenness with which the Kingdom is pursuing economic engagement plans with Pakistan,” Farooq said. 

Among key highlights of the visit, apart from bilateral meetings between the economic teams, was a special interactive session organized by the newly established Special Investment Facilitation Council (SIFC), set up last year to oversee all foreign investments in Pakistan. 

“Several short, medium, and long-term projects were discussed in the dedicated sector-wise breakout sessions,” the envoy said. “The Saudi delegation was also briefed about the specific legal, procedural and administrative reforms undertaken by Pakistan in recent months to attract and facilitate foreign investments in key sectors of the economy.”

'Bedrock of support'

Cash-strapped Pakistan desperately needs to shore up its foreign reserves and signal to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) that it can continue to meet requirements for foreign financing that has been a key demand in previous bailout packages. Pakistan’s finance minister, Muhammad Aurangzeb, is currently in Washington to participate in spring meetings of the International Monetary Fund and World Bank and discuss a new bailout program. A $3 billion ongoing loan deal expires this month.

Saudi Arabia has often come to cash-strapped Pakistan’s aid in the past, regularly providing it oil on deferred payments and offering direct financial support to help stabilize its economy and shore up its forex reserves.

“For Pakistan, Saudi Arabia has remained a bedrock of support,” Farooq told Arab News when asked about cooperation between the two nations.

“The kingdom has always supported Pakistan and provided much needed economic support and assistance. Kingdom has also played a critical role in helping us with international financial institutions.

“Even today, the Kingdom has a central role in the future economic plans of Pakistan. The new government in Pakistan has a strong desire to attract Saudi investment – both from the public and private sectors – to usher in a new era of economic growth and development.”

Farooq said the Saudi leadership was also keen on seizing this opportunity and further enhancing economic, political and security cooperation with Pakistan.

He said there were many areas for future collaboration including energy, renewables, IT, mining, agriculture, construction, and human resource development and export.

Asked about how investment between the two nations could be further enhanced, Farooq said Pakistan had created SIFC to act as a one window operation to facilitate Saudi and other foreign investments. 

“It is tailor made for this purpose,” he added. “We are developing a lot of projects across all sectors of the economy in which the Saudi public and private sector can invest. 

The Kingdom has shown great keenness and desire to work with Pakistan and realize these projects. I am confident that we will soon see a lot of investment going from Saudi Arabia into Pakistan.”


Saudi deputy defence minister arrives in Pakistan to finalize bilateral security projects 

Updated 17 April 2024
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Saudi deputy defence minister arrives in Pakistan to finalize bilateral security projects 

  • Al-Otaibi’s visit comes after Saudi foreign minister was in Islamabad on two-day visit to discuss investments 
  • Pakistan maintains close military ties and provides extensive arms and training to Saudi armed forces 

ISLAMABAD: Saudi Assistant Defence Minister Talal Bin Abdullah Bin Turki Al-Otaibi is in Pakistan on a two-day visit to finalize defense-related bilateral projects, the Pakistani defence ministry said in a statement on Wednesday. 

Al-Otaibi’s visit comes on the heels of a two-day visit to Islamabad by Saudi Foreign Minister Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud, aimed at enhancing bilateral economic cooperation and pushing forward previously agreed investment deals.

“Saudi Assistant Defense Minister arrived in Pakistan on a two-day visit,” a Pakistani defence ministry statement said, adding that bilateral projects in defence-related fields would be finalized during the visit. 

Photos and videos released by the defence ministry showed Al-Otaibi arriving in Pakistan on Tuesday night and being received by Pakistani military and government officials and Saudi diplomats, including the ambassador to Islamabad. 

Pakistan maintains close military ties with Saudi Arabia, providing extensive support, arms, and training to the Saudi armed forces. 

Since the 1970s, Pakistani soldiers have been stationed in Saudi Arabia to protect the Kingdom and Pakistan has also been providing training to Saudi soldiers and pilots. The two nations also regularly carry out multidimensional joint ventures and defence exercises. 


Saudi Arabia to host Islamic Development Bank Group annual meetings and golden jubilee

Updated 17 April 2024
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Saudi Arabia to host Islamic Development Bank Group annual meetings and golden jubilee

  • As the bank celebrates its 50th anniversary, the meetings will have the theme ‘Taking Pride in Our Past and Shaping Our Future: Authenticity, Solidarity and Prosperity’

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia will host the annual meetings and golden jubilee celebrations of the Islamic Development Bank Group in Riyadh between April 27 and 30, under the patronage of King Salman.

This year’s meetings will take place under the theme “Taking Pride in Our Past and Shaping Our Future: Authenticity, Solidarity and Prosperity,” the Saudi Press Agency reported.

The bank describes itself as a pivotal platform for development dialogue, and said it is celebrating 50 years of fostering social and economic growth among its members. As a leading multilateral development bank, it said it expects the event to attract significant international and regional attention.

Participants will include economic, planning and finance ministers from the 57 member countries of the bank, along with representatives of international and regional financial agencies and organizations, Islamic banks, the private sector, development finance institutions, nongovernmental organizations, and chambers of commerce and industry.

Organizers said the annual gathering serves as a vital forum for the enhancement of economic ties and expansion of cooperation among participants. Its agenda includes forums, seminars and meetings on a range of topics, with particularly notable events including the Governors’ Round Table, the 18th IDB Global Forum on Islamic Finance, and the IDB Group Private Sector Forum.

Topics for discussion will include the role of small and medium enterprises in Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 development and diversification agenda, strategies for the financing of efforts to achieve Sustainable Development Goals, the leveraging of Islamic finance for the development of resilient infrastructure, and the establishment of the Arab Coordination Group Forum.

The Future Vision Symposium and the General Assembly of the Union of Consultants in Islamic Countries will also take place during the event.


Saudi foreign minister and Pakistan army chief discuss security and strategic cooperation

Updated 17 April 2024
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Saudi foreign minister and Pakistan army chief discuss security and strategic cooperation

  • Prince Faisal arrived in Pakistan on Monday for a two-day official visit, the main aim of which was to enhance economic cooperation

ISLAMABAD: Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister, Prince Faisal bin Farhan, held talks in Islamabad on Tuesday with the chief of staff of the Pakistan Army, Gen. Asim Munir.

They discussed ways to enhance the “strong cooperation” between their nations in several fields, including ways to work together to improve security and strategic cooperation in ways that contribute to international peace and security.

Prince Faisal arrived in Pakistan on Monday for a two-day official visit, the main aim of which was to enhance economic cooperation. He also met President Asif Ali Zardari, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif and Foreign Minister Ishaq Dar.

The prince was leading a high-level Saudi delegation that included Minister of Environment, Water and Agriculture Abdul Rahman Al-Fadhli, Minister of Industry and Mineral Resources Bandar Al-Khorayef, and senior officials from the ministries of energy and investment, and the Public Investment Fund.


Saudi crown prince discusses military escalation in the region with UAE president, Qatar emir

Updated 17 April 2024
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Saudi crown prince discusses military escalation in the region with UAE president, Qatar emir

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman received two separate calls from UAE president Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan and Qatar’s emir Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, the Saudi Press Agency said early Wednesday.

The calls discussed the recent military escalation in the region and its repercussions on safety and security, in addition to the latest developments in Gaza.

They also underscored the importance of exerting efforts to prevent the situation from worsening and to spare the region the dangers of this escalation, the SPA added.