RIYADH: Arab countries will seek to improve cooperation with China and look forward to a new phase of partnership, Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman said on Friday at the Arab-China summit held in Riyadh.
“The Kingdom is working on enhancing cooperation [with China] to serve international stability,” the crown prince said, in front of Arab leaders and Chinese President Xi Jinping who was on a three-day official visit to the Kingdom.
President Xi also said the summit would “lead to a brighter future,” adding that China sought “comprehensive cooperation” with Arab states to serve Chinese-Arab mutual interests.
Xi met Gulf leaders at the summit after earlier signing a series of agreements with Saudi Arabia.
The leader of the world’s second biggest economy sat down with regional rulers on the third and final day of his trip, only his third journey outside China since the coronavirus pandemic began.
State television showed leaders from the six-country, resource-rich Gulf Cooperation Council – including the Qatari ruler and Bahraini king – arriving at the conference venue in Riyadh on Friday.
“Gulf countries and China can achieve economic and industrial integration,’ Xi told Gulf leaders gathered in Riyadh, and noted that the Gulf Cooperation Council succeeded in overcoming global challenges.
Xi also committed China’s unwavering support for the Gulf countries’ security and assured that the Asian giant will continue to import oil in large quantities from the region.
Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman earlier addressed the gathering, noting that the summit reflected the common desire to strengthen Gulf-Chinese cooperation.
The Gulf countries are bolstering ties with China as part of part of a strategy diversifying their fossil fuel-reliant economies.
Officials have provided few details about Friday’s agenda, but one potential area is a China-GCC free trade agreement that has been under discussion for nearly two decades.
“China will want to draw the lengthy negotiations to a close, as FTAs with major trading blocs is a matter of prestige for Beijing,” said Robert Mogielnicki of the Arab Gulf States Institute in Washington.
Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in his earlier remarks noted that the group “discussed the establishment of a Gulf-Chinese free trade zone.”
A breakthrough on the trade pact could help Saudi Arabia, the Middle East’s biggest economy, diversify its economy in line with the Vision 2030 reform agenda championed by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
Saudi Arabia, Oman to support digital economy growth, invest in underwater cables
Updated 05 February 2023
RIYADH: Saudi Arabia and Oman on Saturday signed an executive program in the field of communications, information technology infrastructure and undersea cable investments.
The agreement was signed between the Kingdom’s Ministry of Communications and Information Technology and the sultanate’s Ministry of Transport, Communications and Information Technology, in the presence of Saudi Arabia’s Abdullah Al-Swaha, and Oman’s Saeed bin Hamoud Al-Ma’awali.
“The program aims to exploit the geographical location of the two countries and promote investment in the submarine and terrestrial cables that pass through them,” the Saudi press Agency reported.
It would create a common work environment to enhance cooperation in the field of infrastructure for communications and information technology services, and high-speed digital interconnection for data exchange.
The executive program also aims to develop options for implementing regional digital connectivity through investment entities and licensed companies, and to expand investment in global data centers and cloud services that target regional presence to maximize benefit for the region.
Harsh climates make the kindest people, says Heart of Arabia expedition leader from UK
Evans has lived in the region for over 25 years, and is head of Outward Bound Oman, an experiential learning organization dedicated to developing outdoor skills, the first of its kind in the Arab region
Updated 04 February 2023
RIYADH: At first thought the freezing Arctic and scorching Arabian desert would seem to have little in common, but according to British explorer Mark Evans, their similarities lie in the people who live there.
It has been only a few days since Evans completed the Heart of Arabia expedition across the Empty Quarter of Saudi Arabia, a journey taken by the great explorer and writer Harry St. John Philby in 1917. Philby greatly contributed to the documentation of the region and felt so at home that he converted to Islam and named himself Abdullah.
The team of four, including Philby’s granddaughter Reem Philby, photographer Ana-Maria Pavalache, and regional expert Alan Morrissey, was led by Evans from the Eastern Province of Saudi Arabia to the west in a 1,300 km journey that ended on Jan. 30.
Every day, Evans and Reem would set off at sunrise, walking or sometimes mounted on camels, leaving the vehicles to catch up later in the day as they followed Philby’s route. Through Philby’s photographic documentation and detailed journals in the early 1900s, the group was able to pinpoint the exact locations almost 105 years later.
Evans has lived in the region for over 25 years, and is head of Outward Bound Oman, an experiential learning organization dedicated to developing outdoor skills, the first of its kind in the Arab region.
