Saudi National Day turns spotlight on cinema’s golden years

Saudi National Day turns spotlight on cinema’s golden years
1 / 4
Fouad Jamjoom, pictured in the background in a TV studio, set up a chain of eight cinemas. (Supplied)
Saudi National Day turns spotlight on cinema’s golden years
2 / 4
Saudi National Day turns spotlight on cinema’s golden years
3 / 4
Cinema Al-Ahwash (backyard cinemas) operated in a coutryard or yard. (Supplied)
Saudi National Day turns spotlight on cinema’s golden years
4 / 4
A movie poster for the Egyptian film ‘Years of Love.’
Updated 23 September 2019

Saudi National Day turns spotlight on cinema’s golden years

Saudi National Day turns spotlight on cinema’s golden years
  • ‘Daring cinema pioneer’ opened theaters around Saudi Arabia
  • End to the cinema ban is paving the way for a new generation of Saudi filmmakers 

JEDDAH: More than half a century ago, cinemas were a popular source of entertainment in major cities in the Kingdom. Westerners working for the California State Oil Company (later Aramco) were the first to introduce cinemas to Saudis, setting up large screens in their residential compounds during the 1930s to watch American and European films. Cinemas soon spread to the four major Saudi cities: Riyadh, Jeddah, Taif and Abha. There were more than 30 theaters in Jeddah alone, with admission prices ranging up to SR10 ($2.80).
Thuraya Arafah, 70, who worked with the General Administration of Girls Education in Jeddah, recalls visiting Cinema Jamjoom and Cinema Al-Attas in Jeddah.
“They used to show Egyptian films with Farid Al-Atrash, Anwar Wagdi, Shadia, Faten Hamama and Abdel Halim Hafez, all leading actors and actresses still adored to this day,” she told Arab News.
Jomanah Khoja, producer of Al-Arabiya’s documentary Cinema Al-Ahwash (Backyard Cinemas), said the popular movies at the time were mostly Egyptian. “There were also many American movies like James Bond, for example.”
Ticket prices varied from one yard cinema to the next. “The variations of prices, according to some owners we interviewed, said tickets were sold for 2 SAR while others were 20 SAR. The price of the ticket also depended on the movie: If it was a new movie, prices were more expensive.”
The introduction of VHS cassettes was “a key factor in the disappearance of these cinemas,” Khoja said.  
However, in the wake of the 1979 terror attack on the Grand Mosque by Juhayman Al-Otaibi and his followers, conservative voices increasingly spoke out against the spread of cinemas, TV and music. A major social shift occurred that led to cinemas being banned from the late 1970s and early 1980s.
Saudi screenwriter Yasser Hammad said that there were cinemas operating in Taif and Madinah, while in Riyadh cinemas were opened at the Al-Hilal, Al-Nassr and Al-Shabab sports clubs. Cinemas were also still in use at Aramco facilities in the Eastern Province.
“Jeddah had several. They were called Cinema Al-Ahwash (backyard cinemas). They operated in a house courtyard or in an adjacent yard used initially to accommodate pilgrims with their camels, so I figure this might be their off-season use of the space,” he told Arab News
The city’s theaters included Al-Attas Hotel cinema on the beachfront; Cinema Al-Hindaweya; Cinema Al-Baljoon in Al-Sharafiya district, just off the Old Airport Road; and Cinema Abu-Saffiya, near Bab Sharif, as well as cinemas in the Egyptian and Jordanian embassies. Most were operated by wealthier families who had money to buy or rent cinema projectors, he said.
“The projector would be a 16mm along with a mix of chairs. Films were rented out, and the 16mm film roll was cut into parts, so each cinema would rent out a part of the film and then swap them in the middle. Cinemas had triple bill film screenings, showing an Egyptian film first, followed by either an Italian or an American movie, and finishing  with an Indian movie.”
Hammad said the leader of the era was Fouad Jamjoom, who first went to Egypt in the mid-1950s.
“He was fascinated by cinema and was chasing his dream. He opened a cinema in Tanta, Egypt, which got him more involved in the process of distributing films, which evolved into producing.”
Jamjoom returned to Jeddah in the early 1960s and set up a chain of eight cinemas. “Cinema shops also rented out projectors, films and even promotional material such as film posters. Eid specials showed the latest James Bond films, “Khally Ballak men Zouzou” and other blockbusters,” Hammad said.
Jamjoom censored the films himself, “even though cinema at the time didn’t require much censoring.” He also held premieres and invited Egyptian stars such as Ahmed Ramzy, Farid Shawqi, Magda El-Khatib and others.
Hammad explained that the yard cinemas had only male audiences, except for a few houses that held private screenings for women. “Even the young male audience went to the cinema without their parents knowing,” he said.
“Jamjoom wanted families to attend, and made a theater with a roof and air-conditioning in the mid-1970s that had seating for women in the upper section.”
Hammad said that cinema at the time appealed to a young audience with little to do during their free time. “National television wasn’t as impressive as watching ‘King Kong’ on a large screen,” he said. Shehab Jamjoom, a close relative of the Saudi cinema pioneer, said: “Without a doubt, he was daring, ambitious and had so much determination. He had so much love for the field and would try to overcome any obstacle.
“He was fighting to bring entertainment to people — innocent entertainment — and today it has become accepted and licensed.”
Cinemas officially returned in the Kingdom after a 35-year hiatus in April 2018, with the first screening of Marvel’s “Black Panther” at the AMC cinema in Riyadh’s King Abdullah Financial District. In January 2019, Jeddah witnessed the opening of its first cinema, Vox, at Red Sea Mall. The return of cinema has paved the way for a new generation of Saudi filmmakers.
“Roll ’em,” a drama produced by an all-Saudi team, made its way to movie theaters in March 2019. The lifting of the ban on cinemas is part of widespread social reforms led by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.


