Lost in Arrivals: A reporter's Osaka G20 summit diary

Lost in Arrivals: A reporter's Osaka G20 summit diary
Leaders attend a meeting on the digital economy at the G20 Summit in Osaka on June 28, 2019. (AFP)
Updated 29 June 2019

Lost in Arrivals: A reporter's Osaka G20 summit diary

Lost in Arrivals: A reporter's Osaka G20 summit diary
  • The G20 meeting's location is a vast mix of industrial estate, exhibition centre and hotel complex built on reclaimed land
  • The organizers of the world's most anticipated global gathering had banned taxis from the Osaka airport arrival terminal

‘Strangers in a foreign land, the two find escape, distraction and understanding” in Japan, according to the blurb for the 2003 Oscar-winning movie Lost in Translation.
I and my travel companion — sadly not Scarlett Johansson — took quite a long time to find anything at Kansai airport on a squally, wet night ahead of the G20 summit in the city of Osaka.
With the most powerful people in the world all heading there with their huge entourages, the organizers of the summit decided — on perfectly sound security grounds, I’m sure — to ban taxis from the airport arrival terminal.
The helpful lady at the airport information desk advised me to take a train, and handed me a map of the city’s transport system. It looked like the electrical wiring circuit for NASA mission control in Houston, but with not a word of English on it. I declined.
After a humid couple of hours in the airport terminal, our problem was solved, thanks to the intervention of the Saudi delegation in the city who took pity and sent a car to pick us up. We were on our way, in the fuzzy, sleepwalking way induced by a 10-hour overnight flight and the kind of culture shock the Bill Murray character suffered in Lost in Translation.
Osaka probably has some beautiful areas. I look forward to seeing the 16th-century shogunate castle, for example. But the airport drive is through miles of light industrial facilities, the occasional gigantic steel works, and uniformly drab residential developments.
That night passed in the jet-lagged haze the French call a “nuit blanche,” interrupted by phone calls from various people in the Middle East who hadn’t cottoned on to the five-hour time difference.
Bleary-eyed the following morning, it was time to embark on what I had anticipated would be the most demanding part of the two-day power extravaganza: getting media accreditation.
The problem was that to get inside the security cordon around the Intex center where the G20 was being held, you needed a lanyard and a badge. But the collection center for these essential documents was — you guessed it — inside the security cordon.
I solved that problem by hiring a traditional Osaka taxi driver, complete with white gloves and antimacassars, to take me to the venue.
How could the security forces suspect such a reassuring figure of anything sinister? My reasoning was sound — with much bowing of heads we sailed through the cordon.
The Intex complex is a vast mix of industrial estate, exhibition center and hotel complex built on reclaimed land in the shallow waters of Osaka Bay. The media hall for the G20 is a cavernous aircraft hanger of a building, a good 2km walk from the main entrance. It reminded me of an Ikea store, but without the Scandinavian charm.
I had made it anyway, and straight down to business. The opening press conference of the day was from the European Union, represented by EU Council president Donald Tusk and Jean Claude Junker, head of the Commission.
It was immediately obvious that the “Lost in Translation” theme had occurred to the two EU men too. Tusk revealed that “due to jet lag” he had read every word of the big exclusive interview the Financial Times had carried that morning with President Vladimir Putin of Russia.
“What I really object to are authoritarianism, personality cults and the role of oligarchs,” Tusk said. I wonder who he could have been referring to.
Junker appeared equally jet-lagged so early in the morning. He had strongly disagreed with Putin’s view that liberal democracy was an outdated concept, and stuck up for the libertarian multiculturalism the EU represents.
With a press conference under my belt by 10am, it has been a surreal few hours. I thought for one brief moment I caught a glimpse of Scarlett walking through the Intex complex but was probably hallucinating by then.

Frank Kane is an award-winning journalist based in Dubai. Twitter: @frankkanedubai


Saudi Arabia’s Tawakkalna app operating in 75 countries worldwide

Saudi Arabia’s Tawakkalna app operating in 75 countries worldwide
A man displays his details on his mobile phone using the Tawakkalna app as he enters a mall in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. (REUTERS)
Updated 13 June 2021

Saudi Arabia’s Tawakkalna app operating in 75 countries worldwide

Saudi Arabia’s Tawakkalna app operating in 75 countries worldwide
  • An app launched last year by Saudi authorities to help track coronavirus infections is available in 75 countries worldwide
  • The Tawakkalna app was recently updated to show someone’s COVID-19 health status, showing them to be vaccinated or infected, and now functions as a “passport”

JEDDAH: Countries in the first phase of the app’s international availability include: Kuwait, the UAE, Bahrain, Qatar, Oman, Jordan, Algeria, Sudan, Somalia, Morocco, Tunisia, Djibouti, Libya, Egypt, Mauritania, Indonesia, Afghanistan, Uzbekistan, South Africa, Lebanon, Nigeria, India, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Sri Lanka, Philippines, Bangladesh, Portugal, Czech Republic, Denmark, Sweden, the UK, Norway, Austria, the US, Japan, Greece, Spain, Estonia, Italy, Ireland, Iceland, Brunei, Belgium, Poland, Germany, Singapore, Switzerland, France, Finland, Cyprus, Kazakhstan, Croatia, Canada, Latvia, Luxembourg, Lithuania, Liechtenstein, Malta, Malaysia, Monaco, New Zealand, Netherlands, Maldives, and Azerbaijan.

Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Islamic Affairs office in Jazan temporarily closed the Budaiya Mosque in Abu Arish governorate after it was confirmed that the imam had COVID-19.

Field teams undertook preventive and precautionary measures, including sterilization operations and comprehensive maintenance, in preparation for reopening the mosque and receiving worshippers at a later date.

The ministry noted the keenness of worshippers and their active role in reporting mosques that did not comply with health and safety instructions and failed to implement preventive measures.

FASTFACTS

464,780 Total cases

446,960 Recoveries

It asked everyone to report future similar incidents by calling 1933.

Saudi Arabia on Saturday reported 16 more coronavirus-related fatalities, taking the overall death toll to 7,553.

There were 1,077 new cases, bringing the total number of infections 464,780. There are 10,267 active cases, of which 1,562 are in a critical condition.

Of the newly recorded cases, 348 were in Makkah, 225 were in Riyadh, 149 were in the Eastern Province, and 69 were in Madinah.

Authorities said a further 906 patients had recovered from the disease, increasing the total number of recoveries to 446,960.

The country has so far carried out more than 20.27 million PCR tests, with 75,059 carried out in the past 24 hours.

Testing hubs and treatment centers set up throughout the country have dealt with hundreds of thousands of people since the onset of the pandemic.

Taakad centers provide COVID-19 testing for those who show no or only mild symptoms or believe they have come into contact with an infected individual.

Tetamman clinics offer treatment and advice to those with virus symptoms such as fever, loss of taste and smell, and breathing difficulties.

Appointments for both services can be made via the ministry’s Sehhaty app.

Saudi Arabia has vaccinated 15,633,787 people to date.

 


Makkah governor inaugurates prototype of new public transport system

Makkah governor inaugurates prototype of new public transport system
Updated 12 June 2021

Makkah governor inaugurates prototype of new public transport system

Makkah governor inaugurates prototype of new public transport system

 

JEDDAH: Makkah Gov. Prince Khaled Al-Faisal on Saturday inaugurated the prototype of a public transport bus in Makkah.

This will serve citizens as well as pilgrims and visitors of the holy city by introducing an integrated service system in line with the Kingdom’s Vision 2030.

On the sidelines of the Digital Region Projects Exhibition, Prince Khaled was briefed on the operational mechanism of the new transport system, which aims to accommodate needs resulting from the expected growth in the population in Makkah and in the number of visitors to the Grand Mosque and the holy sites.

The new transport system aims to support economic development in Makkah and provide easy access to the Grand Mosque and other mosques in the city as well as educational and health facilities, commercial and recreational areas, and contribute to reducing pollution and protecting the environment by reducing dependence on small cars.

The bus network consists of two stages. The first phase will consist of 12 lines and about 83 stops in which medium-sized buses are used, while the other five lines will be express lines with dedicated tracks, a length of 172 km and about 342 stops, in which buses of greater capacity and frequency are used.

The project also includes operating more than 400 buses, including 240 regular buses that can accommodate up to 85 seats, and 160 buses with a capacity of 125 seats. This is in addition to the construction of a bus accommodation station, which includes a control building, drivers’ management building, gas station, light maintenance workshop, bus washing and maintenance station, heavy maintenance workshop, bus stops and drivers’ housing facilities.

The buses are equipped with environment protection systems that reduce Euro-4 carbon emissions, include protection systems through surveillance cameras inside and outside the bus, a collision-avoidance system, electronic screens showing the destination to be reached, as well as a hydraulic system to help people with special needs, and places for strollers and people with special needs.

The vehicles will also have Internet service (Wi-Fi) and an audio-visual system displaying trip information to passengers. Buses will operate for an average of 22 hours a day.

 


Saudi Arabia’s Jouf Olive Festival celebrates prosperity of ‘blessed’ tree

Saudi Arabia’s Jouf Olive Festival celebrates prosperity of ‘blessed’ tree
Saudi cities have become centers of olive oil production. (SPA)
Updated 13 June 2021

Saudi Arabia’s Jouf Olive Festival celebrates prosperity of ‘blessed’ tree

Saudi Arabia’s Jouf Olive Festival celebrates prosperity of ‘blessed’ tree
  • Over 140,000 tons of fruit produced in KSA annually, and 120,000 tons of oil
  • Farmers from nine countries invited to share industry experiences with local producers

MAKKAH: The Jouf Olive Festival celebrates the crop, and this year, in its 14th year, hosted 45 farmers representing the region all competing for the Prince Faisal bin Nawaf Award, worth SR500,000 ($133,000) and given by the prince, who is also the regional governor.

