Saudi Arabia and China to prioritize relations

Update Saudi Arabia and China to prioritize relations
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Above, Saudi Arabia’s King Salman meets with China’s President Xi Jinping. (SPA)
Update Saudi Arabia and China to prioritize relations
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Above, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman with China’s President Xi Jinping at Al-Yamamah Palace in Riyadh. (SPA)
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Updated 09 December 2022

Saudi Arabia and China to prioritize relations

Saudi Arabia and China to prioritize relations
  • Both countries to continue to firmly support each other’s core interests
  • Joint efforts to defend the principle of non-interference in their internal affairs

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia and China vowed to prioritize relations as part of their foreign policy and set a model of cooperation and solidarity for developing countries, according to a joint statement released by both parties after the Saudi-Chinese summit.

The two sides reaffirmed they will continue to firmly support each other’s core interests, support each other in maintaining their sovereignty and territorial integrity, and exert joint efforts to defend the principle of non-interference in the internal affairs of states, rules of international law and basic principles of international relations. The Saudi side reaffirmed its adherence to the one-China principle, state news agency SPA reported.

Moreover, the Chinese side expressed support for the Kingdom in maintaining its security and stability and affirmed its opposition to any actions that would interfere in the internal affairs of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, and rejects any attacks targeting civilians, civilian facilities, territories and Saudi interests.

The two sides expressed their satisfaction with the progressive stages of bilateral relations during the past three decades.

Moreover, they stressed the importance of continuing joint action in all fields, deepening relations within the framework of the comprehensive strategic partnership between the two countries, and reaching new and promising horizons.

The two sides praised the positive and fruitful outcomes of Chinese President Xi Jinping’s visit to the Kingdom in January 2016, as well as King Salman’s visit to China in March 2017, in addition to the visit of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in February 2019 to China. Visits that contributed to expanding the scope of cooperation between the two countries in various fields.

Regarding bilateral relations, the two sides stressed the importance of continuing to expand Saudi-Chinese relations in their international framework, and setting an example of cooperation, solidarity, and mutual gain for developing countries. The Saudi side congratulated China on the success of convening the 20th National Congress of the Chinese Communist Party. In addition, the Chinese side congratulated the Kingdom for the great achievements made in the field of national development within the framework of Vision 2030.

The two sides stressed the importance of enhancing cooperation through high-level Saudi-Chinese Joint Committee to achieve common goals, enhancing cooperation between the two countries in all fields, and intensifying communication between the government and private sectors in the two countries to discuss economic, trade and investment opportunities and translate them into tangible partnerships, and enhancing cooperation in areas that aim to elevate the economic and developmental relationship between the two countries to broader horizons.

Regarding energy field, both sides affirmed that their enhancement of cooperation in this field is considered an important strategic partnership.

The two sides commended their oil trade volume and the great foundations of the cooperation due to the Kingdom’s ample oil resources and China’s broad markets.

They also indicated that the development and consolidation of cooperation in the field of oil is in conformity with the common interests of both sides. In addition, they stressed on the importance of stability in the world oil markets.

China welcomed the Kingdom’s role as a supporter of the balance and stability in the world oil markets, and as reliable major exporter of crude oil to China. The two sides agreed to explore the common investment opportunities in petrochemicals sector, develop promising projects in petrochemical conversion techniques, and enhance joint cooperation in a number of fields and projects including electricity, PV energy, wind energy, and other sources of renewable energy.

The two sides also agreed to develop related projects, innovative uses of hydrocarbon resources, energy efficiency, localization of energy sector components and its supply chains, in addition to cooperate in the peaceful uses of nuclear energy and the development of modern technologies such as artificial intelligence, as well as innovation in energy sector.

The two sides stressed the importance of deepening joint cooperation in regard to “Belt and Road Initiative”, welcoming the related Saudi companies involvement in various energy and investment partnerships within the framework of “Belt and Road Initiative”, enhancing the Kingdom’s location as a regional center for Chinese companies in producing and exporting the products of energy sector, as well as the joint investment in energy projects in the countries of the region and energy consuming countries in Europe and Africa. All of this will contribute in developing Saudi local content, and achieve self-sufficiency for China in the field of petrochemicals through its related investment in the Kingdom.

Regarding climate change, the Chinese side welcomed the Kingdom’s launching of “Saudi Green” and “Middle East Green” initiatives, and expressed its support for all the efforts exerted by the Kingdom in the field of climate change through the application of circular carbon economy approach launched by the Kingdom and approved by the G20 leaders. Both sides emphasized the importance of the principles of the Framework Convention on Climate Change and Paris Agreement, as well as the importance of implementing climate conventions through focusing on emissions rather than sources. The two sides agreed to continue their coordination on energy policies through the use of circular carbon economy as a tool to manage emissions and achieve climate targets.

