Saudi Arabia’s Diriyah authority stages folk dance contest

Saudi Arabia’s Diriyah authority stages folk dance contest
There will be four rounds this year, each with five participants who need to pass the sessions at the final round in line with standards. (Photo/Twitter)
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Updated 30 May 2021

Saudi Arabia’s Diriyah authority stages folk dance contest

Saudi Arabia’s Diriyah authority stages folk dance contest
  • The final festival will be held on Nov. 25 to award the winners

JEDDAH: The Diriyah Gate Development Authority (DGDA) has launched the second national Ardha dance competition as part of the authority’s endeavors to promote the ancient art form.

Ardha is on UNESCO’s Intangible Cultural Heritage list and DGDA stages the event so that young Saudis can train for and compete in a dance and poetry competition to celebrate the traditional folk dance.

During the Ardha, a poet and dancers wield swords or canes accompanied by drums — traditionally enacted to send soldiers off to battle and provide them with the determination and support they needed. Today, it is performed at weddings, national and cultural events and celebrations.

The initiative has two stages; the first includes providing training courses taught by the best performers for those registered to learn the arts of the Saudi Ardha. The second stage is to organize a competition for those who qualify in courses held during the first phase.

There will be four rounds this year, each with five participants who need to pass the sessions at the final round in line with standards — including those relating to uniform, sword and drums — set by the arbitration committee.  

Registration for the first round is from May 27 to June 2 and training sessions will be held from June 3 to June 4. Registration for the second round will be from July 1 to July 22 and training will be from Aug. 6 to Aug. 7.

Registration for the third round is from Sept. 5 to Sept. 9 and training will be from Sept. 17 to Sept. 18.

Registration for the fourth phase will be from Oct. 5 to Oct. 12 and training is planned for Oct. 22 to Oct. 23.

The final festival will be held on Nov. 25 to award the winners who have been selected to take part in a final performance competition.

The initiative will be held in the historic Al-Turaif district in Diriyah, mainly at the Palace of Thunayan bin Saud, one of the most important historical sites in the district, with the aim of consolidating the history and culture of Diriyah, the land of kings and heroes, the jewel of the Kingdom and the cradle of the first Saudi state.

The Diriyah Gate Development Authority held the first edition of the initiative in 2019 at the Palace of Prince Thunayan bin Saud in the historic Al-Turaif neighborhood, where the authority’s CEO, Jerry Inzerillo, honored six winners out of 100 participants in the first phase after they had passed the training stages and participated in the competition.


Families skip work and school to enjoy first day of Riyadh Season’s Winter Wonderland

Families skip work and school to enjoy first day of Riyadh Season’s Winter Wonderland
Updated 22 sec ago

Families skip work and school to enjoy first day of Riyadh Season’s Winter Wonderland

Families skip work and school to enjoy first day of Riyadh Season’s Winter Wonderland
  • More than 60,000 entry tickets were sold during the first minutes of the ticket portal opening
  • Winter Wonderland zone opens its doors to visitors from 4:00 p.m. until 1:00 am daily throughout the season

RIYADH: Zombies dancing, clowns performing, fireworks lighting the city sky — this is how visitors were welcomed to Winter Wonderland, part of Riyadh Season’s 14 zones.

Some families even skipped school and work to make sure they were the first to enter the zone.

Mustafa Usman, a logistics operation manager from Uzbekistan, told Arab News how he had loved Winter Wonderland during the last season and could not wait for it to open again this season.

“The reason why I came on the first day of Winter Wonderland is that last season I visited the zone twice, and this time I wanted my kids to enjoy the experience; they were excited. That is why I got an excuse from my job to be here,” Usman said.

Usman said that he has visited almost all the zones and events during the first ten days since the launch of Riyadh Season. “I went to almost all events, the grand opening for Riyadh Season . . . the WWE Crown Jewel show... I went to Combat Field… and today here at Winter Wonderland… and on Friday I’m going to the (Egyptian) Orchestra in (Riyadh) Boulevard, at Muhammed Abdu’s arena . . . I am excited to go to (Riyadh) Safari once the weather gets better.”

