RIYADH: The King Abdulaziz and his Companions Foundation for Giftedness and Creativity (Mawhiba), the Ministry of Education, and the Education and Training Evaluation Authority represented by the National Center for Assessment announced the results of this year’s National Program for Gifted Identification.
“Participants included students from 40 different nationalities and Saudi students from 13 different regions in the Kingdom,” said Dr. Basil Al-Sadhan, Mawhiba’s deputy secretary-general.
Last year, the competition saw the participation of 17,000 students, while this year, it featured 25,000 students, said Dr. Mohammed Al-Moqbel, undersecretary of the Ministry of Education.
Compared to last year, there was “a huge increase in the number of discovered gifted students,” said Al-Sadhan.
The aim of the program is to discover students who are gifted in science and technology and to direct them through appropriate care programs.
“Gifted, promising students and their accomplishments should be reflected in our society, to raise the spirit of competition among students,” said Dr. Abdullah Al-Qatie, executive director of the National Center for Assessment.
“An important element for the success of this program is to train teachers on how to spot and deal with gifted students. A teacher who is trained to deal with gifted students has to be carefully selected,” he said.
He added: “It is our responsibility and priority to provide gifted students with a suitable, safe and supportive environment.”
In light of the increased number of students participating this year, Mawhiba has announced new plans to further improve the effectiveness of the program.
These include opening an international training program for high school students, led by researchers from prestigious universities; reaching out to undiscovered gifted students residing in small towns in the Kingdom; and improving on the special curriculum for gifted students.
How Saudi Arabia’s environmental initiatives are restoring the natural equilibrium
Strides made by the Kingdom in increasing its protected habitats to 30% by 2030 in the limelight on World Environment Day
Initiatives such as SGI offer a road map for increasing vegetation, rehabilitating endangered species, protecting vulnerable habitats
Updated 41 min 31 sec ago
JEDDAH: Centuries of abuse by human hands have challenged the globe’s natural cycle of biodiversity. On this World Environment Day, governments are working to restore balance, including in Saudi Arabia, a country with one of the harshest and most diverse natural environments on the planet.
Almost all organisms live in environments altered, to some degree, by human activities, causing habitat loss, species endangerment and extinction, pollution, and more. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations report on the world’s forests in 2022 stated that “as the window for action narrows, and as population growth and aspirations place new demands on physical resources, it seems clear that natural ecosystems are vital assets that must be restored, maintained and sustainably managed.”
Led by the UN Environment Programme since its inception in 1973, World Environment Day, the most influential global platform for environmental outreach, serves as a reminder of the issues and challenges plaguing the world, with millions of people engaging to protect the planet.
Conservation, “the care and preservation of natural resources,” is not a recent phenomenon, though it was undermined and ignored until the 21st century and the harsh realities of climate change became apparent, making crafting environmental policies an increasingly urgent task.
It has often proven to be an uphill challenge. Realizing the consequences of inaction, there have been intense and determined campaigns to further the complex task of defining long-term goals at a time when nature is under assault, to issue guidelines and laws with profound changes in environmental infrastructure, and to promote environmental protection and conservation.
In 2021, the Saudi Green Initiative was launched, an ambitious national plan to combat climate change, improve quality of life and protect the planet for future generations. It coined the term “conservation” with initiatives such as environmental protection, energy transition, sustainability programs, and more under its umbrella. It has become a core message in every ambitious project, company environmental target, and social responsibility goal in less than two years.
Under the SGI, Saudi Arabia has committed to protecting 30 percent of its terrestrial and marine area by 2030. Its targets are clear — emissions reduction, afforestation, and land and sea protection, with 77 initiatives activated. To date, 66,000 sq. km of land and sea are currently protected, over 1,200 animals have been rewilded, and approximately 17 percent of the Kingdom’s land and sea are protected.
Ecosystems, particularly their living components, have always provided the capital to fuel human economies, a notion realized in Saudi Arabia as conservation efforts and development projects go hand in hand.
The Kingdom’s flagship giga-project, NEOM, is considered one of the most ambitious projects with sustainable development embedded in its core values.
While no universally acceptable, practical definition of sustainable development exists, the concept has evolved to encompass three significant points of view: economic, social, and environmental.
