JEDDAH: The musical cultures of Saudi Arabia and Europe were in perfect harmony in Jeddah during Voices for Peace, a special gala operatic concert in celebration of Europe Day.
The show, which took place at Battarjee Medical College on Thursday night, featured Saudi opera singer Sawsan Al-Bahati and her French counterpart, Aurelie Loilier. They were accompanied by two orchestras conducted by Algerian maestro Amine Kouider.
It was organized by the Consulate General of France in Jeddah and the audience included Mostafa Mihraje, the French Consul General, and Makarem Battarjee, the president of Saudi German Hospitals Group.
Highlighting France’s role in Europe Day, an EU celebration of peace and unity in Europe that is held on May 9 each year, Mihraje explained that his country was one of the six founding members of the union, alongside Belgium, German, Italy, Luxembourg and the Netherlands.
The show featured Saudi opera singer Sawsan Al-Bahati and her French counterpart, Aurelie Loilier. They were accompanied by two orchestras conducted by Algerian maestro Amine Kouider.
“This, of course, gives us a special responsibility in this regard, especially given that starting today, for six months, France is heading the European Union,” he told Arab News.
“Of course this is something we are proud of and that gives us a great responsibility in this regard, in light of the crises that Europe is going through — Russia’s attack on Ukraine in particular.
“We are very happy today because we gave an example that cultures build bridges between two countries. And as you saw today, the French musical group and the Saudi musical group sang and played music in a special, organized and harmonious way. And we are very proud of this.”
Loilier said that the chance to sing alongside Saudi counterpart Al-Bahiti was a very meaningful experience.
“Of course, it’s a very important moment and it’s unique and it was a great pleasure for me to be there,” said the soprano. “It’s quite new to sing like this … and I hope we will come back and sing again with Sawsan, in France maybe. I hope she will come to France to sing with me as a next step.
“It’s a way to share emotions and to feel the friendship between everyone.”
Al-Bahiti said that this was the first time she had performed a duet with a professional, international opera singer.
“I’m overexcited and very happy for this event that allowed us a nice cultural exchange between both countries,” she said, adding that the message she wants to send out as an artist is one of unity.
“This event has made it happen and it’s only the beginning. Unity is the message for music. Music is the language of the world; we talk by music through our heart, so this is exactly what we want to achieve.”
The concert in Jeddah was the second performance of Voices for Peace, following a show in Riyadh the night before.
Amjaad Aiman, a member of a Saudi choir that took part in the concerts, said she had a great time practicing and performing.
“We represented the Arabic side, alongside the French orchestra,” she said. “The preparations and choral singing were so much fun and were a beautiful experience for me.
“We’ve been rehearsing since Monday and first sang at the Cultural Palace in Riyadh on Wednesday, and now in Jeddah at Battarjee Medical College.”
Jeddah Jungle takes visitors on ultimate safari experience
Guests discover wildlife firsthand, including wild cats and other exotic animals
Updated 29 May 2022
JEDDAH: For the first time in the Middle East, “Jungle Trek” has been set up for a real-life animal-watching experience, where visitors walk along shaded paths and can interact with exotic animals.
The trek is one of Jeddah Jungle’s experiences as part of the Jeddah Season.
Experiencing wildlife firsthand, Jeddah Season visitors will also get to go on a thrilling safari experience on a Jeep and encounter seven different kinds of wild cats as well as other exotic animals.
On the Safari Game Drive, visitors can learn interesting facts about the wild cats with the tour guide.
For example, lions are the only cats that live in groups — a group can include 30 lions — and their roars can be heard up to 8 km away, with female lions being the main hunters.
Another fact: There are less than 2,000 Bengal tigers left in the wild, and their strips are just as unique as human fingerprints.
The tigers are an endangered species, grow faster than their orange counterparts, and are rare and happen once out of 10,000 births.
• Visitors to the Jeddah Jungle can wear costume symbolizing their favorite animals. It is an educational and entertaining initiative where children and young people compete in the designs of costumes for their favorite animals.
