Saudi Arabia’s diverse topography attracts stargazers amid summer vibes

Mountains typically offer stargazers clear skies in an environment free of clouds, light pollution and dust, and with its different terrains and huge size. (SPA)
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Mountains typically offer stargazers clear skies in an environment free of clouds, light pollution and dust, and with its different terrains and huge size. (SPA)
Saudi Arabia’s diverse topography attracts stargazers amid summer vibes
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Mountains typically offer stargazers clear skies in an environment free of clouds, light pollution and dust, and with its different terrains and huge size. (SPA)
Saudi Arabia’s diverse topography attracts stargazers amid summer vibes
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Mountains typically offer stargazers clear skies in an environment free of clouds, light pollution and dust, and with its different terrains and huge size. (SPA)
Saudi Arabia’s diverse topography attracts stargazers amid summer vibes
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Mountains typically offer stargazers clear skies in an environment free of clouds, light pollution and dust, and with its different terrains and huge size. (SPA)
Saudi Arabia’s diverse topography attracts stargazers amid summer vibes
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Mountains typically offer stargazers clear skies in an environment free of clouds, light pollution and dust, and with its different terrains and huge size. (SPA)
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Updated 31 July 2021

Saudi Arabia’s diverse topography attracts stargazers amid summer vibes

Mountains typically offer stargazers clear skies in an environment free of clouds, light pollution and dust, and with its different terrains and huge size. (SPA)
  • Its mountains, valleys, plains, deserts are perfect escape for people trying to avoid bright city lights to observe night sky
  • Stargazing offers an obvious opportunity for the Kingdom to further diversify its tourism offering as it seeks to boost non-oil industries in line with Vision 2030

JEDDAH: Saudi Arabia’s size and diverse topography make it an ideal location for astronomy enthusiasts. Its mountains, valleys, sand dunes, hills, plains and large deserts are a perfect escape for people trying to avoid the bright city lights to observe the night sky.

Mulham Hindi, an astronomy researcher, told Arab News that the best place to observe the night sky is far away from light pollution caused by human settlements.
“It is also best in locations where cloud cover is low. With its different terrains and huge size, Saudi Arabia is a suitable place for observing stars and even building observatories,” Hindi said.
He added that there are many locations in Saudi Arabia that are perfect places for astronomers and stargazers, citing Bani Malik, 150 kilometers south of Taif as a prime example.
“The (height above sea level) of that mountainous area reduces the percentage of moisture and atmospheric impurity,” he explained. “Its throughout-the-year cloud cover is less than 25 percent.”
Hindi also mentioned Al-Figrah mountain, west of Madinah, as one of the best areas for stargazing, as the mountain stands an estimated 6,000 feet above sea level.
“With their moderate weather, the northwestern regions of the Kingdom — which include AlUla, the Red Sea Projects, and NEOM — are among the areas with the least light pollution, (so) stargazers regularly visit,” he added.
Hindi explained that the observation of the stars and planets is deeply rooted in Saudi culture, particularly in the nomadic lifestyle prevalent in the Arabian Peninsula before the discovery of oil.
“Stars are (mentioned in) many Arabic poems that were composed hundreds of years ago and are still cited today,” he said. “It is also part of Saudi culture to observe stars while moving from one place to another, especially in the desert areas.”
Hindi also noted that the night sky above the Kingdom has become a popular subject for photographers in recent years. “These photographers have enriched exhibitions with very beautiful photos of the starry sky of the Kingdom, its distinctive terrains and heritage sites,” he said.
From a scientific perspective, he pointed out, the development and growing popularity of astronomy have encouraged Saudi astronomers to examine the planets, galaxies and stars more thoroughly than ever before, producing “scientific studies and research (that) can significantly contribute to the study of astronomy.”
A few days before his death earlier this month, the head of the astronomy and space department at King Abdul Aziz University (KAU), Dr. Hasan Asiri, spoke to the Saudi Press Agency about the difference between the three main types of terrain for stargazing in the Kingdom — deserts, plains and mountains.
“Deserts are characterized by their aridity and lack of light pollution. They include the desert of the Empty Quarter, the Nafud desert, Al-Dahna desert and Bajada desert, which is located to the west of Tabuk region,” Asiri said.
He added that plains are characterized by stable atmospheric layers and low temperatures and humidity levels. “These include the plains of NEOM, AMAALA the Red Sea islands, Al-Wajh, Al-Shuaibah and Al-Silaa region located to the south of Al-Wajh province.”
Mountains, he explained, typically offer stargazers clear skies in an environment free of clouds, light pollution and dust. He listed Al-Figrah Mountains, west of Madinah; Taif’s Al-Shafa and Al-Hada Mountains; and Mount “Ral,” near Al-Wajh’s Al-Manjor Center as good spots for astronomers. “Several cities can also be added to the list of sites suitable for observational astronomy, namely the northwestern city of AlUla, which is considered one of the Kingdom’s most prominent tourist destinations, in addition to Hail and Tayma, found to the southwest of the city of Tabuk,” he added.
Asiri said that ‘stargazing tourism’ offers an obvious opportunity for the Kingdom to further diversify its tourism offering as it seeks to boost non-oil industries in line with Saudi Vision 2030.
“This issue interests many people, especially now that the Kingdom is steadily moving forward towards establishing an actual tourism sector and ensuring its sustainability through a comprehensive national development plan,” he said.
“Establishing additional stargazing reserves allows us to create new and exceptional tourist destinations that are at the same time entertaining and educational,” he continued. “It also enables us to organize astronomical events, such as world space weeks or astronomy days, activate public and private space domes, and participate in scientific activities related to astronomical events — such as observing solar and lunar eclipses, shooting stars and planets. This approach would combine science with the joy of observing the night sky.”
The Kingdom is already home to several observatories, he noted, including those in Makkah, Al-Wajh and Halat Ammar, as well as the mobile observatories in Sudair, Tumair, Shaqra, Qassim, Dammam, Madinah and Hail. Meanwhile, the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques Center for Crescents and Astronomy, located at the top of Makkah’s Clock Tower, is considered the largest network of astronomical telescopes in the world.
According to the head of the Qatif Astronomy Society, Dr. Anwar Al-Mohammed, the Milky Way is one of the best astronomical phenomena to observe.
“It is the galaxy in which our sun and the solar system are located. It (consists of) more than 100 billion solar masses,” he explained. “At night, the Milky Way appears as a band of light in the sky and its appearance differs between one region and another based on the level of light pollution.”
Al-Mohammed noted that the Red Sea Development Company is currently working on turning an area of the Tabuk region between the provinces of Umluj and Al-Wajh into an “International Starlight Reserve,” by limiting the use of unnatural lighting in the Red Sea Project at night.
This, he said, could qualify the area as an International Dark Sky Reserve (a region characterized by “an exceptional or distinguished quality of starry nights and nocturnal environment that is specifically protected for its scientific, natural, educational, cultural, heritage and/or public enjoyment”), which requires the approval of the International Dark-Sky Association (IDA).
If it were to be granted membership, he explained, “it would be joining more than 100 international sites that have abided by strict measures when supporting their communities to achieve this goal, and restore the amazing relationship between mankind and the stars.”


