Thousands flock to Global Town Festival opening in Riyadh for dance, food, culture experience

Thousands flock to Global Town Festival opening in Riyadh for dance, food, culture experience
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The sold out event saw performances, street art and even a display of motorcycles (AN Photo/Saad Aldossari)
Thousands flock to Global Town Festival opening in Riyadh for dance, food, culture experience
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The sold out event saw performances, street art and even a display of motorcycles (AN Photo/Saad Aldossari)
Thousands flock to Global Town Festival opening in Riyadh for dance, food, culture experience
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Visitors were able to see Pisa’s famous leaning tower on Italy Street. (AN Photo/Saad Aldossari)
Thousands flock to Global Town Festival opening in Riyadh for dance, food, culture experience
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Visitors were able to see Paris' Eiffel Tower, or at least a replica. (AN Photo/Saad Aldossari)
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Updated 10 November 2021

Thousands flock to Global Town Festival opening in Riyadh for dance, food, culture experience

Thousands flock to Global Town Festival opening in Riyadh for dance, food, culture experience

RIYADH: The largest multinational festival in Saudi Arabia opened on Wednesday in the capital Riyadh.

Thousands of people gathered at Exhibition Park on Eastern Ring Road for the Global Town Festival, an historic, cross-cultural experience of “unforgettable” moments.

Reema Al-Ruwaysan, chief executive officer of festival organizer MOLHIMA Group, said: “It’s a feeling that can’t be described, to see the Saudi youth, men, and women partake in a cultural event of this magnitude. I’m just happy to see it.”

 Reema Alruwaysan, CEO of MOLHIMAH Group. (AN Photo/Saad Aldossari)

It will be the second time Riyadh has hosted the two-week festival which sold out on its first day with 5,000 visitors. Countries from around the world will be showcasing famous landmarks, markets, folklore, and songs, and cafes and restaurants will serve traditional cuisines.

Polaris Slingshot three-wheeled motorcycles and Harley-Davidsons entered the main plaza to kick off the festival in the largest motorbike parade in the Kingdom’s history.

Welcoming crowds, Al-Ruwaysan said: “I hope you enjoy the festival that brings all cultures and civilizations in one place.”

Cultural dances, virtual reality games, and traditional food were some of the first-day experiences, with a number of ambassadors attending the opening ceremony.

Abdulhakim Al-Ouda, 35, from Riyadh, a speaker with the Vision 2030 team for training and development, said: “I’m here for the games, magic, and festivities. I visited stands that sold clothes, and paintings and I went to restaurants. It’s wonderful.”

Tickets available online priced SR40 ($10.60) sold out two days before the festival opening. Admission for under-12s is free, and the festival is open from 4 p.m. until midnight every day until Nov. 9.

SPEEDREAD

Tickets available online priced SR40 ($10.60) sold out two days before the festival opening.

Admission for under-12s is free, and the festival is open from 4 p.m. until midnight every day until Nov. 9.

Startups and family businesses were given spaces on Charity Street to sell their products as part of the Molhimah Al-Khair initiative.

Noora Alassaf, a certified decoupage artist and trainer from Qassim, said: “I tried to gather art from various cultures and place them altogether in one booth. Decoupage art comes from France, you can see some inspiration from (Spanish painter Pablo) Picasso here and these masks are Italian inspired.

“The reception at my booth has been amazing, and what’s beautiful is every year I see the Saudi people’s love for art increase. I see families now wanting to instill a love for art in their kids from a young age, and I absolutely love it. The art culture in Saudi Arabia is without limits,” she added.

Another startup at the festival was Spoilz, a mobile-gaming company founded by 29-year-old Musaab Al-Malki from Riyadh, who was showcasing its latest game “Smack Sack.”

A highlight from the evening's entertainment. (AN Photo/Saad Aldossari)

“We’re here in partnership with ThinkTech by the Ministry of Communication and Information Technology to show off our games and engage with our community. Our plans are to reach a global audience, to publish more games, and to become the largest game developer in the Middle East and North Africa region.

“I like the idea of mixing civilizations and showing different cultures (at the festival), and this is what we’re focusing on with our games, to show Saudi Arabia’s culture,” Al-Malki said.

Over the coming days, visitors can expect to begin their journey through the festival on Saudi Street, starting with a historical route through ancient Najd, Darwaza al-Tumairi, and Souk Al-Muqaybara.

Accompanied by an exhibition that displays the most prominent achievements of the Kingdom’s rulers, Saudi Street aims to showcase the country and what it has to offer in terms of culture and knowledge, Al-Ruwaysan told Arab News.

