Saudi artist, Amazon launch debut Eid-themed gift card collaboration

Saudi artist, Amazon launch debut Eid-themed gift card collaboration
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The collection offers Saudis the chance to send traditional ‘Eideyyahs’ (gifts of money) to loved ones digitally via Amazon.sa. Amazon is making efforts to highlight and showcase the work of local artists. (Supplied)
Saudi artist, Amazon launch debut Eid-themed gift card collaboration
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Updated 03 May 2021

Saudi artist, Amazon launch debut Eid-themed gift card collaboration

Saudi artist, Amazon launch debut Eid-themed gift card collaboration
  • New gifting experience to help citizens reach out to loved ones amid pandemic restrictions

RIYADH: A Saudi artist has become the first person in the Kingdom to join forces with Amazon to release a series of new themed gift cards, featuring unique Saudi culture-inspired illustrations to mark the upcoming Eid Al-Fitr holiday.

The collection, which features designs created exclusively for Amazon by self-taught local artist Majd Shaker Jaha, offers Saudis the chance to send traditional “Eideyyahs” (gifts of money) to loved ones digitally via Amazon.sa.
Jaha, 21, told Arab News that she was honored to have been selected for the job by Amazon, and was happy that the company was making the effort to highlight work by local artists.
“Not a lot of global companies would do the same, despite the fact that there is so much talent in the region that deserves attention. So I’m grateful to Amazon for the opportunity to show that there is a lot of untapped talent in the Kingdom,” she said.
Ronaldo Mouchawar, vice president of Amazon Middle East and North Africa, said that the company was delighted to bring customers a new Eid gifting experience, especially during the strains of the pandemic, which could prevent many Saudis from seeing their loved ones in person.
“These cards offer a modern way to share the joy of this special occasion with loved ones, while capturing the essence of cherished local traditions,” he said. “Our collaboration with Majd is the first of its kind in the Middle East and for Amazon.sa, and comes as part of our commitment to supporting the brightest homegrown talents and celebrating the region’s rich culture.”




Majd Shaker Jaha says she was honored to have been selected for the job by Amazon, and was happy that platform was making the effort to highlight and showcase the efforts of local artists.

Jaha discussed her inspiration behind the designs, saying that she tried to find a balance between the traditional aspects of Saudi culture and her own personal style.
“I take inspiration from culturally significant and recognizable designs, like the decorations of traditional Saudi cookware or fabrics such as Shalky and Sadu, and play around with those. Maybe I’ll alter the colors, but I always try to maintain the integrity of the design itself,” she said.
Jaha advised young Saudi artists to continue to pursue their dreams, adding that there are plenty of opportunities for them to display their ability and that there is more than one way to be an artist.
“I think a lot of young artists think that they have to be super-famous painters who work on huge canvases and sell them for lots of money to be able to consider themselves artists,” she said, “but I want them to remember that there are opportunities everywhere, especially in the wake of Vision 2030 and the new mentality the Kingdom has toward the art scene.”
The gift cards can be purchased on both the Amazon.sa website or the app, which customers can pre-charge with the amount of their choice in just a few seconds. Recipients will receive electronic notifications with a claim code where they can choose to either add the amount directly to their Amazon account or apply the code directly during checkout when shopping. The cards are valid for up to 10 years.


Kazakhstan says 350 rare antelopes killed by lightning

Kazakhstan says 350 rare antelopes killed by lightning
Updated 14 May 2021

Kazakhstan says 350 rare antelopes killed by lightning

Kazakhstan says 350 rare antelopes killed by lightning
  • Discovery came during calving season for the Saiga, which is known for its distinctive bulbous nose
  • The International Union for Conservation of Nature lists the Saiga among five critically endangered antelopes

