Cambodia's Relocation of People from UNESCO Site Raises Concerns

A view of Bayon temple at Angkor Wat temple complex in Siem Reap province, Cambodia, Tuesday, April 2, 2024. (AP Photo/Heng Sinith)
A view of Bayon temple at Angkor Wat temple complex in Siem Reap province, Cambodia, Tuesday, April 2, 2024. (AP Photo/Heng Sinith)
TT

Cambodia's Relocation of People from UNESCO Site Raises Concerns

A view of Bayon temple at Angkor Wat temple complex in Siem Reap province, Cambodia, Tuesday, April 2, 2024. (AP Photo/Heng Sinith)
A view of Bayon temple at Angkor Wat temple complex in Siem Reap province, Cambodia, Tuesday, April 2, 2024. (AP Photo/Heng Sinith)

It's been more than a year since Yem Srey Pin moved with her family from the village where she was born on Cambodia's Angkor UNESCO World Heritage site to Run Ta Ek, a dusty new settlement about 25 kilometers (15 miles) away.
A tattered Cambodian flag flaps gently in the scorching midday sun on her corner lot, its depiction of the Angkor Wat temple barely still visible, while her brother scoops water from a clay cistern onto a neighbor's cow that he tends during the day.
Hers is one of about 5,000 families relocated from the sprawling archaeological site, one of Southeast Asia’s top tourist draws, by Cambodian authorities in an ongoing program that Amnesty International has condemned as a “gross violation of international human rights law.” Another 5,000 families are still due to be moved.
The allegations have drawn strong expressions of concern from UNESCO and a spirited rebuttal from Cambodian authorities, who say they're doing nothing more than protecting the heritage land from illegal squatters, The Associated Press reported.
Yem Srey Pin's single-room home, its reused corrugated steel siding perforated by rust and old nail holes, is a far cry better than the makeshift tent she lived in with her husband and five children when they first arrived, which did little to protect from the monsoon rains and blew down in the winds.
And their 600-square-meter (6,500-square-foot) property is significantly bigger than the 90-square-meter (1,000-square-foot) plot they occupied illegally in the village of Khvean on the Angkor site.
But the 35-year-old is also in debt from building the new house. Her husband finds less construction work nearby and his wages are lower, and there are no wild fruits or vegetables she can forage, nor rice paddies where she can collect crabs to sell at her mother's stand.
“After more than a year here I haven't been able to save any money and I haven't earned anything,” she said, as her 12-year-old son rocked her 8-month-old daughter in a hammock in front of a fan to take the edge off midday heat nearing 40 degrees Celsius (topping 100 degrees Fahrenheit).
“Living here is just hand to mouth because the income we do have goes to pay for the rice, food and my children's school.”
The Angkor site is one of the largest archaeological sites in the world, spread across some 400 square kilometers (155 square miles) in northwestern Cambodia. It contains the ruins of Khmer Empire capitals from the 9th to 15th centuries, including the temple of Angkor Wat, featured on several Cambodian banknotes, such as the 2,000 riel note depicting rice farmers working fields around the temple, as well as the country's flag.
UNESCO calls it one of the most important archaeological sites in Southeast Asia, and it is critical to Cambodia’s tourism industry.
When it was inscribed as a World Heritage Site in 1992, it was named a “living heritage site” whose local population observed ancestral traditions and cultural practices that have disappeared elsewhere.
Still, UNESCO at the time noted that Angkor was under “dual pressures” from some 100,000 inhabitants in 112 historic settlements who “constantly try to expand their dwelling areas,” and from encroachment from the nearby town of Siem Reap.
Cambodia's answer was a plan to entice the 10,000 families illegally squatting in the area to resettle at Run Ta Ek and another site, as well as to encourage some from the 112 historic settlements to relocate as their families grow in size.
“People got married, they had children, so the number of people were on the rise, including those coming illegally,” said Long Kosal, deputy director general and spokesperson for the Cambodian agency known as APSARA that's responsible for managing the Angkor site.
“What we did was that we provided an option.”
Cambodia began moving people to Run Ta Ek in 2022, giving those who volunteered to leave their homes in the Angkor area plots of land, a two-month supply of canned food and rice, a tarp and 30 sheets of corrugated metal to use to build a home. Benefits also included a Poor Card, essentially a state welfare program giving them around 310,000 riel (about $75) monthly for 10 years.
In a November report, Amnesty questioned how voluntary the relocations actually were, saying many people they interviewed were threatened or coerced into moving and that the relocations were more “forced evictions in disguise.”
The rights group cited a speech from former Prime Minister Hun Sen in which he said people “must either leave the Angkor site soon and receive some form of compensation or be evicted at a later time and receive nothing.”
Amnesty also noted Hun Sen's track record, saying that under his long-time rule Cambodian authorities had been responsible for several forced evictions elsewhere that it alleged “constituted gross violations of human rights.” It said Run Ta Ek — with dirt roads, insufficient drainage, poor sanitation and other issues — did not fulfil international obligations under human rights treaties to provide people adequate housing.
That has now changed: Homes with outhouses have been built, roads paved, and sewers installed. Primitive hand pumps made of blue PVC piping provide water, and electricity has been run in.
