Saudis flock to Clubhouse amid soaring popularity

Saudis flock to Clubhouse amid soaring popularity
In Saudi Arabia, the chatrooms have brought together technology enthusiasts, stock market investors, media influencers, as well as officials. (Shutterstock)
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Updated 16 February 2021

Saudis flock to Clubhouse amid soaring popularity

Saudis flock to Clubhouse amid soaring popularity
  • Top government officials also join the invite-only app to reach out to the public

JEDDAH: The uncensored audio-conversations social app, Clubhouse, has witnessed the migration of thousands of Saudi users in the past weeks.

Not available for Android users yet, Clubhouse is currently the first most popular app in the Social Media Network category of the App Store in Saudi Arabia.
The app’s growing popularity is also expanding to other Arab countries.
“It is a really enjoyable, easy-to-use platform that gives all users the equal opportunity to mingle, talk, and join rooms,” user Fahad Mohammed told Arab News.
What is unique about Clubhouse is the real-time voice conversations that any user can listen to.
Moreover, it is an invite-only platform, meaning that users cannot simply download it from the App Store and create an account like any other social app. Instead, those who wish to join the network must receive an invite from an existing Clubhouse member.
However, Clubhouse announced earlier in January that their focus now is on opening up Clubhouse to the whole world.
Currently, each new member is allocated one invite. After a while, new users get three more. If someone receives an invite by an existing member, they can eventually pick up to four other people to join.
Due to its invite-only model, Clubhouse memberships are highly precious. Therefore, many users in Saudi Arabia are offering invites for sale on Twitter, with prices ranging between SR15 to SR200 ($4 to $53) per invite.
There are also those who are offering invites in exchange for a follow and retweet.
Many Saudis said they were becoming addicted to this innovative medium of communication. Mohammed said he had been away from interacting on social media for a long while; however, he finally found the platform that made him want to give virtual interactions another chance.
“Honestly, I have been spending hours on this app lately,” he said. “I believe Clubhouse will initiate a new phase in social media networks. It offers a comfortable environment for users and has a huge potential to grow fast and offer promising services.”
In Saudi Arabia, the chatrooms have brought together technology enthusiasts, entrepreneurs, bookworms, stock market investors, social media influencers, as well as officials.

FASTFACTS

• Clubhouse rooms organize people into three groups: A host, moderators and audience members.

• The setup looks like a virtual panel discussion at a conference.

• Saudi Minister of Tourism Ahmed Al-Khateeb and Minister of Communications Abdullah Al-Swaha also joined the network.

• Many users in Saudi Arabia are offering invites for sale on Twitter, with prices ranging between SR15 to SR200 per invite.

• The sudden increase in users came after Tesla founder and Silicon Valley giant Elon Musk engaged in a lengthy discussion with Robinhood trading platform CEO Vlad Tenev at a Clubhouse chat room.

Saudi Minister of Tourism Ahmed Al-Khateeb and Minister of Communications Abdullah Al-Swaha also joined the network. Al-Khateeb participated in a chatroom on Saudi tourism on Sunday.
The app has also appealed to those who just want to have fun and meet new people, or even find their significant other.
At its beta version stage now, Clubhouse rules are loose. Although the app strongly discourages any discriminatory and aggressive behavior, it is up to the hosts or moderators of the room to control the conversation.
“It is a nice thing to be able to join chatrooms and share your opinions and ideas with people you appreciate,” user Sarah Al-Mulhim told Arab News. “Personally, I would only join serious discussions with people I already know in some way or another.”
She added, however, that she would not make an effort to engage in casual discussions with people she does not know anything about just to pass time. “It’s a total waste of energy,” she said.
Osama Adel agreed with Al-Mulhim. “I don’t like the fact that anyone can join and say anything they want. It is getting chaotic in some rooms, especially when there are a bunch of strangers who are trying hard to impress one another and show off. I only liked the rooms that I joined with friends.”
Clubhouse rooms organize people into three groups: A host, moderators and audience members. The setup looks like a virtual panel discussion at a conference.
The invite-only app is all anyone is talking about on social media these days, though it has been around since March 2020.
The app had only 1,500 users in May 2020 and was worth $100 million, according to CNBC.
The app started to circulate in the Kingdom among entrepreneurs and technology investors; then influencers and content makers joined, which helped it go viral.
It quickly became one of the top social media networks, with 6 million registered users and a value of $1 billion. Four million users registered between January and February this year, according to a Backlinko report.
The sudden increase in users came after Tesla founder and Silicon Valley giant Elon Musk engaged in a lengthy discussion with Robinhood trading platform CEO Vlad Tenev at a Clubhouse chat room, according to several US technology sites.
It is not the first time millions of social media users have followed Musk’s footsteps; he promoted the Signal app several weeks ago as an alternative to WhatsApp. Musk is the top followed user on Clubhouse, with over 240,000 followers.