The economy is geared mainly toward improving human welfare, the environmental domain focuses on protecting the integrity and resilience of ecological systems, and the social domain emphasizes enriching human life and achievements and strengthening values and institutions.
1,200+ Endangered animals rewilded in 15 Saudi locations.
$25m Fund for efforts to conserve critically endangered Arabian leopard.
8m Hectares of degraded land to be rehabilitated by 2030.
600m Trees to be planted by 2030.
10bn Trees planted is equivalent to rehabilitating 40m hectares of degraded land.
16% Terrestrial and 5.5% marine protected areas.
Speaking to Arab News, Dr. Paul Marshall, head of Nature Region, said that NEOM has embarked on an ambitious and innovative conservation mission that includes “re-greening” and rewilding while committing 95 percent of the project to nature, spanning 26,500 sq. km.
For “re-greening,” NEOM is planting native vegetation and reducing pressure on the landscape from livestock, which will protect and reverse the degradation of the land by planting 100 million shrubs, trees, and other plants by 2030. So far, more than 100,000 plants have been planted, with over 1 million trees, shrubs, and grasses to be planted by the end of 2023.
As for rewilding, it will reintroduce species that were once indigenous to the area but have since declined. Native species will initially be reintroduced to large, enclosed areas, and over time, as the landscape recovers and animal numbers increase, fences will be removed.
“An early indicator of the success of the rewilding project can be seen in the NEOM Nature Reserve’s first breeding season. Working closely with our partner, The National Center for Wildlife, the first release of native animals into our reserve took place in late 2022 with herds of Nubian ibex, Arabian sand gazelle, mountain gazelle and Arabian oryx successfully reintroduced. The total number of babies born this breeding season is 31. This is 23 Sand gazelle babies and 8 Ibex babies.
The achievement is challenging, as he explained that three elements are incorporated into NEOM’s animal distribution modeling. “The first assesses the immediately accessible areas to ensure a healthy and safe release environment, the second analyzes potential dispersal constraints, and the third simulate dispersal through time,” he said.
“For this, we work in conjunction with the plant rewilding team to ascertain where our animals’ potential food sources will be. This helps us model likely dispersal patterns and allows us to plot the regeneration of the reserve.
“In terms of a shift being needed to protect certain species, I think it’s fair to say that a century ago, if we had the tools, knowledge, expertise and capacity that we have now, the Nubian ibex, Arabian sand gazelle, mountain gazelle and Arabian oryx would never have disappeared from the region and would instead be thriving in a vibrant, rich and self-sustaining ecosystem. It is how we envisage NEOM’s land to be and what we are working towards.”
In a statement to Arab News on Sunday, NEOM said “the total number of babies born this breeding season is 31, including 23 sand gazelles and eight (Nubian) ibex. The total number of animals in the NEOM Nature Reserve is now 146.”
With its rich land and marine biodiversity, astounding wildlife, and breathtaking bird migrations passing above the Kingdom’s skies, it is difficult to disconnect the link between science from the initiatives.
There are 15 designated protected areas in Saudi Arabia managed by the National Center for Wildlife, including several royal reserves and natural reserves managed by other authorities that are home to over 10,000 species of animals, nearly 500 species of birds, more than 1,800 species of fish, whale, and dolphin, 330 species of coral reefs, and many more according to NCW.
Like land conservation, marine conservation is considered one of the world’s most pressing scientific issues. From space, Earth is a pale blue dot covered with more than 70 percent water.
According to UNESCO, the ocean functions as a life-support system for our “blue planet,” regulating the climate on a global scale and producing over half of the oxygen we breathe. Despite this, humanity has mistreated these life-giving oceans to the point where around 40 percent of marine ecosystems have been harmed.
Nestled in one of the Red Sea’s lagoons, the King Abdullah University for Science and Technology considers the body of water it neighbors as its biggest and most unique laboratory. and one of the Kingdom’s most vital strategic assets.
Considered one of the saltiest and warmest seas, it provides insight into the environmental stressors the rest of the world’s seas will face in the near future, the director of KAUST’s Red Sea Research Center, Michael Berumen, told Arab News.
