Saudi gaming developers level up in growing market

The team behind Hakawati, a studio focused on developing games for children. (Supplied)
The team behind Hakawati, a studio focused on developing games for children. (Supplied)
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Updated 03 August 2021

Saudi gaming developers level up in growing market

The team behind Hakawati, a studio focused on developing games for children. (Supplied)
  • Saudi Arabia home to 21.2 million gamers, has seen its gaming industry jump 4.1 percent this year, making it the world’s 19th-largest market

JEDDAH: Out of the many growing industries in Saudi Arabia, the gaming industry is accelerating at an unprecedented pace, with developers taking standards to the next level in an exciting new territory.
In 2020, the Saudi gaming market was estimated to be worth SR2.6 billion ($690 million), with various platforms being launched to give confidence to developers, entrepreneurs and investors so they can continue building the industry.
The Kingdom, home to 21.2 million gamers, has seen its gaming industry jump 4.1 percent this year, making it the world’s 19th-largest market.
Mohammad Waleed Hashim, a 30-year-old indie game developer, is currently producing a game the revolves around a player who needs to find his way through the deserts of Saudi Arabia, training herds of camels, befriending desert folk, fighting off predators and navigating the mysteries of the desert, just like his grandfather once did.
“The Shepherd” is set to be released soon on the Steam platform for $10 with no additional in-game purchases, a plan he says will allow gamers to enjoy it more.
Indie games are made by a small group of people, or in Hashim’s case, a single developer.
Apart from occasionally hiring freelancers for the art and design, Hashim said: “The game focuses more on the mechanics and the story and less on the graphical aspects.”
The developer said that the game was meant to be a small hobby, but it rolled into a bigger project and became the detailed product it is today. “The Arab touches were very important to me because I wanted something the players could relate to,” he said, adding: “I found a picture of my grandfather wearing traditional clothes and that’s where the inspiration for the character design started.”
Abdullah Bamashmoos, founder of Jeddah-based game development studio Hakawati, said games that allow children to build their own in-game worlds — such as Minecraft and Roblox — can influence young children to jump on the bandwagon.
“That opens the possibility of one day creating their own games in Saudi Arabia, the generation that grew up playing the games that enhanced their creativity are now learning to develop actual games,” said Bamashmoos.
The 31-year-old developer said that there were a small number of gaming studios a few years ago, so he could not pursue his passion for developing games right away. He faced opposition from his community when he started investing his time and money into development.
“What kept me going is that all crazy ideas start somewhere and although things like augmented reality were once believed to be science fiction stories, it became a profitable reality years later. So, I figured that the technology here in Saudi Arabia will advance far enough and I was able to foresee a future in what I was investing in.”
Bamashmoos said that his journey was one of trial and error: “I would create files, scavenge the internet for solutions to some of the software issues, delete files, and start from scratch.”
According to the developers, it is not just the software skills that aspiring developers need to work on, Bamashmoos said that they also need to work on their team-building abilities and finding efficient developers who are willing to work hard throughout the development stage of their games.
“Another thing that Saudi developers need to do is keep practising and learning additional talents so they can gradually progress in the industry.”
When the two developers started on their journeys over 10 years ago, the internet was not as rich with information as it is now, which has been a game-changer for developers.
They can now find a treasure trove of information for free or very low prices, which Bamashmoos said could ease the production pipeline.
“Developers in the country are also helpful since the community is small, the ones who are interested can get help from the professionals easily.”
Despite Hashim’s struggle with the industry, he is hoping to build a small gaming studio.
“I have so many ideas for more games after this one, seven to be precise. I look forward to hiring people who can work with me.”


Coronavirus booster dose ‘unnecessary,’ say Saudi experts

More than 40.7 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine have been administered in Saudi Arabia. (SPA)
More than 40.7 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine have been administered in Saudi Arabia. (SPA)
Updated 19 September 2021

Coronavirus booster dose ‘unnecessary,’ say Saudi experts

More than 40.7 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine have been administered in Saudi Arabia. (SPA)
  • New recoveries reported amounted to 77, raising the total number to 535,450

JEDDAH: A third dose of the COVID-19 vaccine is unnecessary, according to Saudi health experts.

“If the two doses of the vaccine prevent severe illness/staying in hospital/death, it does not make sense for the general population to receive a third dose,” said deputy health minister for preventive health, Dr. Abdullah Assiri.

Assiri, who is also an infectious diseases consultant, added: “At this stage of excellent vaccination coverage, we need to reconsider the rationale and method of laboratory testing for COVID-19, and judge the pandemic only from the perspective of the burden of disease on society.”

The comments came after news of proposed booster shots of Pfizer and BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccine for the general public, and third jabs for people aged 65 and older and other vulnerable groups.