Organization of Islamic Cooperation chief, Moroccan envoy discuss cooperation

Organization of Islamic Cooperation chief, Moroccan envoy discuss cooperation
Updated 26 February 2021

Organization of Islamic Cooperation chief, Moroccan envoy discuss cooperation

Organization of Islamic Cooperation chief, Moroccan envoy discuss cooperation

JEDDAH: The secretary-general of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), Dr. Yousef Al-Othaimeen, on Thursday received the Moroccan ambassador to Saudi Arabia and OIC permanent representative, Dr. Mustafa Al-Mansouri.
The envoy signed the statute of the Islamic Organization for Food Security on behalf of his country and discussed with Al-Othaimeen ways to further strengthen cooperation between the OIC and Morocco. Al-Othaimeen praised Morocco’s leading role within the organization and in joint Islamic action.


Who’s Who: Dr. Mahmoud Al-Yamany, executive president of Second Health Cluster

Who’s Who: Dr. Mahmoud Al-Yamany, executive president of Second Health Cluster
Updated 26 February 2021

Who’s Who: Dr. Mahmoud Al-Yamany, executive president of Second Health Cluster

Who’s Who: Dr. Mahmoud Al-Yamany, executive president of Second Health Cluster

Dr. Mahmoud Al-Yamany is the executive president of a group of Saudi healthcare facilities known as the Second Health Cluster. It includes King Fahd Medical City, Prince Mohammed bin Abdul Aziz Hospital, King Saud Hospital for Chest Diseases, Al-Yamamah Hospital, and a group of primary healthcare centers in northeastern Riyadh.
Al-Yamany has also served as director of the National Neuroscience Institute, chairman of the board of directors of the Scientific Committee for Neurosurgery, medical director of neurology and head of the department of neurosurgery, both at King Fahd Medical City, and as a consultant of neurosurgery at the Riyadh Medical Complex.
He sat as chairman of the accreditation committee for health promotion at King Fahd Medical City, was a consultant of neurosurgery at King Faisal Specialist Hospital and Research Center, and was an honorary professor of assistant clinical neurosurgery at King Saud University.
In addition, he held the positions of assistant executive director of medical departments and deputy executive director for medical affairs at King Fahd Medical City.
He is a representative of Saudi Arabia and an examiner on the Arab Board of Neurosurgery, and an executive partner of the Qimam Fellowship, which provides its fellows with one-on-one mentorship from senior public and private sector leaders.
Al-Yamany gained master’s degrees in health administration, and health management from Washington University, bachelor’s degrees in medicine, and surgery from King Saud University’s college of medicine in Riyadh.


