Two illegal residents arrested for possession of drugs

Two illegal residents arrested for possession of drugs
Saudi Arabia has intensified its crackdown on drug smuggling networks. (AFP File Photo)
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Updated 13 September 2022

Two illegal residents arrested for possession of drugs

Two illegal residents arrested for possession of drugs
  • The Pakistani and Ethiopian violators were also caught with a sum of money in Jeddah

JEDDAH: Saudi authorities arrested two illegal residents in possession of 244 amphetamine tablets.
The Pakistani and Ethiopian violators were also caught with a sum of money in Jeddah, state media Saudi Press Agency (SPA).
They have been referred to relevant authorities for further action.
Saudi Arabia has intensified its crackdown on drug smuggling networks.
Authorities recently recorded the Kingdom’s biggest drug bust ever after a major security operation yielded 47 million pieces of smuggled amphetamine tablets, with a street value of up to $1 billion.
Six Syrians and two Pakistanis were arrested after authorities found the pills hidden in a large shipment of flour.


Legendary French animator Michel Ocelot talks inspiration, creativity and fame

Legendary French animator Michel Ocelot talks inspiration, creativity and fame
Updated 16 sec ago

Legendary French animator Michel Ocelot talks inspiration, creativity and fame

Legendary French animator Michel Ocelot talks inspiration, creativity and fame
  • Childhood in ‘beautiful’ Kenya shaped his vision
  • Key to artistry is facing fear, he says at Red Sea festival

JEDDAH: Legendary French animator Michel Ocelot says the key to becoming an accomplished artist is to continue to face one’s fears of failing and never giving up.
Ocelot, 79, offered this advice to fellow creatives on the sidelines of the Red Sea International Film Festival currently underway. He was speaking during one of the “In Conversation” sessions at the Red Sea Mall in Jeddah on Dec. 6.
The Frenchman is a writer, designer, storyboard artist, and director of an array of acclaimed animated feature films. He is mostly recognized for “Kirikou et la Sorciere” released in 1998 which means “Kirikou and the Witch,” and also his remarkable animation “Azur and Asmar: The Princes’ Quest” released in 2006.
“Kirikou et la Sorciere” marked the rebirth of French animation in the cinema and it was a striking start to the passionate Ocelot’s artistic career. “I know what I want, I’m doing it and I love it,” he said.
The artwork for “Kirikou et la Sorciere” was completely handmade and drawn. After struggling “hard” as an artist he suddenly found international success.
He said he had produced the work with “not much money” and without the backing or support of a company or a board of directors. He had succeeded in creating a compelling fictional world from very few resources.
Ocelot’s brilliant work is an inspiration for generations of experts and emerging animation artists. “Kids who were kids at the time (and are) now adults … come to me and thank me. And sometimes they cry. So, I’m lucky.”
Despite his success, Ocelot’s start was challenging. “It was hard to find my way because when I started animation didn’t really exist.” He said there were no schools, and he did not have resources to pay for cameras or editing. “So, I lost quite some time. I learned by myself.”
“I think I started at the year of 1 or 2, I took a pencil and I drew and I never stopped. And then I was a happy child and I was always active. And I think I prepared myself for my job from my infancy. And I would draw in paint and cut (it out) and get into a disguise and decorate the house for the festivals, and make a little gift with a nice package. And that’s my vision today.”
His artistic sensibility was influenced by his formative years growing up in Kenya where he was inspired by the country’s “beautiful and benevolent people.”
“I remember the beauty of the people and the dresses of (the) women on festival days … True elegance, happy elegance, and the details within which made my infancy in the world of animation special.”
Ocelot eventually became president of the International Animated Film Association, a position which allowed him to showcase his understanding and affinity to different cultures, and to reflect his passion for Africa.
“So that’s always been a great part of my life. Being aware of different worlds and being at ease with them and being at ease with such different parts of the world. I can put myself in the place of other people easily, and I know the relatability of things.”
Ocelot said artists must overcome their fears and try to be as original as possible. “Give everything you have. Try not to listen to bad advice. Sometimes you get good advice, but it’s better not to follow them. Don’t be afraid to start.”
His new animated feature film that was released earlier this year, “The Black Pharaoh, the Savage and the Princess,” was screened for the audience after the session.


