Inspiring story of a Japanese-speaking Saudi student

Abd Al-Rahman Al-Fifi
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Updated 12 January 2020

Inspiring story of a Japanese-speaking Saudi student

RIYADH: Abd Al-Rahman Al-Fifi, a 33-year-old Saudi man, started his educational journey by learning Japanese at King Saud University in Riyadh (KSU) for three and a half years, obtaining a higher diploma.

After that, he went to Japan and received a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from Saitama University. He continued his studies there, going on to obtain his master’s degree.

Al-Fifi says Japan’s engineering prowess and reputation for technological innovation were things he had admired since his childhood days.

This prompted him to apply to join KSU in 2008 to learn more about  Japanese culture and to study its language, gaining an advanced diploma in Japanese in 2011.

As soon as Al-Fifi completed the course at KSU, he decided to go to Japan to continue his linguistic education.

Once there, he joined the Urawa International Institute for Teaching Japanese in Saitama. There he stayed for a year and a half, rubbing shoulders with students from all over world who shared his passion for the country.

After completing his studies at the Urawa International Institute, Al-Fifi chose Saitama University of Industry for the next phase.

Saitama is the most populated city of Saitama Prefecture, and Saitama University is one of the oldest and most reputable Japanese universities as far as engineering education is concerned.

About 10 Saudi students graduate annually from Saitama University, with degrees in such branches as electrical, mechanical and industrial engeineering, as well as in architecture.

Japan does not have many students from Arab countries. For many Arab students, the cultural gap is a big deterrent to choosing Japan as their higher-education destination.

The language barrier is no small matter too, as many Arabs consider Japanese difficult to master compared with other widely spoken languages.

Saudis constitute the biggest cohort of Arab students enrolled in Japanese universities, with an estimated 100 students of both genders from the Kingdom graduating every year.

At Saitama University, Al-Fifi majored in mechanical engineering for four years.

During this period he volunteered time and services as part of a distinguished group of students supporting the Embassy of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in Tokyo, providing logistical support and simultaneous translation for the royal delegations that have visited Japan over the past few years.

These include the Japan visit in September 2016 by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (before he was appointed crown prince), the visit in March 2017 by King Salman, and the most recent visit, which took place last year, by the crown prince.

Foreign students in any country are known to face many difficulties at the beginning of their academic lives due to differences of culture, language, lifestyles and social practices.

Al-Fifi, though, said he did not experience too much trouble on account of his prior knowledge of the country and fluency in the language. What also made a difference, he said, was his decision to take his wife with him, something that acted as a source of stability and self-confidence.

The young Saudi couple had two children while living in Japan, and had them enrolled in local schools so that they could learn Japanese as well as their mother language Arabic.

With several engineering degrees and language diplomas already, Al-Fifi is now pursuing a doctorate in chemical engineering in Japan.

Saudi Cabinet voices support for the territorial sovereignty of Cyprus

King Salman chairs the Cabinet session on Tuesday. The meeting reviewed the Kingdom’s economic progress. (SPA)
Updated 12 min 18 sec ago

Saudi Cabinet voices support for the territorial sovereignty of Cyprus

  • Kingdom calls for security to be maintained in the region

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia has voiced its support for Cyprus’ territorial sovereignty amid growing tensions following the discovery of oil and gas reserves in the eastern Mediterranean.

The Saudi Cabinet, chaired by King Salman, on Tuesday said it was watching developments in the eastern Mediterranean “with great interest,” and called for security and stability to be maintained in the region.
The Cabinet also reviewed the Kingdom’s progress among 190 economies in the World Bank’s Women, Business and the Law 2020 report, which placed it first among GCC countries and second in the Arab world on legislative reforms relating to women.
Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 program supports the implementation of reforms that enhance women’s role in economic development, raising the Kingdom’s competitiveness regionally and globally.
Minister of Media Turki bin Abdullah Al-Shabanah said the Cabinet reviewed several reports on developments in regional and international arenas.
The Cabinet reiterated the Kingdom’s assertion during the fourth session of the Arab Parliament in Cairo that its policy is based on the principles of peaceful coexistence and good neighborliness, full respect for the sovereignty and independence of states, noninterference in their internal affairs, and its belief that these principles are capable of resolving all conflicts, foremost the Arab-Israeli conflict.


The Cabinet reviewed efforts to promote political solutions to crises in Syria, Yemen, Libya and Sudan, calling on all to take action to address destabilizing foreign threats and interventions.

The Cabinet also reviewed efforts to promote political solutions to crises in Syria, Yemen, Libya and Sudan, calling on all to take action to address destabilizing foreign threats and interventions and to “move forward toward the aspirations of security, stability and development of Arab countries and their peoples.”
On regional affairs, the Cabinet condemned an attack on a military site in Niger, the bombing of a security checkpoint and a tax collection center in Somalia, and the terrorist strike by Houthi militia on a mosque in the Marib governorate, which resulted in dozens of deaths and injuries.
The Cabinet session also authorized the minister of foreign affairs or his deputy to sign a draft protocol on establishing diplomatic relations between Saudi Arabia and Zimbabwe.
An agreement on social development between the the Kingdom and Tunisia was also approved along with a memorandum of understanding for scientific and technical cooperation with Spain.
The Cabinet also approved an agreement for scientific and geological cooperation between the Saudi Geological Survey and the Russian State Geological Company.