Before traveling around the Middle East, he lived a neo-nomadic lifestyle, honoring the beauty of uninhabited places through his travels, which included crossing Greenland’s ice sheet, and hunting for evidence of William Edward Parry’s 1820 Artic expedition on Melville Island.
Most journeys are spent in isolation, far away from the chaos and daily demands of the world, giving explorers a great opportunity for reflection and a chance to focus on the research at hand. These meaningful expeditions have allowed Evans to reframe the notion of isolation.
“I really like the word serenity because I find great peace and contentment in the desert. One of the best parts of the day is the first half an hour when I get into my sleeping bag and I just put my head on my pillow and look at the stars above that are just unbelievable,” he said. He said that he prefers to sleep on the sand rather than in a tent.
Having spent a whole year in the Arctic, including four months of total darkness with temperatures as low as minus 37 C, two weeks in the Saudi desert are relatively straightforward for Evans.
Growing up in the British countryside, Evans’ exploring instincts were honed at an early age.
“I grew up in a time where you had to create your own entertainment. I was already very content in silent places and quiet places close to nature. That was my childhood. I was less comfortable going into noisy restaurants and discotheques,” he said.
I feel that my role in life is to try to inspire others and to give other people the opportunity that I had when I was a young person, to shape their own lives and make a positive difference to society.
Mark Evans, British explorer
Aged 17, he had the chance to join a six-week expedition to northern Norway through an educational charity in London. He shared a tent with two strangers in a place where the sun never set.
“I just fell in love with a life that was outside of my small rural life back in Britain,” Evans said.
That period set him off on a flurry of expeditions in the years to come. He spent 10 years in the Arctic, giving back to the youth and future generations in the same way the charity invested in him at an early age.
“It was a chance for me to step up and invest a bit of my time to support society,” he said.
• The Heart of Arabia expedition that follows in Abdullah Philby’s footsteps included his granddaughter Reem Philby, photographer Ana-Maria Pavalache, regional expert Alan Morrissey, and seasoned explorer Mark Evans who led the group from the Eastern Province of Saudi Arabia to the west in a 1,300 km journey that ended on Jan. 30.
• Since the Heart of Arabia expedition began, the expedition’s official podcast has garnered nearly 3,000 downloads in 53 countries around the world, along with steady growth in followers across social media platforms. Listeners can follow the group’s documentation of everyday life in the Kingdom’s deserts.
But while his travels and philanthropic ventures were a great way to see the world, they paid far from a livable wage, which led him to become an educator.
Although Evans claims he went into teaching “for the wrong reasons,” it brought him to the Middle East, initially to Bahrain, then for four years at the British School in Riyadh, and later Oman.
Initially, he thought he would not particularly enjoy the region, but he quickly fell in love with the culture, heritage, and hospitality of the people.
“There’s a real connection between those two places in my life. Arctic and Arabia both start with a letter ‘A,’ and the one thing they have in common is that people who live in the Arctic and who live in Arabia live on the extremes of human comfort.
“One lives in extreme cold, one lives in extreme heat. As (explorer and writer) Wilfred ‘Mubarak bin Landan’ Thesiger said: ‘The harder the life, the finer the person.’”
During winter nights, the Arctic sky would come alive with the electrifying energy of the aurora borealis. The sunlight, however, came in waves: From total darkness in early February to slivers of sunshine on the horizon, the season eventually turns to unbroken daylight.
“I hadn’t seen the sun for three months. I remember breaking down and crying because I knew that winter was coming to an end and summer was coming. And that was quite emotional,” Evans said.
Moments such as these are what keep the traveler curious for more. At the age of 61, he continues his quest to experience the glorious offerings of nature and serenity.
“Being here, I find total contentment. I wouldn’t find it working in a busy office in a noisy city,” he said.
As Evans grows older, his legacy is becoming a prime motivator. He continues to find ways to secure sustainable outcomes that influence the behavior and thinking of others, much like Abdullah Philby did.
Since the Heart of Arabia expedition began, their podcast has garnered nearly 3,000 downloads in 53 countries around the world, along with steady growth in followers across social media platforms. Listeners can follow the group’s documentation of everyday life in the Kingdom’s deserts.
The team has also launched the Philby Arabia Fund, which is dedicated to researchers looking to initiate projects in Saudi Arabia.