They also agreed to urge developed countries to take their historic responsibilities seriously, through the fulfillment of their obligations by greatly reducing emissions before the target date, and to tangibly help developing countries through financial, technical, capacity building support.

The two sides commended the growth of intra-trade and investment between their two countries, which embodies the depth and sustainability of their economic relations.

They also affirmed their willingness to increase the volume of non-oil trade, facilitate the Kingdom’s non-oil exports to China, as well as to increase the joint quality investment between the two countries.

The two sides agreed to enhance the work to benefit from the available trade and investment opportunities, intensify the capacity of aircraft carriers, motivate private sectors investment partnerships in both countries, consolidate efforts to create attractive, supportive, and incentive investment environment within the framework of the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 and “Belt and Road Initiative”, through deepening cooperation in a number of fields including automotive industry, supply chains, logistics, water desalination, infrastructure, manufacturing, mining, and the financial sector.

The Saudi side expressed its aspiration to attract Chinese expertise to participate in the future mega-projects in the Kingdom, in addition to its keenness to enable Saudi investments in the China and overcome the difficulties such investment may face.

The Saudi side also stressed the importance of attracting international Chinese companies to open regional headquarters in the Kingdom, and appreciated the interest of a number of companies in that regard as they are obtaining licenses to establish their regional headquarters in the Kingdom, to ultimately benefit from the exceptional Chinese experiences and capabilities for the benefit of the economies of the two countries.

The two sides expressed their satisfaction with signing “harmonization plan” between the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 and the “Belt and Road Initiative”. The two sides agreed on the importance of accelerating the pace of harmonization between their projects in the two countries, employing integrated advantages, and deepening practical cooperation between the two sides so as to obtain mutual benefits and common development.

The two sides also welcomed the signing of 12 agreements and government memoranda of understanding for cooperation in the fields of hydrogen energy, the judiciary field, Chinese language education, housing, direct investment, radio and television, digital economy, economic development, standardization, news coverage, tax administration, and anti-corruption. In addition to the signing of 9 agreements and memoranda of understanding between the government and private sectors, and the signing of 25 agreements and memoranda of understanding between companies in the two countries.

The Chinese side invited the Saudi side to be the guest of honor for the sixth session of the Arab-Chinese Exhibition for the year 2023.

The Chinese side also expressed its keenness to deepen investment cooperation with the Saudi side in digital economy and green development, enhance cooperation in e-commerce, and explore means of joint economic and trade cooperation with Africa.

The Saudi side also welcomed Chinese companies’ investments in the Kingdom, through the mega investment opportunities provided by Vision 2030 in various sectors. On the other hand, the Chinese side welcomed the enhancement of investments of sovereign wealth funds and Saudi industrial capitals in China.

The two sides agreed to encourage building partnerships between investment funds in the two countries.

Regarding financial field, the two sides stressed the importance of joint cooperation to support the success of the “Common Framework for Debt Treatment beyond the scope of the Debt Service Suspension Initiative”, which was endorsed by the G20 leaders at the G20 summit headed by the Kingdom.

The two sides also confirmed the need to coordinate relevant positions in international forums such as G20, International Monetary Fund, World Bank, and Asian Bank, in order to invest in infrastructure and other areas, in a manner that enhances efforts aimed at increasing the effectiveness and governance of these groups and institutions.

The two sides also confirmed the importance of enhancing cooperation in the field of tax policies, thus contributing to enhancing financial, trade and investment cooperation between the two countries.

Regarding water and agriculture field, the Saudi side welcomed the establishment of direct partnership between Chinese private sector and Saudi private sector concerning the investment opportunities available in the Kingdom in the fields of desalination plants, drinking water, water transport lines, sewage treatment plants, dams, and the organization of commercial activities between representatives of the private sector in both countries to discuss investment possibilities in the agricultural sector as well as agricultural and food industries, and the development of agricultural investment projects.

Regarding communications and information technology field, the two sides stressed the need to strengthen partnership in areas related to communications, digital economy, innovation and space to achieve a better digital future for the future generations in both countries.

Regarding transportation and logistics field , the two sides stressed the importance of enhancing cooperation and joint action on developing the air and sea transport sectors, modern transport modes and railways, and expediting the completion of studies on the Saudi land bridge project.

The two sides also stressed the importance of strengthening and developing cooperation in the industrial and mining sectors, in a way that serves their common interests.

Regarding the defense and security field, the two sides affirmed their determination to develop cooperation and coordination in defense fields, enhance and raise the level of exchange of information and expertise in the field of combating organized crime, including terrorist crimes, prevent violence and extremism, in addition to enhance cooperation and coordination of efforts and exchange of expertise in the areas of early- warning risk intelligence, security risks assessment and combating cybercrimes, in a way that serves and achieves the common interests of the two countries.