There's a school, a health center, a temple; bus routes were added, and a market area was built but is not yet operating, Long Kosal said, according to AP.
Hun Sen's successor, his son Hun Manet, traveled to Run Ta Ek in December to meet with residents and highlight infrastructure improvements in an attempt to allay the growing international concerns surrounding Cambodia's most important tourist site.
He reiterated his father's contention that if the squatters are not removed, the site risks being delisted by UNESCO — something UNESCO has never threatened.
Amnesty itself concedes life has gotten better for the residents of Run Ta Ek, but maintains there are major concerns.
Families have had to take on heavy debt to build even their basic houses, there is little work to be found, and the village — without any significant tree cover — is swelteringly hot during the day and has little shelter from winds or monsoon rains, said Montse Ferrer, the head of Amnesty’s research team investigating the Angkor Wat resettlements.
“People no longer have income,” she said in an interview in Geneva. “They had a clear source of income at the time — tourism — but also other sources of income linked to the location at Angkor. They are now at least 30 minutes away from the site and can no longer access these sources.”
Following Amnesty's scathing report, UNESCO moved up the timeline for Cambodia's submission of its own report on the state of conservation at the Angkor site, specifically asking for the allegations to be addressed.
In that report, submitted to UNESCO in March, Cambodia said it had not violated any international laws with the relocations, saying it was only moving people involved in the “illegal occupation of heritage land” and that in Run Ta Ek many were now property owners for the first time in their lives.
UNESCO said it would not comment on the situation until it has been able to analyze Cambodia's response, but referred The Associated Press to previous comments from Lazare Eloundou Assomo, director of the UNESCO World Heritage Center.
Speaking after Amnesty released its report, he stressed the agency had “always categorically rejected the use of forced evictions as a tool for management of World Heritage listed sites.”
“Since the Cambodian authorities announced their population relocation program in 2022, UNESCO has repeatedly and publicly recalled the importance of full respect for human rights,” he said.
Ferrer said Cambodia's response avoids addressing many of the issues raised by Amnesty, and that UNESCO — even though it says it has little ability to change national policies — has not yet used the significant leverage it does have.
“They could decide that the site is in danger, which they haven't. They can advise the World Heritage Committee, which is the ultimate body that can decide to take specific action against the state of Cambodia,” she said. “It can also conduct its own investigation and make public recommendations about what the state can be doing.”
Run Ta Ek resident Chhem Hay decided in June to take the opportunity to move from the village where she'd lived since she was a young teenager to the new settlement, enticed by the prospect of owning her own land, and a larger property than she'd ever had.
Her situation has improved since the austere early days living with her husband and teenage daughter in a tent on a dirt lot surviving on rice and prahok — a fermented fish paste that is an inexpensive staple for many Cambodians — paid for by charity handouts from Buddhist monks.
“I didn't dare eat anything much,” she said. “I tried to save money to buy bricks and sand.”
She was able to get a bank loan for $1,000 for the materials for a house, and now lives in a single-room brick structure built by her construction-worker husband and other family.
The income from the government Poor Card is enough for the monthly payments on the high-interest 2-year loan, which will have cost her almost double the principle when it's paid off. She has four chickens and some newly hatched chicks, though had to kill six others to feed the men building her house.
But the 37-year-old lost her work as a garbage collector in her village, and her husband has to drive in to Siem Reap for construction work, setting out at 5 a.m. to make it on time and spending about a third of his 35,000 riel ($8.70) daily income on gas for his motorbike.
She's looking forward to the day when the village market is opened, and hopes the government will establish a factory or similar business that will provide jobs.
“I don't know what will happen at the moment,” she said, standing in her doorway. “I'm just living day by day.”
For residents like Chhem Hay, Cambodia plans to offer vocational training, but does not envision further financial compensation, Long Kosal said.
“Once you have education, once you have a vocational skill, you can find a job easily,” he said. “Where you just remain there waiting for support, then you're not going to go anywhere. You're not going to make it.”
Meanwhile, villagers say many have already given up on Run Ta Ek, putting padlocks on their new homes and moving away — presumably back closer to Siem Reap and the Angkor site where it is easier to make a living.
Yem Srey Pin said even though Run Ta Ek has slowly improved since she arrived in February 2023, and her new home will be paid off fairly soon, she'd rather return to her village if it were possible.
But the village of Khvean is already slowly being reclaimed by the jungle, with grass growing through the foundations of houses, all that remains of the former homes. A hair curler, tattered blue playing cards and a trampled baseball cap lying on the ground are among the last vestiges of the lives left behind.
With almost all of the village's 400 families moving out, aside from a few who work at a neighboring military facility, Yem Srey Pin says there's nothing left for her there, even if APSARA would let her return.
“I can't live in my old village alone,” she said.



