Saudis pack their bags and prepare for bumpy takeoff

Saudis pack their bags and prepare for bumpy takeoff
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After more than 14 months of international flight bans, Saudis are ready to don their blue disposable face masks and use up their air miles on May 17. (Supplied)
Saudis pack their bags and prepare for bumpy takeoff
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After more than 14 months of international flight bans, Saudis are ready to don their blue disposable face masks and use up their air miles on May 17. (Supplied)
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Updated 16 May 2021

Saudis pack their bags and prepare for bumpy takeoff

Saudis pack their bags and prepare for bumpy takeoff
  • Coronavirus restrictions in some countries have restricted Saudi travelers’ options

JEDDAH: With summer knocking on our doors, Saudi travelers will head to the Kingdom’s airports for their first international journeys in over a year — but many face challenges ahead.

After more than 14 months of international flight bans, Saudis are ready to don their blue disposable face masks and use up their air miles on May 17.

Almost 11.5 million residents of the Kingdom have received at least one COVID-19 vaccine jab and more than 400,000 recoveries have been reported by the Saudi health ministry.

While some Saudis have restricted their holiday or business destinations to the safest areas due to COVID-19 protocols, many are undeterred by the challenges ahead and can’t wait to fasten their seatbelts.

Planning a holiday in the coming months will be far from easy — choices are limited and quarantine measures are in place in a number of destinations that are popular for summer holidays. However, many tourists are still willing to travel and face the music. 

In the wake of the global pandemic, both countries and individual travelers are wary of restrictions. But even with a massive vaccine rollout in place, and authorities easing travel abroad for those who have been vaccinated and those who have recovered from the illness, many Saudis are opting to head closer to home. 

“As soon as we heard that Bahrain is allowing Saudis in without the need to quarantine, we raced to book our hotel and tickets, but they were fully booked for the first week,” said 34-year old Maha Al-Hussain from Riyadh.

“My family and I had the good fortune to visit Jeddah every now and then, but we’d like a holiday for the children to roam free and swim all day, so everyone can just take a break.”

My family and I have been searching for a new and different place to travel to for a few days now and my father was adamant that we do so especially since we’re all vaccinated.

Kholoud Yousef

The mother of three told Arab News that although it is hard to book flights for seven people at the moment, the family decided to make the four-hour drive to Bahrain and hope for a smooth entry at the King Fahd Causeway. 

“All of the adults are vaccinated and our children know the rules by now,” she said. “We went through hardships as did everyone this year. The trip is important for us all and we’ve been extra careful through it all. We’ll continue being careful until we’re back home again.”

Earlier, Bahrain announced that all GCC visitors who are fully vaccinated or recovered are no longer required to undergo a PCR test on arrival but must show evidence of vaccination or recovery. 

For Saudis, a little more care and attention is given, with a welcome back campaign launched by the neighboring island kingdom featuring the slogan “walahna alaikom,” or “we’ve missed you.”

While the state of travel to the 20 countries on the list remains in place, airlines are ready to operate normally to many cities across the world, although a number of countries are limiting arrivals. 

Several EU member states have limited arrivals from outside the EU, while others are allowing visitors back but with restrictions. 

On Friday, Greek Ambassador to the Kingdom Alexis Konstantoloulos announced that Saudis wishing to travel to Greece will be able to do so with a negative PCR test or vaccination certification and on completion of a passenger location form.

FASTFACTS

Saudis permitted to travel abroad: • Saudis who have received two doses of the COVID-19 vaccine.

• Saudis who have received one dose of COVID-19 vaccine no less than 14 days before the flight.

• Citizens who recovered from COVID-19 at least six months before the flight.

“Welcome back to our Saudi friends, Greece is expecting you,” he tweeted.

Pre-travel PCR tests conducted no more than 72-48 hours before arrival, travel insurance, five to 10 days of quarantine on arrival at the traveler’s expense and post-arrival PCR tests are among the requirements a number EU member states are requesting, but the numbers are limited as many countries are restricting nonessential travel. 

The UK, a favorite destination for many Saudis, will require self-isolation on arrival as Saudi Arabia remains in its amber category. The list will be reviewed every three weeks, according to UK officials.

Malaysia, Singapore, Hong Kong, South Korea, Australia, Russia, Spain, Poland, Vietnam, Czech Republic and Belgium are among countries still suspending international tourist arrivals.

Citizens are urged to review travel restrictions for each destination as each country requires a different set of requirements before traveling and on arrival.

“Dubai is next,” said 32-year-old PR director Yousef A. “I’ve visited Dubai many times in the past few years and it has become something of a second home for my family and I,” he told Arab News.

