How online streaming is shaping Saudi pop culture — at the push of a button

How online streaming is shaping Saudi pop culture — at the push of a button
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‘Game of Thrones’ star Jason Momoa takes a selfie with a young Saudi fan during his visit to Saudi Arabia. (File photo)
How online streaming is shaping Saudi pop culture — at the push of a button
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Game of Thrones is considered a favorite to many in the Kingdom due to individuals' love/hate sentiment towards many of its cast.
How online streaming is shaping Saudi pop culture — at the push of a button
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Fans of the Spanish Netflix series reacted to a Saudi influencer going to meet the cast as if they were greeting old friends, not actors portraying fictional characters.
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Updated 12 April 2020

How online streaming is shaping Saudi pop culture — at the push of a button

How online streaming is shaping Saudi pop culture — at the push of a button
  • Affordability and quality of content are other factors behind the soaring popularity of new services

JEDDAH: Ever since streaming services became available in the Middle East, leading online sites have been dictating people’s tastes and preferences, their mass media effect influencing Saudi Arabia as it does the rest of the world.

Sara Al-Rifai, an English instructor in Jeddah, believes that streaming services are gaining influence in mainstream culture simply because younger people are unwilling to watch cable TV and sit through ads, or wait a week or more for new content.
“Competition on quality and cost is another factor in favor of streaming services. Neflix’s monthly subscription is affordable. The quality of its shows is rapidly improving, and many of its films and series have won prestigious awards such as the Oscars,” she told Arab News.
Renad Flimban, 26, from Jeddah, said that movies and TV shows have the ability to set mainstream culture in areas ranging from food to fashion and even hairstyles long before streaming became available.
“New streaming services have just made it easier to consume the media and the culture behind it,” she said.
The popular HBO series “Game of Thrones” is perhaps the best example of pop culture “spread,” with local fans joining a global audience in their love for the show. Many viewers in the Arab world watched the series on OSN, while it was also available on HBO.

New streaming services have just made it easier to consume the media and the culture behind it.

Renad Flimban

“I think it blew up here even though it was on HBO, which isn’t that popular here, because people seemed to really like/dislike the characters and the writing. They had extremely strong feelings on both ends of the spectrum,” Flimban said.
Popular shows in the 1990s and early 2000s have been reinvigorated after streaming services acquired the rights to reshow them for viewers. Many popular shows that used to air on MBC2 and Saudi TV, such as “Friends,” “Full House” and “The Fresh Prince of Bel Air,” have won new fans following recent exposure.
“Most of these shows’ themes — friendships, families and relationships — are still relevant today, and having easy access to these shows on current media platforms certainly helped to introduce them to a new audience and reconnect with an established audience,” Flimban said.
Al-Rifai agrees, saying these shows have become more popular among a younger generation due to their availability and a desire to understand the hype surrounding them.
“‘Friends’ is still the most-watched show on Netflix, yet it has been criticized for tolerating sexism and body shaming,” she said. “The generation gap and viewers’ beliefs affect the way they perceive a show, no matter how popular it was in the past.”

HIGHLIGHTS

• Fans of popular shows and films in Saudi Arabia behave just as worldwide fans do.

• Young Saudis collect merchandise and organize character-themed parties.

For Razan Sijeeni, a Jeddah university graphic design instructor, the pinnacle of pop culture in the Kingdom would be “Tash Ma Tash,” which aired every Ramadan for 18 years, often tackling conservatism and racism, among other controversial social issues.
“Unfortunately, there is very little authentic representation of our culture in our own media nowadays, and whatever there is, even when it’s well executed, it is being Westernized and viewed through a Western gaze,” she said.
However, Sijeeni has Netflix to thank for her favorite series, “Star Trek,” which she discovered on the streaming site.
“It was fascinating to me, watching the visuals of an explosion or space in the 1960s, and how the series progressed and improved considerably as the years went by,” she said.


Sijeeni said that online streaming also offers people from around the world an introduction to different cultures, languages and beliefs at the press of a button.
“I’ve seen a Saudi influencer meet the cast of “Money Heist,” and people were reacting to it — it’s like they know these people and it isn’t just a show.”
She said that in an age where the internet has a growing place in people’s lives, even individuals who don’t watch shows such as “Game of Thrones” and “Friends” still know who the characters are, and go as far as creating memes to help cope with the coronavirus crisis, for example.
Fans of popular shows and films in Saudi Arabia behave just as worldwide fans do, collecting merchandise, holding character-themed parties and recreating recipes from fictional universes.
Flimban’s favorite show since 2010 has been “Gilmore Girls,” and she admits to owning a few show-inspired items and attending a “marvelous” Gatsby-themed party.
Sijeeni had not been as lucky with her “Star Trek” obsession, however, and said that she was envious of fan events she saw happening worldwide. “My favorite mug was given to me by a friend,” she recalled. “It has the main ‘Star Trek’ six and they transport as you fill the mug with boiling water.”
Now she is on the hunt for a “Star Trek” pilot jacket. We recommend Etsy artists for fan-replicated items. 


