AlUla Dates Festival spreads sweetness in ancient Saudi city

AlUla Dates Festival spreads sweetness in ancient Saudi city
The AlUla dates market has recently seen an increase in demand, and the festival facilitates growth for local harvests into the international market by connecting local farmers to international visitors and investors. (AN photo by Abdullah Aljaber)
Short Url
Updated 23 October 2021

AlUla Dates Festival spreads sweetness in ancient Saudi city

AlUla Dates Festival spreads sweetness in ancient Saudi city
  • The festival kicked off with the first date auction of the season early Friday morning

ALULA: The second edition of the AlUla Dates Festival is underway at the Kingdom’s famous ancient city. 

The three-week date festival takes place in the Al-Fusan area directly opposing the famous Elephant Rock, and is split into two segments: The dates auction and the dates souq, both only open during the weekends of Oct.15-Nov. 1. 

Many know AlUla to be a maze of history and breathtaking desert terrain, but not many people know that hidden between the curves of the desert terrains are over 2.3 million palm trees that produce 90,000 tons of dates annually. 

The AlUla dates market has recently seen an increase in demand, and the festival facilitates growth for local harvests into the international market by connecting local farmers to international visitors and investors.

Felix Riess, a strategy consultant visiting AlUla from Germany, said: “It’s a beautiful and historic place, it’s great to see the ambitions for AlUla. It’s currently at the crossroads of something very historical, towards something that keeps the history in mind while building for the future, it’s a great mix.” 

The festival kicked off with the first date auction of the season early Friday morning. As the sun rose, farmers unloaded their harvests off their trucks and onto the auction site. 

Crowds gathered around to take part in the dates auction, that happens three times during the festival. The bids differ from harvest to harvest depending on quality and size of crop. 

Not too long after the first announcement, the bids began rolling in. Chants of numbers and outbuildings were shouted through the air as boxes of dates were shifted around. 

The early dates auction is definitely a great place for buyers and sellers to connect, but it is also an exciting experience for families and tourists to witness. 

“What we saw today was a really authentic experience of how local wholesalers get the dates from this well known place in AlUla. It was very cool and I have never seen anything like this before and we enjoyed it,” Riess told Arab News.

Christian Keller, another German strategy consultant, added: “It’s always nice to see the combination of the old world and the new world and keeping up with it. Culture is about the people coming to AlUla and viewing it and the residents still valuing and carrying on what they have done years before, and now that you bring in new people like the tourist and visitors, they can experience it. Its culture was brought to life.” 

Following the dates auction, in the early hours of the morning, is the souq, which consists of separate booths of local farmers and bakers selling their wares. There are also sections dedicated to investment and international collaboration for information. 

The souq offers many family activities for locals to enjoy including the traditional Saudi Ardah dance to ring in the celebrations, as well as a children’s theater performances. 

These two events only take place once in the evening of the souq, but throughout the shopping experience guests will be able to listen to a live oud player in the center of the souq. 

The festival also serves another purpose alongside sharing culture. His Highness Prince Badr bin Abdullah bin Farhan, governor of the Royal Commission for AlUla Governorate, aims to promote the important role agriculture plays in economic development of the region in line with the Vision 2030 goals. 

The event not only highlights the work of the AlUla’s farmers but also promotes and inspires commercial opportunities for farmers and buyers alike. 

Behind the festivities are dozens of hardworking AlUla natives who have spent generations harvesting dates. 

The festival creates a hub for exchanging expertise, and growing collaborations that will in part diversify the economy and create more job opportunities for young people in tourism, hospitality and the cultural sectors. 

AlUla is undiscovered history in its purest form. Visitors have the opportunity to experience the beauty and tradition of the area, from the festival to the desert to the nearby Old Town. 

The Old Town is a treasure trove filled with all things AlUla from historical and handmade crafts to souvenirs to take back to loved ones. 

One of the more infamous stores located in the Old Town is Desert Designs.  

“We have had a very positive response from the international public, we have had a lot of good responses from Japanese, American, Chinese, Europeans. All sorts of people seem to like our store and the items we provide,” Radi Bukhari, Desert Designs general manager, said.

“We take old silver Bedouin pieces, give them a new life and then we frame them for appreciation. We take Saudi culture and try to give it new life and appreciation not just for foreigners but for Saudis as well,” Bukhari said.


