NEW DELHI: There is great potential for partnerships between Saudi Arabia and India on climate action in the run-up up to this year’s G20 summit and beyond, according to Dr. Ausaf Sayeed, the secretary for consular, passport, visa and overseas Indian affairs at the Indian Ministry of External Affairs.
During a briefing in New Delhi, he said both countries are leading players in their respective regions in terms of environmental action and the battle against climate change.
“India and Saudi Arabia are emerging economies as well as members of the G20,” Sayeed told Arab News. “As responsible regional leaders, both countries have committed to fighting against climate change and environmental degradation, through ambitious initiatives.”
Since India assumed the year-long rotating presidency of the G20 on Dec. 1, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has set numerous targets for climate action, green development and climate finance, and Sayeed predicted strong partnerships with Saudi Arabia on these issues in the near future.
“I am sure that the coming months and years will see our relations strengthen in several new areas, including renewable energy and green hydrogen, petrochemicals, pharma … and other new technologies.”
He described existing relations between the Kingdom and India as close and said they have only become stronger as a result of their shared views and goals on climate action.
“The relationship between India and Saudi Arabia is historic and is assuming new dimensions and heights each passing day,” Sayeed said.
“I am very hopeful for a great future for both of our countries with our young populations and visionary leadership.”
The establishment of the Indian-Saudi Strategic Partnership Council in 2019, featuring high-level representatives up to and including prime minister and crown prince, had helped propel bilateral relations to new heights, he added.
“The ministerial-level meetings of the Strategic Partnership Council took place in 2022 and we are looking forward to the first meeting of the council between Prime Minister Modi and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman soon,” Sayeed said.
He noted that relations between India and Saudi Arabia have been significantly enhanced and strengthened in recent years in many fields, including politics, commerce, energy, defense, security and culture.
“You may expect more political and economic engagements between the two countries this year, both bilaterally and through G20,” he added.
Both nations have invested heavily in new technologies, such as green hydrogen, and “there are great opportunities for us to work together both at government and private-sector levels in these areas,” said Sayeed.
He also highlighted some of the Kingdom’s efforts to mitigate the effects of climate change, including its decision to join the International Solar Alliance in 2019 and its launch of the Saudi Green and Middle East Green initiatives in 2021.
“We welcome the Saudi Green Initiative and Middle East Green Initiative and have participated in their meetings,” he added. “We hope to contribute further to the work on climate change during our presidency of G20 this year.”
RIYADH: Palestinian-American contestant Yasser Omar Shaheen, a Hollywood film and television scriptwriter, was a participant in the latest episode of the international Qur’an recitation and adhan competition.
Shaheen entertained the viewers with his melodic voice and distinctive recitation of the Qur’an.
The “Otr Elkalam” TV show, which is being supervised by the General Entertainment Authority and is broadcast on MBC1 and the Shahid digital platform, has a total prize pool of SR12 million ($3.2 million).
Shaheen said: “My life is a mixture of memorizing and reciting the Holy Qur’an and writing scripts in Hollywood, where I have supervised the production of more than 130 programs, produced 14 documentaries, and contributed to several shows on TV channels of Arab and Islamic countries.”
He enjoys teaching Muslim children the verses of the Qur’an and the rules of intonation in mosques in Dallas, Texas. Shaheen also works as a faculty member at San Jose University in California.
Several competitions resulted in his participation in “Otr Elkalam” and its first episode featured 32 contestants from around the world.
It also focused on last year’s winners of the Qur’an recitation and adhan competitions, Younes Gharbi from Morocco and Mohsen Kara of Turkiye, respectively.
The “Otr Elkalam” competition is designed to highlight the rich diversity of cultures in the Islamic world, and the vocal methods of reciting the Qur’an and raising the call to prayer.
More than 50,000 entrants from 165 countries were whittled down to 50 for the final stage, which is held in Riyadh.
Another selection process by the main jury then left 32 contestants, 16 for each competition.
