Saudis welcome Ramadan, a time of reflection and blessings for the Muslim world

Special Saudis welcome Ramadan, a time of reflection and blessings for the Muslim world
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While Ramadan is perhaps best known to many as the month in which Muslims fast, it is also a month of spirituality, prayer, reflection, devotion and generosity. (Abdulghani Essa / AFP)
Special Saudis welcome Ramadan, a time of reflection and blessings for the Muslim world
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Ramadan is a time of celebration, as evidenced by the colorful decorations (right) in many places. (Abdullah Al-Faleh, AFP)
Special Saudis welcome Ramadan, a time of reflection and blessings for the Muslim world
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Volunteers arrange food and drink in preparation for the iftar meal at a mosque's courtyard in Riyadh. (AFP file)
Special Saudis welcome Ramadan, a time of reflection and blessings for the Muslim world
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Worshippers praying at the Al-Masjid an-Nabawi (Prophet's Mosque) in Madinah during the fasting month of Ramadan. (AFP file)
Special Saudis welcome Ramadan, a time of reflection and blessings for the Muslim world
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A child partake of the sweets being distributed to worshippers gathered at the Grand Mosque in Makkah during Ramadan. (AFP file)
Special Saudis welcome Ramadan, a time of reflection and blessings for the Muslim world
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Worshippers pray at the Grand Mosque in Makkah on March 21, 2023, as Saudi Arabia announced that the fasting month of Ramadan will start on March 23. (AFP)
Special Saudis welcome Ramadan, a time of reflection and blessings for the Muslim world
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Updated 23 March 2023

Saudis welcome Ramadan, a time of reflection and blessings for the Muslim world

Saudis welcome Ramadan, a time of reflection and blessings for the Muslim world
  • The world’s 2 billion plus Muslims believe daytime fasting and nighttime prayers energize the faithful to lead a new life 
  • Saudi Ministry of Culture has launched Ramadan Season, a series of festive events in 14 cities across the Kingdom

JEDDAH: Every year ahead of the ninth month of the Islamic calendar, 2 billion plus Muslims around the world prepare to welcome the holy month of Ramadan. While Ramadan is commonly known for its fast, for Muslims it is more than just a month of fasting; it symbolizes reward, reflection, devotion, generosity and sacrifice.

Daytime fasting and nighttime prayers spiritually energize the faithful to lead a new life, benefiting the whole of humanity and opening a new chapter of peace and progress.




Worshippers pray at the Grand Mosque in Makkah on March 21, 2023, as Saudi Arabia announced that the fasting month of Ramadan will start on March 23. (AFP)

A hadith says Abu Huraira reported: “The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said whoever fasts the month of Ramadan out of faith and in the hope of earning reward, all his previous sins will be forgiven, and whoever stays up during Laylat Al-Qadr out of faith and in the hope of earning reward, all his previous sins will be forgiven.”

On Wednesday, the Saudi Press Agency reported that King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman exchanged messages of congratulations with “leaders of Islamic countries on the advent of blessed month.”

Ramadan, besides being a month of fasting, is also a month of happiness, an Islamic form of worship known as dhikr, Qur’an recital, good deeds and charity.




Aside from being a time of celebration, the month of Ramadan is a time of charity. (Abdullah Al-Faleh, AFP)

The rewards of giving zakat or sadaqah — an Islamic form of almsgiving that is a central pillar of the Muslim faith — during Ramadan are doubled, and thus Muslims make sure give even more to those in need during the holy month.

Last year in Saudi Arabia, the Ehsan national campaign for charitable work received more than SR300 million ($79 million) in donations. During the first Ramadan campaign in 2021, the king and the crown prince made multiple donations through Ehsan that pushed the platform’s total funds past the SR1 billion mark.

In the holy cities of Makkah and Madinah, philanthropists commonly provide iftar (breakfast) meals to worshippers at specific locations in the Grand Mosque and the Prophet’s Mosque.

Generosity extends far beyond the provision of iftar meals by the wealthy; 29-year-old Anas Al-Ghamdi from Jeddah distributes cold bottles of water and dates to people in rush hour traffic.

Al-Ghamdi and his brother have been doing this for seven years, “because Ramadan is the month of feeding the poor, and it is a chance to offer help and gain rewards.”

While fasting is one of Ramadan’s main characteristics, what happens after the fast is broken every day is just as important. Those who celebrate rejoice in the food served during gatherings with relatives and loved ones, as it represents the month’s prominent rituals.




