Saudis look back on their TV memories on Saudi National Day

Saudis look back on their TV memories on Saudi National Day
Updated 23 September 2019

Saudis look back on their TV memories on Saudi National Day

Saudis look back on their TV memories on Saudi National Day

JEDDAH: When television came to Saudi Arabia in 1965, it was rejected by some as the “devil’s handiwork.”

But far from being in shock, Saudis generally were keen to embrace the new mass medium and learn what was going on in the world.

One TV station with a variety of programs was all it took to ensure that a Kingdom on the cusp of unprecedented prosperity and power also became home to an intellectually curious and informed society.

Saudis who commuted between Riyadh and the Eastern Province had known about the electronic device with moving images since the first TV broadcast from the US consulate in Dhahran in 1955.

“The Eye of the Desert” channel broadcast in English. Two years later, Aramco TV’s wider broadcasting range reached Al-Hofuf and other areas across the Gulf, with content in Arabic and English.

Speaking in front of a large crowd in 1962, then Crown Prince Faisal bin Abdul Aziz announced the Kingdom’s determination to bring television to the public.

“The responsibility of this facility is to serve our religion, our country and our nation,” he said. “It will be in the service of religion, the nation and the people in all necessary efforts and work in these regards.”

Under the banner “Channel of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia,” the single official outlet went live in 1965 with a recitation of the Qur’an the first program to be broadcast.

However, as with almost any new development, the decision to launch the TV station offended Saudi religious conservatives, some of whom staged a demonstration where a number of protesters were killed when police responded to an assault on one of the TV facilities in 1965.

Saudi TV initially broadcast in Riyadh and Jeddah with modest technology and a broadcast time that did not exceed five hours a day. Hooked on the new source of entertainment, Saudi families gathered in front of a TV set every day and waited patiently for the signature tune that announced the beginning of the daily broadcast.

Talal Adham, 61, chairman of engineering consultancy Talal Adham & Partners, recalled those early days. “At first, broadcast was limited to only a few hours every day, but later it was extended to two shifts per day. The first was from 10 a.m. to noon and then there was an evening shift that ended at around midnight,” he told Arab News. “I remember the broadcast was continuous during the weekends, but would end around midnight or early morning time.”

Among the programs that aired in the 1970s were entertainment talk shows featuring Arab celebrities, studio musical performances by famous Saudi singers such as Talal Maddah and Mohammed Abdo, and American westerns.

Adham said that his two favorite TV shows from that period were “Fakir wa irbah” (“Think and Win“) and “Baba Ameen.” For many families, television was the only available entertainment source, “and viewership was at its highest during Ramadan,” he said.

Thuraya Arafah, 70, a retired instructor from the General Administration of Girls Education in Jeddah, said that TV programs in the 1970s were diverse. “There were religious programs, with the most famous being ‘Ala Ma’idat Al-Iftaar’ (’On the Iftaar Table’) with Sheikh Ali Tantawi in Ramadan, and ‘Al-Ilm wa Al-Eman’ (’Knowledge and Faith’) by Mustafa Mahmoud,” she said. “Then there were game shows such as ‘Huroof’ (’Letters’) and historical Arabic series such as ‘Juha’ and the Lebanese ‘Al-Hareb’ (’The Fugitive’). Then there were foreign TV serials such as ‘Mighty Mouse’ and ‘Fury.’”

Arafah said some of the best-known TV presenters at the time were Majid Al-Shibl and Hussain Najjar. “Gathering in front of the TV set to watch a film or a show was a way to spend quality time with family,” 

In 1979, in a watershed moment in modern Saudi history, Juhayman Al-Otaibi seized the Grand Mosque in Makkah with a group of ultra-conservative loyalists. demanding that the Kingdom “be cleansed of all evils.” 

Adham and Arafah both recall that TV changed dramatically after the Grand Mosque siege. “It became overly conservative,” said Arafah. “The concerts of Egyptian singer Um Kalthoum, and Egyptian and Lebanese series were banished. Women were not seen much on television afterwards.”

Adham agreed, saying that “women started appearing less and Islamic programs appeared more. Songs almost disappeared.”

