A journey through time: Tahlel Museum’s tribute to Asir’s culture 

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The Tahlel Museum, located in a small traditional house atop Soudah Mountain, was created by an Asiri woman named Halima Asiri. (AN photos by Rahaf Jambi)
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Updated 25 May 2024
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A journey through time: Tahlel Museum’s tribute to Asir’s culture 

  • The museum is home to many heritage pieces, including coins, traditional costumes, wood art, and agricultural tools
  • It also includes the owner's artistic works of Al-Qatt Al-Asiri, geometric shapes, and tribal symbols painted in vibrant colors 

ASIR: Perched atop the Souda Mountains in the Abha region of Asir province in southern Saudi Arabia is a modest museum created by an Asiri woman called Halima Asiri. 

Passionate about old Saudi heritage, Asiri established the Tahlel Museum in a small traditional house. 




Halima Asiri is a woman who is passionate about old Saudi heritage, which led her to establish the Tahlel Museum. The museum is a small house in the shape of old Saudi buildings. (AN photo by Rahaf Jambi)

It includes many heritage pieces, including coins, traditional costumes, wood art, and agricultural tools. It also includes her artistic works of Al-Qatt Al-Asiri, geometric shapes, and tribal symbols painted in vibrant colors. 

“This is my small museum, where I exhibit the work of Al-Qatt Al-Asiri, a kind of natural color painting that have been certified by UNESCO as part of the list of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. Each pattern has a name and a symbolic meaning. Men do not practice this art, thus women are the only ones who specialize in it,” Asiri told Arab News. 

Asiri is one of the few women who still uses natural materials to create the art of Al-Qatt Al-Asiri. These colors are extracted from coal, rice, turmeric, pomegranate peel, stones and other sources. 

“I take 24 colors from nature, such as clover, coal, stone, and leaves, grind them into a paste, and use that paste to paint canvases and walls,” she said.

Ancient coffee and teapots, clay cups, copper household utensils, and other artifacts are on display in one of the rooms. 




Tahlel Museum owner Halima Asiri is one of the few women who still uses natural materials to create the art of Al-Qatt Al-Asiri. (AN photos by Rahaf Jambi)

“The handcrafted items found here date back to 400-500 years, and the people of the Asir region used them all,” Asiri said. 

She incorporated a model of the old town in which she formerly resided in the museum. The town has since fallen into ruin. 

“The old roads were difficult, and women had to carry wood, walk, and climb mountains to get to their homes. The model that I constructed depicts the hardship and strength of women in Asir,” she explained. 

The museum also features the traditional attire worn by women in the Asir region. 

“I have items of clothing that Asir women wear on their wedding night. I also have regular clothes, like straw hats,” she added. 

Asiri started collecting antiques that date back centuries when she was young, and she made sure to collect antiques and present them in her museum in a unique way. 

There are numerous kinds of swords, weapons, and clothing that the locals used in battle displayed on the walls. 

The location also features a workshop where guests can learn how to paint Al-Qatt Al-Asiri works, in addition to selling her artwork on commission. 

“I teach Al-Qatt Al-Asiri art as a trainer. I frequently get big groups of people, and not so long ago, I trained a group of foreign women,” she said. 

The museum is also linked to a cafe where she serves traditional Asiri dishes like areekah using natural honey. 

“Many foreigners have visited, including ambassadors and ministers,” she said. 

Asiri greets visitors when entering the museum with a famous Asiri phrase, “a thousand welcomes.”

Owing to its natural beauty and rich cultural heritage, the Asir region is highly sought-after by those seeking to explore unspoiled landscapes, wander through charming villages, and explore historic castles. 
 


How solar-powered desalination allows Saudi Arabia to produce potable water sustainably

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How solar-powered desalination allows Saudi Arabia to produce potable water sustainably

  • Desalination of seawater allows parched Gulf nations to access plentiful water for farming and human consumption
  • To cut emissions, the Kingdom is adopting renewable energy sources to power its filtration and treatment plants

RIYADH: In regions with limited rainfall, desalination is a practical means of sourcing plentiful water for farming and human consumption. However, the process of turning seawater into freshwater is notoriously energy intensive.

Indeed, desalination is a significant contributor to carbon emissions in the water-scarce Arabian Peninsula. That is why Saudi Arabia has been investing in green energy sources to power its desalination plants.

“Using renewable energies for desalination is crucial as it contributes to reducing the operation’s carbon footprint and water production costs,” Sultan Al-Rajhi, spokesperson for the Saudi Water Authority, told Arab News.

 

 

Due to the scarcity of freshwater resources in a region with a rapidly growing population, seawater desalination is essential to keep pace with demand, he added.

