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.


Lebanese pop star Nawal Al-Zoghbi quits Artists’ Syndicate after request to avoid criticizing politicians

Lebanese pop star Nawal Al-Zoghbi quits Artists’ Syndicate after request to avoid criticizing politicians
Updated 06 May 2021

Lebanese pop star Nawal Al-Zoghbi quits Artists’ Syndicate after request to avoid criticizing politicians

Lebanese pop star Nawal Al-Zoghbi quits Artists’ Syndicate after request to avoid criticizing politicians
  • Furious diva posts resignation letter insisting all Lebanese should express themselves freely and democratically
  • Resignation follows statement from chairman urging members to avoid political comments

BEIRUT: Lebanese pop star Nawal Al-Zoghbi has resigned from the Syndicate of Professional Artists after the body told members they could not criticize politicians.
Al-Zoghbi posted a two-page resignation letter on her Twitter account on Wednesday slamming the country’s ruling elite. 
She said there was a “negative influence” from all Lebanese politicians and political parties and accused them of sluggishness towards the country’s current economic and political crisis.
The Arabic music diva said she did not feel honored to sit back and watch her “beloved Lebanon and its people” sliding into the unknown.
Al-Zoghbi also addressed her five million followers on Instagram and 4.7 million followers on Twitter saying she would show unity and support to her fellow “decent citizens” by resigning from the Syndicate.
Last month, actor Jihad Al-Atrash, the Syndicate’s chairman, requested that members should not criticize or mention politicians or political parties. He added that freedom of expression remains respected and preserved within the parameters of the constitution.
His statement followed an attack on the house of actor Asaad Rachdan by supporters of MP Gebran Bassil, the head of Free Patriotic Movement.
During a TV interview, Rachdan had criticized President Michel Aoun , his son-in-law Bassil and their political party for their governance and blamed them for the current crises in Lebanon.
“I will not remain silent and I cannot be silenced except by killing me and I am not afraid to die,” he said.
Rachdan’s home was vandalized and Aoun’s photos were posted all around it.
Al-Atrash was heavily criticized for his statement after the attack and many artists and actors showed solidarity with Rachdan.  
Al-Zoghbi condemned the statement from Al-Atrash and the Syndicate, saying it was her obligation to back good citizens and support their demands for a better life. She said people should be able to express themselves and their opinions “freely and democratically.”
She described the Syndicate’s stance as “a dangerous and unprecedented move.”
She had been a member of the Syndicate for 20 years.
Lebanon is mired in political and economic crises as its politicians have failed to form a new government amid a financial collapse.
Many in the country are furious at the ruling elite and blame the current situation on decades of corruption and mismanagement.


Belgian farmer moves border with France by 2 meters

Belgian farmer moves border with France by 2 meters
Updated 05 May 2021

Belgian farmer moves border with France by 2 meters

Belgian farmer moves border with France by 2 meters
  • Group of local history enthusiasts discovered the move during a walk in a wooded area on the French side
  • In Belgian village of Erquelinnes, the mayor appeared keen to avoid an international incident

BRUSSELS: A Belgian farmer unwittingly extended his country’s territory by moving an ancient stone marking the border with France that was on his land.
A group of local history enthusiasts discovered the move during a walk in a wooded area on the French side.
The discovery of the stone, now sitting 2.20 meters (7.2 feet) away from where it was placed in accordance with a border agreement two centuries ago, has caused a flap in a normally sleepy rural area.
“If it belongs to us, it belongs to us. We don’t want to be robbed of 2 meters,” a resident of the French village of Bousignies-sur-Roc told RTL Info.
On the other side, in the Belgian village of Erquelinnes, mayor David Lavaux appeared keen to avoid an international incident.
“The land was sold and I think the person who bought it changed the borders the way he wanted,” he said. “But this isn’t just a private border, it’s a border between countries and you can’t just at will move boundary markers that have been there for a long time.”


Gaza women pedal their way to glory and happiness

Gaza women pedal their way to glory and happiness
Palestinian women ride bicycles at the Yarmouk Stadium in Gaza city on April 28, 2021. (AFP)
Updated 05 May 2021

Gaza women pedal their way to glory and happiness

Gaza women pedal their way to glory and happiness
  • 10 bicycles in attractive colors and protection tools needed have been provided

GAZA CITY: Ola Zaqout regularly rides a bicycle as part of an unprecedented sports project she recently launched on the Gaza Strip with dozens of her Palestinian female friends.

Marking a departure from the norms in the strip that Hamas has run for 15 years, the initiative provides an opportunity for girls to ride bicycles in public places.

