RIYADH: Saudi Arabia on Monday will chair the third government forum to discuss the challenges of combating human trafficking in the Middle East.
The two-day forum will be held virtually under the theme “National and international coordination on combating trafficking in persons in the light of the coronavirus pandemic.”
The forum will involve the heads of anti-human trafficking committees of Gulf Cooperation Council countries, a number of Arab states and international representatives.
It will be inaugurated by the president of the Human Rights Commission and chairman of the National Committee to Combat Trafficking in Persons, Awwad Al-Awwad.
The forum will discuss the challenges and developments in the field in order to enable national committees to develop joint action plans to address crime.
Saudi Arabia’s hosting of the forum affirms the important role of the Kingdom in tackling human trafficking and supporting victims. It comes as the Kingdom marks continued progress in the US Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report.
RIYADH: Experts from the Kingdom and the Netherlands are working together at this year’s Saudi Design Festival to nurture creative thinking among children.
Representing two groups — the Saudi Adhlal and the Dutch NExAR — the experts’ aim is to share the best elements of their nations’ design culture, to learn from each other and to foster innovation.
According to NExAR’s founder, Dennis Meulenbroeks, one of the primary focuses of the collaboration is building a community for children to grow their creativity in design rather than conforming to structured educational thought.
“I believe that if you teach design thinking, critical thinking, and out-of-the-box thinking at an early age, children will benefit from that in the future,” he told Arab News.
He added that although children were born creative, they were taught at school to abide by the rules — to color between the lines, for instance — which restricted individuality.
“When a baby is born, they are creative, and then you come to elementary school and one of the first things that a teacher is doing is killing the creativity,” he said.
This limited children’s potential to develop problem-solving skills and to brainstorm creative and unique ideas, he added.
NExAR describes itself as a “bridge building initiative between the Netherlands and the Arab world in the field of design.” Adhlal is a research-based consultancy founded by Princess Nourah Al-Faisal that aims to equip future generations of Saudi designers with the tools they need to succeed and build on the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 development plan.
The Saudi Design Garden workshop in the Adhlal warehouse at the design festival also involves the Playroom, a group set up in 2014 to nurture divergent thinking in children under the age of five.
According to its co-founder, Bessma bint Bader, the workshop’s aim is to create child-led play challenges that empower youngsters to innovate and build strong social skills.
“Children will always do the most unexpected and intelligent things when given the tools, support and freedom,” she told Arab News.
NExAR describes itself as a ‘bridge building initiative between the Netherlands and the Arab world in the field of design.’
Adhlal is a research-based consultancy founded by Princess Nourah Al-Faisal that aims to equip future generations of Saudi designers with the tools they need to succeed and build on the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 development plan.
Stephanie Assio, a design-thinking specialist with NExAR, said the workshop posed children with thought-provoking challenges intended to inspire them to create out-of-the-box solutions.
“It’s all about design and innovation in education, creativity and coming up with programs to teach kids in new ways,” she said.
When the children enter the workshop, they are introduced to four different challenges. One of which is to design a nontraditional space for people who fly.
“This garden is for people who fly. You don’t have legs, you only have wings,” Assio said.
“Then children are posed the question of how to design furniture for people who fly.”
Other challenges include creating a garden using limited space on a balcony and designing a space to constrain furniture that “wants to keep running away.”
“Naturally, kids are creative thinkers, they know how to problem solve, and they know how to think limitlessly,” Assio said. “But over time, that creative thinking is drained out of them through the educational system and through the way life is.”
The children’s design workshop is open every day after 6 p.m. at the festival, which is being held in the Jax district of Diriyah.
The collaboration between Adhlal and NExAR began during the Saudi Design Festival in 2019 when Princess Nourah began discussing her goals and ambitions with Meulenbroeks.
“We had a booth to explain what design thinking can do in business and education, and we started with a small dialogue about our thoughts about design and what it can do in the future for different countries. Then Princess Nourah told us her vision, and we felt the connection,” he said.
He commended the princess on her initiative to strengthen the design community in Saudi Arabia.
“Everything you see here is a compliment to Princess Nourah. She had a vision and she had a dream. For us, even if we were not here, she would still have done something amazing.”