The two sides reaffirmed the rejection and denunciation of terrorism and extremism in all its forms, the refusal to link terrorism to any particular culture, race or religion, the refusal to practice double standards in combating terrorism, and the importance of spreading moderation and tolerance.

The two sides also praised the level of security cooperation between the two friendly countries in the field of combating terrorism and its financing.

The two sides agreed to enhance joint international cooperation to combat cross-border corruption crimes in all its forms, ensure the achievement of common goals related to consolidating the principles of transparency, integrity, communication and effective cooperation between the agencies concerned with combating corruption in the two countries, and benefit from the principles endorsed by the G20 regarding combating corruption and pursuing fugitive criminals and recovering proceeds of crime, and the Riyadh Global Initiative for Anti-Corruption Law Enforcement Authorities in the field of investigations of corruption cases, prosecution of perpetrators, and recovery of proceeds of crime.

Regarding health field, the two sides stressed the importance of strengthening cooperation between them in health fields, and raising the level of coordination between them to combat current and future health threats and pandemics.

Regarding cultural field, the two sides discussed ways to enhance cooperation between them within the framework of the historical and cultural relations that unite the two friendly countries, and expressed support and appreciation for many cultural initiatives that express the strength of Saudi-Chinese relations, they also welcomed the launch of the first edition of the Prince Mohammed bin Salman Award for Cultural Cooperation between the two countries.

The two sides also stressed the importance of jointly organizing Chinese-Saudi Digital Cultural Year, implementing the memoranda of understanding signed in a number of cultural fields. In addition, the two sides stressed the importance of cooperation in the field of tourism and promotional activities between the two countries, exploring tourism potentials that both countries have, and promoting joint action in sustainable tourism sectors for the benefit of the tourism sector and its development.

The Chinese side announced endorsing the Kingdom as an outbound tourist destination for the Chinese tourist groups.

Regarding sports field, the two sides stressed the importance of strengthening cooperation and partnership in sports programs and activities between the two countries.

Regarding education field, the two sides welcomed the raising the level of scientific and educational cooperation between the two countries. They commended the progress achieved in cooperation between them in this field, agreed on continuing to encourage direct communication between universities and academic, scientific and research institutions in the two countries, to promote cooperation in the areas of digital education and teaching Arabic and Chinese languages in schools, universities and educational institutions in the two countries.

The two sides stressed the importance of cooperation and enhancing the level of partnerships and sharing experiences and information in various areas of work and human resources in order to achieve their mutual interests.

Regarding media field, the two sides agreed to strengthen the existing media cooperation between the two countries, discuss opportunities for its development in the areas of radio, television, news agencies and the press, and exchange experiences and media visits in order to promote the development of joint media action.

The Chinese side commended the efforts exerted by the Government of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in serving Chinese pilgrims, and its cooperation in organizing Chinese Hajj campaigns and facilitating the performance of Hajj and Umrah for Chinese pilgrims.

Regarding regional and international matters, the two sides welcomed the holding of the first China-GCC summit, and the first Arab-Chinese summit in the Kingdom in the city of Riyadh on Friday Dec. 9, and expressed their aspiration for the two summits to achieve their desired goals to serve the Gulf and Arab-Chinese relations.

They also stressed that holding China-GCC summit and Arab-Chinese summit is of particular importance in light of the current international situations , and affirmed their support for “China-Arab community with a shared future in the new era” initiative.

Furthermore, they commended the important role of the China-Arab States Cooperation Forum in promoting collective cooperation between China and Arab countries, and expressed their willingness to participate in building and developing the Forum. They also stressed the importance of joint action to strengthen strategic partnership relations between the GCC States and China, conclude a free trade agreement between the GCC and China, and work towards holding GCC-China Meeting of Ministers of Economy and Trade 6 + 1 between GCC and China.

The two sides reaffirmed their determination to continue coordinating and intensifying efforts to maintain international peace and security, continue their coordination in the relevant organizations, call for constructive dialogue in order to achieve the purposes and principles of the Charter of the United Nations and the fundamental principles of international relations.

They stressed that the situations of the region are related to security and stability in the world , and that working towards peace and prosperity in the region is in conformity with the common interest of international community. They also agreed on the importance of finding peaceful and political solutions to the region’s urgent issues through dialogue and consultation based on respect for the sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity of the States of the region.

The Chinese side commended the Kingdom’s positive contributions and outstanding support for the promotion of regional and international peace and stability. The Saudi side commended the efforts and initiatives of the People’s Republic of China to achieve security and stability in the Middle East. The two sides also agreed on the importance of strengthening their cooperation and partnership in order to support stability and development in the African continent.

