First Iraqi Umrah pilgrims arrive in Madinah

First Iraqi Umrah pilgrims arrive in Madinah
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Ministry of Hajj and Umrah officials received the first group of Umrah pilgrims with bouquets of fresh roses, dates and bottled Zamzam water in Madinah. (SPA)
First Iraqi Umrah pilgrims arrive in Madinah
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Ministry of Hajj and Umrah officials received the first group of Umrah pilgrims with bouquets of fresh roses, dates and bottled Zamzam water in Madinah. (SPA)
First Iraqi Umrah pilgrims arrive in Madinah
3 / 3
Ministry of Hajj and Umrah officials received the first group of Umrah pilgrims with bouquets of fresh roses, dates and bottled Zamzam water in Madinah. (SPA)
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Updated 31 July 2022

First Iraqi Umrah pilgrims arrive in Madinah

First Iraqi Umrah pilgrims arrive in Madinah
  • Eatamarna app provides options for booking appointments according to capacity

JEDDAH: The Umrah season 2022 started on Saturday coinciding with the new Islamic Hijri year 1444. 

Officials from the Ministry of Hajj and Umrah received the first group of Umrah pilgrims with bouquets of fresh roses, dates and bottled Zamzam water in Madinah on Sunday. 

For a safe and comfortable Umrah experience, the Eatamarna application provides a number of options for booking appointments according to the capacity outlined by the ministry, as well as detailed instructions for entering the Grand Mosque in Makkah and the Prophet’s Mosque in Madinah. 

The General Presidency for the Affairs of the Grand Mosque and the Prophet’s Mosque have also chalked out entry and exit plans to aid the movement of crowds at the Grand Mosque and its courts so that pilgrims can perform their Umrah rituals with ease, said Osama bin Mansour Al-Hujaili, the undersecretary of the general president for Tafweej and crowd management. 

Al-Hujaili said that King Fahd Gate, Al-Salam, and Ajyad gates have been assigned for the entry of pilgrims and other gates for the exit to avoid crowds. 

The presidency has allocated a number of smart robots to the women’s section at the Grand Mosque to provide information, clarity on rituals performance and remote communication with scholars, along with the option of adding live interpretation and translation in multiple languages.

The robot has a 21-inch touch screen and is equipped with four wheels and a “smart stopping system” that ensures “smooth and flexible movement,” as well as cameras at the front and rear that provide the robot with a panoramic image of its location, high-definition headphones and a microphone. It is connected to a high-speed 5GHz Wi-Fi network.


Saudi artists at Artorama showcase interactive artworks

Saudi artists at Artorama showcase interactive artworks
Updated 16 sec ago

Saudi artists at Artorama showcase interactive artworks

Saudi artists at Artorama showcase interactive artworks
  • State-of-the-art installations are offering visitors a unique immersive experience

RIYADH: Creative artworks and state-of-the-art installations by Saudi artists at Artorama are offering visitors a unique immersive experience.

Artorama, Nowaar Entertainment’s latest event, will run until Oct. 21 in Riyadh’s Laysen Valley. 

The first zone features distinctive designs from five Saudi artists. The visitor must physically touch the designs to view the artworks in their full, colorful glory.

“Eternal Light” by Ameera Sheikh was originally executed as the cover for the yet-to-be-published novel by Sara Al-Hussain. It tells the story of a young girl who sets off on a journey to uncover a mysterious power as she faces unknown evils ahead. 

“I wanted to show the magical and mysterious environment but with an ominous and an unsettling feeling that makes you feel a little anxious as you are drawn into the piece, just like our heroine,” Sheikh told Arab News. 

The artist was told in the past to leave Saudi Arabia in pursuit of job opportunities abroad, but she saw the great potential for a better future at the time, which has now proven to be the case for aspiring artists. 

“I feel very grateful for being patient. We had a little community of artists here where we helped each other improve by hosting small galleries and gatherings to keep it active and help it grow,” she said. “Now our community has a very powerful impact both globally and locally, and this has been strengthened by the current growing embrace of art and artists in the country.” 

‘Eternal Light’ by Ameera Sheikh tells the story of a young girl who sets off on a journey to uncover a mysterious power as she faces unknown evils ahead. (AN photo by Huda Bashatah)

In illustrator Ethar Balkhair’s piece, the visitor’s touch brings two figures to life in an explosion of color, highlighting the cultural and social aspects of Al-Balad, Jeddah’s historical area. “Jeddah is all about color. I really wanted to reflect the spirit of Al-Balad in this art. At the same time, I wanted to tell the story of Hijazi people,” she told Arab News.