Meanwhile, infectious disease expert, Ahmed Al-Hakawi, said that accelerating demand for approval of a third (booster) dose for everyone was not supported by a study he cited.

FASTFACT

546k

The total number of coronavirus cases in KSA reached 546,479.

Titled “Safety and Efficacy of the BNT162b2 mRNA Covid-19 Vaccine through 6 Months,” the study, published on Sept. 15, was conducted on more than 45,000 participants in 152 sites in six countries.

The study concluded that “through 6 months of follow-up and despite a gradual decline in vaccine efficacy, BNT162b2 had a favorable safety profile and was highly efficacious in preventing COVID-19.”

“The vaccine still provides protection against severe disease even six months after the second dose,” said Al-Hakawi, who is also a hospital epidemiologist in Riyadh.

Saudi Arabia recorded 68 new cases of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) on Saturday, bringing the total number of confirmed cases to 546,479, the Ministry of Health said.

Of Saturday’s cases, 20 were in Makkah, 17 in the Riyadh region and seven in the Eastern Province. Hail and Najran were the regions with the lowest case count, posting just one each.

New recoveries reported amounted to 77, raising the total number to 535,450.

With the high recovery rate, the number of active cases has declined to 2,373, of which 361 are in critical care.

Five people have died in the past 24 hours, raising the total number of deaths to 8,656.

More than 40.7 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine have been administered in the Kingdom at the rate of 201,505 a day.

At this rate, Saudi Arabia could have 70 percent of its population fully vaccinated by Oct. 31.

The Ministry of Health said that 587 centers across all regions of the Kingdom processed the inoculations. Those who have not yet received a vaccine were urged to get one.

The ministry renewed its call for citizens and residents to adhere to precautionary measures and to register with the Sehhaty app to receive vaccines.

Meanwhile, testing hubs and treatment centers set up throughout the country have helped millions of people since the pandemic outbreak.

Taakad centers provide COVID-19 testing for those who show no or only mild symptoms or believe they have come into contact with an infected individual.

Tetamman clinics offer treatment and advice to those with virus symptoms such as fever, loss of taste and smell, and breathing difficulties.

Appointments for both services can be made via the ministry’s Sehhaty app.


Saudi chef to kings reveals latest recipes for culinary success

As well as developing Arab recipes for Saudi dairy products, Tawfiq Qadri has cooked up more than 3,000 different hot, cold, and pastry meals. (Supplied)
As well as developing Arab recipes for Saudi dairy products, Tawfiq Qadri has cooked up more than 3,000 different hot, cold, and pastry meals. (Supplied)
Updated 19 September 2021

Saudi chef to kings reveals latest recipes for culinary success

As well as developing Arab recipes for Saudi dairy products, Tawfiq Qadri has cooked up more than 3,000 different hot, cold, and pastry meals. (Supplied)
  • 58-year-old Tawfiq Qadri still oozes the same enthusiasm for food preparation as he did as child

MAKKAH: A top Saudi cook hailed as the chef to kings is set to pass on more of his culinary skills and recipes with the release of a new book.

Tawfiq Qadri, who has worked in palace kitchens for a succession of monarchs, is due to finish his third cookbook, “On the Table of the Caliph.”
And the 58-year-old still oozes the same enthusiasm for food preparation as he did as child.
“It all started when I was seven years old. I was fascinated with the sight of my mother in the kitchen, and I used to help in cutting carrots and cucumbers and cleaning rice. I was the only one of 16 brothers and sisters to help her at our home in Madinah,” he told Arab News.
“I joined the scouts during intermediate and high school and was the chef of my classmates at the time. I became famous for cooking the popular Hijazi dishes, which the scouts enjoyed despite my lack of experience.”
After moving to Italy to train as a chef, Qadri’s career took off as he later made a name for himself catering for royals, presidents, and celebrities.
But his rise to fame in the cuisine arts did not get off to a smooth start.
After graduating from high school in Madinah, he got a job at the Saudi Central Bank, an experience which left a bad taste in his mouth. Working in a small office, Qadri felt trapped in an environment he said killed his creative passion to cook.

At the age of 19, just six months into his job, he quit the bank without telling his family and went to stay at his uncle’s hotel. With the help of his relative, and with his parents’ blessing, Qadri enrolled in a bachelor’s degree course at an Italian institute in Sicily, spending two-and-a-half years there as the only Arab student.

BACKGROUND

• After graduating from high school in Madinah, he got a job at the Saudi Central Bank, an experience which left a bad taste in his mouth. Working in a small office, Qadri felt trapped in an environment he said killed his creative passion to cook.

• At the age of 19, just six months into his job, he quit the bank without telling his family and went to stay at his uncle’s hotel. With the help of his relative, and with his parents’ blessing, Qadri enrolled in a bachelor’s degree course at an Italian institute in Sicily, spending two-and-a-half years there as the only Arab student. He also gained a master’s degree and Ph.D. in the US based on his thesis on managing kitchens and tourist facilities.

