Akiba Cafe: Your manga escape in Saudi Arabia

Akiba Cafe: Your manga escape in Saudi Arabia
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Visitors to the cafe can order their drinks and browse Akiba’s collection for free at diner-style tables, or enjoy their experience solo as they catch up on their favorite manga tales. (AN photo by Huda Bashatah)
Akiba Cafe: Your manga escape in Saudi Arabia
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AN photo by Huda Bashatah
Akiba Cafe: Your manga escape in Saudi Arabia
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AN photo by Huda Bashatah
Akiba Cafe: Your manga escape in Saudi Arabia
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AN photo by Huda Bashatah
Akiba Cafe: Your manga escape in Saudi Arabia
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AN photo by Huda Bashatah
Akiba Cafe: Your manga escape in Saudi Arabia
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AN photo by Huda Bashatah
Akiba Cafe: Your manga escape in Saudi Arabia
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AN photo by Huda Bashatah
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AN photo by Huda Bashatah
Akiba Cafe: Your manga escape in Saudi Arabia
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AN photo by Huda Bashatah
Akiba Cafe: Your manga escape in Saudi Arabia
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AN photo by Huda Bashatah
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AN photo by Huda Bashatah
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Updated 10 August 2020

Akiba Cafe: Your manga escape in Saudi Arabia

Akiba Cafe: Your manga escape in Saudi Arabia
  • Jeddah destination provides a taste of Japan with anime, comics, desserts and films

JEDDAH: Japanese comic books, known as manga, have captured the hearts of some Saudis so much that a 31-year-old citizen decided to give the genre’s fans a specialist Jeddah cafe so that they can pursue their passion as well as meet others who share it.

Akiba Cafe is the brainchild of Mohammed Saeed Baghlaf, an urban planning engineer who spent over a year living in Japan after graduating from college in the US and was working on a project for Tokyo’s 2020 Olympics.
Manga cafes can be found in most cities across Japan. They are a place where people can spend hours reading manga, and they are also considered to be a cultural space where people can relax and have conversations about manga.
He was inspired by the concept of manga cafes while he was in Japan, and took notice of the growing love for manga in the Kingdom. As an urban planner, he was able to grasp the Japanese concept and implement it in Saudi Arabia with a few tweaks and changes to suit the local audience.
“Manga cafés are all over Japan, albeit executed differently,” Baghlaf told Arab News. “They’re a little like internet cafés where people can spend the night. Of course, recreating that here doesn’t go along with our culture and traditions, so we recreated the concept in a way that accommodates that.”

Signature drinks
Akiba has only been open for a few months but, by the time Arab News visited the manga hotspot, people have already been flocking to the cafe to try out its signature drinks and read their favorite comics.

We have contracted a company in Tokyo to get the rights for a bunch of shows and, after many discussions, we get to air an episode an hour after it airs in Japan with Arabic subtitles for our customers.

Mohammed Saeed Baghlaf, Urban planning engineer

Friends and families can be seen relaxing together on the ground floor flicking through the pages of a comic book, or delving into a more accessible e-reading option as manga is still in short supply in Saudi Arabia.
Visitors to the cafe can order their drinks and browse Akiba’s collection for free at diner-style tables, or enjoy their experience solo as they catch up on their favorite manga tales.
Akiba also airs popular anime and animated films throughout the day, uploading their schedule on their Twitter and Instagram pages.
Baghlaf is an avid gamer, but watching anime and reading manga is definitely on his list of favorite things to do. Keeping up with popular stories also helps him to figure out what manga volumes to acquire and which anime films to screen.
The urban planning engineer noticed the Kingdom’s approach in linking many objectives in the Vision 2030 reform plan to entertainment and, as cafes continue to draw large crowds in Saudi Arabia, he felt encouraged about going for Akiba.
“Specialty cafes are very popular here nowadays, so how am I going to be special? I went for a manga or anime cafe,” he said.
The cafe’s target audience are those who are interested in specialty coffee, manga and anime. For people with a sweet tooth there are Japanese desserts on offer, including cheesecake.

