30,000 French Muslims perform Haj every year

30,000 French Muslims perform Haj every year
Updated 08 November 2013

30,000 French Muslims perform Haj every year

30,000 French Muslims perform Haj every year

French minister Hélène Conway-Mouret, who wrapped up a two-day visit to the Kingdom, Monday said Haj operations in Paris had been streamlined to enable pilgrims to experience a hassle-free journey through their agents in France.
Mouret said she held discussions on the welfare program of French Haj pilgrims.
French Ambassador Bertrand Besancenot was also present at the press briefing held at the French Embassy in Riyadh.
The minister, who met with senior Haj officials in Jeddah, pointed out that around 30,000 French pilgrims come for Haj every year and another 19,000 come for Umrah throughout the year.
The visiting minister, who met Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Prince Abdul Aziz bin Abdullah, said she also discussed a number of regional issues, including the Syrian problem and the Iranian’s nuclear program. Iran has opened its doors for dialogue, but that is not enough, she said, adding: “It has to show intentions in actions.”
In Riyadh, she held talks with Ahmed bin Mohammed Al-Salem, undersecretary of the Ministry of Interior, and discussed ways of enhancing bilateral cooperation in various fields between the two countries, especially in the field of security and issues concerning French citizens in the Kingdom.
Mouret commended the care provided by the Saudi government for the French community in the Kingdom. There are some 6,000 French expatriates living in various parts of the Kingdom. “There are some people who have stayed here for decades and this indicates their love for the host country.”
Al-Salem stressed the keenness of the government of Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah to strengthen the strategic partnership between the two countries and lauded the contribution of the French community in strengthening the bonds of the Saudi-French friendship.
The minister, who also met Saudi businessmen in Riyadh during her brief visit, said that there were ample opportunities for French businesses in the Kingdom. She said that businessmen told her that although French goods are very popular among consumers, there was need for better marketing of French products in the Kingdom.
“Saudi Arabia is an important trade partner for France and we hope to strengthen our bilateral trade for the benefit of the two countries,” she said. 

In Jeddah, she launched the new Alliance Francaise d’Arabie Saoudite (AFAS) at the Jamjoom Center on Sunday in the presence of AFAS Vice President Redha Al-Kazim, French Ambassador Besancenot and French Consul General Louis Blin.

The AFAS is a nonprofit organization set up in 2010 under the sponsorship of the French Embassy. It has three centers in Riyadh (2011), Alkhobar (2012) and Jeddah (2013). The three centers currently host 2,500 students.

The Alliance Francaise is a unique cultural network in the world that has been present since 1883, with 1,040 centers in 136 countries. “The Jeddah center is the 1,041st in the world,” Mouret said, adding that the proximity of Jeddah to Makkah and Madinah and the importance of Jeddah to Asia, Africa and the Mediterranean states made the city a strategic point in the region.

She also said that there were some 1,400 Saudi students currently studying in various universities in France. “We hope to attract more Saudi students to Paris for their higher studies,” she added.


Jeddah-based studio making online gaming educational for children

Jeddah-based studio making online gaming educational for children
The game targets children aged between five and 11 and consists of four levels lasting 15 to 20 minutes each. Players can still play, interact with characters, and complete tasks after the game is over. (Photos/Supplied)
Updated 32 min 36 sec ago

Jeddah-based studio making online gaming educational for children

Jeddah-based studio making online gaming educational for children
  • Hakawati offers alternatives inspired by Arab culture, history, and language

JEDDAH: Many parents worry over their children’s screen time and gaming habits, and debates over the damaging effects of video and online games on mental health, behavior and cognitive functioning have become a staple of social conversations.