Iftar meals are offered daily in mosques throughout the Kingdom during Ramadan. (AFP file)

Though generosity and togetherness are hallmarks of Ramadan, so too is spending.

It has become a habit to prepare for Ramadan with a feeling of newness; families go into a cleaning frenzy, decorating their houses, reorganizing furniture, giving some goods to the poor, and, of course, buying new items.

Neama Fadhel, a housewife and mother of five children, said that she likes to plan her Ramadan shopping for kitchen products, accessories and clothes, as the experience brings her joy.

Fadhel also loves buying new items for her household, especially her kitchen, as it “gives me a boost for the daily cooking routine in the holy month that differs from other normal days of the year.”




Shoppers in Jeddah enjoy purchasing Ramadan decorations and items from the annual exhibit at Jeddah International Exhibition and Convention Center. (AN Photo by Abdullah Alfaleh)

Competition is rife as entrepreneurs vie to produce new, trending goods each year to attract customers, who look forward to decorating their homes to welcome the holy month with fervor.

Sufyan Raya, senior digital marketing specialist at Al-Hadaya Center, told Arab News how demand for decorations skyrockets around Ramadan.

Al-Hadaya Center, one of the biggest gift shops and decoration retailers in the Kingdom, distributes products to other shops in the region. For retailers, the season usually begins two months before to the holy month and continues until the middle of Ramadan.

“So far, our Ramadan-only sales represented 7.6 percent of the company’s sales, with Jeddah at the forefront of sales, followed by Makkah and Riyadh. We have imported lanterns and Ramadan decoration items worth SR30 million from Egypt, India, Turkey, and China for Ramadan 2023,” Raya said, adding that more than 70 containers arrived through sea ports and airports to meet the demand.

FASTFACT

Besides fasting, Ramadan is a month of happiness, an Islamic form of worship known as dhikr, Qur’an recital, good deeds and charity.

In a highly competitive market, Raya said, products are kept highly confidential. “We made sure that these products are well kept until they are distributed and unpacked in the stores, as some competitors copy special items and offer them at a lower quality.”

The most popular Ramadan-themed items are lanterns in various sizes and colors, twinkling lights, crescent moons and some distinctive textile-made products like “shkaly,” a printed fabric with a bright pink rose, and “khayamiya,” another popular printed fabric bearing geometric patterns.

Lanterns, an iconic symbol of the holy month, are always in high demand.

“This year, handmade Egyptian and Indian lanterns and ornamented copper, bronze and gold-plated lanterns are trending the most, and this category has achieved the highest rate of sales compared to other items,” Raya added.




Saudi women shop for traditional lanterns known in Arabic as "Fanous", sold during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, at a market in the city of Jeddah. (AFP file)

Prices of lanterns vary in terms of material, shape and size, ranging from about SR1.88 to more than SR975. Mass-produced types are the cheapest, while handcrafted varieties fetch the highest prices.

While modern shopping centers and malls are replete with Ramadan merchandise, nothing beats shopping in Al-Balad, Jeddah’s historical district, where vendors and kiosks put up lights and decorations, creating a special old-meets-new Ramadan vibe.

Saleh Baeshen, one of the oldest traders in the area, told Arab News that shoppers from across the region, especially from Gulf countries, come to enjoy the “unique Ramadan vibes in the historic Al-Balad.”

Baeshen said: “Loads of vintage decoration items and huge lanterns that are usually hung in big buildings and shops” can be found in Al-Balad. Special exhibitions, which usually begin two weeks before Ramadan and continue until the first week of the holy month, are held annually to promote local products and bring joy to visitors and residents alike.

One such exhibition is being held at Al-Harthi Exhibition Center in Jeddah, with more than 200 local and regional brands taking part.




The exhibition is held annually two weeks prior to the holy month with over 200 participating brands. (AN Photo by Abdullah Alfaleh)

Khidr Ismael, who came all the way from Egypt to take part in the exhibition, said that he inherited the trade of making lanterns from his ancestors. At the exhibition, he offers Ramadan decorations, such as Ramadan-themed printed fabrics, utensils with Arabic and Islamic inscriptions, furnishings, lighting and tents.

“The crescent-shaped lanterns are trending this year; it is available in the two-meter size … and this year we are offering stainless steel lanterns that have better quality and longevity,” he said.




Vendors are all set for the influx of Muslims from all over the world at a market in the western Saudi city of MadinaH. (AFP)

The Culinary Arts Commission has also launched the Ramadan Market in Jeddah, which will run until March 22. The market displays local culinary and Ramadan products, including baked goods, sweets, dates, spices, coffee, nuts, honey, toys, clothes and antiques.

