German couple publishes picture book on Kingdom

Updated 04 November 2014

German couple publishes picture book on Kingdom

 

A German couple who moved to the Kingdom five years ago has published a pictorial book depicting the country’s wonders.
Jens and Kirsten Niemann, co-authors of “Beautiful Saudi Arabia,” fell in love with the Kingdom soon after they arrived.
“This is a beautiful country with a dazzling landscape and extensive cultural heritage,” the Niemanns told Arab News in an exclusive interview.
“Unfortunately, citizens hardly know their own country and foreigners even less so,” they said.
The couple visited countless places throughout the Kingdom in their free time to discover the country, “which is six times the size of Germany,” said Jens, whose hobby is to take photos of people, places and national heritage.
The couple had not initially thought of putting their experiences inside a book.
“The book isn’t only about sharing our experiences,” said Jens. “The book improves the image of a country that is negatively perceived abroad. This was our main goal in writing it.”
Jens is an aerospace engineer and information technology lecturer at the joint Saudi-German Technical Trainers College (TTC) in Riyadh, while his wife Kirsten is a photographer, author and publisher.
“We love this country and have traveled extensively throughout it because photography is our hobby,” she said.
“We capture images of people, landscapes and heritage. Many people who saw our photos encouraged us to compile them within a book,” said Jens.
“I feel obliged to share what I experienced with others because we want to show the world that Saudi Arabia is very much a livable place.”
“We do not agree with negative stereotypes about the country,” he said. “On the contrary, Saudi Arabia is a decent and peaceful country. The people here are very friendly. This is what encouraged us to travel and explore the beautiful countryside.”
Jens said that the project was difficult, nonetheless, due to the language barrier, but that they eventually overcame all the hurdles, including the permission to publish the book.
The book, in short, is a culmination of their travels and experiences throughout their years in the Kingdom.
“The book, published by me and my wife, pays homage to the Kingdom and its people and aims to depict its greatness, beauty and diversity,” he said.
“We hope that this book helps foster friendships between this country and other nations and enhances respect for culture diversity, as well as shows foreigners that the Kingdom has multiple dimensions.”
The couple collected thousands of pictures in their four years of travel to 25 cities, including Abha, Al-Ahsa, Al-Baha, Hail, Al-Jouf, Madain Saleh, Najran, the Red Sea area, Rijal Alma, Riyadh, Tabuk, Tayma and Al-Ula.
“Our voyage of discovery was worth the effort,” Jens added.
“I believe the book can change peoples’ mindsets,” said Kirsten. “As many as 70 percent of people who bought our book said it was meant for their family home, since most of them never visited Saudi Arabia.”
The Niemanns have dedicated the book to Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah and the people of Saudi Arabia.
 
WHERE TO FIND THE BOOK: According to the authors' Facebook account, the book is presently available only from the authors in Riyadh. For inquiries, please email [email protected].
 

 


Saudi TikTok users weigh in on potential app ban

Photo/Supplied
Updated 12 July 2020

Saudi TikTok users weigh in on potential app ban

  • Due to pandemic, interest in the app skyrocketed as many users watch videos and try to recreate them while in quarantine

RIYADH: Chinese video platform TikTok is under fire once again, as rumors of the app being a tool used by the Chinese government to spy on users resurface online.

TikTok, owned by Chinese company ByteDance, is a video-sharing site similar to the now-defunct Vine, where users share short clips of themselves which can be altered using AI technology.
Lip-syncing along with a track, using filters, and adding special effects give users the chance to create short clips that can be shared and downloaded in several social media platforms.
Due to the coronavirus pandemic, interest in the app skyrocketed as many users downloaded TikTok to watch videos and try to recreate them while in quarantine. The app has also gained significant popularity in the Middle East with influencers such as Saudi model Roz, UAE-based content creators Khalid and Salama, and Saudi top TikToker iimeeto, who recently celebrated reaching four million followers on the platform.
Rania Mohammed, a fourth year medical student at Dar AlUloom University in Riyadh, said that TikTok was “the only thing keeping her sane” as she struggled with the pressures of school and quarantine.
“As a med school student, my attention span and free time are both severely limited,” she told Arab News. “Taking a 15 minute break to watch silly TikToks has helped me keep motivated. The specific brand of humor on that app is the fastest way to make me laugh.”
Mai Alhumood, a government employee, said that she downloaded the app while she was bored and became “quickly addicted” to the platform’s fun short videos.
“People are so creative on TikTok, and the challenges that keep going viral are so interesting,” she told Arab News.
However, the app has long-suffered from accusations of spying and gathering users’ private information on behalf of the Chinese government, leading to both temporary and permanent bans in countries around the world.
Recently, it was reported that Amazon requested that employees remove the app from their smartphones in an email over “security risks.” The company later retracted its directive.
Saudi cybersecurity expert Abdullah Al-Jaber believed that concerns over the security of TikTok’s collected data stemmed from the app’s country of origin and its rules and regulations.

HIGHLIGHTS

• Following a provisional ban in April 2019, India’s Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology banned TikTok permanently in June this year, along with 58 other Chinese apps. The ministry claimed that the apps were a ‘threat to the sovereignty and security of the country’ following a Himalayan border clash with Chinese troops in the disputed territory of Ladakh.

• Indonesia temporarily blocked TikTok in July 2018, citing public concern regarding ‘illegal content’ such as pornography and blasphemy. However, the app was unblocked following various changes from TikTok such as the opening of a government liaison office and implementing security mechanisms.

• Recently, the US became the third country to seriously consider banning the app, according to information from President Donald Trump’s administration. Trump also weighed in on a potential TikTok ban. He said that banning the app would be ‘punishing China for its response to the coronavirus.’

“TikTok collects data in a very similar way to US applications,” he told Arab News. “However the main concern is that the US has regulations and compliance that must be met when collecting customer data, such as GDPR data privacy regulation. In the case of TikTok, we don’t know as much about how the data is being used or stored because we don’t know their regulations.”
Following a provisional ban in April 2019, India’s Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology banned TikTok permanently in June this year, along with 58 other Chinese apps. The ministry claimed that the apps were a “threat to the sovereignty and security of the country” following a Himalayan border clash with Chinese troops in the disputed territory of Ladakh.
Indonesia temporarily blocked TikTok in July 2018, citing public concern regarding “illegal content” such as pornography and blasphemy. However, the app was unblocked following various changes from TikTok such as the opening of a government liaison office and implementing security mechanisms.
Recently, the US became the third country to seriously consider banning the app, according to information from President Donald Trump’s administration.
Trump also weighed in on a potential TikTok ban. In an interview with Gray Television, Trump said that banning the app would be “punishing China for its response to the coronavirus.”
“Look, what happened with China with this virus, what they’ve done to this country and to the entire world is disgraceful,” he said.
While Saudi Arabia has yet to announce a ban of any kind of TikTok, local users and followers are trying to practice caution while using the app anyway.
Alhumood considered making videos on the platform, but dismissed the idea and only uses it to follow other people’s videos.
“I have ideas for it, sure, but I’d rather not take the risk. I don’t even have a username or a registered account, and that’s one of the better things about TikTok. I only have the app, but I can still watch all the videos without giving them my private information.”
Mohammed also said that she had no interest in creating videos herself, though she did have a registered account in order to comment on videos and keep track of her favorites.
However Al-Jaber said that, in his opinion, registering an account on TikTok did not necessarily pose more of a risk than using other social media.
“If you use Facebook or Twitter, it’s not much different than using TikTok,” he said.