Noor Riyadh festival lights up Saudi capital

Rhizome by Tom and Lien Dekyvere, pictured here in Knokke, Belgium, is among the installations. (Valéry Bellengier)
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Rhizome by Tom and Lien Dekyvere, pictured here in Knokke, Belgium, is among the installations. (Valéry Bellengier)
The Noor Riyadh festival will see the Saudi capital light up for 17 days with international artworks. (Supplied)
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The Noor Riyadh festival will see the Saudi capital light up for 17 days with international artworks. (Supplied)
The Noor Riyadh festival will see the Saudi capital light up for 17 days with international artworks. (Supplied)
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The Noor Riyadh festival will see the Saudi capital light up for 17 days with international artworks. (Supplied)
The Noor Riyadh festival will see the Saudi capital light up for 17 days with international artworks. (Supplied)
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The Noor Riyadh festival will see the Saudi capital light up for 17 days with international artworks. (Supplied)
The Noor Riyadh festival will see the Saudi capital light up for 17 days with international artworks. (Supplied)
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The Noor Riyadh festival will see the Saudi capital light up for 17 days with international artworks. (Supplied)
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Updated 31 March 2021

Noor Riyadh festival lights up Saudi capital

The Noor Riyadh festival will see the Saudi capital light up for 17 days with international artworks. (Supplied)
  • The festival will attract international and local artists to display their creativity throughout the capital
  • Noor Riyadh festival will continue for 17 days

RIYADH: The Noor Riyadh festival kicked off on Thursday, illuminating the Saudi capital with dazzling interactive light shows.
The festival, which was launched for the first time, will be an annual celebration, attracting international and local artists to display their creativity throughout the capital, said Khalid Al-Zamil, director of the Riyadh Art Project.
“Riyadh will become a destination to display the latest creations by international artists,” he said, adding that the exhibition targets all segments of society, and strict anti-COVID-19 precautionary measures have been applied.
“The Noor Riyadh festival will continue for 17 days, and the art work from the ‘Noor ala Noor’ (light on light) exhibition will be displayed for three months to ensure people are able to see it and enjoy the international artworks,” Al-Zamil added.
Hosam Alqurashi, adviser with the Royal Commission of Riyadh City, said the festival is celebrating light in different ways and organizers said they were very proud of the this year’s theme of “Under One Sky,” which is happening at a time when social distancing is keeping everyone apart.

It is the first program to be launched by the Riyadh Art project, which is one of the four megaprojects inaugurated by King Salman in 2019 as an initiative by the Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
“Riyadh Art aims to turn the city into a gallery without walls by infusing art with the social fabric of the capital,” Alqurashi told Arab News.
Riyadh Art has more than 12 programs that are going to be launched over the next couple of years, including erecting more than one thousand artworks in different parts of the city, “ranging from artworks as big as mountains and as small as little symbolic pieces of art that you’ll see in public places.”
One of the main objectives of Riyadh Art is to discover, nurture, and promote local Saudi talent so they can eventually export Saudi art to the world, Alqurashi said.
He added that the project will benefit the city on so many different fronts, including building a creative economy that is going to attract companies, investments, and sponsors that are interested in investing in the art sector.
“This is going to generate thousands of jobs and many volunteering opportunities for young Saudis to participate in events like this,” he said, adding that they are also going to spend a lot of time and effort on citizen engagement programs.
“There is nothing more than art to really bring the world together,” Alqurashi said.
Susan Davidson, curator of the festival’s “Light Upon Light: Light Art since the 1960s” exhibition, said the Noor Riyadh festival is both a citywide festival with more than 33 installations, but an exhibition that brings together 30 international and Saudi artists.

She said this is the very first time that this is happening in Saudi Arabia so it is “really a premiere moment for the Kingdom.”
Davidson said the Light upon Light exhibition will feature light art since the 1960s and is organized into four sections, bringing together artists from around the world.
“A number of young Saudi artists have been commissioned to make pieces for the exhibition and they are seen in relation to international artists,” she said.
“I am really pleased with the way the exhibition has turned out … you have a moment to move from one work to another and to begin to understand the relationships between various artists, as well as the differences in how they handle the medium of light.”
Meanwhile, Belgian artist Koert Vermeulen’s Star in Motion illuminated the Riyadh skies as it shined bright from atop the Kingdom Tower in the heart of the capital, “while subconsciously underscoring the festival’s theme, Under One Sky,” Riyadh Art said.
Vermeulen said the artwork is a body weighing over five tons suspended at a height of 265 meters, and represented the connection between man and the sky in a specific way.