For families coming to enjoy the holiday, the market hosts spaces such as a children’s area and activities including drawing, photography and henna. It will also serve as an opportunity for local vendors to display their products.

The Kingdom’s Ministry of Culture has launched Ramadan Season, a series of events that will take place in 14 cities across Saudi Arabia and will be held in more than 38 locations. Ramadan Season offers a variety of experiences, including cultural, educational and entertainment events with a distinct Ramadan look.

 


Global Research Council re-elects Saudi Arabia as MENA region chair

Global Research Council re-elects Saudi Arabia as MENA region chair
Updated 03 June 2023

Global Research Council re-elects Saudi Arabia as MENA region chair

Global Research Council re-elects Saudi Arabia as MENA region chair
  • The decision came during the 11th annual meeting of the Global Research Council in The Hague
  • The Kingdom presented a working paper on the challenges and opportunities faced by the research councils in the MENA region

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia has been re-elected to represent the Middle East and North Africa region on the governing board of the Global Research Council during its 11th annual meeting in The Hague, The Netherlands, the Saudi Press Agency reported on Saturday.
The President of King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology, Dr. Munir Eldesouki, will continue to represent Saudi Arabia at the GRC and his re-election reaffirms the Kingdom’s prominent position in the scientific and research fields and its commitment to enhancing joint cooperation among research centers in the MENA region.
This achievement is also a testament to the unwavering support of King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who is head of the Higher Committee of Research, Development and Innovation.
During the annual meeting, which took place from May 29 to June 2, Eldesouki chaired a meeting of the heads of research councils from the MENA region and participated in a panel discussion on the funding of climate change research, in which the participants endorsed a statement to strengthen international cooperation, research outputs, scientific communication, financing strategies, taking into account social and economic conditions, local cultures and knowledge, capacity building in science, innovation and entrepreneurship, and identifying best practices.
Eldesouki, who is also the general supervisor of the founding team of the Research, Development and Innovation Authority, met with a number of heads of international research councils from Singapore, Canada, the US, Turkiye, Britain and Germany to discuss areas of cooperation on the sidelines of the annual meeting.
The Kingdom presented a working paper on the challenges and opportunities faced by the research councils in the MENA region and the delegation participated in a number of other key meetings, including the council’s executive committee, the international consultative committee, and the working groups concerned with equality, diversity and inclusion, responsible evaluation of research, and international multilateral funding.
Saudi Arabia has played a pivotal role in the GRC’s work since its establishment in 2012, including strengthening cooperation between research funding institutions, exchanging best practices and expertise in supporting scientific research, and exploring ways to support the scientific community across the world.
The Kingdom currently occupies the position of vice-chair of the GRC’s board of governors and also represents the regional research councils of the MENA region on the board, as well as on the executive committee.


Dhahran students win big at first Formula 1 in Schools event in Saudi Arabia

Dhahran students win big at first Formula 1 in Schools event in Saudi Arabia
Updated 04 June 2023

Dhahran students win big at first Formula 1 in Schools event in Saudi Arabia

Dhahran students win big at first Formula 1 in Schools event in Saudi Arabia
  • Three teams showing great promise have qualified for Formula 1 in Schools World Finals in a first for Saudi Arabia

DHAHRAN: The Kingdom’s first Formula 1 in Schools event took place at the King Abdulaziz Center for Culture (Ithra) recently.

The three-day event featured F1 race car displays and discussion sessions led by F1 experts, as well as the announcement of the Saudi teams who will represent the Kingdom in the Aramco F1 in Schools World Finals in Singapore later this year: Shaheen from Dhahran, Oryx from Dhahran, and Abiyya from Riyadh.

The five regions represented were Dhahran, Al Ahsa, Riyadh, Madinah and Jeddah. Dhahran won big, collecting seven of the 13 national awards.

The three-day event at Ithra included race car displays and discussions. (SPA)

According to the official statement, “F1 in Schools is a global educational program that aims to raise awareness of STEM and Formula 1 among school students. Students are challenged and inspired through a STEM-based learning program covering topics such as physics, aerodynamics, design, manufacturing, branding, graphics, sponsorship, marketing, leadership/teamwork, media skills and financial strategy.

“The students will then apply what they learn in a practical, imaginative, exciting and competitive environment that echoes a scaled-down version of an F1 team.”

HIGHLIGHTS

• F1 in Schools is a competition where students form teams to design and manufacture miniature F1 race cars.