Its owner Rania Al-Daour calls it “Breathe Deeply” — a space for women to express themselves and lead normal lives.

Officially, there is no law prohibiting women in Gaza from riding bicycles, but under the weight of customs and traditions, it is unusual to see a woman cycling in public.

Zaqout, 23, said she felt the happiness that she had missed for years when she was able to ride a bicycle outdoors for the first time.

When she turned 10, Zaquot stopped riding bicycles following the decision of her family which considered it “a disgrace to the girl.”

She said that she loved riding her brother’s bike: “I was skilled and doing acrobatic movements in the streets.”

She said the Breathe Deeply project gives women access to the sport without restrictions and in an atmosphere of privacy.

Zaqout said she hoped that the culture of exercise spreads for women as well as for men. She looks forward to the day when she can use a bicycle in her daily life.

As a result of the prevailing atmosphere and culture since the Hamas takeover of the Gaza Strip in 2007, restrictions imposed on women — whether by an official decision or by informal means — have increased.

Al-Daour, the project owner, said its idea stemmed from her passion for returning to her childhood, the period when she was able to ride bicycles without any hindrances.

Rania, 29, a veiled woman and mother of three girls, believed that the project would provide girls with the opportunity “to practice cycling in an open space with comfort and privacy consistent with religious and community values.”

HIGHLIGHT

Women in Gaza need this sport, which improves psychological feelings, reduces depression, and improves body shape.

The project was launched in cooperation with the Gaza municipality and the Yarmouk Stadium in the city center was designated for women to practice the sport for five days a week in specific hours.

Al-Daour aims to “encourage women to practice the sport without shame or obstacles.”

The project enables girls aged 12 and above to ride bicycles for a symbolic fee. Rania has provided 10 bicycles in attractive colors for women, and the protection tools that this sport needs to maintain the safety and security of the participants.

Al-Daour and other trainers also coach girls who have never ridden bicycles.

Despite the encouragement Al-Daour has received, the project faced severe criticism on social media from people believed to be religious extremists, who shared pictures of unveiled girls during the opening ceremony of the project.

But Al-Daour preferred not to comment on such criticisms. “The project welcomes everyone, regardless of the appearance of the girl or the nature of her clothes. We practice sports in a playground designated by the municipality for specific hours and for girls only.”

Al-Daour emphasized that providing girls with the opportunity to practice cycling is not intended to challenge society and its traditions, but rather to help women pursue sport and gain its health and psychological benefits.

Women in Gaza need this sport, which improves psychological feelings, reduces depression, and improves body shape, according to Al-Daour.

During the opening ceremony, the Hamas-appointed Mayor of Gaza Yahya Al-Sarraj praised the project: “It encourages girls to practice sports and provides them with space to practice cycling in an atmosphere of privacy.”

 


Bill Gates and Melinda Gates splitting after 27 years marriage

Bill Gates and Melinda Gates splitting after 27 years marriage
Billionaire Bill Gates, chairman and founder of Microsoft Corp., and his wife Melinda attend the Allen & Company Sun Valley Conference in Sun Valley, Idaho. (AFP file photo)
Updated 04 May 2021

Bill Gates and Melinda Gates splitting after 27 years marriage

Bill Gates and Melinda Gates splitting after 27 years marriage
  • Launched in 2000, the nonprofit Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation ranks as the largest private philanthropic foundation in the United States and one world's biggest, with net assets of $43.3 billion at the end of in 2019

SEATTLE: Billionaire benefactors Bill and Melinda Gates, co-founders of one of the world's largest private charitable foundations, filed for divorce on Monday after 27 years of marriage, saying they had reached an agreement on how to divide their assets.
In a joint petition for dissolution of marriage filed in King County Superior Court in Seattle, the couple stated: "The marriage is irretrievably broken."
But the foundation said Bill Gates, 65, who co-founded Microsoft Corp, and Melinda Gates would continue to work together in their existing roles as co-chairs and trustees of the organization.
The divorce filing, which states that the couple have no minor children, comes after the youngest of their three children is believed to have recently turned 18. The spouses asked the court to approve their agreement on division of assets but did not disclose details.
"After a great deal of thought and a lot of work on our relationship, we have made the decision to end our marriage," the two said in a statement posted on each of their individual Twitter accounts.
"We no longer believe we can grow together as a couple in the next phase of our lives. We ask for space and privacy for our family as we begin to navigate this new life," they said.
Launched in 2000, the nonprofit Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation ranks as the largest private philanthropic foundation in the United States and one world's biggest, with net assets of $43.3 billion at the end of in 2019, according to the latest full-year financials shown on its website.
From 1994 through 2018 Gates and his wife, who is 56, have provided gifts of more than $36 billion to the Seattle-based foundation, the website said.
Last year, investor Warren Buffett reported donating more than $2 billion of stock from his Berkshire Hathaway Inc to the Gates Foundation as part of previously announced plans to give away his entire fortune before his death.
The Gates Foundation has focused on public health, education and climate. Its initiatives include supporting development of coronavirus vaccines, diagnostic tests and medical treatments as well as support for public radio and the manufacture of solar-powered toilets.

