Saudi Arabia offers support for Egypt, Sudan in Ethiopia dam dispute

A worker goes down a construction ladder at the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD), near Guba in Ethiopia. (File/AFP)
A worker goes down a construction ladder at the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD), near Guba in Ethiopia. (File/AFP)
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Updated 07 July 2021

Saudi Arabia offers support for Egypt, Sudan in Ethiopia dam dispute

Saudi Arabia offers support for Egypt, Sudan in Ethiopia dam dispute
  • Kingdom calls on international community to intensify efforts to find clear mechanism to start negotiations to end the crisis
  • Ethiopia started the second phase of filling a controversial mega-dam on the upper Nile River, Egypt said, raising tensions ahead of an upcoming UN Security Council on the issue

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia on Tuesday stated its support for Egypt and Sudan in preserving their water rights amid heightened tensions over Ethiopia’s Nile dam project.
The Kingdom’s foreign ministry said it was important to stabilize water security for Egypt, Sudan, the Arab world and the African continent.
The statement came a day after Egypt’s irrigation minister said he had received a notice from Ethiopia saying it had started filling the Grand Renaissance Dam’s reservoir for the second time, a move rejected by Cairo.
The Kingdom said it also “supported Egypt and Sudan’s efforts to contain the crisis and their demands to reach a solution, in accordance with the rules of international law.”
The foreign ministry said the Kingdom supported international moves aimed at finding a binding solution to end the dispute.
“The Kingdom calls on the international community to intensify efforts to find a clear mechanism to start negotiations between the three countries (Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia) to get out of this crisis, in line with their interests and the interests of the Nile Basin countries and the future of the peoples of the region, according to international auspices and in agreement with the African Union and the Arab League,” the statement said.
The UN Security Council is set to hold a meeting on Thursday, after Arab states requested the 15-member body address the issue.


What do parents in Saudi Arabia really think about distance learning?

Schools in the Kingdom closed in March 2020, in the early stages of the pandemic. They began to reopen in September this year, though remote learning remains in place for younger children. (SPA)
Schools in the Kingdom closed in March 2020, in the early stages of the pandemic. They began to reopen in September this year, though remote learning remains in place for younger children. (SPA)
Updated 59 min 43 sec ago

What do parents in Saudi Arabia really think about distance learning?

Schools in the Kingdom closed in March 2020, in the early stages of the pandemic. They began to reopen in September this year, though remote learning remains in place for younger children. (SPA)
  • After education minister said 83% of parents believe online education has been good for kids’ mental health, we talk those on both sides of the debate

JEDDAH: Distance learning was a necessity imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic, and in the past 18 months there has been a great deal of debate, globally, about the merits or otherwise of remote education and how well its extended use has served students during these difficult times.

In Saudi Arabia, however, parents appear to be overwhelmingly in favor of distance learning, according to figures quoted by Education Minister Hamad Al-Sheikh. Speaking last month at the Saudi Family Forum, organized by the Family Affairs Council, he said 83 percent of parents believe that remote education has positively affected their children’s mental and psychological health. He added that it is here to stay, in some form, even after the pandemic ends because it has become a pillar of the education system.
Saudi authorities responded to the need to close classrooms during the pandemic by developing the Madrasati, or “My School,” platform as a gateway to keep students at all levels, from first to 12th grade, and their parents connected with schools and teachers in an attempt to provide the best possible online educational experience. To help achieve this it provides access to textbooks, notes, study materials, videos, tutorials and more besides. In the first week after its launch in September 2020, the free platform logged 41 million visits.
Redha Omda, a father of three in Jeddah, told Arab News that teachers are using new techniques to enhance the online learning environment, and applauded the increased use of technology.
“I like how technology is playing a big part in the educational sector,” he said. “Teachers are contacting me through WhatsApp and they are more accessible than before.

BACKGROUND

Saudi authorities responded to the need to close classrooms during the pandemic by developing the Madrasati, or ‘My School,’ platform as a gateway to keep students at all levels, from first to 12th grade, and their parents connected with schools and teachers in an attempt to provide the best possible online educational experience. To help achieve this it provides access to textbooks, notes, study materials, videos, tutorials and more besides.