SAUDI ’70s TV

• American series “Bonanza” and “Fury” (both Westerns) and “The Incredible Hulk”

• Syrian comedy series “Sah Al-Nawm”

• “Ala Ma’idat Al-Iftar” (On the Iftar Table) with Sheikh Ali Al-Tantawi

• “Al-Ilm wa Al-Eman” (Knowledge and Faith) with Dr. Mustafa Mahmoud

• “Hadith Al-Asdekaa,” a talk show on everyday social issues that first aired in 1965, hosting a number of government officials

• Kuwaiti comedy series “Darb Al-Zalag”

• “Sahrah Saudia,” a celebrity talk show produced by Talal Maddah

Many Saudis remember veteran TV and radio presenter Hussain Najjar relaying news of the assault on the Grand Mosque to viewers. Najjar also announced the news of Al-Otaibi’s execution.

One of the leading female Saudi TV presenters of the 1970s was Dunia Bakr Younis, known to audiences as “Mama Dunia” for her children’s program of the same name. Her father, a TV and radio presenter, was one of the founders of Saudi Radio, and she often accompanied him to the studio as a young girl. “I entered the media field with a strong foundation,” Younis told Arab News. “I have never had any difficulties. Neither of my parents prevented me from entering this field. My mother always said: ‘He who doesn’t get good grades won’t go to the studio.’ We were very serious about our studies and did not neglect them.”

Younis was living in the Eastern Province with her producer husband when the Grand Mosque siege unfolded. She was a presenter on her own shows, “Studio No. 5” and “Shati Nisf Al-Qamar” (“Half Moon Bay“), as well as on children’s programs on Dammam TV. “I decided to withdraw from TV appearances for a while,” she said. “I was mindful of the situation and as it was a confusing time for many. It was a good decision to make at the time.”

The Saudi Ministry of Information did not stop women presenters from appearing on screen, Younis said. However, she decided to take time out to look after her twins, Badr and Bakr, as well as her daughter Dalia, whom she used to take to the TV studio.

Younis said Saudi women played an important role in media despite the period’s social upheaval. “There was a misconception after the events of 1979 where Saudi women were viewed as if they had no rights,” she said.

“On the contrary, Saudi women were in their abayas and hosting shows on television. My sisters and I were like this, the pioneers. Some other contemporary female presenters were Dalal Aziz Diya, Salwa Shakir and Mariam Al-Ghamdi.”

Meanwhile, Saudi broadcasting has gone from strength to strength despite the setbacks that followed the events of 1979. A total of 12 TV channels are now available, covering a broad spectrum from music to news and entertainment. In September 2018, Weam Al-Dakheel became the first Saudi woman to anchor the main evening news on the Riyadh-based Al Ekhbariya channel.

“Mama Dunia” praised King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman for giving Saudi women more opportunities. “We are grateful for how far women have come under their rule. They have given women the opportunity to play a major role in society,” she said.


Saudi-led Arab coalition intercepts Houthi drone launched towards Khamis Mushait

Saudi-led Arab coalition intercepts Houthi drone launched towards Khamis Mushait
Updated 09 March 2021

Saudi-led Arab coalition intercepts Houthi drone launched towards Khamis Mushait

Saudi-led Arab coalition intercepts Houthi drone launched towards Khamis Mushait

The Saudi-led Arab coalition said it intercepted a Houthi drone headed toward Khamis Mushait in the southern region in Saudi Arabia, Saudi state channel Al-Ekhbariya reported on Tuesday.

The coalition said that “the Houthi militia commits grave mistakes and horrific violations of international humanitarian law,” adding that it is “dealing with these violation in accordance with international humanitarian law.
Meanwhile, the Houthis faced international condemnation on Monday after attacking Saudi oil facilities.

The US said the Houthis needed to show seriousness about US-backed peace efforts.
“We condemn the egregious Houthi drone and missile attack against Saudi Aramco facilities,” State Department spokesman Ned Price told reporters.


