Number of Pakistani expats exceeds 1.5 m

Updated 29 August 2012
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Number of Pakistani expats exceeds 1.5 m

RIYADH: The number of Pakistani expats in Saudi Arabia is consistently increasing and currently exceeds 1.5 million.
Pakistani Ambassador Mohammed Naeem Khan said yesterday that the Pakistanis were “committed and conscientious workers” because of their proximity to the Kingdom and its people, especially in terms of religion and age-old ties.
Ambassador Khan was commenting on a report of the Bureau of Emigration & Overseas Employment (BEOE), a regulatory body of the Pakistan government, which controls workers’ employment and the emigration process.
According to the report, Saudi Arabia has become the largest market for Pakistani workers in the world. “Saudi Arabia being an Islamic state has been an attractive place to work in for millions of Pakistani job seekers aiming for employment abroad,” said the report.
The report said that Islamabad attracts huge foreign exchange with continuous growth in the number of workers traveling to Gulf states.
The report said that the total number of Pakistani workers deployed in the Kingdom has doubled during the last seven or eight years.
“Presently, Pakistan is exporting skilled, semiskilled and unskilled workers to Saudi Arabia,” said the report, adding that the number of visa issued by the Saudi Embassy and Consulate has risen to 25,000 every month.
A large number of Pakistani are traveling for jobs, while many of them arrive in the Kingdom for Umrah and business. The Pakistani population of 1.5 million is the highest overseas population of the country.
The UK, US and UAE are other countries with a significant Pakistani population, which varies from 1.2 million to 1 million. The remittances of Pakistani workers from the Kingdom have increased significantly to about $3 billion annually.
Asked about the Kingdom’s plan to recruit more doctors, engineers, paramedical staff and technicians from Pakistan, the ambassador said that “the plan was being implemented and the process is on.”
He pointed out that a large number of skilled workers are coming to Saudi Arabia. Also, the middle category workers arriving in the Kingdom include professionals in the fields of medicine, health care, nursing, management, engineering, sales and courier services, he added.
He said Pakistani workers were more committed than any other expatriate groups because they consider the Kingdom as their second home. “They get an opportunity to visit the holy cities of Makkah and Madinah, a lifetime dream of millions of Muslims,” said the envoy.
The diplomat said that the Kingdom had been hiring doctors, engineers, teachers, bankers, IT and telecom experts and accountants from Pakistan in large numbers. These professionals are fortunate to have handsome salaries along with fringe benefits, accommodation and holidays. Usually hiring companies afford all of their expenses including visa fees, airfare and expenditure of annual or bi-annual visits to homeland.
The salaries of Pakistani professionals vary from SR 5,000 to SR 20,000 easily, which increases with the passage of time, experience and opportunities.
“There is a constant demand of laborers and technical staff in different ongoing projects in Saudi Arabia, which is witnessing heavy construction activities,” said Khan, adding that Pakistani workers have contributed to each and every project in the Kingdom.
Asked about the plans to recruit female workers from Pakistan, he said there was no such move for the time being. “But, there are a number of Pakistani female doctors currently working here,” said the envoy.
Makkah and Madinah have created opportunities for millions of workers in Pakistan and other developing countries to complete their large projects by 2016. Normally, Muslim workers are preferred in these two cities.


Called to the barre: Saudi ballet gets its groove on

Ballet’s popularity is growing among different age groups. (AN photo by Huda Bashatah)
Updated 20 min 34 sec ago
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Called to the barre: Saudi ballet gets its groove on

  • Widad Al-Kibsi, a Saudi ballet instructor at the studio, said that people in Jeddah were now familiar with ballet
  • A 13-year-old student at the studio, Oroub Al-Shareef, said that she began ballet when she was 4 years old

JEDDAH: Ballet, one of the world’s most demanding art forms, is enjoying soaring popularity in Saudi Arabia as a new generation discovers its physical, mental and social benefits, and a Jeddah-based studio is at the forefront of the dance’s development in the Kingdom.
Sera McKnass, founder of iBallerina, said that the studio is shaping future ballerinas to be effective members of society.
“The goal is not only to pass on the art of ballet but also to raise up participants into healthy, classy and confident, caring individuals,” the 30-year-old Turkish-Lebanese master teacher said.
Ballet’s popularity is growing among different age groups.
“Mothers sign up their daughters to be trained as ballerinas, but now young adults have dreams of learning how to pirouette, chasse and jete,” McKnass told Arab News. “They come to iBallerina to start the journey and transform their souls and bodies, becoming stronger and more graceful women.”
Widad Al-Kibsi, a Saudi ballet instructor at the studio, said that people in Jeddah were now familiar with ballet. “It's now in most of the main gyms, and private or international schools in the city.”
The 20-year-old advises aspiring ballerinas to start at a young age. “It’s important to start early because improved strength and flexibility are easily acquired at a younger age.”
Ballet offers myriad physical benefits, she said. “It improves muscle tone and definition, elongates arms, and aligns the posture properly.”
Al-Kibsi said that while many Saudis saw ballet as an activity for children, “not a lot of them are aware that adults can also perform. They assume that you should be thin or flexible from the get-go. They don’t understand that with dedication and discipline, ballet strengthens and increases flexibility.”
Dana Garii, a 23-year-old Saudi writer, has been practicing ballet at the studio since February.
“I’ve been wanting to do it since I was young, but I couldn’t find the opportunity. When I found they have classes here, I just went for it. People asked me, ‘aren’t you too old?’ But that’s a myth. People think you can’t do ballet after a certain age, but you can start any time,” she told Arab News.
“Ballet is important to me. It’s more than just the physical aspects — it has taught me how to be modest, and that nothing hard ever comes easy.
“It has also taught me patience and how to take on difficult situations because it’s not only difficult physically but also psychologically. It has taught me how to overcome my fears,” Garii said.
A 13-year-old student at the studio, Oroub Al-Shareef, said that she began ballet when she was 4 years old.
“There was a TV show for kids about the mouse that did ballet (‘Angelina Ballerina’) and it inspired me. I’ve always wanted to be a ballerina,” she said.
“Ballet is very important to me. Dance is one of the ways I express myself and I feel at one with myself when I’m practicing.
“It’s a very hard thing to do, but it brings me so much joy.”
Saudi graphic designer Sara Al-Sabaan, 22, has also been practicing ballet since she was a young child.
“I started dancing in a ballet school in Guadalajara, in Mexico. Then I continued at the Kinetico dance school in Riyadh,” she said.
Al-Sabaan’s mother inspired her to take up the art form. “I’m following in her footsteps. She was a ballet dancer herself.”
The young dancer has watched ballet’s growth in popularity. “Dance classes were available when I was a child, but they have been most popular in the past decade.”
Practicing ballet is a form of self-expression, she said.
“I have danced modern, contemporary and classical ballet, and it affects me immensely. Not only is it a great physical activity, it’s also an outlet for self-expression through movement.”