Balkhair was born into a family with a passion for art; one of their household activities was to sit down and draw together. Her collaboration with Artorama was the first opportunity for her to showcase her illustrations in a local setting, but her work has reached far beyond Riyadh, with big names such as Vogue and Bobbi Brown featuring her art.

“Recently, with the initiatives from the Ministry of Culture and others, people have a chance to release the art that’s inside of them. Now, everyone has a space. In Saudi Arabia, the art scene is only growing,” Balkhair said. 

The event allows visitors to indulge in their senses and experience art in immersive and innovative ways. (AN photo by Huda Bashatah)

“Artwork doesn’t just have to center around beauty. There’s a story behind it. Now, they’re shedding light on the artist behind the art, and that supports us even more, makes us more confident, and allows us to explore more without fear,” she said. 

Mahmoud Zaini’s “Human Sustainability” takes a deep dive into the ethics and future of modern technology. The eccentric piece, drawn in 2017, raises awareness of the tech industry’s impact on humanity. “I was extremely disgusted by our trajectory as a race. Eventually, technology will turn us into cogs in its machine. I decided, therefore, to illustrate that concept with this contraption that recycles everything coming in and out of this ‘consumer’ to grant him a more sustainable existence,” Zaini told Arab News. 

HIGHLIGHTS

• The first zone features distinctive designs from five Saudi artists. The visitor must physically touch the designs to view the artworks in their full, colorful glory. Zone 1 also has an infinity room and a photo booth station, where visitors can engage with dynamic backgrounds.

• Zone 2 features a variety of attractions including a ball pit with interactive games, a projection drawing station, 3D printing, immersive swings and a volcano sandbox, where both children and adults can learn more about the science of volcanoes.

• Anamorphic projection mapping technologies in Zone 3 utilize high-power projectors to give visitors the illusion of seeing the building’s interior while standing outside of it.

The artist expressed his delight with the General Entertainment Authority’s interest in highlighting the topic. “I am extremely happy with the trajectory we’re headed in as citizens of the Kingdom, where art pieces are appreciated and dialogue around them is fostered. What an incredible time to be in as a Saudi artist interested in big questions,” he said. 

Zone 1 also has an infinity room and a photo booth station, where visitors can engage with dynamic backgrounds. Exhibition-goers can color and design their own race car, which is then scanned and projected as if racing through the streets of Riyadh. 

Zone 2 features a variety of attractions including a ball pit with interactive games, a projection drawing station, 3D printing, immersive swings and a volcano sandbox, where both children and adults can learn more about the science of volcanoes as they build their own. Anamorphic projection mapping technologies in Zone 3 utilize high-power projectors to give visitors the illusion of seeing the building’s interior while standing outside of it. 

The event allows visitors to indulge in their senses and experience art in immersive and innovative ways. (AN photo by Huda Bashatah)

“This event releases the inner kid inside of us. We all like to play, we all like to experiment, and this is a good place to test that out,” Khalid Sonbol, one of the project managers at Nowaar Entertainment, told Arab News.

Artorama was one of the winning pitches under the General Entertainment Authority’s “Ideas for Entertainment” initiative in 2021, which aimed to empower 20 Saudi projects centering around entertainment activities and preserving Saudi heritage for future generations. Nowaar Entertainment seeks to amplify Saudi voices, showcasing exclusive works by Saudi artists and creators around the Kingdom — even in their product gift shop. “We’re interested in showing what we have in the Kingdom,” Sonbol said. “We believe entertainment is necessary. Most people used to travel to have an actual entertaining experience. They would go to museums, parks. Now, we don’t need that. We have that here,” he said.


How Saudi Arabia intends to become a global hub for gaming and esports

How Saudi Arabia intends to become a global hub for gaming and esports
Updated 15 min 7 sec ago

How Saudi Arabia intends to become a global hub for gaming and esports

How Saudi Arabia intends to become a global hub for gaming and esports
  • Investments worth $37.8 billion in Savvy Games Group will transform the Kingdom into an industry leader
  • National Gaming and eSports Strategy will create 39,000 jobs and contribute SR50 billion to GDP by 2030

JEDDAH: The gaming and electronic sports industry is growing rapidly in Saudi Arabia and the wider GCC, with major investments announced to support domestic game developers and world-class competitions taking place in the region. 