The Saudi side expressed its support for Global Development Initiative launched by Chinese President Xi Jinping and looked forward to participating in cooperation within the framework of the Initiative, thereby contributing to accelerating the implementation of the United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The Saudi side also expressed its appreciation for the Global Security Initiative launched by Chinese President Xi Jinping.

The two sides also discussed the most prominent global economic challenges, and the role of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the People’s Republic of China in supporting international efforts to address these challenges. They also stressed the importance of joint action to advance comprehensive global development for the benefit of all, and the importance of stabilizing global energy markets and food supply of wheat and grains to all countries without any disruption, as well as maintaining oversupply and stable prices.

Regarding political issues:

The two sides affirmed their full support for efforts to reach a political solution to the Yemeni crisis.

The Chinese side commended the Kingdom’s initiative to end the war in Yemen and its numerous efforts and initiatives aimed at encouraging dialogue between Yemeni parties.

The two sides also stressed the importance of supporting the Yemeni Presidential Leadership Council to enable it to perform its functions and reach a political solution to the Yemeni crisis in accordance with the Gulf Initiative and its executive mechanisms, the outcomes of the Yemeni National Dialogue, and Security Council Resolution No. 2216 (2015). They also stressed the importance of the Houthis’ commitment to a truce, cooperation with the UN Special Envoy for Yemen, and serious engagement with initiatives and efforts for peace in order to reach a permanent and comprehensive political solution to the Yemeni crisis. The Chinese side valued the Kingdom’s humanitarian relief and development aid to the Yemeni people through King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Centre together with the Saudi Program for the Development and Reconstruction of Yemen.

Regarding Iran:

The two sides agreed on the need to strengthen joint cooperation to ensure the peaceful nature of Iran’s nuclear program.

The two sides also called on Iran to cooperate with the International Atomic Energy Agency, maintain the non-proliferation regime, and emphasize respect for the principles of good-neighborliness and non-interference in internal affairs of states.

Regarding Palestine:

The two sides discussed the developments in the Palestinian cause, and stressed the need to intensify efforts to achieve a comprehensive and just settlement of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and find a real horizon for resuming serious and effective negotiations in order to achieve peace in accordance with the principle of two-state solution, the relevant international legitimacy resolutions, and Arab Peace Initiative, in a way that guarantees the rights of Palestinian people to establish their independent state on the 1967 borders with East Jerusalem as its capital.

Regarding Syria:

The two sides stressed the need to intensify efforts to reach a political solution to the Syrian crisis that preserves Syria’s unity and territorial integrity, restores its security and ends terrorism, and creates the necessary conditions for the voluntary return of refugees.

They also affirmed their continued support for the efforts of the United Nations and its Special Envoy for Syria.

Regarding Lebanon:

The two sides affirmed their concern for the security, stability, and unity of the Lebanese territories.

They also stressed the importance of carrying out the necessary reforms, dialogue and consultation to ensure that Lebanon overcomes its crisis, in order to avoid being the starting point for any terrorist acts, becoming incubators for terrorist organizations and groups that destabilize the security and stability of the region, or to be a source or crossing point for drug smuggling.

Regarding Iraq:

The two sides affirmed their continuation in providing support to the Republic of Iraq, and welcomed the formation of the new Iraqi government, wishing for it success in achieving the aspirations of the Iraqi people for security, stability, and development.

Regarding Afghanistan:

The two sides stressed the importance of supporting efforts that would achieve security and stability in Afghanistan, ensuring that Afghanistan does not become a haven for terrorist and extremist groups.

They also stressed the importance of strengthening humanitarian efforts exerted by the international community to stop the ongoing deterioration of the humanitarian situation in Afghanistan, and to deliver humanitarian aid to the Afghan people.

Regarding Ukraine:

The two sides stressed the importance of resolving the conflict by peaceful means, and exerting all possible efforts to reduce escalation in a way that contributes to restoring security and stability, and limits the negative consequences of this crisis.

The Chinese side pointed out its six- point initiative regarding the humanitarian situation in Ukraine, its provision of humanitarian aid to Ukraine, and its call for preventing a large-scale humanitarian crisis.

The Chinese side expressed its appreciation for the humanitarian and political efforts made by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, in providing humanitarian aid to Ukraine, and the release of a number of prisoners of war of different nationalities.

The Chinese side also praised the additional humanitarian aid package which the Kingdom recently provided to Ukraine in the amount of 400 million US dollars, which will contribute in alleviating the suffering of the Ukrainian people.

