What’s on in December as Saudi Arabia’s busy cultural season kicks off

What’s on in December as Saudi Arabia’s busy cultural season kicks off
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Fabric artworks by Piyarat Piyapongwiwat. (Misk Art Institute)
What’s on in December as Saudi Arabia’s busy cultural season kicks off
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Ayman Yossri Daydban, Tree House, 2019 (Misk Art Institute)
What’s on in December as Saudi Arabia’s busy cultural season kicks off
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Xu Bing. Background story - Streams and Mountains Without End. 2013. An artwork that will be exhibited in the upcoming Ad-Diriyah Biennale. (Misk Art Institute)
What’s on in December as Saudi Arabia’s busy cultural season kicks off
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Dana Awartani, Standing on the Ruins of Aleppo, 2021 (Misk Art Institute)
What’s on in December as Saudi Arabia’s busy cultural season kicks off
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Filwa Nazer, The Other Is Another Body 2, 2019  (Misk Art Institute)
What’s on in December as Saudi Arabia’s busy cultural season kicks off
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Filwa Nazer, The Other Is Another Body 2, 2019 (Misk Art Institute)
What’s on in December as Saudi Arabia’s busy cultural season kicks off
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Maha Malluh (Misk Art Institute)
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Manal AlDowayan, I am Here, 2016 (Misk Art Institute)
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Sacha Craddock, Curator of Here, Now (Misk Art Institute)
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Sami Ali AlHossein, Waiting, 2001 (Misk Art Institute)
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Sami Ali AlHossien, Crossing, 2018 (Misk Art Institute)
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Sheila Hicks, Palm, 1984-1985 (Misk Art Institute)
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Sheila Hicks, Struggle to Surface, 2016 (Misk Art Institute)
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Vasudevan Akkitham, Land Mine, 2012 (Misk Art Institute)
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Updated 09 December 2021

What’s on in December as Saudi Arabia’s busy cultural season kicks off

What’s on in December as Saudi Arabia’s busy cultural season kicks off
  • First up will be Misk Art Week, annual weeklong program to be held at the Prince Faisal bin Fahd Arts Hall in Riyadh
  • Diriyah Contemporary Art Biennale is probably the biggest attraction of the Kingdom’s upcoming cultural season

DUBAI: In common with other parts of the world, art, culture, and entertainment took a back seat in Saudi Arabia during the worst phase of the COVID-19 pandemic.

But now, with infection rates under control in the Kingdom thanks to a successful immunization campaign, a two-year period of event closures and cancellations has finally ended.

Take December, which promises to be an especially action-packed month in the Saudi cultural calendar, with events running the gamut from in-person exhibitions and concerts to grand openings, many of which had been rescheduled since the onset of the pandemic.




The exterior of Hayy Jameel, Art Jameel’s new center in Jeddah. (Supplied)


First up will be Misk Art Week, opening at the Prince Faisal bin Fahd Arts Hall in Riyadh on Dec. 1. This annual weeklong program of exhibitions is being staged by the Misk Art Institute, operating under the auspices of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

Then comes the first edition of Riyadh Art, billed as the largest public civic arts initiative of its kind in the world. Running from Dec. 5 to 8, it will feature 12 programs launched by the Royal Commission for Riyadh City to transform the Saudi capital into “a gallery without walls.”

Meanwhile, over in the Red Sea coastal city of Jeddah, the Jameel Art Center is scheduled to open its long-awaited, multidisciplinary arts complex, Hayy Jameel, on Dec. 6.

Also coming to Jeddah in December is the annual Red Sea Film Festival. The Dec. 6 to 15 event, first launched in 2019, prides itself on featuring emerging talents from Saudi Arabia, the Arab region, and the developing world.
 




Aya Albakree is the CEO of the Thunaiyat Ad-Diriyah Foundation. (Supplied)

Then, to crown it all, the Diriyah Contemporary Art Biennale opens on Dec. 11 in the new JAX district of Diriyah, home to the UNESCO World Heritage Site At-Turaif, the first capital of the House of Saud dynasty founded in the 15th century. The event — Saudi Arabia’s first — will run until March 11.

Culture is an integral part of the Saudi Vision 2030 reform plan, launched five years ago to diversify the Kingdom’s economy away from oil as well as to embrace sectors such as tourism, technology and the creative industries.

Philip Tinari, director and chief executive officer of the Beijing-based UCCA Center for Contemporary Art and the lead curator behind the Diriyah biennale, told Arab News: “This is an art scene on the brink of greatly increased prominence and much of that has to do with government initiatives at all kinds of levels.

