Floki ends Saudi Comic Con with a bang

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Updated 27 March 2018
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Floki ends Saudi Comic Con with a bang

JEDDAH: Saudi Comic Con 2018 ended with the visit of Gustaf Skarsgard of “Vikings,” which thrilled his passionate fans.
Skarsgard, who plays Floki in the show, was taken aback but delighted at seeing a crowd of hundreds of screaming fans. “I was so surprised and grateful that I have so many fans here in Saudi Arabia, and I am very happy to experience the love,” he told Arab News.
When we asked him about his favorite thing about Jeddah, he gave an unusual answer: “My favorite part has been the food, I have tried the fool, shakshooka and hummus. It was raheeb.
“My fondest memory of ‘Vikings’ was when I went to Iceland. You carry friends with you and I have met friends for life on that show,” he said. “You guys are the best fans in the world.”
In his panel interview, he demonstrated how he practiced the way Floki talks and his body language. He demonstrated Floki’s infamous laugh, which the audience could not get enough of. They kept chanting “Once more, once more.” He interacted with the audience by recording a video to show his friend, the show's creator Michael Hirst, making the audience scream “Thank you, Michael!”
Geekiness was in the air. The booth owners were setting up offers and sales in honor of the last day. Cosplayers were doing an excellent job with their costumes. Some of the most talented made armor out of everyday objects such as cartons and spray paint. A Comic Con discussion panel was held about people’s growing interest in manga and comics.
Later in the evening, Muhammad Rubat and Rakan Bo Khalid made the audience nostalgic and emotional by singing the OSTs of the shows that the youth had grown up watching. The entire crowd sang along constantly.
Ali Musallim, a 27-year-old Saudi, is looking forward to opening a store in Jeddah of exclusive Manga that is hard to get at the moment. “We are way more complicated and diverse than the world thinks we are,” he said. “There is a weird stereotype around Saudis that they are not interested, but I have observed in Comic Con that people are interested and excited over the store. We don’t give ourselves enough credit.”
Waad Khimi, one of the attendees, said: “I hope next year there will be another Comic Con because I am already sad that this one is over.”


How Saudi women are getting ahead of men as STEM graduates

Dr. Fatima Alakeel, cybersecurity expert. (AN photo)
Updated 20 March 2019
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How Saudi women are getting ahead of men as STEM graduates

  • ‘Securing a job after the degree remains the challenge,’ says Dr. Fatema Alakeel of King Saud University in Riyadh
  • ‘Saudi women are ambitious,’ says one graduate. ‘We are acquiring high degrees and seeking successful careers’

DUBAI: More and more girls in Saudi Arabia are opting for an education in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM), and now the challenge is finding them employment, said Dr. Fatima Alakeel, a cybersecurity expert and faculty member at King Saud University (KSU) in Riyadh.
“In the Kingdom, STEM-related jobs are limited at the moment, as the economy is primarily oil-based and there are few technical jobs available,” said Alakeel, who is also the founder and CEO of the non-profit Confidentiality, Integrity & Availability Group (CIAG), which focuses on information security training and research in Riyadh.
According to a government report on the labor market situation in the third quarter of 2018, more than 30 percent of Saudi women aged between 15 and 65 are unemployed.
Among them, the highest rate of unemployment is among 20-24-year-olds (more than 70 percent) and among 25-29-year-olds (55 percent).
According to the report, there are 923,504 Saudi jobseekers, of whom 765,378 are women (82.2 percent).
“We have more girls in STEM education compared to Western countries,” said Alakeel, who completed her doctoral degree in computer science in the UK at the University of Southampton in 2017.
According to a report prepared by the Saudi Education Ministry, girls accounted for 57 percent of undergraduates for the year 2015-2016 in the Kingdom.
That same year, women outnumbered men in graduating with a bachelor’s in biology, information technology (IT), mathematics and statistics, and physics.
According to a survey Alakeel recently conducted on social media, “almost 80 percent of (Saudi) girls were keen to study STEM, but securing a job after the degree remains the challenge,” she said.
Maha Al-Taleb, 22, graduated earlier this year with a degree in technology from KSU, specializing in IT networks and security.
“It’s common for girls in the Kingdom to opt for STEM education,” said Al-Taleb, who now works in a public sector company in Riyadh as a junior information security analyst.
“Saudi women are ambitious. We’re acquiring high degrees and seeking successful careers. I don’t know why the world assumes that Saudi women are a backward tribal species who have no say in these matters. This entire perception is flawed.”
Al-Taleb got a job offer immediately after university, but realizes that not all her peers are as fortunate. Women “are facing problems in securing jobs, not because companies don’t want to hire us, but because employment for Saudi youths is a major challenge,” she said.
“In today’s Saudi Arabia, parents are encouraging their daughters to get a degree not just in the Kingdom; they also want them to go to Western universities. It has become a common phenomenon. Things have changed. Women are a crucial part of the nation’s development process.”
Not all women graduating in the Kingdom are as lucky, among them Razan Al-Qahtani. “It has been several months since I graduated, yet I haven’t been able to find a job. It has been a struggle so far,” said the 25-year-old IT graduate. “We have more talented and qualified girls, especially in the field of technology, but there are few jobs available. It’s a difficult situation, but we’re hopeful things will change very soon.”
Al-Qahtani expressed confidence that the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 reform plan will bring opportunities for qualified Saudis.
As part of Vision 2030, the government has committed to raise employment among Saudi women.
Alakeel said the government is working hard to find a solution, and it is only a matter of time until more such jobs are on offer.
“As per Vision 2030, there will be more jobs, including technical jobs, available in the country. Once we have more jobs, women will eventually get their due share,” she added. According to Alakeel, female empowerment and promotion to leading roles have made huge progress in Saudi Arabia, and this may affect existing STEM job opportunities.
“We’re glad to see Her Royal Highness Princess Reema bint Bandar Al-Saud becoming the first female ambassador of the country. It only suggests change is on the way,” Alakeel said.
Al-Taleb expressed pride in the way her parents have supported her, saying: “My father isn’t educated and my mother has basic literacy, but both provided me with the education I desired. They want their daughters to be as successful as their sons.”
Like women in any country, the transition from university to the workplace is not always easy, even for young Saudi women with technology degrees. Yet they are not losing hope.
“We realize these are difficult times in terms of employment, especially in technology-related fields, but things will change,” Al-Taleb said. “Saudi women will soon be ruling the fields of STEM all over the country.”