“I did my homework. Saudi Arabia is on the UAE’s safe ‘green list’ and no quarantine is required. As soon as the Saudi authorities allow it, that will be my next destination.” 

The search for relaxed COVID-19 restrictions has been continuing for weeks after news was confirmed that the Kingdom’s travel ban would be lifted on May 17, but it is a struggle, as 27-year-old Kholoud Yousef explained to Arab News.

“We initially planned on traveling to Bali during the first week after the ban was lifted, but when we heard we’d have to quarantine for five days and take two PCR tests, we realized it would take a good chunk out of our holiday time and we don’t want to be holed up in our hotel rooms,” she told Arab News.

“My family and I have been searching for a new and different place to travel to for a few days now and my father was adamant that we do so especially since we’re all vaccinated. 

We’re putting Bali on hold for now and heading to Morocco next week, and it was an easy choice. All we needed was a confirmed hotel reservation. It feels good to know that we can travel again. Hopefully, this is going to be one great trip.”


Expo shines light on Arabic script, calligraphy in Riyadh

Expo shines light on Arabic script, calligraphy in Riyadh
The exhibition will be divided into five sections: Origins of the Arabic script, development of calligraphy, master calligraphers, calligraphy and contemporary art, and calligraphy, artificial intelligence. (AN photos/Basheer Saleh)
Updated 22 min 10 sec ago

Expo shines light on Arabic script, calligraphy in Riyadh

Expo shines light on Arabic script, calligraphy in Riyadh
  • Event devoted to the art form opens on Wednesday at the National Museum of Riyadh

RIYADH: Artists have been sharing their thoughts about the “mesmerizing and elegant” beauty and spirituality of Arabic calligraphy, and the importance of the art form, ahead of the opening on Wednesday of an exhibition in Saudi Arabia.

Saudi conceptual artist Othman Al-Khuzaim believes that global interest in the art of Arabic calligraphy has grown in recent years, and this can be attributed to increased awareness of its beauty.
“The general interest of people in calligraphy has led them to show appreciation for Arabic calligraphy, with all its mesmerizing and elegant shapes and forms,” he said.
“Arabic calligraphy stands witness to beauty, which is depicted by Arabic calligraphists on walls inside the Two Holy Mosques to add more spirituality to the holy places.”
Describing Arabic calligraphy as one of the most prominent forms of visual art, Al-Khuzaim said he often recommends it to people and encourages them to enjoy and appreciate it even if they cannot read the language or understand the meaning of the words.
Script and Calligraphy: A Timeless Journey, which opens on Wednesday at the National Museum of Riyadh and runs until Aug. 21, is a good place for newcomers to the art form to start, or for those who are already familiar with it to learn more about its history, from its origins right up the present day.

HIGHLIGHTS

• Organized by the Culture Ministry, the exhibition runs until Aug. 21.

• The 1,500-square-meter exhibition highlights the development of the Arabic script from its very beginnings.

• It includes one of the oldest surviving pages of the Holy Qur’an, dating back to the second century AH/8th century AD.

Organized by the Ministry of Culture to showcase the history of Arabic calligraphy, the 1,500-square-meter exhibition highlights the development of the Arabic script from its very beginnings, along with the relationship between calligraphy, contemporary art and artificial intelligence (AI).
This exceptional journey through history features input from Saudi and international master calligraphers, contemporary artists and designers. It begins with the advent of written communication on the Arabian Peninsula nearly 1,700 years ago and traces the development of scripts engraved on stone and included in linear paintings, manuscripts and other objects across the Islamic world.
The exhibition brings the story right up to date by considering the most modern applications of Arabic calligraphy, for example in fashion, design and even AI. Alongside the classic artworks on display, visitors will find an AI machine, developed by Egyptian artist and designer Haytham Nawar, that allows them to produce a new pictographic language on a video screen.
At the other end of the timeline of Arabic calligraphy, the exhibition includes one of the oldest surviving pages of the Holy Qur’an, dating back to the second century AH/8th century AD. There is also a selection of Qur’an manuscripts, including the renowned Blue Qur’an and Mushaf Al-Madinah, and a specially designed manuscript presented by Obvious, a collective of French AI researchers and artists.

Such events are important because they enhance the communication between professional Arab calligraphists and enthusiasts.
Abdelrahman El-Shahed Calligrapher

Abdelrahman El-Shahed, a calligrapher and contemporary artist involved in the exhibition, said such events are important because they enhance the communication between professional Arab calligraphists and enthusiasts, who view the preservation of the art form as an important way to show pride in their religion and nations. They also help bring calligraphists together to continue to develop an ancient art, he added.
“We are glad that the Mohammed bin Salman Global Center for Arabic Calligraphy has been launched,” said El-Shahed. “It will definitely help in promoting and preserving Arabic calligraphy around the world, and giving it the appreciation it deserves.”
Saudi authorities announced in April last year that the Dar Al-Qalam Center in Madinah would be developed to become a global platform for calligraphers from all over the world and was renamed in honor of the crown prince. Arabic calligraphy in the region also receives great support from the Saudi Ministry of Culture and Culture Minister Prince Badr bin Abdullah bin Farhan, who last year launched the Year of Arabic Calligraphy initiative to raise awareness and interest in the art form.