Winter Wonderland opened its doors yesterday with a sense of huge anticipation from a large audience of game-lovers. The zone consists of six primary areas including, for the first time, the children’s corner. The corner is dedicated to the nursery and care of children from one year to 7 years old and is equipped with games for toddlers.

Riyadh Season’s Winter Wonderland opens its doors for visitors with more than 103 games for adults and children.  (AN photo by Huda Bashatah)

Turki Al-Sheikh, chairman of the board of the General Entertainment Authority, revealed earlier in a tweet that more than 60,000 entry tickets were sold during the first minutes of the ticket portal opening. This confirms visitors’ enthusiasm, especially after the zone’s area capacity increased 40 percent from last season.

The zone includes more than 103 games that meet all age groups’ tastes — from adults to children — and with cosy snowy scenes and lights where people can enjoy hot drinks and different types of foods. Visitors can also try out the snow maze and skating rink.

The winter atmosphere attracts visitors from all over the world to enjoy experiences that bring back memories of their childhood, with decorations that mix reality with dreams.

Many visitors from GCC countries such as Qatar, Oman, and Kuwait have come to visit the zones of Riyadh Season.

Riyadh Season’s Winter Wonderland opens its doors for visitors with more than 103 games for adults and children.  (AN photo by Huda Bashatah)

Eisa Adnan, a civil engineer visiting from Kuwait, told Arab News that he would stay for two weeks in Riyadh to attend most of the events during the season. “We want to go to Al-Murabba zone, and I heard that there is a play coming up for Mohammed Hunaidi, a very famous actor; we would love to see that play,” he said.

“I thank all the girls and boys who are organizing and preparing these amazing events. I never came to the previous seasons; this is my first season to attend, and it is luxurious.”

The zone opens its doors to visitors from 4:00 p.m. until 1:00 am daily throughout the season, and entry tickets can be booked online through Riyadh Season’s website or application.


Saudi Arabia registers 3 COVID-19 deaths, 51 new infections

Saudi Arabia registers 3 COVID-19 deaths, 51 new infections
Updated 28 October 2021

Saudi Arabia registers 3 COVID-19 deaths, 51 new infections

Saudi Arabia registers 3 COVID-19 deaths, 51 new infections
  • The health ministry says 35 patients have recovered from the virus in the last 24 hours
  • More than 21.3 million people have been fully vaccinated

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia confirmed three new COVID-19 related deaths on Thursday, raising the total number of fatalities to 8,788.
The Ministry of Health confirmed 51 new cases reported in the Kingdom in the previous 24 hours, meaning 548,474 people have now contracted the disease. Of the total number of cases, 59 remain in critical condition.
According to the ministry, the highest number of cases were recorded in the capital Riyadh with 14, followed by Jeddah with 11, Makkah recorded three, and Madinah, Dammam, Yanbu and Dhahran recorded two cases each.


The health ministry also announced that 35 patients had recovered from COVID-19, bringing the total number of recoveries in the Kingdom to 537,453.
Over 45.5 million COVID-19 vaccine doses have been administered since the Kingdom’s immunization campaign started. More than 21.3 million people have been fully vaccinated.
The coronavirus pandemic has affected over 246million people globally and the death toll has reached around 4.99 million.


Thousands flock to Global Town Festival opening in Riyadh for dance, food, culture experience

Thousands flock to Global Town Festival opening in Riyadh for dance, food, culture experience
Updated 28 October 2021

Thousands flock to Global Town Festival opening in Riyadh for dance, food, culture experience

Thousands flock to Global Town Festival opening in Riyadh for dance, food, culture experience

RIYADH: The largest multinational festival in Saudi Arabia opened on Wednesday in the capital Riyadh.

Thousands of people gathered at Exhibition Park on Eastern Ring Road for the Global Town Festival, an historic, cross-cultural experience of “unforgettable” moments.