How Saudi events company Midwam lifted tourism and leisure experiences to a whole new level
Jeddah-based firm celebrates Saudi culture by leveraging augmented, virtual and mixed reality as well as AI
For the 2021 AlUla Dates Festival, Midwam transported visitors through time with a living, breathing souq
Updated 15 sec ago
DUBAI: A Saudi firm that specializes in curating entertainment and cultural events is taking tourism and leisure experiences in the Kingdom to a whole new level, as demonstrated during the recently held AlUla Dates Festival.
Events company Midwam has managed a host of sporting, cultural and musical extravaganzas. Its forte is delivering immersive experiences, in locations such as London, Paris, New York and Russia, that use the latest technologies to engage the senses.
Midwam says it leverages augmented, virtual and mixed reality as well as artificial intelligence to offer “innovative, flexible and smart solutions on multiple platforms.”
The company has worked on transformational events, including the first MDLBEAST Soundstorm music festival in Riyadh in December 2019, creating what it describes as “emotional and inspirational connections between the human and the brand.”
It counts leading Saudi public and private-sector organizations among its clients, including the Ministry of Culture, the Saudi Art Council and Misk Innovation.
“We are in the business of creating ‘big impact’ — that’s the most important thing for me,” Khalid Al-Muawad, the CEO and co-founder of Midwam, told Arab News. “If I don’t see ‘impact’ in the project, we don’t take it. We’re very selective with our projects in terms of impact.”
Over four weekends in October and November, the firm partnered with the Royal Commission for AlUla and the AlUla Dates Festival to give thousands of local and international visitors the chance to experience the richness of Saudi heritage and culture firsthand.
Once considered a lost city of the dead, AlUla has been transformed in recent years into a living museum that is home to the remains of ancient civilizations, important historical sites and archaeological wonders dating back as far as 200,000 years.
Located in northwestern Saudi Arabia and covering an area of more than 22,000 square kilometers, it is known for its dramatic sandstone mountains and fertile oases. Thanks to its location in the Arabian Peninsula, at a crossroads of civilizations, AlUla was once the ideal resting place for traveling merchants who covered great distances in trade caravans.
Midwam used its events expertise to bring the area’s unique heritage to life through an authentic souq, traditional music and even a date auction.
“We’re a company in Saudi Arabia that’s trying to explain to people that an experience should have its impact across different sectors,” Al-Muawad said. “We go across the market to showcase to people how experiences can really reflect on them, how it can impact them and be a very interesting tool for people to engage.”
Launched in 2012 and based in Jeddah, Midwam has a pool of diverse talents, including designers, developers, engineers, architects, storytellers and interior designers. With about 30 employees, of which 70 percent are Saudi and half are women, Midwam is in the business of hiring “the best of the best” when it comes to local talent, Al-Muawad explained.
“We’ve been surprised by the number of people who are capable of various things when they’re given an opportunity,” he said. “And I’m very thankful and grateful that we do have such talent under our umbrella, who are able to deliver.”
Thanks perhaps to his background in banking, Al-Muawad has a nose for investment opportunities. He identified such an opportunity when he spotted a massive unmet demand for innovative cultural and entertainment environments with which people can engage.
“The game is all about engagement,” he said. “How can you engage people with your product or your story? Given the latest solutions, technologies and methods that are being rolled out in the world right now, the ordinary way of engaging with stuff has become boring, less appealing and less engaging.
“If you go to a bookstore, people want to use their hands, interact with content, flip pages, double click on a story and see a visual of it, go to its audio and listen to it rather than read. These are all engaging tools and solutions that are there.”
Such signs of changing behaviors across the market motivated the Midwam team to create experiences that target different aspects of culture, heritage, tourism, sports and entertainment through partnerships with firms in Saudi Arabia, the US, Europe and the Far East.
“In a nutshell, an experience is a space that contains people with an offering and a journey, and this is what we do,” Al-Muawad said. “We take spaces and transform them into a journey for people where they can engage with a story, a product, a scene, content, and they get to go through stops in this journey and interact with whatever program or offering that is designed for this space.”
When Midwam takes on a project, its team of architects, designers, engineers, developers, coders and content providers combine their talents to turn ideas for human-centric experiential journeys into reality.