Finding treasures at the Islamic Arts Biennale’s Al-Matjar in Jeddah
Sustainability key to the concept store; more than 620 rare, custom-made items on display
Updated 26 March 2023
JEDDAH: Visitors to the inaugural Islamic Arts Biennale in Jeddah can pick up Ramadan-themed items and intricate works of art at the on-site Al-Matjar concept store, a retail space developed by the Diriyah Biennale Foundation.
“The biennale store is never, ever the same. We change it every week. The only constant is that you’ll see is the Diriyah Foundation merchandise,” Dalia Al Akki, the store representative, told Arab News.
According to Al Akki, the DBF hopes the shop can become one of Jeddah’s new cultural destinations. It aims to have something for everyone — and allow them to take a bit of the Biennale’s “Awwal Bait” (First House) theme back home with them.
“The idea of this collaboration is that the Diriyah Foundation wants to open a platform to support digital artists. It’s like a marketing tool for us to use their illustrations and create merch with them, or stationery, or puzzles,” she said. “We didn’t want to just do merchandise this year; we wanted to really enhance this idea of collaboration.”
Since the biennale is a temporary exhibition, the idea was to create tangible items that people can take back home with them.
After thorough research, they reached out to around 180 brands, of which 95 made it to the shelves. Since the DBF is a non-profit organization, it was obligated to use the space as a launching pad for brands and to cultivate creativity.
“Some of these items are very rare and very beautiful, and soon they’ll be collectible,” Al Akki said proudly.
The store prioritizes collaborating with brands that focus on sustainability, and many of the over 620 items are rare and custom-made. According to Dalia Al Akki, every item in the store will be reused, including the wayfinding flags that will be repurposed into tote bags later.
It was always meant to be a pop-up shop, which is perhaps part of the allure. If you like something, pick it up and buy it instantly or it might be gone. Maybe forever. Many items were custom-made for the shop and won’t ever be sold anywhere else.
There’s one section that is distinctly pre-owned. It is dedicated to selling secondhand books and Al Akki hopes this will help shift people’s perception of pre-owned and think of it as ‘pre-loved.’
“We know a guy that collects books from all over the region, so we really wanted to add that in,” she explained. “A lot of artists actually just buy books and end up throwing them. A lot of people in the Kingdom don’t know the value of these books. But for us, secondhand books are still valuable. We even have vintage magazines.”
She said that she has been surprised by the popularity of the secondhand books and have had to replenish their stocks.
“We also work with a lot of product makers (who focus on) sustainability. Nothing in the store is going to be thrown away; everything is going to be reused — even the wayfinding flags; we are actually taking them and making tote bags out of them for next year,” she said. “We are supporting local and international artists and sustainability is a main goal.”
It was crucial for the curation of the products to be inclusive of different countries and styles, as well as price ranges, and to provide something that non-Muslims could buy too.
“What’s amazing about the whole idea of this pop-up store is that we really get to know the community — beyond the Kingdom. We can’t wait for the (next Biennale cycle) because there’s so many places you could go. I mean, this was limited, challenging, but definitely worth it,” Al Akki said. “We’ve learned, we’ve grown, we’ve met many beautiful people along the way.”
One of those people is Sultan bin Mohammed, the shy-but-charming millennial leader of the Galag Garage clothing brand (Galag translates to “nuisance”).
He was proud to take part in this pop-up store in his hometown of Jeddah and is shaking up the shop — one stitch at a time.
The filmmaker and entrepreneur showed Arab News his exclusive capsule Galag collection, created in collaboration with the Diriyah Biennale Foundation store. Rows of durable-but-soft hoodies, t-shirts, tote bags and caps with the word “Galag” written in Arabic using the custom biennale font and typography.
“They (Diriyah Biennale Foundation) wanted really to represent the structures in the Hajj terminal. So I wanted to recreate that, but give a bit of a retro-wave design,” he told Arab News.
He also added elements that are distinctly ‘Galag,’ such as images of vintage cars.
“We wanted something that’s wearable, has a bit of style, has a bit of weight to it — something that people would be happy and comfortable with. We decided to do very simple but high-quality material with interesting colors,” bin Mohammed told Arab News.