Reema Al-Ruwaysan, chief executive officer of festival organizer MOLHIMA Group, said: “It’s a feeling that can’t be described, to see the Saudi youth, men, and women partake in a cultural event of this magnitude. I’m just happy to see it.”

 Reema Alruwaysan, CEO of MOLHIMAH Group. (AN Photo/Saad Aldossari)

It will be the second time Riyadh has hosted the two-week festival which sold out on its first day with 5,000 visitors. Countries from around the world will be showcasing famous landmarks, markets, folklore, and songs, and cafes and restaurants will serve traditional cuisines.

Polaris Slingshot three-wheeled motorcycles and Harley-Davidsons entered the main plaza to kick off the festival in the largest motorbike parade in the Kingdom’s history.

Welcoming crowds, Al-Ruwaysan said: “I hope you enjoy the festival that brings all cultures and civilizations in one place.”

Cultural dances, virtual reality games, and traditional food were some of the first-day experiences, with a number of ambassadors attending the opening ceremony.

Abdulhakim Al-Ouda, 35, from Riyadh, a speaker with the Vision 2030 team for training and development, said: “I’m here for the games, magic, and festivities. I visited stands that sold clothes, and paintings and I went to restaurants. It’s wonderful.”

Tickets available online priced SR40 ($10.60) sold out two days before the festival opening. Admission for under-12s is free, and the festival is open from 4 p.m. until midnight every day until Nov. 9.

Startups and family businesses were given spaces on Charity Street to sell their products as part of the Molhimah Al-Khair initiative.

Noora Alassaf, a certified decoupage artist and trainer from Qassim, said: “I tried to gather art from various cultures and place them altogether in one booth. Decoupage art comes from France, you can see some inspiration from (Spanish painter Pablo) Picasso here and these masks are Italian inspired.

“The reception at my booth has been amazing, and what’s beautiful is every year I see the Saudi people’s love for art increase. I see families now wanting to instill a love for art in their kids from a young age, and I absolutely love it. The art culture in Saudi Arabia is without limits,” she added.

Another startup at the festival was Spoilz, a mobile-gaming company founded by 29-year-old Musaab Al-Malki from Riyadh, who was showcasing its latest game “Smack Sack.”

A highlight from the evening's entertainment. (AN Photo/Saad Aldossari)

“We’re here in partnership with ThinkTech by the Ministry of Communication and Information Technology to show off our games and engage with our community. Our plans are to reach a global audience, to publish more games, and to become the largest game developer in the Middle East and North Africa region.

“I like the idea of mixing civilizations and showing different cultures (at the festival), and this is what we’re focusing on with our games, to show Saudi Arabia’s culture,” Al-Malki said.

Over the coming days, visitors can expect to begin their journey through the festival on Saudi Street, starting with a historical route through ancient Najd, Darwaza al-Tumairi, and Souk Al-Muqaybara.

Accompanied by an exhibition that displays the most prominent achievements of the Kingdom’s rulers, Saudi Street aims to showcase the country and what it has to offer in terms of culture and knowledge, Al-Ruwaysan told Arab News.

Kenya, South Africa, Egypt, Ethiopia, and Djibouti will join in performing festive dances and serving traditional food on African Street.

One of the attractions on Egypt Street will be El-Fishawy cafe, which dates back to 1771. Known for attracting great thinkers, kings, and princes of ancient Egypt, its fame increased after the international writer and Nobel Prize for Literature winner Naguib Mahfouz used it as a place of inspiration for his novels.

Meanwhile, visitors were able to see Pisa’s famous leaning tower on Italy Street.

As well as walking around the attractions, visitors can rent electric scooters and bicycles.


Saudi Arabia’s green oil: Ancient meets modern as the ‘smart farmers’ of Jouf reap a rich olive harvest

Saudi Arabia’s green oil: Ancient meets modern as the ‘smart farmers’ of Jouf reap a rich olive harvest
Updated 28 October 2021

Saudi Arabia’s green oil: Ancient meets modern as the ‘smart farmers’ of Jouf reap a rich olive harvest

Saudi Arabia’s green oil: Ancient meets modern as the ‘smart farmers’ of Jouf reap a rich olive harvest
  • Arab News visited the “Million Tree Farm” in Jouf, a land of fertile soil and moderate climate ideal for cultivating this popular drupe

JOUF: Olive oil, the green elixir and a staple in Saudi households, is getting a production boost  as farmers in the northern Jouf region — the “food basket of the Kingdom” — adopt high-tech methods to get the most out of their traditional olive groves.