“The marine life of the Red Sea has adapted to these challenging conditions, and we seek to understand the mechanisms facilitating this adaptation — ranging from genes and genomes to unique behaviors and physiologies.
“Careful management of Red Sea ecosystems is fundamental for conservation and to ensure that this national treasure remains as healthy as possible for generations to come. Particular attention has been paid to improved management of fisheries and habitat restoration capabilities. Faculty in the RSRC work very closely with KAUST’s Reefscape Restoration Initiative at Shushah Island, arguably the world’s most ambitious coral restoration program,” said Prof. Berumen.
“The lessons learned from the Red Sea can be transferred to many other regions of the world. In line with KAUST’s educational objectives, the RSRC facilitates the training and education of future leaders in marine science through student and postdoctoral support,” he added.
The world’s population is growing, with an estimated increase of nearly 2 billion people in the next 30 years, reaching 9.7 billion by 2050. The trend is toward migration into cities.
By 2050, it is projected that more than two-thirds of the world’s population — close to 7 billion people — will live in urban areas. There is a long-standing dispute about how much population growth causes environmental degradation.
Historical trajectories, local policies, and cultural preferences affect how compact or dispersed residential areas are built. “What is needed are solutions that see nature protected and restored, not spoiled by human development and increased urbanization,” said Marshall.
Saudi authorities bust khat smuggling operation in Jazan
Seizure was handed over to the competent authority for preliminary legal procedures
Updated 04 June 2023
Saudi authorities bust khat smuggling operation in Jazan
RIYADH: Saudi border guards in the Jazan region have foiled attempts to smuggle 380kg of the narcotic khat.
The seizure was handed over to the competent authority for preliminary legal procedures, the Saudi Press Agency reported on Sunday.
Authorities have urged people to report any activities related to drug smuggling or promotion by calling 911 in the Makkah, Riyadh and Eastern Province regions, and 999 in the rest of the Kingdom’s regions.
Indulge Thyself — where sustainability is always on the menu
The region’s first zero-waste private fine-dining restaurant is tackling food wastage with ‘sustainable practices and culinary methods’
Updated 05 June 2023
JEDDAH: Indulge Thyself is a zero-waste private fine-dining restaurant and catering service established to demonstrate that following sustainable practices need not compromise on quality and taste.
The region’s first such operation, Indulge Thyself promotes innovative environmental solutions by using leftovers and organic waste to create natural compost.
According to the General Food Security Authority, about SR40 billion ($10.6 billion) worth of food is wasted every year in the Kingdom, or about a third of the total produced. It is an issue that requires awareness and sustainable solutions to maintain our planet’s health.
Indulge Thyself is based on an ideology that always keeps the bin in mind. It was conceived from a desire to create innovative and quality dishes while demonstrating respect for the environment.
The restaurant was founded by Saudi chef Yasmin Hamza and her sous chef Hawazen Zahran who believe that there is space for sustainability in the fine-dining culinary world. The restaurant is run by Hamza and her team of female chefs.
On the topic of environmental responsibility, Hamza told Arab News that it “must stem from the understanding that we are nature, when we begin as humans to understand that our separation from our environment is merely an illusion, we can then start to initiate action as we are of this earth.”
• Indulge Thyself offers private fine-dining experiences and catering service.
• The restaurant’s organic waste and leftovers are composted and turned into plant fertilizer, which is then used in growing produce.
Explaining the restaurant’s sustainability ethic and strategy, Hamza added: “We promote an array of sustainable practices and culinary methods ensuring that we have no waste; like sourcing local farm-to-table produce and using a head-to-tail cooking method, fermentation, pickling, as well as using reusable packaging and more.”
At Indulge Thyself, organic waste and leftovers are “composted and turned into plant fertilizer, which is then used in growing our own fruits and vegetables,” she added.
From the filtered tap water to avoid plastic bottles, to the use of upcycled materials for the interior design, Indulge Thyself pays attention to sustainable and eco-friendly choices.
The dining experience at Indulge Thyself involves a sequence of dishes that take the guest on an international culinary journey — featuring some of the best cuisines while honoring core sustainability values, such as by sourcing 95 percent of the ingredients from local produce.
Hamza commented on the restaurant’s name, saying: “We wanted to show people that you could indeed ‘Indulge Thyself’ in a fine-dining setting whilst incorporating respect to our produce and awareness of our surroundings.