In conclusion, the Chinese President expressed his gratitude and appreciation for King Salman and the Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, and their warm reception and hospitality accorded to President Xi and the accompanying delegation.

President Xi invited the King Salman to visit China at a mutually convenient time, and the Saudi king accepted the invitation. King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman wished the Chinese president and the people of China best wishes, good health, and happiness in addition to further progress and advancement.


Saudi Arabia’s Qemam festival becomes an annual showcase for the world’s mountain tribal cultures

Saudi Arabia’s Qemam festival becomes an annual showcase for the world’s mountain tribal cultures
Updated 28 January 2023

Saudi Arabia’s Qemam festival becomes an annual showcase for the world’s mountain tribal cultures

Saudi Arabia’s Qemam festival becomes an annual showcase for the world’s mountain tribal cultures
  • Asir’s historical palaces hosted bands and dance troupes from across the world for the week-long event
  • Traditions of highland communities were highlighted by the second edition of the festival for performing arts

ABHA: For centuries, mountain tribes have maintained their traditional way of life in some of the world’s most isolated places, preserving a distinctive linguistic and cultural heritage that is rarely seen or heard by wider society. 

That is why Saudi Arabia’s southwestern Asir region recently hosted the second annual Qemam International Festival for Mountain Performing Arts, inviting 14 international groups and 16 Saudi ensembles to share their unique dance and storytelling traditions.

A international musical ensemble performs during the Qeman International Festival for Mountain Performing Arts in Abha. (Huda Bashatah/Arab News)

The week-long event, which closed on Jan. 27, is thought to be the world’s first festival dedicated to performing arts from mountainous regions, featuring acts from Morocco, China, South Korea, Switzerland and India, among other places, to explore their common themes of artistry.

Performances were held at Asir’s Malik Historical Palace, Al-Mushait Palaces, the Castles of Abu Nuqata Al-Mutahmi, Basta Al-Qabil, Abu Shahra Palace in Al-Masqi, Shamsan Castle and Bin Adwan Heritage Village.

 

 

Festival-goer Abdullah Al-Shehri rarely finds opportunities to expose his 4-year-old, Fahad, to his family’s Moroccan heritage. He was therefore thrilled to attend a performance of the Berber ahidouss dance by a visiting Moroccan folk troupe.

“This festival calls for people to see something new. There’s definitely much to see,” Al-Shehri told Arab News.

Abha was the first city in the Kingdom to win the Capital of Arab Tourism title in 2017. The Qemam festival is only the latest event in the region’s cultural calendar that is proving a draw for domestic and foreign tourists alike.  

“I think the program will make Saudi Arabia an international center for mountain performing arts as it’s going to be an annual event and attract more and more participation from around the world. Hopefully, it will attract more tourism as well,” Sultan Al-Bazei, CEO of the Theater and Performing Arts Commission, told Arab News.

Last year’s festival saw a gathering of troupes from all of the Kingdom’s mountainous areas, from Tabuk in the north to Najran in the south. This year saw an expanded program, creating a cross-cultural dialogue between mountain cultures worldwide.

A international troupe performs during the Qeman International Festival for Mountain Performing Arts in Abha. (Huda Bashatah/Arab News)

“This will make it a unique opportunity for researchers to study the similarities, if there are any, or the differences between the performing arts of the mountain areas around the world,” Al-Bazei said.

“We think that most of the body movements have similarities of some sort. It’s very important for people to see other cultures, how they celebrate with dances and songs of their own.”

At the festival’s opening ceremony, the various international troupes performed together as part of a cross-cultural parade.

“During this parade, some of the groups were dancing together, sometimes to the tunes and rhythms of the others, which actually makes the point that culture and art bring people together,” Al-Bazei said.

International troupes took part in the Qeman International Festival for Mountain Performing Arts opening and parade. (Huda Bashatah/Arab News)

Anthropologists and performers view folk dancing as a form of storytelling using a universal language. 

“It’s like art. For us, it lives in our blood. It’s not only history. This is life, and if you come to our performance, you will see that every dancer’s eyes are happy. It’s our happiness to dance,” Bachana Chanturia, artistic director of the Georgian National Ensemble, told Arab News.

The group was first established in Sukhumi under the Ministry of Education and Culture of the Autonomous Republic of Abkhazia in 1931 with the name Apkhazeti. It later relocated to Tbilisi, Georgia, after the 1992 war.

Composed of 70 members, the group uses music and dance to showcase Georgian history. In contrast with most traditional dance companies within the region, the ensemble innovates traditional folklore by incorporating new trends, concepts, and modes of storytelling.

 

 

At the Qemam festival, the group performed a 20-minute show at the Shamsan Historical Palace consisting of three dances — shvante, chamba and vazha — earning perhaps the biggest round of applause of the entire festival.

