MADINAH: As many as 11,648 Hajj pilgrims left the Kingdom on Monday through the Madinah airport, bringing the total number to have left through the airport to 104,635 people.
Authorities at the airport implemented a specific program for the departure of foreign pilgrims, starting with setting times for them to leave their residences by bus and arrive at departures four hours before their scheduled flight times, to finish check-in procedures and prevent overcrowding.
During the post-Hajj season, Madinah received 228,916 pilgrims, who came to pray at the Prophet’s Mosque and visited religious and historical monuments in the city.
According to statistics, 145,318 pilgrims have left Madinah through various ports.
Statistics also show that the number of pilgrims staying in the city until Monday totaled 83,598 from around the world.
This year, the Kingdom allowed up to 1 million people to perform Hajj, welcoming foreign pilgrims for the first time in two years following the easing of COVID-19 restrictions that had forced the annual pilgrimage to be limited to residents of Saudi Arabia.
Meanwhile, volunteers from Madinah municipality continue to distribute umbrellas to visitors to the Prophet’s Mosque to protect them from the sun.
During their stay, many pilgrims visited the International Fair and Museum of the Prophet’s Biography and Islamic Civilization, located near the Prophet’s Mosque.
Thousands of visitors attend opening day of SOUNDSTORM 2022
Updated 02 December 2022
RIYADH: Music fans flocked in their thousands to Banban, Riyadh, for the Middle East’s biggest music festival as the gates to the event opened on Thursday.
MDLBEAST SOUNDSTORM 2022 is expected to welcome more than 100,000 people over three days, Dec. 1-3.
Fans showed up ready to party on the first day and to see the acts in concert, from 4 p.m. to 3:30 a.m.
More than 260 hours of live music are promised in Banban, and SOUNDSTORM this year brings a variety of music genres, including electronic dance music, hip hop, R&B, and indie music.
Some 200 artists will appear on seven stages at the event: Big Beast, Down Beast, Dance Beast, and four underground stages.
Day one featured local, regional and international artists from various genres, each giving exhilarating and electrifying performances as the loudest festival began with five musicians performing every hour.
Saudi female DJ Cosmicat, Brazilian DJ Shark, DJ Snake, Hardwell, Acraze, and locals Voidkid, Gehlen and Dish Dash started the journey for fans and, as the night grew louder, famous names Tiesto and Zedd took center stage to wow the audience.
American rapper Post Malone appeared on the Big Beast stage and performed some of his most famous songs.
British singer Michael Kiwanuka also featured, and provided a highlight while singing “Cold Little Heart.”
Abdulmohsen bin Hamid, 24, told Arab News: “I can’t believe that after years of listening to his music, I finally got to watch Post Malone perform for the first time in my beloved Kingdom.
“I remember his first song, ‘White Iverson,’ being my favorite.”
Bin Hamid, who was a VIP pass holder to the event, said that he found the organization and visitor experience to have been significantly improved.
SOUNDSTORM 2022 boasts more than 100 food and beverage vendors as it bids to enhance the festival experience for those attending.
Lovers of Arabic music also got the chance to hear their favorites on the first day, with Myriam Faris, Majid Al-Muhandis, Modi Al-Shamrani, and rapper Moayad Al-Nefaie all performing.
SOUNDSTORM has enjoyed a meteoric rise following its debut in 2019 and is now a fixture in the music calendar for fans and local and international stars.
KSrelief in Riyadh joins UN in humanitarian overview
Kingdom has contributed more than $95bn over 20 years to support humanitarian and development projects in 164 countries
Updated 02 December 2022
RIYADH: The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs launched the Global Humanitarian Overview 2023 in Geneva on Thursday, with presentations in Addis Ababa with the African Union, and in Riyadh at King Saud University with the King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Center.
Abdullah Al-Rabeeah, supervisor general of KSrelief, said the event was focused on global humanitarian action taking place next year.
It was highlighting the need to promote inclusive and holistic approaches to providing humanitarian assistance, while discussing ways to enhance the participation of crisis-affected people, local responders, and nongovernmental organization partners in global action.
He explained the challenges surrounding food supply, particularly the obstruction of aid in crisis areas.
Al-Rabeeah said: “Saudi Arabia has provided over the past two decades $95 billion to support humanitarian and development projects in 164 countries.
“We must encourage all countries able to do so, to step up their own funding levels urgently to help alleviate the catastrophic levels of suffering we are seeing today in so many parts of the world.”
He thanked King Saud University for hosting the GHO 2023 launch for the first time in the Middle East.
He added: “May we succeed in finding the solutions that are needed to save lives, and improve the outcome for the millions of people who so desperately need our help.
