Motorbikes and boards kick Saudi Arabia’s Sharqiah Season off with a vroom

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Biking club members from Saudi Arabia, Oman, Bahrain, the UAE, Kuwait, Jordan and the Philippines joined families for a day of motorcycle-related events. (Arab News/Essam Al-Ghalib)
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Many families at the festival event picnicked in the park, and children were entertained taking part in various activities organized by the General Sports Authority. (SPA)
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In Dammam, motorcycle fans from all over the region and beyond attended the Saudi Bike Show. (Arab News/Essam Al-Ghalib)
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The festival will feature more than 80 events across all the major cities in Eastern Province, including Dammam, Dhahran, Alkhobar, Al-Ahsa and Jubail. (Arab News/Essam Al-Ghalib)
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The Saudi Bike Show is on until Saturday from 1 p.m. to 11 p.m. (Arab News/Essam Al-Ghalib)
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Spectators watched bikers and boarders perform gravity-defying stunts on ramps and jumps. (Arab News/Essam Al-Ghalib)
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Local BMX bikers also showcased their skills as they hopped and spun their cycles. (Arab News/Essam Al-Ghalib)
Updated 17 March 2019
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Motorbikes and boards kick Saudi Arabia’s Sharqiah Season off with a vroom

  • Sharqiah Season is the first of 11 scheduled festivals planned in the Kingdom in 2019
  • Future seasons will focus on different areas of Saudi Arabia, with varying entertainment options for each city

AL-AHSA: The second day of Sharqiah Season got off with a vroom as hundreds of motorcyclists descended on a Saudi city for a major bike show.
Thousands of festival-goers on Friday flocked to music, arts and sports events taking place throughout the Kingdom’s Eastern Province.
In Dammam, motorcycle fans from all over the region and beyond attended the Saudi Bike Show, which continues on Saturday in Life Park. Biking club members from Saudi Arabia, Oman, Bahrain, the UAE, Kuwait, Jordan and the Philippines joined families for a day of motorcycle-related events.
Among the visitors enjoying stunt performances, displays and trade stands was Mohammed Al-Amari, a 32-year-old Saudi, and his seven-year-old son, Majid, who was wearing full motorcycle gear including a child’s helmet.
Elsewhere, at the King Abdullah Adventure Park, in Al-Ahsa, large crowds gathered to watch “Battle of the Champions,” an event organized by the Festival International des Sports Extremes (FISE), which featured some of the world’s top skateboard, BMX, parkour and rollerblade athletes.

See more photos from Sharqiah Season’s opening weekend here

Spectators watched bikers and boarders perform gravity-defying stunts on ramps and jumps, and local BMX bikers also showcased their skills as they hopped and spun their cycles on a separate stage next to the main event.
A training space was also set up for younger visitors to try out a few tricks of their own, with children strapping on rollerblades in padded enclosure, under the eye of trained athletes.
Many families at the festival event picnicked in the park, and children were entertained taking part in carnival-style sports games organized by the General Sports Authority.
Mishaal Al-Qahtani, from Al-Ahsa, told Arab News: “I’m glad that the beauty of Al-Ahsa is being shared with the rest of Saudi Arabia at last. It’s about time the focus shifted from Riyadh and Jeddah. Saudi Arabia has so much more to share. Sharqiah deserves this time to shine.”
Amani Al-Omran had traveled from Alkhobar to witness the FISE event. “We used to be chastised for wasting our time with bikes and skateboards. Now this huge event is happening right in our home town. It’s amazing.”
In Jubail, more than 29 internationally renowned artists took part in the Tawiyyah Arts Exhibition as part of Sharqiah Season. The display, staged at Al-Fanateer’s cultural center in Jubail’s industrial city, featured 41 works of art created including paintings, sculptures, photo imaging, Arabic calligraphy and batik.
Spectacular 3-D presentations told stories through moving images projected onto the SABIC building in the heart of the industrial city, and there were interactive water shows and visual displays for visitors to enjoy on Al-Fanateer beach. Not all the Sharqiah Season events went to plan, with fireworks on Alkhobar Corniche having to be postponed on Thursday night due high winds. But the cancelation failed to dampen the spirits of visitors. Meshari Daghistani said organizers were doing an “amazing” job.
Sharqiah Season is the first of 11 scheduled festivals planned in the Kingdom in 2019.
In a collaborative effort by the Saudi Commission for Tourism and National Heritage, the General Entertainment Authority, the General Culture Authority and the General Sports Authority, the project aims to deliver an extensive entertainment experience for both Saudi citizens and foreign tourists.
The festival will feature more than 80 events across all the major cities in Eastern Province, including Dammam, Dhahran, Alkhobar, Al-Ahsa and Jubail.
Future seasons will focus on different areas of Saudi Arabia, with varying entertainment options for each city. There will be festivals concentrating on parts of the year such as Ramadan, Eid Al-Fitr and Eid Al-Adha.
Sharqiah Season continues in the Eastern Province until March 30, with sports events such as the Red Bull Air Race and Formula 1 H20 boat race, and concerts in Dammam featuring US singer Akon, Canadian DJ Deadmau5, US rapper Pitbull and US-Moroccan rapper French Montana.
The Saudi Bike Show is on until Saturday from 1 p.m. to 11 p.m. and is open to all ages, while the FISE “Battle of the Champions” continues on Saturday from 5 p.m. to 11 p.m.


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.”