Saudi Arabia’s King Salman and US President Biden discuss regional security

Saudi Arabia’s King Salman and US President Biden discuss regional security
Updated 26 February 2021

Saudi Arabia’s King Salman and US President Biden discuss regional security

Saudi Arabia’s King Salman and US President Biden discuss regional security
  • The talks dealt with ‘the most important issues in the region’
  • They discussed Iran’s destabilizing behavior and ending the war in Yemen

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s King Salman and US President Joe Biden discussed regional and global stability during a phone call on Thursday.
The two leaders stressed the importance of strengthening the partnership between the two countries and the depth of their historical relations, Saudi Press Agency (SPA) reported.
During the call, King Salman congratulated Biden on taking office last month.
The talks dealt with the most important issues in the region and reviewed developments of common interest, the report said.
The two sides discussed Iran’s behavior in the region, its destabilizing activities and its support for terrorist groups.
“King Salman thanked the US president for Washington’s commitment to defend the Kingdom against any threats and his assurance that Iran would not be allowed to possess nuclear weapons,” SPA said.
Biden commended the Kingdom’s support for UN efforts to reach a truce and a cease-fire in Yemen.
King Salman said the Kingdom was keen to reach a comprehensive political solution in Yemen and to achieve security and development for the Yemeni people.
A statement from the White House said the US president told King Salman he would work to make the bilateral relationship as strong and transparent as possible.


SAF improving lives of autistic children in Saudi Arabia for years

SAF improving lives of autistic children in Saudi Arabia for years
Updated 26 February 2021

SAF improving lives of autistic children in Saudi Arabia for years

SAF improving lives of autistic children in Saudi Arabia for years
  • Arab News spoke to Prince Saud bin Abdulaziz bin Farhan Al-Saud, SAF’s chairman, to discover more about the charity’s efforts since its launch in 2009

JEDDAH: The Saudi-based Charitable Society of Autism Families (SAF) has been assisting families with autistic children and pushing for greater community inclusion for more than 10 years now. But while awareness of autism in the region has improved in that time, there remains a stigma around and lack of understanding of the condition in the Kingdom.

Autism, or Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), is a neurodevelopmental disorder that impairs a person’s ability to communicate or socialize with others. It can lead to a variety of seemingly anti-social behaviors, including a lack of desire to interact with other people, displays of apparent hostility, avoidance of eye contact, repetitive patterns of behavior, and more.

Arab News spoke to Prince Saud bin Abdulaziz bin Farhan Al-Saud, SAF’s chairman, to discover more about the charity’s efforts since its launch in 2009.

“With the right health care and resources, combined with family support, some of the children on the spectrum can gain the necessary skills to lead a ‘normal’ life and, in some cases, demonstrate special talents and capabilities not common in the wider population,” Prince Saud said. “We see many inspiring examples in our society and we regularly showcase these success stories.”

Autism is commonly diagnosed by the age of three and is more prevalent in males than females. The first studies of autism appeared in the 1960s, but less-severe varieties of autism were not identified until the 1980’s. Today, three types of ASD have been identified — each with specific characteristics that help doctors diagnose patients. They are autistic disorder, also known as classic autism; Asperger syndrome; and pervasive developmental disorders, also known as atypical autism.

Prince Saud said it is difficult to produce an accurate estimate of how many people in the Kingdom have ASD, due to the lack of sufficient studies. “However, according to the US CDC, 1 in 54 children — across all racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic groups — has been identified with ASD, meaning an approximate 1-2 percent of the global population is on the spectrum,” he said “This percentage might be applicable to the Kingdom.”

One of SAF’s most-common methods of raising awareness is through its series of public seminars, but it has recently also become more active on social media, in part because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Aside from its campaigning work, the society also helps arrange the provision of services including rehabilitation, educational development, guidance and assistance from other organizations for the families it supports, as well as a range of online offerings, including consultations, lectures and workshops, and rehabilitation services.

“We will continue our efforts to create a welcoming community in which autism is well understood so that those on the spectrum and their families can get the support they need,” Prince Saud said.

 


Saudi Arabia is a critical partner: US Yemen envoy

Saudi Arabia is a critical partner: US Yemen envoy
Updated 26 February 2021

Saudi Arabia is a critical partner: US Yemen envoy

Saudi Arabia is a critical partner: US Yemen envoy
  • Prince Khalid and Lenderking discussed diplomatic efforts and Saudi Arabia’s commitment to finding a solution to the conflict and supporting Yemenis

LONDON: Saudi Arabia is a critical partner of the US, the country’s envoy to Yemen said on Thursday in talks about resolving the conflict.

“The US recognizes the conflict in Yemen cannot be resolved without Saudi support,” Timothy Lenderking said after a meeting with the Kingdom’s Deputy Defense Minister Prince Khalid bin Salman.

Prince Khalid and Lenderking also discussed diplomatic efforts and Saudi Arabia’s commitment to finding a solution to the conflict and supporting Yemenis.