“By working together we can address the pressing issues facing the world today on a scale large enough to change the tide of suffering into the waves of hope.”
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, in his video message, said 2022 had been a year of many challenges, and the Ukraine conflict had exacerbated the global food and energy crisis.
Lives and economies had been torn apart around the world, he said, adding that the UN and its partners in the field of medicine had risen to the challenge to help support and protect 157 million people around the world.
Guterres added that the UN had provided more than $2 billion in cash assistance, while donations had provided nearly $24 billion.
The GHO 2023 calls for $51.5 billion to provide lifesaving support to the most vulnerable people, he said.
Saudi Arabia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Waleed Al-Khuraiji said the Kingdom was attempting to strengthen international cooperation to help eradicate poverty and deliver aid to those in need.
He added that the country has managed to lead at regional and international level, and helped to unify international efforts to meet humanitarian needs by providing aid that supports relief work.
Joyce Msuya, assistant secretary-general for humanitarian affairs and deputy emergency relief coordinator at the OCHA, said that the world is living in the middle of the largest global food crisis in history, and added it is an issue driven by conflict, climatic shocks, and the looming threat of a global recession.
Saudi Shoura Council speaker meets with Thai Senate speaker
Updated 02 December 2022
Saudi Shoura Council Speaker Dr. Abdullah bin Mohammed Al-Asheikh held official talks with the Thai Senate Speaker Prof. Pornpetch Whichitcholchai, who is currently on an official visit to Saudi Arabia at the invitation of Al-Asheikh, at the Shoura Council’s Riyadh headquarters on Thursday.
Al-Asheikh commenced the meeting by welcoming Whichitcholchai and his accompanying delegation, stressing the importance of “boosting and developing the Saudi-Thai bilateral relations in various fields, while also promoting joint parliamentary cooperation, as this would serve the common interests of both nations.”
He also highlighted the importance of “exchanging visits between the two friendly countries, especially at the parliamentary level, as this would play an active role in the exchange of expertise and ideas related to the vital fields and contribute to creating new cooperation opportunities.”
Why corporate optimism in Saudi Arabia and UAE remains widespread despite global economic headwinds
Survey suggests businesses are drawing confidence from governments’ ambitious blueprints
Climate change and sustainability issues high on the agenda for businesses in both countries
Updated 02 December 2022
LONDON: A new survey of business leaders in Saudi Arabia and the UAE reveals widespread corporate optimism in the two countries about the coming year, despite the uncertainties and challenges that have plagued the global economy in 2022.
Overall, 70 percent of 250 decision-makers representing a wide range of sectors expressed optimism about the prospects for the global economy in 2023, with 46 percent declaring themselves to be very optimistic.
The survey was carried out for Gedeon Mohr & Partners, a newly formed Dubai-based consultancy focused on the retail, entertainment, destinations, and hospitality sectors, all of which are set to play an increasingly important role in transforming the economies of the Arab Gulf region.
“It is hugely positive to see a majority of business leaders across the UAE and KSA being so optimistic about the future of the economy, recognising the vibrant business ecosystem and opportunities in the region,” said Maria Gedeon, CEO and founder of Gedeon Mohr & Partners.
There were, she said, several reasons for the robust picture of regional optimism that has emerged from the survey.
“Obviously, we’re lucky to have had an increase in oil prices, so naturally the economy is in better health than anywhere else in the world right now. Also, geographically the region is far from the Russia-Ukraine war, and less affected than Europe by higher prices and so on.
“But overall, I think the sentiment is better because of the amount of work that the two governments are putting into developing the economies, increasing quality of life, and attracting foreigners and expatriates to this part of the world.”
The survey also showed that overall 29 percent of business leaders in the two countries — 22 percent in the UAE, rising to 37 percent in Saudi Arabia — were slightly or very concerned about what the new year might bring.
“I would assume that these are probably working for global organizations, because they’ve had layoffs and a lot of financial issues, and slowdowns in growth, and so on,” said Gedeon.
Businesses in the two countries are drawing guidance and confidence, she said, from the ambitious blueprints set out by governments.
“Both of these countries have published their visions, the Kingdom for 2030 and the UAE for 2031, and in Saudi (Arabia) especially the mega-projects, such as NEOM, the Red Sea project and Qiddiya, and the massive investments in infrastructure, are tremendous economic catalysts.”
In November the International Monetary Fund predicted that GDP growth in Saudi Arabia would be 7.6 percent for 2022, placing it among the top five high-growth economies in the world.
Gulf Cooperation Council policymakers as a whole, said the IMF, had “managed to quickly mitigate the economic impact of the twin COVID-19 and oil price shocks.”