Digital infrastructure enabled Saudi Arabia to confront pandemic

Digital infrastructure enabled Saudi Arabia to confront pandemic
Updated 26 September 2021

Digital infrastructure enabled Saudi Arabia to confront pandemic

Digital infrastructure enabled Saudi Arabia to confront pandemic
  • Kingdom’s technological progress contributed to raising level of transparency, efficiency, says Saudi envoy to UN

JEDDAH: Saudi Arabia’s strong digital infrastructure has enabled the public and private sectors to meet the devastating challenges of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, the Kingdom’s envoy to the UN has said.

“Guided by the national transformation program, the Kingdom’s technological progress has contributed to raising the level of transparency and digital efficiency,” said Abdallah Al-Mouallimi, Saudi Arabia’s permanent representative to the UN.

Al-Mouallimi made these remarks during a high-level side event organized by the Digital Cooperation Organization under the theme “Shaping a Comprehensive Digital Age,” a recently established global organization working toward achieving “digital prosperity for all.”

The DCO works with governments, the private sector, international and nongovernmental organizations and civil society to push for an inclusive digital transformation and the growth of digital industries.

The DCO’s seven-member body includes Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Jordan, Kuwait, Nigeria, Oman, and Pakistan. It accounts for a population of 480 million, 80 percent of which are under the age of 35. It said it is open to any new member that shares the same goals of “empowering youth, women, and entrepreneurs and leapfrogging the digital transformation.”  

In his remarks, Al-Mouallimi highlighted the Kingdom’s digital achievements and the efforts of the DCO during the pandemic. 

“They helped to make it possible to work remotely and adapt to the new conditions imposed by the pandemic,” said the ambassador, adding that the world is undergoing a shift towards digital transformation at a faster pace than ever before. 

“Digitization creates opportunities and challenges that go beyond borders, making digital collaboration an essential element in facilitating digital transformation at the international level, so that our digital future must be more inclusive and global efforts ensure that technology is available to all.”

Al-Mouallimi underlined that multilateral cooperation is necessary to meet digital challenges and opportunities. Countries must harness their full potential to integrate into the digital age, mainly dependent on global collaboration.