• The Saudi teams that won the national finals are Shaheen from Dhahran, Oryx from Dhahran, and Abiyya from Riyadh.

Andrew Denford, founder and chairman of F1 in Schools, told Arab News: “I’ve just attended the first ever Saudi Arabia national final, it’s been absolutely incredible.” He noted that 68% of the participating students were female.

The F1 in Schools World Finals will take place in Singapore in September. (Supplied)

“We’re over the moon,” he continued. “I can’t wait to see the three teams in Singapore in September in the World Finals.”

During the awards ceremony, Ithra director Abdullah Al-Rashid offered words of encouragement to the students. He said Saudi Arabia is known for its energy — but will also be now known for the energy of its youth.

He noted that the F1 in Schools program not only helped to create young leaders of the future, but built friendships that he hoped would last a lifetime. The students “didn’t just build a car,” he told the crowd.

Dhahran also is sending F1 in Schools’ second place winners, ORYX team, to Singapore to represent the Kingdom. (Supplied)

Aramco announced its plan to sponsor F1 in Schools as a title partner back in 2019. Ithra, being an Aramco initiative, took the wheel in the Kingdom, in partnership with the King Fahd University for Petroleum and Minerals.

Through a rigorous selection process, 16 teams from across Saudi Arabia were chosen to participate. Each team had a local training hub, including specialist facilitators and a state-of-the-art research and development lab. The training included creating a brand identity and marketing plan, as well as learning about the engineering involved in F1 cars.

We call ourselves Shaheen. It is the fastest supercomputer in the world (located in KAUST). And it’s also Arabic for ‘falcon,’ which represents the culture of our country, Saudi Arabia.

Noor Alsadat, Shaheen project manager

David Palfreeman, one of the judges, who flew in from Australia for the occasion, has been a judge in the program since 2018. He noted that the students in Saudi Arabia were already at the same level as some of the graduate students he has met.

“Super, super-impressed with the quality of the presentation and documentation, the standard is really high. Just very, very well presented. Really well thought-out, consistent,” he told Arab News. “The Saudi students are all so articulate, they’re so confident. It’s really exciting.”

Riyadh’s ABIYYA team won third place and is also heading to Singapore in September to represent the Kingdom. (Supplied)

Ithra also hosted a few interactive sessions to coincide with the announcement of the winners. The Great Hall had F1 simulator stations, exhibition booths, a Lego workshop, a pit-stop challenge and a “Formula 1 Through the Years” exhibition.

In the main plaza, a neon-green Aston Martin car with the Aramco logo could be seen and was likely the most photographed item during the three-day event. There was also a booth selling official Aramco and Aston Martin F1 merchandise, including gilets, caps, t-shirts and other items.

The big winners of the day, team Shaheen, were led by project manager Noor Alsadat, who jumped up and down with her whole team as the crowd rose to their feet to applaud them.

“We are very happy that we won first place. I’m very proud of my team. We came from different schools, we met in the Khobar Hub and we created our team,” Alsadat told Arab News. “We call ourselves Shaheen. It is the fastest supercomputer in the world (located in KAUST). And it’s also Arabic for ‘falcon,’ which represents the culture of our country, Saudi Arabia.”

 


Saudi minister of industry and mineral resources begins official visit to Egypt

Saudi minister of industry and mineral resources begins official visit to Egypt
Updated 03 June 2023

Saudi minister of industry and mineral resources begins official visit to Egypt

Saudi minister of industry and mineral resources begins official visit to Egypt
  • Bandar Alkhorayef is set to meet with various government officials and investors
  • His visit will explore opportunities to enhance cooperation in the industry and mining sectors

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s Minister of Industry and Mineral Resources Bandar Alkhorayef began an official visit to Egypt to discuss bilateral relations and explore opportunities to enhance cooperation in the industry and mining sectors, the Saudi Press Agency reported on Saturday.
Alkhorayef, who is being accompanied by Deputy Minister of Industry and Mineral Resources Osama Al-Zamil, is scheduled to meet with various government officials and investors in the industrial and mining sectors from both countries, and will conduct field visits to multiple companies and factories.
This visit is part of Saudi Arabia’s efforts to bolster the role of the industrial and mining sectors in the national economy and attract investors from around the world. His trip will also look to review investment opportunities and highlight the Kingdom’s initiatives to develop the two sectors.
Last year, the volume of Saudi non-oil exports to Egypt exceeded SR11 billion ($2.9 billion), while imports totalled SR10 billion. The Kingdom’s primary exports to Egypt included petrochemicals, building materials, and medicines, while key imports consisted of food products, heavy machinery, and electronics.


