Saudi Film Festival opens its doors at Sharqiah Season

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Filmmakers and stars from the UAE film industry also attended the 5th Saudi Film Festival. (AN photo by Essam Al-Ghalib)
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Saudi actress Mariam Al-Ghamdi, at the 5th Saudi Film Festival in Dhahran. (AN photo by Essam Al-Ghalib)
Updated 22 March 2019

Saudi Film Festival opens its doors at Sharqiah Season

  • Maan Mansour: Any Saudi film recognized at a festival is a success for the country
  • Saudi actress Mariam Al-Ghamdi, famed for her appearances on shows such as “Selfie,” was also on the red carpet

DHAHRAN: The fifth Saudi Film Festival opened at the King Abdulaziz Center for World Culture (Ithra) in Dhahran on Thursday evening, bringing with it a “who’s who” of Gulf cinema.

Organized by the Saudi Arabian Society for Culture and Arts, the six-day festival aims to discover and nurture talented filmmakers from across the region, helping them build connections within the industry. 

Among the movies tipped for success — having already picked up gongs at the Los Angeles Film Awards and the Indie Gathering International Film Festival — is Saudi entry “The Investor,” written and directed by Khalid Fahad and starring Aziz Gharbawi and Maan Mansour.

Mansour said: “This is the fourth film I have acted in, but the most important so far, as it has been nominated at the London Film Festival, and won awards at the Hollywood Short Film Festival and the Ohio Film Festival.

“Any Saudi film recognized at a festival is a success for the country. Anyone who has talent should pursue it and work at it and, InshaAllah, will succeed.”

Also in attendance was the filmmaker Mohammed Sindi, who told Arab News: “It is really good to be here. This is maybe the Kingdom’s only film festival, and generally these festivals are like golf courses for filmmakers. All the deals that happen, the connections and the networking happens here, so it is very important to have a platform like this where filmmakers can get to know each other.

“Most importantly, it is inspiring to see other people’s work, and it motivates you to keep working harder. It is great, we could not ask for more.”

Saudi actress Mariam Al-Ghamdi, famed for her appearances on shows such as “Selfie,” was also on the red carpet. 

She praised Ithra for organizing the festival and for supporting young filmmakers in Saudi Arabia, saying: “In the past Saudi filmmakers were on their own, but thanks to Ithra, young filmmakers now have the support they need. Back then, there were few Saudi entries, but they still won.”

She was particularly excited at the progress of women in Saudi cinema: “I am so proud to see so many participating. There were very few women in the industry when I started. I am truly proud of what they have achieved, and I hope to have played a part in bringing it about.”

The festival continues until March 25, with appearances scheduled for Cuba Gooding Jr. and Salman Khan, both of whom will speak about the challenges and successes of their careers, and what they endured to reach the top. Tickets are available from the Ithra website.

Saudi rural tourism recovers after months of forced isolation

Updated 11 July 2020

Saudi rural tourism recovers after months of forced isolation

  • Saudis turn to domestic traveling and flock to their nation’s cooler cities and rural areas

TAIF: As Saudi citizens turn to domestic tourism in the country’s summer resorts, adapting to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, rural areas have become targeted by local tourists wishing to get away from the soaring temperatures in most of the Kingdom’s cities.

Visitors are now choosing cold Saudi cities instead of Europe, which they are accustomed to visiting, such as Taif, Al-Baha, and Abha.

COVID-19 has postponed all plans to travel abroad, and attention has now focused on domestic tourism amid strict health protocols in parks, gardens and recreational areas.

Walid Al-Hamidi, vice president of the Tourism Development Council, confirmed to Arab News that Asir, with its facilities and attractions, was ready to receive summer visitors from across the country.

He said that under the directives of Asir's governor, who supervises all activities and events directly and constantly, many committees had been formed to prepare a successful summer tourism season, to optimize the opportunity and allow people to enjoy the exceptional ambiance of Asir.

“A comprehensive tourism plan was set up two years ago, which resulted in a successful Al-Soudah Season with the support of Asir’s Investment Authority,” Al-Hamidi added.

He noted that Asir’s directives aimed this year to build an exceptional tourism model that meets optimal health standards in dealing with COVID-19.

The model is supported by the “Nashama Asir” team — consisting of 4,000 volunteers — who have been trained for months and have all the necessary skills to make the season successful. Their work will continue until the end of the pandemic and throughout the summer.

“Everyone is ready at public facilities, gardens and parks, to serve tourists,” he said, adding “tourists coming from all the over the Kingdom will be welcomed with smiles, enhanced services, and warm welcomes.”

Dr. Sami Al-Obaidi, chairman of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry in Taif, told Arab News that the tourism sector was the economic backbone of any country or city.

He said that Taif was considered one of the most important tourist cities, given its many attractions  that made it top of any list of places to visit in the Kingdom.

“Suspending travel abroad, and limiting tourism … due to the coronavirus pandemic, makes us, as officials and citizens in Taif, well placed for a beautiful and safe tourism season for Taif’s citizens and visitors,” said Al-Obaidi.

“Meetings are held around the clock, headed by Saad Al-Maimouni, the governor of Taif, with the participation of the relevant authorities.”

He expected all sectors, especially tourism, hospitality and a few other businesses in Taif, to recover to some extent during this season, especially now tourists have already started flocking to the region, with numbers set to increase over the coming weeks.