Saudi podcaster amplifies voices of local, regional creatives

Hatem Alakeel in London where he launched season 3 of his podcast, Gems of Arabia, in partnership with Harrods. (Supplied)
Hatem Alakeel in London where he launched season 3 of his podcast, Gems of Arabia, in partnership with Harrods. (Supplied)
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Updated 26 September 2022

Saudi podcaster amplifies voices of local, regional creatives

Hatem Alakeel in London where he launched season 3 of his podcast, Gems of Arabia, in partnership with Harrods. (Supplied)
  • Hatem Alakeel partners with Harrods to build a community of likeminded individuals, bridge generational gap

DHAHRAN: Hatem Alakeel is the most immaculately dressed Saudi podcaster with a heart of gold.

His podcast, Gems of Arabia, which aims to highlight “all the shimmering hidden gems of the Arab world,” recently launched its third season with a big change — he is partnering with world-famous UK-based luxury department store Harrods.

This is the first official Middle Eastern collaboration between Harrods, established in 1849, and an emerging podcast launched in 2021.

I’ve been doing this all my life, like being in a boarding school (in Europe) and being the ambassador to Saudi Arabia representing my country. I hope to continue with what I’ve been doing over the past years and change the perception-based stereotypes and elevate the Saudi culture and Arab culture.

Hatem Alakeel

“Harrods and Gems of Arabia are partnering on a podcast series, themed on bridging the generations through culture,” Alakeel told Arab News. “As two established institutions in their own regions, our podcast and Harrods hopes to facilitate conversations between guests who are excelling in their field, and to provide a bridge between both generations in both the UK and the Middle East.

“We are hosting these special editions of Gems of Arabia from inside Harrods, Knightsbridge,” he said.

A softly spoken and articulate host, Alakeel has found some of the most interesting UK-based Saudis and other Arabs to interview. The new season offers plenty of surprise guests from within the MENA region.




Hatem Alakeel in London where he launched season 3 of his podcast, Gems of Arabia, in partnership with Harrods. (Supplied)

With 18 years of experience, Alakeel first started as a fashion designer with his label “Toby,” modernizing the traditional thobe, and has been elegantly sashaying into each endeavor he has embarked on ever since with his brand consultancy Authenticite.

Although Alakeel is proud of his Saudi heritage and his Jeddah roots, he is mostly based in Dubai. But no matter where he is geographically, he is always passionate about amplifying narratives in the region regardless of where they are from.

For the past four years, he has been writing an online column where he highlights change-makers in the region who are shaping the Saudi landscape in a positive way. He knew it was time to try a different platform to further amplify the voices of those individuals to build on the conversations, so he started the podcast.

HIGHLIGHTS

• The new season offers plenty of surprise guests from within the MENA region.

• Hatem Alakeel lived a significant portion of his life abroad, his mother constantly reminded him not to stray too far away from his heritage and to never compromise on his values.

• This is the first official Middle Eastern collaboration between Harrods, established in 1849, and an emerging podcast launched in 2021.

• For Alakeel, authenticity is the keyword. He is now trying to facilitate opportunities for local creatives to showcase themselves — without excluding Saudis living abroad.

That is something Harrods was attracted to.

“For me, Harrods has been an institution that I’ve always looked up to ever since I was a kid. It really has this kind of nostalgia feeling for me. I believe that the way we have been able to connect was through my podcast during my second season, which I did on the Saudi Cup — it was about heritage,” he said.

As Alakeel become recognized online and offline, he felt a sense of responsibility to help foster a thriving ecosystem for creatives in or from the region. He wanted to create the type of community that he wished he had when he was starting his career.

An un-ironic instagram influencer, he makes sure that his posts are both in English and Arabic. He also genuinely tries to bring out the silver lining in every situation.

The person who has been his anchor is his late mother, Seham Arab, who recently passed away.

Although Alakeel lived a significant portion of his life abroad, his mother constantly reminded him not to stray too far away from his heritage and to never compromise on his values.

His beloved mother’s scent lingers in Alakeel’s life — literally. Every night, he spritzes some of her favorite perfume onto his pillow so he can fall asleep to her memory. However, the bond between mother and son goes well beyond smell, which is known to be the strongest sense tied to memory.

She was the inspiration for his life’s work and the reason he began on his journey trying to uncover hidden gems and treasures within the Arab region. Alakeel calls her his first gem. She also introduced him to Harrods.

“My recollection of my first experience with Harrods was when I was in boarding school and my mom sent me a box of riding gear — it was shoes, a hat, and it was the most immaculate riding gear that I got, because I was horseback riding. So from there, it snowballed into me always going there and appreciating them. I was over the moon to have the opportunity to actually do something with them,” he said.

She would have loved his collaboration with Harrods and how he decided to approach the partnership.

