Minister’s visit boosts Saudi-South Korean ties

Saudi Energy Minister Khalid Al-Falih holds talks with South Korean Trade Minister Paik Un-gyu in Riyadh on Monday. (SPA)
Updated 13 March 2018
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Minister’s visit boosts Saudi-South Korean ties

RIYADH: South Korean Trade Minister Paik Un-gyu held talks with a number of Saudi ministers on Monday to give impetus to the bilateral cooperation between the two countries in various field including nuclear energy.
Speaking to Arab News, Korean Ambassador Kwon Pyung-oh said the two countries have worked very closely in various fields. The Korean minister met Energy Minister Khalid Al-Falih, Minister of Commerce and Investment Majid Al-Qassabi and Minister of Economy and Planning Mohammad Al-Tuwaijri.
Notably, the two countries launched a ministerial-level Saudi-Korea Vision 2030 Committee to bolster bilateral cooperation, focusing on supporting business ventures between the two countries and enhancing networking with sustainable support for the economic reforms during the 18th Joint Committee Meeting (JCM) in Seoul last year.
This Vision 2030 Committee comprises five sub-groups headed by senior government representatives from both sides for cooperation in the key sectors that include energy and manufacturing, smart infrastructure and digitization, capacity building, health care and life sciences, and SME and investment.
The sub-groups aim to work closely with private corporations to identify joint projects that will promote the ambitious goals of Saudi Vision 2030.
“During the talks the two sides briefed on how they can work together to bring agreements and business opportunities to fruition through close and continuous cooperation,” the ambassador said, adding: “Through these talks I hope that South Korea can contribute to Saudi Arabia’s realization of its Vision 2030 as an optimal partner."
During the meeting with Al-Falih, who is also in charge of the King Abdullah City for Atomic and Renewable Energy (KACARE), they discussed ways to step up cooperation in the nuclear industry, the envoy said.
The two countries are working closely on nuclear safety and security, and the Kingdom has sent 41 nuclear experts to South Korea for training and learning to design, construct and develop nuclear plants based on System-integrated Modular Advanced Reactor (SMART) technology.
The Korean Atomic Energy Research Institute and the KACARE signed a SMART pre-project engineering agreement in September 2015 that will remain in effect until November 2018.
Significantly, Saudi Arabia has received requests for information from five countries, South Korea, China, the US, France and Russia, to build two nuclear reactors.
The Kingdom is expected to shortlist two or three preferred bidders and plans to select a winner by the end of this year. The discussion on this lucrative deal is a second chance for South Korea to tap into the Middle East market following a $20 billion contract with the UAE in 2009.
During his meeting with Al-Qassabi, Paik discussed expanding the two countries’ trade and investment cooperation.
The ministers also discussed cooperation in some ambitious projects that Riyadh is pushing for, such as the establishment of an electronic trading system.


Enigmatic traveler who revealed full majesty of Makkah to the world

Pilgrims camp in Arafat during Hajj in this rare old picture. (Supplied)
Updated 6 min 25 sec ago
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Enigmatic traveler who revealed full majesty of Makkah to the world

  • The next day he and his companions wore Ihram garments and walked along winding roads until they reached Makkah
  • The vessel floundered and sank, forcing Al-Abbasi and his men to flee in a lifeboat and row for hours before reaching the safety of a Red Sea island

JEDDAH: Ali Bey Al-Abbasi was not the first European enamored with the Arab Peninsula and the mysteries of Makkah. Nor was he the first Westerner to visit the city — but he was an unusually resourceful man, with wealth of unknown origin and a great thirst for discovery, who provided Westerners with the first comprehensive account of the city.
He was born Domingo Francisco Jorge Badía y Leblich in Barcelona in 1767. After receiving a liberal education, he focused on astronomy, medicine and mineral science. He also developed an interest in learning Arabic.
“Al-Abbasi was an agent of the king of Spain or of Napoleon,” says August Raleigh, author of the book “Makkah in the Eyes of a Christian Pilgrim.”
In 1801, Al-Abbasi set off for Paris and London, returning to Spain two years later wearing Islamic clothing. Later, he formed a close friendship with the sultan of Morocco who, with growing affection, advised the Spaniard to find a wife, to which Al-Abbasi replied that he had made a pledge not to marry before visiting Makkah. The sultan tried to discourage Al-Abbasi from making the trip but when he could not, and saw the determination of his friend, he presented him with a beautiful, extravagant tent as a gift.
On the third day of Shawwal, 1806, Al-Abbasi joined a convoy heading to Makkah, taking with him 14 camels and two horses. He boarded a ship from Suez but fate, and the weather, were not on his side. The vessel floundered and sank, forcing Al-Abbasi and his men to flee in a lifeboat and row for hours before reaching the safety of a Red Sea island. From there, they were rescued and taken to Jeddah.
On the 12th day of Dul Qaada, Al-Abbasi had to be carried on a stretcher because he had a fever that weakened him and damaged his bones. The next day he and his companions wore Ihram garments and walked along winding roads until they reached Makkah.
Al-Abbasi entered the city and when he reached the courtyard of the mosque, a guide gestured for him to stop. He pointed to the Kaaba and said: “Look. Look at the house of God.”
The Spaniard was deeply affected by the reverence of his experience. He wrote: “The house of God is covered with a black robe from above to be draped, surrounded by a ring of lamps, the unaccustomed hour and the stillness of the night; and our guide, who was speaking before us as if he were inspired, all these images formed an amazing image that will not be erased from my memory.”
He remained in the city, living among noblemen and aristocrats. The governor of Makkah even asked him to help clean the Kaaba. Describing one of the many incredible sights that he witnessed, during a year when the number of pilgrims was 83,000, Al-Abbasi wrote: “Only in Arafat can one get an idea of the majestic scene of pilgrimage. There are countless people from all nations and colors from every corner of the world. Despite the thousands of countless dangers and obstacles that they had to overcome, all of them worship one God. Everyone counts themselves as members of one family. There is no intermediary between man and his Lord; everyone is equal before their creator.”
Al-Abbasi, who later wrote of his experiences, was the first European to present to the world a detailed account of Makkah, unlike the fragmented notes of earlier travelers such as Ludovico di Varthema and Joseph Bates. He went so far as to include a precise location, determined through astronomical observation, and recreated a map of the Grand Mosque.
Al-Abbasi continued to travel, visiting many countries before he died of dysentery in 1818, in Aleppo, Syria. He was buried in Balqa, near Amman, the capital of Jordan.