Retired Aramco staff recall Christmas festivities in Saudi Arabia’s Eastern Province

Retired Aramco staff recall Christmas festivities in Saudi Arabia’s Eastern Province
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Celebrating Christmas in Dhahran and Ras Tanura is a tradition that goes back to the late 1940s, when the first American families arrived in Saudi Arabia after the Second World War. (Supplied)
Retired Aramco staff recall Christmas festivities in Saudi Arabia’s Eastern Province
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Retired Aramco staff recall Christmas festivities in Saudi Arabia’s Eastern Province
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Retired Aramco staff recall Christmas festivities in Saudi Arabia’s Eastern Province
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Updated 27 December 2020

Retired Aramco staff recall Christmas festivities in Saudi Arabia’s Eastern Province

Retired Aramco staff recall Christmas festivities in Saudi Arabia’s Eastern Province
  • Remembering his childhood in Saudi Arabia, Tim Barger, author of “Christmas in Khobar,” was 8-years-old when he used to live with his family at an Aramco residential camp

JEDDAH: Expats in Saudi Arabia have been celebrating Christmas for decades, especially in the country’s Eastern Province, where Aramco foreign employees have freely marked the occasion among others.
Ali M. Baluchi, a retired Aramco executive, told Arab News that he used to help his company’s foreign colleagues prepare for their Christmas celebration.
“I remember when I was young, I assisted them decorate their buildings in preparation for the occasion. Inside Aramco, they were able to practice Christmas freely,” he said.
He added that he has recently sent letters to his old friends, most of whom are now retired, on Christmas, congratulating them on the occasion and reminding them of the old days. Wishing his friends joyous and beautiful holidays, Baluchi said in his letter: “I still recall the 1950s when I was engaged with some of you in decorating the Dhahran quarter-riyal banquet room for the New Year’s Eve.”
He added that he remembers the competition among the residents for the best decorated house in the community. “Those days were nice and beautiful and it reminds me of the good days we all shared and enjoyed together immensely.”

According to a print edition of the Saudi Aramco World, issued in 1975, celebrating Christmas in Dhahran and Ras Tanura was a tradition that went back to the late 1940s, when the first American families arrived after the Second World War.
The article added that another familiar custom was decorating windows and rooftops with wreaths, lights, reindeers, sleighs and snowmen — an artificial one, of course, since Dhahran’s lawns are at their greenest around Christmastime.




Santa used to come by helicopter from Dhahran, and then ride a camel down Surf Avenue with the entire camp lining the street. Dhahran was a melting pot of different cultures and religions. (Supplied)

Remembering his childhood in Saudi Arabia, Tim Barger, author of “Christmas in Khobar,” was 8-years-old when he used to live with his family at an Aramco residential camp.
He said that Alkhobar in the early 1950s was the most cosmopolitan city in eastern Arabia. In an article posted in Aramco ExPats, he said that the Saudis seemed to be relaxed about Christmas which they considered an Eid holiday for Americans.

“They knew it was a celebration of the birth of Jesus; he was respected within the Qur’an, and it seemed like a reasonable thing for Christians to commemorate,” he said. “The one thing that they couldn’t really comprehend was ‘how did the bearded, fat guy in a red outfit figure into this whole program?’  It was an endless source of fascination,” Barger, who died in 2018 at the age of 72, added.
In her article posted in January on Aramco ExPats, Anushka Bose, who grew up in Dhahran after her family moved to Saudi Arabia in 2006, wrote: “As I drove around the city of Dhahran, I saw houses with lights, wreaths, inflatables, and I thought to myself, how beautiful is it that so many religions and cultures live among Dhahran and yet during festive seasons like Christmas, Ramadan, Eid — we all come together to bring out the energy in the city.”

FASTFACTS

• In the Eastern Province, Aramco’s foreign employees have freely marked Christmas for decades.

• There used to be a competition among the residents for the best decorated house in the community.

