Smart robot to distribute Zamzam water

The robot will be able to distribute 30 bottles per round, with each round lasting for 10 minutes. (SPA)
The robot will be able to distribute 30 bottles per round, with each round lasting for 10 minutes. (SPA)
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Updated 11 January 2022

Smart robot to distribute Zamzam water

The robot will be able to distribute 30 bottles per round, with each round lasting for 10 minutes. (SPA)
  • The Presidency of the Two Holy Mosques has launched a robot for delivering Zamzam water

JEDDAH: Badr Al-Luqmani, deputy head of the Zamzam Watering Department for services and field affairs, said that the robot’s technology would allow it to distribute Zamzam water bottles without human intervention, in order to respect precautionary measures against COVID-19 whilst utilizing artificial intelligence in the service of God.

Al-Luqmani said the robot will be able to distribute 30 bottles per round, with each round lasting for 10 minutes, noting that it operates for eight hours at a time and takes 20 seconds to load the Zamzam water bottles. He added that it would not collide with or obstruct people, and had received many certificates of approval including the European CS certificate.

“Work is underway to operate the robot on a wide scale inside the Grand Mosque to also handle bags and portable cylinders,” he said, noting that “we seek to provide the highest levels of security and quality for the visitors of the Grand Mosque.”

 


Special fun-filled activities lined up for young Jeddah Season visitors

The Blippi- branded activity corner allows kids to learn and explore new concepts followed by a photo session. (Supplied)
The Blippi- branded activity corner allows kids to learn and explore new concepts followed by a photo session. (Supplied)
Updated 12 sec ago

Special fun-filled activities lined up for young Jeddah Season visitors

The Blippi- branded activity corner allows kids to learn and explore new concepts followed by a photo session. (Supplied)
  • Little Village zones feature favorite characters Peppa Pig, Blippi, L.O.L Surprise!

JEDDAH: A fun-filled agenda awaits children at the Jeddah Pier amusement park, one of the entertainment attractions at this year’s Jeddah Season festival of activities.

The specially created Little Village large play area offers games and events for youngsters through to June 28 in three activity zones featuring children’s characters Peppa Pig, Blippi, and L.O.L Surprise!

The Blippi-branded activity corner allows kids to learn and explore new concepts, and the iconic Blippi appeared for a soft opening of the Little Village during which visitors took part in a meet and greet, followed by a photo session.

The L.O.L Surprise! activity corner gives girls the opportunity to wear their favorite dresses, enjoy hair and makeup sessions, and try out cooking, singing, and dancing, and special fashion shows let little fashionistas take a ramp walk.

Meanwhile, the Peppa Pig activity corner has a range of activities including painting classes and the chance to play in the cartoon character’s grocery store.

Fadi Yousuf, site manager of Hwadi Events, Jeddah Pier’s organizing company, said: “Packed with wonderful and imaginative activities, we aim to create memories that will turn the Jeddah Season into a world of unforgettable stories for children.

HIGHLIGHTS

• The specially created Little Village large play area offers games and events for youngsters through to June 28 in three activity zones featuring children’s characters Peppa Pig, Blippi, and L.O.L Surprise!

• Jeddah Pier, open daily from 5 p.m. to 2 a.m., offers 39 entertainment attractions, seven diverse international experiences, and a roller coaster, among a host of other events. And musical parades including acrobats, and people dressed as trees, zombies, and track-suited monkeys are an integral part of the zone’s events.

“With the help of Spacetoon, we were delighted to bring the much-loved character Blippi to Jeddah and receive an amazing response from the fans.

“Apart from enjoying the activities, kids will be able to purchase Blippi, L.O.L Surprise!, and Peppa Pig products onsite.”

Jeddah Pier, open daily from 5 p.m. to 2 a.m., offers 39 entertainment attractions, seven diverse international experiences, and a roller coaster, among a host of other events.

And musical parades including acrobats, and people dressed as trees, zombies, and track-suited monkeys are an integral part of the zone’s events.

Jeddah Season will also be hosting a toy festival running until May 23 at Jeddah Superdome, the world’s largest geodesic dome without pillars, and kids who missed meeting Blippi at Jeddah Pier will get another chance at the festival.

More than 40 international toy brands are attending the event that will include stands and exhibitions, live shows, and performances of the Smurfs, Sonic, Peppa Pig, and other character favorites.

The annual Jeddah Season festival aims to highlight the city’s rich heritage and culture through a total of 2,800 activities in nine zones over the event period.

Being held under the slogan, Our Lovely Days, the second Jeddah Season follows on from the success of Riyadh Season that recorded more than 15 million visits over five months.

The festival season offers 70 interactive experiences, more than 60 recreational activities, seven Arab and two international plays, marine events, a circus, four international exhibitions, and a host of other services for families.


