Saudi Arabia reports 155 new COVID-19 cases, 3 deaths

Saudi Arabia reports 155 new COVID-19 cases, 3 deaths
More than 68 million COVID-19 vaccine doses have been administered since the Kingdom’s immunization campaign began, with over 25 million people fully vaccinated. (SPA/File)
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Updated 04 October 2022

Saudi Arabia reports 155 new COVID-19 cases, 3 deaths

Saudi Arabia reports 155 new COVID-19 cases, 3 deaths

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia reported 155 new cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday, according to the Ministry of Health. As a result, the total number of cases in the Kingdom over the course of the pandemic grew to 816,975.

The authorities also confirmed three new COVID-19-related deaths, raising the total number of fatalities to 9,360.

Of the new infections, 59 were recorded in Riyadh, 28 in Jeddah and 12 in Madinah. Several other cities recorded fewer than 10 new cases each.

The ministry also announced that 124 patients had recovered from COVID-19, bringing the total number of recoveries in the Kingdom over the course of the pandemic to 804,033.

It said that 3,582 COVID-19 cases were still active, adding that 7,368 PCR tests were conducted in the past 24 hours, bringing the total number to more than 44 million.

The ministry said that of the current cases, 39 were in critical condition.

More than 68 million COVID-19 vaccine doses have been administered since the Kingdom’s immunization campaign began, with over 25 million people fully vaccinated.
 


Giant desert rave signals Kingdom’s mighty changes 

Giant desert rave signals Kingdom’s mighty changes 
Updated 20 sec ago

Giant desert rave signals Kingdom’s mighty changes 

Giant desert rave signals Kingdom’s mighty changes 
  • In its biggest and most diverse festival yet, Soundstorm returns to Riyadh, bringing music to thousands
  • Attendance expected to increase from last year’s 730,000, organizers say 
  • Soundstorm is arguably the largest electronic music festival in the world

RIYADH: An electronic musical festival billed as one of the largest in the world, and a sign of Saudi Arabia’s rapidly expanding entertainment landscape, has drawn hundreds of thousands of people to a remote desert area outside Riyadh over the past three days. 

Rave-goers at the third edition of Soundstorm crowded the stages, dressed in an eclectic mix of local Bedouin attire, Saudi national dress, and streetwear in the form of colorful hoodies and jackets with the addition of glitter make-up. 

MDL Beast, the Saudi entertainment company that launched the festival in 2019, is one of the most high-profile examples of the rapid social changes that have swept the Kingdom since Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s Vision 2030 reform plan was launched in 2016. 

Last year more than 730,000 people attended the festival over the course of four days, and this year organizers expect the number to increase for the three-day festival, which ended on Dec. 3. 

Soundstorm shows the power of music to bring people together for moments of shared joy.

“This is about love,” shouted American record producer and rapper DJ Khaled from the Big Beast stage on Friday during his first performance in Saudi Arabia and the Middle East.

With MDL Beast introducing rap and hip-hop to this year’s line-up, rap legends Busta Rhymes, Fat Joe, Future, Rick Ross and T.I joined DJ Khaled on stage in “DJ Khaled & Friends.”

The inclusion of hip-hop stars also underlines Soundstorm’s increasing variety of music genres, mixing top Saudi and Arabic performers with international acts — a sign of an increasing desire by global artists to perform in the Kingdom.

“The feedback from the international talent has been incredible, and we’re seeing more and more artists from abroad looking to come out to our festival to perform, which aligns with our mission to provide fans with the best possible experience,” said Talal Al-Bahiti, MDL Beast chief operating officer, and head of talent bookings and events, in a statement. 

Headlining global superstars playing for the first time included Bruno Mars, Marshmello and Post Malone. Returning DJs, such as Carl Cox, DJ Snake and David Guetta, lit up the stage, while a strong contingent of female Saudi DJs, such as Biirdperson, DJ Cosmicat, Dorar, Kayan and Solskin joined their peers Dish Dash, Vinylmode and regional star DJ Aseel, making this year’s line-up the most diverse to date.

