Lebanon’s music festivals make modest comeback after crisis

Lebanese singer Soumaya Baalbaki and conductor Lubnan Baalbaki perform during the opening of Baalbeck International Festival. (Reuters)
Lebanese singer Soumaya Baalbaki and conductor Lubnan Baalbaki perform during the opening of Baalbeck International Festival. (Reuters)
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Updated 11 July 2022

Lebanon’s music festivals make modest comeback after crisis

Lebanese singer Soumaya Baalbaki and conductor Lubnan Baalbaki perform during the opening of Baalbeck International Festival.
  • Artists provide a welcome escape from challenges that have gripped the country over the last three years

BAALBEK: Lebanon’s international music festivals kicked off at the weekend with a performance in the Roman ruins of Baalbek, the first performance there since the country’s economic crisis.

Under the title of “Baalbek Nights Return,” conductor Lubnan Baalbaki – whose first name means “Lebanon” and whose last name means “from Baalbek” — led the orchestra on Friday night alongside his sister, singer Soumaya.
The country once held several music festivals every summer, drawing international acts every weekend.
This year, the modest reopenings feature almost exclusively Lebanese performers.
Members of the audience in Baalbek swayed and sang along as Soumaya crooned Arabic tunes on a stage set up inside the temple of Bacchus, her silver gown glittering under the spotlights.
She performed traditional ballads as well as original songs written by Lebanese poets and scored by her brother.
For many, the evening was a welcome escape from the crises that have hit Lebanon over the last three years.
A financial meltdown described by the World Bank as one of the worst since the industrial revolution has led to rampant power cuts and medicine shortages across the country.
Lebanese have been further strained by the Beirut port blast of 2020 and several waves of the coronavirus pandemic.
“This is an exceptional day,” Soumaya said after the performance.
“Despite all the difficulties that have shadowed our work, we put on this festival. It’s an act of defiance — an act of faith in this country, in its image as a nation of art, culture and soft power that generates change.”
It was her first ever performance in her namesake city.
Her brother last performed there in 2019, just months before Lebanon’s collapse began.
“Music and arts were the most hard-hit by the coronavirus pandemic. Artists were the first to stop working and the last to return. This moment is so important for musicians and on a nationwide level,” said Lubnan.
“The crisis has pushed us to return to Lebanese talent and real Lebanese voices. Tonight, Soumaya’s performance on the stage in Baalbek reminded us how important and refined our musical culture is,” said Micheline
Abi Samra, a member of the audience.
“We were so happy and the coming days will be even better,” she said.
Upcoming acts at Baalbek include Lebanese rock band Adonis, French-Lebanese pianist Simon Ghreichy, and Iranian dancer Rana Gharghani.
“We are living through very difficult circumstance and very dark days,” said journalist Ricardo Karam, who attended the Baalbaki performance on Friday.
“They made them beautiful, they made them vibrant.”


Summits in Riyadh reflect Kingdom’s desire to enhance relations with China: Saudi foreign minister

Summits in Riyadh reflect Kingdom’s desire to enhance relations with China: Saudi foreign minister
Updated 1 min 11 sec ago

Summits in Riyadh reflect Kingdom’s desire to enhance relations with China: Saudi foreign minister

Summits in Riyadh reflect Kingdom’s desire to enhance relations with China: Saudi foreign minister
  • Speaking as Chinese President Xi Jinping arrived in Riyadh for an official visit, Prince Faisal bin Farhan said bilateral relations are characterized by friendship, trust, cooperation and coordination
  • Xi is expected to attend a Saudi-Chinese summit, the Gulf-China Summit for Cooperation and Development, and the Riyadh Arab-China Summit for Cooperation and Development

RIYADH: Three summits due to take place in Riyadh in the coming days reflect the shared determination of the Kingdom, the other Gulf Cooperation Council nations and the wider Arab world to strengthen cooperation and enhance strategic relations with China in pursuit of greater growth and prosperity for all of the countries and their peoples, according to Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan.

“The relations between the Kingdom and China are strategic and close in light of the international developments and changes taking place,” he said.

He added that the bilateral relationship is characterized by friendship, mutual trust, cooperation and continuous coordination, the Saudi Press Agency reported.

His comments came as Chinese President Xi Jinping arrived in Riyadh on Wednesday evening for a three-day official visit, during which he is expected to attend a Saudi-Chinese summit, the Gulf-China Summit for Cooperation and Development, and the Riyadh Arab-China Summit for Cooperation and Development.

Prince Faisal praised the contribution made by a high-level Saudi-Chinese joint committee to the development of relations between the two countries in many fields. He said the bilateral economic relationship is progressing rapidly against the backdrop of the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 development and diversification plan and China’s Belt and Road Initiative, which offer promising opportunities for cooperation, sustainable development and mutual benefits.

He added that China has ranked as the Kingdom’s top trading partner since 2018, and that the value of bilateral trade in 2021 was SR309 billion ($82.1 billion), an increase of 39 percent compared with the previous year.