On returning home, in 1981 he took up employment with the Royal Saudi Navy, based in Riyadh. There, he was head chef and supervisor of the navy officers’ club and would often fly to Toulon in France to join a ship that regularly sailed to Saudi Arabia, working on board as a chef. After four years in the navy, during which time he rose to the rank of sergeant, he moved into military supply management, eventually heading the operation, and organizing budgets for the whole of the Kingdom.
When the Gulf crisis started in 1990, he was commissioned to join the Ministry of Defense and became the chef of the Allied Forces, earning the rank of chief sergeant.
After taking early retirement from the navy, Qadri spent six years with Saudia airline’s catering division, developing a range of dishes, before advising international hotels on food provision and judging in many culinary competitions throughout the Arab world.
While working with Saudia airline, Qadri was featured in a Saudi newspaper article under the headline, “Passengers Love him Before Seeing Him.” On the back of the publicity, he was given responsibility for Hijazi cooking at the palace of the late King Fahd and went on to work for the late King Abdullah, and now King Salman, notably preparing the kitchen during the visit of former US President Barack Obama.
He also gained a master’s degree and Ph.D. in the US based on his thesis on managing kitchens and tourist facilities. As well as developing Arab recipes for Saudi dairy products, Qadri has cooked up more than 3,000 different hot, cold, and pastry meals, and created 42 new recipes. He is also the author of books “Saudi and the Star of the Table,” and “Guide of the Quick Cooking,” with “On the Table of the Caliph” due to be completed soon.


Saudi commerce ministry outlines app for validating discounts

A woman shops for snacks at a supermarket in Saudi Arabia's capital Riyadh. (AFP file photo)
A woman shops for snacks at a supermarket in Saudi Arabia's capital Riyadh. (AFP file photo)
Updated 19 September 2021

Saudi commerce ministry outlines app for validating discounts

A woman shops for snacks at a supermarket in Saudi Arabia's capital Riyadh. (AFP file photo)
  • Establishments need license to offer promotional sales

RIYADH: The Ministry of Commerce has reaffirmed the mechanisms for validating seasonal offers and discounts, outlining its digital solution to the major consumer challenge.

Ministry spokesman Abdulrahman bin Mohammed Al-Hussein said that stores need a license to offer discounts and must display it clearly for the consumer.
Other requirements set by the ministry include identifying the discount percentage and the price of the product before and after the reduction. The ministry also monitors prices to ensure that there is no fraud or misleading advertising.
To check offers and discounts, customers can scan the discount barcode on the “Sales” application, he added.
The spokesperson urged consumers to ensure the reliability of the online store through the ministry website or the “Maroof” platform, so that they are not subject to fraud.

Fahd Al-Bogami

“The method of checking the discounts has high reliability, it is no longer a matter of stickers that can be replaced in one way or another. The cuts have become more and more credible than before,” Hajar, a student at Princess Nourah University, told Arab News.
She added that the “Sales” application gives the customer a wide range of options, and all age groups can use it with ease.
Mohammed Mubarak, a former employee of Saudi Aramco, said he was suspicious of discounts offered by some stores, while confirming that he has never used the “Sales” application.

HIGHLIGHT

To check offers and discounts, customers can scan the discount barcode on the ‘Sales’ application. The ministry also monitors prices to ensure that there is no fraud or misleading advertising.

“I was surprised by some unreasonable discounts in many stores,” he told Arab News.
Fahd Al-Bogami, a member of the e-commerce committee in the Riyadh Chamber, stressed the importance of educating consumers about real discounts.
“In order to be sure as a consumer, you have to enter the discount platform and check whether the discount is authorized,” he told Arab News. “It is important to realize that the Ministry of Commerce penalizes any party that places discounts without obtaining the permission to do so.”
Al-Bogami noted the growing adoption of digital technology by service providers, adding that many people can complete their transactions on their phones.
“This is wonderful. This is not only in the commercial sector, but in education, medicine and others,” he said.
“This gives greater opportunities for entrepreneurs on and the consumer to benefit from each other. Challenges are being overcome through digital solutions.”

Decoder

MAROOF

It is an e-platform launched by Saudi Arabia's Ministry of Commerce to enable registered online sellers to easily reach large groups of customers. It also gives online shoppers a visualization of the quality of services provided by e-stores, and allows customer evaluation of an e-store or its products.