8 Saudi mosques close after 10 confirmed cases of COVID-19

8 Saudi mosques close after 10 confirmed cases of COVID-19
Updated 09 March 2021

8 Saudi mosques close after 10 confirmed cases of COVID-19

8 Saudi mosques close after 10 confirmed cases of COVID-19
  • 236 mosques have closed temporarily in last 29 days
  • 224 of them have so far reopened after sterilization

RIYADH: Saudi authorities temporarily closed eight mosques in three regions of Saudi Arabia on Monday, after 10 worshipers tested positive for COVID-19.
The Ministry of Islamic Affairs, Dawah and Guidance said that 236 mosques have been closed in the past 29 days. Of those, 224 reopened after they were sterilized and steps were taken to ensure public safety.
Six of the mosques closed on Monday are in Riyadh, one is in Madinah and one in Tabuk, the ministry said. It added that six previously closed mosques have reopened in Makkah, Qassim and the Eastern Province after precautionary sterilization and maintenance.
The ministry called on worshipers and mosque officials to abide by all precautionary measures and report any violations or problems applying health protocols.


Saudi Arabia beats Silicon Valley on women’s tech roles, ministry claims

Saudi Arabia beats Silicon Valley on women’s tech roles, ministry claims
Participants including Saudi women attend a hackathon in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia on August 1, 2018. (AFP)
Updated 09 March 2021

Saudi Arabia beats Silicon Valley on women’s tech roles, ministry claims

Saudi Arabia beats Silicon Valley on women’s tech roles, ministry claims
  • Saudi Arabia's investment in cybersecurity has led to its recognition as a pioneer, rated number one regionally and 13 internationally by the International Telecommunication Union

JEDDAH: Saudi women’s participation rate in the communications and IT sector rose from 11 percent in 2017 to 24 percent in 2021, an official at the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology (MCIT) said.
“Due to several initiatives, that percentage has surpassed that of Silicon Valley, which is currently at 17 percent,” Bandar Al-Duwais, MCIT’s director of future recruitments, said during the Women Enablement Summit.
After a recent surge in spending on women’s training, Saudi women currently make up 40 percent of digital entrepreneurs, he added.
Dr. Hala Al-Tuwaijri, head of G20 Women’s Empowerment team, said that during the Kingdom’s presidency, Saudi Arabia had three central focuses: Human empowerment, the earth’s sustainability and implementing new horizons.
“Women’s empowerment was at the core of all of them,” she said.
The Kingdom’s investment in cybersecurity has led to its recognition as a pioneer, rated number one regionally and 13 internationally by the International Telecommunication Union.

FASTFACT

• Saudi women’s participation rate in the IT sector rose from 11 percent in 2017 to 24 percent in 2021.

Basmah Al-Jedai, general manager of the Center of Strategic Studies at the National Cybersecurity Authority, said that women took greater advantage of the authority’s training programs than men did.
The National Academy for Cybersecurity’s scholarship program, which offered students scholarships to esteemed institutes globally, has attracted 67 percent of female applicants.
Another initiative, Cyber Pro, which focuses on building a cybersecurity workforce in the Kingdom, has seen 62 percent of female participants.
Based on the Kingdom’s goal of increasing women’s participation in the labor market and the ministry’s strategy, which gives priority to enhancing the role of women in the sector, MCIT developed an integrated program to empower women in the communications and information technology sector.


Saudi Arabia launches women’s accountancy program

Saudi Arabia launches women’s accountancy program
Dr. Majid bin Abdullah Al-Qasabi. (SPA)
Updated 09 March 2021

Saudi Arabia launches women’s accountancy program

Saudi Arabia launches women’s accountancy program
  • Al-Qasabi says initiative will help achieve Vision 2030 goals

RIYADH: A program to encourage Saudi women to join the accounting profession was launched on Monday by Saudi Commerce Minister Dr. Majid bin Abdullah Al-Qasabi.