“We have such strong women Saudi DJs now,” Danah, 27, a Saudi DJ playing in Soundstorm at VIB, told Arab News.

The Saudi music scene, previously underground, has become “a beautiful culture of shared encouragement,” she said.

“One DJ would offer me her equipment; we all shared and encouraged each other,” she said. “It was such a beautiful dynamic where women were empowering women to play music, men were empowering women to play music, and it wasn’t just to fill the gap in the market. We continue to spread this love today.”

“The event represents our great unveiling,” said Ahmad Alammary, chief creative officer at MDL Beast and a DJ who goes by the name Baloo,. 

“If Soundstorm had a middle name, it would be upgrade,” he added. “We love to upgrade by the way we design the event. From last year, we have learned more about people’s behavior, their preferences. And there is a lot of growth need that comes with this quick shift and lifestyle.” 

This year’s festival experience was enhanced for Premium and VIB — Very Important Beast or VIP — who moved from stage to stage to exclusive view areas via a connected network of elevated walkways akin to several large loops.

Soundstorm’s enhanced structure also included open seating spaces in the form of park-like areas aligned with food and beverage stations, and parking on site for all general admission ticket holders.

The festival, which follows the three-day XP Music Conference in the JAX district of Diriyah, signals Saudi Arabia’s rapidly expanding entertainment sector. 

“Heading into our third edition of Soundstorm, we do so now knowing the substantial impact the festival has on helping inspire, amalgamate and grow the Kingdom’s and wider region’s music scene and industry,”  MDL Beast CEO Ramadan Al-Haratani told Arab News. 

After the debut Soundstorm in 2019, “the economic and social impact was nothing any of us had expected,” he said.

Soundstorm is fostering the growth of soft power in Saudi Arabia after years of closure. The festival offers young Saudis newfound pride in their country through the creative expression and enjoyment of music on a personal and collective level, he said.

“It gave a platform for so many talents in the region and allowed Saudis to be aware of these unexpected talents.”

According to MDL Beast, 83 percent of Saudi youth believe that Soundstorm increases opportunities for local musicians and creatives in the country, with 86 percent of young Saudis saying that their pride in the creativity and culture in Saudi Arabia has grown because of the first festival.

MDL Beast said that there was a 36.5 percent increase in demand for global artists for 12 months after the first Soundstorm in 2019, according to the IMS Business Report 2021.

According to Al-Haratani, the festival demonstrates how “the ambitious expansion of the music ecosystem can be fundamental to the Kingdom’s social transformation, including connecting Saudi fans with the global artists they love, and the establishment of new venues and record labels and the continued growth of our burgeoning music ecosystem.”

Among the challenges MDL Beast has faced is how to handle unprecedented large crowds of men and women dancing all night long in a country where this was unheard of a few years ago.

After several harassment claims during the first and second editions, MDL Beast launched the “Respect and Reset” anti-harassment campaign, and said it would take action against anyone who is abusive or offensive.

Signs with “Respect & Reset” and “Visit our R&R spaces for help with harassment” were publicized throughout the venues. A designated white tent to help those who had experienced harassment was set up next to a medical tent. 

Al-Haratani said that security was increased this year to over 3,800 personnel on site, with an estimated one guard for every 35 guests. Additionally, the festival was monitored by more than 300 CCTV cameras. Free water was available throughout the night in all venues.

Baloo said that the festival set-up included “safe dancing zones.” 

“If anyone is feeling insecure or unsafe or just wants to dance alone or in a couple, then we have created zones within the big stages where women and couples can go dancing comfortably,” he told Arab News. “Everyone is welcome to come.”

“In the last three years things have changed from zero to 100 here,” Lana Alsherif, 23, social media coordinator for XP Music Futures, told Arab News.

“It’s so beautiful to see this for the music industry. Everything is happening now. There’s a lot of opportunities and everyone wants to find talent. We want to build connections with everyone from here in Saudi, encourage local talent and bring international artists. We want to become a new benchmark for the music industry.”