JOINT FOUNDATION WORK TO CONTINUE
The pair "will continue to work together to shape and approve foundation strategies, advocate for the foundation’s issues and set the organization’s overall direction," the Gates Foundation said in a statement.
The split comes two years after another leading American billionaire and philanthropist, Amazon.com Inc founder Jeff Bezos, said that he and his then-wife, MacKenzie, were getting divorced.
Gates dropped out of Harvard University to start Microsoft with school chum Paul Allen in 1975. Gates owned 49% of Microsoft at its initial public offering in 1986, which made him an instant multimillionaire. With Microsoft's explosive growth, he soon became one of the world's wealthiest individuals.
After an executive tenure in which he helped transform the company into one of the world's leading technology firms, Gates stepped down as CEO of Microsoft in 2000 to focus on philanthropy. He remained chairman until 2014 and left the company's board in March 2020.
Known in the technology industry as an acerbic and ruthless competitor, Gates drew the ire of rivals and eventually the U.S. government for Microsoft's business practices.
The software giant was convicted of antitrust violations in the late 1990s. But the verdict was overturned on appeal, and the company then settled the case out of court.
Gates' public persona softened into an avuncular elder statesman as he turned his attention to philanthropy, and he has largely steered clear of the many controversies currently roiling the technology business.
Gates' spouse, who recently began referring to herself as Melinda French Gates on most websites and social media, was raised in Dallas and studied computer science and economics at Duke University. She later joined Microsoft, where she met her future husband.
In 2015 she founded Pivotal Ventures, an investment company focused on women, and in 2019 published a book, "The Moment of Lift", centered on female empowerment.

 


Lebanon: woman and lover arrested for stashing drugs in husband’s car in bid to frame him

Lebanon: woman and lover arrested for stashing drugs in husband’s car in bid to frame him
Updated 04 May 2021

Lebanon: woman and lover arrested for stashing drugs in husband’s car in bid to frame him

Lebanon: woman and lover arrested for stashing drugs in husband’s car in bid to frame him
  • The husband was driving his car in Tabarja, eastern Beirut, when a police team stopped him, searched his car and found 11 bags of narcotics
  • The couple admitted that they were in love and needed to get rid of the husband – so they decided to land him in trouble by stashing drugs in his car and reporting him to the police

BEIRUT: A wife and her lover have been arrested in Lebanon after stashing drugs in the car of the woman’s husband in a bid to get him arrested.

The husband was driving his car in Tabarja, eastern Beirut, when a police team stopped him, searched his car and found 11 bags of narcotics.

Police seized nine bags of hashish and two bags of salvi — a plant-based hallucinogen.

The Lebanese Internal Security Forces’ (ISF) anti-narcotics department apprehended the husband for possessing and dealing drugs and took him in for questioning.

“When questioned by interrogators, the husband denied the accusations, arguing that the seized narcotics didn’t belong to him and that he has never used or promoted drugs,” a senior officer close to the investigation told Arab News. 

After checking the husband’s criminal record, according to the officer, it was discovered that he had never been apprehended or involved in a drug case.

“It was a very strange incident. Normally when a suspect is held in possession of 11 bags of drugs it means he’s a promoter,” said the officer, who confirmed that his clean record was what exposed the wife’s malice.

ISF’s intelligence and information teams conducted further investigations before revealing that the person who had tipped off the police was connected to the wife.

That was when ISF members suspected that the wife and the person who had tipped off the anti-narcotics department had framed the husband.

According to an ISF media statement, a copy of which was obtained by Arab News, police detained the 35-year-old Syrian wife, R.S., and her 37-year-old Lebanese partner, S.H., in Jounieh and Tabarja on April 22. 

When questioned by interrogators the couple admitted that they were in love and needed to get rid of the husband. So they decided to land him in trouble by stashing drugs in his car and reporting him to the police.

After searching S.H.’s car, police seized an unlicensed handgun and eight bullets. 

“The suspects were referred to the General Prosecution pending further investigations,” the statement said.