Chinese President Xi arrives in Saudi Arabia on official visit

Chinese President Xi arrives in Saudi Arabia on official visit
Updated 10 min 16 sec ago

Chinese President Xi arrives in Saudi Arabia on official visit

Chinese President Xi arrives in Saudi Arabia on official visit
  • Xi was invited by King Salman to attend a Saudi-Chinese summit in the Kingdom
  • Xi’s visit reflects the leaders’ desire to strengthen bilateral relations

RIYADH: China’s President Xi Jinping has arrived in Saudi Arabia on Wednesday as part of a three-day visit to the Kingdom. 
Xi was invited by King Salma to attend a Saudi-Chinese summit in the kingdom, which will run until Dec. 9, state agency SPA reported. 
The summit, headed by King Salman, will also see the participation of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. 
Xi is set to attend two more conferences, the Riyadh Gulf-China Summit for Cooperation and Development and the Riyadh Arab-China Summit for Cooperation and Development during his visit. 
All three summits will focus on ways to enhance joint relations in all fields and economic cooperation.
Leaders from GCC and Arab countries will also participate in the events held in Saudi Arabia. 
Xi’s visit reflects the leaders’ desire to strengthen bilateral relations, enhance strategic partnerships and highlight potential political and economic cooperation to serve common interests, SPA added.


Volunteers at Grand Mosque in Makkah serve 30 million worshippers

Volunteers at Grand Mosque in Makkah serve 30 million worshippers
Updated 07 December 2022

Volunteers at Grand Mosque in Makkah serve 30 million worshippers

Volunteers at Grand Mosque in Makkah serve 30 million worshippers
  • In the Prophet’s Mosque, 7,000 volunteers served pilgrims over the past eight months

RIYADH: About 30 million worshippers have benefitted from volunteering services offered at the Grand Mosque in Makkah, Saudi Press Agency (SPA) reported.

According to figures released by Saudi Arabia’s Social, Volunteering and Humanitarian Department, volunteers from 35 entities across 17 fields exerted a total of 1.2 million hours in serving around 30 million worshippers from August last year until the first quarter of this year.

Volunteer services included serving breakfast to 5.9 million worshippers, providing 366,500 umbrellas, and distributing 2.3 million Zamzam water bottles.

In the Prophet’s Mosque in Al Madina, 7,000 volunteers served pilgrims over the past eight months, reported SPA.

The 350,000 volunteering hours covered helping elderly pilgrims and people with disabilities, organizing pedestrian flow, providing specialized first aid and offering guidance on locations in several languages.


What makes China a potentially large source of foreign visitors to Saudi Arabia 

What makes China a potentially large source of foreign visitors to Saudi Arabia 
Updated 07 December 2022

What makes China a potentially large source of foreign visitors to Saudi Arabia 

What makes China a potentially large source of foreign visitors to Saudi Arabia 
  • Research by the China Outbound Tourism Research Institute indicates a “strong wave” in travel in 2023
  • Within 10 days of Saudi e-visa launch, 4,000 foreign visitors entered the country, with China topping the list

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s carefully laid plan to expand its tourism sector is showing fruition as it marches forward to meet its target of attracting 100 million visitors to the Kingdom by 2030.

This is evident from the fact that the Kingdom recently topped the G20 countries list for the flow rating of international tourists in the first seven months of 2022, with international arrivals reaching 77 percent of pre-pandemic levels.

For its part, China, home to almost a fifth of the world’s population, is a huge source of potential tourists.

Speaking to CNBC in October, Saudi Tourism Minister Ahmed Al-Khateeb said: “China used to be a very important market, but it is still closed. This year, we’ve seen a great demand from Europe and the US. I absolutely would love to see some of these restrictions ease because Chinese market is a very big market, not only for Saudi Arabia but for all the other countries.”

China, home to almost a fifth of the world’s population, is a huge source of potential tourists. (AFP)

China has a zero COVID-19 policy, which includes lockdowns, quarantining and rigorous testing, aimed at stopping the spread of COVID-19, even as other countries ease travel and other restrictions and try to shift to a long-term strategy of living with the virus.