The Jeddah-based game development studio Hakawati was set up to offer alternative educational games for Arab children inspired by their culture, history, and language, while also encouraging them to raise their aspirations.
“We cannot prevent children from playing games. Parents can no longer do that,” Hakawati founder Abdullah Ba Mashmos told Arab News. “So, offering a good alternative is the best solution.”
Ba Mashmos said that keeping children busy with games also offers parents time to relax. Trying to wean off children from playing games on their devices is impossible and tiresome.
As children’s experience with the world becomes increasingly virtual, the potential harm posed by violence in online games is a major concern for Ba Mashmos and his team.
“We oppose any manifestations of violence in games,” he said. “Entertainment does not need to be violent.”
Hundreds of media reports, posts, and videos calling on parents to pay attention to their children’s online gaming activities are circulating almost daily among parents across the region.

HIGHLIGHTS

• Through stories narrated in Arabic within the game, Hakawati is bridging the scientific heritage of Arabic culture with the present.

• The interactive storytelling game takes players on a series of adventures in a safe environment.

• Hakawati is encouraging children to explore their identity and learn new things about themselves and their culture.

These warning messages invariably spike after a tragic story related to popular video games finds its way to the media.
One of the latest stories to go viral concerned a 12-year-old Egyptian boy who died from a heart attack while playing an online game known as PUBG for hours without rest.
However, many parents worry constantly about their children spending too much time playing games on screens.

We oppose any manifestations of violence in games.

Abdullah Ba Mashmos, Hakawati founder

Screen time is often seen as harmfully addictive, triggering concerns about children’s physical and social health, as well as youth suicide, family violence, and bullying.
With experience in teaching game development and programming, Ba Mashmos said that he has seen how easily online games can normalize aggressive language among children.
Hakawati Game, the fledgling studio’s first offering, is expected to be released by the end of 2021. However, a demo version is available for free.
The interactive storytelling game takes players on a series of adventures in a safe and culturally inspired environment alongside original Arabic-speaking characters.
Ba Mashmos said that the studio aims to educate, strengthen values and spark curiosity in the young by helping them develop their creativity, strategic thinking, problem-solving, and research skills.
“In this game, we focus on values, Arabic language, and science,” he said, “We want to promote science among children.”

The talented team behind the idea, which aims to offer a safe alternative to violent online games.

Through stories narrated in Arabic within the game, Hakawati is bridging the scientific heritage of Arabic culture with the present by introducing influential Arab scientists from history, enhancing the player’s interaction with the Arabic language through the characters, their names, and their sophisticated backstories.
Ba Mashmos said that scientists used to be portrayed in films and cartoons as obsessive, introverted nerds who lacked social skills.
Hakawati wants to promote a more realistic and inspirational view of science among children. “We want them to understand that well-educated people are the ones who can do great things,” he said.
The game targets children aged between five and 11 and consists of four levels lasting 15 to 20 minutes each. Players can still play, interact with characters, and complete tasks after the game is over.
By creating an original game that matches children’s reality, Hakawati is encouraging children to explore their identity and learn new things about themselves and their culture.
“We are a community of scientists, ambitious and smart people, and we want to erase all kinds of negative stereotypes,” Ba Mashmos said.
The game also promotes diversity and inclusivity.
“Diversity was another major focus when developing our characters. We brought characters from different backgrounds and races with a special focus on the Arab region,” he said. “We also made sure to represent disabilities.”
Hakawati (@HakawatiAR) is believed to be the only studio in the Kingdom focused on developing games solely for children.  
Although game development is still in its infancy in Saudi Arabia, Ba Mashmos believes that his young and diverse team of different nationalities and backgrounds will help the studio prosper.
Hakawati’s developers, software engineers, designers, and artificial intelligence specialists are all based in Saudi Arabia, he said.
The studio relies mainly on and invests in Saudi-based talents, whether in building their team or allowing young members of the Saudi development, design, and animation community to take part in their work when needed.
Hakawati’s biggest goal is to be a Middle East pioneer in game development for children and also expand its audience around the world.
“Our biggest challenge is time — games and development take a lot of our time. At the same time challenges are also increasing quickly.”
Hakawati took part in MITEF Saudi Arabia this year, a program organized by MIT Enterprise Forum in collaboration with Bab Rizq Jameel, and was were among 15 semifinalists out of over 500 startup applicants.
The studio also among finalists competing at the TAQADAM Startup Accelerator staged by King Abdullah University of Science and Technology.


