Grammy-award winner Joshua Bell dazzles in first Saudi concert

Grammy-award winner Joshua Bell dazzles in first Saudi concert
Joshua Bell’s violin serenades the audience at Ithra’s Theater. (Yasir Alqunais)
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Updated 23 January 2022

Grammy-award winner Joshua Bell dazzles in first Saudi concert

Grammy-award winner Joshua Bell dazzles in first Saudi concert
  • Ithra hosted violist Bell alongside pianist Alessio Bax for 2 nights of classical music
  • “Music can bring us all together,” Bell told the crowd

DHAHRAN: On a chilly Dhahran night, Joshua Bell’s violin serenaded a full audience at Ithra’s Theater. Although everyone was wearing a mask, you could see excitement in their eyes.

“When I was growing up, Saudi Arabia was a very exotic place that was far away, and now I am here. Music made this happen. Music can bring us all together,” Bell told the crowd.

On plush red chairs, with social distancing stickers urging people to skip a seat, time stood still. The auditorium filled with the reverberations of strings and keys as US Grammy-award winner Joshua Bell took to the violin, with Italian classical pianist Alessio Bax playing in unison.




Joshua Bell’s violin serenades the audience at Ithra’s Theater. (Yasir Alqunais)

The violin and piano were in equal partnership; with the gentle stroking of violin strings and graceful glide of the piano, it pulled at our heartstrings. We each had the luxury to create our own individual interpretation as we collectively sat down and let the two instruments take us on a journey. We let our minds wander and stumble, and falter with the rhythm. Unlike a movie, we did not need to follow a plot or read subtitles — the concert provided a full journey through Europe without saying a single word. The pace went from fast to faster to slower at the end, because not only were Bell’s hands tired by then, but it helped ease us back into the pace of the current world.

The night started with arguably the most famous composer, Mozart, and then went on to Norwegian composer Edvard Grieg, one of the most prominent composers of the Romantic era. The sound was raw, passionate, and at times, sounded like the composer ripped his heart out with his bare hands. Bach, to me, was an unraveling love story. At one point, Bell took out a handkerchief from his pocket and wiped beads of sweat, then continued with a calmness only found in still water. The violin seemed to weep then sigh as it told a story of love from the depths of despair and purest of joy. I would argue that the almost two hours of music took the audience on an emotional ride, swinging between youthful wonder and deep melancholy.

The energy was palpable.




Joshua Bell’s violin serenades the audience at Ithra’s Theater. (Yasir Alqunais)

Dhahran resident Faris Mahdi works in finance during the day but dabbles in art at night. He said that before the COVID-19 pandemic shut everything down, he used to frequently travel to Europe to attend live opera and ballet, and was pleasantly surprised to see it offered in his own backyard.

“I’ve attended other concerts at Ithra, but this is so nice. I didn’t know Joshua Bell, but I saw a post on Instagram and did a search and decided, why not? This is the type of concert that I’d normally travel abroad for, but now I can take my own car and just come,” he told Arab News.

Mahdi was surprised to find such a good turnout at the concert. He said he understood if pop music brought in the crowds, but did not expect classical music to attract people.

“I like to listen to classical music. It seems that even the radio favors fast-paced music, but the ear sometimes needs to be cleansed with calm sounds. I prefer to listen to something gentle and, let’s say, elevated. Tonight’s event might open up people’s horizons and allow the audience to seek a different flavor of sound. I was honestly very surprised to see such a big audience tonight,” he said.

The tiny booklets marking the program were in such high demand — and will likely become valuable keepsakes from the two-day event — that only a handful of audience members got to take one home on closing night.




Joshua Bell’s violin serenades the audience at Ithra’s Theater. (Yasir Alqunais)

In that program guide, Majed Z. Samman, head of performing arts and cinema at Ithra, wrote: “As part of our commitment to cross-culture exchange, we are privileged to be able to present some of the world’s most acclaimed artists to perform live here in Saudi Arabia. On this occasion, we are proud to present our audience with an unforgettable musical performance by world renowned violinist, Joshua Bell.”

Lamees Saad Almesfer, a 17-year-old high school senior, decided to take a chance and attend the concert. “None of my sisters or brothers really appreciate classical music, so I decided to come alone,” she told Arab News.