New Saudi supercar club ‘DRB 1921’ offers bespoke experiences

The club is set to offer outstanding experiences that are tailored to accommodate those who appreciate state-of-the-art technology and a thrilling ride. (Supplied)
The club is set to offer outstanding experiences that are tailored to accommodate those who appreciate state-of-the-art technology and a thrilling ride. (Supplied)
Updated 18 September 2021

New Saudi supercar club ‘DRB 1921’ offers bespoke experiences

The club is set to offer outstanding experiences that are tailored to accommodate those who appreciate state-of-the-art technology and a thrilling ride. (Supplied)
  • DRB 1921, the supercar club for exotic car owners in Saudi Arabia, also celebrates 100 years of motor cars in the Kingdom
  • The inaugural event will take place in the north of Riyadh on Sept. 30, where members will participate in the ‘320 km Speed Challenge’

JEDDAH: Continuing to grow its portfolio of unique experiences in Saudi Arabia, Extreme Events has announced the opening of a supercar members’ club, DRB 1921.

The club creates bespoke events and tours at some of the most iconic destinations around the globe, including internationally recognized race circuits such as Silverstone International Circuit in the UK.

“Combining thrilling driving events with luxurious hospitality, world-class curation, attention to detail and customer care will bring members back time and time again,” a statement said.

To celebrate Saudi Arabia’s passion for high performance cars, DRB 1921’s name is inspired by an Arabic meaning of route (DRB) and a celebratory date when historians noted the first motor vehicles arrived in the Kingdom, spawning the nation’s love for cars.

Moreover, this year marks 100 years of motor cars in the Kingdom. With such richness and passion for motoring, DRB 1921 is set to offer outstanding experiences that are tailored to accommodate those who appreciate state-of-the-art technology and a thrilling ride.

Each event is carefully tailored to ensure it meets every member’s expectation and creates the most memorable moments.

With every supercar having its own unique nuances and the average top speed of over 420 km an hour, DRB 1921 provides remarkable experiences in a controlled environment with expert supervision, letting everyone test their driving limits and truly tapping each car’s potential.

Whether it is a scenic drive in the most beautiful and uncharted locations in Saudi Arabia or an exciting speed challenge at an internationally recognized race circuit, DRB 1921 guarantees car owners the driving experience of a lifetime.

HIGHLIGHT

DRB 1921’s name is inspired by an Arabic meaning of route (DRB) and a celebratory date when historians noted the first motor vehicles arrived in the Kingdom, spawning the nation’s love for cars.

Each journey is complemented by the pinnacle of luxury hospitality and exquisite gastronomy, where a like-minded community of supercar owners come together.

DRB 1921 partners with a selection of the world’s top suppliers such as CARS Middle East (Classic Automotive Relocation Services) to ensure the very best assistance and concierge to look after members’ luxury cars, as well as a personal brokerage service that is exceptionally discreet, affording each client complete anonymity.

For those who are ready to master the maximum top speed in these high velocity road vehicles, DRB 1921 is organizing its inaugural event “320km Speed Challenge” on Sept. 30.

The event exclusively takes place on a private non-commercial runway owned by the Saudi Aviation Club, located in Al-Thumama, in the north of Riyadh.

Measuring 4.5 km in length, this vast runway has previously been identified by NASA as one of the few landing destinations across the globe for aborted space shuttle missions.

On this day, supercar owners have an opportunity to join a passionate community for an exhilarating driving experience and an incredible day out.

“Extreme Events is very proud to launch DRB 1921 in Saudi Arabia because it opens the opportunity for supercar owners to test their skills and unlock real potential of their cars in a safe environment,” said James Cooke-Priest, managing director at Extreme Events.

He added: “The concept also encourages a niche community to come together and share different experiences of driving exceptionally advanced supercars. I see DRB 1921 beyond just a private club, I see it becoming a community hub for like-minded car enthusiasts in the Kingdom.”


Head of KSA’s King Abdulaziz Foundation meets Mauritanian PM

Head of KSA’s King Abdulaziz Foundation meets Mauritanian PM
Updated 18 September 2021

Head of KSA’s King Abdulaziz Foundation meets Mauritanian PM

Head of KSA’s King Abdulaziz Foundation meets Mauritanian PM

RIYADH: Secretary-General of the King Abdulaziz Foundation Dr. Fahd bin Abdullah Al-Semari met Mauritanian Prime Minister Mohamed Ould Bilal Massoud in the country’s capital, Nouakchott.

The meeting, which included an accompanying foundation delegation, was attended by Saudi Ambassador to Mauritania Dr. Hazaa bin Zabin Al-Mutairi.

During the meeting, both sides discussed cooperation between the foundation and the National Documents Administration in Mauritania, and ways to enhance and develop their relationship.

Both Saudi and Mauritanian sides also discussed a number of topics related to heritage and cultural issues.

Al-Semari also held a meeting with the director of Mauritanian National Documents, Dr. Muhammad Al-Mukhtar Sayed Muhammad Al-Hadi, to discuss ways to enhance cooperation between the two sides.