“Another big part of it has to do with this generation of artists who, maybe before these changes, were living abroad and have now decided to move home where they are finding new vectors of support.”
 




An installation by Lowrence Lek, who will feature at the Diriyah art biennale. (Supplied)

Before the COVID-19 outbreak morphed into a pandemic in early 2020, Saudi Arabia was gearing up to become a global destination for the arts.

Seasonal festivals were already popping up throughout the country and the ancient northwestern city of AlUla was staging a variety of concerts, conferences, and open-air exhibitions.

The cultural explosion was triggered partly by the Kingdom’s decision to open up to foreign tourists in September 2019 with a new electronic visa scheme. However, as the health crisis went global a few months later, the country was forced to close its doors once again.

Now that international travel has resumed with COVID-19 protocols in place, the cultural floodgates are open once more and visitors to the Kingdom are spoilt for choice.

FASTFACTS

• The Diriyah Contemporary Art Biennale is the biggest attraction of Riyadh’s crowded cultural season.

• Hayy Jameel, designed by architectural studio waiwai, is Art Jameel’s new dedicated home for the arts in Jeddah.

Hayy Jameel is among the most hotly anticipated openings of the year. Designed by the multi-award-winning architectural studio waiwai, Art Jameel’s new dedicated home for the arts in Jeddah has been billed as a dynamic, creative hub for the community.

Antonia Carver, director of Art Jameel, told Arab News: “Hayy Jameel has been in the planning for more than 20 years, but it couldn’t have come to fruition at a timelier moment.

“The launch of our creative neighborhood accompanies an incredibly exciting calendar of events. The opening season opens to the public from Dec. 6 and unfolds through the spring, as cultural partners launch their spaces and we open the indie Hayy Cinema, making the complex Jeddah’s true home for the arts.”

In any event, the creative arts environment in Saudi Arabia is maturing fast, boosting demand for dedicated spaces for exhibitions, screenings and performances.

Carver said: “It needs independent, community-oriented endeavors working alongside the larger-scale government-led initiatives.
 




At-Turaif in Diriyah will host part of the Diriyah art biennale. (Supplied)

“The Ministry of Culture and other government entities are actively encouraging the not-for-profit sector and organizations like Art Jameel, given our mandate to give back to Saudi and support artists and nurture creative communities.

“To balance out the current breakneck pace of development, and demands on Saudi artists, we’re also aiming to foreground opportunities to develop long-term research, ideas, and skills; to explore and document local histories; develop contextual learning resources in Arabic; and to cross-pollinate the various creative art forms, bringing together visual arts, film, performance, architecture, design, and more.”

While Jeddah positions itself as one of the region’s foremost cultural destinations, Riyadh refuses to be outdone. First up in the Saudi capital’s cultural calendar is Misk Art Week.

Reem Al-Sultan, CEO of Misk Art Institute, told Arab News: “The fifth edition of Misk Art Week unites emerging and established artists in Saudi Arabia and across the globe with experts in critical and cultural discourse.

“Misk Art Institute offers an insightful array of multidisciplinary practices and international perspectives, providing a unique, educational experience to both the participating creatives and to the public engaging with these compelling conversations.”

Opening just a few days later will be Riyadh Art, staged by the Royal Commission for Riyadh City, of which the Tuwaiq International Sculpture Symposium is part. The program includes an awards ceremony and will convene 20 sculptors from Saudi Arabia, the Arab region, and around the world.

Khalid Al-Hazzani, an architect and the RCRC’s director of projects, told Arab News: “Riyadh Art continues to transform the city into a gallery without walls with the launch of the Tuwaiq International Sculpture Symposium, its second initiative.
 




Philip Tinari, director of the Beijing-based UCCA Center for Contemporary Art and the lead curator of the Diriyah art biennale. (Supplied)

“As art and culture reflect the spirit of a city, we look forward to contributing to Riyadh’s vibrant art season this December and offering a platform for cross-cultural dialogue and exchange.”

The Riyadh Art Project is just one of the city’s four mega-projects launched by King Salman on March 19, 2019. Dubbed a milestone in Riyadh’s mission to become one of the world’s most livable cities, the initiative will involve the installation of more than 1,000 artworks across the metropolis.

The Diriyah biennale is undoubtedly the biggest attraction of the crowded cultural season. Developed by a team of international curators led by Tinari, the event will feature works by around 70 artists examining the theme, “Feeling the Stones.”