Saudi Arabia’s king sends letter to Gulf leaders on developing relations

Saudi Arabia’s king sends letter to Gulf leaders on developing relations
Updated 21 sec ago

Saudi Arabia’s king sends letter to Gulf leaders on developing relations

Saudi Arabia’s king sends letter to Gulf leaders on developing relations
  • The written messages were delivered by Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s King Salman sent a written message to his Bahraini counterpart King Hamad, regarding the strong bilateral relations and ways to support and enhance them, Saudi Press Agency reported on Sunday.
The message was delivered by Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan, during a meeting with his Bahraini counterpart Dr. Abdullatif Al-Zayani in the capital, Manama.
During the meeting, Prince Faisal conveyed greetings from King Salman to King Hamad, and his wishes for continued progress and prosperity for the kingdom and the Bahraini people.
King Salman also sent similar written messages to Kuwait’s Emir Sheikh Nawaf Al-Ahmed Al-Jaber Al-Sabah and Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad.
The messages were also delivered by Prince Faisal during meetings with Kuwaiti Crown Prince Sheikh Meshaal Al-Ahmed Al-Jaber Al-Sabah in Kuwait City and the Qatari emir in Doha.
Sheikh Meshaal conveyed his greetings to King Salman and wished him good health and wellness, and the Saudi people continued development and growth.
Sheikh Tamim also conveyed similar sentiments to the king and the Saudi people.


Visitors flocking to rare bird collection in Riyadh’s Salam Park

Visitors flocking to rare bird collection in Riyadh’s Salam Park
Updated 05 December 2021

Visitors flocking to rare bird collection in Riyadh’s Salam Park

Visitors flocking to rare bird collection in Riyadh’s Salam Park

RIYADH: Visitors are flocking to Salam Park’s bird garden, part of Riyadh Season’s 14 zones, where colorful exotic parrots have found a new home.

The zone, which opened on Nov. 19, has been well received by visitors, with thousands of people marveling at the winged creatures on display.

Visitors can find more than 50 different bird species in the garden, including scarlet macaws, cockatiel, white peacocks, cockatoos, pionus parrots and many more.

The owner of the garden, Ahmed Khoja, has raised and trained birds for 15 years. He told Arab News that he transformed his hobby into a business in 2016.

“We witnessed a great turnout from visitors and everyone was pleased with the efforts that we are putting in. The turnout is now huge as we get about 700 to 1000 visitors per day,” Khoja said.

“The popularity in Riyadh Season is more than expected. We have 80 to 100 visitors every 15 minutes and 100 to 300 people waiting in line to enter the garden, which is very surprising,” he added.

Mohammed Awaji, a 13-year-old parrot trainer, used the opportunity to take part in Riyadh Season and hone the skills he has developed for more than two years.

“A lot of visitors here are passionate about parrots, and I feel like this place is perfect for people with this kind of hobby. We are striving to raise more awareness about animal culture. So far, visitors are conscious and committed to precautions,” Awaj said.

He added that some of the parrot species are exotic and rare and that within Saudi Arabia, Salam Park is the only place where they can be viewed.

“Sitting on my shoulder, we have a cacatua moluccensis, one of the rarest parrots. Its price is estimated between $50,000 and $150,000. This bird is native to Indonesia,” Awaji said, describing the trained salmon-crested cockatoo perched on his shoulder.

When people enter the bird garden, they arrive among a variety of visitors, including locals, foreigners, children and people with disabilities.

Sultan Al-Otaibi, a visitor with down’s syndrome, told Arab News how excited and happy he was to touch and play with birds, and said that people with the condition are particularly fond of animals.

“The birds are so colorful and beautiful, especially the red ones, and the place is amazing. I touched all the birds. Without fear, I placed them on my arm. I want to come every day,” he added.

Manar Mohammed, a Saudi visitor, told Arab News that it was her first time seeing many of the birds within the Kingdom.

“My three-year-old daughter had so much fun here because she loves animals, and this kind of activity was much needed in Riyadh Season. The bird collection is enormous, and most of them look different to what we are used to seeing,” she said.

Mary Jane, a visitor from the Philippines, told Arab News that the Riyadh Season far exceeded her expectations and helped her feel less homesick after she reconnected with some of the native fauna of her homeland.