“Saudi Arabia depends on desalination of seawater due to the nature of the desert climate, in which the presence of surface water and natural rivers is rare,” Al-Rajhi said.

In fact, desalination accounts for about 75 percent of the Kingdom’s water supply.

“Therefore, investment is being made in desalination of seawater to meet the demand for population and economic growth witnessed in the Gulf region as a whole.”

Each year, the Kingdom requires an average of 5.5 billion cubic meters of freshwater. The need for water is especially high during the Hajj and Umrah seasons, when well over a million pilgrims arrive from around the world.

Home to more than 37 million people, the Kingdom is the world’s third-largest consumer of water per head of population. Agriculture alone accounts for around 84 percent of total water consumption.

An alfalfa farm in Riyadh region's Wadi Ad-Dawasir governorate. (Supplied)

Desalination is a complex process that involves removing salt and other impurities from seawater. Since the process requires a significant amount of energy, adopting renewables such as solar to power these facilities has become a top priority.

“To develop climate-resilient infrastructure for sustainable desalination, Saudi Arabia should prioritize innovative and renewable technologies,” Abdulaziz Daghestani, area sales director of water utilities and country director at Grundfos, told Arab News.

Grundfos is a Danish company that is working with regional states to provide innovative pumping solutions for water supply, wastewater management, heating and cooling, and industrial processes. 

According to Daghestani, integrating advanced monitoring systems can help optimize desalination operations and enhance efficiency.

“Using real-time data and analytics, we can improve water management practices and make timely adjustments to meet the varying increasing demand for human consumption and agriculture,” he said.

The Qatrah program, which means “droplet” in Arabic, was launched by the Ministry of Environment, Water, and Agriculture in 2020, and aims to reduce excess water usage by eliminating waste, and encouraging the conservation and reuse of existing freshwater.

Its objective is to lower daily per-capita water consumption from 263 liters to 150 liters by 2030. To do this, the ministry has created a unified framework, known as the National Water Strategy, for the country.

However, despite these efforts to improve the sustainability of water systems, desalination remains a crucial means of meeting water demand, making the adoption of clean energy sources and efficient production techniques a critical priority.

DID YOUKNOW?

• In 2023, Saudi Arabia had a desalination capacity of 13.2m cubic meters per day.

• 7 million cubic meters of desalinated water have been generated by the Al-Khafji plant.

• Desalination accounts for 60 percent of the urban water supply in Saudi Arabia.

• Agriculture makes up 84 percent of the Kingdom’s water needs.

Al-Khafji Desalination Plant, located in the Kingdom’s Eastern Province, is the world’s largest solar-powered water desalination project, providing the region’s water requirements through an innovative and environmentally friendly approach.

The plant can generate up to 90,000 cubic meters of freshwater per day using innovative technology created by the King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology. 

Its new Solar Saline Water Reverse Osmosis method uses a process known as ultra-filtration during the pre-treatment phase.

The method involves forcing seawater through a semipermeable membrane that only allows water molecules to pass, while blocking the salt and other contaminants. The resulting purified water is then collected for distribution.

Since its launch in 2018, more than 7 million cubic meters of freshwater produced by the plant have already been utilized.

“Using reverse osmosis technology is considered to have the lowest rates of carbon emissions as a result of the increase in energy efficiency through the development of this field in recent years,” said Al-Rajhi.

“The rate of carbon emissions per cubic meter in some desalination systems has been reduced to 91 percent compared with thermal desalination systems.”

Solar is not the only source of renewable energy that can be adopted to power the desalination process.

“This is in addition to the prospective use of hydraulic turbines to convert the kinetic energy resulting from the flow of water into electricity to generate clean energy,” said Al-Rajhi.

This shift toward renewables not only addresses the high energy costs associated with desalination but also supports Saudi Arabia’s commitment to sustainable development. 

Inger Andersen, executive director of the UN Environment Programme, has praised the Kingdom’s water conservation agenda, which is part and parcel with its environmental mission, the Saudi Green Initiative.

Saudi Arabia is correct to prioritize “not over-extracting and being very wise around environmental management.”

“That is why we are quite impressed by the Saudi Green Initiative,” she told Arab News.

This transition to cleaner energy sources reflects a strategic decision to enhance the Kingdom’s energy efficiency and reduce its dependence on fossil fuels, while simultaneously addressing the challenges posed by climate change.

Integrating renewable energy into desalination processes marks a significant step toward achieving a more sustainable and environmentally-conscious approach to water production.
 

