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PARIS/ROME: A rare statue from the Lihyanite period that was found in northwestern Saudi Arabia has been unveiled at the Louvre Museum in Paris. Dating from the 5th to 3rd centuries BCE and measuring 2.3 meters in height, the statue represents a realistic rendering of a masculine figure standing upright and in a static frontal pose. 
Carved in sandstone and positioned with its arms aligned to either side and its legs straight, the 800kg statue, which is missing its head, most probably depicts a Liyhanite king, if not a priest or a praying figure.
The statue’s unveiling on Tuesday in the Louvre’s hall of Oriental Antiquities is significant in that it marks the beginning of a collaboration between French museums of heritage and the Royal Commission for AlUla (RCU).


The statue, which is missing its head, most probably depicts a Liyhanite king, if not a priest or a praying figure. (AN photo by Tarek Mussa) 

“The statue is a very important symbol of France’s cultural cooperation with Saudi Arabia,” Laurence des Cars, director of the Louvre Museum, told Arab News.
“It is a masterpiece of ancient sculpture that testifies to the archaeological research undertaken by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia for more than 20 years, often in collaboration with France.
“We are very happy to be able to present for five years to visitors to the Louvre this masterpiece in the context of our collections of the Arabian Peninsula. It stands as a strong symbol of this collaboration.”


Laurence des Cars, director of the Louvre Museum, with the CEO of the RCU, Amr Al-Madani, on Tuesday, when a statue discovered in AlUla went on display in the hall of Oriental Antiquities. (AN photo by Tarek Mussa) 

The statue was discovered at the Dadan archaeological site in the oasis of modern AlUla, in northwestern Saudi Arabia, during excavations conducted by teams directed by King Saud University in Riyadh from 2003 to 2019.
It dates back to around 2,800 years ago, when Dadan was one of the most important trade route stations of the ancient world. Around the second half of the 1st millennium BCE, the Dadan kingdom was ruled by the kings of the Lihyan tribe, who retained power for several centuries.
“This is the first Lihyanite statue found in northwestern Saudi Arabia that will be exhibited for five years at the Louvre after an official agreement between the Louvre and the RCU,” Dr. Abdulrahman Alsuhaibani, acting collections executive director for the RCU, told Arab News.


Dr. Abdulrahman Alsuhaibani, acting collections executive director for the RCU, poses with the statue at the Louvre Museum in Paris. (AN photo by Tarek Mussa) 

“Last November, during the archaeological excavations at the sanctuary that has already been excavated by King Saud University, another statue was found of almost the same size as this one that is on display today. But the second one is currently undergoing conservation and restoration.
“We recovered the statue, we managed to stabilize it, and now we are working and making efforts to conserve it before putting it on display during the exhibition.”
Several colossal statues, believed to depict kings and priests, were discovered between 2005 and 2007 during archaeological excavations of the sanctuary of Dadan led by researchers from King Saud University.


A rare statue from the Lihyanite period that was found in northwestern Saudi Arabia is unveiled at the Louvre Museum in Paris. (AN photo by Tarek Mussa) 

“The team from the King Saud University moved to the site of Dadan where a long scientific project was launched to excavate one of the most important archeological sites in the northwest of the Kingdom,” Saeed Al-Saeed, who was dean of culture and archaeology at King Saud University when the statue was discovered, told Arab News.
 
“After the work started, further discoveries were made and Dadan city and some of its architectural details were discovered. Key discoveries and artifacts included huge statues, one of which is on display today at the Louvre.”
Experts say the statue dates back to the period when the Lihyan kingdom controlled the ancient caravan route from their capital in what is today known as AlUla, historically located along the ancient incense routes that ran from southern Arabia, north into Egypt, and beyond.


Dr. Abdulrahman Alsuhaibani, acting collections executive director for the RCU, talks about the statue at the Louvre Museum in Paris. (AN photo by Tarek Mussa) 

“Few civilizations have not been studied: Assyrians and Egyptian civilizations have all been studied,” Amr Al-Madani, CEO of the RCU, told Arab News. “What remains now is to unpack the role of Lihyan and Dadan, a civilization that ruled northern Arabia from AlUla.”
A repository of 200,000 years of history, AlUla is quickly becoming Saudi Arabia’s center for tourism and culture. Located in modern Saudi Arabia’s Madinah province in the Hejaz region, it is also home to the UNESCO World Heritage site of Hegra.
“The amount of undiscovered archaeology and the discovered archaeology that has not visited the world is magnificent in Saudi Arabia,” said Al-Madani. “We have recently unpacked many findings in AlUla.
 