“I couldn’t imagine how beautiful it is. Riyadh Season met the expectations of their slogan, ‘Imagine More!’ It’s the first time I’ve seen these birds for a long time. It was nice to find this kind of activity in our second home, Saudi Arabia,” Jane said.

The garden is one of the activities included in the Salam Tree zone. Salam Tree, which means the tree of peace, is included among the free zones as part of Riyadh Season in 2021. Visitors can book tickets from Riyadh Season’s website to visit the garden.

 


President Macron’s visit to Saudi Arabia signals new era in French-Saudi cooperation

President Macron’s visit to Saudi Arabia signals new era in French-Saudi cooperation
Updated 05 December 2021

President Macron’s visit to Saudi Arabia signals new era in French-Saudi cooperation

President Macron’s visit to Saudi Arabia signals new era in French-Saudi cooperation
  • Wide-ranging joint statement and slew of agreements testify to a growing Saudi-French bilateral partnership
  • Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and President Macron held telephone meeting with Lebanon PM Najib Mikati

JEDDAH: A joint statement covering a wide range of issues and the signing of a slew of agreements were the highlights of a visit to Saudi Arabia by French President Emmanuel Macron during the final leg of a two-day Gulf tour.

The agreements related to economic cooperation were announced by Saudi and French companies on Saturday while Macron held talks with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. The crown prince met Macron at Al-Salam Palace, where they discussed bilateral cooperation and held a telephone call with Lebanon’s Prime Minister Najib Mikati.

The three countries agreed to work together to support comprehensive reforms necessary in Lebanon, according to official reports, which added that Saudi Arabia and France emphasized their keen desire to see security and stability prevail in the country.

French President Emmanuel Macron met Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman as the president continued his multi-country tour of the Gulf. (SPA)

“The two sides stressed … that reforms should include the sectors of finance, energy, combating corruption and border control. The two sides also agreed to work with Lebanon to ensure the implementation of these measures,” the joint statement, carried by the Saudi Press Agency (SPA), said.

“They also emphasized the need to limit arms to legitimate institutions of the state, and that Lebanon should not be a launching pad for any terrorist acts that destabilize the security and stability of the region, or a source of drug trafficking.

“They also … agreed to establish a Saudi-French mechanism for humanitarian assistance that ensures complete transparency, and expressed their determination to find appropriate mechanisms in cooperation with friendly countries and allies to alleviate the suffering of the Lebanese people.”

Saudi Arabia and France have committed to enhancing cultural cooperation and exchange across a broad range of cultural fields. (SPA)

On the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, “the two sides reiterated their support for achieving peace in the Middle East, and the importance of reaching a comprehensive settlement … to be based on the two-state solution, the relevant legitimate resolutions and Arab Peace Initiative in a way that ensures the right of the Palestinian people to establish their state on 1967 borders with East Al-Quds (Jerusalem) as its capital, calling, in this context, for an end to the Israeli settlement policy that threatens the two-state solution.”

With regard to Iran, the joint statement said: “The two sides expressed their deep concern over the development of the Iranian nuclear program and the lack of cooperation and transparency with the International Atomic Energy Agency.

INNUMBERS

$4.37bn French direct investment in KSA economy.

“France stressed its determination not to allow Iran to develop or acquire a nuclear weapon. They also agreed on the need to confront Iran's destabilizing activities in the region, including the use and transfer of drones and ballistic missiles that led to attacks on the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.”

Addressing the Yemen crisis, the statement said “France affirmed its full support for the Saudi peace initiative that was presented on March 22, 2021, and condemned the ballistic missile and drone attacks launched by Houthi militia and affirmed its historical commitment to preserving the security of the Kingdom.”

In other developments on Saturday, Dr. Mohammed bin Saud Al-Tamimi, CEO of the Saudi Space Commission, and Philippe Baptiste, CEO of the French National Center for Space Studies, signed a joint cooperation agreement in the field of the peaceful use of outer space, according to the SPA.

The Saudi Arabia, France and Lebanon agreed to work together to support comprehensive reforms necessary in the mediterranean country. (SPA)

The agreement “aims to provide a framework for cooperation in space activities in the peaceful uses of space, facilitate the exchange of information and technologies, contribute to capacity building and competencies, organize mutual visits and meetings, hold training courses and specialized workshops, as well as the joint cooperation to develop a mechanism for space-based climate monitoring.”