Following the launch of the e-visa in September 2019, Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Tourism issued more than 350,000 tourist visas in the first three months of that year alone.

Within the first 10 days of the launch, 4,000 foreign visitors entered Saudi Arabia with China topping the list and the UK and the US in the second and third place respectively.

Research released by China Outbound Tourism Research Institute in May indicates a “strong wave” in Chinese outbound travel in 2023, with a return to 2019 numbers by 2024. “The preparation, the acquisition of knowledge and the adaptation of services needs to be done now, before the wave arrives,” said Wolfgang Georg Arlt, the institute’s CEO.  

Saudi Arabia is well prepared for the return of Chinese travelers, with many institutions adopting the guidelines of the Welcome Chinese Certification program, which is considered the international standard for travel and hospitality services for visitors from the country.

Saudi and Chinese flags at Tiananmen square in Beijing during Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman visit to China in 2019. (AFP)

The Riyadh Airports Co., which manages and operates King Khalid International Airport, said that it is working on implementing standards designed to make the airport and its services more accessible and user friendly for Chinese visitors.

The company said the new facilities will improve the visitor experience for tourists from China by helping to overcome the language barrier and providing key services, including payment systems that are compatible with those in their home country. The initiative also highlights the availability of e-visas for Chinese travelers who want to visit the Kingdom.

An important part of the strategy to boost the Kingdom’s entertainment and tourism offerings is Red Sea Global. RSG is currently overseeing the creation of two luxury tourism destinations in Saudi Arabia: The Red Sea and Amaala.

Anton Bawab, group head of operations at RSG, foresees an upswing in the number of Chinese tourists once restrictions are lifted, and that the Kingdom and RSG’s destinations are prepared to welcome them.

“The Chinese market has shown tremendous potential for any country that opened up to it – Europe, Dubai, Maldives,” he said.

“Pre-COVID, Chinese tourists accounted for almost one fifth of global tourism spending. Saudi has huge potential to attract Chinese travelers, and RSG in particular. At the Red Sea, Chinese tourists can get a similar experience to the Maldives, which is a popular destination choice for them. But they can also couple it with culture, shopping and heritage.” 


How language and culture became pillars of Saudi-China friendship

How language and culture became pillars of Saudi-China friendship
Updated 07 December 2022

How language and culture became pillars of Saudi-China friendship

How language and culture became pillars of Saudi-China friendship
  • Celebration of Chinese New Year as part of Riyadh Season marked the start of a new era in bilateral relations
  • Exchanges of books, artistic fusions, and a cultural cooperation award have helped cement the relationship

RIYADH: Since Saudi Arabia and the People’s Republic of China formalized diplomatic relations in 1990, cultural ties between the two countries have blossomed into a robust relationship based on mutual respect.

Affirming the importance of this deep friendship, the iconic Boulevard Riyadh City in February this year celebrated Chinese New Year as part of the Riyadh Season entertainment festival.

The colorful occasion was attended by Chen Weiqing, the Chinese ambassador to Saudi Arabia, officials from the embassy, and a large number of visitors.

The celebration took several forms across the Boulevard zone. All its screens were lit red by midnight, displaying beautiful Chinese cultural images such as traditional houses and red lanterns, with congratulatory remarks written in Chinese, Arabic and English.

On the occasion Weiqing told Arab News: “The Spring Festival is the most important traditional festival for the Chinese people. The Boulevard Riyadh City lights up the symbolic red color of China, letting the Chinese people around the world feel the cordial greetings and best wishes from our Saudi friends.”

He added: “This is a great honor to celebrate our Lunar New Year, and we hope in this new year we will strengthen our bilateral relationship and friendship in different fields. This is the beginning of a new cultural era in bilateral relations. We have a lot of common principles, now we have a very strong cultural linkage, so I think in the future China and Saudi Arabia will be one of the closest partners.”

Further strengthening the cultural bonds, the world premiere of “Nine Songs” last Saturday filled the Saudi city of AlUla with excitement, with every seat occupied at the outdoor Wadi Al-Fann venue.