BACKGROUND

• Akiba Cafe is the brainchild of Mohammed Saeed Baghlaf, an urban planning engineer.

• He spent over a year living in Japan after graduating from college in the US and was working on a project for Tokyo’s 2020 Olympics.

• He was inspired by the concept of manga cafes while he was in Japan, and took notice of the growing love for manga in Saudi Arabia.

• The name Akiba comes from Akihabara, a popular area in Tokyo that is a hub for anime, gaming and electronics retailers.

• It also has specialty cafes throughout its busy maze of streets.

• Mohammed Saeed Baghlaf wants to support local talent by initiating artist nights at Akiba so that people can come and get sketches and put local manga on display for readers to discover.

Baghlaf has to make frequent trips to Japan to discuss screening rights with creators in Tokyo. “We’ve contracted a company in Tokyo to get the rights for a bunch of shows and, after many discussions, we get to air an episode an hour after it airs in Japan with Arabic subtitles for our customers.”
Due to the deals Baghlaf has made with distributors, he receives the episodes prior to their airing date to green-light them in terms of translation accuracy and censorship, in order not to air anything that goes against the Kingdom’s culture.
The same goes for manga. “I would bring in a story with 70-something volumes and, out of those, one book could end up with something inappropriate and I’d have to shelve the whole series.”


Baghlaf believes that the market for Japanese storytelling is massive in Saudi Arabia and continues to grow each day.
“It’s definitely popular and it’s why you see major events happening like Comic Con and Anime Expo, which I’ve been to myself with 200,000 others. It was so crowded,” he said.

Friendship
The Saudis have grown up with Japanese stories for decades, as well as slapstick US cartoons such as Tom and Jerry and the Loony Tunes that lack storytelling or arcs, according to Baghlaf. The Japanese stories have taught generations of Saudis about friendship, brotherhood, integrity and how to deal with others.
“There’s also a huge likeness between Japanese and Arabic culture. Within families, respecting those older than you whether through language, which has levels of formality where elders deserve the most respectable form when talked to and they have a lot of respect for familial bonds as well.”
The cafe owner revealed that the name Akiba comes from Akihabara, a popular area in Tokyo that is a hub for anime, gaming and electronics retailers. It also has specialty cafes throughout its busy maze of streets.
Baghlaf wants to support local talent by initiating artist nights at Akiba so that people can come and get sketches and put local manga on display for readers to discover.


Saudi Arabia records 14 COVID-19 deaths, 997 new cases

Saudi Arabia records 14 COVID-19 deaths, 997 new cases
Updated 08 May 2021

Saudi Arabia records 14 COVID-19 deaths, 997 new cases

Saudi Arabia records 14 COVID-19 deaths, 997 new cases
  • The Kingdom said 1,026 patients recovered in past 24 hours
  • The highest number of cases were recorded in Riyadh with 372

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia recorded 14 new COVID-19 related deaths on Saturday, raising the total number of fatalities to 7,059.
The Ministry of Health confirmed 997 new confirmed cases reported in the Kingdom in the previous 24 hours, meaning 425,442 people have now contracted the disease. 
Of the total number of cases, 9,707 remain active and 1,319 in critical condition.
According to the ministry, the highest number of cases were recorded in the capital Riyadh with 372, followed by Makkah with 250, the Eastern Province with 123, Asir recorded 54 and Madinah confirmed 49 cases.
The ministry also announced that 1,026 patients had recovered from COVID-19, bringing the total number of recoveries in the Kingdom to 408,676.

The ministry renewed its call on the public to register to receive the vaccine, and adhere to the measures and abide by instructions.
Meanwhile, the Ministry of Islamic Affairs temporary closed nine mosques in five regions after nine people tested positive for coronavirus, bringing the total number of mosques closed to 1,056 within 89 days, 1,037 of which have reopened after being sterilized.
The coronavirus pandemic has affected over 157 million people globally and the death toll has reached around 3.28 million.


