Arab leaders, US President Biden affirm common vision for region at Jeddah summit

Special Arab leaders, US President Biden affirm common vision for region at Jeddah summit
The leaders affirmed their common vision for a region where peace and prosperity prevail. (AFP)
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Updated 20 July 2022

Arab leaders, US President Biden affirm common vision for region at Jeddah summit

Arab leaders, US President Biden affirm common vision for region at Jeddah summit
  • The participating leaders stressed the importance of preserving Middle East security and stability
  • They renewed support for preventing the proliferation of nuclear weapons in the region

JEDDAH: The one-day Jeddah Security and Development Summit, hosted by Saudi Arabia, brought leaders of the Gulf Cooperation Council member countries, in addition to Jordan, Egypt and Iraq, together with US President Joe Biden.

In a joint statement at the end of the event, the leaders affirmed their common vision for a region where peace and prosperity prevail. They renewed their call for Iran to fully cooperate with the International Atomic Energy Agency and with regional countries to keep the Gulf free of weapons of mass destruction.




Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman delivers a speech at the summit. (SPA)

On regional affairs, the leaders affirmed their common vision for a region where peace and prosperity prevail, noting that this requires taking all necessary measures to jointly confront the challenges the region faces, and requires adherence to the rules of good neighborliness, and respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity.

In the final statement, the leaders renewed their call to Iran to fully cooperate with the International Atomic Energy Agency and with regional countries to keep the Gulf free of weapons of mass destruction.




President of the UAE Mohammed bin Zayed listens during the meeting. (AFP/UAE ministry of presidential affairs)

They stressed the importance of respect for the rules of good neighborliness, mutual respect and non-interference in internal affairs, and positive cooperation with countries in the region and the international community in a manner that preserves regional and international security and stability.

“The leaders reiterated their condemnation of terrorism, and reaffirmed their keenness to strengthen efforts to combat terrorism and extremism, prevent the armament and financing of terror groups and confront all activities that threaten the region’s security and stability,” the final statement said.




Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi listen during the session. (SPA)

In this context, the leaders welcomed Biden’s emphasis on a permanent US commitment to the security of its partners, as well as recognition of the region’s central role in connecting the Indo-Pacific with Europe, Africa and the Americas.

The discussions also aimed to address collectively environmental challenges and confront climate change, including the Saudi Green and the Middle East Green Initiatives, announced last October by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, in addition to the development of renewable energy sources.




King of Bahrain Hamad Al-Khalifa listens during the summit. (SPA)

The leaders said they look forward to climate conferences, such as the UN Climate Change Conference (COP27), which will be hosted later by Egypt and the UAE.

On energy, the leaders affirmed the importance of the stability of energy markets and praised Saudi Arabia’s leading role in achieving consensus within OPEC+ as well as the latter’s efforts to keep oil markets stable in a manner that serves consumer and producer interests.

The final statement said that “holding the summit confirmed the Kingdom’s global economic weight, in addition to its regional and international responsibility and its pivotal role in the security and stability of the region.




Emir of Qatar Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani listens during the summit. (SPA)

“The response of the GCC leaders to the invitation of King Salman affirms the common vision for a region of peace and stability, the importance of commitment to the security of the region, defense and security cooperation, and the protection of maritime shipping routes in accordance with the principles of international legitimacy.”




US President Joe Biden delivers a speech at the summit. (AFP)

The Jeddah meeting sought to confirm the historical partnership among the GCC countries, deepen joint cooperation in various fields, and build joint projects that contribute to achieving sustainable development in the region.

The summit affirmed the importance of close cooperation and common visions on a number of issues and situations in the region, including affirming the GCC stance supporting the two-state solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict in accordance with the UN resolutions and the Arab Peace Initiative,

“(Gulf) leaders stressed the need to reach a just solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict on the basis of the two-state solution,” the final statement said, adding that they acknowledged the importance of supporting the Palestinian economy and the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA).




Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman welcomes Oman Deputy Prime Minister for International Relations and Cooperation Asa’ad bin Tariq bin Taimur Al-Said. (SPA)

On the matter of the Yemen conflict, the leaders condemned Houthi terrorist attacks against civilians, landmarks and energy facilities, and welcomed the formation of a Presidential Leadership Council in Yemen.

