Saudi artist Abdullah Alhumaid puts Riyadh street life in the frame 

Saudi artist Abdullah Alhumaid puts Riyadh street life in the frame 
Experimental film photographer Abdullah Alhumaid has produced a piece of work called “Rats of Bat’ha,” a project capturing daily life in a Riyadh neighborhood. (Supplied/Abdullah Alhumaid)
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Updated 30 October 2020

Saudi artist Abdullah Alhumaid puts Riyadh street life in the frame 

Saudi artist Abdullah Alhumaid puts Riyadh street life in the frame 
  • Abdullah Alhumaid drives film photography’s revival at the crest of a wave of creative potential in the Kingdom
  • The experimental film photographer’s ‘Rats of Bat’ha’ project captures daily life in one Riyadh neighborhood

DUBAI: Experimental film photographer Abdullah Alhumaid is not your average 25-year-old Saudi. His creative journey, which began unexpectedly on the streets of Beirut, has flourished, resulting in “Rats of Bat’ha,” a project capturing daily life in a Riyadh neighborhood.

In the age of smartphones and Instagram filters, old-fashioned film photography is a dying art — limited by a finite roll of film and the patience required to develop it. But Alhumaid’s eye-opening work could provide the flash of inspiration needed for a wider comeback.

“The experimental experience started at the beginning of 2018 when I was going for a quick trip to Beirut,” Alhumaid told Arab News. “Two hours before my flight, I met a friend who had a film camera, which I had never operated. I borrowed it for the trip to experiment and to see how it goes.”

What stuck with Alhumaid after his trip were interactions with Beiruti locals who became his photographic subjects. While convincing them to shed their inhibitions and pose for portraits, he too was coaxed out of his comfort zone. Something had clicked.

“It was surprisingly beautiful, given I’d never operated a camera before, especially a film one, which was not at the top of my list,” he said. “The interactions were breathtaking — I allowed myself to interfere with people’s daily lives and tried to put them on the spot.”

Although many of his subjects were hesitant at first, the process of persuading them was central to Alhumaid’s experience, from careful first impressions to the questions he posed to put them at ease.

“It’s not about nagging, because that’s not comfortable,” he said. “I got to interact with different types of people, including homeless people, and got to know their stories. It’s about connecting in a human way. And when you open up to them, that gives you a worthwhile experience that you wouldn’t normally think of.”

Unfortunately, his first roll of film was damaged, erasing his earliest work. His second shoot, however, proved far more successful thanks to some valuable tips from an experienced Beirut photographer who took him under his wing.




Although many of his subjects were hesitant at first, the process of persuading them was central to Alhumaid’s experience. (Supplied/Abdullah Alhumaid)

The end result is Alhumaid’s signature style of moody city snapshots, many of them employing the sharp dualities of light and shadow, while others mesh urban straight lines with a blur of motion. The dated quality of film lends the images a hue of nostalgia.

“What I love about the film camera is that you’re not attached to the results,” he said. “You don’t see results immediately, so you’re not distracted by the tool; rather you’re inspired to be in the moment and to place your focus on the interaction.

“You only get 36 images, so you’ll be pickier and more aware of what you shoot because you don’t want to waste your whole film on one subject.”

In the age of digital photography, where pictures can be captured, cropped, retouched and deleted faster than you can say cheese, it is surprising to see old film cameras making a comeback in modern Saudi Arabia.

However, there are now very few stores in the Kingdom fitted with darkrooms to develop rolls of film — just one in all of Riyadh in fact. As a result, Alhumaid is on the lookout for like-minded shutterbugs who want to rebuild the industry.

Al-Bat’ha is one of the oldest commercial districts of downtown Riyadh — increasingly diverse and always buzzing. In October 2018, after returning from Beirut, Alhumaid made this distinctive neighborhood his source of inspiration.

“It is unfortunately left behind, and now only expats live there,” Alhumaid said. “It used to be the downtown of Riyadh. Going there and seeing the contrast we live in, in terms of bubbles we create for ourselves, was mesmerizing — the simplicity, the colors, the fruits, the expats, and how they were shocked at how we were taking photos of them. It was lovely to touch base with the city.”