Most of those color inspirations were derived from local nature. The sandy hoodie has a bit of saturated blue that pops — meant to represent the sky. The white hoodie, in contrast, was meant to be muted.
“Every color choice here is meant to look better with age; so the longer we wear it, the better it looks — that was the concept,” he said.
Like Al Akki, bin Mohammed was adamant that he wanted to produce something that would last.
“Sustainability is a huge thing. We really wanted to use something that lasts — something that you can wear for years, maybe put in your closet then bring it out and it still keeps its shape; it keeps the quality and it doesn’t disintegrate,” bin Mohammed said.
He was also keen to have the date incorporated into the t-shirts. “It’s the first Islamic Arts Biennale and to have the date on it to commemorate it was really important. I think it’s really cool to have a piece of history. It’s great that we’re a small part of that,” said bin Mohammed.
Saudi Arabia marks earth hour by turning off street, tower lights
Updated 54 min 10 sec ago
JEDDAH: Saudi Arabia on Saturday participated in Earth Hour, the largest environmental event in the world, by urging all sects of society, in all regions, governorates and their affiliated centers, as well as various governmental and private agencies to take the initiative to mark the event by turning off the public street lights without harm to public safety.
Ajlan Al-Ajlan, the head of Saudi Earth Hour, said that the Kingdom participates with the world in this great environmental event and is in solidarity with all efforts aimed at sustaining and protecting the ecosystem, by turning off the lights of some streets and towers in various parts of the regions and governorates, for a period of one hour, starting from 8:30 p.m. until 9:30 p.m..
Al-Ajlan called on all members of society to preserve the environment from everything that negatively affects it and human life by avoiding bad practices, which generate serious complications, such as pollution and the spread of diseases and epidemics.
The Saudi Vision 2030 adopts a comprehensive plan to preserve the environment and protect the planet, which stimulates interaction with one of the largest environmental events, and the world’s participation in Earth Hour.
Saudi Arabia’s KSrelief calls for strengthening efforts to combat mines
Updated 26 March 2023
RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s aid agency on Saturday called for strengthening efforts to combat mines, protecting lives, building the capabilities of workers in this field in the affected countries, and alleviating the suffering of those affected, the Saudi Press Agency reported.
The comments were made by the King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Center as it participated with the international community and UN and international organizations in raising awareness of the dangers of mines to mark International Day for Mine Awareness.
As part of its efforts in various countries around the world, KSrelief was keen to cover all vital sectors in the humanitarian field to include education, health, shelter, water and other important sectors.
It also implemented huge qualitative humanitarian programs that contributed to positive results in the field of humanitarian work, including the “Masam” project to clear Yemeni lands of mines, and the prosthetic limbs program, which contributed to protect hundreds of thousands of lives in Yemen.
Despite the dangers they face, the teams of the “Masam” project managed to extract nearly 400,000 mines of all shapes, types and sizes in various Yemeni regions since the launch of the project in 2018 until mid-March 2023.
The prosthetic limb centers also provided more than 142,000 services, including the installation of prostheses, and cases of technical and physical rehabilitation (physical and psychological treatment) for the injured in order for them to be productive people, able to work and lead their normal lives.
45,588 individuals benefited from them in the governorates of Taiz, Aden, Marib and Sayun from Jan. 1, 2020 to Feb. 28, 2023.
Saudi Arabia condemns Israel’s bid to build over 1,000 settlements in West Bank
Updated 26 March 2023
RIYADH: Saudi Arabia on Saturday condemnation a decision by the Israeli occupation authorities to publish bids to build settlement units during the current week inside the occupied Palestinian territories.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs “expressed the Kingdom’s denunciation of this decision, which is a continuation of the flagrant violations committed by the occupation authorities,” it said in a statement.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s far-right government has authorized construction bids for more than 1,000 new homes in Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem.
The move comes days after the Knesset voted to annul part of a law banning Israelis from living in areas of the occupied West Bank evacuated in 2005.
Saudi Arabia called on the international community to assume its responsibilities to end the Israeli occupation and stop its provocative practices, which would obstruct the paths of political solutions and undermine international peace efforts.