The final statement expressed support for a negotiated solution between the Yemeni government and the Houthis, welcomed the extension of the truce, and underscored the importance of commitment to continue supporting the humanitarian and relief needs of the Yemeni people.




King Abdullah II bin Al-Hussein of Jordan delivers a speech at the session. (SPA)

Among other things, the summit voiced support for Iraq’s security, stability and prosperity, as well as political solutions to all crises in the region, in accordance with the relevant UN resolutions and principles.

The leaders discussed Syria and said efforts must be intensified to reach a political solution to the crisis in a manner that maintains the country’s unity and sovereignty, and fulfils the Syrian people’s aspirations. The final statement underscored the importance of Lebanon’s stability and the independence of its political decision.

With regard to the situation in Libya, the leaders renewed their call for unifying military institutions under UN supervision, and voiced the necessity of holding parliamentary and presidential elections.

As far as Sudan is concerned, the leaders reaffirmed their support of efforts aimed at achieving stability and encouraged a consensus among the various parties.




Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa Al-Kadhimi listens during the session. (SPA)

Addressing the issue of Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam, the leaders called for a diplomatic solution that achieves the interests of all parties concerned — mainly Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan — and contributes to regional prosperity.

With regard to the Russia-Ukraine conflict, the Jeddah summit affirmed the participants’ commitment to the principles of international law and the UN Charter, respect for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of states, non-use of force or the threat of force, in addition to the support for mediation efforts, a political solution to the crisis through negotiations, provision of humanitarian and relief assistance.




Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman welcomes Kuwait Crown Prince Sheikh Mishal Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah. (AFP)

On Afghanistan, the leaders noted that efforts must continue to provide humanitarian aid to the country and deal with the threat of terrorists. The leaders also thanked Qatar for supporting the security and stability of the Afghan people.

The leaders welcomed the preparations by the state of Qatar for hosting the 2022 World Cup, and reiterated their support for all efforts to ensure its success.


Final Statement of Jeddah Security and Development Summit Issued 

Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, July 16, 2022

1.     At the invitation of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, King of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, the leaders of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) member states, the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, the Arab Republic of Egypt, the Republic of Iraq, and the United States of America held  a joint summit in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, on July 16, 2022, to underscore the historic partnership among their countries and to deepen their countries' joint cooperation in all fields. 

2.     The leaders welcomed President Biden reiterating the importance the United States places on its decades-long strategic partnerships in the Middle East, affirming the United States' enduring commitment to the security and territorial defense of U.S. partners, and recognizing the region's central role in connecting the Indo-Pacific to Europe, Africa, and the Americas.

3.     The leaders affirmed their joint vision towards a peaceful and prosperous region, stressing the importance of taking all necessary measures to preserve the region's security and stability, developing joint areas of cooperation and integration, collectively confronting common threats, and abiding by the principles of good neighborliness, mutual respect, and respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity. 

4.     President Biden reaffirmed the U.S. commitment to achieve a just, lasting and comprehensive Middle East peace. The leaders emphasized the need to bring about a just resolution to the Israel-Palestinian conflict on the basis of two-state solution, noting the importance of the Arab Initiative. They stressed the need to stop all unilateral measures that undermine the two-state solution, to preserve the historical status quo in Jerusalem and its holy sites, emphasizing the crucial role of the Hashemite Custodianship in that regard. The leaders also stressed the importance of supporting the Palestinian economy and the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA).  President Biden commended the important roles played by Jordan and Egypt, and the members of the GCC, and their support for the Palestinian people and institutions.

5.     The leaders renewed their commitment to enhance regional cooperation and integration, and build joint projects between their countries to achieve sustainable development and collectively address the climate challenge through accelerating climate ambition, supporting innovation and partnerships, including the Circular Carbon Economy Framework, and developing renewable sources of energy. In this context, the leaders commended the finalization of the agreements to connect electrical grids between Iraq and Saudi Arabia, between the Gulf Cooperation Council and Iraq, and between Saudi Arabia and Jordan and Egypt, as well as connecting the electrical grids between Egypt, Jordan, and Iraq.