Saudi Arabia, UAE reject Israeli measures to evacuate Palestinian homes in Jerusalem

Saudi Arabia, UAE reject Israeli measures to evacuate Palestinian homes in Jerusalem
Updated 08 May 2021

Saudi Arabia, UAE reject Israeli measures to evacuate Palestinian homes in Jerusalem

Saudi Arabia, UAE reject Israeli measures to evacuate Palestinian homes in Jerusalem
  • The ministry renewed its stand with the country’s people, and supported all efforts aimed at reaching a just and comprehensive solution to the Palestinian issue

DUBAI: Saudi Arabia rejects Israeli plans to evacuate Palestinian homes in Jerusalem and impose Israeli sovereignty over them, Saudi foreign ministry said in a statement.

The ministry stressed the country’s condemnation of any unilateral measures and violations of international legitimacy decisions. It also denounced anything that might undermine the chances of resuming the peace process to achieve security and stability in the region.

The ministry renewed its stand with the country’s people, and supported all efforts aimed at reaching a just and comprehensive solution to the Palestinian issue.

It has also shown its support in enabling the Palestinians to establish their independent state on the 1967 borders, with East Jerusalem as its capital, in accordance with international legitimacy decisions and the Arab Peace Initiative.

A night of heavy clashes between Palestinians and Israeli police at the Al-Aqsa mosque compound and elsewhere in Jerusalem left more than 200 Palestinians wounded, medics said Saturday, as the city braced for even more violence after weeks of unrest.

Meanwhile, the United Arab Emirates has also condemened the storming of the Al-Aqsa Mosque by Israeli authorities, stressing the need for them to assume responsibility in accordance with international law.


Saudi Arabia, Pakistan sign agreement to establish Saudi-Pakistani Supreme Coordination Council

Saudi Arabia, Pakistan sign agreement to establish Saudi-Pakistani Supreme Coordination Council
Updated 08 May 2021

Saudi Arabia, Pakistan sign agreement to establish Saudi-Pakistani Supreme Coordination Council

Saudi Arabia, Pakistan sign agreement to establish Saudi-Pakistani Supreme Coordination Council
  • Imran Khan invites Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to visit Pakistan

JEDDAH: Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan have signed an agreement to establish the Saudi-Pakistani Supreme Coordination Council.

Ahead of the visit, Pakistan’s Cabinet on Tuesday approved the establishment of the council – a body created for streamlining bilateral cooperation between the two countries – to ‘remove hurdles’ to investment deals signed during the crown prince’s visit to Pakistan in February 2019.

Representatives from both countries also signed a memorandum of understanding on illicit trafficking in narcotic drugs, psychotropic substances and chemical precursors, Saudi news agency SPA reported.

“Another MoU for financing eligible projects in the fields of energy, infrastructure, transportation, water, and communications between the Saudi Fund for Development (SFD) and the Islamic Republic of Pakistan was signed as well,” Al-Arabiya TV reported separately.

The two leaders also witnessed the signing of agreements increasing cooperation on people sentenced to penalties depriving freedom, and on crime prevention.

Khan arrived in the Kingdom on Friday evening for a three-day visit on the invitation of the crown prince, who was present at Jeddah airport to receive him and the first lady. He is accompanied by a high-level delegation, including the foreign minister and other members of the Cabinet.

The crown prince and Pakistani leader held wide-ranging talks on bilateral, regional and international issues in Jeddah, a statement from Pakistan’s foreign office said.

“The two leaders reaffirmed the strong and historic bonds between the two countries rooted firmly in shared beliefs, common values, mutual trust and longstanding tradition of mutual support,” the statement said, and added that the two parties agreed to “further strengthen, deepen and diversify the existing bilateral political, economic, trade, defense and security ties.”