“The Madrasati platform is linked to the parent’s Tawakkalna app, which is amazing, and it lets me know everything about my kids. I am also impressed by how my kids are using technology in a way that I did not imagine.”
Bara’a Alfergani, a mother of two living in Jeddah, said that distance learning saves students a lot of time.
“Study at home is better than attending eight hours of classes every day and then coming home with homework to do,” she said. “It is much easier to attend online and do homework at the same place.”

In the first week after Madrasati launch in September 2020, the free platform logged 41 million visits.

Alfergani added that it also makes it easier for her to keep an eye on her children and be more involved in their education.
The Ministry of Education has indicated that the future of learning in Saudi Arabia will involve some form of hybrid learning, as the concept of distance education has evolved as a result of the global health crisis.
Joud Al-Harbi, a 23-year-old college student from Jeddah, said that online education is a much better option than attending classes.
“It allows me to do many things at the same time,” she said. “I interact with my instructors, and most of my collegemates understand the subjects easily.”
One of her friends has a sick child, she added, and prefers to take classes online because it gives her more time to care for the youngster.
Schools and other educational institutions in the Kingdom closed in March 2020, in the early stages of the pandemic. They began to reopen in September this year, though remote learning remains in place for younger children.
Not all parents agree that distance learning has been a good thing, however. Stay-at-home mom Mashael Al-Sahli said it has had an adverse psychological effect on her two children because it has deprived them of a social life.
“Building social skills starts at school and it is an important factor of the growing process,” she said. “It was something we didn’t feel until schools were closed.”
Not only were her children deprived of the school environment, activities and their friends, she said, even though the online learning system that has been developed is good she nevertheless has found the learning process to be difficult.
“The kids can’t even see the teachers’ gestures or body language,” she added.
Nahedh Almwalad, an elementary school teacher in Jeddah, said that children have a lot of energy and their attention span is limited, which can be a challenge with online education, but added that it can help to teach them patience.


Saudi, UN partnership to help promote sustainable development in Soudah

Located in the Asir region, the mountains of Soudah are home to the highest peak in Saudi Arabia, situated more than 3,000m above sea level. (Shutterstock)
Located in the Asir region, the mountains of Soudah are home to the highest peak in Saudi Arabia, situated more than 3,000m above sea level. (Shutterstock)
Updated 31 sec ago

Saudi, UN partnership to help promote sustainable development in Soudah

Located in the Asir region, the mountains of Soudah are home to the highest peak in Saudi Arabia, situated more than 3,000m above sea level. (Shutterstock)
  • It will harvest knowledge to preserve heritage, culture, natural resources

JEDDAH: Saudi Arabia’s southern Soudah mountains are getting a further boost to habitat protection while welcoming tourists and visitors with the signing of a new deal between Soudah Development Co. and the UN Mountain Partnership.