Almaty: Kazakhstan said Friday that around 350 critically endangered Saiga antelopes had been killed, probably by lightning, after villagers found their bodies in steppe land in the west of the country.
The discovery came during calving season for the Saiga, which is known for its distinctive bulbous nose.
The Kazakh ecological ministry said in a statement that lightning was the probable cause of their deaths “as there are traces of lightning strikes on the carcasses.”
The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), whose “Red List” is the scientific reference for threatened wildlife, lists the Saiga as among five critically endangered antelope species, with a population of around 124,000 adults.
Kazakhstan is home to the vast majority of the animals, with Russia’s Kalmykia region and Mongolia hosting much smaller populations.
In 2015, around 200,000 of the antelopes — well over half the total global population at the time — were wiped out by what scientists later determined was a nasal bacterium that spread in unusually warm and humid conditions.
In an aerial survey in 2019, Kazakhstan said its Saiga population was estimated at more than 330,000 individuals.
Poaching is a persistent threat, fueled by demand for horn in traditional Chinese medicine. Kazakhstan’s leaders pledged to crack down on the crime after two state rangers were killed by poachers in 2019.


As poverty bites, Lebanese give up their pets

As poverty bites, Lebanese give up their pets
Updated 14 May 2021

As poverty bites, Lebanese give up their pets

As poverty bites, Lebanese give up their pets
BEIRUT: Ibrahim Al-Dika had raised his Belgian shepherd Lexi since she was a tiny pup, but then Lebanon’s economic crisis made him jobless and he had to sell her to repay a bank loan.
“It got to the point where I was no longer able to feed her, the bank was pressuring me, and I hit a wall,” said the 26-year-old, devastated beside her empty kennel outside his Beirut home.
“I didn’t sell a car or a telephone. I sold a soul. I sold a part of me.”
Can you afford to keep your pet? Animal activists say this is a dilemma a growing number of Lebanese owners are facing as their purchasing power nosedives.
Tens of thousands of Lebanese have lost their jobs or seen their income reduced to a pittance due to Lebanon’s worst economic crisis in decades.
As many families struggle to stay afloat, activists say increasingly more pet owners are asking for help to feed or re-home their animals, selling them, or in the worst cases abandoning them.
Dika, after losing his father to illness, was laid off last year when his employer, a fashion retailer, closed shop, affecting his ability to support his mother and brother.
He had spent around a year caring for Lexi, and training her to sit, heel, give him the paw, and play dead.
But when the bank started calling, he saw no option other than to sell her.
He drove over a few days later to check in on her, and Lexi thought he had come to take her home.
“She leapt straight into my car,” he said. “She broke my heart the way she looked at me.”
With more than half of Lebanon’s population now living in poverty, many Lebanese have to depend on non-governmental organizations to get by — even to feed their pets.
Amal Ramadan, 39, said she used to make donations to animal charity PAW. But these days it is her receiving free bags of food from them for her pit bull and bichon, Nelly and Fluffy.
Her monthly salary working in car rental, once equivalent to $1,000, is now worth just $120 because of the Lebanese currency’s sharp devaluation.
“I don’t have enough income to feed my pets,” said the widowed mother of two, who has taken on extra work to make ends meet.
Ramadan said she would rather starve than give up Nelly and Fluffy.
But as the price of imported pet food, meat and veterinary care soars, activists said some other animals have not been so lucky.
At the Woof N’ Wags dog shelter in southern Lebanon, volunteer Ghada Al-Khateeb watched a female dog lying on her side, breathing weakly under a grubby white coat, after she was rescued from the local trash dump.
She said pet abandonments were on the rise.
“Nobody can afford to feed their dogs anymore,” said the 32-year-old hairdresser and divorced mother of twins.
“When they come to hand them over, they tell us: ‘our children are our priority’.”
The shelter’s founder, 28-year-old Joe Okdjian, said he was in desperate need of more donations.
“Sometimes they go a day or two without food,” he said of the 90 dogs already in his care.
As Lebanon’s economy crumbles, people’s fates are mirrored in those of their pets.
In the capital, rescuer Soraya Mouawad said two or three people a week were asking her to re-home their animal.
They say they are emigrating, moving into a smaller home, or can no longer look after them “for personal reasons,” said the founder of Animals Pride and Freedom.
Many young professionals have fled Lebanon since 2019, especially after a massive explosion in Beirut last summer killed more than 200 people and ravaged large parts of the city.
Dedicated activists are working to ensure dozens of pets can also emigrate.
In one room at the Animals Lebanon shelter in Beirut, two cats lay in their beds.
One of them, Hips, was hit by a car in February and is paralyzed below the waist. The other, Edward, was dumped in a box in the street in November and appears to suffer from an allergy.
Soon, the charity said, Hips and Edward are set to travel to a new life in the United States.

