Thailand offers to be Saudi Arabia’s ‘gateway’ to Asian markets 

Special Thailand offers to be Saudi Arabia’s ‘gateway’ to Asian markets 
New Town Bangkok skyline. (AFP)
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Updated 19 November 2022
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Thailand offers to be Saudi Arabia’s ‘gateway’ to Asian markets 

Thailand offers to be Saudi Arabia’s ‘gateway’ to Asian markets 
  • Saudi leader’s visit is a historic moment in newly restored Riyadh-Bangkok ties
  • Crown prince attends APEC summit in Bangkok as a special guest of Thai government

BANGKOK: Thailand wants to be Saudi Arabia’s “gateway” to Asian markets, a top trade negotiations official said on Friday following Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s arrival in Bangkok as a special guest of the Thai government.

The Saudi leader’s one-day Thailand trip is a historic moment in Riyadh-Bangkok ties, which stalled in the 1980s and were restored only earlier this year when Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha visited Saudi Arabia at the crown prince’s invitation.




Thailand’s Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha receives Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who is on an official visit to Thailand. (SPA)

Many agreements and official exchanges have since followed. The volume of trade between the two countries has significantly increased, and more is on the agenda, as regaining access to Saudi Arabia has for many years been a priority for Thailand.

“Since the normalization of the diplomatic relationship in January, the value of trade, the growth, is around 50 percent plus,” Auramon Supthaweethum, director general of the Department of Trade Negotiations, told Arab News at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Bangkok.

The trade department under Thailand’s Ministry of Commerce plays a key role in organizing the country’s trade talks with the Saudi side. Thai authorities also hope they will allow for an increased presence in the Middle East.

 

 

“Saudi Arabia can be a gateway for Thailand to the entire Middle East,” Supthaweethum said, adding that Thailand could offer the same in the context of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.

Hopes are high for the newly restored relations, which have been further boosted by the fact that the crown prince’s visit coincided with the APEC summit, during which he held a series of meetings with the heads of state from the 21 economies of the Pacific Rim.

“I see it as very positive. The prime minister and crown prince of Saudi Arabia is visiting Thailand at this important time,” Supthaweethum said. He said there was also potential for private sector engagement as numerous business representatives were part of the Saudi delegation.




Tourist enjoy a view of Wat Arun Buddhist temple along Chaophraya river. (AFP)

The restored relationship gives Thai exporters and investors greater access to opportunities in the Gulf and beyond.

“This is a big, big issue for Thailand. Saudi Arabia is a critical partner in the Middle East,” Thitinan Pongsudhirak, director of the Bangkok-based Institute of Security and International Studies, told Arab News.

“That is a gateway for Thailand to reenter Middle East markets. Without the Saudi Arabia relationship, a lot of doors were closed. Now, more doors will be opened.”


UNESCO listing of Uruq Bani Ma’arid Reserve puts Saudi conservation efforts in the limelight

UNESCO listing of Uruq Bani Ma’arid Reserve puts Saudi conservation efforts in the limelight
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UNESCO listing of Uruq Bani Ma’arid Reserve puts Saudi conservation efforts in the limelight

UNESCO listing of Uruq Bani Ma’arid Reserve puts Saudi conservation efforts in the limelight
  • Decision seen as recognition of Kingdom’s commitment to protecting and maintaining natural ecosystems and cultural heritage
  • Inscription of the reserve on UNESCO World Heritage List comes more than 30 years after it was designated a protected zone

LONDON: Uruq Bani Ma’arid Reserve has become the first natural site in Saudi Arabia to be added to UNESCO’s World Heritage List, joining the six man-made heritage locations in the Kingdom that were previously inscribed.

In the words of Prince Badr bin Abdullah, the Saudi minister of culture, when he announced the organization’s on September 20, the addition of the site “contributes to highlighting the importance of natural heritage on a global scale and reflects the outstanding value of the reserve.”

But the Kingdom’s dedication to the protection of its natural environment is far from a new phenomenon. The recognition by UNESCO reflects a long-running commitment by Saudi Arabia to the preservation of a diverse and internationally important natural environment that stretches back almost four decades.

