Christians in Saudi Arabia get their Christmas fix in era of religious tolerance

Special Christians in Saudi Arabia get their Christmas fix in era of religious tolerance
The government’s efforts to move the country toward an “open and moderate Islam” has created an atmosphere that is welcoming to other faiths and traditions. (Supplied)
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Updated 26 December 2022

Christians in Saudi Arabia get their Christmas fix in era of religious tolerance

Christians in Saudi Arabia get their Christmas fix in era of religious tolerance
  • Move toward an ‘open and moderate Islam’ created an atmosphere welcoming to other faiths
  • Changes allowed local retailers and e-commerce platforms to sell broader range of products

JEDDAH/RIYADH: Christmas shopping in Saudi Arabia is unrecognizable compared to just a few short years ago, reflecting both the growing culture of religious tolerance and the speed and scope of the social transformation underway in the Kingdom.

Nowadays, festive gifts and decorations can be found easily in many of the Kingdom’s markets and malls, with Christmas trees in the capital Riyadh, snowmen in Jeddah, and even Santa Claus putting in an appearance in Al-Khobar.

As more foreign expatriates choose to make Saudi Arabia their home, the government’s efforts to move the country toward an “open and moderate Islam” has created an atmosphere that is welcoming to other faiths and traditions.

The transformation has also allowed local retailers and e-commerce platforms to sell a broader range of products to those keen to join in with the festivities.




Festive Kingdom: A Christmas trees in the Saudi capital Riyadh, a snowmen in Jeddah, and a Santa Claus putting in an appearance in Al-Khobar. (Supplied)

Wejdan Al-Khatabi, a Saudi marketing professional who works at Napco National in Jeddah, told Arab News that Christmas items are selling well this year and are in high demand in Saudi Arabia.

“I work in an environment where 70 percent of the employees are Christian,” said Al-Khatabi.

“Some of them celebrate in their home countries and some of them celebrate here. They used to complain that they could not celebrate here as there were no Christmas celebration vibes or products. However, today they can celebrate with the full winter set.”

Al-Khatabi says that she and her daughter enjoyed decorating a Christmas tree at her Christian friend’s home in Jeddah.

“We ordered the tree from Amazon and the rest of the decorations from Noon and Mumzworld and it took a week to arrive, as related items are more acceptable nowadays and are being shipped smoothly without any restrictions compared to how it used to be before.”

The growth of e-commerce has made it far easier for Christian households in the Kingdom to access gifts and decorations, and to openly share their traditions with Muslim friends and neighbors.




Nowadays, festive gifts and decorations can be found easily in many of the Kingdom’s markets and malls. (Supplied)

“We brought everything online and we enjoyed the preparation vibe,” said Al-Khatabi. “I love it. And for me, it is a sample of a cozy winter, and it is really enlightening to be surrounded by people with different perspectives.”

Alain Karam, a Lebanese expatriate living in Saudi Arabia, confirms that finding Christmas decorations in the Kingdom’s stores is much easier than it had been in previous years.

“Decorations were previously available in Saudi Arabia in specific hidden locations because it was not permitted, but they are now available in malls or nearby shops,” Karam told Arab News. “I used to go to Christmas markets in embassies where people used to buy Christmas decorations.”

These days, some cafes and restaurants in Saudi towns and cities are transformed into winter wonderlands, encrusted with decorations and imported ornaments, and offering holiday beverages in Christmas-themed cups and glasses.

At one of Riyadh’s best-known shopping centers, Kingdom Mall, several shops are now selling Christmas decorations and gifts, including the French beauty retailer L’Occitane.

“We have a variety of Christmas packages at L’Occitane, including skin care, perfumes, and small giveaway packages,” Wedad Al-Malki, a sales representative, told Arab News.

“Businesses that celebrate Christmas often place special orders with us ahead of time. There is a high demand for Christmas packages, particularly from businesses that celebrate Christmas with their employees.”

