Listen up: How Saudi Arabia is tuning in to a new future

Listen up: How Saudi Arabia is tuning in to a new future
Podcasts are transforming Saudis’ daily rituals, turning mundane activities such as driving, exercising and cooking into ‘listening experiences.’ (Supplied)
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Updated 26 October 2021

Listen up: How Saudi Arabia is tuning in to a new future

Listen up: How Saudi Arabia is tuning in to a new future
  • Digital-savvy Saudis are becoming a nation of podcasters embarking on an exciting aural adventure

JEDDAH: As digital audio and podcasts become part of everyday life in Saudi Arabia, millions of regular listeners are tuning into the future, sparking what one insider describes as a “podcast frenzy.”

Easy to access, and with a seemingly endless choice of programs and subjects, podcasts are transforming Saudis’ daily rituals, turning mundane activities such as driving, exercising and cooking into “listening experiences.”

But not content with simply tuning in, many people are setting up their own audio blogs and becoming podcasters themselves.

“It’s a free space; anyone can participate,” one podcaster told Arab News. “All you need is content, a microphone and a mobile device, to record and publish.”

Podcasts began to appear in the Kingdom in 2015, gradually reviving Saudis’ love of listening to radio broadcasts.

According to one 2020 survey, 15 percent of respondents in the Kingdom’s western region were regular podcast listeners, while more than 5.1 million people tuned in around the country.

Numbers continue to surge in line with worldwide trends, as national surveys in countries such as the US and South Korea show up to 50 percent of respondents listening to podcasts in any given month.

A podcast is a digital audio file made available on the internet for downloading to a computer or mobile device. Typically, podcasts come in series, with new installments that subscribers can automatically receive.

According to Ammar Sabban, creative director and founder of the “Mstdfr” podcast, ease of access makes podcasts especially appealing.

FASTFACT

Podcasts, previously known as audio blogs, date back to the 1980s. With the advent of broadband internet access and portable digital audio playback devices, such as the iPod, podcasting began to catch hold in 2004. The term podcast is an amalgam of ‘broadcast’ and ‘pod’ from iPod.

“Unlike TV shows, you don’t have to wait for a podcast — you can listen to it any time,” he said.

“The average person usually listens for up to 15 minutes, but those who are into it can listen for up to two hours — the more the merrier for them. Some people are obsessed with podcast shows. Another reason is because the hosts are spontaneous and laidback, and people like that,” Sabban added.

As the trend gathers pace, more people are coming up with their own concepts for podcast shows. “Anyone can do it if they are talented enough,” he said.

“We can meet anyone, and record and upload anywhere, because we don’t have to be in the same place to interview people. Production costs are low, so we can interview people who are not that famous but are interesting to listen to. This is what our listeners want — someone they can relate to.”

Sabban believes podcasts can only grow. “There is a podcast frenzy now. A lot of people are making them and we have thousands of them. Saudi Arabia is one of the biggest Arab countries and the production of podcasts is big here — now companies are aware of this and want to join the field.”

Firms seeking to creatively market their products are also looking to podcasts, with the equivalent of modern-day radio ads.

“Ads, sponsorship and company contracts are the main ways for podcast income, and we do have a studio that we rent for content creators. Companies contact us with a podcast idea, and we create it for them,” Sabban said.

He said that podcasts also lead to a lot of business deals. “We did not expect that our shows such as ‘Mstdfr’ and ‘Cartoon Cartoon’ would bring people together. Some of them created businesses because they found their people through podcasts.”

With more than five years’ experience in the field, Sabban and his colleagues constantly strive to keep their programs fresh.

Their latest podcast, “Let’s Talk Saudi,” highlights Saudis that people overseas want to know about.

“We received a lot of messages from Saudi students studying abroad, telling us that this show touched their hearts and they feel closer to home when they listen to it,” he said. “It is like a haven for locals away from home.”

Another Saudi podcaster, Abdul Aziz Al-Qattan, host of “Tanafs Breath,” described the podcast as an “audio companion that whispers to those who are curious about their surroundings.”

He added: “It guides those searching for answers and meaning, especially understanding themselves.”

Al-Qattan said that there is a revolution in podcasts and audio media in the Arab world. “The future of podcasting is very large and wide, but it lacks organizations and sponsors to support content makers, to push and motivate them to continue providing content,” he said.

The podcaster’s interest in audio media grew out of his love of voiceover and recitation. “I met with my friend Mohammed Ishaq, who had a passion for writing, and discussed the idea of a podcast, and we started publishing initial episodes. The popularity of the podcast was unexpected, exceeding half a million listeners. After that, we had Ibtihal Al-Misfer join as a writer, too.”