Kenya, South Africa, Egypt, Ethiopia, and Djibouti will join in performing festive dances and serving traditional food on African Street.

One of the attractions on Egypt Street will be El-Fishawy cafe, which dates back to 1771. Known for attracting great thinkers, kings, and princes of ancient Egypt, its fame increased after the international writer and Nobel Prize for Literature winner Naguib Mahfouz used it as a place of inspiration for his novels.

Meanwhile, visitors were able to see Pisa’s famous leaning tower on Italy Street.

As well as walking around the attractions, visitors can rent electric scooters and bicycles.


What do parents in Saudi Arabia really think about distance learning?

Schools in the Kingdom closed in March 2020, in the early stages of the pandemic. They began to reopen in September this year, though remote learning remains in place for younger children. (SPA)
Schools in the Kingdom closed in March 2020, in the early stages of the pandemic. They began to reopen in September this year, though remote learning remains in place for younger children. (SPA)
Updated 28 November 2021

What do parents in Saudi Arabia really think about distance learning?

Schools in the Kingdom closed in March 2020, in the early stages of the pandemic. They began to reopen in September this year, though remote learning remains in place for younger children. (SPA)
  • After education minister said 83% of parents believe online education has been good for kids’ mental health, we talk those on both sides of the debate

JEDDAH: Distance learning was a necessity imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic, and in the past 18 months there has been a great deal of debate, globally, about the merits or otherwise of remote education and how well its extended use has served students during these difficult times.

In Saudi Arabia, however, parents appear to be overwhelmingly in favor of distance learning, according to figures quoted by Education Minister Hamad Al-Sheikh. Speaking last month at the Saudi Family Forum, organized by the Family Affairs Council, he said 83 percent of parents believe that remote education has positively affected their children’s mental and psychological health. He added that it is here to stay, in some form, even after the pandemic ends because it has become a pillar of the education system.
Saudi authorities responded to the need to close classrooms during the pandemic by developing the Madrasati, or “My School,” platform as a gateway to keep students at all levels, from first to 12th grade, and their parents connected with schools and teachers in an attempt to provide the best possible online educational experience. To help achieve this it provides access to textbooks, notes, study materials, videos, tutorials and more besides. In the first week after its launch in September 2020, the free platform logged 41 million visits.
Redha Omda, a father of three in Jeddah, told Arab News that teachers are using new techniques to enhance the online learning environment, and applauded the increased use of technology.
“I like how technology is playing a big part in the educational sector,” he said. “Teachers are contacting me through WhatsApp and they are more accessible than before.

BACKGROUND

Saudi authorities responded to the need to close classrooms during the pandemic by developing the Madrasati, or ‘My School,’ platform as a gateway to keep students at all levels, from first to 12th grade, and their parents connected with schools and teachers in an attempt to provide the best possible online educational experience. To help achieve this it provides access to textbooks, notes, study materials, videos, tutorials and more besides.

“The Madrasati platform is linked to the parent’s Tawakkalna app, which is amazing, and it lets me know everything about my kids. I am also impressed by how my kids are using technology in a way that I did not imagine.”
Bara’a Alfergani, a mother of two living in Jeddah, said that distance learning saves students a lot of time.
“Study at home is better than attending eight hours of classes every day and then coming home with homework to do,” she said. “It is much easier to attend online and do homework at the same place.”

In the first week after Madrasati launch in September 2020, the free platform logged 41 million visits.

Alfergani added that it also makes it easier for her to keep an eye on her children and be more involved in their education.
The Ministry of Education has indicated that the future of learning in Saudi Arabia will involve some form of hybrid learning, as the concept of distance education has evolved as a result of the global health crisis.
Joud Al-Harbi, a 23-year-old college student from Jeddah, said that online education is a much better option than attending classes.
“It allows me to do many things at the same time,” she said. “I interact with my instructors, and most of my collegemates understand the subjects easily.”
One of her friends has a sick child, she added, and prefers to take classes online because it gives her more time to care for the youngster.
Schools and other educational institutions in the Kingdom closed in March 2020, in the early stages of the pandemic. They began to reopen in September this year, though remote learning remains in place for younger children.
Not all parents agree that distance learning has been a good thing, however. Stay-at-home mom Mashael Al-Sahli said it has had an adverse psychological effect on her two children because it has deprived them of a social life.
“Building social skills starts at school and it is an important factor of the growing process,” she said. “It was something we didn’t feel until schools were closed.”
Not only were her children deprived of the school environment, activities and their friends, she said, even though the online learning system that has been developed is good she nevertheless has found the learning process to be difficult.
“The kids can’t even see the teachers’ gestures or body language,” she added.
Nahedh Almwalad, an elementary school teacher in Jeddah, said that children have a lot of energy and their attention span is limited, which can be a challenge with online education, but added that it can help to teach them patience.