Using quick, dynamic motions, the mixed-gender dance troupe’s performance tells the story of the Svanetians, a people of the highland region of Svaneti in northwest Georgia, near the border with Russia — a Caucasus area characterized by snow-capped peaks and deep gorges.

A international ensemble performs during the Qeman International Festival for Mountain Performing Arts in Abha. (Huda Bashatah/Arab News)

The group’s performance then transitions into a traditional Abkhazian dance, telling a thrilling story of a competitive horse race over the mountains, complete with equestrian clothing.

The dance is an emblem of love, courage, respect for women and competition through the imitation of mountain wildlife. The routine ends with the Vazha mountain sequence originating from Georigia’s Khazbegi region.

In Georgia, artistic performances are woven into the fabric of the community. From the age of 5 or 6, children are taught to dance, sing and play musical instruments and are later encouraged to join one of the many professional dance groups.

Musicians from various parts of the world take part in the Qemam International Festival in Abha. (Huda Bashatah/Arab News)

From the mountain city of Baysun, Uzbekistan, the song and dance ensemble Navbakhor brought the traditional Soul of Baysun dance to the peaks of Abha.

“It’s a special dance where they imitate some instruments, (wear special) hats, and each movement has an idea. It’s not just a dance, it’s a philosophy of the region of Uzbekistan,” Alibek Kabdurakhmanov, who heads the ensemble, told Arab News.

Under the Uzbekistan State Philharmonic, the group works to popularize the musical and choreographic arts of the country. Its members wear bright traditional clothing made from colorful shades and embroidered with gold thread.

According to Kabdurakhmanov, the group’s aim is to encapsulate the energy and universal message of peace embraced by the people of Baysun.

A Saudi artisan showcases her work as part of the festival in Abha. (Huda Bashatah/Arab News)

Kabdurakhmanov commended the Saudi Ministry of Culture for establishing the mountain performing arts festival and for prioritizing the preservation of cultural heritage.

“I think you will do very important things,” said Kabdurakhmanov. “When Uzbek nationals visit for the first time, they will see your history, your traditions, your culture, and take some part of you and bring it back to our country.

“I think it’s the most important part of development, and people in Saudi Arabia will see other cultures. It’s good for integration.”

A Montenegrin group presented a dance titled, “The dance from old Montenegro,” representing the region’s mentality, communicated through bird-like movements between mountain peaks.

A Montenegrin troupe performs “The dance from old Montenegro.”  (Huda Bashatah/Arab News)

Led by artistic director Mirsad Ademovic, members of the Montenegrin Cultural and Artistic Association Ramadan Sarkic wore national costumes from all over the region, including several museum pieces.

Montenegro itself is a multicultural nation, home to many Albanians and Bosnians. The incorporation of various identities has been crucial to maintaining peace in the Balkan region, Ademovic told Arab News.

He says the festival offered an opportunity for Montenegro and Saudi Arabia to connect through the art of storytelling.

Saudi artists perform the traditional sword dance as they lead the parade during the opening day of the Qeman International Festival in Abha. (Huda Bashatah/Arab News)

This year’s event featured Saudi folk dances including the ardah, a form of performative martial arts widely performed in the Asir region and inspired by historical battles, now reimagined as a tool for storytelling.

“Folklore is greatly appreciated by many viewers and visitors, conveying to them the remarkable nature of the region and its past,” Abdullah Al-Shaher, the ardah group’s coordinator, told Arab News.

“Such festivals preserve the Kingdom’s heritage in general and pass it on to future generations and invite everyone to be a member of the participating troupes to pass on what they inherited from their ancestors.”

 


In Philby’s footsteps: Epic journey brings a Saudi-British family together

In Philby’s footsteps: Epic journey brings a Saudi-British family together
Updated 28 January 2023

In Philby’s footsteps: Epic journey brings a Saudi-British family together

In Philby’s footsteps: Epic journey brings a Saudi-British family together
  • Reem told Arab News: “Meeting the UK side of the family is all thanks to Mark Evans. Of course, we always knew about each other, but it just never happened that we met”

RIYADH: Saudi explorer Reem Philby likes to spend her vacations outdoors, climbing peaks such as Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania, or trekking through Peru, South Africa or Norway.

Now the adventurous 42-year-old is trekking across the Arabian Peninsula, following in her grandfather’s footsteps on an expedition seeking to keep his legacy alive.

Reem is the granddaughter of the renowned British explorer and Arabist Harry St. John Philby, who did much to document the history of what is now known as Saudi Arabia through his travels across the region before his death in 1960.