Located in the Asir region in the southwest of the Kingdom, the juniper-covered mountains of Soudah are home to the highest peak in Saudi Arabia, situated more than 3,000m above sea level.
Initiated in 2002, the UN Mountain Partnership, an alliance dedicated to protecting mountain environments around the world, aims to improve the life of the local mountain communities and preserve its ecosystems. It currently consists of more than 400 members spanning governments, companies and civil society groups.
Soudah Development Co. is the first company from the Kingdom and the Gulf region to join this partnership and will allow it to tap into an international wealth of knowledge and resources as it develops a regulatory framework to create a sustainable tourist destination.
“The membership will contribute to positioning Soudah on the international map by giving us access to prospective mountain developers and adventure tourism partners who will recognize how the entity is embracing the same development values and quality standards as major mountain destinations worldwide,” Husameddin Al-Madani, CEO of Soudah Development Co., told Arab News.
Joining this alliance is an important milestone for the company, which will put them a step closer to accomplishing their mission and development project.
“This new and exciting membership will enable us to tap into the wealth and diversity of knowledge, information and expertise of mountain developers and organizations around the world and ensure we can benefit from initiatives and programs that reflect our ambitions here in the region from 3,015 meters above sea level,” Al-Madani said.
The area is currently a popular tourist destination among domestic travelers and adventure enthusiasts, offering activities for adventure seekers such as scenic hiking trails to paragliding over the valley, and a serene camping location to stargaze at night.
This ambitious project will help promote sustainable development, preserve the environment of Soudah, protect wildlife and undertake a major reforestation program, which will remove more than 25,000 tons of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.
“Our membership underlines the Kingdom’s commitment to introducing Saudi’s unique and diverse nature and culture to the world. Additionally, the Kingdom is committed to the highest standards of environmental sustainability, having launched the Saudi Green initiative and Middle East Green initiative to set standards for environmental sustainability in all development projects across the Kingdom,” Al-Madani said.
In line with the strategy to protect the environment of Soudah, the company promises to enhance its commitment to wildlife conservation by having a monitoring program that will document the behavior of endangered animals.
Part of this initiative is a new partnership with the Beacon Development Company, a subsidiary of King Abdullah University of Science and Technology.
The agreement will focus on placing a series of hidden cameras in the area to monitor wildlife, which includes the striped hyena, the Arabian wolf, Arabian red fox, Indian crested porcupine and wild cats.
“In the context of Soudah’s unique location, enchanting environment and scenic landscapes, our membership with the Mountain Partnership is another positive step in the right direction that reflects the efforts to preserve nature and the environment in line with the efforts of Saudi Arabia,” Al-Madani said.


Saudi Shoura Council delegation participates in global parliamentary meeting

Shoura Speaker Abdullah Al-Asheikh. (Supplied)
Shoura Speaker Abdullah Al-Asheikh. (Supplied)
Updated 14 min 30 sec ago

Saudi Shoura Council delegation participates in global parliamentary meeting

Shoura Speaker Abdullah Al-Asheikh. (Supplied)

MADRID: A Shoura Council delegation is participating in the general assembly of the Inter-Parliamentary Union.
The assembly’s 143rd session is in Madrid and is being held in the presence of King Felipe VI, IPU President Duarte Pacheco, President of the Spanish Congress of Deputies Meritxell Batet, Senate President Ander Gil, and parliament speakers and delegations from 179 countries.
Shoura Council Speaker Abdullah Al-Asheikh is leading the Saudi delegation.
The Spanish king gave a speech at the opening ceremony, where he welcomed participants and hoped that the parliaments would achieve their goals during the session.
He also hoped that parliaments would achieve consensus and increase cooperation among states.
He said that taking the necessary health measures was an extremely important step for parliaments to restore social and economic life across the globe. The function of parliaments extended to take decisions, build agreements, and achieve consensus.
The Saudi Shoura Council delegation is taking part in standing committee meetings to discuss sustainable development, funding, trade, democracy, human rights, peace and security, and UN affairs. There are also topics that will be included in other sub forums, to be held on the sidelines of the meetings.
Secretary-general of the Saudi Shoura Council, Mohammed bin Dakhil Al-Mutairi, will take part in the meetings of the secretaries-general of the national parliaments, which are expected to reach decisions to address the issues on the agenda by the end of the session.
Parliamentarians will discuss the current challenges facing democracy, including overcoming division and building community.
The standing and subcommittees will discuss the role of parliaments in addressing pressing issues related to the growing polarization and the spread of misinformation through social media.
Parliamentarians will have the opportunity to exchange ideas on how to engage more meaningfully with the public and how to ensure decision-making is as inclusive and representative as possible and how to deal with different threats.
The meetings of the general assembly and governing council continue until Nov. 30.


Ferrari Motorsport Festival in Riyadh puts Saudi Arabia ‘on the map’ for motorsports and car events 

Ferrari Motorsport Festival in Riyadh puts Saudi Arabia ‘on the map’ for motorsports and car events 
Updated 41 min 27 sec ago

Ferrari Motorsport Festival in Riyadh puts Saudi Arabia ‘on the map’ for motorsports and car events 

Ferrari Motorsport Festival in Riyadh puts Saudi Arabia ‘on the map’ for motorsports and car events 
  • One of the special attractions at the event was the Ferrari Owners Club, started by Jeddah-born Yassir Kamil Sindi

RIYADH: The Ferrari Motorsport Festival kicked off on Friday with a two-day event bringing awesome displays of racing cars, professional Formula One drivers, and epic spectacles to the fans.