The program is organized by the Saudi Organization for Certified Public Accountants (SOCPA).
Minister of Human Resources and Social Development Ahmed Al-Rajhi was also present at the launch event.
Describing the accounting profession as the “backbone of any company,” Al-Qasabi said the industry is “instrumental” in the national economy.
The program includes training, qualification, entrepreneurship and employment streams. It is part of Saudi government efforts to empower women and increase their participation in the national economy.
“Women today have strong will, determination and ambition to succeed in all fields, especially accounting, which requires precision, analysis and vitality. Saudi women possess all these qualities,” Al-Qasabi said.
“The program will enhance women’s role in improving the profession and help achieve the goals of Vision 2030.”
The minister said that there are 140 SOCPA-certified female accountants in the Kingdom. He added that SOCPA has cooperated with Saudi universities to help more than 10,000 accounting students benefit from programs and initiatives.
SOCPA Secretary-General Dr. Ahmed Al-Maghamis told Arab News that the organization will sign multiple agreements with the private sector to help promote accounting as a profession for Saudis.
He said that SOCPA aims to fill 20,000 auditing and accounting jobs by 2022.
The new women’s accounting program also doubles up as an initiative to increase the number of Saudi accountants and enable economic sectors to receive better access accounting and auditing services, he added.

HIGHLIGHTS

• The program includes training, qualification, entrepreneurship and employment streams.

• It is organized by the Saudi Organization for Certified Public Accountants.

“The program aims to develop the skills of Saudi women and allow them to participate in SOCPA council and committees,” Al-Maghamis said.
SOCPA is also working to establish a center to support small and medium enterprises. The women’s program includes several initiatives, such as a volunteer club and accounting leaderships, the empowerment platform and the women’s council, he said.
Dr. Ghuraibah Al-Twaiher, chairperson of the Future Women Society, said that promoting women and helping them achieve professional success is necessary for future economic growth.
“Vision 2030 recognizes the key role of women in the development process and calls for greater participation of women to build a vital society,” she said.
In line with the Future Women Society’s mission to enhance women’s integrated economic value locally and internationally, the society recently signed an agreement with the Saudi Financials Association (SFA), Al-Twaiher said.
“The society aims to enable, develop and empower women’s career and professional skills. The SFA increases public awareness of the financial and accounting industries and also contributes to the development of a national cadre that is specialized in finance and accounting,” she added.
Al-Twaiher said the memorandum of understanding with the SFA includes joint cooperation in organizing and implementing awareness campaigns..
As part of this, the two organizations will design training programs for women interested in the fields of accounting and finance.
Razan Al-Sehaibani, a certified accountant, said that women are naturally suited to accounting. She added that she chose the profession because she had the capabilities to be an active member in society and contribute to building the national economy.
She praised the future of the accounting industry as “promising,” adding that the addition of more women accountants will benefit the field.


Saudi Arabia approves incentives for Hajj and Umrah businesses

Saudi Arabia approves incentives for Hajj and Umrah businesses
Updated 09 March 2021

Saudi Arabia approves incentives for Hajj and Umrah businesses

Saudi Arabia approves incentives for Hajj and Umrah businesses
  • Incentives intended to mitigate the financial and economic repercussions of COVID-19

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s King Salman approved a number of incentive initiatives for establishments operating in the Hajj and Umrah sectors, Saudi Press Agency (SPA) reported on Monday.
The move comes as part of the king’s keenness to mitigate the financial and economic repercussions of the coronavirus pandemic on individuals, private sector businesses and investors.
“These initiatives come as an extension of the Kingdom’s efforts to confront the financial and economic impacts on the sectors operating in the Hajj and Umrah field and the economic activities most affected by the repercussions of the pandemic,” a statement on SPA said.
The initiatives include:
1. Accommodation facilities would be exempt of annual fees for licenses for municipal commercial activities for one year in Makkah and Madinah.
2. Hajj and Umrah sector establishments will be exempt from paying the fee for employed expats for six months.
3. Licenses for accommodation facilities from the Ministry of Tourism may be renewed free of charge for one year in Makkah and Madinah, which can be extended.
4. Collection of residency renewal fees for expatriates working in activities related to the Hajj and Umrah sector will be postponed for six months, and the amounts are to be paid in installments over a period of one year.
5. The validity of licenses (application forms) for buses operating in facilities that transport pilgrims would be extended without charge for one year.
6. Collection of customs duties for new buses for this year’s Hajj season will be postponed for three months, and to be paid in installments over a period of four months starting from the due date.
The Saudi government has launched more than 150 initiatives, the allocations of which exceeded SR180 billion ($47.9 billion), with the aim of confronting the repercussions of pandemic and mitigating its effects on individuals, the private sector and investors.