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JEDDAH: Saudi Arabia has announced that it will be a participant at Expo 2025 in Osaka, Japan.
The deal was sealed on Wednesday after the Kingdom signed a participation agreement on the sidelines of the first International Planning Meeting for the event.
Expo 2025 aims to strengthen efforts in uniting people of different cultures and interests under the global slogan, Designing Future Society for Our Lives.
The Kingdom will hope to replicate its impact at Expo 2020 in Dubai, where it put on display its heritage, culture, creativity, and artistic and societal innovations.
It attracted nearly 5 million visitors at that event, obtaining the award for the best participating pavilion.
The country’s involvement shows its commitment to global cooperation in an effort to achieve the UN’s sustainable development goals.
Expo 2025 will look at ways to achieve SDGs within the framework of three sub-themes: Ensuring life sustainability, improving life, and enhancing life through communication.
The Kingdom began its relationship with the Expos in 1958 when it participated at Brussels.
Saudi Arabia submitted its bid to host Expo 2030 last month, with the title, “The Era of Change: Leading the Planet to a Foresighted Tomorrow.” The Kingdom is up against bids from Italy, South Korea, and Ukraine for the honor of hosting the event, and the winner will be announced in November 2023.
RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s King Salman congratulated Anwar Ibrahim on being sworn in as Malaysia’s new prime minister, the Saudi Press Agency reported on Thursday.
In a cable, the King wished the Malaysian PM success and the Malaysian people further progress and prosperity.
Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman also sent a similar cable to the prime minister.
Ibrahim was sworn in on Thursday, reaching the apogee of a three-decade-long political career.
Clad in traditional Malay attire and headgear, the leader of the reformist alliance, Pakatan Harapan, or PH, took the oath of office at the National Palace before Malaysia’s King Al-Sultan Abdullah Sultan Ahmad Shah.
Last week’s election resulted in an unprecedented hung parliament, with neither opposition leader Ibrahim nor former PM Muhyiddin Yassin winning the simple majority needed to form a government.
The stalemate was resolved after the king held a meeting with the nine-member Conference of Rulers on Thursday.
JEDDAH: The National Center of Meteorology recorded 179 mm of rainfall on Thursday, the highest amount ever received in the city.
Rain fell from 8 a.m. until 2 p.m. in the south of the province in a heavier downpour than the previous biggest, in 2009.
The Jeddah Municipality announced a maximum alert in the wake of the weather conditions, while the meteorology center warned of moderate to heavy rain in the governorates of Jeddah and Rabigh in the Makkah region, including Thuwal and coastal areas, accompanied by surface winds, hail and flooding, until 7 p.m. on Thursday.
King Abdulaziz Airport announced that some flights had been delayed due to the weather. The airport was hoping to communicate with air carriers to confirm dates and times for rearranged flights.
Makkah Municipality employs 11,800 field workers to prepare for the rainy season. It has machinery and equipment to deal with the expected conditions. Its operation and maintenance department assesses the performance of rainwater drainage network channels in main and side roads, intersections and squares.
It removes sediment which can impede water flow in drainage systems, in accordance with contingency plans.
Task forces and equipment have been deployed throughout Makkah, with some 52 water tanks, each with a capacity of 194,000 gallons, removing floodwaters. Some 146 excavating machines and 89 multipurpose trucks have been dealing with the impact of the rain and removing water from the roads and streets.
The municipality has also organized field teams to remove waste that may have built up in the wake of the downpours.
It has also increased the number of cleaning teams to work on clearing sewers to prevent any dangers that may pose a threat to residents and visitors.
The teams have been deployed along with 520 machines, including lorries, pump tanks, Bobcats, tankers and automated sweepers, as well as a large number of pumps and excavating machines. Work is being carried out around the clock to implement contingency plans.
Makkah contains huge rainwater drainage systems that reach around 540 km and cover all of the region’s neighborhoods and holy sites. The systems include closed trunk water mains and deep tunnel networks, as well as shallow and open drainage channels.
The municipality also carries out maintenance and cleaning operations throughout the year to help reduce the effects of flooding on the region.
DUBAI: For centuries, the importance of the ancient cities of Tayma, near the modern-day city of Tabuk in northwestern Saudi Arabia, and Khaybar, an oasis north of Madinah, had been largely forgotten.
Now, the Royal Commission of AlUla, or RCU, is bringing these precious sites back to life as part of the inaugural Ancient Kingdoms Festival, reconnecting the ancient oases of AlUla, Tayma and Khaybar to celebrate their distinctive heritage and culture.