 
Some of these are monumental sculptures. They are currently being studied, renovated and, certainly, will join their well-deserved place in the global network of world museums.”
The city of Dadan, the former site of both the Dadan and the Lihyan kingdom capitals, was first discovered by English poet and explorer Charles Montagu Doughty in 1876.
“Little remains of the old civil generations of el-Hejr, the caravan city; her clay-built streets are again the blown dust in the wilderness,” he wrote in his “Travels in Arabia Deserta,” published in 1888.
“Their story is written for us only in the crabbed scrawlings upon many a wild crag of this sinister neighborhood, and in the engraved titles of their funeral monuments, now solitary rocks, which the fearful passenger admires, in these desolate mountains.”


A rare statue from the Lihyanite period that was found in northwestern Saudi Arabia is unveiled at the Louvre Museum in Paris. (AN photo by Tarek Mussa) 

In 1909 and 1910, the site was carefully documented by the French Dominicans A. Jaussen and R. Savignac, who identified it as the biblical Dedan, mentioned in the Old Testament among the main caravan towns of Arabia.
Thanks to the hundreds of inscriptions in Dadanitic found at the site and among its surroundings, it was established that the city had been the capital of two successive kingdoms: First the oasis kingdom of Dadan in the first half of the 1st millennium BCE and then the vast tribal kingdom of Lihyan in the second half.
The statue was previously displayed as part of “Roads of Arabia,” a traveling exhibition that first appeared at the Louvre Abu Dhabi from November 2018 to February 2019, before heading abroad to Rome, Berlin, Paris, Barcelona, St. Petersburg, Houston, Tokyo, and beyond.
Roads of Arabia celebrated the archaeological treasures of Saudi Arabia and the UAE, exploring how the civilizations of the Arabian Peninsula served as a meeting point of the Indian Ocean, the Horn of Africa, Egypt and Mesopotamia.
Now, the new Lihyanite display in Paris offers a fresh opportunity to examine these ancient civilizations and the role they played in shaping the region.


Gerard Mestrallet, the executive chairman of the French Agency for the Development of AlUla, speaks at the unveiling of the statue at the Louvre Museum in Paris. (AN photo by Tarek Mussa) 

Determining the identity of who the statue is supposed to depict, however, will require careful study of the archaeological record and a fine examination of the details.
“We know that this statue is a Lihyanite statue that was found in a layer dated to the Lihyanite period, during the second half of the first millennium BC,” said Alsuhaibani.
“There is also another statue that was also found at the same layer. The word “king” was found written on the back of another statue that resembles the one on display today.”

The statue is dressed in a short tunic while on the body are traces of red pigment. On his left arm he wears a bangle that possibly is decorated with a pearl, worn in the crease of his elbow, while beneath his right foot there are the remains of the sole of a shoe, most likely a sandal.
Of note is the particular attention given to the rendering of the man’s anatomical form and its smooth surface, intricately depicting the muscles of the torso, abdomen, and the remains of the limbs — characteristic elements of the Lihyanite school of sculpture.
According to archaeologists and art historians, the statue is distinguished by its particular local style and reflective of artistic influences from ancient Egypt and Greece.
Preserving and celebrating the ancient heritage of Saudi Arabia forms a key part of the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 social reform and economic diversification agenda, which includes investment in tourism infrastructure and attractions.
Among these developments is the “Journey Through Time” master plan, which will see AlUla valley transformed into a living museum designed to immerse visitors in 200,000 years of natural and human history.
“AlUla is the world’s largest living museum and a place of heritage for the world, holding thousands of years of history of cultural exchange,” said Al-Madani.
“Cultural exchange is an economic activity. It creates a place for people to know each other better and trade in business. Today we trade commodities, we trade products and what we really have to encourage now is we trade culture as the baseline of economic growth.
“What we see here is a king of Lihyan — a civilization that dominated northwest Arabia and played a significant role in the incense route and trade network of the past. Today the king stands here to welcome everyone back to AlUla, as we establish it as a major oasis of exchange, art, culture, heritage and hopefully fantastic memories for life.”