The biennial event will alternate each year between a contemporary art and an Islamic art exhibition under the auspices of the Diriyah Foundation, chaired by Prince Badr Al-Saud.

“I think the Diriyah biennale will consolidate much of the progress that has been made,” Tinari said, referring to Saudi Arabia’s cultural awakening.

“What is really special about it is the scale — spread across 12,000 square meters of newly converted warehouse space that will be dedicated to this event moving forward.

“I hope that the Diriyah biennale will become a benchmark for the scene more generally and that other kinds of art events will congregate around it.”

Twitter: @rebeccaaproctor


King Salman Global Academy for Arabic Language implements project to strengthen language policies

King Salman Global Academy for Arabic Language implements project to strengthen language policies
Updated 52 min 17 sec ago

King Salman Global Academy for Arabic Language implements project to strengthen language policies

King Salman Global Academy for Arabic Language implements project to strengthen language policies
  • The project aims to train more than 1,000 employees in 20 ministries and government agencies, through 40 training courses

RIYADH: The King Salman Global Academy for Arabic Language has implemented a draft language policy guide for Saudi government institutions.
The move aims to activate decisions related to the language within government bodies, and to develop awareness among workers of the importance of linguistics and its connection to decisions and regulations at various levels.
It also aims to provide procedural steps and an executive working guide that preserves the Arabic language’s position in government institutions, the academy said in a statement.
The project aligns with the academy’s strategic goals, preserving the integrity of Arabic and supporting it verbally and in writing, and developing policies, strategies, plans and programs.
It includes a review of the Saudi language policy, based on various regulations and legislation, and also includes an executive guide for language editing in government institutions.
The project is one of the initiatives of the Human Capacity Development Program, one of the programs of Vision 2030, and aims to train more than a thousand employees in 20 ministries and government agencies, through 40 training courses, focused on two main topics: Writing skills for administrators and the basic rules of Arabic writing.
The two topics were chosen based on a study of specific needs in functional language situations.
The first training courses for the project have already begun, and several were held in coordination with the ministries of culture, education, and Islamic affairs. Courses last for two days, with an average of eight training hours.


Investor interest in Saudi hotel sector is growing, so why are there so few rooms outside cities?

 According to Thamer Alrajeeb, the cornerstone of the development of hotel investment in Saudi Arabia’s various regions lies in facilitating the financing process for investors in the sector. (Supplied)
According to Thamer Alrajeeb, the cornerstone of the development of hotel investment in Saudi Arabia’s various regions lies in facilitating the financing process for investors in the sector. (Supplied)
Updated 16 January 2022

Investor interest in Saudi hotel sector is growing, so why are there so few rooms outside cities?

 According to Thamer Alrajeeb, the cornerstone of the development of hotel investment in Saudi Arabia’s various regions lies in facilitating the financing process for investors in the sector. (Supplied)
  • Hotel industry experts shed light on planning strategies, expansion portfolios and other challenges in the sector

RIYADH: In recent years, there has been a remarkable increase in the number of businesses whose owners are interested in investing in the hotel sector in Saudi Arabia. Yet at the same time, many observers continue to wonder why there are still so few hotels outside of the Kingdom’s major cities.

Amir Lababedi, Hilton’s managing director of development in the Middle East and North Africa, said: “Saudi Arabia represents our largest development pipeline in the Middle East, with plans to expand our presence to more than 75 hotels in the coming years.
“We plan to expand in locations across major primary and secondary cities across Saudi Arabia. We see potential for our mid-market Hampton by Hilton and Hilton Garden Inn brands, as well as for DoubleTree by Hilton and our lifestyle brand, Canopy by Hilton.”
Meanwhile, Radisson Hotel Group announced this week that it plans to expand its operations in Saudi Arabia and increase its investment portfolio in the Middle East to approximately half of its total investments by 2026.

There is a big demand for hotels classified as three or four stars. The local population, as well as visitors — pilgrims, tourists, and businessmen — prefers three- or four-star hotels as these are available all around and are very affordable for the general public. Commercially, their operating cost is lower and thus they generate more revenue than a five-star hotel.