“I tried to make a story out of the music while it was playing. The first piece that he played, Mozart’s sonata for violin and piano No. 32 in B-flat major, was like the piano and the violin were speaking with each other — like a conversation. He was just repeating whatever the violin was saying. Music is like this; it’s words conveyed in a way that is nonverbal,” Almesfer said.

While many famous pieces were played, some were lesser known to Almesfer, and she appreciated all of the hard work, dedication, and practice it took for the music to sound so crisp and clear.

“Two chords can make 64 moods. The minute Joshua Bell walked in, my eyes started to cry — but I held it together. Each composer has a piece of their soul in the pieces, and we got to listen. It was just mind blowing because I never expected this world-renowned violinist to just be here in Saudi Arabia. I’m in shock,” she said.


Saudi dialogue sessions to stimulate creativity and innovation in Hajj and Umrah

Saudi dialogue sessions to stimulate creativity and innovation in Hajj and Umrah
Updated 20 May 2022

Saudi dialogue sessions to stimulate creativity and innovation in Hajj and Umrah

Saudi dialogue sessions to stimulate creativity and innovation in Hajj and Umrah
  • Challenges faced by the Hajj and Umrah sector were discussed

MAKKAH: Saudi Arabia hosted a two-day session of virtual dialogue this week, aimed at “stimulating creativity and innovation in the field of Hajj and Umrah.”

The discussions addressed the challenges faced by the Hajj and Umrah sector, pioneering ideas in this field, and ways of promoting innovation within the sector.

Hisham Saeed, spokesman and undersecretary for Hajj and Umrah services at the Ministry of Hajj and Umrah, stressed that creativity and innovation are key pillars of Saudi Vision 2030.

“We aspire to impress the pilgrim throughout his journey, thanks to a creative and innovative work system in the field of Hajj and Umrah,” he said.

“If we want to innovate, we must have an ambitious vision founded on excellence and quality,” said Mohammed Saati, spokesman for the Hajj Smart Card Project. “The Ministry of Hajj and Umrah hopes to make the Hajj smart card a key tool in all pilgrims’ journey in the Kingdom.”

Dr. Naeem Al-Bihani, associate professor of entrepreneurship and head of business administration at Umm Al-Qura University, said the best ideas are generated in a stimulating culture and environment. “Innovation is not just about techniques and systems, it’s a way of life for individuals and institutions in all disciplines,” he noted.

Sami Sarhan, head of industrial partnerships at the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology, said it is vital to develop services provided to pilgrims from their arrival in the Kingdom until their safe return home.

Dr. Ammar Attar, CEO of Manaafi Consulting, stressed that a culture of innovation is essential for the Hajj and Umrah system.
 


Djibouti becomes 10th member of Digital Cooperation Organization

Djibouti becomes 10th member of Digital Cooperation Organization
Updated 20 May 2022

Djibouti becomes 10th member of Digital Cooperation Organization

Djibouti becomes 10th member of Digital Cooperation Organization
  • Saudi initiative aims to promote social prosperity through more inclusive participation and growth across the digital economy

RIYADH: Djibouti has officially joined the membership of the Digital Cooperation Organization, a Saudi initiative that brings together nations, businesses, civil society groups, academics, and R & D institutions to promote social prosperity through more inclusive participation and growth across the digital economy. 

Djibouti Ambassador to Saudi Arabia Dya-Eddine Said Bamakhrama signed the DCO’s founding charter in a ceremony organized at the embassy in Riyadh, and in the presence of the DCO’s secretary-general, Deemah Al-Yahya, and Omar Al-Nimr, director of governmental and international relations in the organization.

“I signed the foundation charter of the DCO for Djibouti to be a member of this new organization focusing on digital prosperity for all. Deemah Al Yahya, secretary-general of the DCO, was present during the signing at the Djibouti Embassy,” the ambassador tweeted on Wednesday.

With the signing of the charter, Djibouti becomes the 10th member country and the fourth in Africa to join the membership of the organization, which includes Saudi Arabia (the headquarters country), Jordan, Bahrain, Pakistan, Rwanda, Oman, Kuwait, Morocco and Nigeria.