Reem Philby and Mark Evans in Wadi Hanifa. (Photos Ana-Maria Pavalache)

In 1917, Philby was sent to Arabia on an assignment to forge links with Ibn Saud, the leader who later reigned as Saudi Arabia’s first king from 1932 until his death in 1953.

At the time, the British explorer was married to Dora Johnston, and had four children, Kim, Diana, Helena and Patricia.

He later took on the name Abdullah and married Saudi national Rozy Al-Abdul Aziz, with whom he had four boys, Fahad, Sultan, Faris and Khaled.

His British and Saudi descendants had never met until the official launch of a recent 1,300 km expedition — initiated by British explorer Mark Evans under the title Heart of Arabia — which loosely followed Philby’s 1917 journey.

In September, the families finally united at the launch send-off organized by the Royal Geographical Society in London.

(My grandfather) chose this place to be his home. He loved it and spent his life here, and it’s amazing that he is still remembered.

Reem Philby, Saudi explorer

They just clicked, according to his granddaughter.

Reem told Arab News: “Meeting the UK side of the family is all thanks to Mark Evans. Of course, we always knew about each other, but it just never happened that we met.”

Reem works at King Abdullah University of Science and Technology, which is supporting one of the research projects covered in the expedition.

Mike Engelbach, the son of Philby’s youngest daughter Helena, became involved with the Heart of Arabia project in 2018, when he was approached by Evans through St. Anthony’s College Oxford.

Evans had just completed a trek across the Empty Quarter in honor of Bertram Thomas, the first documented Westerner to make the journey.

Philby and Thomas had connected themselves, but not in such a joyous manner.

FASTFACTS

• In 1917, Philby was sent to Arabia on an assignment to forge links with Ibn Saud, the leader who later reigned as Saudi Arabia’s first king from 1932 until his death in 1953.

• Reem is the granddaughter of the renowned British explorer and Arabist Harry St. John Philby, who did much to document the history of what is now known as Saudi Arabia through his travels across the region before his death in 1960.

On hearing of Thomas’ triumph, Philby sent him a postcard congratulating him on the epic feat. Privately, however, Philby was disappointed and envious of an achievement he himself wished to make, his journals reveal.

Now the recent launch of the Philby Arabia Fund is encouraging future generations to conduct field research within Saudi Arabia.

When Philby’s descendants speak of his character, they remember a dignified figure with a long beard and serious demeanor. However, he was a grandfather in every sense.

“With us as children, he was very indulgent and would take us on treats,” Englebach told Arab News. “But he would also get involved with our family squabbles. He didn’t just sit aside from it. He took a keen interest in what we as young children were all doing.”

This month, Englebach and his cousin Mandy made their own journey from the UK to Riyadh to see off the expedition team on the second leg of its journey.

“I’ve never seen so many Philbys in the same room,” Reem said. “It was a great feeling. I grew up in Saudi where all the families are big, a lot of cousins, and it’s so nice to have that feeling.  It was definitely one of the biggest gains of the expedition on a personal level.”

Englebach said: “Just the meeting straight away, we were very charmed, I think on both sides, by meeting each other and knowing that we had this man who we’re all descended from. We’ve been with all the family while we’ve been here (in Saudi Arabia) for the first time, and also met my uncle, aunt and the other cousins.”

The relationship between Saudi Arabia and the UK goes back decades, and the Heart of Arabia expedition has solidified the potential for collaborative cultural growth and exploration.

“(My grandfather) chose this place to be his home. He loved it and spent his life here, and it’s amazing that he is still remembered. To be in the desert in the middle of nowhere and we see a place where he stopped and remember him after 100 years is a very special feeling,” Reem said.

 


Shoura Council speaker to head Saudi delegation to 17th OIC Parliamentary Union meeting in Algeria

Shoura Council speaker to head Saudi delegation to 17th OIC Parliamentary Union meeting in Algeria
Updated 28 January 2023

Shoura Council speaker to head Saudi delegation to 17th OIC Parliamentary Union meeting in Algeria

Shoura Council speaker to head Saudi delegation to 17th OIC Parliamentary Union meeting in Algeria

RIYADH: Speaker of Saudi Arabia’s Shoura Council Sheikh Abdullah Al-Asheikh will head the Kingdom’s delegation participating in the 17th session of the Parliamentary Union of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation Member States in Algeria on Sunday, the council announced on Friday.
The conference, which will be attended by parliamentary heads from the OIC member states, will discuss several topics on its agenda, including confronting Israeli plans and protecting Al-Aqsa Mosque, in addition to combating all forms and manifestations of terrorism under the umbrella of the UN.
It will also tackle solidarity for Muslim minorities around the globe, and activate and support economic institutions in development in the Islamic world.
The conference will also discuss issues related to the environment, sustainable development, cooperation in preserving water resources, support for women’s role in development, strengthening the role of Islamic parliaments in promoting basic health, and the importance of effectively addressing Islamophobia.
The Kingdom’s delegation also includes the Secretary-General of the Shoura Council, Mohammed bin Dakhil Al-Mutairi, and several members and senior officials in the council.