Olive trees have their roots in the cradle of civilization. Cultivated even before the invention of written language, distinctive tree varieties spread to Iran, Syria and Palestine, and throughout the Mediterranean basin.

With its fertile soil and moderate climate, the Jouf region in the north of the Kingdom has become Saudi Arabia’s biggest producer of olive oil, and is home to vast orchards holding millions of trees.

Throughout history, the humble olive has been associated with prosperity. But olive oil has always been much more than just a delicious part of the daily diet, and is a valuable and intrinsic part of Arab culture and heritage.

 

Arab News traveled north and visited the Busita farm, also known as the “Million Tree Farm,” whose owner, Nasser Al-Hamad, shared his story of swapping a career as an Islamic studies teacher in Riyadh for life in the world of agriculture.

Al-Hamad researched and planned his farming project for years before planting 160,000 olive trees imported from Spain through the Agromillora company.

His efforts have borne fruit and he is now regarded as one of the best farmers in the region.

Throughout history, the humble olive has been associated with prosperity. But olive oil has always been much more than just a delicious part of the daily diet, and is a valuable and intrinsic part of Arab culture and heritage.

“I grew up between farms and in a family full of farmers, so I was already familiar with planting methods for many crops,” he told Arab News.

Al-Hamad decided to grow Spanish olive trees in high-density groves, a more economical and productive model that also delivered high-quality crops and flavor.

“When my family started their farming business in Jouf city, the quality of olive oil caught my attention. We did not depend on the Spanish olive oil for daily use, and it was only used for medical prescriptions. However, I found out that it has a nuttier and richer fruity flavor and a sweeter taste than other types,” he said.

“When you eat it in the early morning, it gives the body a kick-start for the day.”

The journey that led to the Million Tree Farm began with a single step.

Nasser Al-Hamad at his Busita Farm in Al Jouf. (AN photo)

“I started with a small orchard of the available olive trees, then I started my research, including visiting international farms and agricultural experts all over Europe,” Al-Hamad said.

In 2018, 160,000 trees, all of the Arbequina variety, were planted as the first stage of the “Million Tree” project.

“The trees are watered through pressure-regulated irrigation networks for four years, resulting in significant growth, heavy branches to support the fruit and excellent productivity,” he said.

“I have been to China, different countries in Europe, and I have met some of the biggest dealers in the field. It turned out that Busita is the best, in terms of quality, production and cost, thanks to different factors, such as the weather.”

INNUMBERS

160,000 - the number of trees planted in the first stage of the “Million Tree” project

10 kg - every 10 kg of olives yields one liter of high-quality olive oil

He added: “In other countries, rainfall in the harvest season can cause crop damage or increase in moisture level for the fruits, but not here.”

Al-Hamad said that every 10 kg of olives yields one liter of high-quality olive oil.

“This whole orchard is managed by one irrigation pump, and requires only one worker due to the use of modern technology,” he said.

The farm uses a smart irrigation system that distributes water in equal amounts to reduce wastage. (AN photo)

Al-Hamad’s success has prompted him to launch another project, with plans to plant 700,000 trees in the next six months. Three types of Spanish olive tree — Arbequina, or “Queen of Arabia”; Arbosana, which translates as “Arabs of Sinai”; and Olea europaea, the European olive — will be used in the planting.

With a long-term goal in mind, the “smart farmer” is focusing on ways to conserve water, lower costs, and transform the way olive oil is produced in the Kingdom in line with modern business principles.

“As I made a career in the farming industry, I found out that the farming process is easier now. My trip to Spain taught me that farming can also adopt technology that is more feasible than standard methods used in other countries.”

