NCGN: Outstanding Achievements in Documenting Names of Historic Sites and Places in Saudi Arabia

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The National Committee on Geographical Names (NCGN) has continued its mission in documenting the names of historic sites and places in the Kingdom, including provinces, towns, villages, mountains, valleys, wells, canyons, islands, among other monuments, thus supporting its endeavor towards authoring an index-tied national dictionary updateable from Arabic Alphabet to Latin Alphabet (Arabic Romanization System) that can serve as a compulsory reference to all government agencies following its approval by a Royal decree.

The committee has begun working on the design phase in coordination with its members from 19 government institutions and is also representing the Kingdom in local and international events seeking a concise writing system of the geographic names of historic sites and monuments on the planet that can ensure easy access to them to serve the security, research and tourism purposes through the United Nations’ Romanization project and in line with the Saudi Vision 2030 and its economic requirements.

The committee, headquartered at the King Abdulaziz Foundation for Research and Archives (Darah), has carried out several tasks during the 2019-2020 period which have been praised by the United Nations Group of Experts on Geographical Names and the Arabic Division of experts. King Abdulaziz Darah has completed a number of specialized works besides carrying out long-term works, chief of which was the design of two mobile applications, one with the (IOS) system for Apple devices and the other with the (Android) system, as part of its periodic maintenance of the “Geographical Names Explorer in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia” applications with the aim of ensuring users’ easy access to information.

As per the ongoing Romanization endeavor, the committee has implemented the Romanization of the geographical names for the Red Sea Project after reviewing and checking the islands’ names in addition to romanizing road signs for the Ministry of Transport, and providing consultation to government agencies on modifying or changing some of the names of relevant places.

On the map level, the committee has drawn a number of maps for historic sites in the Kingdom and, in cooperation with the King Abdulaziz Foundation for Research and Archives (Darah), it has designed an online dictionary for the geographical places in the Red Sea region to be available for researchers. The committee has also embarked on reproducing and reprinting of the digital national atlas of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, one of the Darah’s early and most significant publications.

For its part, the General Authority for Survey and Geospatial Information (GASGI) is developing the general framework for organizing its sector based on relevant by-laws, including setting up the basic and guiding standards and controls for the sector, developing the national geospatial infrastructure and geodetic networks, the geodetic reference system and the marine hydrographic survey. The GASGI is also providing electronic products, services and applications, topographical and aerial maps and navigation maps related to the sector, in addition to empowering the sector with specialized cadres, studies and research to enhance its investment attractiveness.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs, a member of the National Committee for Geographical Names in the Kingdom, has established an online database to collect official information about countries, including the official name of the state in Arabic and English.

The ministry is also in the process of communication with the United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR) to implement a capacity-building project in geospatial information systems use to improve flexibility in the MENA region with the aim of enhancing the institutional capacities of Arab professionals in using geographical information systems to address natural disasters.