Arab News en Français partners with Experience AlUla

Arab News en Français is partnering with Saudi Arabia’s Experience AlUla to highlight the collaboration between the Kingdom and one of France’s leading research institutions in opening up one of the last forgotten wonders of the ancient world. (AN Photo/Mohammed Albaijan)
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Updated 14 July 2020

Arab News en Français partners with Experience AlUla

  • Memorandum of understanding signed as part of the French-language edition’s launch

LONDON: Arab News en Français is partnering with Saudi Arabia’s Experience AlUla to highlight the collaboration between the Kingdom and one of France’s leading research institutions in opening up one of the last forgotten wonders of the ancient world.

At the virtual launch on Tuesday of the new French-language news website, Randa Takieddine, the chief Paris correspondent of Arab News en Français, signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Experience AlUla, the organization set up by the Royal Commission for AlUla (RCU) to ensure that the remarkable heritage destination in the Kingdom’s AlUla region becomes widely known throughout the French-speaking world.

The RCU said that the aim of the MoU, the latest in a series of international agreements it has signed, was “to enhance knowledge and enrich content in French focusing on archaeology, heritage, history, and sustainable tourism” in the AlUla region.

Takieddine said: “Storytelling is at the heart of what we do at Arab News and there is nothing that gives us more pleasure than to tell the untold story of the extremely rich history of AlUla to a whole new audience.”

The relationship between the two organizations, she added, “also helps us emphasize the importance of cultural stories, which are at the heart of what we do at Arab News.”

The first product of the collaboration is an Arab News Deep Dive online presentation, titled “The Rebirth of AlUla,” which is available in French (http://arabnews.fr/alula).

Hanouf Houthan, of the RCU, said: “We are delighted to partner with Arab News en Français, as we work to further establish AlUla as an international cultural destination and showcase our heritage, history, culture, and landscape to the world.


“This effort is based on protecting and responsibly developing AlUla’s outstanding natural and cultural heritage, with our community at the heart of all our actions.”

Speaking at the event, Houthan said: “The French-speaking audience is of particular importance to us, not only in France but also internationally.” She added that the launch of the partnership with Arab News was “a continuation of the cultural cooperation with France, especially with the French language, to develop AlUla and its spirit of inclusion and openness to the world.”

The RCU said AlUla’s transformation into “a hub of exploration, protection, and opportunity” was continuing to accelerate and create a unique cultural landscape. Within the past year, AlUla hosted the second annual Winter at Tantora Festival, the first Desert X AlUla, and the Hegra Conference of Nobel Laureates, sparking a cultural dialogue.

In October 2019, Saudi Arabia opened to the world with the launch of a new tourism visa for citizens of 49 countries, which further speeded up development.

France’s involvement with AlUla dates back to 1907, when two French Dominican priests, Antonin Jaussen and Raphael Savignac, made the first documented modern exploration of the ancient city of Hegra, which sits at the heart of the historic region.

Situated 1,100 km northwest of Riyadh and 200 km inland from the Red Sea, Hegra had until recently been little known outside of Saudi Arabia and the global archaeological community.

Set on a large plain southeast of the Hijaz mountains, studded with hills of sandstone dramatically sculpted by the northwesterly winds that have blown through the region every spring and early summer since the dawn of time, the city was created by the Nabataeans, the still largely mysterious people whose Arabian empire of trade flourished more than 2,000 years ago.

Hegra’s most dramatic manifestation is the vast and spectacular necropolis of tombs, carved out of the surrounding rocks, that overlooks the site of the ancient city on all sides.

This was the second city of the Nabataeans, who also created Petra, which lies almost 500 km to the northwest in modern-day Jordan. For centuries, the two cities were connected by the ancient trading routes dominated by the Nabataeans. But unlike Petra, long known to the world as a tourist destination, Hegra and its treasures have until now remained largely undiscovered.

Since 2001, when an agreement was signed between the French Foreign Ministry and the Saudi Ministry of Antiquities and Museums, Hegra and the entire surrounding AlUla region – an area almost the size of Belgium, rich in archaeological sites – has been the subject of one of the world’s most exhaustive archaeological investigations.

These have been carried out jointly by the French National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS) and the department of archaeology at King Saud University in Riyadh.

In 2008 that work, co-directed by French archaeologist Laila Nehme, a faculty member of the CNRS, led to Hegra becoming the first site in Saudi Arabia to be listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Four more historic sites in the Kingdom have since followed it onto the list.

The development of AlUla is a key priority for Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 reform plan, under which the Kingdom is being increasingly opened up to the outside world. The development of the country’s largely untapped cultural and tourism potential is destined to play a key role in diversifying the nation’s economy away from reliance on fossil fuels and toward a more sustainable future.

As a measure of the value placed by the Saudi government on the potential contribution of AlUla, the chair of the board of the RCU, founded in 2017, is Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who launched Vision 2030 in 2016.

In 2018 the archaeological collaboration between France and Saudi Arabia at Hegra led to the creation in Paris of the French Agency for AlUla Development (Afalula), which was founded to support the Kingdom in the economic, touristic, and cultural development of the AlUla region.

