Residents in al-Awamiyah district in the Saudi Arabian Province of al-Qatif returned to their new homes with renewed hope less than a year after security forces quelled armed riots in the eastern coastal village.
The 'Center of al-Awamiyah', previously called al-Mosawara, has been the site of an ongoing project, which entailed demolishing old buildings to ensure citizens’ livelihood and promote local economy and culture.
“The development of the ‘Center of al-Awamiyah’ shows the different ways the government addresses the problems of violence and terrorism, which have plagued the area for a long time,” said Hasan al-Mustafa, a Saudi journalist and writer native to the area of al-Qatif, where al-Awamiyah is located.
“By employing social and economic development, the project creates a social and cultural space for the citizens of al-Awamiyah that will reduce tensions and make extremist ideology isolated,” he said.
“The ‘Center of al-Awamiyah’ had been transformed to a lively city center. Previously, the old houses in the area were used by terrorists to hide after the region witnessed clashes between terrorists and security forces,” al-Mustafa added.
Governor Prince Saud bin Nayef bin Abdulaziz inaugurated the project and said: “I was honored to lay the foundation stone a year ago. Today, I return to the inauguration of the project, which had preserved and repaired the old houses and monuments in the ‘Center of al-Awamiyah’.”
On June 10, 2017, security forces had entered al-Awamiyah to lay down safety procedures for contractors to continue their work. This resulted in clashes with terrorists, which caused the neighborhood’s residents to flee.
Almost a month later, security forces announced that the situation was under control following which residents began to return gradually. Temporary housing arrangements were also made for owners of demolished houses. Over 1,200 personnel on this project “worked day and night” until it was completed in about eight months, one of the engineers involved in the project said.
Homeowners in the area were compensated for the period it took to complete the project. The previous acting mayor of the Eastern Province Essam Abdullatif al-Mulla, said during a press conference late 2017 that “the compensation to residents for the demolished properties was estimated at more than 800 million Saudi riyals” ($213 million).
Fahd al-Jubeir, Mayor of the Eastern Province, said that more development projects will be launched to achieve comprehensive development in Qatif and its ancient cities.
The projects will include construction of a number of buildings comprising a commercial center, a heritage center, a conference and exhibitions hall, as well as a library.
“The joint efforts by the Emirate of Eastern Province, state security, and the people of al-Awamiyah have contributed toward isolating extremists that used to seek refuge in the area,” said journalist al-Mustafa.
“This collective work was reflected in the architecture and spirit of the place. The cultural activities that are being planned will positively contribute to the society of al-Awamiya,” he said.
During the opening ceremony, Prince Saud bin Nayef, Governor of the Eastern Province was seen admiring the details of a “wooden heritage door” presented to him.
The traditional door, similar to the ones that were used in the past in the houses in al-Awamiyah area, especially those with traditional architecture inspired by the palms, oases and the sea.
Mohammed Turki, head of the Qatif Heritage Group which manufactured the door, explained that “the door is a masterpiece made by two Saudi craftsmen - Habib al-Salis and Abbas al-AbdulGhani - from the city of Qatif.”
The door, which took two months to make, was adorned with verses from the Holy Qur'an and inscriptions and drawings inspired by the local traditions.