She added that decorating the Christmas tree with her family is something she looks forward to for months.
“With Christmas music, chocolates, laughing about inside jokes, and spending grueling efforts to fit all the ornaments on the tree, it’s a very special time for my family.
“A parent’s greatest joy is to be in the company of their kids, especially during such a beautiful season, and I recognize this feeling every time I look at their faces. They lead busy lives, sometimes full of uncertainty, but always have enough energy and affection left to make the best of each day,” Bose said.
In her Aramco ExPats blog, Bose published her interview with Adrienne Costas Belaire, who had grown up between Ras Tanura and Udhailiyah as a child. She asked her about her favorite memories from her childhood in Aramco.
“The memories of Halloween and Christmas were the best. Santa used to come by helicopter from Dhahran, and then ride a camel down Surf Avenue with the entire camp lining the street, it was very cool,” she said. “And Halloween was huge; the camp was completely full of expats who were mostly Americans, and we used to take out pillowcases to collect all our candy, and we had a huge costume parade, too.”


Coalition takes out 5 ballistic missiles, 4 drones in Houthi attacks against Saudi Arabia

Coalition takes out 5 ballistic missiles, 4 drones in Houthi attacks against Saudi Arabia
Updated 15 April 2021

Coalition takes out 5 ballistic missiles, 4 drones in Houthi attacks against Saudi Arabia

Coalition takes out 5 ballistic missiles, 4 drones in Houthi attacks against Saudi Arabia

RIYADH: The Arab coalition destroyed five ballistic missiles and four explosive-laden drones launched by Houthis toward Saudi Arabia, Al-Ekhbariya reported on Thursday.
The attacks targeting Jazan are the latest in a long line of hostile actions against the Kingdom by the Iran-back Houthi militia. 
Jazan University was one of the targets as well as other civilian sites protected under international humanitarian law, coalition spokesman Turki Al-Malki said in a statement on the Saudi Press Agency, adding that the actions amount to war crimes.
The attacks originated from Sa’dah governorate in Yemen, Al-Malki added.
The coalition said the attack is a continuation of the Houthis’ systematic and intentional hostile attempts to target civilians. 
The Houthis, who took over the capital of Yemen, Sanaa, in 2014, have been condemned for their actions against the Kingdom. 
The Saudi government has said the Houthi attacks are not only against the  Kingdom and its economic facilities, but rather the center of the global economy, the security of its exports and its oil supplies, while also affecting maritime navigation.

Saudi Arabia has consistently backed efforts to resolved the war in Yemen peacefully.
Last week, Saudi Arabia’s Deputy Defense Minister Prince Khalid bin Salman held talks with Yemeni Prime Minister Maeen Abdulmalik Saeed, and reiterated that the Kingdom supports “all efforts to end the conflict, implement a cease-fire, alleviate the humanitarian crisis, and reach a political resolution that guarantees peace and prosperity for the brotherly people of Yemen.”
In March, Saudi Arabia announce a peace initiative to help end a war that has ravaged Yemen for the last six years. The initiative, which has received wide support, includes a cease-fire supervised by the UN, the reopening of Sanaa airport, and new talks to reach a political resolution to the conflict. Restrictions on the Red Sea port of Hodeidah would also be eased, allowing access for ships and cargo.
The UN’s chief, Antonio Guterres, backed the deal and urged all sides to take this opportunity to pursue peace and work with his special envoy, Martin Griffiths, on ways to proceed “in good faith and without preconditions.”


Yemen’s information minister, Moammar Al-Eryani, said members of the international community with open channels to the Houthis must use their leverage to encourage it to sever ties with Iran and commit to the Saudi-led peace initiative.
“These countries must put pressure on the Houthis to stop their daily crimes and violations against civilians in their areas of control, which are considered war crimes and crimes against humanity,” Al-Eryani told Arab News in an interview last week.
A Yemeni news agency reported last month that the Houthis had “provisionally” accepted the Saudi initiative to end the war in Yemen, but were demanding unchecked flights from Sanaa airport to unlimited destinations before giving the peace plan their final approval.
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Saudi Arabia’s KSrelief opens prosthetic limbs clinic in Aden

