Monday 3 December 2012

Heritage value forces Saudi monarch to soften hardline on art

Rock painting sites of Jubbah and Al-Shuwaymas, Saudi Arabia may have changed the long standing conservative monarchy's phobia for pre-Islamic art as some of the Kingdom's cultural sites are on their way at getting UNESCO's World Heritage List.

According to Arab News, The Kingdom has started efforts to register the ancient rock paintings of Jubbah and Al-Shuwaymas for a possible listing on the world body’s prestigious listing.

The kingdom, until now, consider all art and cultural beliefs that pre-date Islam as unsuitable for spiritual value of Muslims. It was reported, few days ago that the President of the Saudi Commission for Tourism and Antiquities (SCTA), Prince Sultan bin Salman made the announcement in a recent meeting of the country’s Consultative Committee for Antiquities and Museums at the SCTA headquarters in Riyadh.
Rock painting site in Saudi Arabia
 Prince Salman said the royal approval has been granted for the registration of the rock paintings in the World heritage sites.

The Jubbah site lies on an ancient lakebed stretching eastward from the sandstone mountain of Jabal Umm Sanaman (Two Camel-Hump Mountain).

In March 2001, a teacher from Nufud Desert, Mahboub Al-Rasheedi was said to have discovered The Shuwaymas rock paintings. “Shuwaymas stands ready to surpass ... any other rock-art site on the Arabian Peninsula," Robert Bednarik, the founder of the International Federation of Rock Art Organizations (IFRAO) had said of the site. "The Shuwaymas area is densely peppered with rock art, and it likely had a very heavy and significant concentration of Neolithic people," Bednarik noted. 

Features of the site: Shuwaymas is surrounded by black volcanic lava. It shows images of cheetah, hyenas, dogs, long- and short-horned cattle, oryx, ibex, horses, mules, camels and ostrich; human figures; geometric shapes, serpentine squiggles, inscrutable symbols, carved-out footprints and hoof prints.
 Visiting Hail in 1879, Lady Anne Blunt, granddaughter of Lord Byron, said: "Jubbah is one of the most curious places in the world and to my mind one of the most beautiful."

In the last two years Saudi Arabia has been showcasing its cultural value across Europe and the U.S. One of gthe shows, a Saudi archaeological masterpieces exhibition opened in the Smithsonian Museum in Washington D.C. on November 25 2012. The tour exhibition, it was said attracted 1.5 million people in France, Spain, Russia and Germany. 

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