It was here Alhumaid framed the idea for “Rats of Bat’ha.” And in case you were wondering, he and his shoot team are the eponymous rats, weaving through the urban maze with rodent-like curiosity, he says.

“Al-Bat’ha is the street that pushed me again to take this passion forward and keep it as a funnel feeding itself with simplicity,” he told Arab News. “I didn’t want to plan anything; I wanted everything to be spontaneous and take it everywhere.”

And that he did. From Japan, Portugal, Versailles in France, and everywhere else his photography has taken him, Alhumaid has tried to connect with local street life by capturing people on film. In the process, he said he has evolved.




From Japan, Portugal, Versailles in France, and everywhere else his photography has taken him, Alhumaid has tried to connect with local street life by capturing people on film. (Supplied/Abdullah Alhumaid)

Born and raised in Riyadh in a conservative household of academics and consultants, Alhumaid feels blessed to have grown up without technology. “They forbid it, not just because of religion, but because of how much it consumes you,” he said of his parents.

“And I’m grateful for that, because they allowed us the space to create, to generate ideas and to work with what you have so it reflects your intellect.”

As such, his five siblings ended up in fashion design, psychology, French literature, law and medicine. “It’s derived from not having a TV,” he said. “These elements played a role.”

After a six-month stint playing for Al-Shabab football club, Alhumaid’s interest turned to Riyadh’s art scene, which was burgeoning in 2013. There he met a whole new community. After working in Dubai for a short period with Careem Wallet, he moved back to Saudi Arabia in July 2019 and enrolled at the Misk Art Institute, in collaboration with the palace of Versailles.

“We went to Versailles for five weeks and it was unbelievable,” he said. “I worked in the cultural development department, where we did this program to attract Saudi tourists to Versailles, given that the smallest number of visitors come from the Middle East and the GCC.”




Alhumaid is continuing to build his photography portfolio and someday hopes to feature his work in local and international exhibitions. (Supplied/Abdullah Alhumaid)

After completing his program, he worked in the brand team of the Al-Musafer travel agency in the Kingdom for seven months, before an opportunity with the content team at the Saudi Tourism Authority presented itself.

“We work with international agencies from New York and London in terms of development and content creation. I’m only six months in and I’m just ecstatic,” Alhumaid said.

“It’s beautiful, because we see the country opening up and people changing their behavior and their misconceptions. We, as a society, have so much to offer.”

In the meantime, Alhumaid is continuing to build his photography portfolio and someday hopes to feature his work in local and international exhibitions. Luckily for him, a great wave of creative potential is cresting in Saudi Arabia, bringing with it whole new industries in art, music and film.

“Some people started their own production houses, studying abroad and coming back to the country,” Alhumaid said. “Saudi Arabia is booming now more than ever — tourists have started visiting and that’s how you learn from each other, by being exposed.

“It doesn’t help anyone to be divided. And that’s how we move forward, as the bad apples start changing their behavior.”

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Twitter: @CalineMalek


Saudi Arabia’s crown prince receives message from head of Chad’s Transitional Military Council

Saudi Arabia’s crown prince receives message from head of Chad’s Transitional Military Council
Updated 39 min 6 sec ago

Saudi Arabia’s crown prince receives message from head of Chad’s Transitional Military Council

Saudi Arabia’s crown prince receives message from head of Chad’s Transitional Military Council
  • The letter dealt with relations between the two countries and ways to support and enhance them in various fields

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman on Thursday received a written message from the Chairman of Chad’s Transitional Military Council, Gen. Mahamat Idriss Deby, regarding relations between the two countries and ways to support and enhance them in various fields.
The message was received on behalf of Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan, by Minister of State for African Affairs Ahmed bin Abdul Aziz Kattan during a meeting with his Chadian counterpart Mahamat Zene Cherif in the Saudi capital, Riyadh.
Kattan welcomed the Chadian foreign minister and his accompanying delegation, and they discussed bilateral relations and ways to enhance them in various fields, in addition to exchanging views on regional and international issues of common interest, the Kingdom’s foreign ministry said.