Even though global commodity prices had surged, it added: “The outlook is more positive for GCC countries, with new challenges linked to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and tighter global financial conditions expected to have a limited impact on GCC economies.”
The IMF also offered a cautionary note, warning that even as the GCC states benefit from “higher, albeit volatile, oil and gas prices, numerous risks still cloud the outlook — notably, a slowdown in the global economy.
“In this context, the reform momentum established in previous years should be maintained … to ensure equity between generations and a smooth energy transition out of fossil fuels.”
This, said Gedeon, was exactly what was happening, as Saudi Arabia works to diversify its economy and open up its society. As a senior manager with the UAE’s Majid Al-Futtaim Group, the malls to hotels, retail and entertainment giant, she had direct experience of the ongoing program of social and economic reforms in Saudi Arabia when she worked on the introduction of the group’s Vox Cinemas chain in the country.
Both of the Gulf states “will keep investing in oil, but they are keen to diversify,” she said, and one clear way ahead is “driving significant tourism to very beautiful countries.”
One thing that emerges strongly from the survey is that climate change and sustainability issues are rising to the top of the agenda for businesses in both countries. Asked how important sustainability was to their business, 90 percent of respondents in the UAE and 85 percent in Saudi Arabia said it was very important. Overall, only 2 percent said it was not important.
Climate change was also seen as the biggest threat to business in 2023 by 11 percent of respondents in the UAE, and 18 percent in Saudi Arabia.
However, more surprising, and concerning, says Gedeon, is the attitude that emerges from the survey in both countries toward the thorny corporate issue of ESG, or environmental, social and governance, a metric increasingly valued by investors and consumers as a measure of how companies impact upon, and interact with, society and the environment.
In its recent 2022 Social & Governance Report, PwC Middle East concluded that “embedding environmental, social and governance principles across all areas of economic and social evolution is essential to realizing the ambitions of our region, enabling it to become a leader on the global sustainability stage.”
In the new survey, says Gedeon, “sustainability and business growth top the agenda, yet what is clear is that while leaders care about climate change, there is still a great deal of work to do around ESG, which provides an opportunity for sustainable growth.”
The bottom line, she says, is that increasingly “consumers want to purchase from and be associated with brands that have a solid purpose, and that are doing good for the planet and the organization.
“Consumers will no longer buy a product from a company or brand that is not respecting all of these sustainability and ESG pillars, and companies that aren’t doing so will just become obsolete if they’re not transparent about their policies and procedures, about how they’re offsetting their carbon footprint.”
Again, government initiatives are likely to force the pace. The staging of COP27 in Egypt last month, and the fact that the next Conference of the Parties will take place in the UAE next year, has put environmental and social responsibility issues front and center in the thinking of governments, businesses and individuals throughout the region.
It is also hugely significant that the UAE and Saudi Arabia, two of the world’s biggest oil producers, have committed to achieving net-zero carbon emissions by 2050 and 2060 respectively — ambitious targets that will demand the collaboration and cooperation of businesses across every sector, and will almost certainly be legislated for.
One issue of concern that slightly overshadows the overall confidence identified by the survey is the recruitment and retention of the talent necessary for companies to perform at their best.
While overall 62 percent of business leaders felt they had the right talent in their business going into 2023, there were significant concerns about workforce challenges in the year ahead. Overall, 18 percent were worried about being able to attract talent, and 10 percent about retaining the talent they already had.
Despite the generally positive experience of remote working during COVID-19 lockdowns, a quarter of all respondents also saw hybrid working as a challenge in 2023. One reason, said Gedeon, was because of the unique nature of many of the big projects underway, especially in Saudi Arabia.
“A lot of these projects are truly remote and you need to be there, watching the project grow,” she said.
“If you’re developing on the Red Sea, it’s going to be very difficult to manage the project operating from New York, London, or even Dubai.
“So, there’s an eagerness to have people on site at projects such as NEOM, and they are building staff accommodation and even schools, making it exciting for people to work so far away from the capital and other cities.”
KSrelief distributes 1,270 winter bags in Pakistan
Updated 01 December 2022
ISLAMABAD: King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Center distributed 1,270 winter bags in Pakistan, benefiting 8,890 people.
The aid comes within the framework of humanitarian and relief projects provided by Saudi Arabia for needy groups worldwide.
KSrelief also launched an initiative in Tiflet, Morocco, to combat blindness as part of the Saudi Noor Voluntary Program, which is being implemented in cooperation with Al-Basar International Foundation.
The center’s voluntary medical team has examined 480 people and performed 51 surgeries to help those with sight problems.