Saudi Arabia top of women’s health list for Arab countries, ranks ahead of UK

Saudi Arabia ranks as the top Arab country in women’s health. (AN file photo)
Saudi Arabia ranks as the top Arab country in women’s health. (AN file photo)
Updated 27 January 2023

Saudi Arabia top of women’s health list for Arab countries, ranks ahead of UK

Saudi Arabia ranks as the top Arab country in women’s health. (AN file photo)
  • Saudi women are now leading in lots of fields thanks to our government which has been continuously encouraging and supporting us to go ahead at national and international levels

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia has ranked as the top Arab country for women’s health, being placed ahead of the UK on a global list.

According to the recently released Hologic Global Women’s Health Index’s 2021 report, the Kingdom and the UAE were positioned 28th and 35th, respectively, the highest rankings for nations in the Arab world.

Dr. Mona Salahuddin Al-Munajjed, a prominent sociologist at the forefront of those influencing women’s affairs in Saudi Arabia, told Arab News: “I am not surprised by these new findings. On the contrary, I am happy by the great results.

“I am proud that my country has made incredible positive developments in education, health, and other fields for both men and women.

Saudi women are now leading in lots of fields thanks to our government which has been continuously encouraging and supporting us to go ahead at national and international levels. This means we are going in the right direction in fulfilling our Saudi Vision 2030.

Dr. Mona Salahuddin Al-Munajjed, Sociologist

“Saudi women are now leading in lots of fields thanks to our government which has been continuously encouraging and supporting us to go ahead at national and international levels. This means we are going in the right direction in fulfilling our Saudi Vision 2030,” she said.

Lebanon and Turkey held some of the lowest scores, named in the bottom 10 of the 122 countries listed at 118th and 119th, respectively.

The UK was ranked two positions behind Saudi Arabia at 30th.

The medical technology company’s global report struck a chord in the UK, where the cash-strapped National Health Service is battling staff shortages and patient-treatment backlogs. Ambulance workers recently held their biggest strike and junior doctors have voted for industrial action.

The US came in 23rd in the index behind Germany, New Zealand, and Singapore but ahead of France. Taiwan and Latvia scored the highest and Afghanistan the lowest in the global index.

The health survey showed a decline in women’s ability to meet their basic needs as well as record levels of stress, worry, and anger.

The UK dropped three points in the latest index, ranking on a par with Poland, Slovenia, and Kosovo, besides Kazakhstan. It was among the fastest-declining countries for emotional health, according to the report.

The US remained an exception because higher health spending did not translate into better outcomes, said the report.

The findings were based on interviews with almost 127,000 women and men, with questions encompassing preventive care, emotional health, opinions of health and safety, and basic needs.

Hologic Inc. and partner Gallup interviewed women to rate multiple measures, from mental health to preventive care.

The purpose of the global index is to identify critical gaps in what the world understands about the health and well-being of women and girls, to eventually find solutions.

 

 


Saudi Arabia signs deals to boost fight against diabetes

Saudi Arabia has signed deals related to diabetes treatment and prevention. (SPA)
Saudi Arabia has signed deals related to diabetes treatment and prevention. (SPA)
Updated 27 January 2023

Saudi Arabia signs deals to boost fight against diabetes

Saudi Arabia has signed deals related to diabetes treatment and prevention. (SPA)
  • Under its deal, Boehringer Ingelheim will increase the manufacture of medicine used to treat type 2 diabetes and diagnose rare diseases in Saudi Arabia

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia has signed two deals to improve the treatment and prevention of diabetes.

Memorandums of understanding were agreed with German pharmaceutical firm Boehringer Ingelheim and the Danish healthcare company Novo Nordisk at the Riyadh Global Medical Biotechnology Summit earlier this week.

They aim to boost cooperation with the biotech and pharmaceutical sector, localize manufacturing, raise awareness and establish research centers in the Kingdom.

Under its deal, Boehringer Ingelheim will increase the manufacture of medicine used to treat type 2 diabetes and diagnose rare diseases in the Kingdom.

Novo Nordisk Saudi Arabia's deal with King Abdullah University of Science and Technology will help develop awareness of metabolic disorders, obesity and diabetes.

The agreements were negotiated by the Ministry of Investment, and signed in the presence of Minister of Investment Khalid bin Abdulaziz Al-Faleh. The health summit was organized by the Ministry of National Guard Health Affairs.