In the Kingdom for the second time, the Ferrari Motorsport Festival comes as a send-off to the 10-day car show held in Riyadh, which saw more than 600 exotic and rare automobiles in one venue — earning it the the title of the biggest car show in the region.

“This has been one of the most amazing experiences of my life,” said Abdulaziz Khashoggi, founder of automotive lifestyle company Superior Automotive. “Saudi Arabia is coming up in an unbelievable way, the king and crown prince have put Saudi on the map in terms of motorsports and car events.”

One of the special attractions at the event was the Ferrari Owners Club, started by Jeddah-born Yassir Kamil Sindi, with participants invited to a display of almost 100 prancing horses. The club’s drivers took to a floodlit track at the venue, revving their engines and taking laps as onlookers cheered and whistled for more.

“As you can see and hear behind me, every single Ferrari you can imagine is flying by on the track, it’s a symphony, it’s an orchestra, it’s the most incredible thing ever,” Khashoggi declared. 

Part of the schedule included some extreme cars such as the Ferrari 599 XX, FXX, and FXX K, which were homologated for racing solely on track and are not considered street legal. 

With their V12 engines roaring through the venue, visitors at the event could not get enough.

“One my favorite things was watching the cars go around the circuit, it was beautiful,” said Tiezheng Bu, an aeroplane YouTuber. “Because it’s wide-open, the acoustics in here are amazing and it was an almost blessed experience. 

“I even took a selfie with Mick Schumacher — this place is full of pleasant surprises,” he added.

Formula One fans were shocked by the appearance of Haas Formula One driver Mick Schumacher, son of legendary driver Michael Schumacher, who won five out of his record seven championships with Ferrari between 2000-2004.

Also attending the event was Ferrari’s exhibit of a 2017 Formula One car, driven by celebrated professional Formula One drivers Sebastien Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen, an iconic duo that gained Ferrari second place in the constructor’s championship that year. The car was named Ferrari SF70H to mark Ferrari’s 70th anniversary as an automotive manufacturer.

All this comes in an addition to a big showroom that has some of the most sought-after Ferraris on display, including the Ferrari SF90 Stradale, Roma, F8 Spider, 812 GTS and many more rare automobiles from the Italian manufacturer that left visitors marveling at their beauty.

From Dec. 3 to 5, Jeddah will host Saudi Arabia’s inaugural Formula One Grand Prix, as the penultimate race of the 2021 season, with fans eagerly anticipating the culmination of an epic competition to discover who will take the crown: Seven-time  world champion Mercedes-AMG driver Lewis Hamilton, or up-and-comer Red Bull Racing driver Max Verstappen.

“Jeddah’s my hometown and I cannot wait to see the Formula One cars drive on the corniche road by the Red Sea where I  used to drive before construction began — that is something I’ve been waiting my whole life to see,” said one fan.


Ambassador’s Choice International Film Festival opens in Riyadh

Saudi film director Abdulaziz Al-Shelahi (2nd from left) with film casts during interactive session with audience at Ambassador's Choice International Film Festival. (Supplied)
Saudi film director Abdulaziz Al-Shelahi (2nd from left) with film casts during interactive session with audience at Ambassador's Choice International Film Festival. (Supplied)
Updated 46 min 45 sec ago

Ambassador’s Choice International Film Festival opens in Riyadh

Saudi film director Abdulaziz Al-Shelahi (2nd from left) with film casts during interactive session with audience at Ambassador's Choice International Film Festival. (Supplied)
  • Applauding the movie, the Indian envoy said it represents the rich content and talent that the Saudi film industry has to offer to the world

RIYADH: The ninth Ambassador’s Choice International Film Festival recently opened at the Embassy of India in Riyadh with the screening of Saudi drama “The Tambour of Retribution.”

The film, directed by Abdul Aziz Al-Shelahi, has been nominated as Saudi Arabia’s official entry for the Best International Feature Film at the 94th Academy Awards. It will compete with films from around the world and will pass through several screening stages before the final list is announced by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. The winner will be announced at the Oscars, which will be held at the Dolby Theater in Los Angeles on March 27.

