Saudi Arabia announces first of 20 giant leisure parks to open in Riyadh

Saudi Arabia announces first of 20 giant leisure parks to open in Riyadh
The Riyadh Park mall during the opening of the cinema in April. The new entertainment complex will include cinemas and sports venues. (Reuters file photo)
Updated 10 January 2019

Saudi Arabia announces first of 20 giant leisure parks to open in Riyadh

Saudi Arabia announces first of 20 giant leisure parks to open in Riyadh
  • The 100,000 square meter development will be overseen by Saudi Entertainment Ventures Company (SEVEN), a wholly owned subsidiary of the Public Investment Fund.
  • The project will feature cinemas, restaurants and green and open areas

RIYADH: A massive entertainment complex is being planned for Riyadh as part of a multibillion-dollar drive to boost the leisure sector in Saudi Arabia.

The 100,000-square-meter project will be developed by the Saudi Entertainment Ventures Company (SEVEN), a unit of the Kingdom’s Public Investment Fund, according to a statement published by the Saudi Press Agency.

Company chairman Abdullah bin Nasser Al-Dawoud said the project would “feature a distinct urban design, the first-of-its-kind, with green and open areas that are equipped for sports activities, entertainment, and live shows as well as a wide selection of local and international restaurants and cafes for visitors of all ages to enjoy.”

“It will be a one-stop family-friendly entertainment destination and attraction for everyone to enjoy,” said Bill Ernest, CEO of SEVEN.

“In addition to being the premier leisure destination for sports, fun, art and live shows, each cluster will feature a cinema – designed according to the international standards in terms of quality and overall experience,” Ernest added.

Gulf states are attracting increased interest from global theme park operators, helped by the region’s high disposable income and improved transport connections which have drawn more tourists to the region, often breaking long-haul trips for short stopovers in cities such as Dubai and Abu Dhabi.

The Warner Bros theme park in Abu Dhabi is the latest such project. It officially opened to the public in July at a cost of $1 billion. 

The Public Investment Fund established SEVEN last year with initial funding of SR10 billion ($2.67 billion) and hired former Disney executive Ernest to run it.

Before his Saudi appointment he served as president and managing director of Asia for Walt Disney Parks and Resorts where he oversaw the company’s parks and resorts operations and development throughout Asia, including Hong Kong Disneyland, Tokyo Disneyland and Shanghai Disney Resort.

SEVEN aims to build about 20 entertainment centers around the country as Saudi Arabia seeks to add more jobs in the services sector while also relaxing social norms and diversifying the economy away from reliance on oil.

The PIF said that it expects the company’s projects would attract more than 50 million visitors a year, create more than 22,000 direct jobs and contribute $2 billion to Saudi Arabia’s gross domestic product by 2030.

SEVEN was established by the PIF in December 2017 and was the first entity to obtain a license for operating cinemas in the Kingdom. 

The company launched the first movie theater in Saudi Arabia after a hiatus of more than 35 years, in partnership with US-based AMC Group, the largest cinema operator in the world.


Saudi minister meets UK special envoy for Gulf region

Saudi Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Adel Al-Jubeir receives the special envoy of the British prime minister for the Arabian Gulf region, Edward Lister. (SPA)
Saudi Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Adel Al-Jubeir receives the special envoy of the British prime minister for the Arabian Gulf region, Edward Lister. (SPA)
Updated 29 min 58 sec ago

Saudi minister meets UK special envoy for Gulf region

Saudi Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Adel Al-Jubeir receives the special envoy of the British prime minister for the Arabian Gulf region, Edward Lister. (SPA)

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Adel Al-Jubeir met with the special envoy of the British prime minister for the Arabian Gulf region, Edward Lister, in Riyadh on Sunday.
During the meeting, both sides reviewed the historical relations between their two countries and ways to develop them, the Kingdom’s foreign ministry said.
The also discussed regional and international issues of common interest, the ministry added.


Saudi senior source denies FT report of holding secret talks with Iran

Saudi senior source denies FT report of holding secret talks with Iran
Updated 18 April 2021

Saudi senior source denies FT report of holding secret talks with Iran

Saudi senior source denies FT report of holding secret talks with Iran
  • Unnamed sources said the first round of talks took place in Baghdad on April 9

DUBAI: A senior Saudi official has denied direct talks have been held with Iran, four years after the two countries cut off diplomatic ties, contradicting a Financial Times report claiming discussions were ongoing between the two major regional players.

The Financial Times report, citing unnamed sources said the first round of talks took place in Baghdad on April 9, which included discussions on attacks against Saudi Arabia by the Iran-backed Houthi militia.

The report said the talks were being facilitated by Iraqi prime minister Mustafa Al-Kadhimi, who held talks with Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed in Riyadh last month.