He also said the star moves at the strike of every hour for one minute, representing the birth and death of the star — its life cycle — which begins with a big explosion, then goes through many changes and transformations, and eventually burns out.
Vermeulen said there were a few technical and engineering challenges involved in getting the art piece into place, but with a large team they were able to position it in the middle of the gap in the tower.
“The artwork establishes a powerful link between the city, lit up by light installations, the night sky above it, and the whole world, standing out as a brilliant beacon of hope and celebration for Noor Riyadh 2021,” Riyadh Art added.
Vermeulen, who said he has visited the Kingdom several times but the first time he participates in an art exhibition, praised the effectiveness, organization and high quality of the festival that attracted many international artists.


Coalition forces thwart Houthi attempts to disrupt Saudi National Day celebrations with drone attacks

Coalition forces thwart Houthi attempts to disrupt Saudi National Day celebrations with drone attacks
Updated 24 September 2021

Coalition forces thwart Houthi attempts to disrupt Saudi National Day celebrations with drone attacks

Coalition forces thwart Houthi attempts to disrupt Saudi National Day celebrations with drone attacks

RIYADH: Iran-backed Houthi terrorists launched five armed drones toward Saudi Arabia late on Thursday as the Kingdom celebrated its 91st national day, state media Al-Ekhbariya TV and the Saudi Press Agency (SPA) reported.

The weaponized drones, which came in waves, were intercepted and destroyed by coalition air defenses before they could do any harm, the Joint Forces Command of the Coalition supporting Yemen's legitimate government was quoted by state media as saying.

"The Joint Forces Command affirmed that all necessary operational measures are taken to protect the security of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and its citizens and residents in order to neutralize and destroy these hostile cross-border attacks," the SPA report said.

In a tweet, Al-Ekhbariyah TV said the 4th and 5th drones came just before midnight as Saudi National Day celebrations continued.

On Wednesday, Houthi terrorists launched three drones toward the southwestern Saudi city of Khamis Mushayt, all of which were shot down. On Monday, Coalition forces destroyed two bomb-laden boats that the Houthis were planning to use in Yemen's northwestern port city of Hodeidah.

Critics say the Houthis have been emboldened with the lifting by the US government of their designation as a global terrorist organization.

Washington removed the designation last February in a policy shift by the Biden administration, in hopes of getting the Houthis back to the negotiation table.

The Houthis, however, have refused to respond positively to UN-brokered peace talks.


International community condemns latest Houthi attacks on Saudi Arabia

International community condemns latest Houthi attacks on Saudi Arabia
Updated 24 September 2021

International community condemns latest Houthi attacks on Saudi Arabia

International community condemns latest Houthi attacks on Saudi Arabia
  • Dr. Yousef Al-Othaimeen praised the efficiency of Coalition air defenses in intercepting Houthi missiles and drones

RIYADH: The UAE, Bahrain, and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation on Thursday joined a chorus of international condemnation of a failed ballistic missile attack by the Iran-backed Houthis on civilians in Saudi Arabia.

OIC Secretary-General Dr. Yousef Al-Othaimeen praised the efficiency of Saudi-led coalition air defenses in intercepting and destroying the missile before it reached Jazan in the southwest of the Kingdom.

He renewed his call for the international community to take decisive action to stop the ongoing threats from ballistic missile and bomb-laden drone attacks by Houthis operating from Yemen.

Al-Othaimeen pointed out that the OIC considered the militia group’s actions to be war crimes and a challenge to international humanitarian law.

Coalition forces supporting Yemen’s legitimate government on Wednesday thwarted another wave of Houthi drone attacks targeting Saudi Arabia that came two days after an attempted boat-bomb strike was foiled in Hodeidah.

The UAE and Bahrain condemned the latest attacks and gave their full backing to measures taken by Saudi Arabia to protect its security, stability, and the safety of its citizens.

In a statement, the coalition said Saudi air defenses on Wednesday intercepted and destroyed three explosive-laden drones launched by the Houthis toward the southern city of Khamis Mushayt. One drone had been launched in the morning, and the other two later in the day.


