Tech experts discuss smart ways to make Madinah a city of the future

Tech experts discuss smart ways to make Madinah a city of the future
The forum presented three panel discussions and several presentationsfeaturing 12 renowned national and international speakers. (Supplied)
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Updated 10 February 2022

Tech experts discuss smart ways to make Madinah a city of the future

Tech experts discuss smart ways to make Madinah a city of the future
  • First Smart Madinah Forum considered how the Saudi city might become one of the most tranquil yet dynamic cities in the world through the use of technology and innovation

MADINAH: Local and international technology leaders, experts and businesses gathered this week for the first Smart Madinah Forum, during which they discussed, shared and exchanged knowledge and experience of smart cities.

The aim of the two-day event, held on Feb. 6 and 7 and organized by Al-Madinah Region Development Authority under the patronage of Prince Saud bin Khalid Al-Faisal, deputy governor of Madinah, was to explore ways to ensure Madinah is one of the top three most livable cities in Saudi Arabia.

Specific goals that were discussed included increasing its annual economic growth by 3 percent and reducing unemployment by 5 percent by 2030 as part of the efforts to transform it into one of the most tranquil yet dynamic cities in the world through the use of technology and innovation.

The forum considered a number of improvements that might help to achieve these goals, including the development of 5G and fiber optic networks, enhanced communication and information technology infrastructure, and smart technology solutions.

In considering what we actually mean by the term “smart city,” Jonathan Reichental, the founder of Human Future, a global business and technology advisory, investment and education business, said: “I often have the privilege to travel to many cities of the world to talk to their smart city leaders, mayors and managers — and I hear lots of different answers to that question.

“One of the conclusions I’ve come to is that the definition isn’t as important as the outcomes. The definition isn’t as important as what we’re trying to achieve. And every community, every city has a different goal. This is another insight.

“There is no recipe that every city can follow and get the same results because every city has different demographics, different geography, different resources, different capabilities — significant differences. But I do know one thing, which is clear: This is a topic about people.”

HIGHLIGHTS

  • The aim of the two-day event, held on Feb. 6 and 7 and organized by Al-Madinah Region Development Authority under the patronage of Prince Saud bin Khalid Al-Faisal, deputy governor of Madinah, was to explore ways to ensure Madinah is one of the top three most livable cities in Saudi Arabia.
  • The forum considered a number of improvements that might help to achieve these goals, including the development of 5G and fiber optic networks, enhanced communication and information technology infrastructure, and smart technology solutions.

Under the heading “Where technology meets tranquility,” the forum presented three panel discussions and several presentations featuring 12 renowned national and international speakers who explored Madinah’s strategy for becoming a smart city and identified six sectors for development: tourism, environment, business, old neighborhoods, well-being and mobility. About 148 attendees took part in six workshops that generated about 500 ideas, based on which they prepared case studies for developing each sector.

“We conducted several workshops and involved the key stakeholders, including the residents themselves, and we identified the challenges that the city is facing; we categorized them under six priority sectors,” Abdulrahman Ibrahim, chief data analytics and innovation officer at Al-Madinah Region Development Authority, told Arab News.

“The strategy and goals of the smart Madinah program are highly human-centric and residents need to help highlight the challenges and find the right technological solutions.”

Transportation is one of the key challenges that the city is facing. Consequently, one of the key priority sectors in Madinah’s smart city strategy is mobility.

Abdulrahman Ibrahim, Chief data analytics and innovation officer at Al-Madinah Region Development Authority

Madinah is a popular destination for Muslims from around the world and the heavy traffic in the city is a major issue for commuters and civic bodies.

“Transportation is one of the key challenges that the city is facing,” said Ibrahim. “Consequently, one of the key priority sectors in Madinah’s smart city strategy is mobility. This challenge will be addressed in that strategic priority and we have a group of case studies that we want to implement using technology as a means to solve this challenge.”

The Saudi Data and Artificial Intelligence Authority is exploring ways to create a smart country and has established two innovation labs its says are vital to the development of artificial intelligence solutions.

