Saudis adopt new hobbies to get through quarantine

Youngsters have transformed their free time into something positive to cure their quarantine blues. (Shutterstock)
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Updated 29 May 2020

Saudis adopt new hobbies to get through quarantine

  • Many attested that it was easy to get swept up in anxiety during the self-isolation period

JEDDAH: As the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) continues to change people’s lives, some have decided to be proactive and pick up new hobbies to cope with the crisis.

Arab News spoke to a number of Saudi youths who have transformed their free time into something positive to cure their quarantine blues.

Many attested that it was easy to get swept up in anxiety during the self-isolation period but suggested some things people could do to mitigate the worst of its effects.

Razan Sijeeni, graphic design lecturer from Jeddah, chose gardening as an escape. Feeling a need to connect to the earth, she began to research.

Sijeeni began to take an interest in plants a few years back, buying a simple potted one from IKEA to decorate her office, or learning more about the environment sweet potatoes needed in order to thrive. 

“I began researching quite a lot, visiting gardening nurseries and purchasing little plants like jasmine, basil and aloe vera back when curfew began after 6 p.m.,” she told Arab News.

Sijeeni was surprised to see her small plants survive longer the more she took care of them.

“Gardening is a very therapeutic process, and watching something come to life through your care has been extremely rewarding,” she said.

“At some point, one of the flowers I had planted some two months prior bloomed; I’d completely forgotten about it. I saw it across my balcony and did a double take because just the night before, there had been nothing there at all.”

Gardening has given Sijeeni much to reflect on. She said it has given her a chance to give back to nature “on a very small scale.”  The task is also time consuming, so it takes her mind off the quarantine-induced anxiety.

“Gardening also teaches you a lot about patience and about yourself. The life of a plant is much like the life cycle of a person. There are moments of glory, where you’re blooming and shining, and then there are very dark moments. It’s the natural order of things,” she said.

Even after strict curfew hours were implemented throughout the Kingdom, Sijeeni did not abandon her new hobby. 

She began using vegetables and fruits, eggshells, and potato and banana peels to recreate healthy soil at home.

A tip she gives to all those interested in gardening is to use cinnamon as it seems to prevent the growth of fungus on plants.

Gardening is a very therapeutic process, and watching something come to life through your care has been extremely rewarding.

Razan Sijeeni, Graphic design lecturer

“Plants don’t just die out. If you’re careful with them when they start to wither, you can work on them, trimming their dead leaves and watering them. You might find that they surprise you,” Sijeeni added.

Nora Al-Nahi, a 28-year-old Saudi from Jeddah who works in the training department at a local company, began to use a diary for sketching and journaling.

“It’s been a blessing,” she told Arab News. “I’ve always needed time to sit down and release my inner artist, and now I have plenty of it.”

Al-Nahi used to draw a lot as a teenager, but growing up came with increased responsibilities, and soon enough university and work got in the way of her artistic endeavors.

“I finally put to use a sketchbook a friend got me for my birthday a few years ago, and I doodle in it and create characters. I then use my other journal to decorate it with scrap photos or stickers I’d collected over time,” she said.

Writing her emotions down, whether positive or negative, has helped Al-Nahi to relax.

“It’s a form of self-expression. It brings out emotions I didn’t even know I was bottling up and holding on to. It really is therapeutic,” she added.

Mona Sulaiman, 22, picked up a few coloring books and began adding color to each page little by little. The English major student said that the task distracted her from everything that was happening.

“I just wanted something to keep me busy. I had no idea it would turn into a full-blown hobby. It has consumed my life. I began testing watercolors, mixing and matching various coloring and dotting styles,” she said.

She added: “It definitely helps lessen my anxiety, and it’s a really fun activity to share with younger siblings or between parents and children.”


Saudi TikTok users weigh in on potential app ban

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Updated 42 min 11 sec ago

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.