Providing a voice for Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030

The end of driving ban has been crowning achievement so far of Saudi Vision 2030. Women started their engines and hit the roads throughout the Kingdom on June 24, 2018.
Updated 23 September 2018
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Providing a voice for Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030

  • In just 3 years, the world has witnessed the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia's Vision 2030 starting to bear fruit
  • "Today I get the chance to write about the transformation step by step, by covering events and stories about young Saudi entrepreneurs, artists and empowered women." — Lojien Ben Gassem

Arab News journalists reflect on the recent changes in the Kingdom and share their hopes for themselves and the country by the time Vision 2030 is realized 

 

Aisha Fareed

Reporting news in a rapidly changing country is, in itself, an honor. To be part of “The Voice of a Changing Region” is quite an achievement I have carefully shaped and built since 2014, when I joined Arab News as a fresh graduate.

Leading the team of Saudi reporters is a responsibility I never imagined I would assume at a young age, but, somehow, it gives me a better vision of how my career will look by the year 2030. Twelve years from now, I picture myself being a senior managing editor with even greater responsibilities. Although, I am blessed to work with such a dedicated team, I see our family growing and our foreign bureaus expanding.

Another dream I hope to realize by 2030 is to be among the elite, handpicked journalists who are asked to interview leaders and high-profile figures in the world. 

Before I reach my 40s (I will be 39 in 2030), I should also be able to say that, throughout my career, I managed to report the humanitarian stories that usually go unheard, from the least-fortunate places, such as war-torn countries.

 

Aseel Bashraheel

I’m lucky to be working at Arab News during the transformational era in Saudi Arabia, and I am very proud to be part the local team who has the ability to report these changes to the rest of the region and the world, helping others to rediscover Saudi Arabia and reshape their ideas and misconceptions.

By the year 2030, I am hoping that with the implementation of the Kingdom’s Vision we will be looking at an entirely different Saudi Arabia, and an entirely different universe. I would love to say that being a journalist had always been my dream, but it was not. 

However, nothing I worked on before felt this right. I would love to picture myself as a senior editor, walking in to this same office, greeting the same kind faces that smile at me every day, a little older and wiser, and newer faces too, as eager and hungry as I was on my first day to acquire the skills that will enable them to be journalists (in digitized forums that will suit the journalism of the future).

 

Abdulaziz Alaquil

My aspirations as a journalist by the year 2030 are not so much attributed to any specific goals, such as being recognized with any particular awards or accolades, but rather how this industry offers a platform for continued growth in my self-development. 

I believe I am constantly refining both my professional and social skills, which is greatly rewarding to me.

There are plenty of occupations that serve simply as a means to an end in the sense of generating an income. 

A unique aspect of the field of journalism though, is the added benefits in the sense of how well informed I am on world events, which in turn translates heavily to my social development. 

The element of spontaneity in this field is also ever present, which can lead to some very interesting travels. My aspirations are being met every day in this job. It is the gift that keeps on giving.

 

Lojien Ben Gassem

Before I became a journalist, I always wanted people to see Saudi Arabia through the eyes of the Saudi citizens. Unfortunately, today’s media politics play a huge role in shaping a country, through biased ideas and false assumptions. When Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman revealed Saudi Vision 2030, “The National Transformation Program,” on April 25, 2016, people started to wonder what was happening to the country. Basically, Vision 2030 promises people a better future and better governance, which is raising hopes and expectations among Saudis. That vision led me to become a journalist in particular because people were becoming more curious about Saudi Arabia. Today I get the chance to write about the transformation step by step, by covering events and stories about young Saudi entrepreneurs, artists and empowered women.

Therefore, my aspirations as a journalist for the year 2030 are: to help to increase the demand for tourism in Saudi Arabia and create an attractive and welcoming environment for tourists who are interested to get to know the country; to educate Saudis on how to understand and accept other cultures and ethnicities; and to help create a culture that accepts constructive and purposeful criticism.

 

Deema Al-Khudair

I aspire to be an accomplished journalist who has made a positive impact in the world through her writing. I hope to have had a hand in making a difference by 2030. I wish to have tackled major issues going on in the world by then, and bring a sense of hope, relief and joy to all those I have interviewed and written about, and make a difference in all the forums I will have participated in by 2030. 

Being a journalist is a very fulfilling job as you have the chance to give a voice to people and make a difference in their lives. I wish to be recognized as a journalist who made a difference. 