Islamic school funded by Kuwaitis opens in Venezuela

Islamic school funded by Kuwaitis opens in Venezuela
Updated 14 min 55 sec ago

Islamic school funded by Kuwaitis opens in Venezuela

Islamic school funded by Kuwaitis opens in Venezuela
  • Establishment to teach Arabic, Islamic education, Venezuelan curriculum to more than 180 students

KUWAIT: The Venezuelan Islamic School, funded by Kuwaiti businessmen and overseen by Zakat House, has opened in the country’s capital Caracas, the Kuwait News Agency reported on Wednesday.

More than 180 students in kindergarten, primary, and secondary school will be taught Arabic, Islamic education, and the Venezuelan curriculum following Kuwait’s first charitable work in the country.

The inauguration was attended by Kuwait’s Ambassador to Venezuela Nasser Al-Enezi, Head of the Venezuelan Islamic Center Baligh Saeed, and a number of dignitaries, students and school staff.

Al-Enezi praised the Zakat House of Kuwait for sponsoring projects for the Arab community, and business for its contribution.

 


Culture can open the door to a ‘green’ future, says Saudi minister

Culture can open the door to a ‘green’ future, says Saudi minister
Updated 20 min 42 sec ago

Culture can open the door to a ‘green’ future, says Saudi minister

Culture can open the door to a ‘green’ future, says Saudi minister
  • Prince Badr met with a number of his counterparts on the sidelines of the forum
  • A number of agreements were signed during bilateral meetings to enhance cultural cooperation

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Culture, in cooperation with the Arab League Educational, Cultural and Scientific Organization, on Wednesday organized the 23rd Conference of Arab Culture Ministers in the capital, Riyadh, the Saudi Press Agency reported.

The event, which was held under the patronage of Prince Badr bin Abdullah bin Farhan, minister of culture, and chairman of the National Committee for Education, Culture and Science, was attended by ministers and officials from 20 Arab countries, as well as representatives of the Arab League, and regional and international organizations.

The minister of culture, who is also president of the 23rd session, said: “This year’s session, whose main theme is: ‘Culture and the green future,’ aims to make the cultural sector more sustainable, as we seek to make it the starting point of international efforts involving the cultural sector with its various branches, extending to cover all elements of its value chain.”

He added: “The utilization of culture toward the green future contributes to instilling culture in the global development debate, which receives the full attention of King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, through the Kingdom’s participation in global cultural platforms, where the ‘Culture and the green future’ theme conforms to the goals of the Kingdom Vision 2030.”

He said that this, in return, highlights the Kingdom’s support of collective efforts to enhance knowledge, skills and practices related to making the cultural sector more sustainable and environmentally friendly.

During the conference, ministers focused on the role of culture in achieving sustainable development, while working to develop effective sectorial policies that bring added value to collective efforts to move toward a more creative and sustainable future.

Meanwhile, Prince Badr met with his Egyptian counterpart Nevin Al-Kilany on the sidelines of the forum, where the two sides signed a memorandum of understanding to enhance cooperation in the cultural field.

The memorandum included cultural fields, such as heritage, visual arts, performing arts, literature, books and publishing, Islamic decoration and other creative tracks.

It also included work to enhance the participation of Saudi and Egyptian intellectuals in festivals and cultural events held in the two countries, in addition to joint cooperation in training and qualifying local artistic cadres, and benefiting from experiences in the two countries in the fields of museums, urban heritage and handicraft industries.

Prince Badr praised the strong strategic relations that link the Kingdom with Egypt in all cultural fields. The two parties also discussed cooperation in the field of registering intangible heritage files with UNESCO, and cooperation in the field of exchanging expertise through cultural scholarship programs.

Prince Badr met with the Moroccan Minister of Youth, Culture and Communication Mohamed Mehdi Bensaid where another agreement was signed to enhance cultural cooperation in various fields, including literature, publishing and translation, heritage, architecture and design, museums, theater and performing arts.

The memorandum also included enhancing the participation of Saudi and Moroccan intellectuals in festivals and cultural events held in the two countries, in addition to exchanging expertise in organizations and cultural policies.

He also held similar meetings with the Director-General of the Islamic World Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization Salem Al-Malik, and the Director-General of ALECSO, Mohamed Ould Amar, where they discussed the most prominent current cooperation programs between the organizations and the Kingdom, and memoranda of understanding were signed.

He also met with his Tunisian and Djiboutian counterparts, and the president of the Bahrain Authority for Culture and Antiquities.


Electric vehicles emerge as key driver of Saudi-China climate-change fight

Electric vehicles emerge as key driver of Saudi-China climate-change fight
Updated 1 min 40 sec ago

Electric vehicles emerge as key driver of Saudi-China climate-change fight

Electric vehicles emerge as key driver of Saudi-China climate-change fight
  • China is the world’s largest market for EVs, accounting for 53 percent of the global share 
  • Saudi Arabia has launched its own EV brand, Ceer, and owns a stake in US maker Lucid

RIYADH: China and Saudi Arabia are two of the energy powerhouses of the world and, as such, the world’s gaze turns to them in discussions around climate change.

While much of the focus is on the Kingdom’s oil production, or Beijing’s coal-mining activities, the two nations are only just starting to get recognition for their shared vision for decarbonization via electric vehicles.