Bahrain Information Minister to Asharq Al-Awsat: ‘Al Dana Drama Award’ Boosts Gulf TV Productions

Bahrain’s Information Minister, Dr. Ramzan bin Abdullah Al-Noaimi (Asharq Al-Awsat)
Bahrain’s Information Minister, Dr. Ramzan bin Abdullah Al-Noaimi (Asharq Al-Awsat)
TT

Bahrain Information Minister to Asharq Al-Awsat: ‘Al Dana Drama Award’ Boosts Gulf TV Productions

Bahrain’s Information Minister, Dr. Ramzan bin Abdullah Al-Noaimi (Asharq Al-Awsat)
Bahrain’s Information Minister, Dr. Ramzan bin Abdullah Al-Noaimi (Asharq Al-Awsat)

Bahrain’s Information Minister, Dr. Ramzan bin Abdullah Al-Noaimi, said the “Al Dana Drama Award” award, the Gulf’s first for TV series, aims to support Gulf artists and creators.

He added that the Gulf Radio and Television Festival, where the award is presented, boosts Gulf cinema and drama as platforms for cultural understanding.

Al-Noaimi explained in an interview with Asharq Al-Awsat that artists themselves oversee their work, stating that Gulf information ministries don't control creativity.

The winners of the Al Dana Drama Award will be honored at the opening of the 16th Gulf Radio and Television Festival in Bahrain later this month.

“The award has emerged to boost Gulf drama production, uniting countries with strong ties and a shared goal of supporting artists,” affirmed Al-Noaimi.

“It aims to motivate writers, directors, actors, and composers through healthy competition, recognizing their hard work and emotional impact,” the minister added.

Under the patronage of Sheikh Khalid bin Hamad Al Khalifa, First Deputy Chairman of the Supreme Council for Youth and Sports (SCYS), Chairman of the General Sports Authority (GSA), and President of the Bahrain Olympic Committee (BOC), this award provides a significant incentive for talented individuals in radio and TV to participate.

With ten diverse categories and awards for actors, composers, scripts, and directors, Al Dana Drama Award offers ample opportunities for recognition.

“In the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), we have a special history of working together in media and the arts,” said Al-Noaimi.

“It all started with the Joint Program Production Institution back in the mid-1970s. This institution played a crucial role in shaping Gulf cooperation in media and the arts,” he added.

The debut of the award has sparked considerable interest, with over 70 diverse Gulf and Arab TV series submitted for consideration.

This highlights its importance in shaping the future of Arab and Gulf drama, encouraging artists to strive for excellence.

Positioned as a major milestone, Al Dana Drama Award enriches competition among Gulf and Arab artists, thanks to the Gulf Radio and Television Festival, a leading platform in the region’s artistic scene.