Enter
RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Center (KSrelief) have been ramping up aid efforts in Lebanon and Somalia.
Funded by KSrelief, the Ambulance Service of Subul Al-Salam Social Society in Miniyeh Region, Northern Lebanon, carried out 63 emergency missions in the past week, the Saudi Press Agency (SPA) reported.
The missions included the transfer of patients to and from hospitals and ambulance services to those injured in traffic accidents in the city of Miniyeh. These are part of the center’s efforts to support health services and ambulance transports in the refugee areas, SPA added.
In Somalia, the organization distributed 4,000 food baskets to 24,000 displaced people and those affected by drought in Jubaland State.
Meanwhile, the US Agency for International Development (USAID) has donated $7 million to the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) for aid that will help more than one million vulnerable women and girls in Yemen in the coming 12 months, the Yemen News Agency (SABA) reported.
The aid is intended to improve reproductive health services in eight hospitals, four portable clinics, as well as six safe areas for women and girls.
The UNFPA said that there are approximately 6.5 million Yemeni women and girls that lack preventive and treatment services from gender-based violence, SABA reported.
AMSTERDAM: It all started with a yellow cow and a leap of faith.
In 2008, Aarnout Helb, a young Dutch lawyer who studied at Leiden University, was reading the Holy Qur’an while trying to piece together a larger global narrative from a legal and artistic perspective.
While poring over the various passages in the holy book, he came across the story of the yellow cow from Surat Al-Baqarah.
It ignited something within him. After a quick internet search, a piece of art by a Saudi artist popped up — about that very same yellow cow mentioned in the Qur’an. He couldn’t believe his luck. He sent a message to the artist right away.
The artist wrote back. And that was how Helb serendipitously started his long relationship with Saudi artists which resulted in him creating the Greenbox Museum of Contemporary Art from Saudi Arabia in Holland.
The artist who made the Yellow Cow piece was none other than world-renowned Saudi artist Dr. Ahmed Mater, who has since become his friend. Today, the book by Mater — with the yellow cow on the cover — sits proudly on the main table upon entering the museum space. Pieces from the yellow cow project have been acquired by Helb — and then some.
• In 2008, Aarnout Helb, a young Dutch lawyer who studied at Leiden University, was reading the Holy Qur’an while trying to piece together a larger global narrative from a legal and artistic perspective. While poring over the various passages in the holy book, he came across the story of the yellow cow from Surat Al- Baqarah.
• It ignited something within him. After a quick internet search, a piece of art by a Saudi artist popped up — about that very same yellow cow mentioned in the Qur’an. He couldn’t believe his luck. He sent a message to the artist right away.
• The artist wrote back. And that was how Helb serendipitously started his long relationship with Saudi artists which resulted in him creating the Greenbox Museum of Contemporary Art from Saudi Arabia in Holland.
Helb is an unlikely connector to Saudi Arabia’s art scene. Today, at 58 years old, he’s a bit of an introvert, mostly working alone around his space, which he likes to refer to as his “cabinet of curiosities.”
He started to piece together the collection based on what captivated his imagination and fascinated his sensibilities.
After the constant misrepresentation in the news following the tragic events of 9/11, where several of the hijackers were Saudi-born, Helb kept that fascination tucked away until 2008 when he started to really see a shift in the world.
He refers to that time as a global “mental prison,” where Islam and the West seemingly couldn’t cooperate and he wanted to try and get to the bottom of things.
“I started this in a very complex way — it’s always difficult to explain, but it was influenced very much by 9/11. And the period after that, because I didn’t start right away. I started in 2008, which is much, much later but the world was in some kind of mental prison after that.
“You know, these ideas that Islam and the West — or whatever you call it — can’t work together. And to my mind, it made no sense for Holland within the NATO structure as friends of the US to try and reorganize Afghanistan into our vision of how a country should work,” he told Arab News.
“My knowledge about Saudi Arabia prior to this museum was very much influenced by the fact that I have Indonesian roots, and Indonesia is one of the largest Islamic countries in terms of population. And there has always been a very strong relationship between Holland from its Indonesian colonizing context — specifically the Hijaz region because of Makkah and Madinah — so we’ve been involved with making money and taking care of pilgrims at the same time,” he said.
“Saudi Arabia culturally is extremely important for the world — not because you have oil in Dhahran, not because in Riyadh you have a nice royal family; it’s important because people from all over the world travel to Makkah and Madinah,” Helb said.
His first visit to Saudi Arabia was in 2013 after many years of surrounding himself with the Kingdom’s art.
The reason the trip was delayed was because he was, and is, adamant at remaining independent. Every single piece in the collection was curated carefully and thoughtfully by him and not influenced by anyone else.
It’s hard to gauge how many pieces he has in the collection, because some are part of a series, but he estimates that he has over 100 works.
“Although the museum started in dead center Amsterdam, at some point, the space was not big enough for me. It was a rented space and I went looking to buy something within the budget I have, and this is a small warehouse, where the collection — which is not my private collection, I finance it privately — but it’s a public space for people to visit.
“It has statutes about what it should do. And the art, although owned by me, is bought with the statutes in mind. And it’s given into use to the foundation for public viewing and research. I take that seriously.”
According to Helb, three types of visitors typically came through the doors.
“The Dutch visitors come because I’m here; the international visitors who somehow find me and usually have some interest in the Middle East — they don’t come completely out of the blue — which happened more when I was still in the center because that was easy to come; and Saudis actually visiting … those I find most interesting because I learn about the art from them,” he said.
He has been to the kingdom several times since but his home base is in Holland.
Last year, Helb moved his museum to a remote location in Hoofddorp, where he took his own time unwrapping each piece and putting it in its new place — something he realized was a blessing.
Helb is still deciding on the exact shade he wants to paint the museum and isn’t sure if he wants to replicate the old wall’s tint, deliberating over the exact green hue that might grace the walls of the new Greenbox.
Ironically, and perhaps fittingly, the color green in the museum’s name was not chosen as a patriotic nod to the Saudi flag but rather due to a personal connection to Helb, who admired a painting in his home with a green tone which relaxed him.
The new location brought in a slew of unexpected visitors: Taxi drivers with origins in North Africa, many of whom reside on the outskirts of Amsterdam because it is more affordable.
Those Dutch nationals with strong pride in their Arab or Muslim roots usually don’t bike or use local public transport, so they come with their cars, park and just wander in.
The space is just a 15-minute drive from Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam, which is a five-hour flight from the closest Saudi city.
To schedule a visit or to find out more about the Saudi artists showcased in the museum, contact Helb via www.greenboxmuseum.com or on Instagram (@greenbox_museum).
 
RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Culture on Friday honored the winners of the National Cultural Awards initiative in its second session, at a ceremony in the historic Diriyah neighborhood.
The ceremony, which was held under the patronage of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, was attended by a large number of cultural leaders, intellectuals, writers and media professionals.
Speaking on behalf of Minister of Culture Prince Badr bin Abdullah bin Farhan, the Deputy Minister of Culture, Hamed Fayez, said: “The historical depth and cultural heritage of our country and the creativity of its people have placed the Kingdom in an advanced cultural position, enabling the Ministry of Culture to highlight our creative treasures with sustainable work, in accordance with a vision and plans emanating from the Kingdom’s Vision 2030.” 
Meet the winners of this year’s #NationalCulturalAwards, who have each made outstanding contributions to the Kingdom’s cultural sector.

Congratulations to you all! #SaudiMinistryOfCulture pic.twitter.com/jWUweSJsxz
During the ceremony, officials announced that the next National Cultural Awards will include a new international category to celebrate the achievements of global cultural pioneers, reaffirming their commitment to cultural exchange between Saudi Arabia and the world. 
The Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the King Abdulaziz Center for National Dialogue and Secretary General of the King Faisal International Prize, Dr. Abdulaziz Al-Sabeel, won the “Cultural Personality of the Year” award, in recognition of his rich literary and cultural career, and his cultural roles in which he held a number of leadership and academic positions. 
Writer and film director Badr Al-Hamoud won the “Youth Culture” award in recognition of his efforts in filmmaking, publishing, translation, and technical projects. 
Meanwhile, writer Kifah Buali won the literature award, poet and translator Dr. Sherif Bakna won the translation award, designer Dr. Samira Al-Otaibi won the fashion award, researcher Ahmed Al-Nugheithar won the national heritage award for his drawings and inscriptions, and chef Abdel Samad Al-Hawsawi won the culinary arts award.
Just announced!