Saudi Tour 2023 expands entertainment itinerary

Egyptian singer Sherine performed recently at a Kingdom Tour event. (Twitter/ Enjoy_Saudi)
Egyptian singer Sherine performed recently at a Kingdom Tour event. (Twitter/ Enjoy_Saudi)
Updated 03 June 2023

Saudi Tour 2023 expands entertainment itinerary

Egyptian singer Sherine performed recently at a Kingdom Tour event. (Twitter/ Enjoy_Saudi)
  • Saudi Tour 2023 is one of the General Entertainment Authority initiatives aimed at providing entertainment to residents and visitors

RIYADH: The General Entertainment Authority’s Kingdom Tour 2023 has added more regions to its itinerary, bringing the total number of cities and regions to 17.

After Baha was added about a week ago, Turki Al-Sheikh, chairman of the authority, announced the inclusion of Najran in the events that will tour Saudi Arabia until the end of September.

In a statement, Al-Sheikh said: “Kingdom Tour 2023, which is the largest entertainment tour around the Kingdom, is being carried out in strategic partnership with the Quality of Life Program. Local companies in all regions are responsible for organizing and managing the tour.”

The tour has opened up opportunities for Saudis across the Kingdom to participate in various stages of the events, including pre-production and performance, as well as the supporting services, and logistical and technical services accompanying the events.

Al-Sheikh added that the authority aims to “maximize the economic benefits and achieve the social impact of the entertainment activities that the cities and regions will experience.”

FASTFACT

Kingdom Tour 2023 has opened up opportunities for Saudis across the country to participate in various stages of the events, including pre-production and performance, as well as the supporting services, and logistical and technical services accompanying the events.

He said that the youth of the Kingdom will play a major role in organizing the events, which will give them experience and increase their contribution to the entertainment sector, one of the promising sectors in the Kingdom.

Al-Sheikh concluded his statement by expressing his gratitude to King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman for their unlimited support for the entertainment sector and all sectors of the state.

Kingdom Tour 2023 is one of the General Entertainment Authority initiatives aimed at providing entertainment to residents and visitors.

Tour activities will feature Saudi and Arab stars, in addition to Saudi youth, participating in plays and concerts.

Events recently included a concert at King Abdulaziz Cultural Center in Baha featuring Asil Abu Bakr Salem and the young singer Rami Abdullah. In Abha, at King Khalid University Theater, Asala and Majid Almohandis also performed a concert.

Meanwhile, the Egyptian comedy play “Hatta La Yatir Al-Dukkan” was staged at the Literary and Cultural Club Theater in Hail.

 


Who’s Who: Moataz Bin Ali, regional vice president and managing director for Trend Micro

Moataz Bin Ali
Moataz Bin Ali
Updated 03 June 2023

Who’s Who: Moataz Bin Ali, regional vice president and managing director for Trend Micro

Moataz Bin Ali

Moataz BinAli has been appointed as the regional vice president and managing director for Trend Micro in the Mediterranean, Middle East, Russia, Central Asia and Africa since January.

In his new role, BinAli has taken on the strategic leadership of the company throughout the region, enhancing its position as a cybersecurity leader dedicated to secure digital information exchange.

BinAli’s responsibilities encompass leading Trend Micro’s efforts to strengthen cybersecurity for both government and private entities across the entire region.

He is focused on contributing to the region’s digital economy by driving cybersecurity adoption programs, and fostering the exchange and localization of cybercrime successful global practices in the region.

Under his leadership, numerous successful long-term partnerships have been established in both the public and private sectors.

He has significantly increased the company’s profits, spearheaded a qualitative leap in the region, and expanded its influence across all levels. Additionally, he has brought technical expertise and global business resources to the region.

BinAli established Trend Micro’s regional headquarters for the Middle East and Africa in Riyadh, making it the first global cybersecurity company to establish a regional hub in Saudi Arabia.

With over 20 years of professional experience in the information technology sector, BinAli is recognized as a forefront innovator and renowned transformer in the field.

Before joining Trend Micro, he held several leadership roles within global technology organizations, such as SAP, IBM and Microsoft in the region.

He holds a doctorate in technology innovation management from the Universite de Lyon. He also received a master’s degree in business administration with a focus on organizational management from the University at Buffalo, and a bachelor’s degree in software engineering from King Fahd University of Petroleum & Minerals.