I aspire to be a prime example of integrity in this field, make my country and Arab News proud of me, and to learn so much more about the world and how to make it a better place to live in day by day. 

 

Noor Nugali

My first article was published when I was 16 years old. I wanted to change the world and thought if not by actions than most definitely by words, always trusting in the idea that “the pen is mightier than the sword.” Many years have passed, and I still believe this, with a broader understanding that not everything is black and white but different shades of all the colors under the glorious sun.

In the course of just 3 years, the world has witnessed the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia start to bear the fruits of its labor through Vision 2030. It has given its people hope, inspiration and, most importantly, a higher purpose that can be achieved. 

The reforms we at Arab News have covered show how rapidly things are moving, in the right direction. I feel honored and blessed to not only witness them but to actually be a part of them.

Vision 2030 is a realization that change on a large scale is a team effort that takes millions of believers that share a vision of prosperity and hope. 

The inner child in me still believes I can change the world, but this time not alone. It might not be through pen and paper, but more accurately through a keyboard and a blank Word document.

 

Ruba Obaid

With the rapid growth of virtual data and the information available online, as well as the fast technological developments, newspapers will mostly disappear by 2030. Even in terms of language, we may invent another word in the near future to describe the new digital interactive news-delivery tool. 

News reports will be written by computers, or most of them, which means the concept of competition between competitors in the media industry will change. The more an agency depends on developed technology, the more successful it can be. 

In this regard, I predict more competition in producing creative, interactive, entertaining and high-value content that depends on investigative journalism and feature stories, more so than broadcast journalism, which might have less reliance on news reporters and correspondents, and more jobs for people with creative, critical and analytical skills in the media industry. Journalist will need to obtain knowledge in basic journalism, and more in technology, and creative content production.

On the basis of Saudi Arabia’s ambitious Vision 2030, I would expect the media industry in Saudi Arabia to be more diversified, and prosperous, since the Kingdom is investing a developed digital infrastructure, as well as in the entertainment and sports sectors, and culture and heritage.


How Shakespear befriended Saudi Arabia's founding father Ibn Saud

Updated 15 February 2019
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How Shakespear befriended Saudi Arabia's founding father Ibn Saud

  • William Shakespear (not the famous playwright) is the man behind one of the first photographs of Saudi Arabia’s founder, Ibn Saud
  • The British captain became such a trusted friend that the ruler called him ‘brother,’ and he died in battle fighting his enemies

DUBAI: Among the artefacts on show in the “Roads of Arabia” exhibition, on show for the final weekend at Louvre Abu Dhabi, is a photograph of a handsome young man.

He is an imposing figure, with chiseled features and his eyes hinting at a shrewd intelligence. His is the face of a man accustomed to command, a man who might change history — as indeed he did.

Abdul Aziz bin Abdul Rahman bin Faisal bin Turki bin Abdullah bin Mohammed Al-Saud was such a man. Known more commonly as Ibn Saud, he became the founding father and first monarch of the country which bears his name: the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

The photograph was taken in Kuwait in 1910, when he was about 35, and is among the first pictures taken of the future king, for he had never seen a camera before. The man who arranged the sitting — and in all likelihood took the photograph — was only the second European Ibn Saud had encountered. But Captain William Shakespear, a British explorer and diplomat, became such a trusted friend that the Arab leader called him “brother” and made him his military advisor.

And it was thanks — certainly in part — to their closeness that Britain and Saudi Arabia signed a treaty to formalize a friendship that endures to this day.

William Henry Irvine Shakespear was a son of Empire. Born in Bombay in British India in 1878, he served as an officer in the Bengal Lancers before joining the British Foreign Office in 1904 and five years later was posted to Kuwait as a political agent.

He was not a typical colonial official. A gifted linguist, he spoke Urdu, Pashto, Farsi and Arabic, and indulged his passion for photography, botany and exploration with long expeditions into territory that had never been mapped, where he met and talked with Bedu tribesmen and studied the flora and fauna of the desert.

Shakespear soon formed the view that the man to watch was Ibn Saud, son of the emir of Najd and scion of a proud ruling tribe. He was physically imposing — well over six feet tall and a proven warrior who, after a decade in exile, had recaptured Riyadh, the Al-Saud power base from the rival Al-Rashid tribe. 