6.     The leaders commended the Saudi Green Initiative and the Middle East Green Initiative announced by the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia. The leaders expressed their hope for positive contributions by all countries towards a successful COP 27 hosted by the Arab Republic of Egypt, COP28 which will be hosted by the United Arab Emirates, and the International Horticultural Expo 2023 to be hosted by the State of Qatar titled “Green Desert, Better Environment 2023-2024."  

7.     The leaders affirmed the importance of achieving energy security and stabilizing energy markets, while working on increasing investments in technologies and projects that aim to lower emissions and remove carbon, consistent with their national commitments.  The leaders also noted the efforts by OPEC + that aim to stabilize oil markets in a manner that serves the interests of consumers and producers and supports economic growth, welcomed the decision by OPEC+ to increase production for the months of July and August, and commended Saudi Arabia for its leading role in achieving consensus among the members of OPEC+.  

8.     The leaders renewed their support to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, and the objective of preventing the proliferation of nuclear weapons in the region.  The leaders also renewed their call on the Islamic Republic of Iran to fully cooperate with the International Atomic Energy Agency, and with countries in the region to keep the Arab Gulf region free from weapons of mass destruction, and to preserve security and stability regionally and globally.  

9.     The leaders renewed their condemnation in the strongest terms of terrorism in all its forms and affirmed their commitment to strengthening regional and international efforts aimed at confronting terrorism and violent extremism, preventing the financing, arming, and recruitment of terrorist groups by all individuals and entities, and to confronting all activities that threaten regional security and stability.

10.    The leaders condemned, in the strongest terms, the terrorist acts impacting civilians, civilian infrastructure, and energy installations in Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and commercial ships navigating critical international trade routes, in the Strait of Hormuz and Bab al Mandab, and affirmed the need to adhere to relevant UN Security Council Resolutions, including UNSCR 2624.

11.    The leaders expressed their full support for Iraq's sovereignty, security, and stability, its development and prosperity, and all of its efforts to combat terrorism. The leaders also welcomed Iraq's positive role in facilitating diplomacy and confidence-building among countries in the region.

12.    The leaders welcomed the truce in Yemen, as well as the establishment of the Presidential Leadership Council (PLC) in Yemen, expressing their hope to achieve a political solution in line with the references of the GCC initiative, its implementation mechanism, the outcomes of the Yemeni comprehensive national dialogue, and UN Security Council resolutions, including UNSCR 2216.  The leaders called on the Yemeni parties to seize this opportunity and engage immediately in direct negotiations under the auspices of the United Nations.  The leaders also affirmed the importance of continuing to support the humanitarian needs of the Yemeni people, as well as provide economic and developmental support, while ensuring it reaches all areas of Yemen.

13.       The leaders stressed the need to intensify efforts to reach a political solution to the Syrian crisis, in a manner that preserves Syria's unity and sovereignty, and meets the aspirations of its people, in accordance with UN Security Council Resolution 2254. The leaders stressed the importance of providing the necessary support to Syrian refugees and to the countries hosting them, and for humanitarian aid to reach all regions of Syria.

14.       The leaders expressed their support for Lebanon's sovereignty, security, and stability, as well as all the reforms necessary to achieve its economic recovery. They noted recently-conducted parliamentary elections, enabled by the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) and Internal Security Forces (ISF).  With a view to upcoming presidential elections, they called on all Lebanese parties to respect the constitution and carry out the process in a timely manner.  The leaders praised the efforts made by friends and partners of Lebanon that have renewed and strengthened the confidence and cooperation between Lebanon and the Gulf Cooperation Council countries, and that have supported the LAF and ISF in their efforts to maintain security in the country.  The leaders took particular note of Kuwait's initiatives aimed at building joint action between Lebanon and the GCC countries, and commended the State of Qatar's recent announcement of direct support for LAF salaries.  The United States confirmed its intention to develop a similar program for the LAF and ISF. The leaders also welcomed the support of the Republic of Iraq to the people and government of Lebanon in the fields of energy and humanitarian relief. The leaders welcomed all friends of Lebanon to join this effort to ensure the safety and stability of Lebanon.  The leaders emphasized the importance of the control of the government of Lebanon over all Lebanese territory, including with reference to fulfilling the provisions of the relevant UN Security Council resolutions and the Taif Accord, and for it to exercise full sovereignty, so there will be no weapons without the consent of the government of Lebanon or authority other than that of the government of Lebanon.  