Red Sea Film Festival announces $10 million fund to support Arab, African cinema

Red Sea Film Festival announces $10 million fund to support Arab, African cinema
Saudi nationals will be able to apply to the Red Sea Fund to support short films. (Supplied)
Updated 55 min 53 sec ago

Red Sea Film Festival announces $10 million fund to support Arab, African cinema

Red Sea Film Festival announces $10 million fund to support Arab, African cinema
  • The Red Sea Souk project market will take place from Nov. 12-15 at the RSFF as projects will compete for the Red Sea Development and Production Awards in the amount of $25,000 and $100,000

JEDDAH: The Red Sea Film Festival Foundation has announced its SR37.5 million ($10 million) fund, which will support projects with directors from the Arab World and Africa, launching a new generation of filmmakers and supporting established auteurs as they bring their work from script to screen.
The Red Sea Fund will back more than 100 projects in its first year, creating a game-changing boost for filmmakers by supporting fiction, documentary, and animation feature films, as well as episodic content.
Additionally, Saudi nationals will be able to apply to the Red Sea Fund to support short films in development and production.
“Helping African and Arab cinema grow — that is a very exciting responsibility,” said Edouard Waintrop, the artistic director of the Red Sea International Film Festival (RSFF).
“That is what the Red Sea Fund will do at every stage of the making of the chosen movies and episodic content. In providing more than 100 grants of up to $10 million to help the development, production, and post-production of movies across the Arab World and Africa, the Red Sea Fund will help cinema that is in full metamorphosis.”
The Red Sea Fund is part of the foundation’s commitment to the regional screen sector, which also includes launching the inaugural RSFF from Nov. 11-20 in Al-Balad, Jeddah’s historic downtown.
The festival will see the launch of the Red Sea Souk, its marketplace and industry hub for the region. Red Sea Souk will include a project market, with pitching sessions of more than 20 projects from the Arab World and Africa, as well as a films-in-progress workshop.
All projects that apply to the Red Sea Fund will automatically be eligible for the Red Sea Souk.
The Red Sea Souk project market will take place from Nov. 12-15 at the RSFF as projects will compete for the Red Sea Development and Production Awards in the amount of $25,000 and $100,000.

FASTFACTS

• Fund will back more than 100 projects in its first year as grants will be awarded for development, production, and post-production.

• Inaugural Red Sea Film Festival will be held Nov. 11-20 in Al-Balad, Jeddah’s historic downtown.

The Red Sea Souk films-in-progress workshop will be held Nov. 12-15 at the RSFF as each selected project will compete for the Red Sea Post-Production Awards worth $30,000.
“Over the past two decades, we have seen the Arab and African film industry grow and flourish,” RSFF Managing Director Shivani Pandya said.
“The fund and the Red Sea Souk will provide more tools to support the Arab and African film business to make even more of an impact on the international marketplace with the launch of its project market and films in-progress workshop this November.”
The Red Sea Souk will also include panels, networking events, workshops, and booths connecting the international film community to the exciting new Saudi market.
Applications are welcome from around the world to support projects by African or Arab directors, as the Red Sea Fund is open through July 21.
The Red Sea Fund will be split across three main categories. The first is development, which aims to support bold and creative directors in developing live-action, emerging media, and animation projects from treatments to production-ready screenplays and concepts. The Fund will develop projects from Arab, African and Saudi directors that have a director and producer attached.

The second category is Red Sea Fund – Production, which targets projects going into production and is aimed at supporting any aspect of the shoot. Open to viable projects at the production stage, with a script, committed director and producer attached, as well as potential cast and confirmed timeline. The team can be emerging or established, but with proven experience in filmmaking.

The last category is Red Sea Fund – Post-Production, which supports all aspects of post-production on feature-length projects. Once a rough cut is ready, these grants will support filmmakers to complete their films and get them ready for distribution and exhibition. The team can be emerging or established, but with proven experience in filmmaking.