US Spelling Bee Reflects Economic Success, Cultural Impact of Immigrants from India

Dr. Balu Natarajan, right, from Hinsdale, Ill., poses for a photograph with his son Atman Balakrishnan, 12, at the Scripps National Spelling Bee, Tuesday, May 29, 2018, in Oxon Hill, Md. (AP)
Dr. Balu Natarajan, right, from Hinsdale, Ill., poses for a photograph with his son Atman Balakrishnan, 12, at the Scripps National Spelling Bee, Tuesday, May 29, 2018, in Oxon Hill, Md. (AP)
TT

US Spelling Bee Reflects Economic Success, Cultural Impact of Immigrants from India

Dr. Balu Natarajan, right, from Hinsdale, Ill., poses for a photograph with his son Atman Balakrishnan, 12, at the Scripps National Spelling Bee, Tuesday, May 29, 2018, in Oxon Hill, Md. (AP)
Dr. Balu Natarajan, right, from Hinsdale, Ill., poses for a photograph with his son Atman Balakrishnan, 12, at the Scripps National Spelling Bee, Tuesday, May 29, 2018, in Oxon Hill, Md. (AP)

When Balu Natarajan became the first Indian American champion of the Scripps National Spelling Bee in 1985, a headline on an Associated Press article read, “Immigrants’ son wins National Spelling Bee,” with the first paragraph noting the champion “speaks his parents’ native Indian language at home.”

Those details would hardly be newsworthy today after a quarter-century of Indian American spelling champs, most of them the offspring of parents who arrived in the United States on student or work visas.

This year's bee is scheduled to begin Tuesday at a convention center outside Washington and, as usual, many of the expected contenders are Indian American, including Shradha Rachamreddy, Aryan Khedkar, Bruhat Soma and Ishika Varipilli.

Nearly 70% of Indian-born US residents arrived after 2000, according to census data, and that dovetails with the surge in Indian American spelling bee champions. There were two Indian American Scripps winners before 1999. Of the 34 since, 28 have been Indian American, including three straight years of Indian American co-champions and one year (2019) when eight champions were declared, seven of Indian ancestry.

The experiences of first-generation Indian Americans and their spelling bee champion children illustrate the economic success and cultural impact of the nation's second-largest immigrant group.

As of 2022, there were 3.1 million Indian-born people living in the US, and Indian American households had a median income of $147,000, more than twice the median income of all US households, according to census data. Indian Americans also were more than twice as likely to have college degrees.

Indians received 74% of the H-1B visas for specialized occupations approved in fiscal 2021, and a record total of nearly 269,000 students from India were enrolled at US colleges and universities in 2022-23, according to the Institute of International Education.

Those numbers paint a picture of a high-achieving demographic that is well-suited for success in academic competitions.

Ganesh Dasari, whose daughter and son each made multiple appearances at the Scripps bee, holds a doctorate in civil engineering from the University of Cambridge and was recruited to the US to work for ExxonMobil on an H-1B visa. He quickly obtained a green card.

“Me and my wife, we came from a similar background. We both benefited from having the education ... so we put a lot of emphasis on educating our kids,” Dasari said. “We basically introduced them to anything academic, and a couple of sports, but clearly there was a bias in our thinking that education is a higher priority than sports.”

In his 2016 address to Congress, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi mentioned “spelling bee champions” among his country's contributions to the US while that year's co-champs, Nihar Janga and Jairam Hathwar, watched from the gallery.

Even among Indian American spellers, a particular subgroup is overrepresented: families from the southern states of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana, where Telugu is the primary language. Hyderabad, the capital of Telangana, is India's information-technology hub and the region supplies many H-1B visa recipients.

“Whenever we go to the spelling bee events, everybody speaks that language,” Dasari said. “We realized there are so many people from the same state.”

Deval Shah, the father of last year's champion, Dev Shah, grew up in the northwestern state of Gujarat and proudly noted Dev was the first spelling bee champion of Gujarati descent. The parents of the 2022 winner, Harini Logan, are from Chennai in the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu. Shah is an engineer, his wife is a physician, and both of Harini's parents were trained as software engineers.

Indian-born parents of kids with an affinity for spelling have a network of similar families to provide guidance and support, as well as access to organizations like the North South Foundation, which offers academic competitions aimed at the Indian diaspora.

“The reason Indian American immigrants really dominate, the main reason is the North South Foundation,” Shah said.

When Harini won her first NSF spelling competition, Ganesh Dasari was one of the judges, and “he was literally chasing us down” to tell them “Harini has tremendous potential to be on the national stage,” said Rampriya Logan, Harini's mother.