15.       The leaders renewed their support for efforts to resolve the Libyan crisis in accordance with relevant Security Council resolutions, including Resolutions 2570 and 2571, the need to hold presidential and parliamentary elections, in tandem, as soon as possible, and the departure of all foreign forces and mercenaries without delay. They continue to support Libyan efforts to unify the country's military institutions under the auspices of the UN process. The leaders expressed their appreciation for the Arab Republic of Egypt's hosting of the Libyan constitutional dialogue in support of the UN-facilitated political process.

16.    The leaders affirmed their support for efforts to achieve stability in Sudan, resume a successful transitional phase, encourage consensus between the Sudanese parties, maintain the cohesion of the state and its institutions, and support Sudan in facing economic challenges.

17.    Regarding the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD),  the leaders reiterated  their support for Egypt's water security and to forging a diplomatic resolution that would achieve the interests of all parties and contribute to a more peaceful and prosperous region.  The leaders reiterated the imperative of concluding an agreement on the filling and operation of the GERD within a reasonable timeframe as stipulated in the Statement of the President of the United Nations Security Council dated September 15, 2021, and consistent with international law.

18.    With regard to the war in Ukraine, the leaders reaffirmed the importance of respecting the principles of international law, including the UN Charter, the sovereignty and territorial integrity of states, and the obligation to refrain from the use of force and the threats of using force. The leaders urged all countries and the international community to intensify their efforts aimed at achieving a peaceful solution, ending the humanitarian crisis, and supporting refugees, displaced persons and those affected by the war in Ukraine, as well as facilitating the export of grain and other food supplies, and supporting food security in affected countries.

 19.    ​With regard to Afghanistan, the leaders stressed the importance of continuing and intensifying efforts to support humanitarian access to Afghanistan, to address the threat posed by Afghanistan-based terrorists, and striving for the ability of all Afghans to be able to enjoy their human rights and fundamental freedoms, including their right to education and enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of health and, particularly for women, the right to work.   The leaders expressed appreciation for Qatar's role in promoting security and stability for the Afghan people.

20.    The leaders welcomed the preparations by the state of Qatar for hosting the 2022 World Cup, and reiterated their support for all efforts to ensure its success.

 21.    The participating countries affirmed their commitment to convening again in the future. ​​


 

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Best-selling Saudi novel ‘HWJN’ turns into live action

Best-selling Saudi novel ‘HWJN’ turns into live action
Updated 30 min 34 sec ago

Best-selling Saudi novel ‘HWJN’ turns into live action

Best-selling Saudi novel ‘HWJN’ turns into live action
  • The idea of adapting the novel has been tickling the ambitious mind of the producer-turned-director Yasir Al-Yasiri after he was gifted the book in 2017 by his friend, Emirati filmmaker Majid Al-Ansari

JEDDAH: A panel discussion was held today in Jeddah during the second edition of the Red Sea International Film Festival, titled “Hawjan: From the Novel to the Screen,” to shed light on the journey of transforming the best-selling novel “HWJN” into a movie.

From written words to the screen, the speakers explained the success of the famous fantasy novel and the complexities of transforming it for the big screen.

The book, pronounced Hawjan, was the number one best-selling novel in the history of Saudi Arabia when released in 2013. It is the first book of a series of metaphysical and supernatural novels that depict the results of interacting with the unknown realm of the jinn, which co-exists with the human world.

Translator Yasser Bahjatt, Actress Al Anood Saud, Director Yasir Al-Yasiri, Actress Nour  Khadra, Actor Baraa Alem. (AN photo)

Written by Ibraheem Abbas and translated into English by Yasser Bahjatt, the action-romance story details the interaction of two worlds and the unity of two different species to stop the evil of their worlds from slipping into each other.

