King Salman thanks Muslim countries for supporting Saudi Arabia’s anti-virus Hajj efforts

King Salman thanks Muslim countries for supporting Saudi Arabia’s anti-virus Hajj efforts
King Salman gives a speech on the occasion of Eid Al-Adha from the royal palace in Neom. (SPA)
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Updated 21 July 2021

King Salman thanks Muslim countries for supporting Saudi Arabia’s anti-virus Hajj efforts

King Salman thanks Muslim countries for supporting Saudi Arabia’s anti-virus Hajj efforts
  • King delivers Eid Al-Adha speech, congratulating Muslims around the world

RIYADH: The support of Islamic nations for Saudi Arabia’s efforts against COVID-19 during Hajj contributed to protecting pilgrims and prevented the spread of the pandemic, Saudi King Salman said on Tuesday.

In a televised address to mark Eid Al-Adha, the king said measures had been taken during the pilgrimage to reduce the chances of COVID-19 spreading “in view of what the world is going through,” and the Saudi vaccination campaign had allowed authorities to provide a safe environment for pilgrims.

For the second year running, Saudi Arabia limited pilgrims to those living in the Kingdom. Just 60,000 people were allowed to take part provided they had been vaccinated.

“I thank Allah Almighty for the great success of the Kingdom’s efforts in reducing the effects imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic on all aspects of life and works to increase society immunity by providing more than 22 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine to citizens and residents,” he said.

The king congratulated Muslims on Eid Al-Adha and prayed for the safe return of pilgrims to their families.

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He said this had helped increase the capacity of the Two Holy Mosques and enabled pilgrims to perform rituals in a “healthy and safe environment.”

In the last major ritual of this year’s Hajj, pilgrims cast sanitized pebbles on Tuesday as they took part in the symbolic “stoning of the devil” at Jamarat. From dawn, small groups of pilgrims made their way across the Mina valley near Makkah to take part in the ritual.

They will return to Jamarat over the next two days before continuing on to Makkah to pray at the Grand Mosque and circle the Kaaba at the end of Hajj.

Mona Hamad, a Saudi pilgrim on her first Hajj, told Arab News: “You cannot imagine how thrilled I am to live this experience. 

“I have mixed feelings — proud of my country, enjoying Hajj and celebrating Eid. What else could bring more happiness than that? I am truly feeling elated.”


Saudi Arabia showcases its tech ambitions as @Hack named ‘largest cybersecurity event of 2021’

Saudi Arabia showcases its tech ambitions as @Hack named ‘largest cybersecurity event of 2021’
Updated 15 sec ago

Saudi Arabia showcases its tech ambitions as @Hack named ‘largest cybersecurity event of 2021’

Saudi Arabia showcases its tech ambitions as @Hack named ‘largest cybersecurity event of 2021’
  • Michael Champion, regional executive vice president of Informa Markets, worked alongside Steve Wiley, general manager of cybersecurity event organizer Black Hat, to bring @Hack to life and showcase Riyadh’s potential
  • Michael Champion: I have no doubt in my mind that Riyadh is a global tech hub of the future, and it’s certainly right now the event hub of the region

RIYADH: With more than 20,000 visitors over three days, the inaugural @Hack conference was the largest cybersecurity event in the world in 2021, according to its organizers.

“This is only the beginning for the future digital city of the world,” Michael Champion, regional executive vice president of Informa Markets, told Arab News.

“Nowhere can you launch an event which would normally take 15 to 20 years to grow to this size in any another city, and (have) done it in one edition,” he said. “That just shows how important and right the timing was of doing an event like this in Riyadh.”

Champion worked alongside Steve Wiley, general manager of cybersecurity event organizer Black Hat, to bring @Hack to life and showcase Riyadh’s potential.

“I have no doubt in my mind that Riyadh is a global tech hub of the future, and it’s certainly right now the event hub of the region,” Champion said.

Black Hat is an annual cybersecurity event that brings together hackers, trainers and government agencies from around the world to share their knowledge and experience. The largest event of its kind, in 2019 it attracted representatives from almost 120 countries.

“Coming here to @Hack has been a really good experience. Black Hat’s role has been as an adviser to the @Hack team over the last few months,” Wiley said.

Comparing the event in Riyadh to the global event, Wiley added that “people will see a lot of commonalities between the Black Hat event and @Hack.”

“We have taken the formula and applied it to the local market here. It’s been a great event,” he said.

Black Hat and @Hack shared many of the same elements and were both deeply rooted in content, Wiley said, adding that the “right educational information, training and courses offered makes sure the right people are here.”

The three-day event achieved its primary goal of attracting a wide range of visitors and participants, he said.

