CAIRO: Egypt gave a warm welcome to Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman on Monday during a visit to the Suez Canal on the second day of his three-day trip.
Posters featuring Salman alongside President Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi lined major roads in central Cairo, where Salman will later visit the main Muslim and Christian institutions and see a performance at the Opera.
The prince and el-Sisi traveled through one of the new tunnels being built under the canal, before boarding a boat from a red-carpeted dock as a military band played fanfare.
Egypt seeks investments from Saudi Arabia to help develop the area, where Cairo wants to establish an international transport, logistics and production hub.
The two are also expected to discuss the ongoing wars in Syria and Yemen, as well as their joint boycott of tiny Gulf nation Qatar, which they accuse of fomenting extremism across the region.
Egypt, the most populous country in the Arab world, and Saudi Arabia, one of the wealthiest, tightened their longstanding alliance after el-Sisi led the military overthrow of an elected but divisive Islamist president in 2013, with Riyadh providing tens of billions of dollars in aid.
The two countries have plans to build a causeway across the Red Sea and to jointly develop areas on both sides.
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)
Jeddah-based studio making online gaming educational for children
Hakawati offers alternatives inspired by Arab culture, history, and language
Updated 4 min 1 sec ago
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.
• 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.”
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.
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
Updated 33 min 52 sec ago
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.
• 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.
Earlier, the French Ambassador to the Kingdom described the Houthi attack as "brutal and outrageous"
Updated 14 June 2021
JEDDAH: The United States on Monday said it "strongly condemned" a Houthi drone attack that damaged a school in Saudi Arabia.
The explosives-laden drone was launched across the border from Yemen and crashed into a school in Asir region, Saudi Civil Defense said on Sunday.
"Such attacks threaten civilians, including school children," the State Department's Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs said on Monday. "We join other nations in condemning the attack and call on the Houthis to commit to a lasting ceasefire."
Earlier, the French Ambassador to the Kingdom described the Houthi attack as "brutal and outrageous."
The comments follow condemnation from the UAE, Bahrain, the Arab Parliament, and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation.
The attack comes as the Iran-backed militia continue to attack Saudi Arabia with drones.
The Arab coalition said on Monday that Saudi air defenses intercepted and destroyed an explosive-laden drone launched towards Khamis Mushait
Saudi air defense intercepts Houthi drone attack on Khamis Mushait
Coalition says it thwarted all hostile Houthi attempts aimed at targeting civilians and civilian objects
Updated 14 June 2021
RIYADH: The Arab coalition said Monday that the Saudi Arabian air defense has intercepted and destroyed an explosive-laden drone launched by the terrorist Houthis militia towards Khamis Mushait, Al Arabiya TV reported.
The coalition said it thwarted all hostile Houthi attempts aimed at targeting civilians and civilian objects.
Adding that the coalition is taking all operational measures to protect civilians from such attacks.
Saudi Arabia on Sunday reported 19 more COVID-19-related deaths, taking the overall toll to 7,572
Updated 14 June 2021
JEDDAH: National COVID-19 committees in the Kingdom are studying giving vaccines to people between the ages of 12 and 18, the Ministry of Health’s official spokesman, Dr. Muhammad Al- Abd Al-Aly, said on Sunday.
The news came during a press conference held by the health spokesman with the participation of the official spokesman for the Ministry of Commerce, Abdulrahman Al-Hussein.
Al-Aly said that postponing the administration of the second dose lies in achieving the highest level of immunity among society members with the first dose. He confirmed that there had been no changes in the COVID-19 infection curve in the Kingdom, adding that demand for the vaccine and a commitment to precautionary measures contributed to achieving this.
For his part, Al-Hussein said that after 48 days on Aug. 1, those unvaccinated would not be allowed to enter commercial facilities, centers and malls.
The Ministry of Interior announced earlier that shoppers should be fully vaccinated, or have had one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, or been vaccinated after recovering from coronavirus infection — with the exception of age or health groups not obligated to take the vaccine.
He said that the commitment among society members was high during the last period, and the discipline was noticeable, contributing to the return of some activities and services that were restricted earlier such as the reopening of fitting rooms and the use of touch screens.
• Saudi Arabia reported 1,017 new cases of COVID-19 on Sunday.
• The death toll has risen to 7,572 with 19 more virus-related fatalities.
The spokesman reiterated the four practices that lead to crowding inside and outside of commercial establishments, which are still prohibited: Inviting celebrities and advertisers to these places, opening ceremonies for shops and markets, commercial competitions that require attendance, and inaugural occasions for products or services.
Meanwhile, the Ministry of Health said that obese people were the most vulnerable to infection from the coronavirus disease and its severe complications, stressing that the vaccine should be taken for protection while implementing precautionary measures.
The ministry, through its Twitter account and awareness platform “Live Healthy,” published an infographic to outline the risks of obesity and associated ailments as a result of the disease.
Saudi Arabia on Sunday reported 19 more COVID-19-related deaths, taking the overall toll to 7,572.
There were 1,017 new cases, meaning that 465,797 people in the country have now contracted the disease. A total of 10,132 cases remain active, of which 1,575 patients are in critical condition.
Of the newly recorded cases, 344 were in Makkah, 198 in Riyadh, 155 in the Eastern Province and 68 in Madinah.
The ministry said that 1,133 patients had recovered from the disease, increasing the total number of recoveries in the Kingdom to 448,093.