Saudis turn to technology for Eid gatherings

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Security official enforcing the curfew to limit the spread of coronavirus check a motorist in Jeddah on Saturday. (SPA)
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Police in the central Saudi region of Qassim patrol the streets to keep people from getting out as the Kingdom observes a curfew during Eid to help stop the spread of the COVID-19 disease. (SPA)
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Updated 24 May 2020

Saudis turn to technology for Eid gatherings

  • Family gatherings or not, the use of video-calling applications is keeping families close and loved ones even closer

JEDDAH: Many special Eid-related traditions have been broken this year as families are forced to stay home because of coronavirus restrictions. But technology has come to the rescue with many relying on video calls to bring family members and loved ones closer. 

Eid Al-Fitr is the occasion Saudis look forward to most — attending Eid prayers at the neighborhood mosque, wearing new clothes, the scent of frankincense around the home, and gathering with cousins at grandparents’ houses decked out with lights and decorations to mark the joyous occasion. 

As the Kingdom endures a nationwide lockdown to curb the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), many Saudis are refusing to allow the pandemic to break their spirits during Eid. Family gatherings or not, the use of video-calling applications is keeping families close and loved ones even closer.

Among those keeping Eid traditions alive, 27-year-old Mohammed Khayat has found a way to connect with his family who live outside Jeddah. Using Zoom, a popular videoconference platform, he has created a fun competition with family members. 

“There will be two boxes; one with easy questions, the other one with difficult questions. An example from the first box would be ‘act out a song, and if someone guessed it right, you win.’ Or ‘When was Jeddah founded?’ or ‘Who is the 17th grandson of my grandmother?’” he told Arab News.

Khayat highlighted the bright side of Eid during the pandemic with everyone available for a virtual gathering.

“It’s going to be fun, because not all family members are usually present in most of our Eid celebrations at the same time. Many live in different cities or even outside the Kingdom. Yes, it’s going to be online, but it’s a great chance for everyone to gather at the same time.”

Lujain Al-Jehani, 26, plans to put on her best clothes and enjoy Eid despite the global despair.

“We’re going to wear our Eid clothes, dress up, put makeup on, and do our hair and nails. We’re cleaning the house and preparing everything as we always do in Eid, but we’re not expecting any guests this year. It’s just us family together,” she told Arab News.

Before the pandemic, Al-Jehani usually spent Eid with her cousins, often spending the entire day at her grandmother’s house to enjoy the festivities. This year, Al-Jehani said that she and her family will keep their spirits high because “it’s still Eid.”

“I’m going to be spending quality time with my family at home. We will play boardgames, listen to music, have breakfast together and hang some Eid decorations. We want to do our Eid traditions within our family because it’s still Eid. We’ll enjoy spending Eid with our family. Thank God, we’re in good health and we’re together.”

 


$800bn plan to turn Riyadh into cultural hub for the Middle East

Updated 06 July 2020

$800bn plan to turn Riyadh into cultural hub for the Middle East

  • Saudi capital’s planning chief unveils ambitious strategy ahead of G20 urban development summit

DUBAI: Saudi Arabia is launching a SR3 trillion ($800 billion) plan to double the size of Riyadh in the next decade and transform it into an economic, social and cultural hub for the region.

The ambitious strategy for the capital city was unveiled by Fahd Al-Rasheed, president of the Royal Commission for the City of Riyadh, ahead of key meetings of the U20, the arm of the G20 leaders’ summit that deals with urban development and strategy.

“Riyadh is already a very important economic engine for the Kingdom, and although it’s already very successful, the plan now, under Vision 2030, is to actually take that way further, to double the population to 15 million people,” he told Arab News.

“We’ve already launched 18 megaprojects in the city, worth over SR1 trillion, over $250 billion, to both improve livability and deliver much higher economic growth so we can create jobs and double the population in 10 years. It’s a significant plan and the whole city is working to make sure this happens.”

About $250 billion in investment is expected from the private sector, with the same amount generated by increased economic activity from population growth, finance and banking, cultural and desert tourism, and leisure events.

HIGHLIGHTS

  • 18 megaprojects have already been launched worth over $250 billion.
  • 7 million trees planted in Riyadh in the next few years.
  • King Salman Park will be bigger than Hyde Park in London.

“We must also ensure the growth is managed properly, so there will be a focus on transport and logistics, including the Riyadh metro which will open at the beginning of next year. The aim is to increase productivity,” Al-Rasheed said.

The plan involves the creation of a “mega industrial zone” focusing on advanced technology such as renewables and automation, and biotechnology and aquaponics. Another key feature is sustainability, with energy conservation, the circular carbon economy with its emphasis on reducing emissions, and water management, all priorities.

“You will see 7 million trees planted in Riyadh in the next few years, and King Salman Park will be bigger than Hyde Park in London,” Al-Rasheed said.

The city also aims to be a Middle East artistic and cultural hub. An opera house is being considered, as well as public art shows with 1,000 works commissioned from around the world. “We have not seen anything like it since Renaissance Florence,” Al-Rasheed said.

The plans will be discussed this week during online meetings of the U20 linking Riyadh with Houston. The Texas oil capital is suffering a new spike in coronavirus cases and pandemics will be on the agenda. “We want to deal with this one, but also be ready for the next one,” Al-Rasheed said.