The 2023 #NationalCulturalAwards will include a new international category to celebrate the achievements of global cultural pioneers, reaffirming our commitment to cultural exchange between #SaudiArabia and the world. #SaudiMinistryOfCulture https://t.co/scWdqW1MC0
The award for visual arts was won by the artist Muhannad Shonu, the award for theater and performing arts was given to writer, actor and director Ali Khabrani, the muscial award was won by Bandar bin Obaid, the film award by producer and distributor Faisal Baltoor, and the award for architecture and architectural design was given to engineer Mohammed bin Ibrahim Shafei.
As for the cultural institutions award, these were distributed over three categories, where the Diriyah Gate Development Authority won the award for cultural institutions in the governmental sector, while the Misk Art Institute won the award for cultural institutions in the non-profit sector, and the Music Home School of Art won the award for cultural institutions in the private sector.
RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Ministry on Friday condemned the cyberattacks on Albania which targeted its digital infrastructure.
The Kingdom stressed its support and solidarity with Albania for the measures it has taken to protect its cybersecurity, the Saudi Press Agency reported.
In this context, the Kingdom emphasized the importance of promoting and coordinating international efforts to keep peace in cyberspace and develop specialized capabilities to ensure that efforts continue in the face of cybersecurity threats, as well as take strict measures to combat these threats.
The Kingdom emphasized the importance of promoting and coordinating international efforts to keep peace in cyberspace and develop specialized capabilities to ensure that efforts continue in the face of cybersecurity threats, as well as take strict measures to combat these threats.
Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama on Wednesday accused Iran of directing a cyberattack against Albanian institutions on July 15 in a bid to “”paralyze public services and hack data and electronic communications from the government systems.”
According to the AFP news agency, Iran rejected the accusation it was behind the cyberattack as “baseless” and called Albania’s decision to sever diplomatic ties “an ill-considered and short-sighted action.”
Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia has reiterated its firm stance condemning terrorism in all its forms.
This came in Saudi Arabia’s speech before the UN’s first Global Congress of Victims of Terrorism which was recently held at the headquarters of the organization in New York.
The director of the Saudi Arabia Counseling and Care Center, Maj. Gen. Wenyan Al-Subaie, said the Kingdom welcomed efforts being exerted by the UN, represented by the UN Office of Counter-Terrorism, in the fight against the global scourge.
Al-Subaie underlined the unwavering support of the Kingdom for the efforts exerted by the UN in remembrance and recognition of the victims of terrorism. Saudi Arabia commemorates along with the UN the International Day of Remembrance of and Tribute to the Victims of Terrorism observed on Aug. 21 of each year. “This day aims to make the voices of the victims of terrorism heard by the local and international communities and to make this day inspiring, so as to strengthen efforts aimed at repairing the damage done to them on the medium and long term and to sustainably promote the anti-terrorist discourse,” Al-Subaie said.
He noted that the concept of victimhood of the crime of terrorism is not limited to the victim alone. “It is more like a circle that expands to include direct and indirect victims, since the damage could be material (physical and economic) or moral (psychological and social). This circle includes the families of the perpetrators, women and children, who did not commit any fault but who have found themselves in the painful circle of victims and who need support like the other victims.”
Al-Subaie added: “In accordance with this perspective, the Kingdom has adopted a comprehensive and broad concept to define victims of terrorism and has enacted regulations on compensating damages sustained by the victims, including what is contained in article 85 of the Law for Crimes of Terrorism and its Financing and article 25 of its Executive Regulations, in accordance with resolution 825/60 of the UN Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy. The Kingdom has also developed mechanisms and programs to implement this through its official institutions.”
He said that, within the framework of international efforts, the Kingdom has long provided assistance, services, and facilities to victims of terrorism and their families so that they can fully recover. “(Saudi Arabia) has allocated a large part of the aid to refugees in areas that have suffered and continue to suffer from conflicts and wars.”
He stressed that in confronting terrorism, the Kingdom had placed victims at the forefront of its efforts and measures aimed at addressing its effects, noting that commemorating victims of terrorism, preserving their rights, and providing them with support and care is a cornerstone in the comprehensive fight against it.
At the end of his speech, Al-Subaie said there is a need for concerted international efforts to exchange experiences and best practices through holding periodic local and regional meetings, directly and virtually.
He also called for the building and adopting of a media strategy to remind communities of the victims of terrorism in a way that contributes to countering extremist discourse, enhances the rights of victims within their communities, and compensates them for the damage done to them.
 
RIYADH: Qatari Transport Minister Jassim bin Saif bin Ahmed Al-Sulaiti recently took a field tour of King Abdulaziz International Airport in Jeddah. He was accompanied by Saudi Minister of Transport and Logistics Saleh Al-Jasser.
The Qatari minister learned about modern technologies in the airport’s facilities and the mechanisms used to expedite travel procedures, passenger service and services in the Al-Fursan Lounge, which accommodates 10,000 passengers a day.
Al-Sulaiti also boarded the internal train at the airport, which contributes to accelerating the movement of passengers to the internal gates according to the highest international standards.
He praised the new services and modern equipment at the airport, hailing the precise future planning of the airport facilities and its growing services for the next 20 years.
Al-Sulaiti said that these services were built in line with the modern scientific foundations that were keeping pace with the renaissance happening in Saudi Arabia, as well as accommodating the increasing numbers of visitors that will allow the Kingdom to receive 90 million passengers annually.
The Qatari minister also praised the flow of movement at the airport and the efficiency of the Saudi workforce, commending the success of localization policies in the transport and logistics sector.
Earlier, the Qatari and Saudi ministers held a meeting in which they discussed a number of topics of common interest aimed at developing the transport and logistics sector in the two countries.
 
 

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