Saudi artists shed light on the resurgence of analog photography

Analog photography is becoming more and more popular amongst Saudi and regional photographers. (Supplied)
Analog photography is becoming more and more popular amongst Saudi and regional photographers. (Supplied)
Updated 3 min 44 sec ago

Saudi artists shed light on the resurgence of analog photography

Analog photography is becoming more and more popular amongst Saudi and regional photographers. (Supplied)
  • While analog photography is becoming more and more popular amongst Saudi and regional photographers, there is still a shortage of labs and studios accessible to the public

RIYADH: At a time when one might view analog photography as an outdated craft, it is, in fact, becoming increasingly popular across the world, including in Saudi Arabia.

“Photos are the closest humanity has gotten to time travel,” said photographer Abdullah Al-Azzaz, whose has followed in the footsteps of his father, Saleh, who was also a photographer.

The newly established Bayt Al-Malaz — a creative space in the heart of Riyadh’s Malaz District — recently hosted an intriguing conversation about the significance and popularity of analog photography between Al-Azzaz and Princess Reem Al-Faisal, moderated by Sarah Assiri. The event was part of Bayt Al-Malaz’s “Moflmeen” discussion series.

HIGHLIGHT

While analog photography is becoming more and more popular amongst Saudi and regional photographers, there is still a shortage of labs and studios accessible to the public. In Riyadh, the number of studios where film can be developed has fallen from four to just a single space — Haitham Studios. This is largely due to the financial cost of establishing such a studio and the turnaround time for film development.

The two photographers addressed the issue of why — when digital cameras are so ubiquitous and easy to use — analog is making a comeback.

“My photography revolves around permanence, praise, eternality, and the spiritual side of us. The individual is a soul and not a body,” said Al-Faisal. “For us, film represents the soul. We are all born with natural instincts, and film, in its natural form, is untouched. It represents the soul that transforms after birth in dealing with life, accumulations, and memories — bad and good. It’s a way of expressing humanity.”

Al-Azzaz said that, for him, it was more about the technique than the philosophy of it all. “The experience of developing in a darkroom is so enriching. It separates you from the world, totally quiet and dark. It’s just you and the photo. It allows you to reflect on the photo more and gives you more freedom in reimagining it,” he said.

Photo manipulation, he explained, is not exclusive to digital photography. Before the existence of Photoshop, images could be manipulated in the darkroom using retouching techniques and tools, including cropping, brushing, dodging, burning and masking.

To really understand the true art of photography, some would argue, it is important to learn its history. Digital photography is not a replacement for film, but another medium entirely. “In any art, not just photography, we have to have a cultural, historical, and technical awareness… we are all an accumulation,” said Al-Faisal. “We are a product of our society and a product of our time. We cannot claim we aren’t affected [by these things]. Whoever claims otherwise is delusional.”

While analog photography is becoming more and more popular amongst Saudi and regional photographers, there is still a shortage of labs and studios accessible to the public. In Riyadh, the number of studios where film can be developed has fallen from four to just a single space — Haitham Studios. This is largely due to the financial cost of establishing such a studio and the turnaround time for film development.

The founder of the studio, Haitham Al-Sharif, explained the immersive nature of analog photography. “I chose film photography because I hated having no connection with my photos. With film photography, I take a max of 40 photos in a session. I can’t see them; I have to live in the moment, I have to listen and smell the streets, I have to talk to my subject if I’m taking their portraits, I have to listen to the music if I’m at a concert,” he told Arab News. “To me, that is art. That is the beauty of film.”

The lengthy process involved in analog photography can be intimidating and off-putting to amateur photographers. That’s why the development of the first digital camera in 1975 was so groundbreaking. Now, in an economy driven by content creation and visual media, content production is easier — and quicker — than ever before. But to some, the key difference lies in the creative experience itself. Some analog photographers suggest it is a way to truly connect with the moment, even if the results are not always what society deems ‘Insta-worthy.’

“When you can’t see the photo you aren’t forced to change it to make it the same as what the media thinks is good or what a magazine thinks is good. Film forces you to be patient and slow. It forces you to live in the (moment),” said Al-Sharif. “As a film photographer, you live in front of the lens as much as at the back of the lens. You become more connected to what you are photographing.”


Europe keen to advance level of partnership with Saudi Arabia: Envoy

EU Ambassador to Saudi Arabia Patrick Simonnet with delegates at the Europe Day reception in Riyadh. (Supplied)
EU Ambassador to Saudi Arabia Patrick Simonnet with delegates at the Europe Day reception in Riyadh. (Supplied)
Updated 13 min 9 sec ago

Europe keen to advance level of partnership with Saudi Arabia: Envoy

EU Ambassador to Saudi Arabia Patrick Simonnet with delegates at the Europe Day reception in Riyadh. (Supplied)
  • EU unveils first long-term strategy to shape future Gulf ties

RIYADH: The European Union’s Ambassador to Saudi Arabia Patrick Simonnet confirmed on Friday that the bloc is keen to boost its partnership with the Kingdom.