15,000 residency, labor, border violators arrested across Saudi Arabia

The report’s findings showed that among 429 arrested while trying to cross the border into Saudi Arabia. (Twitter: @MOISaudiArabia)
The report’s findings showed that among 429 arrested while trying to cross the border into Saudi Arabia. (Twitter: @MOISaudiArabia)
Updated 28 November 2021

15,000 residency, labor, border violators arrested across Saudi Arabia

The report’s findings showed that among 429 arrested while trying to cross the border into Saudi Arabia. (Twitter: @MOISaudiArabia)
  • The authorities transferred 75,649 offenders to their respective diplomatic missions to obtain travel documents

RIYADH: Saudi authorities arrested almost 15,000 people in one week for breaching residency, work, and border security regulations, an official report has revealed.

During the period Nov. 18 to 24, a total of 7,552 arrests were made for violations of residency rules, while 5,699 people were held over illegal border crossing attempts, and a further 1,529 on labor-related issues.

The report’s findings showed that among 429 arrested while trying to cross the border into the Kingdom, 70 percent were Yemeni citizens, 28 percent Ethiopians, and 2 percent other nationalities.

A further 36 people were caught trying to cross into neighboring countries, and 14 were held for involvement in transporting and harboring violators.

The authorities transferred 75,649 offenders to their respective diplomatic missions to obtain travel documents, while 2,048 were transferred to complete their travel reservations and 9,586 were deported.

The Ministry of Interior pointed out that anyone found to be helping people gain illegal entry to the Kingdom, and transporting, or providing shelter for them could face imprisonment for a maximum of 15 years, a fine of up to SR1 million ($260,000), or confiscation of vehicles and property.

Suspected violations can be reported on the toll-free number 911 in the Makkah and Riyadh regions, and 999 or 996 in other regions of the Kingdom.


Saudi Arabia’s Space101 training program launched for undergraduates

Space101 training program launched for undergraduates. (Shutterstock)
Space101 training program launched for undergraduates. (Shutterstock)
Updated 28 November 2021

Saudi Arabia’s Space101 training program launched for undergraduates

Space101 training program launched for undergraduates. (Shutterstock)
  • The commission explained that the training focuses on the basics of space science and technology by implementing professional programs under expert supervision

RIYADH: The Saudi Space Commission recently launched its first specialized training program in the field of space and space technology in cooperation with Airbus Defense and Space.
The program aims to raise the level of education and practical know-how in the space sector for undergraduates and those interested in learning space science.
The commission explained that the training focuses on the basics of space science and technology by implementing professional programs under expert supervision.
The training program is the result of a partnership agreement concluded on the sidelines of the International Astronautical Congress 2022 in October between the Saudi commission and Airbus to train national cadres in the space sector and provide job opportunities for trainees in the field.
It also contributes to achieving the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 by developing national human capabilities and qualifying them for the labor market.
Those wishing to register for the Space101 training program can do so via the following link: https://initiativesportal.saudispace.gov.sa/ar/user/login?destination=/ar/space101

 


Saudi initiative to develop digital capabilities of young people

Women attend a hackathon in Jeddah. (AFP file photo)
Women attend a hackathon in Jeddah. (AFP file photo)
Updated 28 November 2021

Saudi initiative to develop digital capabilities of young people

Women attend a hackathon in Jeddah. (AFP file photo)
  • The initiative focuses on analyzing eight basic digital skills, including managing cybersecurity by protecting personal data and addressing cyber-attacks, managing cyber-bullying by promoting awareness of how to combat it

JEDDAH: The governorate of Makkah region, in partnership with the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology, is implementing the Future Champions initiative to develop digital capabilities for young people.

Under the slogan “How to be a role model in the digital world,” and through the sixth session of the Makkah Cultural Forum, the initiative aims to enhance digital citizenship, raise awareness and teach the optimal use of IT and communication.

It also aims to study the awareness of community members in the use of digital world applications and their enjoyment of skills and sound ethics through the use of the Internet and technology by analyzing a set of digital patterns and studying the behavior of individuals in the digital space.

The initiative focuses on analyzing eight basic digital skills, including managing cybersecurity by protecting personal data and addressing cyber-attacks, managing cyber-bullying by promoting awareness of how to combat it, and managing privacy by safely handling personal data when requested on the Internet.

