Childhood memories of Hajj pilgrimages inspire Saudi filmmaker’s latest project

Saudi filmmaker Mujtaba Saeed is currently developing a script that draws heavily on his relationship with the holy city of Makkah. (SPA)
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Saudi filmmaker Mujtaba Saeed is currently developing a script that draws heavily on his relationship with the holy city of Makkah. (SPA)
Saudi filmmaker Mujtaba Saeed is currently developing a script that draws heavily on his relationship with the holy city of Makkah. (SPA)
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Saudi filmmaker Mujtaba Saeed is currently developing a script that draws heavily on his relationship with the holy city of Makkah. (SPA)
Childhood memories of Hajj pilgrimages inspire Saudi filmmaker’s latest project
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Saudi filmmaker Mujtaba Saeed. (Supplied)
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Updated 02 July 2022

Childhood memories of Hajj pilgrimages inspire Saudi filmmaker’s latest project

Saudi filmmaker Mujtaba Saeed is currently developing a script that draws heavily on his relationship with Makkah. (SPA)
  • Mujtaba Saeed’s script draws parallels between Makkah and Berlin, and explores the contrasts between traditional values and the modern world

RIYADH: Saudi filmmaker Mujtaba Saeed’s relationship with Makkah began at an early age. He fondly recalls family journeys to the vibrant city for Umrah or Hajj, surrounded by people of all ethnicities and nationalities who gathered at the holy place for one common purpose.

He paints a picture of childhood road trips across the multi-toned sand dunes of Saudi Arabia as buses passed by carrying strangers from all walks of life, all chanting the same prayer in a united voice.

Saeed remembers the journeys from his childhood home in the city of Saihat, in the Eastern Province, to the Hijaz region in the west of the country as being full of excitement and marvel.




Mujtaba Saeed’s 2021 film ‘Zawal’ won a Golden Palm award for Best Short Film at the Saudi Film Festival, and a Golden Sail award
at the Gulf Radio and Television Festival, which took place in Bahrain. (Supplied)

“It was filled with adventure,” he told Arab News. “From a child’s perspective, it was a long trip that never ends. My relationship with Makkah was the idea of traveling to a place.”

The screenwriter and director is currently developing a script that draws heavily on his relationship with the holy city, which was a big part of his life until he moved to Germany as a young adult to continue his education.

“After that, I didn’t visit (Makkah) for a while but the memories remained,” he said. “I consider (the memories) things that open up questions related to time, connection and the act of travel … I think it’s similar to any Saudi’s relationship to Makkah.”

HIGHLIGHT

Mujtaba Saeed remembers the journeys from his childhood home in the city of Saihat, in the Eastern Province, to the Hijaz region in the west of the country as being full of excitement and marvel. Saeed, who now splits his time between residences in Berlin and Saudi Arabia, said these emotions and his experiences with the holy city are what inspired his latest script.

He added that the city is a focus for the many individuals and families who visit it as pilgrims throughout their lives.

“I think I grew up with these visuals and they’re filled with emotions; Makkah is a place filled with emotions for me,” he explained.




Saeed’s other projects include ‘Drowning’ or ‘Gharaq,’ which recently won the Best Feature Film Script award at the Saudi Film Festival. (Supplied)

Saeed, who now splits his time between residences in Berlin and Saudi Arabia, said these emotions and his experiences with the holy city are what inspired his latest script. It is still a work in progress but he is determined to share its story not only with fellow Saudis but audiences around the world.

“It’s up to everyone to try to engage and integrate with different cultures,” he said. “I think what’s inside us as humans and what motivates us as people is all one.”

The script reflects Saeed’s own life as it revolves around two cities: Makkah and Berlin. Though there are many differences between them there are also similarities, not least a transient nature, with people constantly coming and going: Pilgrims in Makkah, and tourists and students in Berlin.




Saudi filmmaker Mujtaba Saeed.

“These two places are directions (Qiblatan) for many people in the world, so I’m trying to search for the contrasts between the two and how that contrast affects the characters,” he said.

“For me, it’s also really important to see how this young city of Berlin opens up questions for anyone who visits it … questions that relate to our relationships with our bodies, and our connection to ourselves and others.”

Saeed said the search for answers to these questions by the characters in the story creates the conflict that is essential in any drama.

He added that his aim with the script is to explore the contrast between notions relating to the traditional values of “old society” and the modern, globalized world. More importantly, he said, it considers whether diverse groups of individuals, each with their own dynamic and colorful backgrounds, can coexist safely in one place.