The listing of the Uruq Bani Ma’arid Reserve, on the edge of Rub Al-Khali, also known as the Empty Quarter, comes more than 30 years after the area was designated a protected zone.

But it was not the first such site afforded protected status. That honor went to Harrat Al-Harrah, a 13,775 square kilometer volcanic plateau in the north of the country, which was designated as a reserve in 1986 — 37 years ago.

Uruq Bani Ma’arid joined the list in 1992 and since then the flora and fauna of the reserve have been sensitively reintroduced and protected, a commitment that has transformed what was once a near-barren landscape of more than 12,500 square kilometers into a haven of diversity.

In 1994, by which time 10 areas had been accorded protected status, a paper published in GeoJournal recorded the sorry state of Uruq Bani Ma’arid, an area that had once been rich in wildlife.

It was, for example, here that the Arabian oryx, by that time extinct in the wild, had last been sighted. In fact, as the paper — titled “Protected Areas in Saudi Arabia: Sustainable Use of Natural Resources” — noted, “Uruq Bani Ma’arid used to have many animal species that are now extinct.”

The problem, which had prompted the official intervention in the area in 1992, was that the age-old balance of sustainable use of natural resources had been upset by the rapid growth of the human population in the Kingdom and the incursion of roads and other infrastructure into once-remote areas, upsetting entire ecosystems in the process.

“People still remember vividly the diversity of fauna that the area had, and the tales of their hunting are still related,” Abdullah Alwelaie, of the Imam Mohammed bin Saud Islamic University’s Department of Geography in Riyadh, wrote in the 1994 GeoJournal paper.

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Uruq Bani Ma’arid Reserve has taken its place alongside six other UNESCO World Heritage sites in Saudi Arabia.

The slopes of Jabal Tuwayq in the west of the reserve were once home to ibex, while the wadis, desert plains and sand dunes had teemed with Arabian oryx, sand gazelle, and Arabian ostrich.

“They are now all extinct in the wild in this area,” wrote Alwelaie, who offered some consolation when he noted that some wild species continued to hold out, including the Arabian wolf, sand fox, wild cat, sand cat, and honey badger.

Almost 30 years later, many of these species and more besides are once again thriving in the reserve — and, indeed, across the other 13 reserves in Saudi Arabia. These 14 special landscapes account for about five percent of the Kingdom’s territory — a total area of more than 82,000 square kilometers.

This, however, is just a start. Under the wide-ranging Saudi Green Initiative, a “whole-of-society initiative” launched in 2021 “to combat climate change, improve quality of life and protect the planet for future generations” as part of the Kingdom’s commitment to achieving net-zero emissions by 2060, Saudi Arabia has pledged to protect 30 percent of its terrestrial and marine landscape by 2030. The initiative is also committed to planting 10 billion trees across the country in the coming decades.

In the meantime, Uruq Bani Ma’arid has taken its place among the six other UNESCO World Heritage sites in Saudi Arabia. These include the Hegra Archaeological Site in AlUla (which was the first to be inscribed, in 2008), At-Turaif District in Diriyah (added to the list in 2010), Historic Jeddah, Gateway to Makkah (2014), Rock Art in the Hail Region (2015), Al-Ahsa Oasis — An Evolving Cultural Landscape (2018), and Ḥima Cultural Area (2021).

In January this year, Saudi Arabia was elected chair of the UNESCO World Heritage Committee by a unanimous vote among the 20 other member states that are party to the 1972 World Heritage Convention.

This month, Riyadh hosted the 45th annual session of the committee. It was, as the Kingdom’s permanent delegation to UNESCO tweeted, “a new chapter in our evolving history.”

The extent to which Saudi Arabia is focused on its natural and cultural heritage, which is apparent in its careful development of historic sites as AlUla and Diriyah as global tourism destinations, is also reflected in the list of 14 sites that have been registered on UNESCO’s “Tentative List” of locations that states intend to consider for nomination to the main list.