France condemns Houthi attacks on Saudi Arabia, concerned about human rights in Iran

France condemns Houthi attacks on Saudi Arabia, concerned about human rights in Iran
Updated 7 min 23 sec ago

France condemns Houthi attacks on Saudi Arabia, concerned about human rights in Iran

France condemns Houthi attacks on Saudi Arabia, concerned about human rights in Iran
  • Saudi Arabia’s air defenses destroyed 17 Houthi drones launched toward the Kingdom’s southern region on Saturday
  • Rights groups said Raisi’s election as Iran’s new president was a blow for human rights

LONDON: France said it strongly condemned the Houthi drone attacks on Saudi Arabia, and called on the militia to immediately stop their destabilizing attacks in the region.
Saudi Arabia’s air defenses destroyed 17 drones launched toward the Kingdom’s southern region on Saturday, the Arab coalition said.
A booby-trapped drone targeted Khamis Mushait early in the morning before seven more targeting the southern region were intercepted in Yemeni airspace during the afternoon.
Khamis Mushait was again targeted by two drones in the evening and another drone targeted Najran late Saturday before six more were shot down near midnight.
The Arab coalition said the Houthi’s deliberate and systematic escalation against Yemen constituted a war crime, as the Iran-backed Houthis have been attacking the Kingdom with explosive-laden drones on an almost daily basis in recent weeks despite calls from the international community for a cease-fire in Yemen.
France said it was also concerned about human rights in Iran after Ebrahim Raisi has been elected as president.
President-elect Raisi, 60, won Friday’s election in which more than half the voters stayed away after many political heavyweights had been barred from running and as an economic crisis driven by US sanctions has battered the country.
Raisi, an ultraconservative cleric who heads Iran’s judiciary, will replace former President Hassan Rouhani.
Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch on Saturday said Raisi’s election as Iran’s new president was a blow for human rights and called for him to be investigated over his role in what Washington and rights groups have called the extrajudicial executions of thousands of political prisoners in 1988.
(With AFP and Reuters)


Saudi Arabia confirms 14 COVID-19 deaths, 1,212 new cases

Saudi Arabia confirms 14 COVID-19 deaths, 1,212 new cases
Updated 21 June 2021

Saudi Arabia confirms 14 COVID-19 deaths, 1,212 new cases

Saudi Arabia confirms 14 COVID-19 deaths, 1,212 new cases
  • The Kingdom says1,510 patients recovered in past 24 hours

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia recorded 14 new COVID-19 related deaths on Monday, raising the total number of fatalities to 7,691.
The Ministry of Health confirmed 1,212 new confirmed cases reported in the Kingdom in the previous 24 hours, meaning 475,403 people have now contracted the disease. 
Of the total number of cases, 10,584 remain active and 1,489 in critical condition.
According to the ministry, the highest number of cases were recorded in Makkah with 376, followed by the capital Riyadh with 233, the Eastern Province with 224, Asir recorded 103, and Jazan confirmed 80 cases.
The health ministry also announced that 1,510 patients had recovered from COVID-19, bringing the total number of recoveries in the Kingdom to 457,128.

The ministry renewed its call on the public to register to receive the vaccine, and adhere to the measures and abide by instructions.
The Ministry of Islamic Affairs carried out more than 22,000 inspection tours in mosques across the Kingdom during the past week to ensure that health and preventative measures are being implemented.
The ministry said that these monitoring tours are ongoing by mosque observers in the regions, and there are field monitoring committees working around the clock to remove all violations and take all legal measures.
The coronavirus pandemic has affected over 179 million people globally and the death toll has reached around 3.88 million.


Qatar receives new Saudi ambassador as the two mend ties

Qatar receives new Saudi ambassador as the two mend ties
Updated 21 June 2021

Qatar receives new Saudi ambassador as the two mend ties

Qatar receives new Saudi ambassador as the two mend ties

DUBAI: Saudi Prince Mansour bin Khalid Al-Saud has submitted a copy of his credentials to Qatar’s Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani to become the Saudi ambassador to Doha. 

He is the first to be reinstated by Arab states that had agreed to end a row with Qatar earlier this year. 