• It also encourages them to expand their knowledge about these animals and gain new information from the zone’s guides, in addition to removing the fear of some animals, learning to coexist with them, and dealing with them as a friend to humans.
The golden tiger, also known as the strawberry tiger, is extinct in the wild. There are about 30 remaining, with Jeddah Jungle having three of these.
White lions are only born if the mother and father have the same gene, and the earliest recorded sighting of them was in 1938.
The liger — a lion and tiger breed — with a mane like a lion and stripes like a tiger, is the largest known cat in the world, and there are less than 100 ligers left in the world.
Faisal Al-Rahili, Saudi, 18, has visited Jeddah Jungle five times since it opened. The teenager said that he loves animals and grew up watching wildlife shows and channels such as Nat Geo Wild.
“I have always had a love for animals since childhood, and this safari experience is a childhood dream fulfillment,” he told Arab News.
Al-Rahili’s favorite zone is the Jungle Trek because it allows him to get close to and interact with a giraffe.
“I love everything about this place; it’s huge and there is a place for each type of animal,” he said.
Six-year-old Saudi animal lover, Omar Kaaki, listed the big cats he saw to Arab News.
“With some tigers, lions and white lions, we saw deers too and a tiger with gold stripes,” Kaaki said.
“Cheetahs and tigers are my favorite animals,” he added.
The first-grader asked his parents to take him to Jeddah Jungle. His mother, Dareen Akbar, said that the experience had brought so much joy to her son.
“He loves animals so much, as soon as we found out they are making a safari experience in Jeddah, we came here,” she told Arab News.
“It is a very nice experience, you do not have to travel abroad to go on a safari and see the animals; you can take your kids to see the animals here in your country,” she said.
Indian engineer, Mohammed Anish, visited Jeddah Jungle with his wife and children for the first time.
“It is a great place to spend quality time with your family; my kids love animals,” he told Arab News.
“Jeddah Season is fantastic and provides a very good experience,” he said.
Visitors to the Jeddah Jungle can wear costume symbolizing their favorite animals. It is an educational and entertaining initiative where children and young people compete in the designs of costumes for their favorite animals.
It also encourages them to expand their knowledge about these animals and gain new information from the zone’s guides, in addition to removing the fear of some animals, learning to coexist with them, and dealing with them as a friend to humans.
The Jeddah Jungle is home to about 1,000 species of wild creatures, as well as 200 species of rare birds. It has a reptile section, a bird section, a dog section and a farm, in addition to sections for shows and other services, and an entertainment section.
Jeddah Jungle zones are; the Tram Station, Elephant Enclosure, Lighting Garden, Lucaland, the Aviary, Taxidermy Museum, Reptile Land, the Farm, Safari Game Drive, Jungle Trek, and the Park.
The park includes an adventure zone, a children’s playground, an open theater, an archery space, paintball area, karting, and a workshop zone.
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.
Held under the slogan, Our Lovely Days, the second Jeddah Season follows on from the success of Riyadh Season, which 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 options for families.
How a visually impaired talented Saudi realized her full potential
Through tailored training and mentoring, Ebtehal Al-Nasir is building a successful law career
Multiple schemes are helping improve quality of life and opportunities for Saudis with disabilities
Updated 29 May 2022
DUBAI: Ebtehal Al-Nasir was in her first year of medical school when she lost her sight as a result of illness. She had long dreamed of becoming a doctor but suddenly it felt like a successful career in any field was now out of her reach.
“I wondered what would happen to the hard work I had put in for years,” Al-Nasir, who is originally from Qurayyat, a city in northern Saudi Arabia, told Arab News.
“I heard a lot of negative, depressing things at that time. Among them: I should be grateful that I graduated high school and that a lot of people are doing well with just a high-school degree; university is hard, how are you going to study when you can’t see? And many other similar discouraging words.
“I would hear this and yet, in my eyes, I still saw my dreams, my ambitions, my goals, my effort and my toil. Should all that have been in vain? At that time, I made a decision: I said I would finish my studies no matter the difficulties I would face.”
People with disabilities account for 7.1 percent of the Saudi population, according to the General Authority for Statistics, including 811,610 who are classified as visually impaired,.