Six of these sites were added to the Tentative List this year alone. They include a collection of prehistoric stone structures discovered at 10 locations across the Kingdom; ancient dams that tell the history of water management; a collection of five sites that together are representative of Saudi Arabia’s oil-industrial heritage, including the famous “Well Number 7” in Dammam, and Tapline, Aramco’s 1,648-kilometer Trans Arab Pipeline that between 1950 and 1976 carried oil from Qaisumah on the Gulf coast to the Mediterranean port of Sidon in Lebanon.

Two of the recently submitted sites, however, could join the Uruq Bani Ma’arid Reserve as natural sites on UNESCO’s World Heritage List.

One is the “Bioclimatic Refugia of Western Arabia,” a series of mountain crests, woodlands and wetlands that harbor the surviving relics of ancient plant and animal species.

The other is “the rural cultural landscapes of the Sarawat Mountains,” a collection of seven landscapes along the southernmost stretch of the Hijaz Mountains, prized for their “unique geographic characteristics and dramatic mountain setting (which) offered a secure and defensible environment for human settlement, protected agriculture, and fortified trade halts.”

These projects feed directly into the ambitious aims of the SGI, the third annual forum of which will take place this year during the 2023 UN Climate Change Conference, COP28, at Expo City in Dubai on Dec. 4.

As Yasir Al-Rumayyan, governor of the Public Investment Fund and chairman of Saudi Aramco, said last year during the second SGI forum, held during COP27 in the Egyptian city of Sharm El-Sheikh, the initiative represents “a turning point in green efforts” that has “already changed both the conversation and the facts, and promises a green future anchored around Saudi Arabia’s ambition to reach net-zero emissions by 2060, turning national ambitions into real actions that positively impact the world.”

On the ground in Saudi Arabia, that ambition is symbolized by the rapidly growing and spectacular list of protected environments, including its newly internationally recognized flagship, the Uruq Bani Ma’arid Reserve.

Rewilding Arabia
Return of the leopard is at the heart of plans to conserve and regenerate Saudi Arabia’s landscapes and wildlife
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Saudi Arabia strongly condemns ‘cowardly terrorist attacks’ in Pakistan

Saudi Arabia strongly condemns ‘cowardly terrorist attacks’ in Pakistan
Updated 5 min 56 sec ago
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Saudi Arabia strongly condemns ‘cowardly terrorist attacks’ in Pakistan

Saudi Arabia strongly condemns ‘cowardly terrorist attacks’ in Pakistan

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia on Friday said it strongly condemned and denounced the “cowardly terrorist attacks” that struck a number of provinces in Pakistan, killing and injuring several people.
A suspected suicide bomber blew himself up among a crowd of people celebrating the Prophet Muhammad’s birthday in southwestern Pakistan on Friday, killing at least 52 people and wounding nearly 70 others, authorities said, in one of the country’s deadliest attacks targeting civilians in months.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs reiterated the Kingdom’s firm stance on renouncing violence and terrorism, expressing full solidarity with Pakistan and its people.
The ministry expressed the Kingdom’s sincere condolences to the families of the victims, the Pakistani government and people, wishing the injured a speedy recovery, it said in a statement.
No one immediately claimed responsibility for the attack in Mastung, a district of Baluchistan province.
The second attack, in neighboring Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, killed five people at a mosque, according to rescue officials. The roof collapsed trapping about 30 to 40 people under the rubble.
The attack involved two explosions, one of which was at the mosque gate and the other in the compound, an official said.
(With AP and Reuters)


Royal Commission for Riyadh City hosts Riyadh Expo 2030 seminar in Paris

Royal Commission for Riyadh City hosts Riyadh Expo 2030 seminar in Paris
Updated 29 September 2023
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Royal Commission for Riyadh City hosts Riyadh Expo 2030 seminar in Paris

Royal Commission for Riyadh City hosts Riyadh Expo 2030 seminar in Paris
  • Representatives from member countries of the Bureau International des Expositions and global experts attended the seminar
  • Princess Reema bint Bandar said Saudi Arabia is becoming the fastest-growing economy among the G20 countries