Bateel, a cafe and store that sells organic Saudi dates and luxury gifts, has launched a new collection of elegant tree- and star-shaped gift boxes containing chocolates or stuffed dates, decorated in red, green, white, and gold.




Neama Al-Sabea chritsmas season corner at her house. (Instagram)

Lily’s Bakery and coffee shop in Jeddah is also offering Christmas products and a winter ambiance, with cups of rich hot chocolate decorated with gingerbread men.

Advertising agencies have also caught on to the Christmas theme, releasing new commercials filled with festive scenes and cozy winter iconography.

Neama Al-Sabea, a Jordanian based in Jeddah, told Arab News she is welcoming Christmas this year with a full winter-themed setup, including an electric chimney, snowmen, a traditional tree, and glittering ornaments.

“Special related items can be found via Instagram accounts, especially the ones based in Riyadh,” said Al-Sabea.

“This year I have a collection from seven different places including red winter candles, wooden deer, and tiny snowmen, and I also added artificial berry tree branches from Shein next to pine cones, which is one of the key winter elements.”

“One of the dearest items to my heart is the handmade wooden rocking chair, which I placed next to the chimney with a throw blanket over it.”


LEAP23 tech conference launches competitions with $1.6 million prize pool

LEAP23 tech conference launches competitions with $1.6 million prize pool
Updated 06 February 2023

LEAP23 tech conference launches competitions with $1.6 million prize pool

LEAP23 tech conference launches competitions with $1.6 million prize pool
  • Cash prizes are on offer in the Rocket Fuel competition and Alibaba Cloud Hackathon
  • Both events aim to support startups and projects in addressing technical challenges 

RIYADH: The LEAP23 conference in Riyadh launched the Rocket Fuel competition and Alibaba Cloud hackathon, with more than SR6 million ($1.6 million) in cash prizes on offer.

Being held at the Front Expo Center until Thursday, both events aim to support startups and projects in addressing technical challenges through innovative solutions.

Supported by the National Technology Development Program and the Misk Foundation, the Rocket Fuel competition will see 90 global startups competing for a chance to be among 15 presented to a jury.

Divided into six categories, the competition offers cash prizes amounting to SR4 million, including the LEAP Award, which offers $250,000 to the strongest and most prominent company.

The Rising Star Award, worth $150,000, will go to the startup with the strongest start.

The Aviatrix Award and the Technology for Humanity Award — worth $150,000 each — will go to the best women-led creative startup company and the startup that best serves humanity, respectively.

Two “Towards new horizons and artificial intelligence” awards, with a value of $300,000, will also be given to winners of the best startup working in the field of metaverse and Web3, as well as the best emerging company that provides artificial intelligence solutions.

The Alibaba Cloud hackathon, sponsored by the Saudi Telecom Company, will enhance cloud technology in the Kingdom through several challenges and SR2 million in prize money.

The event targets amateurs as well as local and international professionals in sectors including education, health technology, government, logistics services, e-commerce and artificial intelligence.


Saudi crown prince offers condolences to Erdogan after Turkiye quake

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has offered his condolences to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. (SPA/Reuters)
Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has offered his condolences to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. (SPA/Reuters)
Updated 06 February 2023

Saudi crown prince offers condolences to Erdogan after Turkiye quake

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has offered his condolences to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. (SPA/Reuters)
  • Prince Mohammed also offered his condolences to the families of victims and wished the injured a speedy recovery
  • Major earthquake struck Turkey and Syria, killing more than 2,600 people on Monday

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman offered his condolences to Turkiye’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and people after an earthquake rocked the country on Monday.

The major earthquake struck Turkey and Syria, killing more than 2,600 people and flattening thousands of buildings as rescuers dug frantically for survivors.

Prince Mohammed also offered his condolences to the families of victims and wished the injured a speedy recovery.

He added that the Kingdom stands with and supports Turkiye in the face of the natural disaster.