Bahrain, UAE radio join in on Saudi National Day celebrations

Bahrain, UAE radio join in on Saudi National Day celebrations
Updated 24 September 2021

Bahrain, UAE radio join in on Saudi National Day celebrations

Bahrain, UAE radio join in on Saudi National Day celebrations

BAHRAIN/SHARJAH: Bahraini radio and television stations have joined Saudi Arabia’s 91st National Day celebrations with various programs commemorating the day.

Radio and television hosts gathered several personalities from both nations, discussing the relations between the two brotherly countries, their shared history, achievements, and more.

Also joining in on the celebrations is the UAE’s Sharjah Radio, which has allocated various programs about the Kingdom, including historical, religious, cultural aspects that distinguish Saudi Arabia.

Sharjah Radio Director Abeer Al-Shawi congratulated the Kingdom’s leadership on the occasion of Saudi National Day, adding that the radio station has dedicated many of the day’s broadcasts to cover various topics about the country.


Saudi project clears 1,351 Houthi mines in Yemen

Saudi project clears 1,351 Houthi mines in Yemen
Updated 24 September 2021

Saudi project clears 1,351 Houthi mines in Yemen

Saudi project clears 1,351 Houthi mines in Yemen
  • A total of 275,305 mines have been cleared since the start of the project

RIYADH: The Saudi Project for Landmine Clearance dismantled 1,351 mines in Yemen during the third week of September.

The figure comprised 13 antipersonnel mines, 432 anti-tank mines, 905 unexploded ordnances, and one explosive device.

The project is one of several initiatives undertaken by Saudi Arabia on the directive of King Salman to help ease the suffering of people in Yemen.

Saudi and international experts are removing mines planted by the Houthi militia in Marib, Aden, Al-Jawf, Shabwa, Taiz, Hodeidah, Lahij, Sanaa, Al-Bayda, Al-Dhale, and Saada.

A total of 275,305 mines have been cleared since the start of the project. More than 1.2 million mines have been planted by the Houthis, claiming the lives of hundreds of civilians.


Growing demands for compulsory pre-marital addiction testing in Saudi Arabia

Growing demands for compulsory pre-marital addiction testing in Saudi Arabia
Updated 24 September 2021

Growing demands for compulsory pre-marital addiction testing in Saudi Arabia

Growing demands for compulsory pre-marital addiction testing in Saudi Arabia
  • It is necessary in building healthy society and will significantly impact divorce, domestic violence rates, says expert

JEDDAH: Pre-marital addiction tests have become a public demand in Saudi Arabia after two homicides committed by men against their young wives in August.
The Saudi Public Prosecution announced the arrest of the perpetrators, adding that the necessary legal actions were taken against them.
But these incidents have sparked discussions across different social media platforms in the Kingdom, with many people calling for compulsory pre-marital addiction tests and psychological evaluations of the mental health of both potential spouses.
Saudi authorities already require pre-marital screening for couples to detect common genetic blood disorders and infectious diseases.
However, calls to expand pre-marital testing to include psychological evaluations are nothing new, with many people arguing that their inclusion would be a successful way to tackle addiction and protect the family unit.
The most recent action to expand the pre-marital testing program was taken within the Kingdom’s Shoura Council in 2019, where some members proposed the inclusion of addiction tests, as well as tests for disorders and mental illnesses.
The proposal was denied because it did not receive enough supporting votes. The objection was supported by some specialists, who said that such tests have low accuracy and are prohibitively expensive.
Nonetheless, drug tests are already required in the case of non-Saudi men marrying Saudi women. Some specialists are now calling to include that requirement in overall pre-marital tests for both Saudis and non-Saudis, and both men and women.
Suzan Abdulsalam Khalil, a psychologist working with the protection unit against domestic violence in Jeddah, strongly supports pre-marital drug testing to detect addiction.
According to Khalil, this change will lead to the early detection of abusers and addicts. “It will protect young women from unknowingly getting married to an addict or mentally ill man, which would be a traumatizing experience for them and harms both parties, but most importantly the woman. Moreover, the situation worsens when there are children involved,” she told Arab News.
From her experience at the protection unit, Khalil has witnessed the devastating impact of a drug-addicted parent on children within the family.
“The behavior of drug users varies greatly before and after they take their dose, and unfortunately, this unstable situation badly affects the children and the family as a whole,” she said. “The psychological evaluation of children of an addict parent is always bad. We also find physical violence marks sometimes, traces of injuries, and bruises on their bodies, and sometimes we refer them to psychiatric hospitals.”
Khalil believes that expanding pre-marital testing is a necessary step in building a healthy society. It will significantly impact divorce and domestic violence rates and will also force addicts to receive treatment and professional help, she said.
She added that women’s reactions to being married to an addict can differ. Some choose divorce, while others try to be patient. But this can result in living an unstable life that includes physical or emotional abuse, which will eventually have an extremely negative impact on children, she said.