Al-Qattan said: “We started in October 2020, and it was a humble beginning. We had to learn how to present ourselves to an audience, to prepare realistic content.”

People listen to the podcast because it is an effective way to enjoy content, he said.

“Unlike visual content, which may require you to focus on certain details and visuals, with podcasts you can listen to a science article or story while you are driving or doing sports, in other words keeping outside noise out and enjoying an audio journey using your imagination.”


In Jeddah, Italian gastronomic delights whet the Saudi appetite

‘It’s great to learn about Italian cuisine, drinks and desserts that we did not know about before. (Supplied)
‘It’s great to learn about Italian cuisine, drinks and desserts that we did not know about before. (Supplied)
Updated 30 November 2021

In Jeddah, Italian gastronomic delights whet the Saudi appetite

‘It’s great to learn about Italian cuisine, drinks and desserts that we did not know about before. (Supplied)
  • World Week of Italian Cuisine in Saudi Arabia concludes with feast in Jeddah

JEDDAH: The celebrations in Saudi Arabia for the sixth annual World Week of Italian Cuisine concluded with a showcase of Italian gastronomic delights, accompanied by authentic Italian music, at the country’s consulate general in Jeddah.
A number of Italian food brands, restaurants and catering companies took part in the event on Sunday, which celebrated Italian culinary arts by serving up traditional dishes to representatives of the Italian and Saudi communities.
“It’s great to learn about Italian cuisine, drinks and desserts that we did not know about before,” said Abdulrahman Rammal, one of the Saudi guests. “Our previous knowledge of Italian food was limited to certain meals, such as pizza and pasta, but the Italian Cuisine Week created more-knowledgeable awareness of the world of food.”
He said that a number of Italian sweets companies also presented their latest products, and added that such cultural events encourage Saudis to learn more about other nations and their peoples.
Stefano Stucci, the consul general of Italy in Jeddah, told Arab News: “The event is a worldwide initiative of the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, with the support of Italian embassies and consulates around the world, aimed at promoting the quality and heritage of Italian cuisine, as distinctive signs of our identity and culture.”
The consulate general in Jeddah said it organizes, with selected partners, a number of events designed to promote Italian cuisine culture, and the uniqueness and diversity of authentic Italian ingredients and products.

Food exports play a vital role in the Italian economy. With an annual turnover of more than $163.4 billion, they represent the second-highest-ranking Italian manufacturing sector and account for 8 percent of national gross domestic product, according to Federalimentare, which protects and promotes the Italian food and beverage industry.


Saudi foreign minister meets Mexican officials

Prince Faisal bin Farhan meets with Mexican foreign minister Marcelo Ebrard and Energy Secretary Rocío Nahle in Mexico City. (SPA)
Prince Faisal bin Farhan meets with Mexican foreign minister Marcelo Ebrard and Energy Secretary Rocío Nahle in Mexico City. (SPA)
Updated 30 November 2021

Saudi foreign minister meets Mexican officials

Prince Faisal bin Farhan meets with Mexican foreign minister Marcelo Ebrard and Energy Secretary Rocío Nahle in Mexico City. (SPA)
  • They discussed enhancing investment opportunities in a number of sectors as well as bilateral efforts in stabilizing energy markets

RIYADH: Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan met with a number of Mexican officials as he visited the country.
He met his counterpart Marcelo Ebrard in Mexico City on Monday.
The pair discussed coordinating efforts to serve the interest of their nations.
They also praised Saudi Arabia and Mexico’s efforts on international security and stopping the spread of weapons that threaten the people across the globe.
Prince Faisal also met Energy Secretary Rocío Nahle.
They discussed enhancing investment opportunities in a number of sectors as well as bilateral efforts in stabilizing energy markets.
Prince Faisal also had meetings with the President of Mexican Council on Foreign Affairs Sergio M. Alcocer and the President of the Mexican Senate Olga Sánchez Cordero.
Saudi Arabia’s top diplomat, on a tour of Latin America, arrived in Brazil on Thursday to meet officials in Brasilia then opened the Kingdom’s new embassy building in the country on Friday.


Riyadh Season: Groves offers relaxing spa, shopping, entertainment, culinary experience

The zone contains several open spaces including an area surrounded by palm trees where visitors can discover its various activities. (AN photos by Saleh Al-Ghanim)
The zone contains several open spaces including an area surrounded by palm trees where visitors can discover its various activities. (AN photos by Saleh Al-Ghanim)
Updated 30 November 2021

Riyadh Season: Groves offers relaxing spa, shopping, entertainment, culinary experience

The zone contains several open spaces including an area surrounded by palm trees where visitors can discover its various activities. (AN photos by Saleh Al-Ghanim)
  • This place is ‘all about nature, relaxation, and quietness, so each zone has its flavor’

RIYADH: One of Riyadh Season’s 14 zones, the Groves, has opened its doors for visitors to experience its spa, restaurants, shops, and shows.