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“Special emphasis was laid on increasing Saudi investments in Pakistan, collaboration in the field of energy, and increased job opportunities for Pakistanis in Saudi Arabia,” the statement said.

Saudi Arabia is home to more than two million Pakistanis who remit billions of dollars back home every year.

On regional issues, Khan outlined his vision of a ‘peaceful neighborhood.’ He lauded the crown prince for efforts and initiatives aimed at reinforcing and promoting regional peace.

Khan highlighted the situation in Indian-administered Kashmir and stressed the importance of a peaceful resolution of the Jammu and Kashmir dispute. He also said Pakistan had made consistent efforts to support peace and reconciliation in Afghanistan, the statement reported.

The Afghan question is important in the region against the backdrop of foreign troops pulling out of Pakistan’s neighboring country after a war that has lasted two decades, and that ends with the Taliban controlling huge swathes of the country.

During talks, issues related to the environment and climate change were discussed and the PM reportedly appreciated the crown prince’s ‘Green Saudi Arabia’ initiative.

Khan has reportedly also invited the crown prince to visit Pakistan at his earliest convenience, the foreign office said.

On Friday, Pakistani army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa, whose official visit preluded Khan’s, held talks with the Saudi crown prince and reviewed bilateral ties.

He also discussed defense cooperation with the Saudi military chief of staff.


Opportunities for mutual benefit beckon as Pakistan PM Imran Khan begins Saudi Arabia visit

Opportunities for mutual benefit beckon as Pakistan PM Imran Khan begins Saudi Arabia visit
Updated 08 May 2021

Opportunities for mutual benefit beckon as Pakistan PM Imran Khan begins Saudi Arabia visit

Opportunities for mutual benefit beckon as Pakistan PM Imran Khan begins Saudi Arabia visit
  • Energy, economy and welfare of overseas Pakistanis expected to top the agenda of meetings
  • Remittances sent home from the Kingdom are an important source of foreign capital for Pakistan

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan has long enjoyed warm relations with Saudi Arabia, deeply rooted in their common faith, shared history and mutual support in times of crisis. More than 2 million Pakistanis work in the Kingdom, contributing to its prosperity and sending home billions in remittances. Trade, meanwhile, continues to blossom between the two nations.

With an eye to boosting their mutual cooperation, Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan arrived in Saudi Arabia on Friday at the invitation of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to begin a three-day official visit, with energy, economy and the welfare of overseas Pakistanis expected to top the diplomatic agenda.

“We believe this is a very important visit of Prime Minister Imran Khan to Saudi Arabia with respect to our historic bilateral relationship, trade and economic ties,” Zahid Hafeez Chaudhri, a spokesman for the Pakistani foreign office, told Arab News.

Pakistan's PM Imran Khan and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman riding in a carriage during a welcome ceremony in Islamabad on Feb. 18, 2019.  (Photo by Bandar Al-Jaloud / file photo)

“The two sides will discuss economy, trade, investment and job opportunities for the Pakistani workforce in Saudi Arabia, besides signing a number of agreements on energy and infrastructure related projects.”

Indeed, the Kingdom is an extremely important trade destination for Pakistan and both countries have been searching for ways to boost their partnership along with the volume of imports and exports.

At present, the trade volume between both countries stands at $3.6 billion, with imports from Saudi Arabia worth $3.2 billion and exports to the Kingdom worth $316.3 million, according to the Federation of Pakistan Chambers of Commerce and Industry.

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“Our exports to Saudi Arabia have increased this year after our companies were allowed to export halal meat and livestock, and we are trying to further boost it,” Shahid Ahmed Leghari, chairman of the Pak-Saudi Business Council, told Arab News.

Pakistani companies had also started exporting spices and garments to the Kingdom, he said, but there is room for improvement. “We can boost our bilateral trade to $20 billion per annum if we are allowed to export rice, fruits, vegetables, wheat flour and dairy products to the Kingdom,” Leghari said.