In an effort to ensure all citizens and residents enjoy a good quality of life, the Saudi government has prioritized efforts to preserve the rights of people with disabilities by enhancing the support and services available to them to ensure that their dignity is maintained. In the process, it has also worked to challenge the negative attitudes that can surround disability.
Refusing to allow blindness to define her or limit her potential, Al-Nasir and her family sought out charitable organizations and institutions that could help her adapt to life with impaired vision and, later, universities that were suitably equipped to accept students with sight issues.
Specialists at the National Association of the Blind, also known as Kafeef, and Mubseroon, a charity for people with visual disabilities, taught her how to use braille, a touch-based system of reading and writing that uses patterns of raised dots to represent the letters of the alphabet, and how to walk safely and independently using a white cane.
They also showed her how to operate specially adapted digital devices, including a smartphone and computer, using touch and sound.
These tools, together with the unstinting support of her family, gave Al-Nasir the confidence not only to return to her studies but to excel among her peers.
“I went back to university and left medicine to study business administration,” she said. “I specialized in law, which I had a passion for.
“That year, I was so grateful to receive a bachelor’s degree in law from the School of Business Administration at Northern Border University, with first class honors, and I was a top student in my college.”
In addition, Al-Nasir graduated with a diploma in English from the International Academy for Human Development in the UK, and was chosen for the Qimam Fellowship, an intensive, 12-day training program launched in 2018 to empower high-potential university students in Saudi Arabia through one-on-one mentoring and career guidance.
She is also an accredited trainer with the Technical and Vocational Training Corporation, a Saudi government agency.
All in all, in the seven years since she lost her sight, Al-Nasir has completed more than 60 courses and participated in a wide range of forums and events, the most prominent of which included representing her university during two consecutive rounds of a competition organized by the Saudi Center for Commercial Arbitration.
She said that earning a place in the Qimam Fellowship was a particularly transformative experience, which helped redefine her life goals.
“I had the opportunity to connect with inspiring CEOs” through the fellowship, she said. “One of the guest speakers that came to deliver a talk about their personal journey was especially inspiring for me. They also had a disability.
“When I was accepted into Project1932, I told my mentor about this speaker and he actually helped me connect with him directly.”
Project1932, which is designed to empower the emerging young generation of future Saudi leaders, matches selected high-potential candidates with experienced business leaders to guide them during their first years of higher education and professional careers.
“The outreach was welcome and I found it fascinating that I could connect with someone of his caliber and start to build my network with inspirational thought leaders that I met through Qimam,” Al-Nasir said.
During their one-on-one coaching sessions, she was grateful for her mentor’s honesty about the difficulties she would likely face along her chosen career path and what development goals she should focus on.
“He gave me very specific advice,” she said. “I took it seriously and worked on his advice and made massive improvements. This has truly helped me develop my skills and capabilities.”
Al-Nasir has since interned at leading law firms, and volunteered with the charitable Princess Al-Anoud Foundation and the Saudi Association of Special Education, also known as GESTER, a scientific association at King Saud University that offers tuition and support services for people with disabilities and other special needs.
This voluntary work reflects Al-Nasir’s long-running desire to help others achieve their goals. During her studies at Northern Border University, for example, she and some friends established a society that promoted inclusion and lobbied for better services for students with disabilities.
“After losing my vision, I wanted to continue my undergraduate studies at a university that was qualified for people with visual disabilities,” she said.
“This led me to set a goal on the first day there, even though it was not equipped for the disabled, which was not to graduate until I had spread awareness, even if only minimally, about the culture of the visually impaired.”
The Saudi government has developed a legal framework designed to protect people with disabilities from harm, promote equality in education, and provide them with social care, rehabilitation services and healthcare.
Authorities have also introduced employment initiatives, improvements to mobility, transportation and parking, support for sign language, and housing and mobile services for people with disabilities, while also working to ensure that they are able to participate in decision-making processes.
The Authority for Persons with Disabilities was established in 2018 to improve quality of life for disabled people in the Kingdom and empower them to participate in society in inclusive and effective ways.