In AlUla, for instance, the exceptional landscape provided a unique canvas that, in Al-Muawad’s words, could be transformed into a “magnificent magnet” for tourism by making the most of its outstanding natural beauty and ancient heritage.
The Royal Commission for AlUla has developed a number of successful projects in the area in the past couple of years, but Al-Muawad believes there is still potential for growth.
Such growth is already underway; following the framework established by Saudi Vision 2030, the Journey Through Time Masterplan was launched in April last year to develop AlUla into a major global tourist attraction.
Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who is chairman of the RCU, described the plan as “a leap forward to sustainably and responsibly develop AlUla and share our cultural legacy with the world.”
The RCU had a similar vision in mind when it hired Midwam to transform the AlUla Dates Festival. Al-Muawad’s team created a traditional souq for the event, staffed by local families selling their own produce, along with an auction area for those selling dates in bulk. Entertainment was also laid on, including a parade, a storyteller, musicians and a children’s area.
“We had very positive feedback from the public,” Al-Muawad said. “It was a great opportunity for us, based in Jeddah and Riyadh, to interact with locals in AlUla.
“We got to meet the farmers, and we got to understand the stories behind the generations who have been inheriting this business of growing and selling dates. So, it was a very interesting journey for us as well.”
Al-Muawad believes cultural engagement of this kind is a powerful tool for enabling people from diverse backgrounds to build a better understanding of one another. Saudi Arabia and its people have always been pioneers of hospitality, he said, with a true love of welcoming visitors.
“This is something not only within Saudi Arabia,” he added. “It has been a feature within Arabs for quite a long time. When we used to be in the middle of the desert, on camels and in tents, we always had visitors and it was a big thing — and it still is.
“So, it’s important that, within AlUla, when we give the opportunity for people to engage with citizens and locals, they get to understand how kind they are and how interested they are in the field of agriculture and how they have been inheriting it for generations.
“Once you learn about that, you learn more about this culture and understand the importance and significance within Saudi Arabia itself.”
Tuwaiq Mountains: The most popular sightseeing spot an hour away from Riyadh
The Edge of the World, which offers an astonishingly dramatic view, is located at the end of a windy desert path that continues along the ridge of this escarpment
Updated 26 January 2022
Abdullah Al Rushud
RIYADH: The Tuwaiq Mountains, which are said to be familiar to every citizen of Saudi Arabia, are among the most fascinating mountain ranges in the world.
This mountain range is a narrow escarpment that cuts through the plateau of Nejd in central Arabia, running from the southern border of Al-Qasim in the north to the northern edge of the Empty Quarter desert near Wadi ad-Dawasir in the south. It is located approximately 120km from the capital, with the trip taking about an hour and a half by car.
Given that this spot is particularly popular among adventurers and tourists, Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman compared the disposition of the Saudi Arabian people to the Tuwaiq Mountains during his speech at the Future Investment Initiative Conference.
The Edge of the World, which offers an astonishingly dramatic view, is located at the end of a windy desert path that continues along the ridge of this escarpment.
Tuwaiq is the diminutive form of the term for collar, and the Tuwaiq Mountains were given this name because they are shaped like a 800km-long cordon that surrounds the Riyadh Region.
Visitors who come to the Tuwaiq Mountains for hiking can take various routes to reach the summit. Since the topography features sharp inclines, while the path is made of loose gravel, there is a need to climb steep slopes, and comfortable walking shoes are recommended.
You can enjoy seeing camels and ancient ruins along the riverbed cutting through the valley below, as well as fossils that are a relic from back when this area used to be on the sea floor.
It usually takes 15 to 30 minutes to reach the edge of the cliff, but there are many places along the way where you can stop to enjoy the views.
Since the gates to go outside close at 6 PM, you must make sure to give yourself enough time for the way back, unless you are planning to camp overnight in the Acacia Valley.
Because you will need a high-sensitivity GPS receiver and a sports utility vehicle to access areas where you can enjoy the distinctive sunset and night sky that is full of stars, it would be ideal to join a group of multiple people traveling by car.
* This story originally appeared on arabnews.jp, read it here.