“We can confidently say that we currently offer the best fine-dining food and beverage experiences and catering services in Saudi Arabia.”
With a professional background as a fashion designer focused on sustainability, Hamza decided to shift focus toward the culinary industry during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Sustainability remained a core value in that transition: “It was only natural that I would entrain my business’ core value in sustainability as it is truly my passion.
“I worked with my cousin in the kitchen for a day and I was hooked. The energy, speed, creativity, and quick feedback fit really well with my personality. I then decided to expand my culinary skills and work with some of the best fine-dining and Michelin-star restaurants worldwide,” Hamza explained.
She worked at The Samuel in Copenhagen, Silo London, KOL London, and The Sea, The Sea in London.
Indulge Thyself offers private fine-dining experiences for two people, and also 10 to 20 with three experiences, and the option of five to eight courses. The restaurant also has a catering service.
Promoting sustainable practices also takes center stage in Hamza’s collaborations with other projects and companies. She recently participated in a culinary class for children at the Islamic Art Biennale. There was also a catering tie-up with Cartier, and a collaboration during Ramadan with Kia Corporation and the Waste Lab, a woman-owned composting company based in Dubai.
For the Kia “Cycle of Life” initiative, Hamza hosted a farm-to-table iftar at Indulge Thyself to celebrate the region’s environmental advocates.
Speaking on the collaboration, Hamza added: “Serving iftar to sustainability influencers and seeing them enjoy it and give raving feedback was a highlight in our career.
“To top that off, it was all filmed for the anti-food waste campaign and launched all over the Middle East to highlight our efforts in combating food waste … that was a very rewarding feeling for our whole team.”
An interesting fact that Al-Theeb revealed was that people from all walks of life living in the Arabian Peninsula had the freedom to engrave their thoughts, feelings, poetry, or curses on rocks
Updated 04 June 2023
MAKKAH: Many monuments in the Arabian Peninsula have been found bearing inscriptions in the Thamudic, Nabataean and Safaitic languages invoking evil upon those who try to tamper with or obliterate them.
One such Thamudic inscription, dating between the end of the first century AD to the fourth century AD, was found by a Saudi citizen named Khalid Al-Fraih in the Tabhar area northwest of Tabuk, which is dotted with many ancient inscriptions and monuments.
People from all walks of life living in the Arabian Peninsula had the freedom to engrave their thoughts, feelings, poetry, or curses, on rocks contrary to those who lived in Mesopotamia, Syria and Egypt, where inscriptions were exclusively written by the leaders or those who with a high status.
Professor of ancient Arabic writings, Dr. Suleiman Al-Theeb, told Arab News that this Thamudic inscription is written on the facade of one of the mountains of Wadi Tabhar. “What is interesting is that they used curses so that evil befalls … those who distort and sabotage … it. This type of curse is well known in the Thamudic, Nabataean, Palmyrian and Safaitic inscriptions.”
People who inhabited the area centuries ago were pagans who indulged in idol worship.
“This curse was written, most likely, to intimidate and scare away those who want to destroy their god … and the purpose of intimidation by cursing is to maintain and keep what has been written,” he said.
In order to prevent others from attacking their rocks, they used to write on them words of threat, curse and intimidation of the wrath of the gods. The fear was real and people would then refrain from destroying the rocks.
Dr. Suleiman Al-Theeb, Professor of ancient Arabic writings
Al-Theeb also revealed that the writings and inscriptions on rocks were similar to published material that we see today. “If two people disagree or a problem occurred between them, they would usually attack the rock of others. In order to prevent others from attacking their rocks, they used to write on them words of threat, curse and intimidation of the wrath of the gods. The fear was real and people would then refrain from destroying the rocks.”
An interesting fact that Al-Theeb revealed was that people from all walks of life living in the Arabian Peninsula had the freedom to engrave their thoughts, feelings, poetry, or curses on rocks, contrary to those who lived in Mesopotamia, Syria and Egypt, where inscriptions were exclusively written by leaders or those who with high status.
The professor stressed that these inscriptions are very important as they depict the history of previous civilizations, and should be monitored and documented by specialists to preserve them.