The chance to meet Ibn Saud came one day in February 1910 as Shakespear returned from a journey into the eastern desert. The trip had gone drastically wrong when tribesmen overran the camp, shot dead his chief guide and almost killed Shakespear himself. But then they recognized the rest of his party as old acquaintances and joined them around the campfire for gahwa (Arabic coffee) and storytelling.

On returning to Kuwait, Shakespear found an invitation from the ruler, Sheikh Mubarak Al-Sabah, to a banquet in honor of his visitor, Ibn Saud.

It was a most lavish affair which “cannot have cost less than £20,000 ($25,600),” Shakespear noted in his report. 

In his diary he recorded that Ibn Saud was “a fair, handsome man, considerably above average Arab height with a particularly frank and open face and, after initial reserve, of genial and very courteous manner.”

The two men, who were roughly the same age, hit it off straight away and Shakespear invited Ibn Saud to dine at the British diplomatic residence the following evening. Over a classic British meal of roast lamb with mint sauce, roast potatoes and tinned asparagus, the Arab nobleman was impressed not only by his host’s fluency in Arabic but by the way he could converse knowledgeably about aspects of desert life, including hunting with falcons and saluki hounds.

It was, as authors David Holden and Richard John wrote in their book “The House of Saud,” “a cordial meeting of minds” that deepened over many lengthy conversations in Riyadh and in remote desert camps.

Britain was keen to extend its influence over the Gulf, and Shakespear urged his masters to recruit Ibn Saud as an ally. But London hesitated. Kuwait was controlled by the Ottoman Turks, who in turn were Britain’s “buffer” against other, more hostile European nations trying to carve up the region, and Turkey was allied with the Al-Rashids, enemies of the Al-Saud. Even when Ibn Saud drove an Ottoman garrison out of the coastal oasis of Al-Hasa, Britain still would not commit, to Shakespear’s immense frustration.

However, as he was coming to the end of his stint as a political agent, London consented to his request to visit Riyadh on his way back home.

After five weeks on the back of a camel, he arrived to a warm welcome from his friend. It was during this stay that Shakespear took photographs of Ibn Saud and local scenes that comprise the first pictorial record of the Arabian heartland, showing Riyadh as little more than a village with mud walls, although, as Shakespear noted: “Quite a third of the town is taken up by the homes of the Saudi family.”

The outbreak of World War I changed everything. Turkey sided with Germany. Suddenly, the British were desperate to have Ibn Saud as an ally against Turkey and dispatched Shakespear back to Riyadh to keep him away from the Turks at all costs.

Within a week of his arrival in January 1915, Shakespear had drafted the first Anglo-Saudi document, which recognised Ibn Saud as independent ruler of Najd under British protection and sent it off to Kuwait for approval.

Meanwhile, Ibn Saud rode 400 kilometers north with 6,000 men to confront the forces of his old enemy, the Al-Rashids, at a spot called Jarrab in what was both a traditional bedouin battle, with camels and plenty of hand-to-hand combat, and a proxy war between Britain’s newly signed-up ally and the Turkish-backed Al-Rashids. Shakespear made the fateful decision to tag along to photograph the event.

On Jan. 24, scouts reported that Al-Rashid forces were mustering nearby. Ibn Saud urged Shakespear to stay behind at Qassim, but the Englishman wouldn’t hear of it. Riding in on a camel, wearing his British khaki uniform and pith helmet, he set up his camera in the center of the Saudi line on a hilltop. When the Al-Rashids charged, he made an easy target.

At the end of the battle, Shakespear lay dead, but nobody was sure how he had died until his personal cook, Khalid bin Bilal, provided a first-hand account. Bilal had been captured in battle but escaped two days later and overheard Al-Rashid fighters talking about the Englishman who had been killed.

Bilal went to the elevated spot where he had last seen his master carrying his camera and found his body, which bore three bullet wounds. A digitized form of his account was released by the British Library in 2015, a century later.

Shakespear was 37 when he was killed. His diaries, notes and photographs went to the Royal Geographical Society, but historians have speculated on what other diplomatic successes he might have achieved and how different both Gulf and British history might have been had he lived.  

What is known is that on Dec. 26,  1915, Britain and Ibn Saud signed the first Anglo-Saudi Treaty — the document drafted by Shakespear — and that the great Saudi leader never forgot his English friend.

Many years later, when he was king of Saudi Arabia, he was asked who he considered to be the greatest European he had met. Without hesitating, he replied: “Captain Shakespear.”