The SPA also reported that a memorandum of understanding was signed on Saturday that cements cultural relations between Saudi Arabia and France. “Coming only weeks after Saudi Minister of Culture Prince Badr bin Farhan Al-Saud met with his French counterpart, Dr. Roselyn Bachelot, in Paris, the MoU is the latest example of strengthening cultural ties between the two countries,” the report said.

It added: “Under the five-year agreement, Saudi Arabia and France have committed to enhancing cultural cooperation and exchange across a broad range of cultural fields, including architecture, audiovisual production, design, film, heritage, literature, performing arts and visual arts.

The crown prince met the French president at Al-Salam Palace in Jeddah. (SPA)

“In addition, the MoU will facilitate the two countries to explore cultural regulations and policies. There will also be opportunities to increase the participation of Saudi and French artists in residency exchange programs and strengthen cooperation between artists and cultural institutions in both countries.”

The SPA said that a separate agreement to enhance tourism cooperation between the two countries was co-signed by Ahmed Al-Khateeb, the Saudi tourism minister, and Franck Riester, the French minister delegate for foreign trade and economic attractiveness.

It quoted Al-Khateeb as saying: "France, through its knowledge and experience, will help the Kingdom in developing its tourism activity to attract investments with a cost of $810 billion, which will provide the country with tourism opportunities outside the Hajj season. The Kingdom is expected to have new investment opportunities with a cost of $6 trillion by 2030, and this is a matter of excitement.”


Saudi Translation Forum: Language plays ‘crucial role’ in shaping society

The forum hosted engaging panel discussions that explored the role of translation in bridging cultures. (SPA)
The forum hosted engaging panel discussions that explored the role of translation in bridging cultures. (SPA)
Updated 05 December 2021

Saudi Translation Forum: Language plays ‘crucial role’ in shaping society

The forum hosted engaging panel discussions that explored the role of translation in bridging cultures. (SPA)
  • First Saudi Translation Forum discusses future of industry

RIYADH: The first Saudi Translation Forum recently concluded in Riyadh, wherein translation experts, both local and international, gathered for the two-day event to examine the main issues and challenges facing the global translation industry.

The forum was held under the patronage of Prince Badr bin Abdullah bin Farhan, minister of culture, and organized by the Literature, Publishing and Translation Commission at the Ministry of Education.

The forum was inaugurated by the commission’s CEO Dr. Mohammed Hasan Alwan, who, in his opening speech, emphasized the importance of translation and the need to modernize the industry.

He pointed to the efforts of the commission to take the Saudi translation sector to the highest level of professionalism.


“We are proud to have hosted the first successful edition of the Translation Forum. It has been a true honor to bring together some of the top experts in the translation sector to discuss ways we can work together to advance the sector. Saudi Arabia has one of the biggest translation and publishing markets in the region, and we are exerting all efforts to grow the sector even more through nurturing and encouraging local writers and translators, forging international collaborations, and developing a supportive regulatory framework,” said Alwan.

HIGHLIGHT

As part of the forum, the Literature, Publishing and Translation Commission organized the Kingdom’s first audiovisual translation challenge for students, amateurs, and professionals in the field. During the two-day ‘Motivation Challenge,’ teams of two to three members competed in translating short film clips discussing Saudi culture and history from Arabic into English, French, Spanish, and Korean.

Speaking to Arab News on challenges facing the global translation community, Prof. Brian James Baer, president of the American Translation and Interpretation Association and an expert at the forum, said: “One of the big problems that we are facing is stagnant income for translators, and in a broader sense, a lack of understanding of what translation is. People don’t understand what is involved in translation.

“Many think that translation is simply linguistic matching, and they don’t understand that language is asymmetrical, and you need to manage this asymmetry. So, it is always going to be a very creative decision-making process,” he said, confirming what other speakers at the forum noted regarding the creativity involved in translation and the current limits of machine translation, especially of literary works.

“I believe that we all have an investment in what I call translation literacy so that everyone understands better what is involved. Publishers should give translators credible visibility, allow them to improve notes, and in general, we should teach translation in foreign languages departments.”

On the impact of new technology, Baer said that digitization and globalization have exponentially increased the volume of texts that are translated.

“We need to use technology wisely and understand that it will create new job opportunities for translators editing and revising both human and machine-translated texts,” he said.

