MENA startups inject tech savvy into Saudi Arabia’s entertainment scene

Events and entertainment tourism are expected to play a key role in the Kingdom’s economic reform, with more than 5,000 events on the calendar for 2019. (Supplied)
Updated 08 November 2019

MENA startups inject tech savvy into Saudi Arabia’s entertainment scene

  • Event organizers are delivering an experience that lives up to the expectations of attendees
  • Up-and-coming event organizers will be able to provide professional and seamless digital experiences

CAIRO: While the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region has always been a popular destination for business and entertainment events, a host of startups are taking the industry to the next level through the power of technology.

Earlier this year, Saudi Arabia’s General Entertainment Authority announced a new strategic plan to revamp the local entertainment sector. There are more than 5,000 events on the calendar for 2019, with investments projected to exceed $64 billion over the next decade.

The plan is part of a broader push to diversify the Kingdom’s economy away from oil by 2030. 

Events and entertainment tourism are expected to play a key role in this ambitious economic reform.

However, this sector boom is nothing new to the region. The UAE has established itself as a leading destination for business events and entertainment tourism, while more of MENA’s major economies are implementing economic plans that incorporate the thriving events industry in one way or another.

Startups in the region are capitalizing on the evolution of this space by developing a digital ecosystem which allows event organizers to deliver an experience living up to the expectations of their attendees.

Whether it is making ticket purchases easier, streamlining event check-in, or addressing a whole host of other challenges regional events organizers have historically faced, these startups are leveraging technology to raise the standards of event management.




A new generation of startups are leveraging technology and tourist entertainment. (Supplied)

“After all, it is not enough to have great performers when the rest of the experience that comes with attending events is below par,” says Farrukh Bandey, a user experience research manager at UXBERT Labs, the digital experience design company behind event planning and discovery app HalaYalla.

Launched in early 2014 by Bandey and Nadeem Bakhsh, the Saudi-based venture came to dominate the country’s entertainment scene after becoming the official ticketing app for the Jeddah Season series of events.

HalaYalla provides a full suite of event-management features together with live event analytics and reporting for organizers. It also worked with local authorities to let international event attendees apply for a tourist visa while buying their tickets through the platform.

While gaining the trust of the government was a huge milestone for the company, it was also a challenge. The team’s abilities were first put to the test when they handled the registration for Saudi Arabia’s first-ever Baloot Championship, a card game popular in Gulf Cooperation Council countries.

Held in October 2018, the event saw more than 85,000 players register to compete.

Considered by many as one of the earliest disruptors in MENA’s event space, Eventus was founded in 2012 by Egyptian duo Mai Medhat and Nihal Fares. The company was backed by multimillion-dollar investment rounds from prominent local and international venture capitals.

The market Eventus excelled at addressing was providing event organizers with a customized app. The execution was a great hit for forums such as the Startup Grind’s Global Conference, an annual gathering for a community that supports 2 million entrepreneurs in more than 125 countries.

 

 This report is being published by Arab News as a partner of the Middle East Exchange, which was launched by the Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Global Initiatives and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to reflect the vision of the UAE prime minister and ruler of Dubai to explore the possibility of changing the status of the Arab region.

 


Suspected arson at East Jerusalem mosque

Israeli border policemen take up position during clashes with Palestinian demonstrators at a protest against Trump's decision on Jerusalem, near Ramallah, in the occupied West Bank March 9, 2018. (REUTERS)
Updated 25 January 2020

Suspected arson at East Jerusalem mosque

  • The attack had the appearance of a “price tag” attack, a euphemism for Jewish nationalist-motivated hate crimes that generally target Palestinian or Arab Israeli property

JERUSALEM: Israeli police launched a manhunt on Friday after an apparent arson attack, accompanied by Hebrew-language graffiti, at a mosque in Israeli-annexed East Jerusalem.
“Police were summoned to a mosque in Beit Safafa, in Jerusalem, following a report of arson in one of the building’s rooms and spraying of graffiti on a nearby wall outside the building,” a police statement said.
“A wide-scale search is taking place in Jerusalem,” police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld told AFP. “We believe that the incident took place overnight. We are searching for suspects.”
The spokesman would not say if police viewed it as a hate crime. The graffiti, on a wall in the mosque compound and viewed by an AFP journalist, contained the name Kumi Ori, a small settlement outpost in the north of the Israeli-occupied West Bank.
The Times of Israel newspaper said on Friday that the wildcat outpost “is home to seven families along with roughly a dozen extremist Israeli teens.”
“Earlier this month security forces razed a pair of illegally built settler homes in the outpost,” it reported.
All settlements on occupied Palestinian land are considered illegal under international law, but Israel distinguishes between those it has approved and those it has not.
The paper said: “A number of young settlers living there were involved in a string of violent attacks on Palestinians and (Israeli) security forces.”
Police said that nobody was injured in the mosque incident.
The attack had the appearance of a “price tag” attack, a euphemism for Jewish nationalist-motivated hate crimes that generally target Palestinian or Arab Israeli property in revenge for nationalistic attacks against Israelis or Israeli government moves against unauthorized outposts like Kumi Ori.
“This is price tag,” Israeli Arab lawmaker Osama Saadi told AFP at the scene.
“The settlers didn’t only write words, they also burned the place and they burnt a Qur’an,” said Saadi, who lives in the area.
Ismail Awwad, the local mayor, said he called the police after he found apparent evidence of arson, pointing to an empty can he said had contained petrol or some other accelerant and scorch marks in the burned room.
“The fire in the mosque burned in many straight lines which is a sign that somebody poured inflammable material,” he said.
There was damage to an interior prayer room but the building’s structure was unharmed.
In December, more than 160 cars were vandalized in the Shuafaat neighborhood of east Jerusalem with anti-Arab slogans scrawled nearby.
The slogans read “Arabs=enemies,” “There is no room in the country for enemies” and “When Jews are stabbed we aren’t silent.”
The attackers were described by a local resident as “masked settlers.”