“This year, we have created an extraordinary moment by reconnecting the triad of AlUla, Khaybar and Tayma in a considered approach founded on years of research,” Eman Alankari, executive director of cultural sites management at the RCU, told Arab News.
“For the first time in modern memory, the cousin sites can be accessed and understood in parallel, in a continuous historical narrative.”
Tayma is mentioned in Assyrian texts dating to the fourth century B.C. and is referred to numerous times in the Hebrew Bible. During the first century A.D., Tayma is believed to have been a primarily Jewish settlement.
However, its history goes back much further. Archaeological discoveries reveal that Tayma had been inhabited since the Bronze Age, around the fourth millennium C.E.
In 2010, the Saudi Commission for Tourism and National Heritage announced that a team of Saudi archaeologists had discovered the Kingdom’s first hieroglyphic inscriptions mentioning an Egyptian pharaoh, in this case Rameses III (1186-1155 B.C.).
The discovery showed that Tayma was once an important land route between the western coast of Arabia and Egypt’s Nile valley.
The first known modern recordings of Tayma date back to the 19th century when English traveler, poet, writer and explorer Charles Montagu Doughty visited and mapped the region in 1877.
Doughty had visited AlUla a year earlier, mentioning it in his 1888 book, “Travels in Arabia Deserta,” which constitutes the first comprehensive Western work on the geography of Arabia.
Between 1878 and 1882, French Orientalist and explorer Charles Huber also visited AlUla to explore the area’s ancient inscriptions. It was during this trip that he discovered the Tayma stones — a collection of tablets inscribed in Aramaic — which were brought to the Louvre in Paris in 1883 where they remain to this day.
The inscriptions describe how an Akkadian king invaded the city of Tayma, slaughtering and enslaving its people. The Akkadians (2350-2150 B.C.) built the first ancient empire of Mesopotamia after the civilization of Sumer.
The historical significance of Tayma stems from its strategic position on the ancient incense trail, a network of trade routes extending more than 2,000 km that carried frankincense and myrrh from Yemen and Oman in the Arabian Peninsula to the Mediterranean.
Tayma is also known as the “Land of Kings,” primarily owing to the enigmatic Babylonian King Nabonidus, who resided there during the mid-sixth century B.C. He had once ruled the Babylonian Empire, which included modern-day Iraq and Syria.
* ALULA: Encompassing more than 200,000 years of human history, AlUla is home to the Nabatean city of Hegra — Saudi Arabia’s first UNESCO World Heritage site — and the tombs of Dadan — capital of the Dadanite and Lihyanite kingdoms. 
* KHAYBAR: The region’s striking volcanic desert ecosystem and rich historical significance make Khaybar a uniquely enigmatic destination, with timeless heritage sites and epic scenery. 
* TAYMA: An emerging archaeological hub, home to royal icons and legendary personalities, including the last Babylonian king, Tayma is rewriting the history of northwest Arabia.
Nabonidus was the last king of the Neo-Babylonian Empire, ruling from 556 B.C. to the fall of Babylon to the Achaemenid Empire under the Persian King Cyrus the Great in 539 B.C.
A fascinating individual to study, some archaeologists view Nabonidus as a religious reformer and the first archaeologist.
Nabonidus conquered Tayma and lived there for a decade to worship and search for prophecies while entrusting the throne to his son, Belshazzar. It remains a mystery why he chose to stay.
Present-day guides to Tayma provide one theory as to why Nabonidus neglected his empire and moved to Tayma. Some say he may have disagreed with the primary religion in Babylon and moved to Tayma to worship a god of his choice, but no one can prove this hypothesis.
His exile is alluded to on a stele discovered by Saudi-German excavation teams in 2005. Following his defeat by Cyrus the Great, it is still unclear whether he was executed or forced into exile.
While we will never know why Nabonidus mysteriously abandoned the city of Babylon for a remote oasis in the western Arabian desert, part of his legacy sheds light on the significance of these, until recently, little-known desert kingdoms. 
The ancient treasures of Tayma and Khaybar form the centerpiece of this year’s AlUla Moments and, in particular, the inaugural Ancient Kingdoms Festival, which brings to life the three interconnected oases of northwest Arabia.
The festival is staging a variety of cultural performances, workshops and sightseeing opportunities, recreating the history and traditions of these cities, which for thousands of years served as a crossroads for merchants and explorers.
Since opening to tourists, AlUla has been welcoming visitors to its ancient sites, notably the UNESCO World Heritage site of Hegra.