“SDAIA is focusing on smart cities, heavily based on the directions from the chairman of the board, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman,” said Nasser Al-Rayes, the authority’s deputy CEO.

“We’ve been engaged with our colleagues from the Madinah authority since the beginning of developing this strategy, so this is not just a one-time meeting. Now, it’s multiple workshops and multiple engagements to ensure that whatever they aspire to have is definitely aligned with the national directions and, most importantly, it is aligned with the agenda of data and AI that SDAIA is leading.”

During the forum, the experts also discussed smart city issues under the heading “All for one and one for all.”

Lakshita Wijerathne, chief operating officer at technology company Eutech, said: “To help a smart city platform cater for your purpose, one key thing is when you have so many sensors … you have your visitors, your residents, your citizens … so the platform will be able to collect and analyze large volumes of data. So that will give you valuable information related to the understanding of your situational awareness.”

The second Smart Madinah Forum is expected to take place in February 2023.


Saudi digital artist merges famous figures with KSA’s landscapes

Titan from Japanese anime ‘Attack on Titan’ behind mountains of Al-Shafa road, Taif. (Supplied)
Titan from Japanese anime ‘Attack on Titan’ behind mountains of Al-Shafa road, Taif. (Supplied)
Updated 28 May 2022

Saudi digital artist merges famous figures with KSA’s landscapes

Titan from Japanese anime ‘Attack on Titan’ behind mountains of Al-Shafa road, Taif. (Supplied)
  • One of his preferred locations is Jeddah’s historical quarter, but the graphic designer said that he can let his imagination run wild in any location he explores

JEDDAH: Imagine seeing Disney’s Princess Aurora in historic Jeddah, one of the titans from the Japanese anime “Attack on Titan” lurking behind the mountains of Taif’s famous Al-Shafa road, or international figures appearing in old alleyways. These are just some of the products of Hazem Al-Ahdal’s wild imagination.

I took a picture of the view in front of me, and merged characters and turned them into reality, says Hazem Al-Ahdal

The 26-year-old photographer and graphic designer draws inspiration from both visual art and cinematography, merging images of global figures and cartoon characters into landscape photographs and then using his graphic design skills to create realistic artworks.

HIGHLIGHT

Historic Jeddah, the Jeddah waterfront, and cities such as Madinah, Taif, NEOM and Tabuk have all been used by Al-Ahdal as locations for his images, while natural landscapes, abandoned places and random streets also feature in the final works.

Historic Jeddah, the Jeddah waterfront, and cities such as Madinah, Taif, NEOM and Tabuk have all been used by Al-Ahdal as locations for his images, while natural landscapes, abandoned places and random streets also feature in the final works.

Russian Countess Anastasia de Torby, left, in an old market in Tabuk. Princess Diana at an open Maq’ad in Historic Jeddah.

Al-Ahdal said that he has been interested in the visual arts since childhood.

“Because of this passion, I decided to start my own art world and realize it,” he told Arab News.

His personal favorite artwork imagines Countess Anastasia Mikhailovna de Torby, elder daughter of Grand Duke Michael Mikhailovich of Russia, in an old market in Tabuk.

“This is my favorite because of the integration of Western and Arab civilization in one work. Because of this work, other ideas began to come,” said Al-Ahdal.

“I love anything vintage or related to history. I loved her classical attire and thought it would suit the vision I had for the photograph,” he said, referring to the 20th-century Russian countess.

Al-Ahdal said that he chooses characters from a host of international figures or cartoons based on the site of the photograph, “and so the integration process begins.”

One of his preferred locations is Jeddah’s historical quarter, but the graphic designer said that he can let his imagination run wild in any location he explores.

“Of course, there are stories with many works of art, including when I was drinking coffee in one of the cafes and I was in front of an empty chair. My fantasies began with characters who may be sitting in front of me,” he said.

“I took a picture of the view in front of me, and merged characters and turned them into reality.”

Al-Ahdal converts his digital art into posters and even fashion items.

“I have no limits in art. I participated in many exhibitions with realistic works and paintings, I even participated in the field of fashion and I’m planning on participating in more projects,” he said

Al-Ahdal said that he loves ’90s movies for their content. “The best old classic works from the ’90s and before — these films contain stories and lessons in life,” he said.

