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.


Hajj pilgrims from Uzbekistan, Morocco, Niger and Iraq latest to arrive in Saudi Arabia

Updated 24 May 2024
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Hajj pilgrims from Uzbekistan, Morocco, Niger and Iraq latest to arrive in Saudi Arabia

RIYADH: The first group of pilgrims from Uzbekistan, 950 in total, arrived in Makkah on Thursday ahead of Hajj.

Several expressed “gratitude to the Kingdom’s government for the services and facilities that have been provided to make their pilgrimage safe and reassuring,” the Saudi Press Agency reported.

Meanwhile, the Saudi ambassador to Morocco, Sami Al-Saleh, attended a farewell ceremony at Rabat-Sale Airport as the first group of Hajj pilgrims from the country set off for the Kingdom. He was accompanied by the Moroccan minister of endowments and Islamic affairs, Ahmed Toufiq, and other senior government officials.

Similarly, the Saudi ambassador to Niger, Zaid Al-Harbi, saw off the first group of Nigerien pilgrims as they departed from the capital, Niamey. The country’s prime minister, Ali Lamine Zeine, was also present.

Closer to home, a second group of Hajj pilgrims from Iraq arrived at the Arar border crossing in the Northern Borders Province on Thursday, where authorities said they received a warm welcome and benefited from a range of services and procedures designed to streamline entry procedures.

The Iraqi pilgrims expressed their thanks and “commended the Kingdom’s leadership for the generous hospitality and exceptional services provided by the authorities responsible for Hajj affairs,” SPA reported. 

They also praised the facilities at the crossing, which officials said will operate around the clock throughout the Hajj season to provide the best possible pilgrimage experience.


Saudi FM discusses Gaza, West Bank with Palestinian PM

Updated 23 May 2024
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Saudi FM discusses Gaza, West Bank with Palestinian PM

RIYADH: Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan on Thursday spoke to Palestinian Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Mohammed Mustafa by telephone, the Kingdom’s Foreign Ministry said.

They discussed developments in the West Bank, Gaza Strip and its surrounding areas.


Oversight and Anti-Corruption Authority issues statement following Riyadh food poisoning incident

Riyadh experienced a wave of food poisoning cases caused by clostridium botulinum at the end of April. (File/Shutterstock)
Updated 23 May 2024
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Oversight and Anti-Corruption Authority issues statement following Riyadh food poisoning incident

  • Nazaha says royal directives mandate the holding of all responsible officials accountable

RIYADH: Following the recent food poisoning incident at a Riyadh restaurant, the Kingdom’s Oversight and Anti-Corruption Authority has said anyone found to be negligent in ensuring public health and safety will be held accountable.

The authority, also known as Nazaha, added on Thursday that measures will be taken against anyone found to have obstructed the investigation into the incident and concealed crucial information regarding the cause of poisoning.

Riyadh experienced a wave of food poisoning cases caused by clostridium botulinum at the end of April.

The outbreak was linked to the consumption of food from a Hamburgini fast-food restaurant and led to several hospitalizations and one death.

The Ministry of Municipal, Rural Affairs and Housing later announced that a Saudi Food and Drug Authority laboratory test found clostridium botulinum in the Bon Tum mayonnaise brand used by the food chain.

As a result, the distribution of the mayonnaise product was suspended and it was withdrawn from markets and food facilities across all cities in the Kingdom.

Operations at the Bon Tum factory producing the mayonnaise were halted in preparation for implementing statutory procedures.

Initial investigations by Nazaha “revealed attempts to conceal or destroy evidence, suggesting potential collusion by a small number of unscrupulous food establishment inspectors who prioritized personal gain over public health and safety,” the authority said on Thursday.

Nazaha said that royal directives mandate the holding of all responsible officials accountable, regardless of position.

“This applies to those who neglected or delayed fulfilling their duties, actions which may have contributed to the poisoning or hindered response efforts. Consequently, a high-level committee has been established to verify and oversee the implementation of these directives,” Nazaha said.

Nazaha added that comprehensive reports detailing the circumstances, causes, and those potentially responsible for the poisoning were produced around the clock after the incident.