The EU unveiled its first long-term strategy to shape future Gulf ties on Wednesday, when the High Representative and the European Commission adopted a joint communication — “Strategic Partnership with the Gulf.”

EU ambassador to Saudi Arabia Patrick Simonnet cutting cake on Europe Day at Cultural Palace, in DQ Riyadh. (Supplied)

“At a time of insecurity and significant challenges to the rules-based international order, aggravated by Russia’s war on Ukraine, the European Union and Gulf countries stand to gain from a stronger and more strategic partnership stretching over a number of key areas. We need to work more closely together on stability in the Gulf and the Middle East, on global security threats, energy security, climate change and the green transition, digitalization, trade and investment. We also need to strengthen contacts between students, researchers, businesses and citizens,” Josep Borrell, the EU’s foreign policy chief, said as he unveiled the plan.

The long-term strategy — the first of its kind between the two groups — will be pivotal to EU- GCC relations. We need each other. The EU and the GCC have a lot to gain in reinforcing the partnership.

Patrick Simonnet, EU ambassador to Saudi Arabia

In an exclusive interview with Arab News, Simonnet said: “The long-term strategy — the first of its kind between the two groups — will be pivotal to EU-GCC relations. We need each other. The EU and the GCC have a lot to gain in reinforcing the partnership. That’s what we felt in different visits over the last 12 months. There was a realization that we had a common interest in stepping up our partnership. It’s about the economy, how we can better support our respective strategies, Saudi Vision 2030, and EU Green Deal.

“We have been importing fossil fuel from Saudi Arabia for a long time. We are going to continue, but we would like to switch to a more sustainable consumption of renewable energy. We know that the Gulf has enormous potential to export renewable energies, including green hydrogen. Saudi Arabia has made huge investments and is keen to be a global supplier of hydrogen, and it would be very useful for us to import this green hydrogen to achieve our own climate change targets. It would also be good for the Kingdom, for its own climate change targets. So there’s a very good match that we can have between us,” he continued.

“We can work together on the regional crisis, there is a great deal of alignment between our views on the Middle East peace process, Yemen, Syria, Libya, Lebanon… The strategy proposes that we work even more closely together on regional stability issues. Security cooperation is also very important. We wanted to have a strategy which was more political, more security oriented. We are negotiating the JCPOA (the Iran nuclear agreement, formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action), and if we can have a positive outcome (there), we could build on that to hopefully contribute even more to stability and security in the Gulf,” said the EU envoy.

“We are the biggest provider of foreign direct investment here, and the GCC is the second-biggest trading partner for the EU, so we will look at how to re-engage on the free trade agreement (FTA),” Simonnet added.

The joint communication also aims to improve cooperation in higher education and culture. One of the goals is to attract more Saudi students to Europe and European students or teachers to the Kingdom, he explained.

Another goal, according to Simonnet, is “visa-free travel to Europe” for all countries. “We are very much aware that visa liberalization could help the exchanges between both sides,” he said.

He added: “I met Saudi travel bloggers a few days back. It was interesting to discuss all the hidden gems in Saudi Arabia in terms of tourism, the places where we could bring a lot more tourists, and the same thing in Europe — there are many more destinations in Europe that could be discovered by Saudi tourists, so visa liberalization is important.”

In future, according to the joint communication, there will be more regular meetings at ministerial levels between EU and GCC foreign ministers and ministers of energy.

“Europe is proposing to step up the game of relations,” said the envoy, adding that the EU will increase its diplomatic delegations in the region, expanding on its existing delegations in Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and Kuwait.
 


Saudi crown prince, France’s Macron discuss Ukraine war during call

Saudi crown prince, France’s Macron discuss Ukraine war during call
Updated 20 May 2022

Saudi crown prince, France’s Macron discuss Ukraine war during call

Saudi crown prince, France’s Macron discuss Ukraine war during call

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman on Friday held a phone call with French President Emmanuel Macron to discuss the repercussions of the Russia-Ukraine war.
Prince Mohammed discussed with Macron way to calm the tension, as well as ways of strengthening bilateral relations, the Elysee palace said.
More to follow...