Storytelling is at the heart of what we do at Arab News, and there is nothing that gives us more pleasure than to tell the untold story of the extremely rich history of AlUla to a whole new audience.

Randa Takieddine, chief Paris correspondent of Arab News en Français

The partnership was launched by French President Emmanuel Macron at the Elysee Palace on April 10, 2018, in the presence of the crown prince. It demonstrated, said Macron, “our commitment to a partnership that is focused on archaeology, heritage, and culture, in addition to tourism and the economy, and that forms part of a Saudi initiative aimed at showcasing its rich culture and its roots in some of the most ancient civilizations on the planet.”

It is the vision of the RCU and Afalula that AlUla will be transformed into a “living, open museum,” complete with a unique network of museums, archaeological sites, and luxury hotels, all of which will create job opportunities for the local community and boost the region’s economy.

With $20 billion of capital at its disposal, the Saudi-funded Afalula is working to support the growth of infrastructure, archaeology, and tourism in the historic valley with the aim of attracting 2 million visitors a year to the site by 2035, in the process creating 35,000 local jobs.

Paris was given a glimpse of the treasures of Hegra and the surrounding region at the exhibition, “AlUla, Wonder of Arabia,” which ran at the Arab World Institute between October 2019 and January. The launch of the exhibition was attended by Prince Badr bin Abdullah bin Farhan Al-Saud, Saudi Arabia’s culture minister and governor of the RCU, and Franck Riester, the French Minister of Culture.

Guests from the fields of archaeology, arts, culture, and nature included prize-winning French architect Jean Nouvel, who is designing a luxury tourism resort for AlUla. The RCU said the Sharaan Resort, one of a series of developments planned for the area, will be “a leading international destination – a stunning, truly unique and instantly recognizable piece of architecture that respects and responds to the integrity and authenticity of a desert environment that has remained unaltered for millennia.”

The resort, to be located in a valley deep inside the newly created Sharaan Nature Reserve, a dramatic landscape of high cliffs, rocky plateaus, and spectacular sand dunes, is part of a broader master vision for the area that includes an International Summit Center intended to serve as a meeting point for world leaders.


Cyberattacks hit 95% of Saudi businesses last year, says study

Updated 20 min 56 sec ago

Cyberattacks hit 95% of Saudi businesses last year, says study

  • Data, money and reputation at risk

RIYADH: Cyberattacks hit 95 percent of businesses in the Kingdom last year, according to a new survey, as a cybersecurity expert warned that there was a lack of awareness in Saudi Arabia about the seriousness of such attacks and what people could do to protect themselves.

More than 800 global business and cybersecurity leaders took part in the survey, including 49 from the Kingdom. It was commissioned by a cybersecurity firm, Tenable Inc., and carried out by Forrester Consulting.

According to the study, 85 percent of Saudi survey participants had witnessed a dramatic increase in the number of business-impacting attacks in the past two years. The effects of the attacks were serious, with organizations reporting loss of customer or employee data, ransomware payments and financial loss or theft. Around 61 percent of security leaders in Saudi Arabia said the cyberattacks also involved operational technology.

Cybersecurity expert Abdullah Al-Jaber said the primary reason that most of these cyberattacks were successful in the region was due to a lack of awareness about the gravity of these incidents and the ways that people could protect themselves against them.

“A lot of cybersecurity attacks happen because of a lack of cybersecurity awareness in a company’s employees,” he told Arab News. “Many attacks start from phishing campaigns and lead to major incidents, similar to the attack that happened recently on Twitter,” he said, referring to a Bitcoin hacking scheme that happened on the social media platform last month.

Al Jaber recommended educating employees about proper internet security, keeping work and personal internet browsing and email access on separate devices if possible, and avoiding unsafe behavior such as pirating music, movies, and TV shows.

“Improving cybersecurity awareness to employees is key for companies to make sure they don't open any malicious links or files that might lead to an incident. Also, understanding the environment and which systems are exposed to the Internet and making sure those systems are hardened and protected. The National Cybersecurity Authority (NCA) has published frameworks for organizations to follow, which help many organizations in improving their cybersecurity maturity,” he added.

He also recommended choosing complex passwords for email access and enabling two-factor authentication protocols whenever possible for added security.

The Tenable poll showed that fewer than 50 percent of the security leaders who took part said they are framing cybersecurity threats within the context of a specific business risk. For example, although 96 percent of respondents had developed response strategies to the COVID-19 pandemic, 75 percent of business and security leaders said their response strategies were only “somewhat” aligned.

Al-Jaber warned that these attacks could be dangerous for many reasons and not only because of the financial impact they could have on companies, as many factors came into play in terms of phishing scams.

“Some of the impact caused by cybersecurity attacks are the loss of sensitive information such as customer or employee personal identifiable information, financial loss, and even to the company’s reputation. A company that is known for being more vulnerable to cyberattacks might have less of a value on the stock market or to potential investors,” he said.

A royal decree requires all organizations to improve cybersecurity standards and procedures to protect their networks, systems and electronic data, and commit to the adoption of policies, frameworks, standards, controls and guidelines issued by the NCA.