HIGHLIGHT

• Saudi authorities already require pre-marital screening for couples to detect common genetic blood disorders and infectious diseases.

• The program aims to give medical consultations on the potential transmitting of disorders to future children, and looks to provide couples with options that help them plan for a healthy family.

• However, calls to expand pre-marital testing to include psychological evaluations are nothing new, with many people arguing that their inclusion would be a successful way to tackle addiction and protect the family unit.

Various factors contribute to this complicated situation; however, the social stigma and shame attached to addiction and mental illness leads to negative social norms.
As a result, people with substance use disorder, and sometimes their families, tend to hide the reality behind their situation when it comes to marriage.
Furthermore, lack of awareness about the seriousness of mental health issues contributes to the continuation of unhealthy marriages and damaging social behaviors when dealing with mentally ill members of society.
Therefore, experts say that an action plan to spread awareness and change the culture is urgently needed.
Khalil said that parents, before agreeing to marry their daughter to a proposing man, usually try to investigate the man’s background, manners and moral standards within his work environment and friendship circles.
“But on the other hand, no one ever considers asking about the man’s mental health status or whether he has been diagnosed with a mental illness at any hospital,” she said.
The discussion surrounding an expansion of pre-marital screening highlights a more significant issue for marriage counselor and family therapist Abdulhakim Al-Yousef.
He believes that the real issue underlying the public debate is not whether or not to enforce addiction testing of couples before marriage, but the problematic idea of the possibility of entering a marital relationship with someone with an addiction to drugs or alcohol.
“It is rather more related to the many details that addicts to alcohol or drugs should be aware of, including those close to them,” Al-Yousef told Arab News. “It is important to understand that arriving at the phase of addiction is entering a state of mental illness that requires medical treatment and professional help, therefore entering a marital relationship at this phase is a very serious problem.”
He noted that addiction treatment requires patient admission to a rehab facility to receive appropriate treatment programs for their situation and recovery. It consists of several stages that need commitment, willingness, patience and family support.
He said: “Addiction treatment is a very sensitive matter that cannot happen without medical intervention, supervision and therapy. Marriage is never a solution to such a problem. When one of the spouses is an addict, the other partner cannot take responsibility for his or her treatment.”
Furthermore, the family therapist emphasized that quitting any form of substance abuse after completing the treatment program is not the end of the story, because recovering from an addiction is a lifelong journey. “Once a recovering addict returns to drug use at any later stage in his life, even with a small amount, he will return to point zero,” he warned.
In addition to medical treatment, patients also need cognitive behavioral therapy and family therapy sessions to establish a healthier relationship with themselves, their families and the world around them.

As a result, living with a recovering partner is not easy by itself. Therefore, starting a relationship with someone still actively consuming drugs or alcohol is a disastrous mistake, Al-Yousef warned. He places a strong emphasis on transparency between couples before marriage; they must be honest about details related to their backgrounds, personalities, health history and any other aspect that could impact their relationship in the future.
“Getting into a relationship without revealing these details will lead to other multifaceted problems,” he said, noting adding mental illnesses must not be treated as “hidden, dark secrets” between couples. “Surely, every person has the right to have a family and to enjoy a healthy relationship, but that is not possible for addicts unless they break free from addiction under specialist supervision and support,” he said.
For Al-Yousef, addiction detection tests might not directly impact divorce rates and domestic violence rates since several factors contribute to these phenomena.
Nonetheless, if applied, he counts on these tests to raise public awareness about drug and alcohol abuse, and to create momentum in the national mental health sector in the long run.