Other skills include sound thinking and owning tools to distinguish between correct and incorrect information, managing digital footprint by understanding its nature and the real consequences, digital empathy with people in the virtual world and knowing their needs and feelings, managing screen time through self-control and time management, and digital national identity and showing it healthily and fairly.

This is achieved through an initial questionnaire to measure basic digital skills among individuals. More than 50,000 participants take part in the questionnaire.

Through its active partnership with the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology, the governorate of Makkah contributes to promoting the concept of digital citizenship and providing digital role models within the forum’s programs by presenting a diverse initiative that takes place in the cities and towns of the region.

It targets all segments of society to develop the region and its digital space in line with national efforts to create a new stage in communications and IT by employing smart systems, digital algorithms, analyzing big data and using the techniques of the Fourth Industrial Revolution in its cities and the work of its sectors to make the Kingdom a leading digital model.


Saudi, UN partnership to help promote sustainable development in Soudah

Located in the Asir region, the mountains of Soudah are home to the highest peak in Saudi Arabia, situated more than 3,000m above sea level. (Shutterstock)
Located in the Asir region, the mountains of Soudah are home to the highest peak in Saudi Arabia, situated more than 3,000m above sea level. (Shutterstock)
Updated 28 November 2021

Saudi, UN partnership to help promote sustainable development in Soudah

Located in the Asir region, the mountains of Soudah are home to the highest peak in Saudi Arabia, situated more than 3,000m above sea level. (Shutterstock)
  • It will harvest knowledge to preserve heritage, culture, natural resources

JEDDAH: Saudi Arabia’s southern Soudah mountains are getting a further boost to habitat protection while welcoming tourists and visitors with the signing of a new deal between Soudah Development Co. and the UN Mountain Partnership.

Located in the Asir region in the southwest of the Kingdom, the juniper-covered mountains of Soudah are home to the highest peak in Saudi Arabia, situated more than 3,000m above sea level.
Initiated in 2002, the UN Mountain Partnership, an alliance dedicated to protecting mountain environments around the world, aims to improve the life of the local mountain communities and preserve its ecosystems. It currently consists of more than 400 members spanning governments, companies and civil society groups.
Soudah Development Co. is the first company from the Kingdom and the Gulf region to join this partnership and will allow it to tap into an international wealth of knowledge and resources as it develops a regulatory framework to create a sustainable tourist destination.
“The membership will contribute to positioning Soudah on the international map by giving us access to prospective mountain developers and adventure tourism partners who will recognize how the entity is embracing the same development values and quality standards as major mountain destinations worldwide,” Husameddin Al-Madani, CEO of Soudah Development Co., told Arab News.
Joining this alliance is an important milestone for the company, which will put them a step closer to accomplishing their mission and development project.

HIGHLIGHT

This ambitious project will help promote sustainable development, preserve the environment of Soudah, protect wildlife and undertake a major reforestation program, which will remove more than 25,000 tons of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. 

“This new and exciting membership will enable us to tap into the wealth and diversity of knowledge, information and expertise of mountain developers and organizations around the world and ensure we can benefit from initiatives and programs that reflect our ambitions here in the region from 3,015 meters above sea level,” Al-Madani said.
The area is currently a popular tourist destination among domestic travelers and adventure enthusiasts, offering activities for adventure seekers such as scenic hiking trails to paragliding over the valley, and a serene camping location to stargaze at night.
This ambitious project will help promote sustainable development, preserve the environment of Soudah, protect wildlife and undertake a major reforestation program, which will remove more than 25,000 tons of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.
“Our membership underlines the Kingdom’s commitment to introducing Saudi’s unique and diverse nature and culture to the world. Additionally, the Kingdom is committed to the highest standards of environmental sustainability, having launched the Saudi Green initiative and Middle East Green initiative to set standards for environmental sustainability in all development projects across the Kingdom,” Al-Madani said.
In line with the strategy to protect the environment of Soudah, the company promises to enhance its commitment to wildlife conservation by having a monitoring program that will document the behavior of endangered animals.
Part of this initiative is a new partnership with the Beacon Development Company, a subsidiary of King Abdullah University of Science and Technology.
The agreement will focus on placing a series of hidden cameras in the area to monitor wildlife, which includes the striped hyena, the Arabian wolf, Arabian red fox, Indian crested porcupine and wild cats.
“In the context of Soudah’s unique location, enchanting environment and scenic landscapes, our membership with the Mountain Partnership is another positive step in the right direction that reflects the efforts to preserve nature and the environment in line with the efforts of Saudi Arabia,” Al-Madani said.