“One of my favorite TV shows is the sitcom ‘Friends’ and one of my favorite distinctive films is the Italian film La vita e bella (Life is Beautiful),” he added.


Saudi Misk Art Institute celebrates work of Fahad Hajailan, Amina Agueznay

Fahad Hajailan was known for his embodiment of women in most of his works, and he is known for his abstract art. (Supplied)
Fahad Hajailan was known for his embodiment of women in most of his works, and he is known for his abstract art. (Supplied)
Updated 28 May 2022

Saudi Misk Art Institute celebrates work of Fahad Hajailan, Amina Agueznay

Fahad Hajailan was known for his embodiment of women in most of his works, and he is known for his abstract art. (Supplied)
  • The Misk institute invited Agueznay to have her first exhibition in Riyadh, where visitors enjoyed the distinctive shapes created from wool and other elements

RIYADH: The Misk Art Institute celebrated the launch of its fifth and sixth Art Library book series, highlighting the work of the late Saudi artist Fahad Hajailan and Moroccan artist Amina Agueznay.

It featured a selection of their influential and seminal works alongside articles from local and international art critics and curators.

Accompanying the launch were two exhibitions of artists’ works discussed in the Art Library books.

Hajailan's book “Poetry in Color" carries a group of paintings that embody his figurative and abstract style and his poetic use of color.

Amina Agueznay’s art combines modern construction techniques and traditional weaving and breaks down barriers between art and crafts.

He was known for his embodiment of women and abstract art, geometric shapes, and colored spaces.

The Misk institute invited Agueznay to have her first exhibition in Riyadh, where visitors enjoyed the distinctive shapes created from wool and other elements.

Agueznay is an artist, jewelry designer, and architect based in Casablanca.  

“I've been into art since I was a child since my mother has been an artist as well,” she told Arab News. “I worked as an architect in the US, and I returned to Morocco to design jewelry and collaborate with other artists to make jewelry. I liked the synergy and exchange I learned from them. Likewise, they learn from me.

HIGHLIGHT

The event featured a selection of their influential and seminal works alongside articles from local and international art critics and curators. Accompanying the launch were two exhibitions of artists’ works discussed in the Art Library books.

“Then I started working on company projects to accompany artisans for different kinds of crafts to modernize their products for commercial purposes. I loved it because it enabled me to discover more of the areas of Morocco, where they have many different crafts and wool art.”

Agueznay's agency said she started working with female artisans and became interested in wool as an artistic element through rug weavers, which is how her inspiration for using threads began.

She had a workshop at the exhibition where she taught visitors to work with wool to create special pieces of art.

Al-Hujailan was known for his embodiment of women in most of his works, and he is known for his abstract art, geometric shapes, and colored spaces.

“What's cool about the workshop is that the theme was weaving, but it's about how you write stories with the wool. So, I brought the wool from Morrocco, and now the visitors are doing incredible things with it,” she said.

Her book “Unmuted Narratives” explores her artwork, which combines modern construction techniques and traditional weaving to break down the barriers between art and crafts.

“The book that was written about my art enabled me to see a large body of my work and my progress, which is great for an artist. And I'm ready to move on and evolve more in the art world, so I'm grateful for Misk Art Institute for this,” Agueznay said.

The Art Library series, which ends on Aug. 15, was launched to enrich local creative content. The event constitutes the core of the institute's goals and represents its focus on instilling a culture of awareness and encouraging more documentation in the Saudi art and culture sector.


International afforestation technology event to be held in Riyadh

International afforestation technology event to be held in Riyadh
The Saudi Green Initiative and the Middle East Green Initiative aim to plant 10 billion trees. (SPA)
Updated 14 min 53 sec ago

International afforestation technology event to be held in Riyadh

International afforestation technology event to be held in Riyadh
  • Experts to discuss environmental, climate, sustainability, investment issues

RIYADH: The International Exhibition and Forum on Afforestation Technologies begins in Riyadh on Sunday under the patronage of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

It is organized by the National Center for Vegetation Cover Development and Combating Desertification and being held at the Riyadh International Convention and Exhibition Center, in coordination with the Ministry of Environment, Water and Agriculture.