“Funding can be a real challenge,” Evans said. “You have an idea, but you just don’t know where to start. I feel that my role in life is to try to inspire others and to give other people the opportunity that I had when I was a young person, to shape their own lives and make a positive difference to society.”
Saudi artist exhibits an organic journey of color, emotions
Over 150 drawings, paintings produced by Sami Al-Marzoogi between 1986-2022
Updated 04 February 2023
JEDDAH: A solo exhibition called “What lies beneath color” is the first large-scale retrospective of the work of Saudi artist Sami Al-Marzoogi.
The exhibition, which is being hosted at Hafez Gallery and runs until March 3, focuses on the artist’s intuitive exploration of color, realistic and abstract-looking landscape views, deconstructed human figures, intricate geometric patterns, organic motifs, and fluid explorations rendered in ink, watercolors, acrylics, pastels, pencils, and polychromes.
Al-Marzoogi's work highlights his keen sensibility, exceptional drawing skills, and ability to create abstractions of his environment.
The exhibition brings together more than 150 drawings and paintings of the self-taught artist produced between 1986 and 2022.
He said: “I have always been interested in capturing impressions of anything that’s around me and painting on concepts that come from many hours of contemplation.
“Specifically, it’s the contrast of shapes, colors and light that had me intrigued. While I’m painting or drawing, the harmonious unity of my moods and sensations reflects in it.”
This opportunity will allow me to share the true art passion that I have built over 30 years to motivate the younger generation that are interested in art to take a leap into it and embrace it.
Sami Al-Marzoogi, Saudi artist
Al-Marzoogi, who previously pursued a successful career in medicine, added: “In the past I have exhibited my work alongside other artists but never had a solo show.
“This opportunity will allow me to share the true art passion that I have built over the 30 years to motivate the younger generation that are interested in art to take a leap into it and embrace it.”
He began to incorporate art into his daily routine in the 1980s, when he returned to the Kingdom after a decade-long stay in Germany. He dived deeper into his creative process each time, producing a cohesive body of paintings and drawings.
He started with watercolors mostly inspired by the sophisticated geometric arrangements present in Islamic decorative objects, such as rugs or mosaics.
He then shifted to polychromes, taking a more experimental road into sinuous shapes often constructed with creative adaptations of Arabic letters, which constitute the tradition of calligraphy.
Al-Marzoogi said that he always carries his ball pens or pencils, drawing more than one abstract each day. This refreshes his train of thought from a busy life routine and connects his artistic instincts to guide him to be more creative in his work.
He added: “I always follow and allow intuition and my perception to guide art making. Art needs a technique and a process, but I believe my instincts or emotions guide me in the way I approach things and what I am going to make next.
“When it comes to my work, I don’t like to think in terms of categories or definitions: My work stems from emotions.
“At the end of the day, you could argue that it has a deeper meaning or does not. That is up to the viewer.”
Commenting on the art scene in Saudi Arabia, Al-Marzoogi added: “The tradition of producing and understanding the different kinds of art has always been there in the Kingdom.
“The only difference now is that there are many platforms, cultural organizations, galleries, and events allowing the artists an unprecedented opportunity to showcase their artworks and get inspired by more established artists.”
Saudi Arabia launches aid project for people affected by Pakistan’s floods
Al-Malki said that the project came under the implementation of the directives of King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, and continued support provided by the Kingdom to Pakistan since the start of the flood disaster last year
Updated 04 February 2023
RIYADH: The King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Center has started a project to provide shelter materials in winter aid bags for the most vulnerable families affected by the floods in Pakistan.
The launch of the initiative was attended by Nawaf bin Said Al-Malki, the Kingdom’s ambassador to Pakistan; Lt. Gen. Inam Haider Malik, the head of Pakistan’s National Disaster Management Authority; and other officials, at Saudi Arabia’s Embassy in Islamabad.
The project will supply 15,000 bags, weighing 190 tons. These will contain basic shelter materials to be distributed in eight affected areas. Some 175,000 people, or 15,000 families, will benefit from the aid.
Al-Malki said that the project came under the implementation of the directives of King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, and continued support provided by the Kingdom to Pakistan since the start of the flood disaster last year.
He added that the aid showed the keenness of the Saudi leadership to stand with the Pakistani people in times of crisis.
Malik thanked the Kingdom’s leadership and government for the humanitarian support, indicating that the aid was timely as authorities continue the process of rehabilitation and reconstruction in Pakistan’s flood-affected areas.