Khan’s visit to Saudi Arabia will help “open new business opportunities” for Pakistani businessmen and exporters, he added.

Ahead of the visit, Pakistan’s Cabinet on Tuesday approved the establishment of the Supreme Coordination Council between the country and Saudi Arabia to “remove hurdles” to investment deals signed during the crown prince’s visit to Pakistan in February 2019. 

During the crown prince’s 2019 visit, officials of both countries signed key memorandums of understanding worth $20 billion in the fields of energy, petrochemicals, minerals, agriculture and food processing. 

Khan will be accompanied on his Saudi visit by a high-level delegation, including the foreign minister and other members of the Cabinet.

Pakistan's PM Imran Khan walk along with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman at the Nur Khan Pakistan Air Force (PAF) base in Islamabad on Feb. 18, 2018. (Photo by Bandar Al-Jaloud / file photo)

He will also meet Dr. Yousef Al-Othaimeen, secretary general of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation; Mohammad bin Abdul Karim Al-Issa, secretary general of the World Muslim League; and the imams of the Two Holy Mosques in Makkah and Madinah.

Khan will also meet with members of Pakistan’s diaspora community in Jeddah during his stay in the port city. The Kingdom remains the largest source of overseas remittances to Pakistan, with Pakistani workers sending home $6.6 billion in the last fiscal year and $5.7 billion from July to March this fiscal year, according to the State Bank of Pakistan.

These remittances are an important source of foreign capital for Pakistan as it fights to stabilize its economy, crippled by the coronavirus pandemic.

“This visit is important because Pakistan is facing real financial challenges where we have to maintain our foreign exchange reserves,” Qamar Cheema, a Pakistani foreign-relations analyst, told Arab News.

“Pakistan is also facing challenges since the UAE visa (for Pakistanis) has not been resumed and at the same time the Pakistani diaspora is very much important. So, Pakistan wants its strategic partnership with Saudi Arabia to remain the same.”

Just weeks after Khan assumed office in August 2018, Saudi Arabia helped Pakistan stave off its looming balance of payments crisis by extending a $3 billion interest-free loan and another $3 billion deferred payment facility for the import of oil.

In exchange, “Pakistan wants to share its experiences with Saudi Arabia, making Saudi Arabia green. And Pakistan also wants to share its (military) experience to protect the security of Saudi Arabia,” said Cheema.

“We are going to nudge forward from where we left off back in 2019 when the crown prince came here.”

 

The Kingdom has often stood by Pakistan during difficult times, extending financial support during wars and natural disasters.

“Pakistan cannot forget the extensive Saudi financial support in the form of oil supply and cash during our difficult times, such as the earthquake in 2005 and flash floods in 2010 and 2011,” Javed Hafeez, a former ambassador to Saudi Arabia, told Arab News.

The presence of Pakistan’s army chief Gen. Qamar Javed Bajwa in the Kingdom ahead of the prime minister’s visit indicates both countries are interested in “enhancing defense cooperation” and economic ties, he said.

“Saudi Arabia is a time-tested and trusted friend of Pakistan, and the prime minister’s visit will definitely help open new vistas of economic cooperation,” Hafeez said.

 


Mosque named after King Salman to be built in Islamabad

Mosque named after King Salman to be built in Islamabad
Updated 08 May 2021

Mosque named after King Salman to be built in Islamabad

Mosque named after King Salman to be built in Islamabad

RIYADH: A mosque named after Saudi Arabia's King Salman will be built at the International Islamic University in Islamabad, Pakistan, the Saudi Press Agency (SPA) said Saturday.

The planned mosque, which will be located at the university's campus, includes a prayer hall for men accommodating 4,000 worshipers and another for women accommodating 2000 worshipers, said the report.

King Salman. (SPA photo)

The project also contains a museum and a library each in the name of the King Salman, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman's Conferences Hall, an administrative area and a parking lot.

There will also be outdoor yards that can accommodate 6,000 people. 

SPA said King Salman has approved the plan.