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman recently announced the Kingdom’s ambition to see 30 competitive games developed by firms in the Kingdom by 2030 as part of the country’s national gaming and esports strategy. 

Last week, Savvy Games Group, a firm owned by Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund, unveiled investments worth SR142 billion ($37.8 billion) to transform the Kingdom into a global gaming hub with world-class gaming companies.

The investments will include SR70 billion to take several minority stakes in companies that support Savvy’s game development agenda and SR50 billion to acquire a leading game publisher to become a strategic development partner.

Another SR20 billion will be invested in industry partners, and SR2 billion will target industry disruptors to grow early-stage games and esports companies.

“Savvy Games Group is one part of our ambitious strategy aiming to make Saudi Arabia the ultimate global hub for the games and esports sector by 2030,” the crown prince said last week, according to the Saudi Press Agency.  

Speaking at the Next World Forum earlier in September, Prince Faisal bin Bandar, president of the Saudi Esports Federation, noted the boom in the sporting sector in the past five years, adding: “One of my favorite things about gaming is that you first introduce yourself to someone using your gaming skills, and not history, religion, color of skin, background or gender.”

Prince Faisal bin Bandar, president of the Saudi Esports Federation. (Supplied)

He said: “This young community and population are really striving to take their place on the global stage. The ultimate goal is to have Saudi Arabia move on a natural path on the global pathway for games and esports.” 

Through this initiative, the government hopes to create 39,000 jobs, establish 250 game developers, and promote a thriving in-house talent pool for esports that will raise the sector’s contribution to the Kingdom’s economy to SR50 billion by 2030.

Scores of domestic startups, as well as more established multinational developers, stand to benefit immensely from the flurry of new investment. 

Abdulrahman Al-Sulaimani, an artificial intelligence engineer and games designer who spent nine years working in Japan before returning to the Kingdom in 2020, is among them.

Over the course of his career, Al-Sulaimani has witnessed the astonishing growth of Japan’s world-renowned gaming community. Seeing the same room for potential in his home country, he returned to establish his own studio.

Earlier this year, Al-Sulaimani launched AlBuraq Wings, a games studio that adopts young gamers eager to turn their hand to design and programming. 

“I wanted to help gather them under one roof and created the studio with a vision to create games that are not only made by Saudis for Saudis but to also educate the world somehow about how extremely talented our developers are,” Al-Sulaimani told Arab News.

From designers, to developers, artists, voiceover artists and more, game development is not a one-man show. It is a community of talents that come together to try out new technology tools to come up with innovative game ideas. 

AlBuraq Wings recently won third place in the Gamers8 XR Gameathon, an accelerated innovation time-bound event, where game enthusiasts come together to develop a game prototype from scratch in one week.

“These tournaments are what push many Saudis to come out and put their skills into the spotlight. I dare say it, the skills of many Saudis surpass those of the Japanese,” said Al-Sulaimani. 

“Gaming events not only attract gamers, they also attract three unique and important segments of the gaming community: programmers, designers and artists. If you get all three, you have a game. They all come full circle.”

Saudi Arabia is already fast emerging as a major gaming hub, with local competitors achieving world-class results in global esports tournaments. 

In 2018, Mosaad Al-Dossary, known online as “Msdossary,” became the first Saudi national to win the FIFA eWorld Cup — an event in which more than 20 million gamers attempted to qualify. 

Mosaad Al-Dossary, the first Saudi national to win the FIFA eWorld Cup. (Supplied)

A year later, Saudi gamers were thrilled when the Kingdom was chosen to host the region’s biggest gaming tournament to date, PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds (PUBG) Mobile Star. 

The global esports market size was valued at $1.22 billion in 2021 and is expected to reach the valuation of $1.44 billion in 2022. Fortune Business Insights predicts the market will reach $5.48 billion by 2029.

According to a report published by Boston Consulting Group earlier this year, there are now 23.5 million gamers in Saudi Arabia, making up around 67 percent of the Kingdom’s overwhelmingly young population. 

About 90 percent of these gamers take part in esports on an amateur or semi-pro basis, while around 100 Saudi gamers are pursuing e-sports as a full-time career, the report said.