The forum hosted engaging panel discussions and interactive workshops that presented new tools and techniques in the fields of literary translation, news translation, political translation, and language interpretation.

Discussions highlighted international best practices in using translation technologies and computer-assisted translation tools.

It explored the role of translation in bridging cultures and the regulations governing the industry.

Dr. Mohammed Al-Barakati, one of the panelists, said that language and translation play a “crucial role” in shaping society and culture, while Prof. Martha Lucia Pulido Correa commented that Europeans owe much to Islam because of the translation efforts that bridged linguistic gaps between the two cultures.

In a panel discussion titled “The Role of Translation in Sports,” professionals in sports translation agreed that this field has a bright future in Saudi Arabia.

In terms of publicity and marketing, speakers stressed the importance of having interpreters in football clubs, highlighting the diversity of the players and how this helps clubs gain popularity internationally.

During the session titled “Audiovisual Translation: Profession/Hobby,” academics and audiovisual translation experts stressed the necessity of cross-sector collaboration for the industry’s success.

As part of the forum, the Literature, Publishing and Translation Commission organized the Kingdom’s first audiovisual translation challenge for students, amateurs, and professionals in the field.

During the two-day “Motivation Challenge,” teams of two to three members competed in translating short film clips discussing Saudi culture and history from Arabic into English, French, Spanish, and Korean. Prizes ranged from SR5,500 ($1,466) to SR20,000 for winners in two tracks: amateurs/students and professionals.

The forum hosted 10 workshops to develop attendees’ skills in a number of areas, including the applications of media and news translation, transition project management, conference interpreting, and strategies of critical multimodal discourse analysis of audiovisual texts.

An accompanying exhibition was a part of the forum to foster ties between associations.


Leading contemporary thinkers to explore philosophy at Riyadh conference

King Fahd National Library. (Twitter: @KFNLGOV)
King Fahd National Library. (Twitter: @KFNLGOV)
Updated 05 December 2021

Leading contemporary thinkers to explore philosophy at Riyadh conference

King Fahd National Library. (Twitter: @KFNLGOV)
  • The Riyadh Philosophy Conference program will cover an array of interactive plenary sessions and workshops, tackling contemporary issues that highlight how philosophy can help us understand the world we live in

RIYADH: Leading contemporary philosophers will gather in Riyadh for a first-of-its-kind conference at King Fahd National Library.

The three-day event between Dec. 8 to 10 will gather the renowned international and regional thinkers and institutions in Saudi Arabia for the first time to discuss the most pressing contemporary philosophical debates under the theme “unpredictability.”

The Ministry of Culture and its Literature, Publishing, and Translation Commission is organizing the conference to establish the Kingdom as a center for philosophical dialogue in the region, encouraging the advancement of scientific and academic research around philosophy, as well as encouraging interest in philosophy and its relevance to all our lives.

On the announcement of the conference, Mohamed Hassan Alwan, CEO of the commission said: “Our mission is to promote philosophy across a wide range of thinkers and bring critical philosophical debates to Saudi Arabia for the first time, promoting intercultural and interdisciplinary dialogues. We also want to introduce philosophy to members of the public who might not have had exposure to it before and promote philosophical thinking, its methods and tools, and how it can be used to empower the youth.”

The Riyadh Philosophy Conference program will cover an array of interactive plenary sessions and workshops, tackling contemporary issues that highlight how philosophy can help us understand the world we live in.

Sessions will cover “The Human Condition: Unpredictable Encounters,” and several discussions are focussed on the impact of COVID-19, including “Beyond the Global Pandemic: Responding Ethically to the Unprecedented.”

Leading philosophical thinkers from universities across the globe will be participating, including the University of Pretoria, Harvard University, The University of Turin, SOAS, Cairo University, King Saud University and many more.

The Riyadh Philosophy Conference will see over 1,500 guests per day, ranging from academics and students to cultural leaders and publishers. In addition to the curated plenary sessions, the event will also feature exhibitor stands hosted by local and international partners, and a number of experiential activations including a reading village, and children’s zone designed to instil the value of philosophical thought amongst the next generation.  

The event will be open to the public and will feature a variety of accessible lectures exploring relevant topics that will demonstrate the significance of philosophy in today’s world and show its ability to help answer key contemporary questions facing humanity.