HIGHLIGHT

Founded by Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Jordan, Kuwait and Pakistan, the Digital Cooperation Organization is driven by the vision of a digital future for all. It aims to empower women, youth and entrepreneurs, expanding the digital economy and advancing with innovation.

Morocco joined as the ninth member state of the DCO last month. The DCO was launched after Saudi Arabia’s G20 presidency at the G20 Summit in November 2020, where there was great focus on the digital economy, especially in education and health in response to the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Founded by Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Jordan, Kuwait and Pakistan, the DCO is driven by the vision of a digital future for all. It aims to empower women, youth and entrepreneurs, expanding the digital economy and advancing with innovation.

Bamakhrama told Arab News on Thursday: “The DCO is interested in digitization in the field of administration and the economy, and works with governments, civil society, international organizations and the private sector in promoting comprehensive digital transformation within member states by adopting initiatives focused on the digital economy and supporting women, youth and entrepreneurs in this field.”

Bamakhrama added that countries in the DCO are part of a broader network for building global partnerships that develop common digital ambitions.

The ambassador said that the organization aims to achieve diversification and economic and social prosperity, thanks to the growth opportunities provided by the digital transformation of the public sector.

“Djibouti joining the organization comes within the framework of an ambitious national will to adopt digitization, with the aim of responding to many challenges and finding sustainable solutions to them, and providing an exceptional environment for work, living and prosperity in Djibouti,” said the ambassador.

Djibouti’s entry to the DCO comes after Minister of State in charge of Digital Economy and Innovation Maryam Hamdo Ali visited Saudi Arabia in late March, when she met with many senior officials specialized in information technology and digitization.

“In Djibouti, digital technology occupies an important place in the program of President Ismail Omar Guelleh to promote national development at various levels,” said the ambassador.


Saudi, Belgian artists showcase women-centric artworks

Saudi, Belgian artists showcase women-centric artworks
Updated 19 May 2022

Saudi, Belgian artists showcase women-centric artworks

Saudi, Belgian artists showcase women-centric artworks
  • Skna Hassan’s artwork is colorful while Andrea Hulsbosch’s is mysterious with dark colors

RIYADH: For Europe Month 2022, Belgian Ambassador to Saudi Arabia Dominique Mineur invited visitors to an art exhibition titled “Belgian and Saudi Face to Face” at Lar’t Pur Gallery, which commenced on May 17 and will last for a week.

“The Belgian Embassy is delighted to collaborate with the EU and Saudi Arabia to hold an exhibition featuring Belgian and Saudi artists in conjunction with the European Union month,” Mineur told Arab News.

The exhibit features abstract women-centric art pieces by Belgian artist Andrea B. M. Hulsbosch and Saudi artist Skna Hassan.

“Both artists are portraying women in their respective contexts, and I think the dialogue between them is inspiring, and there is no better way than art to create links between two countries,” Mineur said.

Hassan’s artwork is colorful and showcases Arabian women dressed in traditional yet modern attires on large-scale canvases, while Hulsbosch’s artwork is mysterious with dark colors on small canvases. 

“I believe that Skna and I are very complementary. Her artworks are large and bright while mine are intentionally smaller and more sober. My work requires a symbiotic connection with my collaborators and a level of intimacy with the audience which generates a sense of mystery, while Skna’s art makes an immediate impression. But both focus on women, and I feel that’s what connects us — telling stories as women and about women transcends borders,” Hulsbosch said.

Hassan is known for her female representations in her artwork as she always shows traditions, especially Najdi culture in her artworks.

“My work represents the Saudi woman and her life and culture. I am glad they called me and that the Belgium Embassy chose me to represent the Saudi woman. I feel that it was convenient to do it with Andrea because her pieces are about women and their cultures,” said Hassan.

Europe Month celebrates the founding of the EU on May 9 to celebrate peace and unity in Europe and cooperation with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

The celebration runs until June 9, and is centered around the exchange of cultural experiences and encouragement of further communication between Europe and the Kingdom to improve mutual understanding and strengthening relations.