“RCU works closely with an international team of archaeological and heritage management experts to discover, revive and protect heritage sites within our region of engagement,” Alankari told Arab News.
“Our vision is to create the world’s largest open air living museum and share the treasures that are being revealed by taking the world directly to the sites, to the scene where history happened, and discoveries continue to be made.”
Festival goers can visit the ancient Temple of Salm, overlooking a vast landscape where there was once an ancient lake, and the remains of structures dating back to the Iron Age.
They can also see Bir Haddaj, a well that is thought to be the largest of the ancient world, built during the reign of Nabonidus in the mid-sixth century C.E.
In the fifth century C.E., the well fell into disuse and remained buried for centuries until a local Jewish resident, Suleiman Al-Gonaim, uncovered its location and restored it. Fast-forward to 1953, and it was the turn of the modern Saudi state to add four pumps to help local farmers obtain sufficient water for their crops.
At Khaybar, opened to the public for the festival, visitors can explore mysterious prehistoric stone structures — best seen by helicopter excursion — and the Harrat Khaybar volcanic site, where they can enjoy adventure trails through the Umm Jirsan lava tubes.
AlUla highlights include trips to Hegra, the ancient kingdom of Dadan, once the capital of the Dadanite and Lihyanite kingdoms, where visitors can join an “apprentice archaeologist” program and interact with experts in the field.
A journey through Jabal Ikmah, a mountain near the ancient city of Dadan, reveals ancient inscriptions, winding rocky pathways and stunning nighttime vistas of the ancient Arabian desert landscape.
However, jewels in the festival crown are undoubtedly Tayma and Khaybar, where visitors can get a first glimpse of these ancient Arabian cities still undergoing renovation.
Tayma is open for a limited time until March 31, 2023, after which it will close for more excavation and restoration work.
The fascinating stories emerging from these once bustling commercial hubs in ancient Arabia are shedding light on a world long lost to the sands of time.

 
RIYADH: Food and football were flavors of the week in Riyadh as Spanish cuisine experts and LaLiga officials came together to host a feast of Iberian culture.
The Spanish Pantry festival, organized by LaLiga and food experts Provacuno, was held over three days this week in the capital’s Ritz Carlton. 
Mohamad Essa, LaLiga’s delegate in Saudi Arabia, told Arab News that the festival combined two of Spain’s biggest passions, with football activities and displays from a Michelin star chef Rafael Centeno.
Essa said that Saudi Arabia had a passionate fan base for LaLiga football. “It’s my honor to be close to the local fans and to listen to their observations and understand their needs. We would like to achieve many things together. 
“We are here to promote strong relations with local institutions, clubs and media,” he said, adding that his presence helps LaLiga giants such as Real Madrid and Barcelona connect with Saudi fans, clubs and sponsors.
He added that his organization planned many activities for the Kingdom, including parties for Saudi fans to travel and watch LaLiga matches.
The league already helps develop skills in the sports industry with its LaLiga business school, and it has football academies aimed at developing youth talent.
“We want to export these capabilities to the country to create the new generation of footballers,” Essa said.
“As part of this international expansion, we are engaging in the market by hosting events, activities, different sports projects and academic opportunities.”
Ohoud M. Aljabr, of the Ritz-Carlton group, said: “Our main goal of this successful partnership is to introduce the beautiful and rich culture of Spain and present a memorable experience. Hosting the Spanish Festival for the first time in the Kingdom was a pleasure.” 
Provacuno is a promotion organization for Spanish beef and veal, and represents 140,000 farms and processing plants.
Spain produces more than 800,000 tonnes per year of meat to EU standards. Saudi Arabia meanwhile is a growing market for beef, with consumption rates increasing and outstripping local supply. “Spanish beef has been a supplier since 2016. Export figures have been rising in recent years, reaching 350 tonnes a year,” Provacuno said. “Most of our exports to Saudi Arabia are high-quality cuts that meet Saudi demands.”
RIYADH: The Saudi Sports for All Federation is launching the ultimate muddy obstacle course on Friday at the Dirab Golf & Country Club in Riyadh.
“Tough Mudder” is designed to help participants overcome challenges, such as fear of water and heights, and improve teamwork skills. It also aims to improve the health and well-being of participants, while bringing communities together
The exciting course puts the running, climbing, and crawling skills of the participant to the test.
Ticket holders also gain access to the celebration area with activities, food and beverages. There are opportunities for professional photographs, and an exclusive selection of sporting goods for sale. 
The obstacle course is the latest initiative to help provide a boost to physical activity levels in the Kingdom through the provision of world-class resources, experiences, and facilities.
 

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