Finding answers in the field of humanities tops Riyadh Philosophy Conference’s agenda 

Finding answers in the field of humanities tops Riyadh Philosophy Conference’s agenda 
Updated 03 December 2022

Finding answers in the field of humanities tops Riyadh Philosophy Conference’s agenda 

Finding answers in the field of humanities tops Riyadh Philosophy Conference’s agenda 

RIYADH: The Riyadh International Philosophy Conference brought together philosophers, scholars, historians, politicians, and artists from around the world to help drive research in the field of humanities, the CEO of the Literature, Publishing and Translation Commission told Arab News.

Mohammed Hasan Alwan said that the three-day event, which began on Thursday, delivered multifaceted content for all age groups.

He said: “Philosophy has a wide range of freedom to criticize the past and investigate the future, in the short and long term.

“As a result, we may state that the things that are contradictory to realities and possibilities of time are at the center of philosophy’s activity.”

Alwan said the conference was an attempt to figure out new research areas and find new answers in the interests of humanity.

He added: “The conference comes at a time when such cultural activities are needed to fill a vacuum that has always been unoccupied. It is also needed to reinvigorate dialogue.” 

The conference has looked at pressing contemporary philosophical issues, and the subject’s role in understanding today’s world.

The event has featured 17 interactive sessions, 12 keynote and public lectures, and 13 workshops, including 11 for children aged 7 to 15.

Participants from the School of Oriental and African Studies in London, The National University of the Northeast in Argentina, the Independent National University of Mexico, and the International Federation of Philosophical Societies attended.


Kingdom arrests 14,133 in one week for breaching visa rules

Kingdom arrests 14,133 in one week for breaching visa rules
Updated 03 December 2022

Kingdom arrests 14,133 in one week for breaching visa rules

Kingdom arrests 14,133 in one week for breaching visa rules

RIYADH: Saudi authorities arrested 14,133 people in one week for breaching residency, work and border security regulations, according to an official report.

From Nov. 24 to 30, a total of 8,148 people were arrested for violations of residency rules, while 3,859 were held over illegal border crossing attempts, and a further 2,126 for labor-related issues.

The report showed that among the 377 people arrested for trying to enter the Kingdom illegally, 51 percent were Yemeni, 37 percent Ethiopian, and 12 percent were of other nationalities.

A further 40 people were caught trying to cross into neighboring countries, and nine were held for involvement in transporting and harboring violators.

The Saudi Ministry of Interior said that anyone found to be aiding illegal entry to the Kingdom, including transporting and providing shelter, could face imprisonment for a maximum of 15 years, a fine of up to SR1 million ($260,000), or confiscation of vehicles and property.

Suspected violations can be reported on the toll-free number 911 in the Makkah and Riyadh regions, and 999 or 996 in other regions of the Kingdom.

From Nov. 17 to 23, the Saudi authorities also arrested 9,131 people for violating residency regulations, 2,416 for labor violations and 4,166 for border violations.


Music enthusiasts sport hoodies at MDLBEAST Soundstorm 2022 in Riyadh

Music enthusiasts sport hoodies at MDLBEAST Soundstorm 2022 in Riyadh
Updated 02 December 2022

Music enthusiasts sport hoodies at MDLBEAST Soundstorm 2022 in Riyadh

Music enthusiasts sport hoodies at MDLBEAST Soundstorm 2022 in Riyadh
  • “I have been here since it all started in 2019, and every year I am surprised by the changes, and this year we noticed a better organization in the parking area,” Nana, who was visiting the music festival with her friends, told Arab News

RIYADH: As the mercury dropped in Riyadh, thousands of music enthusiasts flocked to MDLBEAST Soundstorm 2022 on Thursday in Riyadh sporting hoodies and jackets in a variety of colors and designs.