Saleh Al-Habib, Executive director, Jiwar Real Estate Development

According to Saudi Minister of Tourism Ahmed Al-Khateeb: “Radisson Hotel Group’s commitment to developing new hotels in the Kingdom and opening a regional office in Riyadh is an effective contribution to strengthening the Kingdom’s steps to achieve its goal of receiving 100 million visitors by 2030.”
Mahmoud Al-Saeed, the general manager of Pereira Resorts in the Eastern Province, which is managed by Boudl Hotels and Resorts, said the company aims to cater to all sections of society.
“Given that a large segment of society prefers three-star hotels for their quality and reasonable prices, the company has created a chain of Aber hotels,” he said. “It launched the brand in 2018 to meet the needs of many with a group of modern hotels, in terms of design and concept, at affordable prices while ensuring high quality and professionalism in providing services.”

Dr. Saleh Al-Habib, executive director of Jiwar Real Estate Development

The three-star Aber hotels are “situated between hotel apartments and four-star hotels,” according to Al-Saeed. “The economic concept that Boudl is keen to present with this group of hotels has become an important matter for many travelers and those looking for a change in the usual lifestyle,” he added.
Boudl also owns the four-star Pereira hotels and the five-star Narcissus. Al-Saeed said the company has plans for expansion in major cities, and to increase the number of three-star hotels in a number of Saudi cities. These hotels are experiencing an influx of tourists from inside and outside the country, he added.
Al-Saeed, who has worked in the industry for nearly two decades, said that hotels currently face a number of challenges, particularly “in light of the precautions against COVID-19. These include the postponement of many events which usually take place in hotels and the cancellation of reservations for halls used for celebrations or official meetings, due to the coronavirus and its accompanying problems.”
He added that the authorities in Saudi Arabia are aware of the issues and are working to develop the hotel sector.

 Fadil Munakeal, manager of Jabal Omar Jumeirah in Makkah

Thamer Alrajeeb, a former member of the Riyadh Chamber of Commerce and Industry’s Tourism Accommodation Committee, said investment in the tourism sector in major cities is encouraging, particularly in Riyadh in support of the Saudi Entertainment Authority initiatives. It is not profitable in other cities, however, where operations are seasonal during a period of a few months each year, usually coinciding with school holidays or good weather.
“For the rest of the year, operation is a loss for the investor,” he said.

FASTFACT

Radisson Hotel Group announced this week that it plans to expand its operations in Saudi Arabia and increase its investment portfolio in the Middle East to approximately half of its total investments by 2026.

Alrajeeb described investing in hotels other than five-star establishments as “feasible.” He said the lower operational costs and prices are affordable to a wider range of guests but added that “many of the Ministry of Tourism’s requirements burden investors.”
He said it is possible to meet the needs of visitors with average levels of financial solvency, particularly outside the three cities of Riyadh, Jeddah, and Dammam. This can be done by investing in hotel suites in particular, which are characterized by low startup costs, “allowing for their rental prices to be more commensurate with the solvency of a wide range of travelers.”
The cornerstone of the development of hotel investment in Saudi Arabia’s various regions lies in facilitating the financing process for investors in the sector while fulfilling the Ministry of Tourism’s requirements, Alrajeeb said, adding that the focus should be on efforts that contribute to raising quality in the sector and meeting the needs of customers.
Fadil Munakeal, manager of the Jabal Omar Jumeirah hotel in Makkah, stressed the importance of providing products and services that correspond to a hotel’s star rating, which he said reflects positively on investment in the sector. He urged the Ministry of Tourism to continue its supervision and follow up efforts to achieve reliability in the sector and improve the image and perception of all types of hotels.
Munakeal, who is also a member of the Hotels Committee of the Makkah Chamber of Commerce and Industry, urged the owners of less expensive establishments, particularly in the three-star and lower categories, to invest in modern marketing techniques and direct them at particular target groups. They must also develop products and services that meet the needs of these target audiences, he added.
He said many domestic tourists, particularly families, prefer to stay in hotel apartments because they have a negative perception of some hotels with fewer than four stars.
Saleh Al-Habib, executive director of Jiwar Real Estate Development, said: “There is a big demand for hotels classified as three or four stars. The local population, as well as visitors — pilgrims, tourists, and businessmen — prefers three- or four-star hotels as these are available all around and are very affordable for the general public.
“Commercially, their operating cost is lower and thus they generate more revenue than a five-star hotel.
“This is a popular choice for almost all classes of society, especially the middle and lower-middle classes. The availability of such hotels and semi-luxurious apartments is numerous. With affordable tariffs, they meet the needs of families, business travelers, as well as those seeking leisure.”
Al-Habib, who is also a member of the Saudi Association for Tourist Accommodation Facilities, said that both locals and expatriates are interested in establishing hotels and furnished apartments in areas such as Abha, Al-Baha, Tabuk, Hafar Al-Batin, Al-Majma’ah and Al-Kharj.
“These interested entrepreneurs are working closely with the National Tourism Fund,” he added.