 


The Saudi artist’s gallery celebrates unbounded imagination

Saudi artist Mohammed Abubshait. (AN photo by Loai El-Kelawy)
Updated 21 June 2024
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The Saudi artist’s gallery celebrates unbounded imagination

  • Mohammed Abubshait’s ‘Living in Wonderland’ is a treasure trove of imaginative expression

RIYADH: Saudi artist Mohammed Abubshait has created a haven for other artists in Riyadh. His gallery, Living in Wonderland, is a treasure trove of imaginative artistic expression.

“Art has always been in my blood, and I believe it is in everyone’s blood. I used to mess around with my clothes, accessories, goods, cars, and whatever else. I don’t like the way things are,” Abubshait told Arab News.

After 10 years as an employee at an oil company, he chose to switch gears and pursue his passion for creating art out of various materials including metal, wood, and resin.  

“When COVID-19 hit, I decided work on my art and I ended up with 150 pieces … I decided to open a gallery in Riyadh to showcase them,” he explained. “It was kind of risky at the time because, as you see, this is not a typical art gallery. It’s different — a lot of pop art, street art and things that are a bit outside-of-the-box.”

The Living in Wonderland gallery is bursting with delightful and amazing things. Guests are immersed in a world of imagination where they can appreciate artistic expression and discover new perspectives. (AN photo by Loai El-Kelawy)

Abubshait opened Living in Wonderland in 2020. “Many of us have seen and grew up with ‘Alice in Wonderland.’ It’s an escape to another world — unrealistic, creative, no boundaries,” he said. “So, I thought it would fit the creative idea and concept that we’re looking for. (The gallery) takes you down the rabbit hole to another world.”

HIGHLIGHTS

• The gallery supports many local artists, work created in a variety of mediums, with a particular focus on modern and pop art.

• It also currently includes work by artists from Mali, Italy, the UK and the US. Prices range from SR2 (50 cents), to more than SR20,000.

The gallery supports — and sells the work of — many local artists, work created in a variety of mediums, with a particular focus on modern and pop art. It also currently includes work by artists from Mali, Italy, the UK and the US. Prices range from SR2 (50 cents), to more than SR20,000.

The Living in Wonderland gallery is bursting with delightful and amazing things. Guests are immersed in a world of imagination where they can appreciate artistic expression and discover new perspectives. (AN photo by Loai El-Kelawy)

“We’ve got something for everyone,” Abubshait said. “I believe we introduced something unique and different to the market.”

From paintings and sculptures to installations and interactive displays, the gallery features an eclectic mix of work that pushes boundaries, giving visitors an intriguing and thought-provoking experience.

The Living in Wonderland gallery is bursting with delightful and amazing things. Guests are immersed in a world of imagination where they can appreciate artistic expression and discover new perspectives. (AN photo by Loai El-Kelawy)

Abubshait is also known for incorporating currency — both real and virtual — into his work.

“The majority of my art features money in the background, whether Saudi riyals or American dollars,” he said. “And the cryptocurrency Bitcoin is one of my signature backgrounds. People ask me why I use money and I’m, like, ‘Well, we use money in our everyday lives.’ Everyone can manifest money.”

The Living in Wonderland gallery is bursting with delightful and amazing things. Guests are immersed in a world of imagination where they can appreciate artistic expression and discover new perspectives. (AN photo by Loai El-Kelawy)

The gallery also offers a variety of workshops including resin, rug tufting, and painting.

“If you haven’t been to Living in Wonderland yet, even if you’re not an art fan, you should come and socialize. People (often come here) to work. If you’re looking for a distinct feel, a different ambience, and something exciting, then you must visit,” Abubshait said.

 

 


Harnessing agricultural terraces for blackberry cultivation in Al-Baha

The blackberry cultivation initiative in Al-Baha has thrived, with more than 30,000 bushes planted to date. (SPA)
Updated 21 June 2024
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Harnessing agricultural terraces for blackberry cultivation in Al-Baha

  • The ministry aims to increase the number of blackberry trees in Al-Baha to 3 million within the next three years, supported by various programs and collaboration with farmers and agricultural associations

AL-BAHA: Al-Baha is proving to be an ideal region for the cultivation of blackberries.

Utilizing advanced plant tissue culture techniques, this initiative has shown great potential, benefiting both farmers and beekeepers due to the plant’s rapid growth, high yield, and superior quality blossoms.

The blackberry cultivation initiative in Al-Baha has thrived, with more than 30,000 bushes planted to date. According to the Saudi Press Agency, this endeavor promises significant economic and investment returns for the region, leveraging its natural agricultural assets, fertile soil, and ample groundwater.