Ishika, a 13-year-old from Spring, Texas, who will be competing at Scripps this year for the third time, woke her parents at 6 a.m. the day after she lost a third-grade classroom spelling bee, saying she wanted to participate in more bees. Her mother, an IT manager who immigrated to the US in 2006, then reached out to ask advice from other families from the Houston area whose children were high-level spellers.

The relative wealth and stability of Indian American households could lead observers to conclude their children are benefiting primarily from a privileged upbringing. The truth is more nuanced, said Devesh Kapur, a professor of South Asian Studies at Johns Hopkins University and a co-author of “The Other One Percent: Indians in America.”

“It is important to note that the children participating in the spelling bee competition come from striving middle-class immigrant families, often in occupations like IT, and not from wealthier Indian American households in finance or tech start-ups or consulting,” Kapur said.

Natarajan, a Chicago-based physician and health care executive, now serves as the volunteer president of the NSF, and he experienced the spelling bee as a parent when his son, Atman Balakrishnan, competed. He said he sometimes feels out of place because he was born in the US and he admires the grit of Indian-born parents and their children.

“It’s hard to describe, but it’s a very specific mindset that just drives effort and in many ways drives outcomes and sustainable success,” Natarajan said.


King Saud University Signs Academic MoU with University of Tokyo

The flag of Saudi Arabia (Asharq Al-Awsat)
The flag of Saudi Arabia (Asharq Al-Awsat)
TT

King Saud University Signs Academic MoU with University of Tokyo

The flag of Saudi Arabia (Asharq Al-Awsat)
The flag of Saudi Arabia (Asharq Al-Awsat)

King Saud University and the University of Tokyo have signed a historic memorandum of understanding (MoU) to strengthen academic collaboration in physics, chemistry, and earth sciences.

The MoU was signed by the Acting Rector of King Saud University, Dr. Abdullah Al-Salman, and the President of the University of Tokyo, Dr. Teruo Fujii, in the presence of the Director of Prince Mohammed Bin Salman Center for Future Science and Technology, Dr. Hiroaki Aihara, SPA reported.
This collaboration marks a major milestone in fostering future partnerships between the two universities.

The Prince Mohammed Bin Salman Center, based at the University of Tokyo, will play a crucial role in enhancing and advancing this cooperation.


Lebanon’s Tripoli Begins 2024 Celebrations as Arab Culture Capital

The flags of Arab countries flutter in Tripoli, Lebanon (Asharq Al-Awsat)
The flags of Arab countries flutter in Tripoli, Lebanon (Asharq Al-Awsat)
TT

Lebanon’s Tripoli Begins 2024 Celebrations as Arab Culture Capital

The flags of Arab countries flutter in Tripoli, Lebanon (Asharq Al-Awsat)
The flags of Arab countries flutter in Tripoli, Lebanon (Asharq Al-Awsat)

Lebanon’s Caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati kicked off the “Tripoli the Capital of Arab Culture” celebrations at a formal event held at the Rashid Karami International Fair in Tripoli.

Attendees included Mohamed Ould Amar, Director-General of ALECSO, and Mohammad Wissam Mortada, Minister of Culture.

Ministers, deputies, ambassadors, and other notable figures also were also present at the ceremony.

Mortada told Asharq Al-Awsat that he believes the celebrations to be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for Lebanon and Tripoli.

“This is our chance to uncover Tripoli’s treasures in terms of people and landmarks. I’m stunned by the human and natural potential here. You’ll witness what makes Tripoli unique, and we’re doing it all with no funding,” said the minister.

Despite no budget, workers are determined to succeed. Young volunteers are eager to overcome obstacles and make the event a hit. Some see the coming months as Tripoli’s big chance to shine, while others feel funding issues should have delayed the festivities.

“Tripoli has suffered, but now, with activities starting, people will see what they've missed out on for years,” Mortada affirmed.

This year promises a packed schedule of cultural activities, some already underway for months. Organizations are competing to host programs, but the highlight could be cultural weeks organized by several Arab countries.

Qatar, Tunisia, Algeria, Iraq, Palestine, Morocco, Syria, and Oman have confirmed plans.

For Mortada, the aim is for more than just temporary celebrations; he wants to establish Tripoli as a permanent cultural capital of Lebanon.

The minister is not just dreaming; he's building on reality.

Tripoli boasts the Rashid Karami International Fair, a stunning architectural marvel. Spread across 70 hectares, it features unique conference halls, integrated buildings, and an experimental theater.