Looted Libyan statue returned from Britain

The 2,200-year-old figure was seized at London’s Heathrow Airport in 2013 under suspicion that it was illicitly imported, before being returned this week. (AP)
The 2,200-year-old figure was seized at London’s Heathrow Airport in 2013 under suspicion that it was illicitly imported, before being returned this week. (AP)
Updated 12 May 2021

Looted Libyan statue returned from Britain

The 2,200-year-old figure was seized at London’s Heathrow Airport in 2013 under suspicion that it was illicitly imported, before being returned this week. (AP)
  • 2,200-year-old figure was seized at London’s Heathrow Airport in 2013
  • Libyan Embassy in London thanks UK authorities, British Museum

LONDON: An ancient Libyan statue, believed to be looted from the country during its civil war, has been returned from Britain. 

The 2,200-year-old figure was seized at London’s Heathrow Airport in 2013 under suspicion that it was illicitly imported. Experts from the British Museum were called in to assist efforts to identify the statue.

“Only a handful of these sculptural types are found in museum or private collections outside of Libya,” said the museum.

In 2015, a judge ruled that the artifact was the property of Libya. The museum said the marble’s surface is fresh and preserved, suggesting that it had been recently recovered from the ground.

It assessed that the statue was illegally excavated from the archaeological site of Cyrene during the civil war.

British Culture Minister Caroline Dinenage thanked UK tax authorities and the museum, whose efforts ensured that the country is “able to return this important statue to Libya where it belongs.” 

British Museum experts said the statue was easy to identify as its style is limited to manufacture from workshops in Cyrenaica, ancient Libya. The area was settled by the Greeks in the seventh century BC.

Some 100 statues of the same style have been recovered in Cyrenaica, but the heads of the statues have survived in just over half of cases, said the museum.

Its experts said the statue that was returned to Libya is especially rare as it has both snake bracelets on its wrists and an offering in the shape of a small doll in its hand.

“An important part of the museum’s work on cultural heritage involves our close partnership with law enforcement agencies concerned with illicit trafficking,” said Hartwig Fischer, director of the British Museum.

“This case is another good example of the benefits of all parties working together to combat looting and protect cultural heritage.”

The Libyan Embassy in London thanked British authorities and the museum for working to recover the statue “to its original homeland.”


Young whale stranded in London’s Thames is put down

Young whale stranded in London’s Thames is put down
Updated 11 May 2021

Young whale stranded in London’s Thames is put down

Young whale stranded in London’s Thames is put down
  • The whale, measuring three to four meters (10-13 feet), was first spotted in southwest London on Sunday
  • Rescue efforts by the British Divers Marine Life Rescue (BDMLR) service and firefighters failed when the whale slipped its leash and then swam upriver

LONDON: A juvenile minke whale that became stranded in London’s River Thames has been put down after its condition deteriorated and vets decided it could not survive in the open water.
The whale, measuring three to four meters (10-13 feet), was first spotted in southwest London on Sunday and was washed ashore at a set of gates controlling water flow.
Rescue efforts by the British Divers Marine Life Rescue (BDMLR) service and firefighters failed when the whale slipped its leash and then swam upriver, instead of toward the sea.
“The last 45 minutes we were with the whale its condition was deteriorating, its breathing wasn’t right and it wouldn’t have survived much longer,” BDMLR national coordinator Julia Cable said late Monday.
She said vets from London Zoo injected a “large” anaesthetic dose into the malnourished whale. It is thought the whale got separated from its mother and was unable to fend for itself.
“It’s always sad, but we now know that putting it back out into the open sea would have been sending it to starve out there,” Cable said.
Minke whales are the smallest of the world’s great whales and typically grow to a length of 10 meters in adulthood.
They can usually be found throughout the northern Atlantic and Pacific oceans but have been spotted as far north as the Arctic and as far south as the Equator.
In January 2006, a northern bottlenose whale became stuck in the Thames, sparking huge media interest. It died as it was being ferried back out to sea.