Saudi Minister of Environment, Water and Agriculture Abdulrahman Al-Fadley said the National Environment Strategy was a roadmap to realizing the aspirations of the Saudi Vision 2030 regarding the protection and development of the environment.

Talal S. Al-Rasheed, a consultant at Gulf Energy for Environmental Consultation.

He highlighted the crown prince’s efforts to promote vegetation cover locally, regionally, and internationally through ambitious plans including the Saudi Green Initiative, the Middle East Green Initiative, the Global Initiative on Reducing Land Degradation, and the International Coral Reef Initiative.

HIGHLIGHT

It covers topics such as nurseries, seeds, afforestation and technologies, land rehabilitation and desertification, irrigation technologies, forest management and development, water sources and technologies, environmental solutions in plant carbon storage, pest control, and agricultural waste management.

The last two initiatives were included in the declaration of environment ministers during Saudi Arabia’s presidency of the G20 in 2020.

Last October, the crown prince announced two initiatives worth SR39 billion ($10.39 billion) to combat climate change, to which Saudi Arabia will contribute about 15 percent of the entire cost.

The Saudi Green Initiative and the Middle East Green Initiative aim to plant 10 billion trees.

Nearly 150 different activities will be offered at the International Exhibition and Forum on Afforestation Technologies, with participation from international and local agencies, the government, the commercial sector, and environmental nonprofit groups.

Around 90 experts on environmental, climate, sustainability and investment issues from around 20 countries and global organizations will also attend.

There will be 19 dialogue sessions, workshops, over 50 scientific papers, and approximately 80 exhibitors showcasing their goods, ideas, and innovations.

These represent the most recent technological successes in combating desertification and minimizing its impact, developing and protecting vegetation cover, and the most recent advances in experimentation, research, and scientific studies.

The exhibition covers topics such as nurseries, seeds, afforestation and technologies, land rehabilitation and desertification, irrigation technologies, forest management and development, water sources and technologies, environmental solutions in plant carbon storage, pest control, and agricultural waste management.

The National Center for the Development of Vegetation Cover and Combating Desertification works to protect and control vegetation cover sites throughout the Kingdom, rehabilitate degraded ones, detect encroachment, combat deforestation, and supervise the management and investment of pasture lands, forests, and national parks, which promotes sustainable environmental development and contributes to achieving the objectives of the Saudi Green Initiative.

Experts told Arab News that these investments were critical for meeting global targets for environmental protection, climate change control, and mitigating the effects of greenhouse emissions.

Dr. Amal Aldaej, an international relations and strategic partnership adviser, said the Saudi Green Initiative was considered to be the biggest initiative for accelerating the Kingdom’s path toward a healthy, clean and green future.

“The initiative will also help in reducing carbon emissions and sandstorms, combating desertification and land degradation, as well as lowering the temperature (it) will also help in restoring the degraded ecosystems across the country and improve the natural capital,” she said.

She added that the Saudi Green Initiative would connect communities to a higher-level policy and technical and financial assistance that would have a great impact socially and economically.

She stressed that regional alliances would play a crucial role in coping with climate change and global warming challenges. Through regional alliances and joint efforts to redress climate change, adaptation and mitigation could play a vital role in investing and ensuring sustainability.

Aldaej pointed out that there was a strong link between climate change and sustainable development through regional alliances. Poor and developing countries, particularly least-developed countries, would be among those most adversely affected and least able to cope with the anticipated shocks to their social, economic, and natural systems which would lead to cross-border climatic issues.

“Climate change and global warming issues can affect the countries of the region and can lead toward other regions as well. The sustainable goals can only be achieved through regional alliances by investing and ensuring sustainability through joint efforts.”

Environmental activist Talal S. Al-Rasheed emphasized the “importance of activating the role of community organizations” in achieving this.

Al-Rasheed, a consultant at Gulf Energy for Environmental Consultations, said the Saudi Green Initiative and Middle East Green Initiative highlighted the importance of land conservation and the Kingdom’s leadership position in contributing to global goals.