Saudi Arabia’s KSrelief opens prosthetic limbs clinic in Aden
Updated 15 April 2021

Saudi Arabia’s KSrelief opens prosthetic limbs clinic in Aden

Saudi Arabia’s KSrelief opens prosthetic limbs clinic in Aden
  • In addition to providing artificial limbs, the facility will also offer maintenance of prosthetics, rehabilitation services and physiotherapy

LONDON: The Saudi-based King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Center (KSrelief) has officially opened an artificial limbs clinic in the Yemeni city of Aden, the state-run Saudi Press Agency reported on Wednesday.

Qasim Buhaibeh, the Yemeni minister of public health and population, thanked KSrelief for its work to help the Yemeni people. He also praised the achievement of establishing the prosthetic limb facility, which he said “will contribute to providing medical services and alleviating the suffering of those who are injured and the victims of mines.”

Saleh Al-Dibani, the director of KSrelief in Aden, said the organization has provided the prosthetic limb center with the resources it needs to help 1,434 beneficiaries, including 300 new prosthetic limbs.

A KSrelief worker is seen with young patients at the new prosthetic limb center in Aden. (SPA)

He added that KSrelief is also providing resources for maintenance of prosthetics, rehabilitation services, physiotherapy, and to hire medical staff in coordination with the Yemeni Ministry of Health.

“The project of equipping and preparing artificial limbs is one of the most important projects funded by KSrelief in the governorates of Aden, Taiz, Seiyun and Marib, with the aim of supporting the Yemeni health sector,” said Al-Dibani.

The center is part of the framework of humanitarian and relief efforts being provided by Saudi Arabia, through KSrelief, to the Yemeni people.


Saudi scientific organization launches first observatory to monitor and anticipate future development in Kingdom

Saudi scientific organization launches first observatory to monitor and anticipate future development in Kingdom
Updated 15 April 2021

Saudi scientific organization launches first observatory to monitor and anticipate future development in Kingdom

Saudi scientific organization launches first observatory to monitor and anticipate future development in Kingdom

RIYADH: The Asbar Center for Studies, Research and Communications announced the launch of the Asbar Observatory on Development, the first of its kind in monitoring and anticipating future development in the Kingdom.
Established in 1994, the Asbar Center is a scientific organization dedicated to conducting studies and research on development and policies.
Dr. Fahad Al-Orabi Al-Harthi, president of the Asbar Center, said the new observatory is one of the center’s initiatives. 
“The idea of launching the observatory comes within the framework of the center’s efforts to keep pace with developments witnessed in various fields in the Kingdom, in order to achieve its ambitious Vision 2030,” he said.
Through the observatory, Al-Harthi noted, the Asbar Center seeks to build a national system that contributes, in cooperation with the responsible authorities, to monitoring development needs and providing information to authorities.
Al-Harthi also said the observatory will assist decision-makers in shaping life in Saudi Arabia and anticipating its future through foresight tools. In preparation for a pioneering developmental journey that supports changes, the observatory will also anticipate future opportunities and challenges by analyzing their effects and developing innovative solutions to them.
“The mechanism of the Asbar Observatory project relies on the work of local and international development indicators,” Al-Harthi said.
“The observatory will focus on monitoring development and issuing reports to the competent authorities on progress, social innovation, sustainable development and social responsibility. It will also issue future forward-looking studies.”
Al-Harthi said he hopes the Asbar Observatory will enhance the Kingdom’s presence in various global fields while maintaining its distinguished international position.


Prince Mishaal bin Majed appointed adviser to the king

Prince Mishaal bin Majed appointed adviser to the king
Updated 15 April 2021

Prince Mishaal bin Majed appointed adviser to the king

Prince Mishaal bin Majed appointed adviser to the king

RIYADH: King Salman on Thursday appointed Prince Mishaal bin Majed bin Abdulaziz Al Saud as adviser to the king, with the rank of minister, the Saudi Press Agency (SPA) reported.
Prince Mishaal has been governor of Jeddah since 1997 and a member of the Allegiance Council since 2007. 