Saudi-led Arab coalition intercepts Houthi drone launched towards Khamis Mushait

Saudi-led Arab coalition intercepts Houthi drone launched towards Khamis Mushait
Updated 20 April 2021

Saudi-led Arab coalition intercepts Houthi drone launched towards Khamis Mushait

Saudi-led Arab coalition intercepts Houthi drone launched towards Khamis Mushait

DUBAI: The Saudi-led Arab coalition intercepted and destroyed a Houthi drone targeting Saudi Arabia’s Khamis Mushait on Tuesday, state TV Al-Ekhbariya reported.

The Kingdom has seen an increase in attacks by the militia after the US delisted the Houthis from the list of terrorist organizations.

Last month, Yemen’s Foreign Minister Ahmed bin Mubarak condemned recent attacks by the Houthis, saying that they hindered the peace process and blamed Iran for the ongoing crisis in the country.
“The Iranian interventions have become a formidable obstruction to peace as Iran has turned the Yemeni conflict into a negotiating card that Iranian regime capitalizes on to serve its nuclear negotiations,” he said.


Culture being celebrated in the Kingdom 

Culture being celebrated in the Kingdom 
Updated 20 April 2021

Culture being celebrated in the Kingdom 

Culture being celebrated in the Kingdom 

RIYADH: The National Culture Awards Ceremony kicked off with a bang in Riyadh, honoring 32 Saudi cultural figures in 14 categories.

A part of the Quality of Life program of Vision 2030 the Ministry of Culture announced the first annual National Cultural Awards winners in a ceremony on Monday evening in the Cultural Palace of the Diplomatic Quarter.

Sponsored by the Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman over 14 categories were awarded in cultural pioneering, youth cultural, cultural institutions, film, music, fashion, national heritage, literature, theater and performing arts, visual art, architecture and design, culinary arts, publishing, and translation.

In January 2020 the Ministry of Culture began the completion process and received over 15,000 submissions online and began deliberating the top submissions into October and chose the final winners in December.

The Vice Minister of Culture Hamed M. Fayez spoke on behalf of the Minister of Culture Prince Badr bin Farhan Al-Saud in a speech addressing the ceremony stating, “ Culture, with its civilizational value, its social weight, and its effective developmental role today occupies the place it deserves. Thanks to the inspiring and ambitious national vision, the Saudi Vision 2030, which restored culture as a basic pillar in building society.  Anchored by the national identity and aspects of pride in the history and civilization of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.”

Although the Minister of Culture was not in attendance he applauded the winners of the awards for their role in preserving and promoting the Kingdom's Culture stating, “ These intellectuals and creative minds are our cultural capital. With whom we will reach, with them and with their help, a cultural renaissance fitting the stature of our country.”

Dana Awartani one of the winners of the visual arts award from Jeddah, brings to life traditional geometry and historical themes in her art pieces.

“For me it is a huge honor first of all finally being recognized for the creative industry as a whole and all of the work that we do you know the past few years since the ministry has formed it has been completely different for us in getting support and recognition.”

“This is the first ever awards ceremony recognizing different arts which for me is a an honor to be a part of and it’s everything we have been working for, for the past my whole career has been summed up in today’s award and it is also great to see its  recognition from my own community, from my own country in a place where I grew up and where my art started,” Awartani shared with Arab News”.

Arwa Alammari a fashion pioneer of over 7 years and one of the winners of the fashion award shared her sentiments with Arab News stating,

“Being a part of such a cultural celebration of our heritage in such a way and it coming from my country means a lot to me, I have been working in this field for a very long time and I have been awarded internationally but when it comes from my country it means that we are all going toward the cultural changes that is going to be exported to the world.”

The awards ceremony concluded with a speech from the Governor of Riyadh Prince Faisal Bin Bandar in attendance on behalf of Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman. 

“There is no doubt that it is a very excellent and wonderful step.  That establishes a cultural approach for this country that affirms its high and sublime position in all forums.” 

Prince Bandar thanked the Crown Prince for sponsoring the awards, the Ministry of Culture, and members of the ministry for organizing the event, “I hope that we will all succeed on other occasions to come, so that we will be at a high level in all our events, as much as tonight.  I thank you and hope every year you are well. Peace, mercy and blessings of God be upon you.”

14 cultural awards winners:

  • The Cultural Pioneer of the Year Award: H.E. Shaikh Mohammed Nasser Alaboudy
  • Youth Cultural Award: Winning first place is Shahad Saeed Amin for her films including “Lady of the Sea” and “Scales” that Saudi Arabia’s film authority nominated for best international film in the Academy Awards.
  • Cultural Institutions Award: First place in the private sector track is King Abdulaziz Center for World Culture (Ithra), First place in the Non-Profit sector track is Saudi Heritage Preservation Society, and winning first place in the Social responsibility track is the Ketabi Lak Application.
  • Film Award: In first place is Shahad Saeed Amin
  • Fashion Award: In first place Lomar, in second place Yousef Mohammed Akbar,and in third place Arwa Abdullah Alammari
  • Music Award: In first place Zaina Emad Swelleh,in second place Akram Ibrahim Almattar, and in third place Reem Fahad Altamimi.
  • National Heritage Award: In first place Abdulaziz Abdullah Aldakheel, in second place Dr. Hisham Ali Mortada ,and in third place Torathuna Social Responsibility Company.
  • Literature Award: In first place is Abdulaziz Saleh Alsagabi, in second place Magbool Moussa Alalawi, and in third place Amal Saleh Alharbi.
  • Theater and Performing Arts Award: In first place Sami Abdullatif Algamaan and in second place Yasser Yahya Madkhli.
  • Visual Arts Award: in first place Lolowah Abdulrazzaq Alhomoud ,in second place Danah Abdulrahim Awratani, and in third place Ahmad Sami Angawi.
  • Architecture and Design Award: A winner was not selected as the submissions did not meet the requirements. 
  • Culinary Arts Award: In first place Rakan Ibrahim Aloraifi, in second place ZADK Culinary Academy, and in third place Norah Abdulwahab Albadran
  • Publishing Award: In first place was Obeikan Publishing and Translation, second place Kadi and Ramadi for Publishing and Distribution, and in third place Dar Athar for Publishing and Distribution.
  • Translation Award: In first place Abdallah Mohammed Idris, in second place Sultan Nasser Almujaiwel, and in third place Bander Mohammed Alharbi.

King Salman directs SR 1.9 billion to be paid to social security beneficiaries

King Salman directs SR 1.9 billion to be paid to social security beneficiaries
Updated 20 April 2021

King Salman directs SR 1.9 billion to be paid to social security beneficiaries

King Salman directs SR 1.9 billion to be paid to social security beneficiaries

RIYADH: King Salman has authorized SR 1.9 billion to be paid to Saudis who receive social security benefits, Al Ekhbariya reported early Tuesday.
Ahmed Suleiman Al-Rajhi, the minister of human resources and social development, welcomed the king’s generous support to citizens during the holy month of Ramadan. 
The announcement came as Saudis prepare to fast for the eight day.


Saudi deputy defense minister receives British PM's envoy

Saudi deputy defense minister receives British PM's envoy
Updated 20 April 2021

Saudi deputy defense minister receives British PM's envoy

Saudi deputy defense minister receives British PM's envoy

Saudi Arabia's deputy defense minister Prince Khalid bin Salman recieved special envoy to UK’s PM for the Arabian Gulf, Edward Lister.
They reviewed the “strong cooperation between our two friendly countries, especially in the defense,” Prince Khalid tweeted early on Tuesday.
“We reemphasized the importance of our partnership in preserving regional stability&security,” he added.


Saudi authorities intensify efforts to curb virus

Saudi authorities intensify efforts to curb virus
The Presidency of the Two Holy Mosques has launched a new initiative to transport the elderly and people with disabilities using golf carts within the Grand Mosque in Makkah. (SPA)
Updated 20 April 2021

Saudi authorities intensify efforts to curb virus

Saudi authorities intensify efforts to curb virus
  • 970 new cases reported amid crackdown on violators

RIYADH: Amid a rise in the daily tally of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) cases in the Kingdom, authorities have expedited their efforts to ensure compliance with health precautions.

The Ministry of Health on Monday announced 970 new cases in the Kingdom with the Riyadh region on top with 438 infections.
The Makkah region followed with 227, the Eastern Province reported 131, and the Madinah region reported 37 new cases. The regions with the lowest number of cases are Najran (8), Al-Jouf (4), and Al-Baha (3).
The total number of cases in the Kingdom has gone up to 405,940 now. With 896 new recoveries, the number of people who recovered from the disease has risen to 389,598 since the beginning of the outbreak.
The ministry also reported 11 new deaths due to COVID-19.
The number of active cases in the Kingdom currently stands at 9,508 with 1,087 of those cases in critical condition. According to Health Ministry spokesman Dr. Mohammad Al-Abd Al-Aly, over half of those cases are people above the age of 60.
The Kingdom is vaccinating its population against COVID-19 at a rate of approximately 1.44/second, or 124,661 each day. Currently, over 7 million vaccines have been administered, with the number standing at 7,280,904.

HIGHLIGHTS

• The number of active cases in the Kingdom currently stands at 9,50 8.

• The ministry also reported 11 new deaths due to COVID-19.

• The Riyadh region reported the highest number of cases on Monday.

The Ministry of Islamic Affairs on Monday said that in the last 11 weeks, its special teams carried out more than 230,000 inspection tours to various mosques in the Kingdom to ensure that safety measures are followed.
It said a total of 143 violations were detected and necessary actions were taken to address the issue and penalize the violators.
Taif municipality also reportedly carried out over 2,600 inspection tours of commercial establishments during Ramadan. The municipality’s field teams targeted locations projected to see high activity during Ramadan, such as restaurants, bakeries, buffets, and Arabic sweets shops.
Meanwhile, field teams in Jeddah also cracked down on violators, closing 36 locations for failing to adhere to anti-COVID guidelines. Jeddah municipality announced that its teams had carried out 4,049 field trips in 19 sub-municipalities and 15 governorate municipalities. Similarly, in Tabuk, 58 commercial establishments were closed for not implementing anti-virus measures.