“I think @Hack has the right foundational elements, there is a lot of people here. The cyber community in Saudi Arabia is very robust and I think it’s great we are here for the inaugural event, and I am sure that this is an event that will carry on from the strong support we are seeing,” Wiley said.

Champion added that @Hack was also one of the most diverse cybersecurity events he had ever seen.

“At least half the people here are women or girls. If I go to a cybersecurity event in America or in London, only 10 percent will be women,” he said.

“All over the world, I think there are a lot of people who have a real misconception about Saudi women.”

While the technology field in Europe and America might be seen as closed off to women, in Saudi Arabia there were crowds of young women eager to participate in the @Hack event, not only as attendees but also as speakers, Champion said.

“I can tell you, we wouldn’t sell out an event like that, the largest debut event in history, the largest cybersecurity event in the world of 2021. That doesn’t happen because there is a good team on it, that happens because of the markets, the timing and the partnerships we have,” he said.

Riyadh had the right markets and the right support to launch multiple global events in the future, Champion added.

“When an event booms to the size @Hack and Leap have, it’s only because there is real intensity behind that market. Everybody knows it,” he said.

“For so many years, Saudi has had so much wealth concentrated in hydrocarbons, but now it seems to have released it to help transform that economy into a heavyweight in technology.”

Leap is an upcoming technology event organized by Informa Markets in cooperation with the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology. It is set to run from Feb. 1 to 3 at the Riyadh Front Expo Center.

“When it launches, it will be the largest debut tech event ever,” Champion said. “It will have thousands of companies participating.”

The CEOs of companies like Ericsson, VMware and Magic Leap, as well as the chief digital transformation officer of Huawei Enterprises, are among those set to attend, Champion said.

“You have unbelievable speakers on this, the real heavyweights of global technology are absolutely desperate to get on the speaker faculty. And the reason is that Saudi is a booming market,” he added.

“Saudi is the right market, it’s a very lucrative and attractive market for many companies wanting to be a part of these megaprojects because they know they are seismic.”


Saudi Arabia confirms first omicron COVID-19 case

Saudi Arabia confirms first omicron COVID-19 case
Updated 01 December 2021

Saudi Arabia confirms first omicron COVID-19 case

Saudi Arabia confirms first omicron COVID-19 case
  • The passenger, along with those he was in contact with, has been isolated, according to SPA

DUBAI: Saudi Arabia confirmed Wednesday its first case of the COVID-19 omicron variant on a passenger coming from a north African country, state news agency SPA reported.

The passenger, a Saudi national, along with those he was in contact with has been isolated, SPA added.

“An epidemiological investigation has started and the case was sent to quarantine, where accredited health procedures were followed,” the report said.

A health official from Saudi Arabia’s health ministry has called on people to finish their COVID-19 vaccine shots and for travelers to adhere to quarantine and testing protocols upon their arrival.

The spread of the latest strain comes as Saudi Arabia’s ban on direct travel from several countries ended, with the Kingdom continuing to relax pandemic-related travel restrictions.

Travelers from six countries — India, Egypt, Pakistan, Indonesia, Brazil and Vietnam — can now arrive in the Kingdom without having to spend 14 days outside those countries before entering Saudi Arabia.


Saudi Arabia’s flight ban ends for travelers from India, Egypt, Pakistan

Saudi Arabia’s flight ban ends for travelers from India, Egypt, Pakistan
Updated 01 December 2021

Saudi Arabia’s flight ban ends for travelers from India, Egypt, Pakistan

Saudi Arabia’s flight ban ends for travelers from India, Egypt, Pakistan
  • Travelers will need a valid PCR certificate and register on the Qdoom platform 72 hours before their flight

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s ban on direct travel from several countries ended on Wednesday, as the Kingdom continues to relax pandemic-related travel restrictions.

Travelers from six countries — India, Egypt, Pakistan, Indonesia, Brazil and Vietnam — can now arrive in the Kingdom without having to spend 14 days outside those countries before entering Saudi Arabia.

The travelers will need a valid PCR test certificate and must register on the Qdoom platform 72 hours before their flight departs.

They will also need to enter institutional quarantine for five days when they arrive, regardless of their immunization status outside of the Kingdom, and will need to take tests on the first and fifth days of their quarantine.

Though Saudi Arabia has eased travel from some destinations, it has been forced to implement new restrictions on some African countries after a concerning new COVID-19 variant, omicron, was detected in South Africa last week.


What’s on in December as Saudi Arabia’s busy cultural season kicks off

What’s on in December as Saudi Arabia’s busy cultural season kicks off
Updated 01 December 2021

What’s on in December as Saudi Arabia’s busy cultural season kicks off

What’s on in December as Saudi Arabia’s busy cultural season kicks off
  • First up will be Misk Art Week, annual weeklong program to be held at the Prince Faisal bin Fahd Arts Hall in Riyadh
  • Diriyah Contemporary Art Biennale is probably the biggest attraction of the Kingdom’s upcoming cultural season

DUBAI: In common with other parts of the world, art, culture, and entertainment took a back seat in Saudi Arabia during the worst phase of the COVID-19 pandemic.