The reports encompassed laboratory analyses of samples from various establishments and details of medical care provided to suspected victims, it said.

Precise laboratory testing, conducted by local and international foodborne illness specialists, swiftly identified the type and cause of the poisoning, the authority said.

Nazaha said the incident was contained and has been resolved.


Saudi Arabia secures membership in International Transport Forum

Updated 23 May 2024
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Saudi Arabia secures membership in International Transport Forum

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia secured membership in the International Transport Forum on the sidelines of the event held in Leipzig, Germany.

Saudi Minister of Transport and Logistics Saleh bin Nasser Al-Jasser said that the membership symbolizes the Kingdom’s commitment to addressing transportation challenges through innovative and sustainable solutions. It also supports the Kingdom’s established role in developing the transport and logistics sector, he added, highlighting the Saudi Vision 2030 goal of benefiting from the country’s strategic location to become a global logistics center.

Al-Jasser said that the Kingdom has made significant strides in logistics, jumping 17 places to reach 38th place globally in the logistics services performance index. Additionally, the Kingdom achieved 13th place globally in the IATA’s international air connectivity index and 16th in the maritime navigation network connectivity index. He also noted the launch of a new air carrier, Riyadh Air, aimed at connecting the Kingdom to more than 250 international destinations.

The Kingdom is committed to enhancing the resilience of its transport infrastructure, promoting sustainable mobility and ensuring equitable access to transport services for all, Al-Jasser said.

Saudi membership of the ITF confirms its prominent position in the global transport sector, the minister added. This membership will enable the Kingdom to contribute to enacting legislation and regulations that improve and develop transportation on an international scale, he said.


Italian shipbuilding giant floats Saudi Arabia partnership plan

Updated 23 May 2024
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Italian shipbuilding giant floats Saudi Arabia partnership plan

  • Fincantieri stands out in the shipbuilding industry for its innovation, says CEO

RIYADH: One of the world’s biggest shipbuilders will work in partnership with Saudi Arabia to strengthen the Kingdom’s maritime sector, with a focus on sustainability and the development of “green shipping.”

Fincantieri, an Italian company and Europe’s largest shipbuilding group, highlighted its commitment to Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 agenda at a conference under the theme “Where Vision Meets Maritime Excellence” held in Riyadh on Wednesday.

Saudi decisionmakers from related sectors in Riyadh joined Italian officials in a range of sessions at the forum.

During the event, Fincantieri CEO Pierroberto Folgiero outlined the shipbuilder’s plans to collaborate with Saudi companies in line with Vision 2030.

“Our commitment to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is steadfast,” he said.

Fincantieri stands out in the shipbuilding industry for its innovation, and has a leading role in the naval, cruise, and oil and gas sectors, Folgiero said.

The CEO highlighted the importance of developing green ships, designed to minimize the environmental impact of maritime operations, as part of Saudi Arabia’s commitment to achieving net-zero emissions by 2060.

Digitizing shipyard operations through innovations such as AI also aligns with the goals of Vision 2030, Folgiero said.

“Today, the shipping industry and the maritime industry, in general, is coping with environmental regulation. For us, it is not only a source of compliance, but also a source of distinctiveness. So, we believe that in the maritime sector, in the shipbuilding sector, mastering energy transition and new technologies will be a source of competitiveness and distinctiveness,” he said.

“That is why we are engaged in all the solutions (regarding) energy transition at sea. We are a new engine. We are in biofuels. We are in methanol. We are in LNG. We are in ammonia. We are in hydrogen. We are everywhere there is innovation at sea.”

Maria Tripodi, undersecretary of state for foreign affairs at the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, discussed the significance of keeping operations and businesses sustainable.

Fincantieri’s ships are built to produce zero carbon emissions, which helps to protect the environment and marine ecosystem, she said.

Khalil Ibrahim bin Salamah, deputy minister for industry affairs at the Saudi Ministry of Industry and Mineral Resources, said: “Localization for us is a key factor. Key components are crucial, but the whole supply chain is equally important.”