“In Makkah, this equation exists,” said Saeed. “From the time I left to study in Germany and then worked there, there was care in a city that was also global. But still, there remains the important question: How can you amplify other voices there?”

He said he feels a responsibility as an artist to amplify voices that often go unheard. As the development of arts and entertainment in the Kingdom continues, as part of which the country aims to become a regional hub for cinema, filmmaking and broader forms of cultural exchange, he believes the growth of Saudi cinema offers an ideal opportunity to achieve that goal.

“At this stage of national renaissance, where we are giving a voice to Saudi cinema, we need, in addition to the work that the Saudi film commission does to develop regulated creations, to have an interest in more collaborative efforts, whether that’s with Europe, India, or other counties,” Saeed said.

“I think cinema will become our language — and it’s a universal language — in the coming years.

“The importance of the European Film Festival in Riyadh is something we can’t argue about and I think it’s important to focus on presenting diverse cinematic content.”

The inaugural EFF, which aimed to promote European cinema and encourage the building of contacts between filmmakers in Europe and Saudi Arabia, took place between June 15 and 22. Saeed believes it was important in terms of helping to bridge cultural gaps and encouraging ongoing communication.

“I don’t think the festival presented films that are new to this audience, because the Saudi audience greatly follows (cinema), but it’s important for European filmmakers to meet this audience,” he said.

Saeed’s other current projects include a screenplay titled “Gharaq,” which translates as “Drowning,” which in June won the Best Feature Film Script award at the 2022 Saudi Film Festival. Saeed said that it explores the duality of forgiveness and revenge, adding: “A person can’t be free unless he forgives.”

The film is prepping for production, with filming due to take place in the east of the Kingdom. He is hopeful it will be a Saudi-German co-production.

Saeed’s 2021 film “Zawal” won a Golden Palm award for Best Short Film at the Saudi Film Festival, and a Golden Sail award at the Gulf Radio and Television Festival, which took place in Bahrain between June 21 and 23. It tells the story of an 8-year-old boy who lives with his mother in a refugee camp under quarantine following the outbreak of a mystery pandemic.


Saudi Arabia reaffirms full support for the stability of Yemen

The session was chaired by King Salman at Al-Salam Palace in Jeddah. (SPA)
The session was chaired by King Salman at Al-Salam Palace in Jeddah. (SPA)
Updated 09 August 2022

Saudi Arabia reaffirms full support for the stability of Yemen

The session was chaired by King Salman at Al-Salam Palace in Jeddah. (SPA)
  • Cabinet appreciated UN’s efforts for a ceasefire in Yemen

JEDDAH: The Saudi Cabinet on Tuesday reaffirmed the Kingdom’s firm support for all action that can help to guarantee the security and stability of Yemen and its people.

The session was chaired by King Salman at Al-Salam Palace in Jeddah. According to Issam bin Saad bin Saeed, the member for Shoura Council affairs and acting minister of media, the Cabinet members expressed their appreciation for the efforts of the UN to improve the adherence to the ceasefire in Yemen, in line with the Saudi initiative, announced in March last year, to end the crisis in the country and reach a comprehensive political resolution.
The ministers also expressed their hopes that the Riyadh International Humanitarian Forum, which is being organized by the King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Center in partnership with the UN and will take place in February, will contribute to efforts to find innovative and practical solutions that can help provide humanitarian aid to the highest standards and achieve the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.

FASTFACT

The ministers also expressed their hopes that the Riyadh International Humanitarian Forum, which is being organized by the King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Center in partnership with the UN in February.

Ministers also reiterated the Kingdom’s assertion, made this month during the 10th Review Conference of the Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, of support for international efforts to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons and place its nuclear facilities under a comprehensive system of safeguards under the auspices of the International Atomic Energy Agency.
The council said it considers the stability and balance of oil markets as one of the pillars of the Kingdom’s energy strategy.
It described oil as an important element in supporting the growth of the global economy, as reflected in Saudi Arabia’s pivotal role in establishing and maintaining the OPEC+ agreement on production quotas. Members stressed the importance of full compliance with those quotas by all OPEC+ member nations.
The council session concluded with the approval of a number of decisions. The chairman of the board of directors of the Saudi Authority for Data and Artificial Intelligence was tasked with negotiating with the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development a draft administrative agreement between Saudi Arabia and the bank on a multi-donor trust fund for a digital development partnership.
The minister of energy and the minister of tourism were asked to draft and sign a cooperation agreement between their ministries and their counterparts in Thailand in the fields of energy and tourism.
A memorandum of understanding on labor cooperation between the Saudi Ministry of Human Resources and Social Development and Azerbaijan’s Ministry of Labor and Social Protection of the Population was approved, as were two MoUs for cooperation in the transport and logistics sector between the Kingdom’s Ministry of Transport and Logistics Services and the French Ministry of Ecological Transition. Ministers also approved an MoU for cooperation between the Saudi General Authority for Statistics and the British Office for National Statistics.