“The approach that I proposed to Harrods is generational and cultural — there’s also a generational bridge that’s being built. And we need to recognize that a lot of the younger generation, Generation Z, for example, is very much inspired more than ever with vintage. Millennials were always so brand-obsessed,” he said.

“So, this is kind of the movement that I’m creating with the podcast — what we’re going to be doing with Harrods — is to highlight the generational bridges existing between both cultures. You know, an idea of how progressive Saudi designers are becoming, how much more exposed they are and how much more we need to kind of see where it’s heading. And this is the kind of conversation we want to have,” he said.

For Alakeel, authenticity is the keyword. He is now trying to facilitate opportunities for local creatives to showcase themselves — without excluding Saudis living abroad.

He wants to try to bridge the different generations that seem somewhat disconnected. A podcast felt like a natural progression to merge all of these elements together. It is a conversational vehicle that will allow different members of communities to express themselves.

It is all about creating a community and building it up.

“I’ve been doing this all my life, like being in a boarding school (in Europe) and being the ambassador to Saudi Arabia representing my country. I hope to continue with what I’ve been doing over the past years and change the perception-based stereotypes and elevate the Saudi culture and Arab culture,” Alakeel said.

Saudis, and indeed Arabs, have shopped at Harrods in London for generations. It is a trusted place to find curated and well-crafted goods. This season’s podcast promises the same.

“Harrods is partnering with game-changers in the local market; trailblazers, designers and entrepreneurs based in the Middle East. The goal is to build a community of likeminded individuals, to provide them with a global platform and wider network of contacts, while allowing Harrods to build relationships with and support the next generation of talent. Harrods’ partnership with Gems of Arabia is a perfect alignment and a brilliant example of this work, ensuring their position in these foreign markets is meaningful and built on cooperation,” Alakeel said.

Tap into season 3 of the Gems of Arabia podcast empowered by @harrods by connecting to @authenticite_by_hatem_alakeel.

 


KSRelief distributes over 92 tons of food baskets in Marib

KSRelief distributes over 92 tons of food baskets in Marib
Updated 05 December 2022

KSRelief distributes over 92 tons of food baskets in Marib

KSRelief distributes over 92 tons of food baskets in Marib

RIYADH: The King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Center (KSRelief) distributed 92 tons and 127 kilograms of food baskets in Yemen’s Marib governorate, benefiting 5,166 people.
This is part of the Food Security Support Project 2022, which is being implemented by KSRelief in Yemen and aims to distribute more than 192,000 food baskets weighing more than 20,000 tons to needy and affected families in 15 Yemeni governorates.
KSRelief also continued to implement its voluntary medical project for specialized surgeries in Gambia, which is being carried out from Nov. 28 to Dec. 4.
Since the beginning of the campaign, the voluntary medical team has performed 105 surgeries.
Also, KSRelief distributed 1,644 winter bags in Pakistan, benefiting 11,508 people. 
This comes within the framework of the relief and humanitarian projects and voluntary programs being implemented by Saudi Arabia, represented by the KSRelief, for a number of brotherly and friendly countries.


HMS Hail commissioned into Saudi Arabia’s naval service

HMS Hail commissioned into Saudi Arabia’s naval service
Updated 05 December 2022

HMS Hail commissioned into Saudi Arabia’s naval service

HMS Hail commissioned into Saudi Arabia’s naval service
  • This is the third ship to be launched, following Al-Jubail and Al-Diriya, as part of the Sarawat project

SAN FERNANDO, Madrid: The Royal Saudi Naval Forces has commissioned into active service His Majesty’s Ship Hail at the Navantia shipyard in San Fernando, Spain, state news agency SPA reported.

This is the third ship to be launched, following Al-Jubail and Al-Diriya, as part of the Sarawat project of five combat ships aimed at improving the Kingdom’s maritime defense capabilities and interests.

Rear Admiral Fahd bin Abdullah Al-Ghofaily, Commander of the Royal Saudi Naval Forces, together with other Saudi and Spanish officials hoisted the Saudi Arabian flag on the ship to mark its official commissioning into the naval service.

Sawarat is a joint venture between the Saudi Arabian Military Industries company and Spain’s state-owned Navantia to build multi-purpose combat ships for the Saudi navy as well as localize 50 percent of military industries by 2030.

Under the joint venture, Saudi Arabia’s navy will also have its first Saudi system, nicknamed Hazm, that would contribute to localize military industries through transformation of technology and national staff intensive training

HMS Diriya, the second ship of the Sarawat project, is scheduled to reach Saudi Arabia early next year after having completed its training program in Spain.

The launch of the fourth and fifth ships, HMS Jazan and HMS Onaiza, will meanwhile take place in Saudi Arabia under the sponsorship of Saudi engineers who have received training in Spain.


