Jazz power on full display at Dhahran’s Arabic Jazz Music Festival 

Special Jazz power on full display at Dhahran’s Arabic Jazz Music Festival 
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Rabih Abou Khalil performing at the Arabic Jazz Music Festival. (AN Photo / Essa Abdullah Aldobaisi)
Special Jazz power on full display at Dhahran’s Arabic Jazz Music Festival 
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Salah Alawi performing with Majaz. (AN Photo / Essa Abdullah Aldobaisi)
Special Jazz power on full display at Dhahran’s Arabic Jazz Music Festival 
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Bahraini cello player Jehad Al Halal performing with Majaz. (AN Photo / Essa Abdullah Aldobaisi)
Special Jazz power on full display at Dhahran’s Arabic Jazz Music Festival 
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Bahraini band Majaz at the Arabic Jazz Music Festival in Dammam. (AN Photo / Essa Abdullah Aldobaisi)
Special Jazz power on full display at Dhahran’s Arabic Jazz Music Festival 
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Majaz and Mosaic jam together. (AN Photo / Essa Abdullah Aldobaisi)
Special Jazz power on full display at Dhahran’s Arabic Jazz Music Festival 
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Mohamed Abozekry performing at the Arabic Jazz Music Festival. (AN Photo / Essa Abdullah Aldobaisi)
Special Jazz power on full display at Dhahran’s Arabic Jazz Music Festival 
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Camille Maussion performing with the Mohamed Abozekry band. (AN Photo / Essa Abdullah Aldobaisi)
Special Jazz power on full display at Dhahran’s Arabic Jazz Music Festival 
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Rabih Abou Khalil performing at the Arabic Jazz Music Festival. (AN Photo / Essa Abdullah Aldobaisi)
Special Jazz power on full display at Dhahran’s Arabic Jazz Music Festival 
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The Arabic Jazz Music Festival in Dammam. (AN Photo / Essa Abdullah Aldobaisi)
Special Jazz power on full display at Dhahran’s Arabic Jazz Music Festival 
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The Arabic Jazz Music Festival in Dammam. (AN Photo / Essa Abdullah Aldobaisi)
Special Jazz power on full display at Dhahran’s Arabic Jazz Music Festival 
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Audience members enjoying the Arabic Jazz Music Festival in Dammam. (AN Photo / Essa Abdullah Aldobaisi)
Special Jazz power on full display at Dhahran’s Arabic Jazz Music Festival 
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The Arabic Jazz Music Festival in Dammam. (AN Photo / Essa Abdullah Aldobaisi)
Special Jazz power on full display at Dhahran’s Arabic Jazz Music Festival 
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The Arabic Jazz Music Festival in Dammam. (AN Photo / Essa Abdullah Aldobaisi)
Special Jazz power on full display at Dhahran’s Arabic Jazz Music Festival 
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The Arabic Jazz Music Festival in Dammam. (AN Photo / Essa Abdullah Aldobaisi)
Special Jazz power on full display at Dhahran’s Arabic Jazz Music Festival 
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The Arabic Jazz Music Festival in Dammam. (AN Photo / Essa Abdullah Aldobaisi)
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Updated 24 July 2022

Jazz power on full display at Dhahran’s Arabic Jazz Music Festival 

Jazz power on full display at Dhahran’s Arabic Jazz Music Festival 
  • The lineup at the Arabic Jazz Music Festival in Dammam featured many of the region’s most popular musicians
  • Majaz guitarist and vocalist Hameed Al-Saeed: There’s something about the claps, I don’t know — everyone can do it

DAMMAM: On a humid Friday night, the Dhahran Expo — the venue where people received COVID-19 vaccines over the past year — had a different remedy to offer: Music.

The auditorium, with rows of plush white seats facing the large stage where oud, saxophones and singing inaugurated Shargiyya’s first Arabic Jazz Music Festival, organized by the Music Commission and the Saudi Ministry of Culture.

The lineup consisted of the region’s most well-known jazz musicians and composers from the Middle East and beyond, including award-winning German Jazz Music Award winner and German-Lebanese oud master Rabih Abu Khalil. The Bands Across Borders ensemble, a supergroup featuring leading musicians and top vocalists, instrumentalists, jazz, pop and rock musicians from around the Arab world, joined by legendary European musicians, managed by the renowned Jordanian artist Aziz Maraqa in a jazz orchestra performance of the most well-known Arabic tunes from the region.