It also sheds light on good jinns and shows the world from their perspective, with humans haunting their homes, and shows how some humans are more evil to each other than jinn are to them.

The idea of adapting the novel has been tickling the ambitious mind of the producer-turned-director Yasir Al-Yasiri after he was gifted the book in 2017 by his friend, Emirati filmmaker Majid Al-Ansari.

At first, Al-Yasiri did not take an interest in the book, until his friend insisted he reads it. “I read it overnight and I was actually like: Woah, this is something I want to work on,” said Al-Yasiri in a press release at The Ritz-Carlton Jeddah on Saturday.

He added that he decided to work on it because it “tackles a genre that is rarely addressed in the Arab world” and to “break the norm and bring something fresh.”

The two men immediately started working on the script and started the casting and filming process in 2018 with Al-Ansari as a director and Al-Yasiri as a producer. In 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic restricted Al-Ansari from coming to Saudi Arabia, leading Al-Yasiri to become the director, and he proceeded with filming.

The story introduces Sawsan, a medical student from the world of humans, and Hawjan, a curious man from the realm of the jinn, which humankind cannot see. The jinn man takes an interest in knowing Sawsan and her family after they move to a new house, where Hawjan and his family have been living for years.

While trying to maintain the boundaries between his life in both worlds, Hawjan discovers that he comes from a royal bloodline and tries to reclaim his right to the throne.

The script, written by both Al-Ansari and Al-Yasiri, ensures that the story has the necessary changes for the screen, but does not drift away from the book.

One of the biggest challenges the crew faced was creating a city that exists in the jinn world —Milaj City, which no human has seen. Al-Yasiri said they had to bear in mind the civilizational scenery of the jinn world, which existed before humans.

Casting the actors was a bit tricky, trying to find characters in the actors rather than actors who could portray them. This led to the casting of the brilliant Saudi actor Baraa Alem as Hawjan, Nour Khadra as Sawsan, Nayef Al-Dhufary as Zanan, and Al-Anood Saud as Jamara.

As the book became a major hit in 2013, the publishing houses were ordered by the religious police to stop selling it 11 months after its release, as it stirred controversy among parents who started complaining that their children were learning black magic, and how to call upon jinn.

One month later, the book was back on shelves after the editors, and the reviewing committee, made sure it was clear of the claims.

A teaser trailer was released earlier today by Vox Cinema, giving a glimpse into the world created by Al-Yasiri. Produced by Image Nation, MBC, and Vox Cinema, the movie will be out in 2023.

 


Super Hero experience tells Boulevard World visitors the story of The Avengers

Visitors can live the details in a 3D simulation, by standing in front of the heroes and taking pictures with them. (Supplied)
Visitors can live the details in a 3D simulation, by standing in front of the heroes and taking pictures with them. (Supplied)
Updated 10 min 23 sec ago

Super Hero experience tells Boulevard World visitors the story of The Avengers

Visitors can live the details in a 3D simulation, by standing in front of the heroes and taking pictures with them. (Supplied)
  • The Super Hero experience includes the old TV room, which contains a TV set with distorted frequencies, to enhance the feeling of fear and tension among the participants in the experiment

RIYADH: The Super Hero experience takes visitors of Boulevard World, one of the 15 entertainment zones of Riyadh Season, on a training trip to Marvel World with the SHIELD team, accompanied by Stan Lee, who tells the story of the Avengers and how to use the team’s weapons in a digital experience that turns visitors into distinguished heroes.

The experience takes visitors to the shooting wall, where they learn to use the weapons of their superheroes and choose the appropriate items for each stage. Through the training area, visitors also have option to solve puzzles, search for missing data, and impersonate heroes to measure their physical capabilities.

Through the experience, visitors can live the details in a 3D simulation, by standing in front of the heroes and taking pictures with them in a form closer to reality than imagination. Visitors can also have fun in the Marvel World, the Hall of Superheroes, the Draw Your Hero activity, and the augmented reality mirror.

HIGHLIGHT

The experience takes visitors to the shooting wall, where they learn to use the weapons of their superheroes and choose the appropriate items for each stage. Through the training area, visitors also have option to solve puzzles, search for missing data, and impersonate heroes to measure their physical capabilities.