Jeddah Pier attraction adds to thrills of city’s festival season of activities

Jeddah Pier attraction adds to thrills of city’s festival season of activities
Updated 19 May 2022

Jeddah Pier attraction adds to thrills of city’s festival season of activities

Jeddah Pier attraction adds to thrills of city’s festival season of activities
  • Musical parades including acrobats, and people dressed as trees, zombies, and track-suited monkeys are an integral part of the zone’s events
  • A fireworks display backed by US rapper Pharrell Williams’ song ‘Happy’ was another of the Jeddah Pier attractions

JEDDAH: Visitors to the Jeddah Season of activities now have a new entertainment attraction to add to the growing list of festival events.

Mobile amusement park Jeddah Pier is the latest zone to open to fun seekers in the Red Sea port city.

Located on the Jeddah shoreline, it offers 39 rides, a variety of games some with soft-toy prizes, along with shops, and an array of cafes and restaurants.

For adrenaline junkies there is a roller coaster, plus a swing carousel, Ferris wheel, and pendulum ride. 

Located on the Jeddah shoreline, mobile amusement park Jeddah Pier offers 39 rides, a variety of games some with soft-toy prizes, along with shops, and an array of cafes and restaurants. (Supplied/Mohammed Al-Manea)

Shah Hussain, an English actor, was playing fictional pirate Long John Silver from Robert Louis Stevenson’s novel “Treasure Island” in one of the zone’s experience areas, the Abandoned Island.

He said: “The pier itself has so many attractions, but the Abandoned Island is one of the most thrilling for visitors to experience. It is not for the faint-hearted.”

However, Hussain pointed out that he had been struggling to adjust to temperatures in the city. “I have only just acclimatized to Jeddah. I came from 17 degrees weather to 44 degrees. People should come well-equipped with water, and we will also be ensuring that because we want everyone to have fun.” 

Located on the Jeddah shoreline, mobile amusement park Jeddah Pier offers 39 rides, a variety of games some with soft-toy prizes, along with shops, and an array of cafes and restaurants. (Supplied/Mohammed Al-Manea)

Madda Rashwan, 22, was visiting Jeddah Pier with her friends and family, and said the attraction offered a welcome distraction from work while reminding her of childhood experiences.

“I wanted to see how good it was, as my family and I have a thing for amusement parks. To be fair the amusement park scene in the city was not too good but the pier offers a lot of great rides,” she added.

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

Located on the Jeddah shoreline, mobile amusement park Jeddah Pier offers 39 rides, a variety of games some with soft-toy prizes, along with shops, and an array of cafes and restaurants. (Supplied/Mohammed Al-Manea)

Friends Yosuf Kutbi, 14, and Abdullah Alharbey, 15, visited Jeddah Pier on its opening day.

“I was looking forward to the Ferris wheel the most, even when the place was under construction, and that was the first ride I went to when we entered,” Kutbi said.

Alharbey said: “This place is one hour away from where I live, but because my friend was visiting, I came with him, and so far, coming here was worth the time.”

He added that he was looking forward to visiting other Jeddah Season events.

A fireworks display backed by US rapper Pharrell Williams’ song “Happy” was another of the Jeddah Pier attractions.


KSrelief delivers $3.2 million worth of aid to the Philippines

KSrelief delivers $3.2 million worth of aid to the Philippines
Updated 19 May 2022

KSrelief delivers $3.2 million worth of aid to the Philippines

KSrelief delivers $3.2 million worth of aid to the Philippines
  • Aid includes medical and protective equipment and devices with a value of $1.7 million to fight COVID-19
  • Filipino officials praised the Saudi support, extending their sincere appreciation to the Kingdom

RIYADH: The King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Center (KSrelief) delivered humanitarian assistance worth $3.2 million to the Philippines on Thursday.
The aid included medical and protective equipment and devices with a value of $1.7 million to fight COVID-19.
A further $1.5 million is earmarked to support the Philippine’s Ministry of Health alleviate the impacts of the Typhoon Rai that recently hit the country, and to help health relief and emergency works in Marawi City.
Director of the Department of Health and Environment Assistance at KSrelief Dr. Abdullah Al-Muallem handed over the financial and in-kind support to the Philippines in the presence of the Kingdom’s ambassador to the country Hisham Al-Qahtani.
Filipino officials praised the Saudi support, extending their sincere appreciation to the Kingdom for its generous support and solidarity with the Philippines in addressing health and natural crises in the country.