Youngest Dubai DJ scratches her way to fame in world contest

Michelle Rasul flashes a rockstar sign in the lobby of her apartment building in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, Sunday, May 9, 2021. (AP)
Michelle Rasul flashes a rockstar sign in the lobby of her apartment building in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, Sunday, May 9, 2021. (AP)
Updated 11 May 2021

Youngest Dubai DJ scratches her way to fame in world contest

Michelle Rasul flashes a rockstar sign in the lobby of her apartment building in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, Sunday, May 9, 2021. (AP)

DUBAI: Michelle Rasul had just learned to read and write and was already spinning turntables, scratching hip-hop records and making the beats drop. Four years later, at the age of 9, she’s one of the world’s top DJs and competed in this year’s global championship.

At her home in the skyscraper-studded city of Dubai, the turntable whiz from Azerbaijan nodded her baseball cap-adorned head to the beat and showed off her skills scratching, cutting and fading. Her tiny fingers flew across the turntable as she created a sizzling landscape of electric audio effects and recalled how she got her start as a child turntable celebrity — which, in fact, wasn’t all that long ago.

“I looked at my dad while he was practicing DJ-ing and I saw him and was like, ‘Wow, is he doing magic or something? He’s a real magician, bro!’” Michelle told The Associated Press earlier this week, bubbling with enthusiasm. “When I turned 5 on my birthday, I told him, ‘Dad, I want to be a world famous DJ. I’m going to start practicing.’”

As though recounting a decades-long career, she grinned and added: “And the rest is history.”

Michelle, the youngest-ever contestant in the DMC World DJ Championship, ranked 14th out of 85 DJ stars from around the world in the “Portablist” category this year, the global portable scratch competition. The 2021 competition was held online due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Although she didn’t advance to the next round this time, she’s determined to beat her father, Vagif “DJ Shock” Rasulov, a professional who taught her the tricks of the trade and made 9th this year, in next year’s competition.

“I love competing in battles, I just love DJ-ing,” she said. “It’s my passion.”

Turntabling, which burst onto the music scene from hip-hop artists in the late 1970s, can look like a basic act — taking a record, putting the needle down and sliding it back and forth with one’s fingertips. But for the wizards, it’s an art form, involving spontaneous sound mixing and advanced techniques like quick, rhythmic scratches and “crabs,” rubbing the record under the needle.

From the moment her parents gave her a mini DJ starter kit, they recognized her extraordinary abilities. Even as a baby, she was fascinated and would punch all the buttons on her father’s equipment.

“She just catches things so fast,” said her mother Sadia Rasulova, a former violinist who also encouraged Michelle’s love of music. “I realized that she’s a star, that she’s really talented.”

When her peers were listening to nursery rhymes, or as she put it, “’Baby Shark’ stuff or ABC songs,” Michelle said she was hooked on rap legends like Tupac Shakur, Chuck D, Jay-Z, the Notorious B.I.G. and Michael Jackson, who remains her favorite.

Her parents started posting footage of her scratching online, and Michelle’s popularity exploded. Her Instagram account and persona as the self-described ” youngest DJ in the world,” has racked up 110,000 followers. Online messages from aspiring DJs ages 6 to 65 poured in from around the globe, she said.

Michelle’s feed is populated with posts of her break dancing and scratching furiously alongside her sunglasses-sporting father, spinning hip-hop and techno tunes live for her listeners, strumming the bass in her free time and playing at events such as Dubai’s recent food festival. Before the pandemic put big gatherings on hold, Michelle performed regularly at weddings, parties and music festivals across the city.

While the rest of the world is focused on her accomplishments as a DJ star, Michelle is busy bouncing through life as a third-grader, attending online school, skateboarding, reading and hanging out with friends and dogs at her neighborhood park. But her heart is always in her turntabling.

“I can’t imagine my life without music,” she said. “Like from the start, from the very beginning, when I was really little.”