PARUS: The Royal Commission for Riyadh City and the Riyadh Expo 2030 team co-organized a seminar focusing on the expo’s sub-theme “Prosperity for All” on Thursday in Paris.
Representatives from member countries of the Bureau International des Expositions and global experts attended the seminar that was hosted by RCRC, the body responsible for Saudi Arabia’s bid to host World Expo 2030, according to a media statement.
The Kingdom’s Ambassador to the US Princess Reema bint Bandar said her country is becoming the fastest-growing economy among the G20 members, with non-oil government revenues having more than doubled.
“The Kingdom achieved the highest employment rate in its history, increased participation of women in the workforce, and registered a significant growth of small and medium enterprises, with nearly 40 percent of startup businesses owned by women,” she said.
Meanwhile, Fahad Al-Ruwaily, Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to France, highlighted the Kingdom’s commitment to finding common solutions, stating: “As we seek to find shared solutions, today I want to pledge to you that Saudi Arabia is committed to working together as a partner with all nations to achieve our common aspirations. We are committed to utilizing Riyadh Expo 2030 to further catalyze (the) collaboration necessary to achieve our shared goals.
“We are committed to sharing the opportunities of building the expo with the whole world, and our vision of Riyadh Expo 2030 is as an expo ‘built by the world, for the world.’”
Al-Ruwaily highlighted the strength of cooperation and partnership between Saudi Arabia and France and the broad development it has witnessed in recent years.
The seminar was part of a series organized by the RCRC in Paris under the theme “Prosperity for All.”
It discussed ways to address inequalities in the world, with every nation contributing through the prism of its culture, context, and aspirations, ultimately working toward a more inclusive world that meets the needs of humanity. 


Riyadh exhibition pays tribute to Zakia Al-Dubaikhi, acclaimed painter, loving mother

Riyadh exhibition pays tribute to Zakia Al-Dubaikhi, acclaimed painter, loving mother
Updated 29 September 2023
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Riyadh exhibition pays tribute to Zakia Al-Dubaikhi, acclaimed painter, loving mother

Riyadh exhibition pays tribute to Zakia Al-Dubaikhi, acclaimed painter, loving mother
  • The exhibition is being hosted by Al-Dubaikhi’s daughter, Basma Al-Zamil, and the artist’s husband, in celebration of the painter’s profound work and legacy
  • She began painting at a young age, encouraged by her late father who bought her all the required tools

RIYADH: The late Saudi artist Zakia Al-Dubaikhi’s artwork is showcased at the “Once Upon a Time” exhibition at Ahlam Gallery in Riyadh.
Her work focused on Saudi women’s rights at a time when it was not common to do so, while celebrating multicultural neighborhoods in the Eastern Province.
The exhibition is being hosted by Al-Dubaikhi’s daughter, Basma Al-Zamil, and the artist’s husband, in celebration of the painter’s profound work and legacy.
Al-Zamil said: “It is important to me in this exhibition to keep her legacy and her name alive and to kind of help people know that art never dies.”
Al-Dubaikhi was born in Dammam, in a multicultural neighborhood with narrow streets, and played and grew up with children from different nationalities.
She began painting at a young age, encouraged by her late father who bought her all the required tools, from brushes to painting colors and canvases.
In the 1980s, at a time when being a Saudi artist was uncommon, Al-Dubaikhi overcame many obstacles, taking painting lessons from renowned female Saudi artists, which led to her work being showcased in Dammam, Riyadh, and Jeddah.
Later focusing on her family and her career as an English teacher, Al-Dubaikhi parted company with her brushes but never deserted her artistic inclinations, using her knowledge to help her students.
Her artistic mindset and love for painting never left her and she aspired to present a solo exhibition and open an art gallery.
Her ambitions were never achieved, though, and she died in November 2018.
Al-Zamil and her father have showcased Al-Dubaikhi’s artwork in several cities around the Kingdom, including Dammam, Al-Ahsa, Riyadh, and Jeddah, and outside the Kingdom in Manama, Bahrain.
The “Once Upon a Time” exhibition opened its doors on Sept. 27 and runs until Oct. 2.
Tania Mehanna Cantone, the wife of the Italian ambassador to the Kingdom, attended the opening day of the exhibition.
Pointing at one of Al-Dubaikhi’s paintings, Cantone said: “It is an expression of what Saudi women were feeling in the middle of between 2000 and 2016, and really it touches each one of us because you see the call for freedom.
“You see this hope in the eyes of the different ladies, lots of ladies that she has been painting, and it is a beautiful way of looking at Saudi Arabia.”
Another guest of honor on opening night was Ahmed bin Abdullah Al-Maghlouth, an artist and cartoonist from the Eastern Province.
He said: “I was very happy to attend this exhibition. I was impressed with her interest in the environment and heritage portrayed through her paintings, and the depth of her work showcasing the history of the Kingdom and the Gulf region at large.”
Al-Dubaikhi’s paintings reveal her take on Saudi women’s rights, along with her other interests, including Indian culture and her love of cats.
Al-Zamil said: “She was living with neighbors from different nationalities in the Eastern Province, and she was interested in Indian culture, music, and food.”
Al-Dubaikhi saw early changes toward women’s rights in the Kingdom just before her death.
Al-Zamil added: “My mother recorded a time in our history, and not too many artists were able to do that.
“In her humble way she covered the times of Saudi Arabia before Vision 2030 and after Vision 2030.”
“Once Upon a Time” is a walk through Al-Dubaikhi’s life, passing significant moments from her early childhood in the Eastern Province to her artistic journey and roles as Saudi artist and loving mother.
 