Interestingly, not only did a Saudi source deny the story, but neither the Iranian and Iraqi governments provided the FT with a comment.

The report comes as major countries – China, Russia, France, Britain, Germany – engaged with Iran on reviving the 2015 nuclear deal have agreed to accelerate work on issues, including which sanctions on Tehran that the US would lift.

The nuclear deal, formally called the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, collapsed in 2018 when the US pulled out and then-president Donald Trump reimposed sanctions against Tehran.

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Saudi police catch seven quarantine violators in Eastern Province

Saudi police catch seven quarantine violators in Eastern Province
Saudi police arrested seven people for violating isolation and quarantine instructions. (SPA)
Updated 18 April 2021

Saudi police catch seven quarantine violators in Eastern Province

Saudi police catch seven quarantine violators in Eastern Province
  • Health Ministry reports 948 new cases, 775 recoveries, 9 deaths

JEDDAH: Eastern Province police on Saturday arrested seven people for violating isolation and quarantine instructions, after they were confirmed to be infected with COVID-19.

Regional police spokesman Lt. Col. Mohammed bin Shar Al-Shehri said they had been caught in Dammam, Abqaiq, Al-Ahsa and Alkhobar and that all preliminary legal procedures had been taken against them for their cases to be referred to Public Prosecution.
People who violate quarantine procedures in Saudi Arabia are fined up to SR200,000 ($53,333), jailed for up to two years or both.
If the violation is repeated, the penalty imposed from the previous incident is doubled.
COVID-19 case numbers continue to rise in Saudi Arabia, with 948 new infections reported on Saturday to bring the total to 404,054.
The country has 9,449 active cases and 1,018 of them are in critical condition.

FASTFACT

People who violate quarantine procedures in Saudi Arabia are fined up to SR200,000 ($53,333), jailed for up to two years or both. If the violation is repeated, the penalty imposed from the previous incident is doubled.

Riyadh reported the highest number of cases with 419, followed by Makkah with 210 and the Eastern Province with 133. Three regions reported cases in the single digits: Najran with nine, Baha with eight and Jouf with seven cases.
There were 775 new recoveries, taking this total to 387,795, and a further nine deaths due to COVID-19 complications. The death toll is 6,810.
Saudi Arabia has administered more than 6.9 million COVID-19 vaccine doses so far. Approximately 20 percent of the Kingdom’s population has now received at least one jab.
There were 51,126 PCR tests carried out in the past 24 hours, raising the total number conducted in the Kingdom to more than 16.12 million.


Dozens of world’s finest carpets cover floor of Prophet’s Chamber in Madinah

Dozens of world’s finest carpets cover floor of Prophet’s Chamber in Madinah
Visitors were allowed to enter the chamber in groups. All carpets were disinfected after every group. (SPA)
Updated 18 April 2021

Dozens of world’s finest carpets cover floor of Prophet’s Chamber in Madinah

Dozens of world’s finest carpets cover floor of Prophet’s Chamber in Madinah
  • More than 23,000 liters of eco-friendly disinfectants have been used for sanitizing carpets at the Prophet’s Mosque and the Bab Al-Salam corridor over the past few months
  • The channel reported that every carpet was fitted with an electronic chip containing data

JEDDAH: Dozens of the world’s finest carpets cover the floor of Rawdah Al-Sharifah (the Prophet’s Chamber) at the Prophet’s Mosque in Madinah, as part of the Saudi government’s care for the Two Holy Mosques.
There are 50 carpets in the chamber and all are crafted from top-quality materials and woven to the highest standards.
Bandar Al-Husseini is head of the carpet department at the Services Affairs Administration of the General Presidency of the Grand Mosque and the Prophet’s Mosque. He said that the carpets had scheduled sweeping and cleaning programs that were carried out on a daily basis.
“In case a carpet is damaged it is immediately removed and replaced with another carpet,” he said. “The carpets are also subject to disinfection and sanitization processes around the clock.”
He told the Al-Ekhbariya channel that visitors were allowed to enter the chamber in groups, adding that all carpets were disinfected and sanitized after every group.


The channel reported that every carpet was fitted with an electronic chip containing data.

HIGHLIGHT

There are 50 carpets in the chamber and all are crafted from top-quality materials and woven to the highest standards.

“These chips can give information about a certain carpet since it was made and information about the cleansing history of the carpet and its future cleaning schedule,” Al-Ekhbariya reported.
More than 23,000 liters of eco-friendly disinfectants have been used for sanitizing carpets at the Prophet’s Mosque and the Bab Al-Salam corridor over the past few months.
According to the Saudi Press Agency, this step is part of precautionary measures taken to ensure the safety of worshippers and visitors during the coronavirus pandemic.
It also said that fragrances were used more than 7,743 times to perfume the mosque during the same period.