The two-day event featured Egyptian oud master, the award-winning Hazem Shaheen in his new jazz formation. Muhammad Abu Zekry also performed, best known for being the youngest officially recognized Arab oud master at only 14 years of age, and has now moved on to being the founder of one of the most invigorating jazz ensembles in France. This lineup was supported by the rising stars from the Saudi music scene, including Bahraini-Saudi fusion band Majaz, Saudi band Al-Farabi, the Saudi National Music Group, featuring the best traditional music from the Kingdom, and Dammam’s very own Jazz fusion band, Mosaic.

The collective sounds of clapping and fingers tapping to the rhythm of the audience members were invisible but audible.

Dammam’s very own local jazz fusion band strummed gently, with no words or lyrics, allowing listeners to fill the gaps with feelings or words of their own. With clear Khaleeji-Latin-American influences, their set almost felt like a sonic collage or soundtrack for the day; upbeat and danceable at times but also melancholy and reflective and slow, too.

Majaz Bahraini band, known for what is referred to as “earth music,” came from across the bridge from Bahrain. With their bombastic, muffled sounds of rock-inspired melodies, the sound was also distinctively Khaleeji, with plenty of clapping. The stage lights also played a critical part in pulsing with the music beats, illuminating the space as audience members instinctively used their hands to clap along or to drum on their knees.

The event started fashionably early — nearly an hour ahead of schedule.

Local band member Fawaz Ba’assam, the lead in Mosaic who also plays keys, was bewildered and exhilarated after the show. Playing in larger venues was something the band hoped for when they formed years ago, but it seemed so far-fetched to be on stage in their hometown when they started — or even just a few short weeks ago.

“The festival is amazing. I’m really happy that that happened. And I’m really glad that happened here in Dhahran and Dammam where we grew up and where we live because it’s always in the big cities; it’s always in Riyadh and Jeddah,” he told Arab News.

Band member and bass guitarist Saud Al-Ashikh also reiterated how the band had to be quick on its feet and jump at opportunities that came to them without much prior notice. The collaboration on stage between both Majaz and Mosaic happened on the spot — they joked that the organizers simply needed to fill 20 minutes to stall for the next performer — so they just went on stage and moved their instruments on the fly. They mentioned how the city only received approval to put together this festival a fortnight ago and, in true jazz spirit, they enthusiastically simply went with the flow and improvised.

“This happened quickly. I didn’t expect five years ago that the Arabic Jazz Music Festival will happen anytime soon. Or even two weeks! Literally, before two weeks, I didn’t expect this. I’m really happy,” Al-Ashikh told Arab News.

Self-proclaimed “music hobbyist,” Ahmed Hindash, moved to Khobar during the pandemic and has been trying to connect with the creative community in Shargiyya ever since. As a Jordanian, he jumped at the chance to hear live music performed by local bands in an attempt to experience Saudi culture better. He serendipitously came across a post about the festival while scrolling through Instagram and immediately booked a ticket for both days — for himself and his friend. During the performance on opening night, he couldn’t help but continuously tap his hands on his legs.

“I’m a big fan of drums, and I enjoy whenever I see a drummer in front of me. I just get into the flow of music, get into the tempo of the music. Majaz, they play this fusion of reggae, Moroccan style, Khaleeji, Bahraini music and this fusion of everything really picks up the whole vibe. It’s a definite unique band that I would enjoy to see them again,” Hindash told Arab News.

Audience members using their hands to show appreciation was definitely the reoccurring theme of the night.

While speaking to Arab News, Majaz wholly agreed.

“There’s something about the claps, I don’t know — everyone can do it. And it’s like, you don’t need any kind of rhythmic knowledge. It’s kind of something that innately comes with every human being; you know how to clap. And think it is a very powerful aspect of our kind of music now that I actually think about it,” Majaz guitarist and vocalist Hameed Al-Saeed told Arab News.

“We want to make the audience feel like they’re a part of this, as well. We want them to immerse in this whole thing. And that’s the beauty of a live show. It’s like, yes, just come be a part of the band with us. Let’s all play together and clap,” Al-Saeed said.


First Saudi balloon pilot has a license to thrill

First Saudi balloon pilot has a license to thrill
Updated 11 August 2022

First Saudi balloon pilot has a license to thrill

First Saudi balloon pilot has a license to thrill

JEDDAH: The first Saudi to become a licensed hot air balloon pilot in the Kingdom is ready to give back to the community after his “blessed and lucky” three-year training experience.

