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Thursday, December 24, 2009

Over 10,000 artifacts retrieved

P.K. Abdul Ghafour

JEDDAH: Saudi Arabia has retrieved more than 10,000 of its artifacts from other countries, Prince Sultan bin Salman, chairman of Saudi Commission for Tourism and Antiquities (SCTA), said on Wednesday.

“Retrieving antiquities has now become a national issue,” he said, adding that the government would continue its efforts to bring back Saudi artifacts scattered across the world.

He said an exhibition of the recovered antiquities would be held soon.

Prince Sultan said the SCTA with the cooperation of other government agencies would prevent the theft of antiquities, especially the ones from the Islamic heritage sites in Makkah and Madinah.

He disclosed plans to establish a major Islamic and national museum at Al-Khozam Palace in Jeddah and a Qur’an museum in Madinah.

Efforts are also under way to establish 12 new museums in other parts of the country, he said.

“We have so far licensed more than 70 private museums in the Kingdom and will soon start providing financial support to such museums in association with banks and other public and private agencies,” he told a gathering at the residence of Abdul Maqsood Khoja, a prominent Jeddah businessman.

Prince Sultan said the Kingdom would host the first international conference on architectural heritage on April 18.

“We have received requests from at least eight world exhibition centers to display Saudi antiquities,” he pointed out. He also said that the SCTA was working on setting up a company with the private sector to develop heritage hotels.

“The commission is committed to bringing about a qualitative change in people’s perception of national heritage and antiquities,” the prince added.

“Saudi Arabia is replete with a large number of valuable antiquities and protection of these artifacts is a national duty,” he said, adding that the Kingdom would not tolerate smuggling of antiquities.

He said registration of heritage sites at UNESCO would take years, adding that the registration of Madain Saleh took four years.

“We have presented an application to UNESCO to register the historical area of Jeddah and we hope it would be voted on after two years,” he said. “We are now working on a number of programs to develop Old Jeddah into an architectural heritage site of international importance. We are facing a lot of challenges.”

Efforts are under way to renovate old palaces built during the Saudi era.

“We have completed renovation of 90 percent of these palaces and turned them into cultural centers and museums,” he pointed out.

Source : Arab News

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