Mosque committees have been changing 450 carpets, and replacing the ones used in the Prophet’s Chamber every 10 days.

The mosque has also been applying preventive measures by distancing people, using marks on the carpets to avoid congestion.


Saudi charity platform receives SR260 million in donations in 24 hours

Saudi charity platform receives SR260 million in donations in 24 hours
Ehsan is designed to be easily accessible to all of Saudi Arabia’s residents, allowing them to donate to causes such as renovating and furnishing the homes of the needy, giving food baskets to families, providing care for the elderly. (SPA)
Updated 18 April 2021

Saudi charity platform receives SR260 million in donations in 24 hours

Saudi charity platform receives SR260 million in donations in 24 hours
  • Ehsan acts as a safe and legal way of donating money to worthy causes, with people putting their money into trusted hands

JEDDAH: Charity platform Ehsan has received SR260 million (($69.3 million) in donations in the first 24 hours of its launch.

King Salman, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, philanthropists and companies are among those supporting Saudi Arabia’s latest national charity campaign.
Among the largest donations received are: SR40 million from Waqf Sulaiman Al-Rajhi; SR25 million from the late Sheikh Mohammed Abdulaziz Al-Rajhi’s charities Nama and Ataa; SR15 million from Saudi Aramco; SR10 million from Saudi Telecom Co.; SR7 million from Al-Rajhi Bank, and SR5 million each from Saudi Basic Industries Corp. and Saudi National Bank.
The donations, which continue to be made, will benefit hundreds of thousands of people.
Ehsan is designed to be easily accessible to all of the Kingdom’s residents, allowing them to donate to causes such as renovating and furnishing the homes of the needy, giving food baskets to families, providing care for the elderly, helping dialysis patients, and housing orphans.
Each cause has a set limit and users can select which area to donate to and follow the progress of their contributions.
Ehsan has also integrated other charities’ services into its systems: Furijat, an Interior Ministry platform to help prisoners convicted of financial crimes, and the King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Center.
It also allows users to pay Zakat, a form of almsgiving treated as a religious obligation or tax that covers immediate needs such as food, water, shelter and medicine for those in need.

FASTFACTS

Among the largest donations received are:

SR40m Waqf Sulaiman Al-Rajhi

SR25m Nama and Ataa charities

SR15m Saudi Aramco

SR10m Saudi Telecom Co.

Ehsan CEO Abdulaziz Al-Hammadi told the Al-Ekhbariya news channel that the campaign’s initial results had been exceptional, demonstrating the extent of giving from members of the community as well as their social solidarity.
“More than 2 million visited the site in the first four hours of the launch of the website, with more than SR70 million donated by private citizens alone so far,” said Al-Hammadi. “Through the platform, more than 500,000 people have promptly benefitted from the donations and more than 300 causes have reached their goals.”
Ehsan acts as a safe and legal way of donating money to worthy causes, with people putting their money into trusted hands.
Jameel G., a 67-year-old retired businessman, has traveled to a number of East Asian countries during the past four decades and made strong bonds and connections in a number of Muslim provinces and regions.
He said that, through this network, acquaintances would ask for help to build water wells or mosques in poor communities.
Over time, and amid less frequent traveling, he observed that construction prices were increasing and so were the funding demands. Also, the final results of the projects were not what were initially agreed on.
“Though most of my contacts are good and trustworthy people, it’s the third parties that I found to be making these demands and something was off,” he told Arab News. “The moment I found (out) that the money I was sending was swindled was when two mosques were being built at the same time and the pictures that I received were one of the same, same surroundings, same white-washed exterior and details. This incident happened 10 years ago and that was the last time I did any kind of philanthropic work.
“As I’m not very tech-savvy, I’ve requested the help of my daughter to show me how I can use the Ehsan platform to donate and I’ve also encouraged many of those I know who would like to donate money to go through the system. Too many Saudis have lost money with the aim for it to go to a good cause. It isn’t right. It’s not the Muslim way. Ehsan relieves us from that burden.”
Ehsan was launched on Friday by the Saudi Authority for Data and Artificial Intelligence (SDAIA).
The platform aims to promote the values of charitable work in Saudi society by encouraging donations and developing the nonprofit sector, increasing its efficiency and reliability, and contributing to enhancing the reliability and transparency of charitable and development activities.

SDAIA president, Abdullah Al-Ghamdi, said Saudi Arabia had been a pioneer in the charity field since the nation was founded by King Abdul Aziz.

“The Ehsan platform was established to help donations reach their beneficiaries easily, conveniently and promptly,” he added. “It is considered the latest advanced technological initiative, with the highest professional standards that supports and organizes charitable work in the Kingdom.”