UNESCO recognizes its significance but also flags maintenance challenges and development threats.

Tripoli’s vibrant markets and river make it a unique destination. Its port is crucial for trade, with an economic zone stretching to Europe.

Mortada believes Tripoli could become Lebanon’s cultural tourism hub, generating revenue for the country.

“Tripoli is ready to play a vital role,” he asserted.


Berlin's Closed Pergamon Museum Maintains International Profile

24 May 2024, Berlin: Façade parts packed for transportation lie on the construction site in the Mschatta Hall in the Pergamon Museum. Photo: Monika Skolimowska/dpa
24 May 2024, Berlin: Façade parts packed for transportation lie on the construction site in the Mschatta Hall in the Pergamon Museum. Photo: Monika Skolimowska/dpa
TT

Berlin's Closed Pergamon Museum Maintains International Profile

24 May 2024, Berlin: Façade parts packed for transportation lie on the construction site in the Mschatta Hall in the Pergamon Museum. Photo: Monika Skolimowska/dpa
24 May 2024, Berlin: Façade parts packed for transportation lie on the construction site in the Mschatta Hall in the Pergamon Museum. Photo: Monika Skolimowska/dpa

Berlin's world-famous Pergamon Museum, which is closed for several years of renovation work, is seeking to maintain its presence through international collaborations, one of the museum's directors said on Friday during a tour of the construction site.

"We want to remain visible," said Barbara Helwing, director of the Near East Museum. Cooperation with other Berlin museums are already planned.

Discussions were also under way about loans to institutions such as the Louvre in Paris, the Metropolitan Museum in New York, the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles and the British Museum in London, the German News Agency (dpa) reported.

The Pergamon Museum is one of Germany's most popular museums. As one of the few institutions to combine a collection of classical antiquities, a Near East museum and a museum of Islamic art, it normally attracts more than 1 million visitors annually.

The museum will remain completely closed for at least another three years. Construction phase A, which includes the famous Pergamon Altar, is scheduled to reopen in 2027.

The basic renovation of the south wing is set to begin at the end of this year. This second renovation phase, B, will last until at least 2037. The total costs could amount to €1.5 billion ($1.6 billion).


Unknown Bust of the Architect Who Designed the Florence Cathedral Dome Found After 700 Years 

This image released by the Opera di Santa Maria del Fiore on Thursday, May 23, 2024, shows a terracotta portrait of Florence landmark cathedral's architect Filippo Brunelleschi dating back to the early Renaissance, which was recently found among the furnishings of an historic residence near the Tuscan capital. (Opera di Santa Maria del Fiore via AP, HO)
This image released by the Opera di Santa Maria del Fiore on Thursday, May 23, 2024, shows a terracotta portrait of Florence landmark cathedral's architect Filippo Brunelleschi dating back to the early Renaissance, which was recently found among the furnishings of an historic residence near the Tuscan capital. (Opera di Santa Maria del Fiore via AP, HO)
TT

Unknown Bust of the Architect Who Designed the Florence Cathedral Dome Found After 700 Years 

This image released by the Opera di Santa Maria del Fiore on Thursday, May 23, 2024, shows a terracotta portrait of Florence landmark cathedral's architect Filippo Brunelleschi dating back to the early Renaissance, which was recently found among the furnishings of an historic residence near the Tuscan capital. (Opera di Santa Maria del Fiore via AP, HO)
This image released by the Opera di Santa Maria del Fiore on Thursday, May 23, 2024, shows a terracotta portrait of Florence landmark cathedral's architect Filippo Brunelleschi dating back to the early Renaissance, which was recently found among the furnishings of an historic residence near the Tuscan capital. (Opera di Santa Maria del Fiore via AP, HO)

A previously unknown terracotta bust of the famed early Renaissance architect who designed the Florence Cathedral dome was unveiled Thursday in the Tuscan capital, where it will be displayed permanently following restoration.

The Opera di Santa Maria del Fiore, the entity charged with preserving the landmark cathedral and operating its museum, called the discovery after nearly 700 years of the terracotta bust depicting Filippo Brunelleschi “exceptional.” It cited both the artistic value as well as the rarity of depictions of the renowned architect around or after the time of his death in 1446.

Art historians Giancarlo Gentilini and Alfredo Bellandi identified the sculpture as a model by Andrea di Lazzaro Cavalcanti for the marble bust of Brunelleschi in the memorial monument in the Florence Cathedral.