Saudi Arabia faces numerous environmental issues, including high temperatures of 52 degrees Celsius in some parts of the country and a lack of rain, which threatens water security and increases sandstorms and their detrimental economic impact.

Al-Rasheed said the ministry prioritized community participation in cultivating local plants to raise environmental awareness.

 


Symposium reviews fatwa in Two Holy Mosques, projects to improve visitor experience

Symposium reviews fatwa in Two Holy Mosques. (SPA)
Symposium reviews fatwa in Two Holy Mosques. (SPA)
Updated 27 May 2022

Symposium reviews fatwa in Two Holy Mosques, projects to improve visitor experience

Symposium reviews fatwa in Two Holy Mosques. (SPA)
  • Dr. Abdulrahman Al-Sudais said the symposium had been the first of its kind held by the government agency and aimed to implement programs related to the fatwa of the general presidency

MAKKAH: Officials of the General Presidency for the Affairs of the Two Holy Mosques recently reviewed initiatives designed to improve the visitor experience of worshippers.

The outcomes of a symposium, titled “Fatwa at the Two Holy Mosques and its Impact on Facilitating Procedures for Visitors,” have received the approval of the Saudi leadership.

Dr. Abdulrahman Al-Sudais

Projects discussed at the scientific symposium are set to be launched at the Grand Mosque in Makkah and translated into 10 languages including English, French, Russian, Farsi, Turkish, Urdu, Chinese, Bengali, and Hausa.

Dr. Abdulrahman Al-Sudais, head of the General Presidency for the Affairs of the Two Holy Mosques, said the symposium had been the first of its kind held by the government agency and aimed to implement programs related to the fatwa of the general presidency, the fatwa in the Two Holy Mosques, and efforts to make it easier for visitors to access the Grand Mosque, and the Prophet’s Mosque in Madinah.

HIGHLIGHT

Projects discussed at the scientific symposium are set to be launched at the Grand Mosque in Makkah and translated into 10 languages including English, French, Russian, Farsi, Turkish, Urdu, Chinese, Bengali, and Hausa.

He pointed out that the symposium had highlighted the continued support of the country’s leadership in backing the development and administration of the holy sites, the empowerment of women, and the introduction of technology such as the use of robots and electronic platforms.

Abdulwahab Al-Rasini, adviser to the general presidency, undersecretary for governance, legal, and development affairs, and supervisor of scientific and guiding affairs, said the body, together with members of the scientific committee for research and iftar, had an important role to play.

Maher Al-Zahrani, deputy president for exhibitions and museums, said that renovation work carried out at the Two Holy Mosques was being put under the spotlight through an exhibition.

 

 


Saudi Arabia ranks first globally in date exports

Saudi Arabia ranks first globally in date exports. (SPA)
Saudi Arabia ranks first globally in date exports. (SPA)
Updated 18 sec ago

Saudi Arabia ranks first globally in date exports

Saudi Arabia ranks first globally in date exports. (SPA)
  • The value of palms and dates in Saudi Arabia is almost SR7.5 billion, 12 percent of the agricultural gross product and 0.4 percent of the non-oil gross product

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia has ranked first globally in terms of the value of date exports in 2021, according to the TradeMap of the International Trade Center.
The value of Saudi exports of dates in 2021 reached SR1.2 billion ($320 million).
The Kingdom also realized the highest annual growth rate of exports over the past five years of 12.5 percent, with exports entering 113 countries.
The National Center for Palms and Dates said the achievement reflected the interest of the Saudi leadership in enhancing non-oil exports, developing the work system in planting and improving the production of palm, and the leading role of partners, mainly the producers and exporters of dates.
It said the Saudi Vision 2030 placed a lot of attention on the palm and dates sector through its development and sustainability, working early to prepare and implement programs to develop this sector and increase its contribution to the gross domestic product.
The value of palms and dates in Saudi Arabia is almost SR7.5 billion, 12 percent of the agricultural gross product and 0.4 percent of the non-oil gross product. The UN Food and Agriculture Organization congratulated Saudi Arabia on this achievement.