Royal Commission for AlUla participates in ‘tourism in ancient landscapes’ virtual panel

Rich with historic culture, mystery and romantic landscapes, AlUla is the perfect getaway for a quick and once-in-a-lifetime experience. (Supplied)
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Updated 29 May 2020

Royal Commission for AlUla participates in ‘tourism in ancient landscapes’ virtual panel

RIYADH: The Royal Commission for AlUla (RCU) recently participated in the Hospitality Tomorrow virtual conference, on a panel titled “Arts and Culture: Inspiring a future of tourism development in ancient landscapes.”

The panel included former director general of UNESCO Irina Bokova; Jean-François Charnier, scientific director at Agence Française pour le Développement d’AlUla; Neville Wakefield, creator and artistic director at Desert X; and Callum Lee, expert in cultural and creative industries from BOP Consulting.

The audience learned about RCU’s goal to contribute towards Saudi Vision 2030 by creating 38,000 jobs, contributing SR120 billion ($31.96 billion) to the Kingdom’s GDP, and hosting 2 million visitors every year while protecting and preserving AlUla’s history and cultural heritage.

Abdulrahman Alsuhaibani, Saudi archaeologist and RCU’s director of museums and exhibitions, who conducted research into AlUla’s ancient civilizations as part of his doctorate at the Sorbonne University in France, said: “For me, AlUla means the past, the present, and the future. It is an exceptional place. The human presence in AlUla began more than 200,000 years ago and continues until our time.”

He added: “This has left a diversity and richness in the archaeological remains, and also in the community today. There is a huge story that we are going to share with the world, but the most important thing is how we can preserve and protect it.”

RCU’s Arts and Culture Programming Director Nora Aldabal said: “It’s really important to us to establish AlUla as a cultural hub for creativity and artistic exchange. We’ve developed multiple arts workshops, including with Desert X: We had the artists work not only on the exhibition itself but also within the community. So, the community was really part of this experience.”

Desert X curator Wakefield echoed this, saying that their mission with Desert X was about cross-cultural dialogue. “Indeed, one of the joys of working in AlUla was making the community part of the artistic experience. We had so much involvement because everyone had a point of entry. Everyone has a sense of what the desert is and how art can reflect it. So, the art became a prism showing different aspects of the AlUla community.”

Meanwhile, the General Authority of Civil Aviation announced the resumption of domestic flights on Monday, stressing that social-distancing measures will be observed. “Sitting in the middle seat will be prohibited as a precaution to reduce the spread of the coronavirus,” Flynas airline said.


Saudi TikTok users weigh in on potential app ban

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Updated 12 July 2020

Saudi TikTok users weigh in on potential app ban

  • Due to pandemic, interest in the app skyrocketed as many users watch videos and try to recreate them while in quarantine

RIYADH: Chinese video platform TikTok is under fire once again, as rumors of the app being a tool used by the Chinese government to spy on users resurface online.

TikTok, owned by Chinese company ByteDance, is a video-sharing site similar to the now-defunct Vine, where users share short clips of themselves which can be altered using AI technology.
Lip-syncing along with a track, using filters, and adding special effects give users the chance to create short clips that can be shared and downloaded in several social media platforms.
Due to the coronavirus pandemic, interest in the app skyrocketed as many users downloaded TikTok to watch videos and try to recreate them while in quarantine. The app has also gained significant popularity in the Middle East with influencers such as Saudi model Roz, UAE-based content creators Khalid and Salama, and Saudi top TikToker iimeeto, who recently celebrated reaching four million followers on the platform.
Rania Mohammed, a fourth year medical student at Dar AlUloom University in Riyadh, said that TikTok was “the only thing keeping her sane” as she struggled with the pressures of school and quarantine.
“As a med school student, my attention span and free time are both severely limited,” she told Arab News. “Taking a 15 minute break to watch silly TikToks has helped me keep motivated. The specific brand of humor on that app is the fastest way to make me laugh.”
Mai Alhumood, a government employee, said that she downloaded the app while she was bored and became “quickly addicted” to the platform’s fun short videos.
“People are so creative on TikTok, and the challenges that keep going viral are so interesting,” she told Arab News.
However, the app has long-suffered from accusations of spying and gathering users’ private information on behalf of the Chinese government, leading to both temporary and permanent bans in countries around the world.
Recently, it was reported that Amazon requested that employees remove the app from their smartphones in an email over “security risks.” The company later retracted its directive.
Saudi cybersecurity expert Abdullah Al-Jaber believed that concerns over the security of TikTok’s collected data stemmed from the app’s country of origin and its rules and regulations.

HIGHLIGHTS

• Following a provisional ban in April 2019, India’s Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology banned TikTok permanently in June this year, along with 58 other Chinese apps. The ministry claimed that the apps were a ‘threat to the sovereignty and security of the country’ following a Himalayan border clash with Chinese troops in the disputed territory of Ladakh.

• Indonesia temporarily blocked TikTok in July 2018, citing public concern regarding ‘illegal content’ such as pornography and blasphemy. However, the app was unblocked following various changes from TikTok such as the opening of a government liaison office and implementing security mechanisms.

• Recently, the US became the third country to seriously consider banning the app, according to information from President Donald Trump’s administration. Trump also weighed in on a potential TikTok ban. He said that banning the app would be ‘punishing China for its response to the coronavirus.’

“TikTok collects data in a very similar way to US applications,” he told Arab News. “However the main concern is that the US has regulations and compliance that must be met when collecting customer data, such as GDPR data privacy regulation. In the case of TikTok, we don’t know as much about how the data is being used or stored because we don’t know their regulations.”
Following a provisional ban in April 2019, India’s Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology banned TikTok permanently in June this year, along with 58 other Chinese apps. The ministry claimed that the apps were a “threat to the sovereignty and security of the country” following a Himalayan border clash with Chinese troops in the disputed territory of Ladakh.
Indonesia temporarily blocked TikTok in July 2018, citing public concern regarding “illegal content” such as pornography and blasphemy. However, the app was unblocked following various changes from TikTok such as the opening of a government liaison office and implementing security mechanisms.
Recently, the US became the third country to seriously consider banning the app, according to information from President Donald Trump’s administration.
Trump also weighed in on a potential TikTok ban. In an interview with Gray Television, Trump said that banning the app would be “punishing China for its response to the coronavirus.”
“Look, what happened with China with this virus, what they’ve done to this country and to the entire world is disgraceful,” he said.
While Saudi Arabia has yet to announce a ban of any kind of TikTok, local users and followers are trying to practice caution while using the app anyway.
Alhumood considered making videos on the platform, but dismissed the idea and only uses it to follow other people’s videos.
“I have ideas for it, sure, but I’d rather not take the risk. I don’t even have a username or a registered account, and that’s one of the better things about TikTok. I only have the app, but I can still watch all the videos without giving them my private information.”
Mohammed also said that she had no interest in creating videos herself, though she did have a registered account in order to comment on videos and keep track of her favorites.
However Al-Jaber said that, in his opinion, registering an account on TikTok did not necessarily pose more of a risk than using other social media.
“If you use Facebook or Twitter, it’s not much different than using TikTok,” he said.