Abdulrahman Saleh Al-Wohaibi’s certification on July 27 by the Saudi General Authority of Civil Aviation marked the completion of a goal that began in Australia in 2019.

He told Arab News that his dream of becoming a hot air balloon was sparked while completing his master’s degree in Australia three years ago.

“I remember that day in 2019. I was watching a group of hot air balloons drifting slowly across the sky. The beauty of seeing the balloons moving peacefully almost serenely on the horizon is what hooked me the most. I was so close that I could hear the sound of its dramatic flame gas burner as it filled the balloon with heated air,” Al-Wohaibi said.

Al-Wohaibi has always had a liking for high altitudes, and had completed bachelor’s and master’s degrees in aerospace engineering, as well as another bachelor’s degree in airworthiness management.

Abdulrahman Saleh Al-Wohaibi’s certification on July 27 marked the completion of a goal that began in Australia in 2019. (Supplied)

“I was very curious about the balloon experience, although I have been to many other adventure experiences, this one was the most beautiful; it was so peaceful,” he said.

Since that day in 2019, Al-Wohaibi was inspired to explore the culture and history of the hot air balloon and embark on his training journey.

“This is what I always wanted to do, and most importantly, it is what I want to share with my loved ones in the Kingdom,” he said.

Al-Wohaibi holds two private pilot licenses: One for fixed-wing aircraft, issued by the UK in 2015, and another issued by Australia in 2019.

In 2020, he was licensed to fly hot air balloons by the Australian Balloon Federation as well as the Australian Civil Aviation Safety Authority.

Completing his training and gaining registration “was indeed an honor and has allowed me to explore more and gain a new experience,” Al-Wohaibi said.

He passed the Australian test in his first attempt and finished training in just five weeks, breaking a record for the fastest training time in the country.

“Completing the course in such a tight timescale was a challenging achievement; normally trainees would take up to 12 months to complete the course. However, I am so thankful for all the family support, as the training site was a three-hour drive away, which placed some strain on my family and I was doing my master’s degree as well,” he said.

“I feel so blessed and lucky as I was taught how to fly with the Australian national champion Paul Gibbs in the high country of Australia’s Victoria state. Gibbs is a highly accomplished pilot, with numerous awards and qualifications in the ballooning field.”

Al-Wohaibi is certified to fly larger balloons carrying up to 36 passengers and is allowed to travel within fly-in airports, “Getting qualified is just the start — mastering flying, acquiring new skills, and transferring the knowledge and experience is the goal,” he said.

And Al-Wohaibi is now ready to give back to his country and community by introducing people in the Kingdom to the culture of hot air ballooning, so that they can see the natural beauty of Saudi Arabian landscapes in peace.

“I want to transfer the knowledge and experiences I gained to benefit those interested in this sport in the Kingdom,” he said.

Al-Wohaibi is also keen to train new pilots and start a tourism flight business, contributing to the Kingdom’s Vision 2030.

As the tourism sector surges inside Saudi Arabia, Al-Wohaibi had the chance earlier this year to fly during a hot air balloon show in AlUla.

The first hot air balloon experience was brought to Saudi Arabia in AlUla in 2019. (Supplied)

The event was part of the AlUla Skies Festival, which brought more than 150 hot air balloon flights to the ancient site.

“I can see the drastic development of tourism and sports happening, and I think flying hot air balloons is a significant contribution for sure,” Al-Wohaibi said.

One of his main ambitions moving forward is to own a personal balloon, enabling flights through the “best locations” in the Kingdom and sharing the experience with friends and family.

“Having a good understanding of the weather, especially local weather and peculiarities, is crucial. Saudi Arabia features a very diverse meteorological environment, which in itself is a satisfying challenge,” Al-Wohaibi said.

“I will be launching from different cities around the Kingdom. I am also interested in being involved in as many international balloon events and competitions, nationally and internationally.”

The first hot air balloon experience was brought to Saudi Arabia in AlUla in 2019.


Saudi schools to undergo tech-based learning revolution, expert tells panel

Saudi schools to undergo tech-based learning revolution, expert tells panel
Updated 11 August 2022

Saudi schools to undergo tech-based learning revolution, expert tells panel

Saudi schools to undergo tech-based learning revolution, expert tells panel

RIYADH: Extended reality technologies will soon revolutionize the educational environment in Saudi Arabia, NEOM Academy Managing Director Dr. Ali Al-Shammari has told a panel of leading tech experts.