But now, with infection rates under control in the Kingdom thanks to a successful immunization campaign, a two-year period of event closures and cancellations has finally ended.

Take December, which promises to be an especially action-packed month in the Saudi cultural calendar, with events running the gamut from in-person exhibitions and concerts to grand openings, many of which had been rescheduled since the onset of the pandemic.

The exterior of Hayy Jameel, Art Jameel’s new center in Jeddah. (Supplied)


First up will be Misk Art Week, opening at the Prince Faisal bin Fahd Arts Hall in Riyadh on Dec. 1. This annual weeklong program of exhibitions is being staged by the Misk Art Institute, operating under the auspices of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

Then comes the first edition of Riyadh Art, billed as the largest public civic arts initiative of its kind in the world. Running from Dec. 5 to 8, it will feature 12 programs launched by the Royal Commission for Riyadh City to transform the Saudi capital into “a gallery without walls.”

Meanwhile, over in the Red Sea coastal city of Jeddah, the Jameel Art Center is scheduled to open its long-awaited, multidisciplinary arts complex, Hayy Jameel, on Dec. 6.

Also coming to Jeddah in December is the annual Red Sea Film Festival. The Dec. 6 to 15 event, first launched in 2019, prides itself on featuring emerging talents from Saudi Arabia, the Arab region, and the developing world.
 

Aya Albakree is the CEO of the Thunaiyat Ad-Diriyah Foundation. (Supplied)

Then, to crown it all, the Diriyah Contemporary Art Biennale opens on Dec. 11 in the new JAX district of Diriyah, home to the UNESCO World Heritage Site At-Turaif, the first capital of the House of Saud dynasty founded in the 15th century. The event — Saudi Arabia’s first — will run until March 11.

Culture is an integral part of the Saudi Vision 2030 reform plan, launched five years ago to diversify the Kingdom’s economy away from oil as well as to embrace sectors such as tourism, technology and the creative industries.

Philip Tinari, director and chief executive officer of the Beijing-based UCCA Center for Contemporary Art and the lead curator behind the Diriyah biennale, told Arab News: “This is an art scene on the brink of greatly increased prominence and much of that has to do with government initiatives at all kinds of levels.

“Another big part of it has to do with this generation of artists who, maybe before these changes, were living abroad and have now decided to move home where they are finding new vectors of support.”
 

An installation by Lowrence Lek, who will feature at the Diriyah art biennale. (Supplied)

Before the COVID-19 outbreak morphed into a pandemic in early 2020, Saudi Arabia was gearing up to become a global destination for the arts.

Seasonal festivals were already popping up throughout the country and the ancient northwestern city of AlUla was staging a variety of concerts, conferences, and open-air exhibitions.

The cultural explosion was triggered partly by the Kingdom’s decision to open up to foreign tourists in September 2019 with a new electronic visa scheme. However, as the health crisis went global a few months later, the country was forced to close its doors once again.

Now that international travel has resumed with COVID-19 protocols in place, the cultural floodgates are open once more and visitors to the Kingdom are spoilt for choice.

FASTFACTS

• The Diriyah Contemporary Art Biennale is the biggest attraction of Riyadh’s crowded cultural season.

• Hayy Jameel, designed by architectural studio waiwai, is Art Jameel’s new dedicated home for the arts in Jeddah.

Hayy Jameel is among the most hotly anticipated openings of the year. Designed by the multi-award-winning architectural studio waiwai, Art Jameel’s new dedicated home for the arts in Jeddah has been billed as a dynamic, creative hub for the community.

Antonia Carver, director of Art Jameel, told Arab News: “Hayy Jameel has been in the planning for more than 20 years, but it couldn’t have come to fruition at a timelier moment.

“The launch of our creative neighborhood accompanies an incredibly exciting calendar of events. The opening season opens to the public from Dec. 6 and unfolds through the spring, as cultural partners launch their spaces and we open the indie Hayy Cinema, making the complex Jeddah’s true home for the arts.”

In any event, the creative arts environment in Saudi Arabia is maturing fast, boosting demand for dedicated spaces for exhibitions, screenings and performances.

Carver said: “It needs independent, community-oriented endeavors working alongside the larger-scale government-led initiatives.
 

At-Turaif in Diriyah will host part of the Diriyah art biennale. (Supplied)

“The Ministry of Culture and other government entities are actively encouraging the not-for-profit sector and organizations like Art Jameel, given our mandate to give back to Saudi and support artists and nurture creative communities.