“When it comes to the Arab countries, Saudi Arabia is the number one hotspot of gaming,” one female Saudi gamer and content creator, who goes by the online name “PikaLoli,” told Arab News. 

She, like many Saudis, has been playing games from a young age, and recently decided to pursue gaming as a career. She discovered a platform where a growing community of gamers and developers can share ideas and reviews.

“I play all sorts of games and give my feedback on my social media pages,” said PikaLoli. “The interaction and commitment you find by even young ones is outstanding.

“We’ve been waiting for this moment for a while now and the community made up of thousands has been helping each other grow for years. We have a shared platform to communicate with, share ideas, edit videos, play games for developers and give feedback, and so much more.”

Recent graduate Waleed Abu Alkhayr, a game designer, found his footing soon after completing university and enrolling in the Game Development Hima bootcamp, which concentrates on game development by mastering skills and later interning for an international gaming company before landing a job at another. 

He told Arab News that IT training programs and learning courses in esport and gaming development appealed to him most, cementing the idea of becoming a game developer.

“I started playing games on Sony Playstation 1 and I haven’t stopped since. The love for games is what led me to want to select this profession, but I didn’t see enough support until very recently when the sector developed at an unprecedented rate; I knew then that this is what I wanted to do.”

Abu Alkhayr, also a member of the AlBuraq Wings, said that the boom in esports and gaming development is not simple hype, but has been brewing for years.

“Initiatives and programs launched by entities that teach game programming and development are numerous and the resources even more so, which provide opportunities and build technical competitiveness in the community. The more the participation of talent, the bigger the community will grow and help build the vision that is set for us,” he said.

For Al-Sulaimani, harnessing this energy, enthusiasm and raw talent is precisely what is needed to put Saudi Arabia on the world map of gaming.

“The Kingdom is nurturing homegrown talent; it is ripe for creating a vibrant environment for esports has long been laid out by the youth with their love and passion for gaming,” he said. 

“As game developers have found our platforms, we share our games and receive support, but the recent announcement will give more chances for the younger generation who want to delve into this fun world.” 

 


Morocco’s king congratulates Saudi crown prince on being named prime minister

Morocco’s king congratulates Saudi crown prince on being named prime minister
Updated 43 min 59 sec ago

Morocco’s king congratulates Saudi crown prince on being named prime minister

Morocco’s king congratulates Saudi crown prince on being named prime minister

RIYADH: Morocco’s King Mohammed VI on Saturday congratulated Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman on assuming the position of prime minister.
Prince Mohammed became the Kingdom’s prime minister on Tuesday following a the royal decree and was handed the position from King Salman.
King Mohammed wished the crown prince success in all his duties, in a cable he sent.
He also “expressed his deep pride in the strong bonds of brotherhood and friendship that bind the leaderships of the two countries, and in the deep-rooted and strong relations between the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the Kingdom of Morocco based on fruitful cooperation, active solidarity and mutual appreciation,” Saudi Press Agency reported.


Saudi Arabia re-elected member to ICAO council

Saudi Arabia re-elected member to ICAO council
Updated 47 min 38 sec ago

Saudi Arabia re-elected member to ICAO council

Saudi Arabia re-elected member to ICAO council

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia was elected to the membership of the Council of the International Civil Aviation Organization until 2025 during voting at the ICAO 41st general assembly in Montreal, Canada.

The Kingdom was re-elected after a voting process with the participation of 193 UN member states.

The council has 36 members, including the US, France, Singapore and the UK, “thus providing a voice to the Arab and Islamic countries,” the Saudi Press Agency reported on Saturday.

Saudi Minister of Transport and Logistics Saleh bin Nasser Al-Jasser praised the importance of the election for the Kingdom, saying: “Since the establishment of the first airline in 1945, the Kingdom has proven its commitment and tireless work toward the aviation sector, both domestically and internationally.”

He added that the Kingdom is now working in line with the vision of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman by consolidating its global leadership role in the sector.

Al-Jasser said that the election “represents a broad tribute to the tireless efforts being made by the Kingdom to be a center for air linkage between the three continents to achieve the objectives of the national strategy for transport and logistics services.”