 


National Cybersecurity Authority launches CyberIC to develop sector in Saudi Arabia

National Cybersecurity Authority launches CyberIC to develop sector in Saudi Arabia
Updated 09 August 2022

National Cybersecurity Authority launches CyberIC to develop sector in Saudi Arabia

National Cybersecurity Authority launches CyberIC to develop sector in Saudi Arabia
  • The CyberIC program is designed to develop the skills of more than 10,000 Saudis and stimulate the wider domestic cybersecurity sector
  • The program offers courses that include virtual exercises so as to ensure that participants are ready to confront the most significant cybersecurity challenges

JEDDAH: The National Cybersecurity Authority on Monday announced the launch of a new program, CyberIC, to develop the cybersecurity sector in Saudi Arabia.

The program is aimed at developing the capabilities of cybersecurity specialists working with national authorities and stimulating the domestic cybersecurity ecosystem by increasing the development and localization of cybersecurity products, services and solutions.

The CyberIC program is designed to develop the skills of more than 10,000 Saudis and stimulate the wider domestic cybersecurity sector in line with international best practices.

The first phase of the program includes a number of initiatives, such as providing training for employees of national authorities working in cybersecurity and related fields and accelerating cybersecurity activities to stimulate the sector.

It will also include the launch of the second version of the cybersecurity challenge and offer programs for chief information security officers in cooperation with prestigious international universities in the field.

To ensure participants are ready to confront the most significant cybersecurity challenges, the program offers courses that include virtual exercises that simulate real cyberattacks and incidents.

The program is based on six main tracks: innovation and entrepreneurship, cybersecurity officers, cybersecurity trainers, fresh graduates, cybersecurity specialists and law enforcement agencies.

It will support the growth of the cybersecurity industry in the Kingdom by helping more than 60 national cybersecurity startups. Forty have already been launched, while the other 20 will be established through the cybersecurity challenge.


Saudi Arabia demands halt to Israeli attacks as three more Palestinians die in raid

Saudi Arabia demands halt to Israeli attacks as three more Palestinians die in raid
Updated 10 August 2022

Saudi Arabia demands halt to Israeli attacks as three more Palestinians die in raid

Saudi Arabia demands halt to Israeli attacks as three more Palestinians die in raid
  • At a Cabinet meeting in Jeddah chaired by King Salman, ministers urged the international community to assume its responsibilities and exert all efforts to end the conflict

RAMALLAH: Saudi Arabia on Tuesday demanded international action to halt deadly attacks by Israeli armed forces on the Palestinian people.

At a Cabinet meeting in Jeddah chaired by King Salman, ministers urged the international community to assume its responsibilities and exert all efforts to end the conflict.

The Saudi call came as three Palestinians were killed and 40 injured in an Israeli raid in Nablus in the northern West Bank, and 17-year-old Moamen Jaber died from his wounds in hospital in Hebron after being shot by Israeli soldiers in earlier clashes in Bab Al-Zawiya.

The four deaths brought the number of people killed this year by Israeli forces in the West Bank and Gaza Strip to 130.

"From Nablus to Hebron, after Gaza and Jenin, the occupation continues to commit its open crimes against our people in all the occupied territories,” Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammed Shtayyeh said.

Tuesday’s deaths came after elite Israeli forces surrounded a house in the old city of Nablus in the early morning, closing in on Ibrahim Al-Nabulsi of Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, the military wing of Fatah, and at least one other member of the group, named as Islam Sabbouh.

After Nabulsi refused requests to surrender, Israeli forces opened fire and struck the house with Matador anti-armor missiles, killing the men inside. Another Palestinian, 16-year-old Hussein Jamal Taha, was also killed.

Thousands of Palestinians took part in the three funerals, the largest in Nablus for 20 years.

Violent clashes between Palestinians and Israeli forces broke out across the West Bank, wounding at least 20 civilians, most young men. A general strike was called in a show of mourning.

Nabulsi had survived several previous attempts to arrest or assassinate him over the past five months.

The new attack came less than 48 hours after Israel suspended its military operations in the Gaza Strip, which claimed the lives of 46 Palestinians, and injured more than 300 civilians, including women, children and the elderly.