Al-Shammari joined the panel to discuss the future of XR technology, which includes virtual reality, augmented reality and 360-degree video content.

As VR headsets and software become more accessible than ever, fields including education are adopting the technology around the world to enhance knowledge-building, Al-Shammari said.

Speaking to Arab News, Al-Shammari, also dean of e-learning and distance education at the University of Tabuk, said: “Medical science is actually the biggest field that includes some VR immersive learning environment technologies, including natural sciences like physics, chemistry, biology and biochemistry — and it keeps growing.”

Previously, the teacher-centered education system emphasized learning from a sole source while discrediting alternatives, he added.

“Right now, we focus more on students themselves, and how to provide them with the tools and resources in order to develop their skills, knowledge and values,” Al-Shammari said.

As technology begins to play a larger role in all facets of human life, Al-Shammari believes that it is an educator’s job to guide students on finding the appropriate communication methods to learn.

“In the past we used to have a one-size-fits-all model, where we put students all together regardless of the individual differences between them, because we want to have workers.

“We want to have students who can perform a certain list of tasks in a specific job. These days, students can learn on their own; they can learn from different resources … I am not going to say that technology will replace teachers, but I am saying technology will replace teachers who don’t know how to use technology,” he added.

“With personalized learning models, we focus more on the individual differences between students. We try to give them freedom to decide what they want to learn, and how they want to learn it,” Al-Shammari said, comparing new educational trends to past models of strict rote learning.

The prevalent public education system in most countries around the world is “seat-time based,” Al-Shammari said, meaning that students have to be in a classroom for a certain number of hours to be eligible to move forward to the next grade.

But the new personalized learning model taking off in the Kingdom focuses more on individual learning differences, such as interests, abilities, styles and personal beliefs.

And with the growth of that movement comes the introduction of cutting-edge technology: Immersive learning environments are constructed using XR technologies to create simulations that students can use to apply their knowledge.

“In an immersive learning environment, you are the actor. You perform the actions with this — you see the consequences of your actions, you get the immediate feedback and you write the story,” Al-Shammari said.

However, many parents are concerned over the use of technology in the classroom, and often compare it to recreational gaming.

But Al-Shammari said: “Sometimes it’s difficult to bring the reality to your classrooms. Think of the costs or the safety … If I want to teach you about, for example, snakes or explosive weapons, or something dangerous, I cannot bring that to the classroom. But I can put you in a situation where you can see all the environments around you.”

That also applies to the moral education of students. Instead of instructing students to react to a certain situation, you can, figuratively, be in someone else’s shoes and experience it personally through the use of XR technology.

“When I put you in an immersive learning environment and that environment is about homeless people, you will experience what it looks like to be a homeless guy — you will hear what people say about you … your value system will change,” Al-Shammari said.

As the newer philosophy of constructivism begins to play a prominent role in changing educational systems around the world, future technologies like the metaverse also have a role to play, Al-Shammari said.

“In the metaverse, I can learn based on my own speed, my own pace, the way I want and using the technology or the platform I prefer. It’s not like you have to learn that concept through VR, whether you like it or not…. I would say the metaverse is the next big thing in education,” he added.

And the rollout of these technologies could happen sooner than expected in the Kingdom. “I imagine that we will see K-12 in the next few months. I don’t wanna say years, but as I said, it’s growing very fast,” Al-Shammari said.


Tourist visa holders can now perform Umrah

Tourist visa holders can now perform Umrah
Updated 11 August 2022

Tourist visa holders can now perform Umrah

Tourist visa holders can now perform Umrah
  • 49 nations eligible under the new rules
  • Booking online or on arrival, says ministry

JEDDAH: The Ministry of Hajj and Umrah has announced that the Kingdom will now allow visitors holding tourist visas to perform Umrah.

Citizens of 49 countries will be able to do so by securing their visas online at Visit Saudi Arabia, or immediately on arrival at airports.

The decision has been taken to allow as many people as possible to perform the ritual.

Those who qualify include holders of visas to the US and the UK, as well as those who have Schengen visas.

The regulations allow visitors to obtain a tourist visa, valid for 12 months, to visit other cities in the Kingdom.

Those who have family visit visas are allowed to perform Umrah, by booking through the Eatmarna app.