The festival also hosted, for the first time, farmers from the US, Spain, Argentina, Italy, China, Palestine, Jordan, Morocco and Egypt, to share their experiences of the industry.

Omar Al-Hamwan, director general of public relations and media and the official spokesperson for Jouf Municipality, said Saudi Arabia’s olive production amounts to 120 tons annually, and there is a specialized committee to monitor the volume of sales at the end of the festival and to crown the winners of the award.

He added that no oil could be entered into the festival unless it was certified and tested by the laboratory of Jouf Municipality, to ensure its quality, acidity and suitability for human consumption.

Other Saudi cities have also become centers of olive oil production, he said, such as Tabuk and Al-Baha, but Jouf still produces the largest volume.

HIGHLIGHT

Saudi Arabia now has over 20 million olive trees, more than 80 percent of which are in the Jouf region.

He added that Basita, an agricultural area in Jouf, has the largest olive farm in the world, owned by Al-Jouf Agricultural Development Co., which produces 10,000 tons of the finest oil annually, citing the abundance of water in the area as one of the reasons behind the success.

The CEO of Al-Jouf Agricultural Development Co., Mazen Badawood, said that this year’s festival was one of the best in terms of organization, direction and participation.

“Each year, we see a new image of the festival, and this time we witnessed an improvement as many wonderful activities were added, so as to place olive cultivation in a good light and highlight its importance in Saudi Arabia and worldwide,” said Badawood.

He added that the olive tree was a blessed tree, mentioned in the Qur’an and in the Prophet’s teachings, that provided great economic returns, whether from its fruit, leaves, or even its wood.

He pointed out that the olive tree consumes less water compared to other crops, noting that Al-Jouf Co. uses modern drip irrigation techniques for sustainability.

Olive cultivation is carried out by planting both trees for both traditional and intensive farming. Al-Jouf Co. is considered one of the pioneers in cultivating and developing olive trees in the region, especially for intensive production.

Badawood said his company is proud to be the owner of the largest modern organic olive farm in the world, with more than 5 million trees and a planting area of over 7,300 hectares.

“Saudi Arabia now has over 20 million olive trees, more than 80 percent of which are in the Jouf region, which is famous for olive cultivation thanks to its suitable environment,” he explained.

Badawood noted that the Kingdom produces over 140,000 tons of olive fruits annually, with 120,000 tons of oil being made as a result.

He pointed out that Saudi Arabia consumes about 45,000 tons of olive oil per year, 15,000 to 18,000 tons of which are locally produced while the rest is imported.

However, he noted, with the expansion of olive cultivation, there is an opportunity for self-sufficiency in the near future, which goes in line with the Kingdom’s vision of increasing sustainability and decreasing imports.

 


Who’s Who: Abdulraheem Kano, director at Saudi Post and Logistics

Who’s Who: Abdulraheem Kano, director at Saudi Post and Logistics
Updated 12 June 2021

Who’s Who: Abdulraheem Kano, director at Saudi Post and Logistics

Who’s Who: Abdulraheem Kano, director at Saudi Post and Logistics

Abdulraheem Kano has been the internal workforce mobility and outsourced services director at Saudi Post and Logistics since April 2020.

Between February 2019 and April 2020, Kano served as talent acquisition manager at Noon, one of the leading e-commerce companies in the Middle East.

From September 2016 to October 2018, Kano held the position of strategic projects manager at SAED, a Saudi company providing and managing personnel solutions in the workforce, from basic positions to the executive level.

Kano joined SAED in July 2014 and worked as talent acquisition manager until September 2016.

From January 2013 to July 2014, he held the position of senior recruitment officer at Tamer Group, a leading health, beauty care and prestige product company. Its core activities include importation, distribution, promotion, marketing and manufacturing.

From January 2012 to January 2013, Kano worked as an insurance officer, controlling all general insurance-related activities including motors, marine and properties.

Kano holds a bachelor’s degree in business administration from King Abdul Aziz University, Jeddah. He received a diploma in IT from the University of South Australia.

He also completed an HRBP certification course from the Society for Human Resource Management.


Mosque closed in Jazan after imam tests positive

Mosque closed in Jazan after imam tests positive
Masjid closed in Jazan province after imam tests positive. (AFP)
Updated 13 June 2021

Mosque closed in Jazan after imam tests positive

Mosque closed in Jazan after imam tests positive
  • The ministry noted the keenness of worshippers and their active role in reporting mosques that did not comply with health and safety instructions

JEDDAH: Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Islamic Affairs office in Jazan temporarily closed the Budaiya Mosque in Abu Arish governorate after it was confirmed that the imam had COVID-19.
Field teams undertook preventive and precautionary measures, including sterilization operations and comprehensive maintenance, in preparation for reopening the mosque and receiving worshippers at a later date.
The ministry noted the keenness of worshippers and their active role in reporting mosques that did not comply with health and safety instructions.