The Groves has combined work and relaxation through an area called The House, which consists of business meeting rooms in a luxurious environment.
Siham Hassanain, general manager of the Groves, told Arab News that the zone was a garden that reflected its name, meaning field of trees.
She said: “Visitors can hear the sound of fountains, water, and birds ... the place also has a special scent. The logo of the Groves contains the four elements of life which are water, air, fire, and earth.
“So, I used these four elements of life in the Groves. The water resembles the relaxation of the place, fire means action and attractions, earth means food, and air means memories.”
The zone contains several open spaces including Al-Jalsa, an area surrounded by palm trees where visitors can view the site and discover its various activities.

HIGHLIGHTS

• The Groves has combined work and relaxation through an area called The House, which consists of business meeting rooms in a luxurious environment.

• People can enjoy a number of attractions while at the Groves, including birds of Eden, an afternoon high tea experience where a selection of the finest teas are served in an aviary filled with classical live music.

People can enjoy a number of attractions while at the Groves, including birds of Eden, an afternoon high tea experience where a selection of the finest teas are served in an aviary filled with classical live music. Other restaurants such as GEM.IN.I and El Lechazo offer a range culinary delights.
Followers of fashion can buy from local designers showcasing their latest collections, and dog owners and their pets can meet in Riyadh’s first-ever canine park, Lucaland.

Dog owners and their pets can meet in Riyadh’s first- ever canine park, Lucaland.

Hassanain, founder of Siham International Trading Co., a Saudi firm operating in the hospitality, food, and beverage industry, noted that the Groves was located in the city’s Diplomatic Quarter with commanding views of Wadi Hanifah.
“Nature and trees are all around. Wadi Hanifah offers a unique experience ... a place to relax.
“Each zone in Riyadh Season has its own unique experience. If you want a vibrant area, go to Boulevard Riyadh City. Visit Al-Murabaa to try international restaurants. If you are looking for an Arabian night experience in the desert, Riyadh Oasis is the place.
“But the Groves is all about nature, relaxation, and quietness, so each zone has its flavor,” she added.


Madinah Library offers visitors 180,000 books

Madinah Library offers visitors 180,000 books. (SPA)
Madinah Library offers visitors 180,000 books. (SPA)
Updated 30 November 2021

Madinah Library offers visitors 180,000 books

Madinah Library offers visitors 180,000 books. (SPA)
  • The library houses around 180,000 books and 71 classifications, most of which are books on the prophetic biography with 86 titles, and other specialist administrations and departments

MADINAH: The Prophet’s Mosque Library in Madinah is seeking to enrich visitor knowledge through its 180,000 books.

The library, which is affiliated with the General Presidency for the Affairs of the Two Holy Mosques, is considered one of the most important places that visitors to the Prophet’s Mosque are keen to visit.

It aims to offer people the opportunity to acquire skills and expertise, as well as enrich their knowledge, through its diverse range of books in more than 21 languages.

The library houses around 180,000 books and 71 classifications, most of which are books on the prophetic biography with 86 titles, and other specialist administrations and departments.

It also includes a smart digital library offering computers with e-books.

Authorities have allocated a location for the library on the northwestern roof of the second expansion of the mosque.

 


Saudi Arabia denounces Israeli president’s visit to West Bank holy site

Saudi Arabia denounces Israeli president’s visit to West Bank holy site
Updated 30 November 2021

Saudi Arabia denounces Israeli president’s visit to West Bank holy site

Saudi Arabia denounces Israeli president’s visit to West Bank holy site

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia denounced the visit of Israel’s president to Ibrahimi mosque in the West Bank, calling the act a flagrant violation of its sanctity.

Saudi Arabia called on the international community to assume its responsibilities to stop the Israeli government and its officials’ continuous practices towards Islamic sanctities, according to a Saudi foreign ministry statement. Saudi Arabia called on the international community to assume its responsibilities to stop the Israeli government and its officials’ continuous practices towards Islamic sanctities.

Israeli President Isaac Herzog visited the site on Sunday to celebrate the Jewish holiday of Hanukkah, sparking scuffles between Israeli security forces and protesters.

Herzog said he was visiting the Cave of the Patriarchs, known to Muslims as the Ibrahimi mosque,  in Hebron to celebrate the ancient city’s Jewish past and promote interfaith relations. But his visit to the city, known for its tiny ultranationalist Jewish settler community and difficult living conditions for Palestinians, drew widespread criticism from Palestinians and left-wing Israelis.

— With Reuters