The Super Hero experience includes the old TV room, which contains a TV set with distorted frequencies, to enhance the feeling of fear and tension among the participants in the experiment. It also has a street room where people are chased by zombies.

The zone allows visitors to shop in the Super Hero store, which includes a huge assortment of Marvel, DC and Comic-Con products, including collectibles and costumes.

Tickets can be booked via the link: https://ticketmx.riyadhseason.sa/en/d/2430/boulevard-world

Boulevard World is at the heart of the third Riyadh Season. It includes the 10 culturally-oriented subzones from all over the world, featuring customs and lifestyles, folklore, dances, and prominent aspects of design and construction.

Visitors can learn about the cultures of China, Italy, France, India, Morocco, Spain, America, Japan, Greece and Mexico.

For both families and individuals, Boulevard World is a premier entertainment destination, featuring a host of experiences, including rides in hot air balloons, submarines and boats.

It has the largest man-made lake in the world, where boats can travel between cities through 11 stations. It also offers the Area 15 experience from Las Vegas; The Sphere, the biggest spherical theater in the world; a city for gaming fans; comic book and anime-themed activities; and plenty of family-friendly entertainment options.

Visitors can enjoy a ride in a Venetian gondola, taste American cuisine, shop for the best Spanish products and watch flamenco shows.

 


Virtual Reality Zone hits center stage at Red Sea International Film Festival

The VR scene in Saudi Arabia is still predominantly a medium for the young. (Supplied)
The VR scene in Saudi Arabia is still predominantly a medium for the young. (Supplied)
Updated 24 min 31 sec ago

Virtual Reality Zone hits center stage at Red Sea International Film Festival

The VR scene in Saudi Arabia is still predominantly a medium for the young. (Supplied)
  • Liz Rosenthal told Arab News: “Virtual reality is many different things. One project is entirely different from another
  • The projects range from video games to stories and art galleries

JEDDAH: The Virtual Reality Zone came into its own at the Red Sea International Film Festival in Jeddah on Saturday, showcasing 10 different projects, six of which were directed by women, ranging from video games to stories and art galleries.

Liz Rosenthal, the curator of the zone, said that in terms of telling stories, the VR medium “is in a league of its own.”

She told Arab News: “Virtual reality is many different things. One project is entirely different from another.

“Unlike movies, where you know that it has a beginning, middle, and an end on a flat screen, in VR you may be doing something with one person, two, or 100.”

The curator is seeking to show what is possible within the VR world. The projects were chosen with the Saudi audience in mind.

She added: “We make sure that we have something for everyone, so there are things for younger people, families and people who have different tastes.”

The VR scene in Saudi Arabia is still predominantly a medium for the young.

Rosenthal said: “Even in countries like the UK, in the European region, (even in) the biggest companies, it is still too young.

“Ithra in Saudi Arabia started a year-and-a-half ago and they have made their projects, so that’s really great to see that Saudi is trying to appear on the map for VR products.”

Rosenthal added that it is important to develop further as the VR world needed people with the knowledge and tools to tell stories and create experiences into the future.

She said: “In some ways it is easier to come into a new medium because there is less of a structure stopping people, compared to something that has been going on for years like the cinema.

“It is difficult to break in, but here people are so much more welcoming.

“Another thing you need to understand is that it is real time; you are interacting with things that are around you.

“You need a lot of skills to create a good experience. Being just one thing is not enough: you need to be a good artist, a good architect, and much more.”

A recent development has been a gaming project called “Eggscape,” a multiplayer game. It allows the player to see through the lens of a VR headset and into their own surroundings. The game then projects characters and the player interacts.

Rosenthal said the game shows the future potential of VR, and the direction in which the medium is going.

 


Who’s Who: Mohammed A. Al-Ghazal, co-founder and CEO of Noor Energies Group Ltd.

 Mohammed A. Al-Ghazal
Mohammed A. Al-Ghazal
Updated 5 sec ago

Who’s Who: Mohammed A. Al-Ghazal, co-founder and CEO of Noor Energies Group Ltd.