The blackberry cultivation initiative in Al-Baha has thrived, with more than 30,000 bushes planted to date. (SPA)

Fahd Al-Zahrani, director of the Ministry of Environment, Water, and Agriculture in the region, highlighted the crop’s potential. He stated that over 30,000 blackberry seedlings have been planted in open fields, achieving nearly 100 percent success. The seedlings began producing high-quality fruit in the spring of 2024, underscoring the experiment’s success.

The ministry aims to increase the number of blackberry trees in Al-Baha to 3 million within the next three years, supported by various programs and collaboration with farmers and agricultural associations. Numerous field workshops have been conducted to train farmers in propagation techniques, facilitating the expansion of blackberry cultivation.

The blackberry cultivation initiative in Al-Baha has thrived, with more than 30,000 bushes planted to date. (SPA)

Hassan Saeed Al-Shantir, owner of Al-Shantir Farm, emphasized the region’s favorable agricultural conditions, including fertile soil and groundwater. He started preparing the agricultural terraces and planting blackberries at the end of 2022, supported by the regional branch of the Ministry of Environment, Water, and Agriculture, and the Agricultural Arabian Shield initiative, planting around 100 blackberry seedlings.

Al-Shantir reported that his farm now boasts over 750 seedlings, with notable production increases. The farm has opened sales points in Al-Baha and begun exporting to Jeddah, with plans to expand to other major cities. He noted the rapid growth, abundant blossoms, high-quality fruit, and economic benefits of blackberries, which also resist various climatic conditions.

SPEEDREAD

The ministry aims to increase the number of blackberry trees in Al-Baha to 3 million within the next three years, supported by various programs and collaboration with farmers and agricultural associations.

He plans to utilize the attractive, sweet blackberries, rich in nutrients and antioxidants, in various products such as desserts and food decorations, capitalizing on their low-calorie content.

He also benefited from workshops organized by the ministry, which focused on crop composition plans, propagation techniques using tissue culture, suitable irrigation methods for blackberry cultivation, and seedling production through tissue culture.

Dr. Fatima Al-Omari, an advisor at the agriculture under-secretariat, explained that blackberry is a perennial plant or small shrub with curved, thorny branches. It blooms from late spring to early summer, with typically white flowers and black fruit. This fruit offers high health and nutritional benefits due to its vitamins, minerals, and fiber, with relatively low sugar content.

She added that the current condition of the farms is good, with high-quality blooms and fruit observed in several farms within a year of planting the seedlings. These farms are regularly monitored by a committee headed by Dr. Ibrahim Mohammed Aref, the initiative supervisor and advisor at the Agriculture Agency, in cooperation with the Agricultural Cooperative Society in Baljurashi and the Ministry’s regional branch.

Al-Baha region, known for its unique agricultural identity, boasts distinct terraces that align with the mountainous terrain, slopes, and elevations retaining soil and rainwater. The region also offers a variety of fruits year-round.

 


Over 160k visitors attend Eid events in Hail

Updated 21 June 2024
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Over 160k visitors attend Eid events in Hail

  • Recreational and cultural activities, theatrical performances, and Saudi ardah and samri dances were staged as part of the celebrations

HAIL: More than 160,000 citizens, residents, tourists and visitors attended this year’s Eid Al-Adha celebrations at Al-Bahja Garden and Prince Saud bin Abdul Mohsen Park in Hail city.

Municipality spokesperson Saud Al-Ali said the celebrations showcased the region’s high quality of life and many advantages.

The result was a delightful experience for different ages and nationalities, he added.

Recreational and cultural activities, theatrical performances, and Saudi ardah and samri dances were staged as part of the celebrations.

Children’s areas, motorcycle shows, a photography booth, circus shows, and interactive entertainment games proved popular with visitors.

 


Saudi municipal authorities foil attempted smuggling of rotten carcasses

Jeddah Municipality headquarters. (SPA)
Updated 21 June 2024
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Saudi municipal authorities foil attempted smuggling of rotten carcasses

  • The municipality closed 409 illegal barns and 527 slaughterhouses and moved 1,594 vehicles that were selling sheep at unauthorized sites

JEDDAH: An attempt to smuggle 1,243 rotten carcasses was foiled by the Jeddah Municipality thanks to five checkpoints set up at entrances to the area during Eid Al-Adha. Also seized were 109 vehicles being used to transport the rotten meat.

The municipality said surveillance teams in municipalities to the south, along with slaughterhouse management and the public benefit markets, were supported by security services in confiscating the carcasses, which were unfit for human consumption.

Some 1,225 carcasses were subsequently destroyed.
The municipality also closed 409 illegal barns and 527 slaughterhouses and moved 1,594 vehicles that were selling sheep at unauthorized sites.