To perform Umrah, visitors are required to obtain comprehensive health insurance, which includes covering the costs of COVID-19 treatment, accidents resulting in death or disability, and expenses arising from flight delays or cancellations.

Those wishing to perform Umrah from nations other than those who currently qualify, should apply for visas at the Kingdom’s embassies in their countries.

Documents required include proof of residence and employment, return ticket, bank statement proving financial stability, itinerary, and complete personal information.


Crisis and disaster management center inaugurated in Najran

Crisis and disaster management center inaugurated in Najran
Updated 11 August 2022

Crisis and disaster management center inaugurated in Najran

Crisis and disaster management center inaugurated in Najran
  • Gov. Prince Jalawi bin Abdulaziz says opening reflects seriousness with which Kingdom takes safety of citizens, residents and visitors

RIYADH: Najran Governor Prince Jalawi bin Abdulaziz inaugurated on Tuesday a new crisis and disaster management center in Najran after approval from the Political and Security Affairs Council.

The aim is to establish centers in all regions of the Kingdom.

Prince Jalawi stressed that directives to establish new crisis centers reflect the keenness of the government to ensure the safety of citizens, residents and visitors during emergencies.

He also highlighted the importance of working as a unit to strengthen cooperation and integration between government, civil agencies and Saudi society.

The official spokesman of Najran region, Mohammed Al-Ahmadi, briefed the governor on the center’s vision for excellence in managing crises and disasters at the national level, and strengthening the security and stability of the region by raising preparedness levels.

The center is tasked with supervising, monitoring and managing all national resources to confront crises and disasters — depending on the capabilities of the region.

It is also tasked with establishing a solid base for documenting cooperation and integration among all concerned parties in the region efficiently and effectively, and involving the community with government and civil sectors in awareness and volunteer initiatives and programs.

The governor watched a mock crisis scenario — a simulated chemical leak at King Khalid Hospital in Najran and the new Najran General Hospital — and methods to deal with it through the center in coordination with the concerned authorities.

He then toured the center and was briefed on security and service operations by the region’s police director, Maj. Gen. Mansour Al-Shammari, the director of civil defense in the region, Maj. Gen. Saad Al-Shahrani, the director general of health affairs in the region, Dr. Ibrahim Bani Hamim, the mayor, Saleh Al-Ghamdi, and the director of the Red Crescent Authority branch in the region, Mohammed Al-Faraj.


Saudi man hailed a “hero” after pulling drowning father and daughter from Austrian lake

Saudi man hailed a “hero” after pulling drowning father and daughter from Austrian lake
Updated 11 August 2022

Saudi man hailed a “hero” after pulling drowning father and daughter from Austrian lake

Saudi man hailed a “hero” after pulling drowning father and daughter from Austrian lake
  • Askar Al-Hajri was visiting Hallstatt with two of his colleagues when he saw young girl fall from a 5-meter-high fence into lake
  • Social media users praised the Saudi citizen as a hero

AUSTRIA, VIENNA: Meet Askar Al-Hajri, he’s a Saudi citizen who was holidaying in Austria, and he’s a hero.

Al-Hajri was visiting Hallstatt, a village in Austria, with two of his colleagues when he saw a young girl fall from a 5-meter-high fence into a lake.
Now the Saudi Embassy in Vienna has hailed him a “hero” for his courageous actions.


“The girl was sitting on the fence as her father snapped photos of her before she suddenly fell into the lake,” Al-Hajri told the Saudi news channel Al Ekhbariya.
Hearing wails and screams from the lake, Al-Hajri said he was first assured when he looked over and found that the father had jumped to his daughter’s rescue.
But Al-Hajri said the situation quickly worsened when both disappeared under the water.
“That’s when I had to take action and save them,” he said during the interview.
Al-Hajri jumped into the lake and with the help of his colleagues, he said he was able to get the girl and her father out of the water.
“I had the feelings of a father watching his daughter in the lake. I did not hesitate for one second to jump in the lake with the thought that we either live together or die together,” he explained.
A video, which appears to be shot by one of the three men, showed Al-Hajri and one of his colleagues in the lake as a group of passersby were comforting the young girl on ground. It widely circulated online with social media users praising Al-Hajri as “a hero.”

 


In a tweet, the Saudi embassy in Vienna acknowledged the Saudi citizen “for his brave act.”
“We offer our gratitude to this Saudi hero,” the embassy said.