The country’s industrial sector and its historical gravity can now be accessed and viewed by the entire world and not just locals. This adds value to not only the industrial sector but the cultural sector and tourism industry as well.
Saudi Arabia has always valued its culture and heritage, but that magnified tenfold the moment its Vision 2030 was announced. As the country rapidly progresses and transforms towards a less oil-reliant state of being, it is finding solace in its roots. Nevertheless, solace is not the only reason the kingdom is revitalizing its cultural sector, for with culture and history comes art, literature, science, innovation, and industrialization.
Not too long ago in the least (i.e., in 2019), Saudi Arabia launched its National Industrial Development and Logistics Program revolving around maximizing the contribution of four sectors; energy, mining, industry, and logistics. Its main aim? “To transform the Kingdom into a leading industrial powerhouse and a global logistics hub” through the maximization of the sectors and utilization of the 4th Industrial Revolution’s capabilities.
However, to move forward, Saudi Arabia wanted to take the opportunity to look back at what its heritage had to offer, the industrial inventions and innovations that could withstand rehabilitation and preservation, while also positioning the country’s history on a global map.
Culture is in the walls, ground, and air
The Ministry of Culture has been moving more rapidly to work on as many culture-based initiatives as possible before 2030 comes knocking. One of its latest pre-pandemic projects, the Industrial Heritage Contest in 2019, was directed towards preserving the kingdom’s industrial heritage by rehabilitating its industrial establishments to safeguard their persistent impacts.
The contest was made up of three challenges meant to spread historical awareness to the public with the hopes of encouraging them to take interest in their country’s history, industrial or otherwise. With Saudi Arabia’s sweeping size, there will almost certainly be new locations left to discover, and who better to document their existence than the locals themselves?
Luckily for TAM, it was granted front row seats to witness these discoveries and the reinforcement of the kingdom’s national identity through this initiative, as TAM was responsible for its operational organization.
The three decided upon challenges were Discovery, Story, and Documentation. The Discovery challenge was exactly what you would expect. Contestants were expected to go out and find as many new - technically, old and unknown - industrial sites as possible, and proceed to share images or a video of the location.
As for the Story challenge, it revolved around recording ongoing, or already gone, details about the daily functions of any sector facility, while also explaining their social and industrial significance. Finally, the Documentation involved the handing over of a complete research paper with all the historical information that can be found about a single Saudi industrial heritage site.
Once registration through the website was unlocked, the contest was on and the industrial cogs began turning. There were over 1,300 submissions, with the most popular challenge being the Discovery category, followed unexpectedly by the Documentation category.
To make things fair and to verify the validity of all the submissions, TAM designated two filtration stages and established fixed standards for each of the three challenges to streamline the process. These two stages were meant to rule out any invalid submissions or ones missing the requirements. This was then followed by the nomination segment completed by a panel of judges that was chosen based on their expertise in the industrial and cultural sectors. They cut back the number of submissions to 200 after analyzing the content’s historical value and the technical application, as well as their quantitative and qualitative caliber.
These were the finalists who would then go on to the decisive judging phase, conducted by a second committee. They evaluated the findings according to the paths taken for each challenge category, which included topic relation, information value, and scientific documentation among others. Finally, the 21 winners across the challenges were announced to receive a grand total of SR 970,000 ($258,600).
In the end, five of the chosen sites were eligible for World Heritage candidacy, and 29 more were prime local industrial heritage sites that could be rehabilitated, developed, and preserved. Let us also not forget the pride instilled within the winners for being able to discover places fit for the history books.
“We are happy to participate in the #Industrial_Heritage competition, and we have a rich heritage of giving and achievement that we are proud of, and we at #Mawani support and appreciate this step that documents the history of industries and charts the path of renaissance in the Kingdom.” - Saudi Ports Authority, Mawani. (Translated Twitter Post)