Erdogan thanked the crown prince and said he appreciates the Kingdom’s support in these difficult circumstances.

Multi-storey apartment buildings full of residents were among the 3,400 structures reduced to rubble in Turkey, while Syria announced dozens of collapses, as well as damage to archaeological sites in Aleppo.


Royal Commission for AlUla reconstructs face of 2,000-year-old Nabataean woman

Royal Commission for AlUla reconstructs face of 2,000-year-old Nabataean woman
Updated 59 min 15 sec ago

Royal Commission for AlUla reconstructs face of 2,000-year-old Nabataean woman

Royal Commission for AlUla reconstructs face of 2,000-year-old Nabataean woman
  • Leila Chapman, an expert in narrative experiences at the RCU, said that observing Hinat will provide visitors with an immersive historical experience through insights into the history of the Nabataeans and their civilization

JEDDAH: The facial structure of a 2,000-year-old Nabataean woman from the AlUla region has been reconstructed by experts from the Royal Commission for AlUla.

They used the skeleton of the woman, dubbed “Hinat,” who authorities believed died in the first century B.C. The reconstruction will be displayed for the public in the visitor’s center at the Hegra historical site in AlUla from Feb. 6.

The skeleton was discovered inside a tomb in the UNESCO World Heritage site in 2008.

Human remains, skin and hair, along with textiles, leather and other substances were also discovered, as was an inscription that said that the tomb belonged to “Hinat, the daughter of Wahbu.”

Studies confirmed the importance of Hinat’s position in the Nabataean community, as she had possessed sufficient wealth to obtain her own tomb in Hegra.

A number of experts on Nabataean civilization issued a biography of Hinat, equipped with pictures of her clothes and jewelry as a background to her facial reconstruction.

They were joined by a production team with experience in anthropology, reconstruction and physical model-making.

The reconstruction aims to give visitors the opportunity to learn about the ancient history of the region.

Helen McGauran, an expert in organizing heritage exhibitions, said: “The process of restoring Hinat’s facial features combined both scientific accuracy and contemporary artistic development to expand our understanding about the Nabataean civilization, which still offers many secrets and stories, and sheds light on the history of AlUla.”

Leila Chapman, an expert in narrative experiences at the RCU, said that observing Hinat will provide visitors with an immersive historical experience through insights into the history of the Nabataeans and their civilization.

Laila Neamah, co-director of the Hegra project, oversaw the selection of appropriate models for the reconstruction.

The RCU seeks to preserve the heritage of the region, as well as attract visitors and residents.

The commission’s “Journey Through Time” plan involves the launch of the “Kingdom’s Institute” in the Dadan area.

The design of the structure will be inspired by the Dadan civilization.

 


Deloitte CEO Mutasem Dajani highlights emerging technology assisting Kingdom’s sustainability efforts

Deloitte CEO Mutasem Dajani highlights emerging technology assisting Kingdom’s sustainability efforts
Updated 06 February 2023

Deloitte CEO Mutasem Dajani highlights emerging technology assisting Kingdom’s sustainability efforts

Deloitte CEO Mutasem Dajani highlights emerging technology assisting Kingdom’s sustainability efforts
  • Collaboration with giga-projects in Saudi Arabia
  • GreenLight is firm’s decarbonization initiative

RIYADH: Deloitte is participating for the first time as a designated innovation and emerging technology partner at LEAP 2023, and has highlighted an initiative that is assisting the Kingdom’s firms and projects with their sustainability efforts.

The second edition of the event, being held from Feb. 6-9, hosts more than 700 leaders in technology and investment from 50 countries.

During the event, Deloitte’s CEO Mutasem Dajani, told Arab News that one of the tools on display at their booth is “GreenLight, which enables organizations to figure out decarbonization, regardless of where they are on the sustainability spectrum.”

“We are working with the leading project owners and developers in terms of the transformation that’s going on across the giga-projects in the Kingdom. And we’re really proud of that work that we’re doing,” he added.