Nana, a 22-year-old, was spotted in the Dance Tent (one of MDLBEAST’s stages) wearing a colorful 70s style jacket with ripped jeans and glitter around her eyes.

“I have been here since it all started in 2019, and every year I am surprised by the changes, and this year we noticed a better organization in the parking area,” Nana, who was visiting the music festival with her friends, told Arab News.

Many clothing stores at the event focused on selling hoodies and comfortable streetwear.

MDLBEAST also has a customization station where visitors can have pictures or letters printed on their hoodies and T-shirts.

FASTFACTS

• Many clothing stores at the event focused on selling hoodies and comfortable streetwear.

• MDLBEAST also has a customization station where visitors can have pictures or letters printed on their hoodies and T-shirts.

• Another Saudi brand that took part in the festival was Rich/Anonymous.

Reshma Choudhary, manager of the MDLBEAST store, said that people like to buy souvenirs from the festival so that when they return home, they can treasure a piece of MDLBEAST.

“The MDLBEAST brand is growing now, and it’s really good for us to have personalized merchandise, especially for people here who come here to have fun; it’s good to take it as a souvenir now, and I think it’s a good collaboration with the Saudi artists to do something cool,” Choudhary said.

Another Saudi brand that took part in the festival was Rich/Anonymous.

Founder Abdullah Marwan said: “I think it’s important to participate in MDLBEAST as it gives exposure because there are thousands of people here, and it fits our niche in terms of consumers … and the Riyadh style has gone hardcore into hoodies in the last couple of years, so this is why we have special edition hoodies in our brand inspired by MDLBEAST.”

Fahad Al-Qahttani, an Emirati citizen who came all the way from Dubai to attend the festival, wore a leather jacket, sunglasses, bandana and 70s-style colored pants.

“I visit Riyadh often because of all the activities that I find here, and I didn’t miss the MDLBEAST last year … and I love what people are wearing tonight,” Al-Qahttani said.

 


Socrates Cafe founder stresses power of philosophy at Riyadh conference

Socrates Cafe founder Christopher Phillips. (Supplied)
Socrates Cafe founder Christopher Phillips. (Supplied)
Updated 03 December 2022

Socrates Cafe founder stresses power of philosophy at Riyadh conference

Socrates Cafe founder Christopher Phillips. (Supplied)
  • During an interview with Arab News, Phillips discussed the power of philosophical thinking as well as the importance of listening to other people’s thoughts and beliefs

RIYADH: The Riyadh Philosophy Conference on Thursday featured a powerful discussion on the power of philosophy to transform humanity by Socrates Cafe founder Christopher Phillips.

Socrates Cafe is an international gathering concept that encourages individuals to come together and explore timeless and timely questions as well as share their viewpoints on different topics. It can be held in any place, from cafes to meeting areas or any space that invites thinkers to share their thoughts.

“There is a beautiful window here (Saudi Arabia) of flourishing desire, almost a hunger for the discovering, cultivating the art of sort of questioning, to look at what speaks for and against a wide variety of views,” Phillips told Arab News.

“At a time when so many places around the world are building walls, not just literal walls, physical walls — walls between one another, existential walls — there are so many people in Saudi Arabia and the Middle East who truly want to build bridges. They want to be less impatient. And they understand that this form of philosophical inquiry is one way to hear somebody out,” he added.

The Saudi Literature, Publishing & Translation Commission is hosting the second edition of the three-day philosophy conference from Dec. 1-3 at the King Fahd National Library.

There is a beautiful window here of flourishing desire, almost a hunger for the discovering, cultivating the art of questioning, to look at what speaks for and against a wide variety of views.

Christopher Phillips

The second edition of the Riyadh Philosophy Conference has welcomed a wide variety of speakers and experts from around the world to hold lectures, discussions, seminars and workshops focused on philosophy as well as issues affecting humanity.

Speakers include scientists, writers, historians, professors and philosophers from around the world.

Phillips spoke during the first Riyadh Philosophy Conference and has returned for the second edition to host an in-person Socrates Cafe event that give people the opportunity to interact and explore ideas as well as different perspectives in a relaxed setting.