Saudi Arabia elected as titular member of ILO body

Saudi Arabia elected as titular member of ILO body
Ahmed Al-Rajhi. (SPA)
Updated 10 min 6 sec ago

Saudi Arabia elected as titular member of ILO body

Saudi Arabia elected as titular member of ILO body
  • Saudi Arabia has served as a deputy member between 2017 and 2020

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia has been elected as a titular member of the International Labour Organization’s (ILO) governing body until 2024.
Elections for the membership were held on Monday as part of the 109th session of the International Labour Conference.
Saudi Minister of Human Resources and Social Development Ahmed Al-Rajhi said the Kingdom’s election to the ILO’s governing body is an outcome of the Saudi leadership’s continuous support to the labor market and workers in the Kingdom.
He said the election also reflects the growing international and regional confidence in the Kingdom’s measures aimed at streamlining the labor market.
Saudi Arabia has served as a deputy member between 2017 and 2020. Its tenure was exceptionally extended for an additional year due to the global outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19).
 


Saudi official reveals exemptions to COVID-19 shopping malls ban

Saudi official reveals exemptions to COVID-19 shopping malls ban
Saudi men sit in a restaurant at a shopping mall in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.(REUTERS file photo)
Updated 27 min 37 sec ago

Saudi official reveals exemptions to COVID-19 shopping malls ban

Saudi official reveals exemptions to COVID-19 shopping malls ban
  • Dr. Osama Ghanem Al-Obaidy: The banning of unvaccinated individuals from entering malls is a welcome move in the fight against the coronavirus

RIYADH: Under-18s who had not received a coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccine jab and those exempt for health reasons will still be allowed into Saudi commercial outlets and shopping malls when strict new rules come into force.
The government announced on Sunday that unvaccinated individuals would not be given access to such establishments from Aug. 1.
However, on Monday, a Ministry of Commerce spokesman said the ban would not apply to those under the age of 18 who had not been inoculated or people at risk of having adverse reactions to COVID-19 vaccines.
Around 15.9 million anti-virus jabs have so far been administered in the Kingdom, but the Ministry of Interior has demanded that individuals entering shops and other commercial outlets must have had at least one dose or been vaccinated after recovering from COVID-19 unless they fell into age brackets or groups not obligated to take the vaccine. Eman Al-Shethry, a government employee, told Arab News: “Entering a shopping center knowing that most of the people inside are either fully or partially vaccinated will make me feel safer and more relaxed.

FASTFACTS

• Saudi Arabia reported 1,109 new cases of COVID-19 on Monday.

• The death toll has risen to 7,590 with 18 more virus-related fatalities.

“I feel that when the people who are skeptical of vaccinations see others roaming around freely, they would see that vaccines are not scary or harmful.”
Dr. Osama Ghanem Al-Obaidy, a law professor at the Institute of Public Administration in Riyadh, said: “The banning of unvaccinated individuals from entering malls is a welcome move in the fight against the coronavirus. The exemption of children from such requirements is also a welcome move.”
Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia on Monday recorded 1,109 new COVID-19 cases, meaning that 466,906 people in the country had now contracted the disease. A total of 10,075 cases remained active, of which 1,596 patients were in critical condition.
With 18 more virus-related fatalities, the death toll has risen to 7,590.
The Saudi Ministry of Health said another 1,148 patients had recovered from the disease, increasing the total number of recoveries in the Kingdom to 449,241.
Saudi Arabia had so far conducted 20,438,923 polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests, with 83,368 carried out in the past 24 hours, and 15,885,754 people in the country had to date received a jab against COVID-19.