 Mohammed A. Al-Ghazal

Mohammed Al-Ghazal has been co-founder and CEO of Noor Energies Group Ltd. in Dhahran since 2020.

The company oversees energy products and digital transformation services. It also provides energy and innovation solutions in the maritime, commercial, retail and industrial sectors.

Before co-founding Noor Energies, Al-Ghazal was operations supervisor at Saudi Aramco from 2016 to 2019 in Dhahran. In that role, he led and applied basic sciences, technology and fiscal discipline to complete critical production operations at Aramco.

From 2010 to 2015, Al-Ghazal was the production engineer and HSE adviser at Aramco. In his role, Al-Ghazal capitalized on the digital value chain and environmentally friendly innovation to deliver energy resources for Aramco.

Through his time at Aramco, Al-Ghazal gained leadership and knowledge skills in planning, designing and executing solutions in various energy topics while leading his team.

Al-Ghazal has also been a freelance managing director at Plutos Tech since August 2020. He has authored many reports regarding wind energy, cybersecurity for upstream operations, oil and gas operations, industrial informatics for operational excellence and more.

He has also led numerous projects such as digital transformations in oil and gas for several companies in 2021, and the Influence of Generation Y on the Energy Business Workplace for Aramco in 2021.

Al-Ghazal has received many awards for his diverse technology, energy and writing expertise. He received the SABIC Prize for Entrepreneurship and Innovation in 2022. He has also received a Young Oil and Gas Professional of the Year Award, and an Oil & Gas and Refining & Petrochemicals ME Award in 2018.

He received a bachelor’s degree in petroleum engineering from King Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals in Dhahran in June 2010. He also received a master’s degree in engineering from the University of Southern California, US, in July 2015.

 


Giant desert rave signals Kingdom’s mighty changes 

Giant desert rave signals Kingdom’s mighty changes 
Updated 03 December 2022

Giant desert rave signals Kingdom’s mighty changes 

Giant desert rave signals Kingdom’s mighty changes 
  • In its biggest and most diverse festival yet, Soundstorm returns to Riyadh, bringing music to thousands
  • Attendance expected to increase from last year’s 730,000, organizers say 
  • Soundstorm is arguably the largest electronic music festival in the world

RIYADH: An electronic musical festival billed as one of the largest in the world, and a sign of Saudi Arabia’s rapidly expanding entertainment landscape, has drawn hundreds of thousands of people to a remote desert area outside Riyadh over the past three days. 

Rave-goers at the third edition of Soundstorm crowded the stages, dressed in an eclectic mix of local Bedouin attire, Saudi national dress, and streetwear in the form of colorful hoodies and jackets with the addition of glitter make-up. 

MDL Beast, the Saudi entertainment company that launched the festival in 2019, is one of the most high-profile examples of the rapid social changes that have swept the Kingdom since Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s Vision 2030 reform plan was launched in 2016. 

Last year more than 730,000 people attended the festival over the course of four days, and this year organizers expect the number to increase for the three-day festival, which ended on Dec. 3. 

Soundstorm shows the power of music to bring people together for moments of shared joy.

“This is about love,” shouted American record producer and rapper DJ Khaled from the Big Beast stage on Friday during his first performance in Saudi Arabia and the Middle East.

With MDL Beast introducing rap and hip-hop to this year’s line-up, rap legends Busta Rhymes, Fat Joe, Future, Rick Ross and T.I joined DJ Khaled on stage in “DJ Khaled & Friends.”

The inclusion of hip-hop stars also underlines Soundstorm’s increasing variety of music genres, mixing top Saudi and Arabic performers with international acts — a sign of an increasing desire by global artists to perform in the Kingdom.

“The feedback from the international talent has been incredible, and we’re seeing more and more artists from abroad looking to come out to our festival to perform, which aligns with our mission to provide fans with the best possible experience,” said Talal Al-Bahiti, MDL Beast chief operating officer, and head of talent bookings and events, in a statement. 

Headlining global superstars playing for the first time included Bruno Mars, Marshmello and Post Malone. Returning DJs, such as Carl Cox, DJ Snake and David Guetta, lit up the stage, while a strong contingent of female Saudi DJs, such as Biirdperson, DJ Cosmicat, Dorar, Kayan and Solskin joined their peers Dish Dash, Vinylmode and regional star DJ Aseel, making this year’s line-up the most diverse to date.