Al-Mouallimi said it is clear that the DCO emphasizes promoting digital cooperation to meet the current challenges.

“The core objectives of the DCO are about accelerating the growth of the digital economy, as well as promoting social prosperity to include all,” the envoy said, adding: “The organization also seeks to develop an ambitious model for promoting global digital efforts, making us, as members of the organization’s coordination office, forced to exert all efforts to reach our goals and objectives.”

He said that the Kingdom accelerated the growth of the digital economy in the region and around the world as a member of the DCO, stressing that the Kingdom will continue its commitment to maximizing digital capabilities at the national and international levels.

He added: “The Kingdom has put digitization at the forefront of the technological progress it seeks, and as a result, several outstanding achievements have enabled Saudi Arabia to make significant progress in global indicators, ranking first among the G20 countries in digital competitiveness according to the European Centre for Digital Competitiveness.”


Taste of history as Saudi turns old police station into heritage eatery

Taste of history as Saudi turns old police station into heritage eatery
Updated 26 September 2021

Taste of history as Saudi turns old police station into heritage eatery

Taste of history as Saudi turns old police station into heritage eatery
  • Abha restaurant draws visitors from around the Gulf with traditional southern flavors

ABHA: A young Saudi “jack of all trades” has used his creative talent and love of cooking to transform a former police station in Abha into a traditional restaurant.

Now Ibrahim bin Mansour Bashashah Al-Asiri’s Al-Hosn Al-Turathi — or Abha castle heritage restaurant — has become a landmark attraction, serving up traditional southern flavors to tourists visiting the historic southwest Saudi city.

Diners from around the Kingdom and Gulf states regularly visit the eatery for a taste of southern hospitality.

Al-Asiri, a plastic artist, and gift and flower designer, told Arab News that the restaurant was previously a coffeeshop owned by his brother.

“The building was originally the Asir police station. I did not favor strong additions and alterations that would erase the designs that characterize the building,” he said.

“My main objective was for the visitor to be able to sense the history of a place that is 40 or 50 years old.”

Being a jack of all trades, Al-Asiri decided to invest his talents and help preserve the city’s heritage by turning the coffeeshop into a restaurant.

He used his talent with lighting and art to transform the site into a heritage icon that takes diners back in time.

Initially, the restaurant served only breakfast, but the menu quickly expanded until meals became available throughout the day. 

Ibrahim bin Mansour Bashashah Al-Asiri, owner of Al-Hosn Al-Turathi. (Supplied)

One form of art found in the restaurant is Al-Qatt Al-Asiri, a traditionally female interior wall decoration and ancient art form considered a key element in Asir’s history.

Al-Hosn Al-Turathi restaurant relies on the work of two people — Al-Asiri, who cooks and oversees artistic tasks, and his brother, who handles management.

“There aren’t many restaurants that offer popular southern meals, especially in Abha, while there are many popular restaurants in Khamis Mushayt,” he said.

Menu favorites offered at Al-Hosn Al-Turathi include al-arika, a traditional dessert in the southern region made with brown flour mixed with warm water, oil and ghee to form a dough, and flavored with a drizzle of honey and cardamom.

The restaurant is the first to serve “miva” or southern “tannour” bread, Al-Asiri said, adding that he is the first Saudi in the Kingdom to cook while wearing a traditional Saudi outfit.

Al-Asiri also launched the Asiri bouquet, a collection of local plants with aromatic scents, gifting them to a number of princes and other high-profile personalities.

Al-Hosn Al-Turathi heritage restaurant supports local productive families. A coffee and hot beverages corner is managed by one of the sisters, Umm Joud, who holds a master’s in business management, and supervises the preparation of hot drinks using traditional ingredients.

Al-Asiri urged Saudi youth to work hard, saying Saudi Arabia offers many opportunities to realize the objectives of the Kingdom’s Vision 2030. “We need to be patient and active, and try to reach the top with the capabilities that we have. So we need to be persistent and work hard,” he said.


Saudi Arabia, Egypt, UAE, Greece complete military exercises

Saudi Arabia, Egypt, UAE, Greece complete military exercises
Updated 26 September 2021

Saudi Arabia, Egypt, UAE, Greece complete military exercises

Saudi Arabia, Egypt, UAE, Greece complete military exercises
  • The drills are part of a program to enhance military cooperation between friendly countries

RIYADH: Special security forces of Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Greece and Egypt completed joint drills in the Greek capital, Athens.

Taking part what was hailed as further cooperation between allied states were the Royal Saudi Land Forces paratroopers, Emirati Special Forces, the Egyptian Army’s El-Saa’ka (Thunderbolt) Forces and Paratroopers and the Greek Joint Special Operations Forces.

