Painting the Saudi vision at Souq Okaz festival

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More than 50 artists took part in the creation of a 560-square-meter green mural at Souq Okaz. (SPA)
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More than 50 artists took part in the creation of a 560-square-meter green mural at Souq Okaz. (SPA)
Updated 30 June 2018
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Painting the Saudi vision at Souq Okaz festival

  • The 12th Souq Okaz festival has brought together several sculptors for the first time at the event
  • The mural is the first to be painted in the form of the word Okaz in Arabic and in this size

TAIF: More than 50 artists from across Saudi Arabia took part in the creation of a 560-square-meter green mural at Souq Okaz, according to Mamdouh Salem, the CEO of Rowad Media.

Salem said: “The mural is the first to be painted in the form of the word Okaz in Arabic and in this size.”

The artists’ paintings, he said, captured the Kingdom’s landmarks, its achievements, Vision 2030, Souq Okaz, Arabian horses, Arabic alphabets and ancient life in Souq Okaz.

The CEO pointed out that each of the participating artists will display four of his paintings on the mural’s site. Six sculptors from within the country — Ali Al-Tekhis, Mohammed Al-Thaqafi, Ali Al-Hassan, Talal Al-Tokhais, Saeed Al-Zahrani and Ali Asiri — participated for the first time this year in creating the mural

The 12th Souq Okaz festival has brought together several sculptors for the first time at the event,  said Al-Thaqafi.

“Each of us (sculptors) gets inspired by Souq Okaz, its culture, and its future outlook.” He said Souq Okaz takes several steps forward every year.

“In 2009, we had prepared 22 granite rocks and written pre-Islamic as well as Islamic poems on them,”Al-Thaqafi said. 

“There were several unsuccessful attempts in the past few years until our dream became true this year and now we have a forum that will continue in the coming years.”

Salem told Arab News that the 1,800-square-meter Science Oasis painting of Arabic alphabets was created by 60 artists, including designers, architects, and workers.

“The painting aims to bring attention to Arabic alphabets since we are in Souq Okaz, which is linked to Arab history and the lives of Arabian tribes,” he said.

“It took the artists 30 days — 12 hours a day — to finish this painting.”

Salem said there was a suggested plan to design an oasis or garden for Arabic alphabets through which visitors can walk and take pictures.

The Arab Republic of Egypt, the guest of honor at the festival this year, provides several performances, including the Egyptian opera and takht.

Egypt’s Minister of Culture Inas Abdel Dayem said her country’s participation was part of a strong relationship between the two countries.

Wood-carving artisans

Artisans restored the splendor of Souq Okaz Avenue, coming from different parts of the Kingdom to display their creative works during the festival.

The avenue was lined with dozens of artisans with their carvings on wood, Sadu weaving, Arabic calligraphy and other arts that aim to revive Saudi heritage and crafts.

Wood carver and carpenter Fawzi Al-Zahrani said the avenue displays “aim to acquaint the new generation with the crafts of their ancestors with a view of preserving these trades and professions from disappearing.”

Al-Zahrani said he uses the finest wood to carve and manufacture old kitchen utensils, as well as other woodworks that mimic the old southern environment of the Kingdom.

Taif Institute pavilion

The Taif Industrial Secondary Institute is participating in the festival with a pavilion displaying models designed and produced by the institute’s students.

Visitors to the pavilion start their tour at the production section, which displays auto parts produced by the students. Also on display are commemorative shields made by the institute and used in public and private events.

The pavilion features a section dedicated to carpentry and welding, where visitors are introduced to furniture, windows, doors and bedrooms made from the finest wood. 

Visitors can also see a car model with each part painted in a different color, representing the function of each component. The car represents the various skills the students learn at the institute.The pavilion contains other important sections, including electronics and power displays.

One of the main attractions during the 12th edition of the event is the Sadu and traditional carpets pavilion. Visitors can see hand-embroidered clothes for children, face covers for women, as well as tassels for horses, and special items for weddings and religious events.

Also on show are Sadu woven rugs representing the Two Holy Mosques, the logo of Saudi Arabia, and map and images of King Salman, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the princes of some regions and the Vision 2030 logo.


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.”