“We have such strong women Saudi DJs now,” Danah, 27, a Saudi DJ playing in Soundstorm at VIB, told Arab News.

The Saudi music scene, previously underground, has become “a beautiful culture of shared encouragement,” she said.

“One DJ would offer me her equipment; we all shared and encouraged each other,” she said. “It was such a beautiful dynamic where women were empowering women to play music, men were empowering women to play music, and it wasn’t just to fill the gap in the market. We continue to spread this love today.”

“The event represents our great unveiling,” said Ahmad Alammary, chief creative officer at MDL Beast and a DJ who goes by the name Baloo,. 

“If Soundstorm had a middle name, it would be upgrade,” he added. “We love to upgrade by the way we design the event. From last year, we have learned more about people’s behavior, their preferences. And there is a lot of growth need that comes with this quick shift and lifestyle.” 

This year’s festival experience was enhanced for Premium and VIB — Very Important Beast or VIP — who moved from stage to stage to exclusive view areas via a connected network of elevated walkways akin to several large loops.

Soundstorm’s enhanced structure also included open seating spaces in the form of park-like areas aligned with food and beverage stations, and parking on site for all general admission ticket holders.

The festival, which follows the three-day XP Music Conference in the JAX district of Diriyah, signals Saudi Arabia’s rapidly expanding entertainment sector. 

“Heading into our third edition of Soundstorm, we do so now knowing the substantial impact the festival has on helping inspire, amalgamate and grow the Kingdom’s and wider region’s music scene and industry,”  MDL Beast CEO Ramadan Al-Haratani told Arab News. 

After the debut Soundstorm in 2019, “the economic and social impact was nothing any of us had expected,” he said.

Soundstorm is fostering the growth of soft power in Saudi Arabia after years of closure. The festival offers young Saudis newfound pride in their country through the creative expression and enjoyment of music on a personal and collective level, he said.

“It gave a platform for so many talents in the region and allowed Saudis to be aware of these unexpected talents.”

According to MDL Beast, 83 percent of Saudi youth believe that Soundstorm increases opportunities for local musicians and creatives in the country, with 86 percent of young Saudis saying that their pride in the creativity and culture in Saudi Arabia has grown because of the first festival.

MDL Beast said that there was a 36.5 percent increase in demand for global artists for 12 months after the first Soundstorm in 2019, according to the IMS Business Report 2021.

According to Al-Haratani, the festival demonstrates how “the ambitious expansion of the music ecosystem can be fundamental to the Kingdom’s social transformation, including connecting Saudi fans with the global artists they love, and the establishment of new venues and record labels and the continued growth of our burgeoning music ecosystem.”

Among the challenges MDL Beast has faced is how to handle unprecedented large crowds of men and women dancing all night long in a country where this was unheard of a few years ago.

After several harassment claims during the first and second editions, MDL Beast launched the “Respect and Reset” anti-harassment campaign, and said it would take action against anyone who is abusive or offensive.

Signs with “Respect & Reset” and “Visit our R&R spaces for help with harassment” were publicized throughout the venues. A designated white tent to help those who had experienced harassment was set up next to a medical tent. 

Al-Haratani said that security was increased this year to over 3,800 personnel on site, with an estimated one guard for every 35 guests. Additionally, the festival was monitored by more than 300 CCTV cameras. Free water was available throughout the night in all venues.

Baloo said that the festival set-up included “safe dancing zones.” 

“If anyone is feeling insecure or unsafe or just wants to dance alone or in a couple, then we have created zones within the big stages where women and couples can go dancing comfortably,” he told Arab News. “Everyone is welcome to come.”

“In the last three years things have changed from zero to 100 here,” Lana Alsherif, 23, social media coordinator for XP Music Futures, told Arab News.

“It’s so beautiful to see this for the music industry. Everything is happening now. There’s a lot of opportunities and everyone wants to find talent. We want to build connections with everyone from here in Saudi, encourage local talent and bring international artists. We want to become a new benchmark for the music industry.”