He is president of the governing council of the assembly and president of the Social Development Forum and chairman of the board of the Society of Majid bin Abdul Aziz for Development and Social Services.


Beggars exploit charitable sentiment during Ramadan

Beggars exploit charitable sentiment during Ramadan
Updated 15 April 2021

Beggars exploit charitable sentiment during Ramadan

Beggars exploit charitable sentiment during Ramadan
  • Saudi Arabia’s Interior Ministry has warned citizens to be wary and recommends using the proper channels to give to charity

JEDDAH: A surge in beggars has been witnessed across Saudi Arabia, taking advantage of the holy month and the acts of charity obligatory upon Muslims.

The scene is not new to residents of the Kingdom. For years, beggars who have arrived illegally through various means such as smuggling, originally from areas such as Africa, Afghanistan and Yemen — and even local citizens — have roamed the streets asking for money.

Migrant smuggling, the irregular movement of people through international borders, is one of the world’s most lucrative criminal activities and has been an issue in the Kingdom for years. The situation dramatically worsened after the Houthis, the Iran-backed militia group, gained power in Yemen, and thousands of people have tried to escape into the Kingdom from the improvised nation.

On the rugged mountain terrain of the Saudi-Yemen border, criminals are smuggled into the Kingdom, more often than not finding their way into major cities and using various ploys to grab people’s attention and money. 

The spirit of giving is prevalent during Ramadan, when Muslims undertake acts of kindness. Giving money is the simplest form of charity but many beggars have been found to be part of an organized gang, mobilizing children, infants and old men and women to do their work.

HIGHLIGHT

Illegal immigrants also poses a security challenge. Some illegal immigrants have been implicated in criminal activities such as smuggling weapons and narcotics, and have committed crimes such as theft, espionage or subversive acts that threaten national security. This is a global issue that many countries have been struggling with. 

All-too familiar scenes — of disheveled-looking young men in torn dirty clothes, barefoot children standing under the scorching sun and walking on unbearably hot pavements, babies passed out in their prams with heavily covered women pushing them between cars or idly waiting at traffic stops without concern for the harm exhaust smoke can do to their health — seem to double during Ramadan.

Such sights may grab people’s attention, prompting them to give a few riyals intended to satisfy the beggars and encourage them to get off the streets — only to find them returned to the same spot the next day.

“These scenes are all too familiar,” one resident, Afaf Al-Ghamdi, said. “I pass by the same streets going to and from work, and everyday I see the same woman with different babies just walking between the cars. It’s heartbreaking to see, but we’re heeding the warnings and we need to stop encouraging them. Organized crime is real and it’s no excuse nowadays not to perform an act of charity safely.”

Though the act itself might seem harmless to some, Saudi Arabia’s Interior Ministry has warned citizens to be wary and recommends using the proper channels to give to charity, with many applications and platforms now available to do so.

As Saudi Arabia continues to make positive improvements toward its digital transformation goals by increasing the efficiency of e-services, the General Authority for Zakat and Tax’s (GAZT) application, “Zakaty,” had made giving easier and safer. In its fourth year, GAZT has made Zakaty available through a website and a call center. More than SR40 million ($10.6 million) was collected last Ramadan, which social security beneficiaries registered at the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Development benefited from.

Illegal immigrants also poses a security challenge. Some illegal immigrants have been implicated in criminal activities such as smuggling weapons and narcotics, and have committed crimes such as theft, espionage or subversive acts that threaten national security. This is a global issue that many countries have been struggling with. 

Last month, Saudi Arabia’s Attorney General Sheikh Saud bin Abdullah Al-Mujib said that smuggling was a form of organized crime run by networks that could have grave security, health, economic and social implications for society.

The penalty for smugglers, or those involved in facilitating the illegal entry or movement of illegal migrants, will be a sentence of no less than 15 years in jail, a fine of up to SR1 million ($266,000) and confiscation of vehicles or property intended to transport or house them.