Melody festival’s pitch perfect celebration of Saudi music

Melody festival’s pitch perfect celebration of Saudi music
Updated 29 September 2023
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Melody festival’s pitch perfect celebration of Saudi music

Melody festival’s pitch perfect celebration of Saudi music
  • The festival opened with a poignant tribute to pioneers of Saudi composition
  • Singer Mohammed Abdu opened the musical evening with a stirring performance of compositions by Kadars and Idris

JEDDAH: The inaugural Kingdom’s Melody Festival is taking center stage in Jeddah, captivating audiences with a celebration of Saudi Arabia’s musical heritage.
The three-day festival began on Thursday with a mission to illuminate the history of music and composers in the Kingdom, highlighting their deep-rooted cultural ties to the local community.
The festival opened with a poignant tribute to pioneers of Saudi composition.
Deputy Minister of Culture and Vice Chairman of the Music Commission Hamed Fayez honored Saudi composer Abdulrab Idris and late artist Omar Kadars.
Singer Mohammed Abdu opened the musical evening with a stirring performance of compositions by Kadars and Idris.
Before the concert, Abdu said: “Kingdom’s Melody is a wonderful initiative by the Ministry of Culture. Today, we honor the distinguished figures in Saudi music, and this is a new beginning for us.”
The Jeddah Superdome was transformed into a vast musical tent, resonating with applause and cheers from a capacity audience mainly clad in the traditional Saudi shemagh, a red-and-white headscarf.
The festival continued with two events: “Send Love” allowed the audience to send greetings to beloved composers, while “Melodic Memories” showcased songs from various musical figures.
Samar Moghrabi told Arab News: “I am very happy about the Kingdom’s interest in Saudi song composers, and I thank the Ministry of Culture for this unique event.”
Shadi Tashkandi, who was attending with his family, said:, “This grand event brings together iconic artists who have shaped the musical history of our country. I am proud to attend this event in my beloved city, Jeddah.”
The festival also featured performances by Abdel Majeed Abdallah, who presented a selection of songs composed by Fawzi Mahsoon and Saleh Al-Shehri.
The final night promises a showcase by Saudi composer Abadi Al-Johar, featuring songs composed by Talal Bagher.
Complementing the performances, an accompanying exhibition narrated the stories and experiences that shaped Saudi music and its composers.
Jeddah’s historical significance in Saudi music was underlined, as diplomatic missions recorded the earliest Saudi musical compositions. Smart screens and high-definition speakers allowed visitors to explore Saudi music from its inception to the present.
The festival is set to become an annual event, with each year focusing on the influence of other cultures on Saudi music.
This initiative aligns with the Quality of Life program, part of the Vision 2030 framework, which strives to enhance cultural experiences and foster the arts in Saudi Arabia.