Al-Thani wished the new Saudi ambassador success in his duties, assuring him of all support to advance bilateral relations between the two countries to achieve closer cooperation in various fields, according to state-run Qatar News Agency. 

Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Bahrain had agreed in January to end the boycott imposed in mid-2017 and restore political, trade and travel ties with Doha. Riyadh has taken the lead among the four in re-establishing relations.


Saudi Arabia’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic places it at the highest ranks on international indexes

Saudi Arabia’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic places it at the highest ranks on international indexes
According to ADAA, Saudi Arabia ranked among the top countries in three international indexes, among the world’s eight top countries in two indexes and among the 20 top countries in two others. (Shutterstock)
Updated 21 June 2021

Saudi Arabia’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic places it at the highest ranks on international indexes

Saudi Arabia’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic places it at the highest ranks on international indexes
  • ADAA follows up on the Kingdom’s progress and performance through the International Performance Hub, which compares the Kingdom’s performance against 217 other countries

JEDDAH: Saudi Arabia’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic has placed it at the highest ranks on several international indexes according to the National Center for Performance Measurement (ADAA) for the years 2020-2021.
According to ADAA, Saudi Arabia ranked among the top countries in three international indexes, among the world’s eight top countries in two indexes and among the 20 top countries in two others.
According to the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM), the Kingdom ranked first worldwide in the response of entrepreneurs and the government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The two indexes measured the levels of entrepreneurial motivation as Vision 2030 provided an ideal and flexible business environment able to withstand challenges such as the pandemic.

SPEEDREAD

According to the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM), the Kingdom ranked first worldwide in the response of entrepreneurs and the government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Kingdom has maintained its advanced position in the “food standards” indicator, where it was ranked first in 2020. This indicator is considered one of the sub-components of the “food security” index, released annually by the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) to measure food security in countries based on four indicators: Food affordability, availability, quality and safety, and natural resources and resilience.
“The pandemic has forced many in the food industry to rethink our strategies and elevate our standards, providing the best food quality and services for our customers,” Mohammed Saleh, a restaurant owner based in Riyadh and Jeddah, told Arab News. “Our customers always come first and the quality of food was always a top priority but now with the extra care and precautions, customer satisfaction and safety is even more important.”
“Many restaurant owners I know have put into consideration all the changes that needed to be made to ensure that both quality and safety go hand in hand,” Saleh added. “We’ll only go forward from here.”
During the peak of the pandemic, the Kingdom jumped to eighth position among 113 countries in “the national food supply sufficiency” indicator and came ahead of 105 countries in growth of production of cereals and vegetables, climbing nine spots in the indicator in comparison to 2019. In the post-harvest and pre-consumption crops’ safety indicator, the Kingdom made significant progress, ranked among the 20 top countries worldwide.
The Kingdom has also come a long way in most of the indicators of the soft power index, measured based on three key performance indicators (KPIs): Reputation, familiarity and influence, where it ranked 20th and came ahead of 85 countries in its response to the pandemic, according to the Brand Finance report.
ADAA follows up on the Kingdom’s progress and performance through the International Performance Hub, which compares the Kingdom’s performance against 217 other countries. ADAA monitors and follows up on international indicators while the hub provides an overview of the Kingdom’s performance in 700 KPIs under 12 main pillars.


Saudi aviation authority links boarding passes with health app

Saudi aviation authority links boarding passes with health app
The boarding passes are issued electronically to passengers whose status in the app is “immune,” “immune by first dose,” “immune by recovery” or “no record of infection”
Updated 21 June 2021

Saudi aviation authority links boarding passes with health app

Saudi aviation authority links boarding passes with health app
  • Tawakkalna was launched last year to help track COVID-19 infections

RIYADH: The General Authority of Civil Aviation (GACA) has announced the completion of linking the issuance of boarding passes for domestic flights for all national airlines with the health status in the Tawakkalna app.
The boarding passes are issued electronically to passengers whose status in the app is “immune,” “immune by first dose,” “immune by recovery” or “no record of infection.”
The initiative is the result of cooperation with government agencies — namely the Presidency of State Security, the Saudi Data and Artificial Intelligence Authority, and the Health Ministry — and with national airlines.
Tawakkalna was launched last year to help track COVID-19 infections. It has since been updated to include vaccination information and infection status reports. It also functions as a COVID-19 “passport.”
Earlier, GACA said that all foreign travelers and their companions traveling to the Kingdom must complete registration for their COVID-19 immunization data before departure. The registration is applicable to all citizens from Gulf Cooperation Council countries, holders of new visas, residents, and their companions, both inoculated and non-vaccinated.