Saudi Arabia reports high rates of coronavirus immunization among elderly

Saudi Arabia reports high rates of coronavirus immunization among elderly
Updated 17 June 2021

Saudi Arabia reports high rates of coronavirus immunization among elderly

Saudi Arabia reports high rates of coronavirus immunization among elderly
  • The Kingdom recorded 14 COVID-19 deaths and 1,309 new cases in past 24 hours
  • 8 mosques reopened in 4 regions after temporarily evacuating and sterilizing them after 8 people tested positive for coronavirus

RIYADH: The Ministry of Health announced on Thursday that a high COVID immunization rate had been achieved among the elderly Saudi population (60 years and above).
Immunization rates reached 98 percent in Hafr Al-Batin, 93 percent in Al-Ahsa, 93 percent in Qurayyat, 86 percent in Bisha, 83 percent in Riyadh, 80 percent in the Eastern Province, and 80 percent in Taif.
The ministry said that these percentages were achieved after vaccinating this group with at least one dose.
Since Saudi Arabia began its nationwide vaccination campaign on Dec. 17, the Ministry of Health has targeted the elderly as one of its priority groups, launching a Priority service for Saudis and expats over the age of 75 without registration, appointment or waiting.
This has been available at vaccination centers in all regions of the Kingdom.
The ministry called on everyone to obtain the COVID-19 vaccine by registering on the “Sehhaty” application, stressing that the approved vaccines in the Kingdom are effective and safe.
Meanwhile, the ministry said that three polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests can be conducted per month, according to the new protocol for COVID-19 tests in the Kingdom.
“If you have a respiratory disease, go to Tetamman clinics without booking an appointment and the doctor will assess your condition and conduct an examination for you,” the Ministry explained. “If you have recovered from the virus, you do not need an examination to prove your recovery. If you come in direct contact with a confirmed case after taking the COVID-19 vaccine, you don’t need a test.”
The Kingdom recorded 14 new COVID-19 related deaths on Thursday, raising the total number of fatalities to 7,635.
The Ministry of Health confirmed 1,309 new confirmed cases reported in the Kingdom in the previous 24 hours, meaning 470,723 people have now contracted the disease. 
Of the total number of cases, 10,879 remain active and 1,533 in critical condition.
According to the ministry, the highest number of cases were recorded in Makkah with 388, followed by the capital Riyadh with 265, the Eastern Province with 235, Asir recorded 115, and Jazan confirmed 95 cases.
The health ministry also announced that 1,022 patients had recovered from COVID-19, bringing the total number of recoveries in the Kingdom to 452,209.

The ministry renewed its call on the public to register to receive the vaccine, and adhere to the measures and abide by instructions.
Saudi Arabia had so far conducted 20,712,598 PCR tests, with 94,921 carried out in the past 24 hours.
Testing hubs and treatment centers set up throughout the country have dealt with hundreds of thousands of people since the COVID-19 pandemic outbreak.
Among them, Taakad (make sure) centers provide COVID-19 testing for those who show no or only mild symptoms or believe they have come into contact with an infected individual. Tetamman (rest assured) clinics offer treatment and advice to those with virus symptoms such as fever, loss of taste and smell, and breathing difficulties.
Appointments for both services can be made via the ministry’s Sehhaty app.
Meanwhile, 16,275,155 people in the country have received a jab against COVID-19.
The Ministry of Islamic Affairs reopened eight mosques in four regions after temporarily evacuating and sterilizing them after eight people tested positive for coronavirus, bringing the total number of mosques closed and reopened after being sterilized to 1,596 within 131 days.
The coronavirus pandemic has affected over 177 million people globally and the death toll has reached around 3.85 million.