“To balance out the current breakneck pace of development, and demands on Saudi artists, we’re also aiming to foreground opportunities to develop long-term research, ideas, and skills; to explore and document local histories; develop contextual learning resources in Arabic; and to cross-pollinate the various creative art forms, bringing together visual arts, film, performance, architecture, design, and more.”

While Jeddah positions itself as one of the region’s foremost cultural destinations, Riyadh refuses to be outdone. First up in the Saudi capital’s cultural calendar is Misk Art Week.

Reem Al-Sultan, CEO of Misk Art Institute, told Arab News: “The fifth edition of Misk Art Week unites emerging and established artists in Saudi Arabia and across the globe with experts in critical and cultural discourse.

“Misk Art Institute offers an insightful array of multidisciplinary practices and international perspectives, providing a unique, educational experience to both the participating creatives and to the public engaging with these compelling conversations.”

Opening just a few days later will be Riyadh Art, staged by the Royal Commission for Riyadh City, of which the Tuwaiq International Sculpture Symposium is part. The program includes an awards ceremony and will convene 20 sculptors from Saudi Arabia, the Arab region, and around the world.

Khalid Al-Hazzani, an architect and the RCRC’s director of projects, told Arab News: “Riyadh Art continues to transform the city into a gallery without walls with the launch of the Tuwaiq International Sculpture Symposium, its second initiative.
 

Philip Tinari, director of the Beijing-based UCCA Center for Contemporary Art and the lead curator of the Diriyah art biennale. (Supplied)

“As art and culture reflect the spirit of a city, we look forward to contributing to Riyadh’s vibrant art season this December and offering a platform for cross-cultural dialogue and exchange.”

The Riyadh Art Project is just one of the city’s four mega-projects launched by King Salman on March 19, 2019. Dubbed a milestone in Riyadh’s mission to become one of the world’s most livable cities, the initiative will involve the installation of more than 1,000 artworks across the metropolis.

The Diriyah biennale is undoubtedly the biggest attraction of the crowded cultural season. Developed by a team of international curators led by Tinari, the event will feature works by around 70 artists examining the theme, “Feeling the Stones.”

The biennial event will alternate each year between a contemporary art and an Islamic art exhibition under the auspices of the Diriyah Foundation, chaired by Prince Badr Al-Saud.

“I think the Diriyah biennale will consolidate much of the progress that has been made,” Tinari said, referring to Saudi Arabia’s cultural awakening.

“What is really special about it is the scale — spread across 12,000 square meters of newly converted warehouse space that will be dedicated to this event moving forward.

“I hope that the Diriyah biennale will become a benchmark for the scene more generally and that other kinds of art events will congregate around it.”

Twitter: @rebeccaaproctor


Red Sea Fund announces support for 26 Saudi films

Red Sea Fund announces support for 26 Saudi films
Updated 01 December 2021

Red Sea Fund announces support for 26 Saudi films

Red Sea Fund announces support for 26 Saudi films
  • In its first cycle, the fund carefully selected 90 ‘game-changing’ films from over 650 submissions

JEDDAH: The Red Sea Fund will support 26 Saudi films in a list of 90 carefully selected projects from the Arab World and Africa.
Following over 650 submissions, the fund on Tuesday announced its final selection of the much-anticipated projects, aiming to create a game-changing generation of filmmakers.
The grants will be given to 37 films in development, 33 live projects, and 28 films in post-production.
Of the projects to receive funding, 11 hail from Africa, 60 from the Arab region, and 26 from Saudi Arabia.
The exciting and unique selection includes 59 feature fictions, 18 feature documentaries, 10 short fictions, five feature animations, three episodic series, and two short animations.
The fund will also back 28 talented Saudi film directors, 54 percent of whom are female.
The Red Sea Film Festival Foundation established the fund in June to back 100 feature films, short projects, and episodics by directors from the Arab world and Africa.
The fund was supported earlier this year by the Saudi Film Commission to help a larger pool of talented filmmakers from the Kingdom and the Arab region bring their work from script to screen.
Three committees of industry professionals were formed for each section of the funding: Development, production, and post-production support.
Edouard Waintrop, artistic director of the Red Sea International Film Festival and head of the committee awarding funds for post-production, said: “There is a wealth of undiscovered talent in Saudi Arabia and across the Arab world. As pioneers and believers in the importance of cinema and film in driving inspiration, creativity, and innovation, we are very proud to enable these brilliant artists to showcase their work by investing in their talents and empowering them to realize their dreams through the Red Sea Fund.
“These exceptional cinematic works will challenge people’s perceptions of traditional cinema and revive the film industry in KSA and the region.”
He continued: “We truly cannot wait to see these selections come to fruition and find their way to the big screen.”