Al-Qasabi stresses joint media strategy to fight pandemic

Al-Qasabi stresses joint media strategy to fight pandemic
Acting Minister of Media Dr. Majid Al-Qasabi. (SPA)
Updated 16 June 2021

Al-Qasabi stresses joint media strategy to fight pandemic

Al-Qasabi stresses joint media strategy to fight pandemic
  • Al-Qasabi: The continuation of the pandemic and the emergence of new variants requires us to increase precautionary measures to prevent outbreaks

JEDDAH: Arab countries should work together to address the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic through a new joint media strategy, acting Minister of Media Dr. Majid Al-Qasabi has said.
The strategy should also include executive projects in the Arab world to raise awareness about coronavirus vaccines and refute false information about the pandemic, he added.
His comments came during a speech at the 13th session of the Executive Office of the Council of Arab Information Ministers, where he proposed the formation of a group under the supervision of the Media and Communication Sector of the Arab League General Secretariat.
Al-Qasabi said: “The continuation of the pandemic and the emergence of new variants requires us to increase precautionary measures to prevent outbreaks.
“From this point of view came the Kingdom’s decision to limit pilgrimage this year to a limited number of residents in the Kingdom to ensure that the virus does not spread, and to ensure the health and safety of pilgrims.”

HIGHLIGHTS

Saudi Arabia recorded 1,269 new coronavirus cases on Tuesday.

With 16 new virus-related fatalities, the death toll has risen to 7,606.

He added that the Kingdom had submitted a working paper that includes the proposed objectives of the strategy, as well as its main tracks and topics.
Meanwhile, the Saudi Health Ministry repeated its warning to expatriates and citizens to avoid public gatherings, which have led to recent spikes in coronavirus cases.
Saudi Arabia on Tuesday reported 16 new coronavirus-related deaths, bringing the death toll to 7,606.
There were 1,269 new coronavirus cases, meaning that 468,175 people in the Kingdom have now contracted the disease. A total of 10,314 cases remain active, of which 1,569 are in critical condition.
The ministry said that 1,014 patients recovered from the disease, bringing the total number of recoveries in the Kingdom to 450,255.
As the Kingdom continues its vaccine rollout campaign, 16,050,143 people in the Kingdom have so far received a coronavirus vaccination.


Saudi Arabia, China discuss ways to boost trade ties

Saudi Arabia, China discuss ways to boost trade ties
Saudi-Chinese Business Council met virtually to discuss ways to boost bilateral trade. (SPA)
Updated 16 June 2021

Saudi Arabia, China discuss ways to boost trade ties

Saudi Arabia, China discuss ways to boost trade ties
  • The Chinese investment in Saudi Arabia totaled $39.9 billion between 2005 and 2021

RIYADH: The Saudi-Chinese Business Council on Tuesday met online to discuss ways to boost bilateral trade.
Mohammed Al-Ajlan, chairman of the Saudi side of the council, said the Kingdom has implemented several reforms to facilitate foreign investors.
He called on his Chinese counterparts to explore the great opportunities that the Kingdom has to offer in different economic sectors.
Lin Yi, vice president of the Chinese People’s Association for Friendship with Foreign Countries, said Saudi Arabia is the most important partner for China in the Middle East and Beijing gives Riyadh priority in its foreign investment plans.
Saad Al-Kridis, vice chairman of the council, said the trade volume between the two countries has witnessed a surge. The Chinese investment in Saudi Arabia totaled $39.9 billion between 2005 and 2021.

 


Nigeria seeks to bolster cooperation with Islamic Military Counter Terrorism Coalition

Nigeria seeks to bolster cooperation with Islamic Military Counter Terrorism Coalition
Nigerian Ambassador to Saudi Arabia Yahaya Lawal received by IMCTC Secretary-General Maj. Gen. Mohammed bin Saeed Al-Moghedi in Riyadh. (SPA)
Updated 16 June 2021

Nigeria seeks to bolster cooperation with Islamic Military Counter Terrorism Coalition

Nigeria seeks to bolster cooperation with Islamic Military Counter Terrorism Coalition
  • The IMCTC chief said the coalition aims to enhance cooperation and coordination among member states

RIYADH: Nigerian Ambassador to Saudi Arabia Yahaya Lawal visited the headquarters of the Islamic Military Counter Terrorism Coalition (IMCTC) in Riyadh on Tuesday.
IMCTC Secretary-General Maj. Gen. Mohammed bin Saeed Al-Moghedi received the top diplomat and the accompanying delegation.
The Nigerian ambassador and Al-Moghedi discussed ways to enhance cooperation to combat terrorism in all its forms.
Al-Moghedi briefed the visiting dignitaries about the coalition’s goals, achievements and the initiatives it has taken to fight terrorism in different forms.
He said the coalition represents an integrated system of intellectual and media initiatives and also aims to fight terror financing to effectively root out this menace. The IMCTC chief said the coalition aims to enhance cooperation and coordination among member states.