It is part of the National Transformation Program, an economic action plan launched by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman under the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 development and diversification agenda.
“The Authority for Persons with Disabilities … was formed to empower persons with disabilities and enhance their role in the Kingdom,” said Al-Nasir.
She added that among other things it “aims to enable persons with disabilities to obtain suitable employment and educational opportunities, to achieve independence and integration as actors in society that contribute to the economic development of our country.”
Today, for the thousands of Saudis who, like Al-Nasir, live with disabilities, no ambition or dream is too great for them to achieve as far as education, employment or professional advancement is concerned.
“As the crown prince said, the sky is the limit for our ambitions,” Al-Nasir said.
Saudi student brings hope to deaf drivers with award-winning invention
Renad Al-Hussein said that her invention could allow more than 466 million deaf people worldwide to drive
Updated 29 May 2022
RIYADH: A Saudi medical student has won a string of an international awards for an invention that opens up a new world for hearing impaired or deaf drivers by dramatically improving their safety behind the wheel.
Renad bint Musaed Al-Hussein, a student at the College of Medicine at King Saud University, developed special sensors that operate as soon as they detect sounds outside the vehicle.
Sound frequencies are sent to a device inside the car, which then identifies and displays a description, image and color of the sound source visually, alerting the driver to any possible risk.
Sound frequencies are sent to a device inside the car, which then identifies and displays a description, image and color of the sound source visually, alerting the driver to any possible risk. Sound frequencies are sent to a device inside the car, which then identifies and displays a description, image and color of the sound source visually, alerting the driver to any possible risk.
Her innovation has won several global awards and medals, including best invention at the World Intellectual Property Organization Cup and a gold award in the international invention competition as part of the Korea International Youth Olympiad.
The awards honor outstanding inventors, creators and innovative firms from around the world.
Al-Hussein said that her invention will reduce the risks facing hearing impaired drivers and may also help to save lives.
“One of the things that prompted me to come up with this invention is that some countries prevent hearing impaired or deaf people from driving because they are unable to hear important sounds. This invention will contribute to reducing the risks they face,” she said.
The Saudi inventor said that her invention could allow more than 466 million deaf people worldwide to drive, while also improving road safety by protecting their lives and the lives of others.
Rural shop in Asir offers freshly baked traditional breads
Dressed in traditional Asir attire, including a burqa and tafsha, and a straw boater hat to protect her from the sun, Asiri opens her shop every day at 2 p.m. with customers already lined up to give their day’s orders
Updated 28 May 2022
ABHA: The aroma of freshly baked bread emanating from local bakeries and homes fills the cool air in an Asir district.
Arab News met Elham Asiri, a mother and an expert baker, who attracts visitors and locals from around the Asir region with her fresh traditional breads known as mifa and hali, among others.
Located at Al-Sawda mountain peak, about 3,133 meters above sea level on the way back to Abha, Asiri’s shop can be found on the side of a route leading to Rijal Alma, a historical village.
Dressed in traditional Asir attire, including a burqa and tafsha, and a straw boater hat to protect her from the sun, Asiri opens her shop every day at 2 p.m. with customers already lined up to give their day’s orders.
She prepares large batches of dough overnight, and in the afternoon she puts them in the oven for baking. The breads are primarily made of white or brown flour, salt, yeast and water. Mifa is an oval-shaped bread that is made of brown flour without any filling, with sesame or nigella seeds on top, which gives the bread a distinct taste and flavor when baked.
• Dressed in traditional Asir attire, including a burqa and tafsha, and a straw boater hat to protect her from the sun, Asiri opens her shop every day at 2 p.m. with customers already lined up to give their day’s orders.
• Located at Al-Sawda mountain peak, about 3,133 meters above sea level on the way back to Abha, Asiri’s shop can be found on the side of a route leading to Rijal Alma, a historical village.
“I offer it with many fillings such as labneh, za’atar or cream cheese and then I add a drizzle of honey to give it a twist of sweetness to those who do not prefer it the traditional way,” said Asiri, who single-handedly runs the shop.