Indian Ambassador Ausaf Sayeed speaking at Ambassador's Choice International Film Festival. (Supplied)

Chosen by the Saudi Film Commission and nominated by the Saudi Academy Awards Committee as an official entry to the Oscars, “The Tambour of Retribution” has won Best Feature Film at the Saudi Film Festival. It was shown for the first time at the Cairo Film Festival and won the Special Jury Award. It was also shown at the Malmo Arab Film Festival in Sweden and won the Best Director Award.

In his inaugural address, Indian Ambassador Dr. Ausaf Sayeed congratulated Al-Shelahi for the film, which was screened on the inaugural day of the film festival, as well as for the nomination of his movie for the Oscars, wishing him all the best.

Applauding the movie, the Indian envoy said it represents the rich content and talent that the Saudi film industry has to offer to the world.

Deputy Chief of Saudi Film Association Hussam Al Helwa speaking at Ambassador's Choice International Film Festival. (Supplied)

Later, in an interactive session with the audience, Al-Shelahi briefed them about his experiences during the production of the movie and expressed his happiness and pride at representing Saudi Arabia in the Oscar race for the best international film category.

HIGHLIGHT

The Embassy of India is hosting the ninth edition of the Ambassador’s Choice International Film Festival from Nov. 25 to Dec. 7 in collaboration with the Saudi Film Association and nine other embassies, which include those of Australia, Bangladesh, France, Germany, Mexico, the Philippines, Spain, Sri Lanka and the US.

He credited the actors associated with the film for their hard work, praising them for their passion for the craft.

Commenting on “The Tambour of Retribution,” Meshal Al-Mutairi, chairman of the Saudi Film Association and chief guest at the inaugural ceremony, said: “We are very happy for it. It’s a very good movie, one of the best in recent years and the right nominee for the Oscars. It has won awards in Cairo and other international awards, and we hope it will be shortlisted for the Oscar award.”

Diplomats & guests posing for a group photo at 9th Ambassador's Choice International Film Festival. (Supplied)

The Embassy of India is hosting the ninth edition of the Ambassador’s Choice International Film Festival from Nov. 25 to Dec. 7 in collaboration with the Saudi Film Association and nine other embassies, which include those of Australia, Bangladesh, France, Germany, Mexico, the Philippines, Spain, Sri Lanka and the US.

The festival was inaugurated by the Indian ambassador along with his counterparts from other participating embassies and Al-Mutairi.

Sayeed thanked the embassies and Saudi authorities for their collaboration. While talking about Indian cinema, he said that the film industry is not only a contributor to the Indian economy but a cultural bridge between India and the world.

Saudi film director Abdulaziz Al-Shelahi (2nd from left) with film casts during interactive session at Ambassador's Choice International Film Festival. (Supplied)

He said that Saudi Arabia and India have a very strong film connection in Ebrahim Al-Kazi, a renowned drama teacher and founder-director of the prestigious New Delhi-based National School of Drama.

The renowned theater director, often referred to as the “father of Indian theater,” has Saudi roots in his father, Hamad bin Ali Al-Kazi, who was a trader from Unaiza in the Qassim region and who eventually settled in Pune, India.

The envoy added that Indian cinema, due to its extensive outreach, has contributed to the popularization of several countries as tourist destinations, with Bollywood functions like film festivals, award shows, cultural carnivals and concerts enriching the economies of the countries hosting them.

Referring to Saudi cinema, the ambassador mentioned that although it is a nascent industry, it has already established a strong presence on the global stage.

He underlined that the sector offers enormous potential for growth and is bound to play a significant role in the actualization of Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 goals.

The inauguration of the festival was attended by diplomats, Saudi nationals, journalists, members of the Indian community and other expatriates.

The festival will screen 12 movies of diverse genres, which include many acclaimed movies such as Indian film “Nil Batte Sannata,” American film “Hamilton,” Sri Lankan film “Nela,” Saudi film “Scales,” Australian film “Gurrumul” and Mexican film “Mezquite’s Heart.”