The Philosophers Cafe will explore questions surrounding the conference’s theme of “Knowledge and Exploration: Space, Time and Humanity.”

Phillips said: “It celebrates the right to inquire, the right to frame your own questions, and that’s a tradition of philosophy.

“What’s interesting is that lots of the discussions right now seem to be from a dark place — questions about whether are you born evil or is this something that you can become or is it something that’s innate. On the other hand, they are also asking ‘can I be the change that I want to see in the world?’”

During an interview with Arab News, Phillips discussed the power of philosophical thinking as well as the importance of listening to other people’s thoughts and beliefs.

The Socrates Cafe founder said that he has seen a growing will to ​​proselytize in countries around the world. However, in the Kingdom, Phillips described the trend in thinking as “very much a breath of fresh air right now compared to so many other parts of the world where that tradition of careful listening, of inquiring together, of framing thoughtful questions has gone by the wayside.”

He added: “If you take that time to understand where another human being is coming from and why their story is different from yours, it’s something much more often than not to celebrate.”

Phillips said that many people no longer celebrate the idea of having differing opinions or viewpoints.

He added: “If somebody has a point of view that differs from our own, a person might just be ready to jump down from that other person. So why?”

Rather than pointing fingers and siloing ourselves and viewpoints, Phillips said “we can look at ourselves and say, well, what modest talent might I contribute to be more part of the solution than the problem.

“It’s about cultivating the art of listening at a time when people are screaming at one another, at a time when there’s too much holier than thou to cultivate the Socratic virtues of humility, the sense that ‘I may be wrong.’”

Phillips said he is unsurprised that people in the Kingdom are so willing to hold philosophical discussions and actively listen to opinions that differ from their own.

“I’m not surprised, and I will tell you why, because the Socratic tradition, the tradition originated by Socrates, it’s right on the cusp of the East and the West, the Middle East and the Western world. I think Socrates himself was influenced by Middle Eastern thinkers, and that this is something that comes naturally,” he said.

“There’s the receptivity here in Saudi Arabia that there was when I first started Socrates Cafe in 1996 in the US, and it’s no accident that there’s the spontaneous flourishing of Socrates Cafes and so many diverse types of communities, cities and groups all throughout Saudi Arabia,” Phillips added.

Through holding philosophical discussions and sparking curiosity, people can not only learn from other’s experiences and knowledge, but can also discover a lot within themselves.

“It’s about listening, truly asking why, especially when someone has a view that’s alien to your own, to want to know their story as a way of becoming more connected. It’s transformative when you really give someone that gift of listening to them, you’re going to be changed,” Phillips said.

The Socrates Cafe founder stressed that a lot can be learned from the way children philosophize. “I believe in breaking down categories of learning and knowledge — disciplines of thinking in colors like kids do.”

Phillips has a series of 10 children’s philosophy books. One of them, “Worlds of Difference,” has been translated into Arabic.

“It’s written by the kids. They are not yet cubbyholes; we haven’t yet tainted them so much with our adult-made very unimaginative categories. So they help me. They help me think more fully and deeply, and colorfully,” he said.

“And believe it or not, even though they’re fidgeting around, they really listen to one another until they’ve unlearned it from older folks,” he added.

Phillips is set to travel around the Kingdom, holding Socrates Cafes events throughout the week. He said that there are now 10 Socrates Cafe locations in Saudi Arabia, including in Jubai and Dammam. On Dec. 6 he is set to hold a Socrates Cafe event in Riyadh.

“I feel like this is almost a second home to have been back three times now, and not as a tourist, but as somebody who feels like these are fellow kindred spirits who want to engage in this beautiful thing called Socrates Cafe,” he said.

“It’s such an honor for me to be part of that and to know that there are still places on Spaceship Earth that celebrate the art and science of careful listening, and thinking and inquiry. We all are inquirers, but it tends to get shunted off as we get older.”