Al-Hamad’s methods result in lower costs, reduced water consumption and minimal use of labor, but the result is a consistent high-quality olive oil.

Olive trees thrive on little water, unlike palm trees, which require intensive watering.

Al-Hamad’s methods result in lower costs, reduced water consumption and minimal use of labor. (AN photo)

Differences in trees sizes can be seen in some orchards due to variations in watering or uneven land.

However, Al-Hamad said: “I use a smart irrigation system that distributes water in equal amounts to reduce wastage. This system allows only two liters of water to be consumed in one hour, no matter the pressure level is. Hence, every tree has a single watering unit to guarantee all trees grow evenly.”

Harvesting olives usually requires a large workforce and is labor intensive. Crop quality can also be affected if olives are left in the sun before being collected.

Harnessing modern techniques, Al-Hamad relies on a mechanical olive harvester — or as he calls it, the “one-man mission machine” — to fulfil his vision.

“Instead of 500 workers harvesting the crop, I bought a high-density olive harvester that ensures gentle handling and seamless transport of the olive to the container and then to the olive press station.”

A high-density olive harvester ensures gentle handling and seamless transport of the olive to the container and then to the olive press station. (AN photo)

The olive harvest starts at the end of September and runs till early January. The harvester combs the olive trees and collects 50 tons of the crop every day.

To allow the harvesting machine to operate between each row, olive trees are trimmed to a standard three-meter width and 1.5-meter height. The crop is then transported through a belt conveyor while dusting and washing are carried out.

Olives are then “cold-pressed” at room temperature to extract the juice, resulting in the so-called olive paste, which is kneaded for 30 minutes until the oil is secreted. The liquid is then separated from the olive mixture, and the extracted juice separated into water and oil.

Pure fresh oil is filtered and stored immediately in cans and bottles ranging from one to 16 liters in volume.

“With persistence, planning and work, nothing is difficult,” Al-Hamad said. “In this project, I made sure to benefit from the climate, land and farming methods, all of which are studied and well planned.”

In 2021, Al-Hamad won the best farmer award in the Jouf region. His “Million Tree” brand, created to highlight the success of his project, also claimed the silver award in the Dubai olive oil competition.

“I pride myself, my family, and my country with this huge accomplishment in producing the finest olive oil in the world,” he said.

“The government’s appreciation for the success of my project encouraged me to think about transforming agriculture into an industry and becoming the most advanced olive oil manufacturer in the world.”


Saudi aid agency continues relief projects in Yemen, Jordan, Lebanon

Saudi aid agency continues relief projects in Yemen, Jordan, Lebanon
Updated 28 October 2021

Saudi aid agency continues relief projects in Yemen, Jordan, Lebanon

Saudi aid agency continues relief projects in Yemen, Jordan, Lebanon

HODEIDAH: In a single week, more than 301,000 liters of clean water were pumped into tanks, and an additional 287,000 liters were provided for domestic use, as part of an ongoing King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Center project to supply water and environmental sanitation in Yemen’s Hodeidah governorate.
KSrelief also delivered medical supplies to the Jordanian government to support the health sector in the country and help authorities battle the coronavirus pandemic. They included liquid medical oxygen, oxygen tanks and equipment for intensive care departments.
The aid was officially presented by the Saudi Ambassador to Jordan Naif bin Bandar Al-Sudairi to the Jordanian Minister of Health Firas Ibrahim Al-Hawari.
Al-Sudairi said that the Kingdom and Jordan are bound by strong and distinguished relations that are supported by the leaderships of both countries.
KSrelief said it also continues to distribute bread in northern Lebanon as part of the third phase of the Al-Amal Charity Bakery Project. It has been distributing 20,000 bundles of bread daily to needy Syrian, Lebanese and Palestinian families for 12 months. Each family receives two bundles and the project is benefiting 50,000 people.
The project is part of the Kingdom’s efforts, through the work of KSrelief, to improve the living conditions of refugees and provide them with basic food supplies, authorities said.