Jeddah book group leads reading revival through novel initiative

Huda Merchant, founder of Jeddah Reads, left, with other members of the group. The team aims to boost literary activites in Jeddah. (Supplied photo )
Updated 15 January 2019

Jeddah book group leads reading revival through novel initiative

  • Jeddah Reads aims to revive reading in the city by making books more available for people yet to discover their inner bibliophile
  • Huda Merchant says she was encouraged to organize the group after noticing a "complete lack of a reading culture” in the city

JEDDAH: In a world dominated by the smartphone and the screen, bookworms have been forced to retreat into the shadows, rarely seen beyond the inner sanctums of libraries and reading rooms. Jeddah Reads, though, plans to change that.

A book-based social initiative, Jeddah Reads is a group that came together with one aim: To revive reading in their city by making books more available for people yet to discover their inner bibliophile.

Formed in 2015, the group thinks that by holding reading groups, workshops and social gatherings, more people will make the choice to start reading for themselves.

Huda Merchant, founder of Jeddah Reads, explained: “In 2014, I was researching cultural issues and trends in Saudi Arabia, and something I noticed was the complete lack of a reading culture.”

Among the projects being organized is Wameed 2.0, a series of talks on various themes, recent growth and change to coincide with the new year, to encourage people to use books to help them achieve their goals.

Abrar Al-Qayem, the project manager, said: “We try to have passionate members. That is the soul of this particular project; to encourage people with creative ideas, be they language-based, say, or artistic, who want to develop them.”



Jeddah Reads has reached out to coffee shops and hospitals to promote their message. “We would like to see people reading books instead of texting,” Al-Qayem added. “Reading in the community is dying.” 

When gathering information about reading in schools, for example, Jeddah Reads made the shocking discovery that over 60 percent of them don’t have libraries. 

“There is a stigma about reading, because new devices are faster and more efficient. We aim to change this, to eliminate the stigma associated with reading,” said Al-Qayem.

The group gives free packages to new readers, with stationery, trinkets and, of course, a book. “We leave it up to chance to decide if the reader will like it!” Al-Qayem explained. 

“For me, reading is healing. I faced a lot of health problems, so I was always stuck with a book. Reading became an escape. I believe that words are powerful; you can always go anywhere through books.”

The next stage for Jeddah Reads is to expand their events to cater for all genders, age groups and genres, and at the rate the movement is progressing, it surely won’t be long before the population of Jeddah transforms into an army of avid readers.

Organizers promise ‘exceptional’ Saudi National Day celebrations

Updated 43 min 14 sec ago

Organizers promise ‘exceptional’ Saudi National Day celebrations

  • We are keen to have the largest international events to create an exceptional season, says GEA CEO Amr Banaja

RIYADH: Fireworks, concerts, festivals and international performances will be among the highlights of the 89th Saudi National Day celebrations this year.

The General Entertainment Authority (GEA) has announced a season of record-breaking events for the annual celebration.

At a press conference in Riyadh on Sunday, GEA CEO Amr Banaja said that Saudi citizens and residents can enjoy a number of entertainment activities planned across 13 regions of the Kingdom as part of the National Day season being supervised by the GEA from Sept. 19 to 23.

“The GEA is proud to oversee the Saudi National Day Season activities by launching a unified identity that brings together the society under “Himma Hatta El-Qimmah,” Banaja said, inspired by the words of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman: “The Saudis’ strength is like that of the Tuwaiq mountain.”

The GEA was proud to be overseeing the occasion, Banaja said. “We are keen to have the largest international events to create an exceptional season befitting this dear country,” he said.

“This year fireworks celebrations will continue for several days where more than 700,000 shots will be fired at an altitude of up to 300 meters, accompanied by music,” he said.

Celebrations will be held in all regions during the season, and visitors will be able to enjoy a range of activities that reflected the unity of the nation and the cohesion of the people and leadership.

“Distinctive international shows designed especially for the National Day will be held in Riyadh from Sept. 21-23,” he said.

Fireworks will light up Jeddah over Al-Hamra Corniche accompanied by sound and light effects and laser shows.

At the five-day Dhahran Exhibition in Dammam starting on Sept. 19, the world’s largest theatrical producer “Cirque du Soleil” will present a specially designed show for Saudi National Day.

Forty artists will present 14 shows of acrobatics, sports, music, and dance. Eight concerts will also be held in a number of regions where, besides international stars, Saudi and Gulf artists will present patriotic songs.

The concerts will begin on the first day of the season on Sept. 19 at Al-Jouf University Stadium in Sakaka with performances by Khaled Abdulrahman and Nabil Shuail.

The next day, a concert will be held at King Khalid Sport City in Tabuk staged by artists Abdullah Al-Rowaished and Aseel Abu Bakr.

On Sept. 21, Majid Al-Mohandes and Dalia Mubarak will perform at Prince Abdul Aziz Bin Musaed Stadium in Hail.

On Sept. 22, two concerts will be performed at King Abdullah Sports City in Buraidah by artists Rashid Al-Majid and Balqees Fathi; the second at Prince Sultan Cultural Center in Jazan by “The Artist of Arabs” Mohammed Abdo and Turki.

On Saudi National Day (Sept. 23), three concerts will be held in Riyadh, Jeddah and Dammam.

Thousands will gather at King Fahd Cultural Center in Riyadh to listen to singers Hussein Al-Jasmi and Abadi Al-Jawhar.

In Jeddah, Rabeh Saqr and the artist Waad will perform at King Abdullah Sports City, while in Dammam, and in the Green Halls in Riyadh, Kuwaiti singer Nawal and the artist Ayed will entertain the audience.

Five forums will take place in five cities, where a number of speakers will present inspirational events.

Forums will be held in Madinah and Tabuk on Sept. 19, while in Abha and Buraidah the forum will be held on Sept. 21 and in Hail on Sept. 23.

Banaja said that the GEA had created 150 smartphone apps for the National Day celebrations with 40,000 downloaded so far.

He thanked the security authorities for their efforts to make the season a success, and all government, private and nonprofit sectors for their contribution.

The programs were mostly free, he said, though there were some concerts for which tickets could be purchased online.

There will also be a major aero show in Riyadh, Jeddah and the Eastern Province, and a Saudi falcon show will be organized in Riyadh, Jeddah and Alkhobar.