Saudi Arabia’s KAUST launches Science Festival at Thuwal Beach

Al-Khawarizmi Building in the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology campus, Thuwal, Saudi Arabia. (Shutterstock)
Al-Khawarizmi Building in the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology campus, Thuwal, Saudi Arabia. (Shutterstock)
Updated 17 January 2022

Saudi Arabia’s KAUST launches Science Festival at Thuwal Beach

Al-Khawarizmi Building in the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology campus, Thuwal, Saudi Arabia. (Shutterstock)
  • The festival includes an exhibition on the Red Sea coast to preview the area’s project to change the rules of sustainable tourism

JEDDAH: King Abdullah University of Science and Technology has launched its annual Science Festival for 2022, which will be held Jan. 20-21.

The festival, which will be held at Thuwal Beach in Jeddah, aims to inspire young talents in Saudi Arabia, the Middle East and North Africa region.

KAUST President Tony Chan said that the world is moving towards innovation as a basis for discovery and invention, and that there is an urgent need for young people to confront the most essential problems in global societies and participate in solving them.

He pointed out that KAUST has become prominent in science and technology in Saudi Arabia, quickly becoming an international platform to inspire and nurture young scientific minds to unleash the power of science and achieve the UN’s sustainable development goals.

“This is a very important occasion in the history of our events, as we are moving the site for the first time outside the walls of KAUST and expanding the program of events to allow the potential of our nation’s youth to move towards great scientific horizons and put Saudi Arabia on the map of innovation, technology and youth-led initiatives,” he said.

Chan stated that this year’s festival will feature a schedule including a variety of science fairs, daily evening science shows, science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics challenges for children, and science projects presented by KAUST students.

The festival also includes an exhibition on the Red Sea coast to preview the area’s project to change the rules of sustainable tourism.

The exhibition will feature whale sharks, shura trees, coral reefs, and marine simulation ponds. Other events will showcase some of the components currently available at KAUST, including the Core Lab, the Start-Up fair, the Museum of Failed Scientific Attempts, and interactive robots that will roam throughout the site.

Food and entertainment kiosks will be available throughout the festival period.

 


Saudi finance minister meets top EU official in Riyadh

Mohammed Al-Jadaan meets with Johannes Hahn in Riyadh. (Supplied)
Mohammed Al-Jadaan meets with Johannes Hahn in Riyadh. (Supplied)
Updated 17 January 2022

Saudi finance minister meets top EU official in Riyadh

Mohammed Al-Jadaan meets with Johannes Hahn in Riyadh. (Supplied)
  • They discussed enhancing financial cooperation between Saudi Arabia and the EU

RIYADH: Saudi Finance Minister Mohammed Al-Jadaan met European Commissioner for Budget and Administration Johannes Hahn at the ministry’s headquarters in Riyadh on Sunday.
During the meeting, they discussed enhancing financial cooperation between Saudi Arabia and the European Commission and the EU’s economic recovery plans and available investment opportunities.
The meeting was attended by a number of senior officials from the Ministry of Finance and the European Commission.

 


Saudi Arabia rolls out aid in Yemen, Afghanistan

The center distributed on Saturday 17 tons of aid. (SPA)
The center distributed on Saturday 17 tons of aid. (SPA)
Updated 17 January 2022

Saudi Arabia rolls out aid in Yemen, Afghanistan

The center distributed on Saturday 17 tons of aid. (SPA)
  • The project aims to distribute about 192,000 food baskets weighing more than 20,000 tons to impoverished families across 15 Yemeni governorates

HAJJAH: King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Center mobile medical clinics have continued providing treatment services at the Waalan camp for displaced people in Yemen’s Hajjah Governorate.

In one week, clinics received 136 people with various health conditions. They were provided with medical services.

KSrelief also distributed more than 63 tons of food baskets in the Al-Mudhaffar district of Taiz Governorate, helping 4,039 people.

The project aims to distribute about 192,000 food baskets weighing more than 20,000 tons to impoverished families across 15 Yemeni governorates.

KSRelief is also distributing food and provide shelter to needy families in Afghanistan as part of the Saudi relief airlift dispatched by the center to support the Afghan people.

The center distributed on Saturday 17 tons of aid. It included 250 food baskets, 500 flour bags, 250 winter bags and 250 blankets in the Qala-e-Fathullah district of Kabul, helping 250 families.