To give the breads an authentic feel and flavor, Asiri switched to outdoor baking — like her ancestors — from using a conventional indoor oven. The outdoor traditional oven, called mwassm, is typically used by most villages in the Asir region.
“Most visitors here also order a bread called hali, which translates to ‘sugary.’ It is a brown bread made without yeast and kneaded with ghee, which gives it a strong taste. It gives the body energy and warmth in cold weather,” she said.
One of the visitors, Mohammed Asiri, told Arab News that he visits this bread shop every weekend while going to his home in Rijal Almaa. “I discovered Elham Asiri’s bread shop three years ago, and since then I pass by to pick up my favorite order on my way back to and from Rijal Alma. We love the bread she offers; it is so fresh and tasty. I usually order hali with cheese filling, extra roasted, and a cup of red tea; and I enjoy it so much during the ride,” he said.
Another visitor, Bodour Aggad, who is originally from Jeddah but lives in Abha for work, said that she found out about Asiri’s shop while she was looking for a good mountain view in Ramadan on her way back from Al-Sawda. “Some cars were crowded at a place and it caught my attention; I stopped out of curiosity to find Asiri baking fresh bread on order. I tried it and fell in love with it,” she said.
Aggad said that whenever her family or friends visit Abha, she makes sure to introduce them to this rural bread shop to complete their experience. “Asiri’s shop is unique as she kneads and bakes the bread and serves it hot to her visitors once she receives an order, unlike other food booths who offer you the bread ready-made at home.”
Asiri also offers her customers pastries with different kinds of fillings, in addition to hot milk, Saudi coffee, and karak tea. She laughingly said that in the past, women of the region had to master the art of bread making to be able to get married.
Saudi Shoura Council to discuss reports on general intelligence, draft labor agreements
The council is expected to discuss a report from the Human Resources and Social Development Committee on the Oversight and Anti-Corruption Authority's annual report for 2021-2022
Updated 28 May 2022
RIYADH: Saudi Arabia's Shoura Council will meet on Monday to discuss several items, including reports on general intelligence, international strategic partnerships, and draft labor agreements.
It will listen to the Trade and Investment Committee’s observations on the Saudi Accreditation Center's annual report for the fiscal year 2021-2022, the Security and Military Affairs Committee’s observations on the General Intelligence Presidency's report for 2021-2022, and the Islamic Affairs Committee’s observations on the civil transactions draft.
It will vote on recommendations for these items.
It is scheduled to discuss findings from the Media Committee on the Saudi Broadcasting Authority's annual report for 2021-2022, and the report from the Human Resources and Social Development Committee on the General Organization for Social Insurance's annual report for 2021-2022.
It will discuss the report from the Human Resources and Social Development Committee on a draft agreement between Saudi Arabia and Burundi to employ workers and another draft agreement between the two countries to employ domestic workers.
Also on the agenda are two reports from the Foreign Affairs Committee on the annual report on international strategic partnerships for 2021-2022 and a draft memorandum of understanding on political consultations between the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and its Kenyan counterpart.
The council is expected to discuss a report from the Human Resources and Social Development Committee on the Oversight and Anti-Corruption Authority's annual report for 2021-2022.
During the Wednesday session, the council is scheduled to review reports from the Islamic and Judicial Affairs Committee on a draft memorandum of understanding between the Saudi Public Prosecution and the Algerian Ministry of Justice.
The annual report of the Supreme Judicial Council on administrative and financial work for the fiscal year 2021-2022 and the General Presidency for the Affairs of the Two Holy Mosques' annual report for 2021-2022 will also be reviewed and discussed.
The council will discuss the reports from the Transport, Communications, and Information Technology Committee regarding the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology's annual report for 2021-2022, and reports on two draft memoranda of understanding between the Saudi Ministry of Transport and its French counterpart.
The first is about technical cooperation in rail transport. The second is about cooperation in transport and innovation in the transport and logistics sector.
The Shoura Council will review two draft memoranda of understanding between Saudi Post and Egypt Post for cooperation in postal services provided to Egyptian pilgrims.