Bellandi praised the work’s “expressive naturalism of great intensity.”

Cavalcanti, Brunelleschi’s adopted son and heir, sculpted the life-like bust from a nearly solid block of clay in early 1447, before completing the monument later that year, experts said.

The terracotta model was likely stored in the sculptor’s workshop for study for a period, while the state of preservation indicates it was long preserved before it “later fell into oblivion,” the cathedral’s custodian entity said.

The Opera di Santa Maria del Fiore purchased the terracotta bust for 300,000 euros (around $324,000). It will be exhibited in the Museo dell’Opera del Duomo near the cathedral after restoration work on scratches and to remove a chalky residue and traces of paint.


Saudi Translation Movement Witnesses Surge in Publications

Translation has become an urgent necessity to keep pace with civilizational progress and exchange of knowledge (SPA)
Translation has become an urgent necessity to keep pace with civilizational progress and exchange of knowledge (SPA)
TT

Saudi Translation Movement Witnesses Surge in Publications

Translation has become an urgent necessity to keep pace with civilizational progress and exchange of knowledge (SPA)
Translation has become an urgent necessity to keep pace with civilizational progress and exchange of knowledge (SPA)

A Saudi initiative has translated ancient Arabic poems into Italian, making them accessible to a wider audience in an effort to showcase Arab literary heritage and culture on a global scale.

The translated book of odes presents the first complete Italian edition of these poems.

Supported by the “Tarjim” initiative by the Saudi Authority for Literature, Publishing, and Translation, this move highlights the Kingdom’s vibrant cultural scene since the launch of the National Culture Strategy in 2021.

The latest cultural report from Saudi Arabia’s Culture Ministry highlighted the success of the Tarjim initiative. This initiative aims to boost Saudi publishing and translation efforts.

In 2022, it translated 524 works into 12 languages, with English leading at 75.37%, followed by French at 10.26%.

The initiative translated 341 books from 26 publishers across 20 subjects, with male translators making up about 72% of the translations. The remaining 28% was done by female translators.

Novels ranked third in translated works at around 15%, after educational children’s books and philosophy.

In 2023, the initiative saw even more success, translating over a thousand editions between Arabic and other languages, involving about 22 global languages and engaging over 500 international translators.


Saadiyat Cultural District Abu Dhabi on Track for Completion in 2025

DCT Abu Dhabi reaffirmed that Saadiyat Cultural District, along with its cultural institutions, is on track for completion in 2025. WAM
DCT Abu Dhabi reaffirmed that Saadiyat Cultural District, along with its cultural institutions, is on track for completion in 2025. WAM
TT

Saadiyat Cultural District Abu Dhabi on Track for Completion in 2025

DCT Abu Dhabi reaffirmed that Saadiyat Cultural District, along with its cultural institutions, is on track for completion in 2025. WAM
DCT Abu Dhabi reaffirmed that Saadiyat Cultural District, along with its cultural institutions, is on track for completion in 2025. WAM

The Department of Culture and Tourism – Abu Dhabi (DCT Abu Dhabi) has reaffirmed that Saadiyat Cultural District, along with its cultural institutions, is on track for completion in 2025, Emirates News Agency (WAM) reported.

Saadiyat Cultural District is a global platform, emanating from a rich cultural heritage, celebrating traditions, and advancing equitable culture. It is an embodiment of empowerment, showcasing museums, collections, and narratives that celebrate the region’s heritage while promoting a diverse global cultural landscape, WAM said Wednesday.

Once completed, the diversity of Saadiyat Cultural District’s institutions will make the district one of the most unique cultural platforms. It is already the home of Louvre Abu Dhabi – the first universal museum in the Arab world – showcasing artworks from different cultures side by side and telling a story of human connections. Since opening in 2017, Louvre Abu Dhabi has welcomed 5 million visitors and is recognized for its breathtaking architecture and its innovative narrative. Nearby, Berklee Abu Dhabi offers music, performing arts and educational programs throughout the year.

Additionally, Manarat Al Saadiyat serves as a center for creative artistic expression and is home to two significant initiatives in Abu Dhabi’s cultural calendar: Abu Dhabi Art and Culture Summit Abu Dhabi.