The drills are part of a program to enhance military cooperation between friendly countries, to exchange training and experience and to increase the level of combat readiness to confront challenges in the region.

The training plan was conducted by the Royal Saudi Land Forces to maintain a high level of performance, training and combat efficiency as part of the annual training programs that are implemented with friendly countries.

The drills were observed by the Greek Deputy Minister of Defense, the Chief of the Hellenic National Defense General Staff, the commanders of the Greek Ministry of Defense’s forces, the Saudi ambassador in the Republic of Greece, Saad bin Abdul Rahman Al-Ammar, and the Assistant Commander of Paratrooper Units and Special Security Forces Major General Sultan Islam.


Saudi FM meets Colombian, Qatari counterparts 

Saudi FM meets Colombian, Qatari counterparts 
Updated 26 September 2021

Saudi FM meets Colombian, Qatari counterparts 

Saudi FM meets Colombian, Qatari counterparts 

NEW YORK: Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan on Saturday met Colombia’s Vice President and Foreign Minister Marta Lucía Ramírez on the sidelines of the 76th session of the UN General Assembly in New York.

The meeting discussed relations between the two countries and the means to strengthen them to serve common interests. They also exchanged views on regional and international issues of common interest.

The meeting was attended by the Saudi ambassador to the US, Princess Reema bint Bandar; the undersecretary of the Foreign Ministry for multilateral international affairs, Abdulrahman Al-Rassi; and the director general of the Saudi foreign minister’s office, Abdulrahman Al-Daoud.

In a separate meeting, Prince Faisal met Qatar’s Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman bin Jassim Al-Thani. They reviewed relations between the two countries and considered how to best promote them.


Saudi content creators set up local production studio

Saudi content creators set up local production studio
Updated 26 September 2021

Saudi content creators set up local production studio

Saudi content creators set up local production studio
  • The idea of Karkand is to have a studio space for social media influencers

JEDDAH: Making social media videos is a competitive business, and for content creators and entrepreneurs the stakes are high.

Saudi social media content creators Sultan Al-Saggaf and Ahmed Al-Kiyadi have made this process easier with the opening of “Karkand” rental studio.

For content creators, videos are what attract viewers and must be done well. Issues of background noise, poor lighting and finding the right setting can be intimidating for those starting out in the business.

The idea of Karkand is to have a studio space for social media influencers. According to the founders, whether the videos are about gaming, unboxing gifts, beauty and makeup tutorials or fashion, anyone can visit Karkand Productions and create a professional clip.

“Located in Jeddah, we launched Karkand Productions when we realized that we don’t have a professional space for content creators. As YouTubers we struggled to make professional videos and we thought that there must be a lot of creators who are struggling too,” Al-Kiyadi, Karkand co-founder, told Arab News.

Fellow co-founder, Al-Saggaf, said that Karkand provided a comfortable space for creators. “Basically the creator can book a room per hour and this room is equipped with soundproof walls, microphones, cameras, and we can edit anything for the creator,” he said. “After we finish producing the video, we email it to the creator.”

“We have the technology, just bring your idea and come.”

HIGHLIGHTS

• For content creators, videos are what attract viewers and must be done well. Issues of background noise, poor lighting and finding the right setting can be intimidating for those starting out in the business.

• According to the founders, whether the videos are about gaming, unboxing gifts, beauty and makeup tutorials or fashion, anyone can visit Karkand Productions and create a professional clip.

Al-Kiyadi said that they were trying to create an environment and space for online content creators who struggled to find a place to film their content, and Karkland provided professional video and audio solutions using their experience in multimedia.

The idea behind the name was to have an identity based on a creature. “Since we also do a lot of video cutting during the post-production phase, we wanted a unique name that is both Arabic and easily pronounced in English. The closest name we could come up with was the lobster, which translates in Arabic as karkand.”

Al-Saggaf said that one of the obstacles they enountered had been price range. “As this is our first business venture, the normal obstacles were faced and many lessons were also learned. Understanding market pricings and scoping down our real value compared to the local market, and finding the right location, were important to get the right footing as soon as we launched.”

“Karkand is a first of its kind locally, we can say that it is a monopoly, and we try to be more flexible with timings and restrictions since we are dealing with a creative field.”

Al-Saggaf said that aside from their primary target audience — online content creators — they also welcomed business owners who sought to advertise their products and services.

Vision 2030 had made people aware of media and content creation, he said. “The interest in developing online content is growing among people, and there are a lot of upcoming YouTubers, including many Saudi women, who are entering the field of online content. They are more than welcome to book a room with us, the price range is affordable, ranging around SR300 ($80) per hour.”

Al-Saggaf advised young content creators to start with a small sum to “scope your strength and find your weakness, follow your passion, and specialize in one field.”