Nabil Aburudina, spokesperson for the Palestinian Authority, condemned the killings in Nablus and said the Israeli occupation was approaching a comprehensive confrontation with the entire Palestinian people through its aggression.

Aburudina said the Israeli government was not interested in achieving peace and stability, and was working to shed Palestinian blood to achieve gains in Israeli internal politics.

He said the US delegate to the UN, by emphasising Israel’s right to defend itself, supported the Israeli narrative, which was unacceptable because Israel was the aggressor. If this aggression continued against the Palestinian people, it would ignite violence across the region, he said.

Taysir Nasrallah, a member of the Fatah Revolutionary Council and a prominent leader in Nablus who attended the funerals on Tuesday, told Arab News that mourners chanted slogans calling for revenge against Israel.

Nasrallah said: “It seems that Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid started his electoral campaign early by killing the largest number of Palestinians, which would enable him to obtain the largest number of votes.”

The Palestinians believe that the recent Israeli military escalations in Jenin, Gaza and Nablus are linked to the Israeli election campaign, with votes scheduled to take place on Nov. 1, and that Lapid, who lacks the military experience of his strongest rival, Benjamin Netanyahu, wishes to appear to voters as capable of dealing militarily with the Palestinians.

“We believe that there are electoral goals for this unprecedented military escalation against the Palestinians, and this confirms that Israel’s leaders have no project towards the Palestinians other than killing,” Nasrallah said.

He called on the PA to take a decisive decision to end its relationship with Israel.

“The new Palestinian generation does not believe in the approach of negotiations, which has not brought any result to the Palestinians for 27 years except by increasing settlements, killings and destruction against the Palestinians. Therefore, the Palestinian Authority must take a decisive decision to completely end the relationship with Israel, regardless of the results of this decision,” he said.

Palestinian politician Mustafa Barghouti told Arab News that the Israel crimes would lead to a comprehensive Palestinian popular uprising.


Saudi Arabia’s Real Estate authority reports 2,291 violations

This file photo, shows a general view of Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. (AP)
This file photo, shows a general view of Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. (AP)
Updated 09 August 2022

Saudi Arabia’s Real Estate authority reports 2,291 violations

This file photo, shows a general view of Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. (AP)
  • Saudi Center for Real Estate Arbitration recorded a total of 97 real estate disputes

RIYADH: The Real Estate General Authority reported 2,291 violations of real estate advertisements from June 23 until Aug. 9 of which 1,385 of which have been processed.

The authority confirmed that it had received 160 real estate reports and 5,600 applications to serve as real estate advertisers, of which 498 are for establishments and 5,100 for individuals.

The authority pointed out that the number of registered users in the real estate service “Iqari” exceeded 8,100 beneficiaries.

Meanwhile, the Saudi Center for Real Estate Arbitration also recorded a total of 97 real estate disputes.

The authority called on the real estate dealers to submit reports of any violations through their website: https://eservices.rega.gov.sa or through the toll-free number 8003030099.

These efforts come within the authority’s attempts to follow up on the implementation of the real estate advertisement protocols and the e-platforms licensing standards to develop the non-governmental real estate sector.

 

 

 

 

 


Trade picks up in Makkah as pilgrims shop

Pilgrims are visiting the marketplace to buy souvenirs for their loved ones. (SPA)
Pilgrims are visiting the marketplace to buy souvenirs for their loved ones. (SPA)
Updated 10 August 2022

Trade picks up in Makkah as pilgrims shop

Pilgrims are visiting the marketplace to buy souvenirs for their loved ones. (SPA)
  • Ajwa dates, which cost between SR20 ($5.3) and SR30 per kilo, are a favorite among pilgrims

MAKKAH: Umrah season is in full swing, and visitors from all over the world are converging on Makkah and Madinah to visit the Two Holy Mosques.
Trade in Makkah is witnessing significant activity and recovery in the second season of the pilgrimage following the pandemic.
In addition to performing their rituals, pilgrims are visiting the marketplace to buy souvenirs for their loved ones.  Ajwa dates, which cost between SR20 ($5.3) and SR30 per kilo, are a favorite among pilgrims.
Makkah has large farms in Qaba, Al-Awali and Al-Ouyoun that cater to the production of the finest Ajwa dates to meet the significant demand.
Other popular purchases include prayer beads and rugs, electronic devices, gold and audio recordings of Qur’an recitations by the imams of the Grand Mosque and the Prophet’s Mosque.
The market also has many bookshops filled with literature on Shariah, jurisprudence, Islamic stories, and the Prophet and his companions’ biographies.