More than 25,000 Jacaranda trees add to Abha’s beauty

More than 25,000 Jacaranda trees add to Abha’s beauty
The flowers of the jacaranda tree last for up to eight weeks and give off a distinctive fragrance, which spreads after it rains. (AN photo by Huda Bashatah)
Updated 14 June 2021

More than 25,000 Jacaranda trees add to Abha’s beauty

More than 25,000 Jacaranda trees add to Abha’s beauty
  • The jacaranda plant belongs to the bignonia family, with trees able to grow to more than 18 meters in height

ABHA: More than 25,000 jacaranda trees are adding a splash of color to Abha’s environment. The trees perfume the city’s gardens and streets and light up the surroundings with their distinctive hue. They have become the daily destination of choice for those seeking enjoyable times amid violet forests.
The mild climate in Abha during the spring and summer has helped Asir municipality to successfully plant and nurture these trees, with the authority expanding the scope of its cultivation to include many main streets, public facilities, parks and squares.
These efforts are in line with Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 program and are based on an annual plan to plant trees and flowers in the region to enhance and diversify its vegetation cover, beautify the streets, provide an oxygen source, and offer a regional tourist attraction.
The municipality said the trees gave Abha a distinctive identity and a bright spectrum. The flowers of the jacaranda tree last for up to eight weeks and give off a distinctive fragrance, which spreads after it rains.
The municipality, which also planted a million seasonal roses in several locations in Abha, said the jacaranda trees were chosen in accordance with the needs of the local environment, especially as they only needed small amounts of water and did not pose a threat to the infrastructure.

FASTFACTS

• The jacaranda plant belongs to the bignonia family, with trees able to grow to more than 18 meters in height.

• During the first year, they can reach a height of 3 meters.

• These trees reproduce naturally by seed (pollination) in March and April, but they can be planted throughout the year in protected areas.

The jacaranda plant belongs to the bignonia family, with trees able to grow to more than 18 meters in height. During the first year, they can reach a height of 3 meters.
These trees reproduce naturally by seed (pollination) in March and April, but they can be planted throughout the year in protected areas. They can also be cultivated by some newly developed methods such as sprout pots or indoors until they become strong, according to the Saudi Press Agency.
The cultivation of jacaranda trees in Saudi Arabia is also limited to areas that enjoy moderate weather, such as the southern region.
Al-Fan Street, in the center of Abha, is a popular location with visitors from different age groups who are keen to document its aesthetic.
The municipality said a plan was developed to manage the site, starting from May 1, and that there was coordination with Asir police to supervise streets and squares according to COVID-19 precautionary measures.


Who’s Who: Edouard Waintrop, artistic director of Red Sea International Film Festival

Who’s Who: Edouard Waintrop, artistic director of Red Sea International Film Festival
Edouard Waintrop. (Supplied)
Updated 2 min 32 sec ago

Who’s Who: Edouard Waintrop, artistic director of Red Sea International Film Festival

Who’s Who: Edouard Waintrop, artistic director of Red Sea International Film Festival

The Red Sea International Film Festival (RSIFF) has appointed Edouard Waintrop as its artistic director ahead of the inaugural event in November 2021.
Commenting on his appointment, Waintrop said: “It is a great privilege and honor to be leading the Red Sea International Film Festival. This new and great festival will celebrate all aspects of cinema, from the creatives telling stories to the technical craftspeople putting imaginative ideas onto the big screen, celebrating filmmaking as a force for positive change. The festival is set to reflect that metamorphosis and to be the place for the leaders and visionaries of Arab cinema, both established and emerging, to meet, celebrate successes and look forward to a bright future.”
Waintrop was born in Paris in 1952. He is a well-known critic, programmer, cinema manager and festival curator.
He joins the RSIFF after two years as president of a commission helping and financing the development of feature films, as part of the Center national du cinema, Paris, and as the programmer of the international section at the Bordeaux International Independent Film Festival.
From 2012–2018, he was the artistic director of the Directors’ Fortnight, an independent program that runs parallel to the Cannes Film Festival, founded in 1969 by the French Directors’ Guild.
During his tenure, he was credited with revamping the event, elevating its profile, inviting acclaimed directors, championing emerging names and overseeing the 50th anniversary event.
The RSIFF brings the best in Arab and World cinema to the Kingdom. It showcases exciting new films on the Saudi big screen, alongside retrospective programs celebrating the masters of cinema, the latest Saudi films as well as feature and short film competitions.