Saudi Shoura delegation visits UK for first time in years to boost relations and investment

A Saudi Shoura Council delegation participated in an event hosted by the Arab British Chamber of Commerce in London. (AN Photo/H
A Saudi Shoura Council delegation participated in an event hosted by the Arab British Chamber of Commerce in London. (AN Photo/H
Updated 20 May 2022

Saudi Shoura delegation visits UK for first time in years to boost relations and investment

A Saudi Shoura Council delegation participated in an event hosted by the Arab British Chamber of Commerce in London. (AN Photo/H
  • The visit aims ‘to highlight the huge changes taking place in the Kingdom as part of Vision 2030, and the opportunities they bring,” said Ghazi Binzagr, who heads the delegation
  • During the week-long visit, Saudi delegates have met government ministers, representatives of the British Defense Committee, MPs and members of political subcommittees and business organizations

LONDON: A high-level delegation from Saudi Arabia’s Shoura Council is visiting the UK for the first time in years, to share the Kingdom’s latest development and investment plans, enhance relations and exchange expertise.

“Our visit (aims) to highlight the huge changes taking place in the Kingdom as part of Vision 2030, and the opportunities they bring, and also to underscore the importance and the significance of the umbrella strategic agreement between Saudi Arabia and the United Kingdom, with all the various areas that it intends to build,” Ghazi Binzagr, a member of the Shoura Council, told Arab News.

Binzagr, who is heading the delegation and is the chairman of the Shoura Council’s Saudi-British Parliamentary Friendship Committee, said an objective of the visit is to deepen and widen the bilateral relationship, specifically in the fields of investment and commerce, to provide more opportunities for British companies and organizations to participate in Vision 2030 initiatives.

“We are underscoring the importance of the Vision in bringing new directions to areas that are going to be important to both countries, things such as health, financial services, tourism, energy, culture, sports,” he said. “These are all new opportunities that we believe will be important for joint ventures to emerge (and) joint investments.”

He added that they also hope to gain from the “benefit of the many years of knowledge and expertise that British society has had in many of these areas, some of which are now new to the Kingdom.”

The members of the Saudi delegation, who arrived in the UK on Sunday, have held meetings with Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Kwasi Kwarteng and members of the British Defense Committee, along with MPs and members of various subcommittees during their week-long visit.

“In the area of defense, we explored the strong relationship that has always been there between Saudi Arabia and the UK, and dialogue over issues of mutual concern with the shared commitment to a stable region, and the importance of that for stable trade, investment and prosperity, not just for the region, but the globe at large,” Binzagr said.

He added that the “response has been great” and both sides agree on the need to increase the frequency of mutual visits because they recognize that such face-to-face meetings and engagement creates a form of bilateral friendship that is very difficult to develop without in-person exchanges. They are now discussing dates for a British parliamentary delegation to visit the Kingdom after the summer recess in the UK, with more to follow.

“We were able to learn more deeply about how the British Parliament works, and there is a keenness and eagerness from the British side to also learn about how the Shoura Council works and to see how both bodies can help enable and support the efforts of both governments, which are quite strong in strengthening their relationship with each other,” said Binzagr.

The visit has also included tours of the House of Commons and the House of Lords, in which the delegation observed parliamentary sessions. It also met former sports ministers Lord Moynihan and Tracey Crouch to learn about the sports ecosystem overseen by the UK parliament and how its best practices might be applied to the expanding sports sector in the Kingdom, Binzagr said.

On Tuesday delegates took part in a roundtable discussion, organized by the Arab British Chamber of Commerce, with British executives and investors during which they talked about the transformation of the Kingdom’s commercial environment and introduced the Invest in Saudi initiative launched by the Ministry of Investment.

“We both believe that these visits are vital, not just for our own individual understandings, but we both play a role in the oversight of the performance of the government, we can both … better follow the development of the components of the strategic agreement between both countries,” Binzagr said.

Another important development highlighted by the visit is the recent easing of visa requirements for travel between the two countries, which authorities say will contribute to the strengthening of the bilateral relationship.

Alia Aldahlawi, a member of the Shoura Council and the friendship committee, said it was important for the members of the Saudi delegation to learn about the nature of legislation within the British Parliament and that they had benefited from the meetings that have taken place. A common topic that was raised, she added, was the role of women in the Kingdom.

“We addressed the woman issue in several meetings, especially the empowerment of women and how women now have become engaged in the political decision making and in higher positions in Saudi Arabia, and also the increased participation of women in the labor market, because it’s one of the major objectives of Vision 2030,” Aldahlawi said.

The government and private sectors have been working to increase female participation in the labor force, she added, and already have not only achieved but surpassed the percentage targets set for 2030.

For example, 30 members of the 150-person Shoura Council — 20 percent — are women, she said, which is a larger proportion than in many other regional and international parliaments.

The empowerment of women in Saudi Arabia is a clear and obvious goal, Aldahlawi said, and the Kingdom has always offered equal opportunities in terms of education and scholarships to men and women. She herself obtained a doctorate from King’s College London many years ago, she added.

“We (women) are qualified to engage in our economy, we are human capital that is educated and have full experience,” she said.

“So this empowerment (leads to more) females in the labor market, in higher positions, and a lot of diverse types of job opportunities.”