Arab coalition destroys Houthi drone launched toward southern Saudi Arabia

Arab coalition destroys Houthi drone launched toward southern Saudi Arabia
Updated 17 June 2021

Arab coalition destroys Houthi drone launched toward southern Saudi Arabia

Arab coalition destroys Houthi drone launched toward southern Saudi Arabia
  • The coalition said it destroyed a drone launched by the Iran-backed Houthis against civilians and civilian objects in Khamis Mushait

RIYADH: The Arab coalition said on Thursday it thwarted an attack launched by the Houthi militia in Yemen toward southern Saudi Arabia.
The coalition said it destroyed a “booby-trapped” drone launched by the Iran-backed group against civilians and civilian objects in Khamis Mushait, state TV reported.
“We are taking operational measures to protect civilians and from hostile attacks,” the coalition said, adding that it would continue to thwart “all hostile attempts of the Houthi militia against civilians and civilian objects.”


Saudi Arabia highlights desertification risks

Saudi Arabia highlights desertification risks
Updated 17 June 2021

Saudi Arabia highlights desertification risks

Saudi Arabia highlights desertification risks
  • As part of World Day to Combat Desertification and Drought, Saudi authorities reveal work they are doing in this field

JEDDAH: Saudi Arabia is participating in World Day to Combat Desertification and Drought, which is celebrated on June 17 each year to raise awareness of the growing threats posed by desertification and the importance of preserving biodiversity.

Authorities said the Kingdom, which is committed to promoting sustainable development as part of its Saudi Vision 2030 strategy, is making significant efforts to tackle desertification and drought and preserve resources such as forests, pastures and agricultural land.

The Ministry of Environment, Water and Agriculture said it is working to prevent the misuse and degradation of land, including major efforts in scientific research. It has also established specialized projects in fields related to sustainable development, and to help combat the degradation of natural resources and the loss of biodiversity. The aim is to ensure a healthy and proper environment for current and future generations.

The ministry stressed the importance of cooperation in addressing the causes of environmental degradation such as the rearing of livestock, logging, unsuitable agricultural methods, misuse of water resources, and bad practices while hiking.

The Kingdom has also established the National Center for the Development of Vegetation Cover and Combating Desertification, and in 2019 issued a national strategy for natural pastures to improve the management of pasture lands, forests and national parks, preserve plant genetic resources and vegetation cover outside of protected areas, and combat desertification.

The Saudi Geological Survey monitors the degradation of land and the sand drift on main roads, residential areas and other sites, and develops scientific solutions and recommendations to mitigate geohazards and preserve regions at risk of degradation.


Organization of Islamic Cooperation chief urges focus on education, food security at summit

Organization of Islamic Cooperation chief urges focus on education, food security at summit
Updated 17 June 2021

Organization of Islamic Cooperation chief urges focus on education, food security at summit

Organization of Islamic Cooperation chief urges focus on education, food security at summit

JEDDAH: The Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) on Wednesday oversaw the second Islamic Summit on Science and Technology virtually hosted by the UAE under the theme “Science, Technology and Innovation: Opening New Horizons.”

During a speech at the summit, OIC Secretary-General Dr. Yousef Al-Othaimeen said: “The OIC member states have made positive progress in the recent period, as the number of scientific publications increased by 34 percent, and the value of technology exports from OIC countries increased by 32 percent.”

He added that major funds have invested in the field of higher education in all OIC countries, and many member states have initiated large scientific projects, which involve artificial intelligence, green cities in Saudi Arabia, renewable energy and the digital economy.

Al-Othaimeen also drew attention to a space probe that the UAE developed which is successfully orbiting Mars, in addition to other pioneering technological projects across OIC member states.

He called for practical steps to confront challenges that hinder scientific development, and to make full use of all available capabilities to achieve technological development, and bring about social and economic progress in member states.

The secretary-general highlighted the need for inter-Islamic cooperation and partnerships in education by increasing academic interaction and exchanging knowledge through scholarships and research visits.

Speaking on sustainable food security, Al-Othaimeen said that OIC member states are facing challenges in the form of competing demands for resources, climate change and low productivity due to lack of mechanization.

As a result, there is an urgent need to enhance investment in agricultural science and research, as well as seek innovation in developing new types of crops, he added.