Cross-cultural dialogue at heart of Riyadh Philosophy Conference

Cross-cultural dialogue at heart of Riyadh Philosophy Conference
Updated 05 December 2022

Cross-cultural dialogue at heart of Riyadh Philosophy Conference

Cross-cultural dialogue at heart of Riyadh Philosophy Conference
  • Event’s 2nd edition asked questions surrounding space exploration and impact on humanity

RIYADH: Over the course of three days, scientists, writers, historians, professors and philosophers from around the world gathered at the King Fahd National Library in Riyadh to discuss the major issues affecting humanity today.

The second edition of the conference, which concluded on Dec. 3, was dedicated to the theme of “Knowledge and Exploration: Space, Time and Humanity.”

A total of 71 speakers attended from more than 19 countries around the world, including the US, UK, UAE, Mexico, Italy, Singapore, Italy, Germany and Egypt, making the conference a diverse platform to discuss ideas and topics pertinent to our world today. Attendees numbered around 2,700.

The second edition of the conference was dedicated to questions revolving space exploration and its philosophical and social implications for humanity. (Photo/Huda Bashatah)

“A conference such as this has cross-cultural dialogue at its heart. Inviting and welcoming leading philosophers from all over the world is not a one-way thing,” Dr. Mohammed Hasan Alwan, CEO of the Literature, Publishing & Translation Commission, told Arab News. “It is, instead, a two-way dialogue, with international experts joining their Saudi and regional colleagues in a spirit of intellectual exploration that is far more profound and far-reaching because it is done in a spirit of partnership.”

This year’s conference continues the efforts of last year’s event, which was the first of its kind to take place in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. “Our conference has been bigger and more ambitious in many ways,” added Alwan.

The conference was established, he said, “because we believe in philosophy and its relevance in our world.”

The second edition of the conference, which concluded on Dec. 3, was dedicated to the theme of “Knowledge and Exploration: Space, Time and Humanity.” (Photo/Huda Bashatah)

The theme of the conference was highly topical to ongoing debates surrounding space exploration.

“The conference theme is, to coin a science fiction phrase, ‘going boldly where few conferences have gone before,” said Alwan. “We chose a theme that was challenging, and yet which also showed just how philosophical thinking is absolutely vital for humanity, because of its ability to map out entirely new intellectual territory that relates to space exploration, to humanity’s potential extra-terrestrial activities.”

The topic of space exploration is also reflective of Saudi Arabia’s own plans. In September 2022, the Kingdom announced that it had launched a new astronaut program. Its first journey, set for 2023, will carry a female Saudi astronaut, the Saudi Press Agency reported.

Over the course of three days, scientists, writers, historians, professors, and philosophers from around the world gathered at the King Fahad National Library in Riyadh to discuss pressing major issues affecting humanity today. (Photo/Huda Bashatah)

“What has been impressive is the ability to speak to a diverse and large population here that you don’t find in academic conferences; attendees this year included even investment bankers and people working in the oil industry,” Nicolas de Warren, professor of philosophy at Penn State University in the US, who was attending the conference for the second time, told Arab News. “I was impressed again by the level of sophistication and questions from the diverse audience.”

De Warren chaired a panel titled “Exploring Space and Time Today.” His research looks at the impact of science fiction literature which, as he says, “imagines not only the exploration of space but what it would mean to enter into contact with other life forms or alien civilizations. It is what is called first contact narratives.”

Such ideas raise the fundamental philosophical question of if we as a species are alone in the universe? Are there other life forms? How do we know if there are other life forms? Why has there been no contact with these other life forms? And what would it really represent if, indeed, one day, there was the discovery that there are other intelligent life forms and civilizations?

De Warren discussed such questions in his panel but went a step further. According to his thesis, these questions do not really concern aliens but ourselves.

“It has to do with the way in which we project our planetary fears onto some imaginary alien to sublimate them,” he said. “From that perspective, it’s not fortuitous that during the 1950s and 1960s, one of the dominant genres of science fiction literature and films was invasion narratives — Martians are coming, and so on. That reflects the sort of sublimation one found during the Cold War.”

Apart from delving into pressing issues involving our world today and fostering cross-cultural dialogue, the conference also had a pedagogical aspect.

A pavilion area with workshops for children called Philosophers of Tomorrow, a Philosophical Camp for philosophical dialogue, and a debating competition for trained teams of college students called Reading Between the Lines Competition underlined the importance of fostering philosophy inquiry and thought within educational platforms, schools and communities in the Kingdom.

“We’ve done more than before to encourage children and young people to participate in the conference through a Philosopher’s Cafe, which has space for members of the audience to discuss philosophical topics with the conference’s speakers,” added Alwan.