Chen Weiqing Chinese ambassador to Saudi Arabia, Li Xihong (Left) and Mansour Al-Zamil, General Secretary of King Fahd National Library (Right) unveil the Chinese Books Corner at the King Fahd Public Library. (AN photo/Meshaal Al-Qadeer)

Created especially for AlUla by Rui Fu, the Chinese musician, vocalist and artistic director, “Nine Songs” brought together a world-class ensemble of performers from across the globe. Fu’s vocals were accompanied by new compositions played on violin, harp, dulcimer, oud, guqin and taiko drums, with remarkable costumes, scenery and lighting adding to the theatrical display.

Fu’s new work is inspired by the Chu Ci (Songs of Chu), an ancient anthology of Chinese poetry from the first century B.C., while also responding to AlUla’s stunning geological structures.

In June this year King Fahd National Library in Riyadh added to its collection Chinese books donated by the National Library of China.

The books — covering subjects including history, economics, tourism and culture — are distributed in Arabic and English. They include literature on the Chinese language and some for children, which serve as an opportunity for Saudis to become familiar with the country and its culture.

Dr. Mansour bin Abdullah Al-Zamil, secretary of the King Fahd National Library, said: “We attach great importance to strengthening cooperation in the cultural field with the National Library of China.”

In July this year China’s Sinopec, one of the largest energy and chemical companies in the world, gifted 2,000 books on Chinese culture to King Fahd National Library.

It was marked in a ceremony attended by senior officials from both countries, including Beijing’s ambassador, who inaugurated the Chinese books corner at the library.

Chinese New Year starts after the rising of the second new moon after the winter solstice. (Supplied)

The section was established by Sinopec as part of its mission “to offer a window on China for Saudi citizens, provide reference books for students, beneficiaries, and graduates, and provide support for teaching Chinese in the Kingdom.”

Significantly, Saudi Arabia announced a cultural cooperation award with China on the occasion of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s visit to the country in February 2019.

Prince Badr bin Abdullah bin Farhan, the Saudi minister of culture, announced the “Prince Mohammed bin Salman Award for Cultural Cooperation between the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the People’s Republic of China.”

The announcement was made during Prince Badr’s visit to the King Abdulaziz Public Library at Beijing University. The library was inaugurated in 2017 by King Salman during his official visit to China, when the monarch was also awarded an honorary doctorate.

The cultural award honors outstanding Saudi and Chinese academics, linguists and innovators. The categories include for the best scientific research in the Arabic language, artistic creative work, translation of a book from Arabic to Chinese and vice versa. In addition, there are prizes for personality of the year and the most influential personality in cultural circles for the year. The awards form part of the common objectives of both the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 and China’s Belt and Road Initiative.

“This partnership in the name of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is an embodiment for joint commitment to building cultural bridges between the two countries, developing the cultural exchange and enhancing artistic and academic opportunities for our citizens,” the minister has said.

During the crown prince’s 2019 tour Saudi Arabia and China agreed to include the Chinese language as part of the curriculum at schools and universities in the Kingdom. 

King Salman with Chinese officials at the launch of the King Abdulaziz Public Library at Peking University in Beijing. (SPA)

The agreement came during a meeting between the crown prince and a high-level Chinese delegation in Beijing, in a bid to strengthen bilateral friendship and cultural cooperation.

The inclusion of the Chinese language is aimed at enhancing the cultural diversity of students in the Kingdom. It is an important step toward opening new academic horizons for students of various educational levels, will serve as a bridge between the two people, and promote trade and cultural ties.

Moreover, King Abdulaziz Public Library in April this year signed a memorandum of understanding with the Bayt El-Hekma Chinese Group as part of the two nations’ cultural cooperation. The MoU includes joint translations and publications, mutual visits, and the holding of scientific meetings and specialized exhibitions.

Prince Badr held a virtual meeting with the Chinese ambassador in April 2021 to discuss ways to enhance Saudi-Chinese cultural exchange, including with regard to the Prince Mohammed bin Salman award and the Saudi-Chinese Cultural Year initiative.