“We feel it’s not only transforming the society and the communities, but also people’s individual career prospects through the work experiences that we offer.”

Visitors can also learn about drone- and robot-hacking.

The company has signed a memorandum of understanding with MOZN, a technology company that has created AI solutions for fighting financial crime and bolstering the financial services industry in Saudi Arabia and across the Middle East, said Dajani.

MOZN announced earlier that it is participating as a Bronze Sponsor in the conference. They are showcasing their myriad AI-powered offerings, including financial intelligence products and solutions to address compliance, natural-language understanding and risk challenges for organizations in various industries.

In a comment earlier, Dr. Mohammed Alhussein, founder and CEO of MOZN, said: “We are thrilled to return to LEAP 2023 and demonstrate our innovative AI-powered products and solutions to a global audience of disruptive tech professionals.”

Dajani said he was proud of the “leap of faith that the Kingdom has taken in terms of positioning itself around technology in … the new digital economy in the Middle East and Africa.”

Deloitte has hired over 3,000 professionals across the region in 18 months to respond to growing market demand.

Some of Deloitte’s speakers during LEAP include Dr. Amira Khattab, a partner for cyber and strategic risk, Saudamini Dubey, lead partner for digital transformation, and Costi Perricos, the firm’s global AI leader.


A cooperation between Rui Costa and Cristiano Ronaldo's tech company, Footlab arrives in Saudi Arabia

Cristiano Ronaldo and Rui Costa's Footlab has partnered with Saudi company Confrontation Entertainment. (Supplied/Footlab)
Cristiano Ronaldo and Rui Costa's Footlab has partnered with Saudi company Confrontation Entertainment. (Supplied/Footlab)
Updated 06 February 2023

A cooperation between Rui Costa and Cristiano Ronaldo's tech company, Footlab arrives in Saudi Arabia

Cristiano Ronaldo and Rui Costa's Footlab has partnered with Saudi company Confrontation Entertainment. (Supplied/Footlab)
  • Partnership between Portuguese legends is the world’s first indoor football measurements, performance and training park
  • Footlab has signed an agreement with Kingdom’s Confrontation Entertainment company

Saudi entertainment company Confrontation Entertainment has signed an exclusive franchise agreement with Footlab, a partnership by Cristiano Ronaldo and Rui Costa.

Footlab, a cooperation between the Portuguese football legends through Ronaldo’s tech company 7EGEND, started from an idea to bring to life a blend of e-gaming, real-life football and technology. It is headquartered in Lisbon, Portugal, and opened in 2018.

At the platform, players can train, compete and keep track of their real-time performance data within different stations in the park, which are all connected in a digital ecosystem.

Footlab was designed with the next generation of football players in mind, providing players and trainers with the tools they need to measure and track performance in real time and use that information to create personalized development.

The technology behind it was developed in-house by Sports Scientists, a team of software and hardware engineers, UX designers, AI and data experts, to deliver the world’s leading football data-driven experience.

Luis Parafita, Footlab world CEO, expressed his gratitude for entering the Saudi market through this agreement. “Sports is an integral component of Saudi Arabia’s transformative Vision 2030, and we are thankful for the unconditional support of our partners and the perfect timing to launch Footlab in all (of the) Kingdom, having Cristiano here and world attention for what lies ahead.”

“Footlab aspires to change the game in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia,” he pointed out, “with elite facilities and coaching staff dedicated to the analysis and development of players, empowering teams and groups of friends with challenges, to test and improve their cognitive, physical and technical skills.”

Ahmed Madani, Confrontation Entertainment CEO, said the growth of the sports and entertainment sector in Saudi Arabia made this an ideal time to introduce innovative projects such as Footlab in the market.

He said this partnership was aligned with the Quality of Life Program, one of the Saudi Vision 2030 realization projects “which encourages the private sector to contribute to the development of the entertainment and sports sector, by offering an abundance of new experiences that contribute to raising the quality of life.”