Techno revolution: DNA works to take the underground scene public in KSA

Techno revolution: DNA works to take the underground scene public in KSA
Updated 54 min 42 sec ago

Techno revolution: DNA works to take the underground scene public in KSA

Techno revolution: DNA works to take the underground scene public in KSA
  • In a trend to publicize growing party scene within KSA, DNA is working to shed light on Saudi techno scene

 

RIYADH: The DNA event series took the underground party scene public with its inaugural event headlining Belgian DJ Marhu, becoming the first entertainment brand to promote harder techno music at the Biennale Foundation in Diriyah on Friday.

The company was founded by Mohammed Alqumri, Mohammed Bahaidrah, known by his DJ name B-Hydra, and fellow DJ and producer Erizo.

In a trend to publicize the growing party scene within the Kingdom, DNA is one of the few organizations working to shed light on the Saudi techno scene under the theme ”Underground is in our DNA.”

Going commercial when it comes to the music industry usually means catering to the public’s taste. Instead, DNA kept the event true to the underground feel, with just a few watering holes and a makeup station on the venue’s exterior, and the real party awaiting inside.

Underground techno means real music for real people. Instead of selling out on big names, DNA aimed to highlight the local talent found in Saudi while also focusing on emerging international acts.

The night was set in motion by Jeddah-native Mariam Arab, who was inspired by classical artists Beethoven and Chopin from an early age. That influence allowed her to create a unique sound, paralleling the two genres’ melodies.

Arab’s set was followed by a back-to-back (b2b) performance by local DJs B-Hydra, and Psykey, who also played together recently at Desert Sound’s Techno Therapy event at the same venue. The two acts enticed the crowd with deep melodic grooves and psychedelic sounds.

To follow, DJ BiGG3 took the stage to combine euphoric trance and the hard energy of techno. The artist first took an interest in electronic music at 16 while watching paragliding videos.

Intrigued, he attended his first festival, which happened to feature renowned Dutch DJ Tiesto, who inspires his own sound to this day. He began mixing his music in 2014 until he finally found his unique sound.

“It’s not only about techno music, what matters for me is good music,” he told Arab News.

After coming back from studying abroad, he was disappointed to find there was no space for techno music in the region. It was only in the past few years that the underground scene grew its roots.

DNA created a home for acid and industrial music lovers, open to all.

“This music is bringing everyone together. They’re all on the same beat, you can say. It’s the atmosphere, it’s the vibe all together coming in one place. I can feel that everyone is communicating with everyone, loving each other. It’s amazing,” he said.

While there is a plethora of music events booming all over the region, the DJ believes that the crowd is what really makes this event stand out.

“What makes DNA special, besides the great DJs, (is having) the best people together attending the event, the great community, having great sound, making the production so great for the people to enjoy and remember,” BiGG3 said.

Echoing with “squelching” synthesizer textures, the venue lit up as the anticipated headliner Marhu took the stage. The crowd cheered as the DJ delivered an entrancing performance, demonstrating her aggressive and rhythmic performance.

As one of Belgium’s most promising producers, promoted by electronic music news platform Beatportal’s radar earlier this year as an “emerging act,” she aims to take her acid-driven and minimalistic sound international.

After coming to the Kingdom for the first time for the show, she was surprised by the demand in the region.

“I had no expectations about a big techno scene like this. I got a lot of engagements and messages on my profile and I realized that there were real demands for these kinds of events,” she told Arab News.

“It really warms my heart because I didn’t expect so many people to listen to techno music, especially acid.”

What makes DNA unique is its dedication to maintaining the simplicity and minimalist feels of underground parties within the raw grunge scene, while also commercializing and promoting the transcendent techno sound.

“It’s such an honor to be one of the first legal events in Saudi Arabia and to be part of the beginning of this freedom. For me, techno means a lot of things and I’m really happy it’s taking a big level of attention,” Marhu said.

American DJ and Saudi resident Erizo ended the night, concluding his first public event in Saudi as a founder along with his partners.

“It’s something that’s never been public here, and now we have the opportunity to bring it and expose it. Now, they actually have a place to go and express themselves. That’s what we’re providing. We’re providing that niche with the harder techno that no one else is really doing,” he told Arab News.

As someone who has collaborated and performed all over the world, Erizo expressed his interest in the growing scene and cultural shift in the country.

“It’s kind of cool to see it in this transition that Saudi is going through with entertainment, the entertainment industry. Being a part of that is really nice,” he said.