This year the conference partnered with more organizations, ranging from international universities, the International Federation of Philosophical Societies, as well as the Saudi Space Commission, and several Saudi organizations engaged in promoting philosophical thinking, such as Baseera, the Saudi Center of Philosophy and Ethics, Mekal Philosophy Club and the Saudi Philosophy Association.

“We abstract the tools that philosophers use and try to invite teachers to apply those tools in their curriculum,” said Dalia Toonsi, educational consultant, founder and general manager of Baseera Educational Consultancy. Baseera, an institute that trains teachers to implement dialogical and philosophical teaching as well as learning methods into the curriculum of Saudi schools, was taking part in the event for the second time.

“People in the Arab world generally don’t think philosophy is an interesting subject,” said Toonsi. Baseera’s work emphasizes the importance of philosophical inquiry in schools.

Toonsi said: “Tools from philosophy entail critical thinking, examining assumptions, deduction and reduction, and inquiry and also caring thinking, related more to children, which gives children the ability to open their minds to different opinions related to philosophical inquiry.”

 

 


People with disabilities take the stage at Gulf Theatre Festival

People with disabilities take the stage at Gulf Theatre Festival
Updated 04 December 2022

People with disabilities take the stage at Gulf Theatre Festival

People with disabilities take the stage at Gulf Theatre Festival
  • Ahmad bin Sulaiman Al-Rajhi said: “The initiatives, programs and projects offered to people with disabilities in the Kingdom reflect our wise leadership’s interest in this group … and the achievement of equal opportunities for them”

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia is currently hosting the sixth Gulf Theater Festival for People with Disabilities at the Princess Noura bint Abdulrahman University Conference Center in Riyadh.

The nine-day festival, organized by the Authority for Persons with Disabilities, began on Friday, Dec. 2 and will feature six theatrical performances from the GCC alongside interactive events and theater workshops.

Eng. Ahmad bin Sulaiman AlRajhi, Minister of Human Resources and Social Development, caressing a child with disability during the opening ceremony of the Sixth Gulf Theater Festival for People with Disabilities organized by the Authority of People with Disabilities in Riyadh. (SPA)

The festival aims to promote inclusivity, and boost awareness, of people with disabilities.

Ahmad bin Sulaiman Al-Rajhi, minister of human resources and social development, said: “The initiatives, programs and projects offered to people with disabilities in the Kingdom reflect our wise leadership’s interest in this group … and the achievement of equal opportunities for them.”  

The Kingdom is hosting this session for the first time, with the aim of discovering and developing the talents of our sons and daughters with disabilities in the GCC in the fields of arts and increasing their participation in cultural events.

Ahmad Al-Rajhi, Saudi minister of human resources and social development

He added: “The Kingdom is hosting this session for the first time, with the aim of discovering and developing the talents of our sons and daughters with disabilities in the GCC in the fields of arts and increasing their participation in cultural events.”

Alanoud Alfaqeer, the supervisor of the sixth Gulf Theatre Festival for People with Disabilities, General Manager of Partnerships and Cooperations at APD. (Supplied)

Alanoud Al-Faqeer, the supervisor of the festival, said: “Theater is one of the mechanisms through which the awareness of the public can be raised. Theater helps showcase talents and motivate people with disabilities to integrate into society.”

“Saudi Arabia welcomes all people with disabilities … all arrangements have been made to contribute to the festival’s success and provide support to all participants to showcase their performances in an amazing manner,” she added.

The director of the executive office of the Gulf Cooperation Council, Dr. Amer Al-Hajri, called for greater efforts to empower people with disabilities by providing them with appropriate opportunities of all kinds to show their talents.

 


Riyadh Season to launch ‘Ana Arabia’ on Saturday

Photo (@RiyadhSeason)
Photo (@RiyadhSeason)
Updated 04 December 2022

Riyadh Season to launch ‘Ana Arabia’ on Saturday

Photo (@RiyadhSeason)
  • The exhibition will feature exclusive and innovative products in fashion, jewelry, perfumes, leather and home accessories in an interactive environment

RIYADH: The exhibition “Ana Arabia” (Arabic for “I am an Arab Woman”), which highlights Arab women in design and fashion, will be launched on Saturday at Riyadh Front, one of the entertainment zones of Riyadh Season.

The exhibition will bring together Arab creators in what will be the largest gathering of its kind in the Middle East.

“Ana Arabia” will display the works of more than 200 designers from across the Arab world, allowing female designers and businesswomen to market their products and exchange experiences in the design sector.

The exhibition will feature exclusive and innovative products in fashion, jewelry, perfumes, leather and home accessories in an interactive environment.

It will also see exclusive meetings with top fashion and beauty experts to present their experiences.

The exhibition will open from 4 p.m. until midnight and will continue until Dec. 16. Tickets can be booked via the link: https://riyadhseason.sa/event-details-en.html?id=598/en_Ana_Arabiya