The current construction progress of the soon-to-open institutions in Saadiyat Cultural District stands at 76 percent. Zayed National Museum, the national museum of the United Arab Emirates, will celebrate the nation’s rich history and culture, as well as honor the legacy of the country’s founding father, the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan. Additionally, teamLab Phenomena Abu Dhabi invites visitors to an ever-changing exploration that will transcend the limits of their imagination.

It will be joined by the Natural History Museum Abu Dhabi, which will include a research and teaching institution that will take visitors on a 13.8 billion-year journey through the story of our universe and our planet, WAM said. Guggenheim Abu Dhabi will be a museum celebrating art from the 1960s to the present and the most important artistic achievements of our time.

Saadiyat Cultural District pays homage to the legacy of the late Sheikh Zayed, who defined the cultural agenda and unveiled the history of the UAE to the world through archaeological excavations and findings. This legacy began with the establishment of Al Ain Museum, the first museum in the UAE, which opened in 1971. This was followed by the inauguration of the Cultural Foundation in 1981. Sheikh Zayed’s legacy continued to evolve under the guidance of the late Sheikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan. Today, President Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, and Sheikh Khaled bin Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Chairman of Abu Dhabi Executive Council, continue to build on that legacy.


Quality of Life Program CEO: ‘Cultural Houses’ Are Integrated Hubs for Advancing the Saudi Cultural Scene 

The Cultural House in Dammam. (SPA)
The Cultural House in Dammam. (SPA)
TT

Quality of Life Program CEO: ‘Cultural Houses’ Are Integrated Hubs for Advancing the Saudi Cultural Scene 

The Cultural House in Dammam. (SPA)
The Cultural House in Dammam. (SPA)

CEO of the Quality of Life Program Center Khalid bin Abdullah Al-Baker commended on Tuesday the Cultural Houses established by the Libraries Commission in Dammam city and the Ahad Rafidah province, describing them as integrated cultural hubs.

Al-Baker said these Cultural Houses represent interactive cultural platforms that will provide a comprehensive cultural experience to various segments of society, in line with the goals of Saudi Vision 2030.

The inauguration of the Cultural Houses is part of an initiative to develop public libraries, one of the Quality of Life Program's initiatives aimed at boosting Saudi Arabia's contribution to arts and culture, he stated.

Al-Baker emphasized that the opening of the Cultural Houses marks a significant milestone in the Saudi cultural scene.

It signifies the birth of a modern and integrated cultural incubator that will contribute to the advancement of society and enable creators to discover their talents and develop their diverse skills, he went on to say.

He highlighted the objective of Vision 2030 to transform public libraries into vibrant cultural centers that reflect the diversity of creativity, art, and knowledge in the Kingdom.

"The Quality of Life Program, in collaboration with the Ministry of Culture and relevant entities, seeks to develop the cultural infrastructure," Al-Baker stated.

He also underlined the program's efforts to boost cultural sites and improve libraries as part of its initiatives to develop cultural facilities.


Saudi Minister of Culture Meets Japanese Counterpart in Tokyo 

Saudi Minister of Culture Prince Badr bin Abdullah bin Farhan Al Saud. (SPA)
Saudi Minister of Culture Prince Badr bin Abdullah bin Farhan Al Saud. (SPA)
TT

Saudi Minister of Culture Meets Japanese Counterpart in Tokyo 

Saudi Minister of Culture Prince Badr bin Abdullah bin Farhan Al Saud. (SPA)
Saudi Minister of Culture Prince Badr bin Abdullah bin Farhan Al Saud. (SPA)

Saudi Minister of Culture Prince Badr bin Abdullah bin Farhan Al Saud held talks on Tuesday with Japanese Minister of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology, Dr. Masahito Moriyama in Tokyo.

The officials discussed means to boost cultural cooperation between their countries in light of the Saudi-Japanese Vision 2030, which represents a translation of a long history of close cooperation and strategic partnerships between Riyadh and Tokyo.

The Saudi Minister praised the cultural cooperation achieved between the two friendly countries, stressing the importance of strengthening it and expanding its horizons in line with the ambitions of the two countries.

Prince Badr praised the great interest being given to the Kingdom’s participation in Expo 2025 Osaka and wished all success to the friends in Japan in hosting it.

In turn, the Japanese Minister thanked his guest for efforts exerted by the Saudi Ministry of Culture to boost cultural exchange between their countries.

He also highlighted the fruitful partnership with the Kingdom in many cultural sectors, hoping to deepen the cultural cooperation.