This is an area of shared enthusiasm, and one where Saudi Arabia and China can further work together to lead innovation and implementation.

For its part, Saudi Arabia has handed the EV industry a prominent role in its economic diversification plan known as Vision 2030.

Tesla cars at a charging station in Beijing, main, and, below, a Lucid luxury electric vehicle on display. (AFP)

The world’s largest oil exporter has identified the sector as one on the cusp of a boom as the globe moves away from fossil fuels, and is investing not just in overseas firms, but also in homegrown products.

The overseas backing takes the form of the US-firm Lucid. In 2018, the Public Investment Fund poured $1billion into the company and now has a 60 percent stake. The investment prompted Lucid to announce in February 2022, that it would build its first international vehicle assembly plant in King Abdullah Economic City, north of Jeddah. 
To further underline its commitment to the sector, the Saudi government struck a deal with Lucid to buy up to 100,000 EVs over a 10-year period.

It is not just Lucid that will be producing EVs in the Kingdom. In October, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman unveiled Saudi Arabia’s own EV brand: Ceer.

Lithium batteries for electric vehicles on the inspection line at a factory in Nanjing in China’s eastern Jiangsu province. (AFP)

Like Lucid, this company will produce vehicles from a plant in KAEC, with construction on the $69 million facility due to begin in early 2023.

Ceer is a joint venture with FoxConn — the Taiwan-based firm that is the largest private sector employer in China — and will further cement the ties between Saudi Arabia and the economies of the Far East.

Ceer will license component technology from BMW to design and build vehicles, including sedans and sport utility vehicles, in the Kingdom while Foxconn will develop the electrical architecture of the vehicles, resulting in a portfolio of products that will lead in infotainment, connectivity and autonomous driving technologies.

Of course, the Kingdom is not turning itself into one of the leading EV producers in the world just to appease its domestic market. Exporting these vehicles is a key part of not just Saudi Arabia’s economic diversification strategy but in reducing global emissions.

Penetrating the Chinese market could prove a challenge. Beijing has been encouraging its citizens to switch to EVs by offering subsidies for purchases. This has helped China become the largest market for EVs, accounting for 53 percent of the global share.

US-based Lucid is planning to build its first overseas vehicle assembly plant north of Jeddah. (AFP)

The Chinese government forecasts that EVs will account for 50 percent of all new car sales in the country by 2035, suggesting the appetite for such vehicles will continue to be high.

Yet while firms such as Tesla are doing well in the market — selling 83,135 cars in September in what was its best month for sales in the country — China has a thriving production sector, meaning the reliance on imports is low.

However, as is the case in many countries, one of the main barriers for mass take-up of EVs is higher purchase price than for petrol vehicles.

Saudi Arabia could find itself in a position to use its growing EV production hub being built just north of Jeddah to make affordable vehicles for what is the largest market in the world.

Should it crack that nut, the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 goal of raising non-oil exports to 50 percent of GDP looks eminently reachable.
 


DP World Logistics opens 6,000 sq. m warehouse in Dubai’s Jebel Ali Free Zone

DP World Logistics opens 6,000 sq. m warehouse in Dubai’s Jebel Ali Free Zone
Updated 08 December 2022

DP World Logistics opens 6,000 sq. m warehouse in Dubai’s Jebel Ali Free Zone

DP World Logistics opens 6,000 sq. m warehouse in Dubai’s Jebel Ali Free Zone
  • The company said the storage facility has a monthly capacity of 6,000 twenty-foot equivalent units

DUBAI: DP World Logistics in Dubai has opened a 6,000-square-meter high-end warehouse offering new storage solutions at Jebel Ali Free Zone, the Emirates News Agency reported.

The facility has 12,500 pallet positions and can accommodate cargo up to 18 meters high using Very Narrow Aisle racking systems, the company said, and a monthly capacity of 6,000 twenty-foot equivalent units.

DP World Logistics highlighted its advantageous location in what it described as one of the world’s fastest-developing regions and said that it is able to leverage the capabilities and cutting-edge IT platforms of its parent company, DP World, to ensure goods are stored, distributed and delivered efficiently through a multimodal transportation model that combines port, shipping line, sea freight, air freight and trucking solutions.

The company said it offers container freight station operations, warehousing and supply chain solutions, and freight-forwarding operations from six facilities in Jebel Ali and its assets include extensive yard operations, cross-dock warehousing, and cold storage and cool storage solutions.

“As part of DP World, a global smart-trade enabler, DP World Logistics is continually on a journey of business transformation, with new product innovations and developments,” said Abdulla bin Damithan, the CEO of DP World UAE and Jafza.

“Our shared commitment to improve end-to-end logistics performance in moving cargo around the world, underpinned by innovations in logistics-led solutions, has maximized opportunities for our customers over the years.

“The new CFS 2 warehouse is yet another step in supporting our customers better, helping them explore varied business opportunities and move forward with tremendous growth potential in the region. As a reliable, trustworthy and time-bound logistics partner, we will continue creating a complete end-to-end logistics trade journey from and to high-growth markets for our clients.”