South Asian expats in Saudi Arabia cancel home trips over virus concerns

South Asian expats in Saudi Arabia cancel home trips over virus concerns
Entrance and departure from the Kingdom’s land, sea and air ports was resumed on Monday for vaccinated Saudis. (AN photo by Huda Bashatah)
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Updated 18 May 2021

South Asian expats in Saudi Arabia cancel home trips over virus concerns

South Asian expats in Saudi Arabia cancel home trips over virus concerns
  • “Home trip cancellation will make my family depressed because most of my family members, relatives, and friends are in India and we are missing them"

RIYADH: Dismayed by the surge in coronavirus cases, South Asian expatriates working in Saudi Arabia are canceling plans to visit their home countries.
Since some countries are not on the fly list, there is fear that a second or third wave could hit their countries with the risk of closures and flight bans.
Last April, India crossed a grim milestone with more than 400,000 infected in one day and more than 270,000 people lost to the deadly coronavirus so far, with a devastating surge of new infections tearing through cities and rural areas alike, overwhelming healthcare systems that are already on the brink of collapse.
India has had more than 24.6 million cases so far and broke a global record with more than 412,262 new cases on May 6.
With fears mounting amid a surge in COVID cases, Dr. Manzer H. Siddiqui, an Indian working as an associate professor at King Saud University, told Arab News: “As we know, India is badly affected by a second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, I, therefore, have canceled the return flight to home for summer vacation and prefer to stay in the Kingdom.”
“Home trip cancellation will make my family depressed because most of my family members, relatives, and friends are in India and we are missing them. During this pandemic, some have lost their loved ones; I also lost my aunt. My heartfelt condolences to my extended family in India and I hope one day the whole world will come out of this pandemic, fear, and anxiety,” he said.
Dr. Kifaya Ifthikar, a Sri Lankan doctor in Riyadh, told Arab News: “Recently in Sri Lanka, there have been strict restrictions being reinstated due to rising cases. Schools have been closed after a brief opening, certain areas are under lockdown and fear has started to brew once again.”
“Not having been on Lankan soil for two consecutive years, now it is mentally taxing for me especially because of being so far away from loved ones and missing out on important life events,” she said.
“Apart from this our neighboring country India is also facing a grave dilemma, and our solidarity and heart goes out to them,” she said.

FASTFACT

Since some countries are not on the fly list, there is fear that a second or third wave could hit their countries with the risk of closures and flight bans.

Ambreen Faiz, a Pakistani writer living in Yanbu, said: “It’s very scary and heartbreaking to notice that this third wave of the coronavirus is affecting my country very badly. Lots of my relatives and friends back home have been affected by it. My husband and I had plans to visit our family in Pakistan but we were advised by our relatives back home to cancel our travel plan.”
“I have not seen my daughter and her little child for years now. Every day I speak with her and her little princess. My daughter wanted me to travel and meet her during this Eid holiday. But the recent wave of the virus scared me a lot. I don’t want to travel for fear of falling victim to this deadly pandemic,” she said.
Another reason is the flight ban by the Saudi government for 20 countries, Pakistan is one of them, she said.
Saudi Arabia suspended entry from 20 countries effective Feb. 3 to curb the spread of the coronavirus.
“I know many families who are stranded in Pakistan due to this travel ban. And, I am also afraid of getting stranded. Because of these reasons me and my husband have decided with a heavy heart to postpone our travel until the situation normalizes,” Ambreen said.
Abdus Sattar from Jessore, Bangladesh, said that it was not advisable to go home amid rising coronavirus cases.
“The recent wave of coronavirus appears to be even more deadly and I have decided to cancel my plans to visit the home country,” he said.


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 16 June 2021

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 12 min 3 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.