JEDDAH: The second City Walk Jeddah ended on Wednesday after 45 days of shows, activities and performances from international stars.
The event opened on April 24 to provide entertainment with the theme “Together All Year.”
Organized on an area of 282,000 square meters, the City Walk had 10 subzones representing different thematic experiences such, Anime Village, BBQ Yard, DJ Station, Horror Village, Splash, Wonder Wall, and Roller Disco, Fashion Village, Movie Land and Carnival.
The Movie and Carnival zones featured performers strolling among visitors, circus dance shows and filming and production studios for youngsters.
Visitors told Arab News they loved the event.
Ash Rafie, a 17-year-old Tunisian resident in Jeddah, visited City Walk three times with his friends and loved the games and attractions. “City Walk for me is the best thing here in Jeddah, maybe in all Saudi Arabia,” he said
He said it was sad to see it end just before the school summer holidays. “It is closing at a bad time! I would like it to close at the end of the vacation because I really like this place.”
Kristina, 36, a visitor from Romania, said that City Walk was enjoyable. “People are very friendly and fun … the scary sub-zone was very captivating.”
Rayan Jameel, 21, who travels from Makkah to Jeddah for work, said he left his office a day early “to just catch up with my friends here and get to see this unforgettable place.”
Anime Village and Horror Village were the best zones for him.
Hassan Yamani, a Saudi who has lots of TikTok followers, said he visited City Walk nine times with his friends and the Horror Village the most. “To be honest the Horror Village was extra thrilling, I tried all horror experiences today with my friends including the school … a jail and court. We were very scared but it was super fun.”
The Horror Village experience included three mazes, a haunted house, stunts performed to visitors and actors playing as zombies, ghosts and monsters.
Inside the village, there is a justice court, police station and a prison, where visitors.
Another attraction in the village was a “Psycho Maze” where inmates of a psychiatric hospital were on the loose, and an abandoned haunted school that turned students and teachers into zombies.
The village also features a Saudi restaurant called Trend based on the American horror movie “It.”
Abdullah Salem, a Saudi who traveled from Riyadh, said: “I toured all the sub-zones twice, I really liked it all here.”
“I did not expect that City Walk would be this great. I am into Japanese culture, and I loved the Anime Village so much.”
The arcade games area witnessed tremendous traction from youngsters. Maya Mohammed, a 12-year-old Saudi visitor, who came with her family played air hockey with her aunt at the arcade games area. There were also machines for Tetris, Pac-man and other games.
She also loved the roller coasters and the Carnival sub-zone. “It is really fun, you can scream all the time there.”
Maya’s mother said: “The place here is worth visiting, the efforts compared to the previous version of City Walk indeed varies in terms of the number of activities and games varieties.”
The Carnival sub-zone featured four main experiences, such as “Iconic Brides,” “Top Buzz,” “Big Wheel,” and “Artistic,” in addition to nine fun games and three restaurants.
Another Saudi national Elyas Al-Ghamdi, 16, liked the stage area most as he is a huge fan of music and DJs. “They are playing beautiful music all the time,” he said.
Al-Ghamdi played all the games and loved the Splash area filled with water guns, water skiing and boats, as well as activities such as “Big Waves,” “Water Maze,” “Water Curtain.”
Clutching a stuffed animal toy he had won in a competition, Moatasim Saeed said he “loved everything about City Walk ... everything is joyful here, especially the Anime Village.”
The Fashion Village this year included a retro skating disco area with the 1980s and 1990s vibes. According to City Walk, 950 people used to visit the roller-skating area each day. Tuesday was free entry day to those in 1980s costume.
Visitors to the Fashion Village enjoyed soulful music played by three Saudi and one international DJs, who performed in the middle of the ring to everyone’s thrill.
City Walk also featured over 20 restaurants offering cuisine from all over the world. Drive-in allowed visitors to eat inside a classic car while enjoying watching a film.
City Walk was also an attraction for high-profile visitors from around the world including South Africa’s Ambassador to Saudi Arabia Mogobo David Magabe and his diplomatic delegation, as well as superstars of WWE such as Rhea Ripley, LA Knight, Omos, Karrion Kross & Scarlett, and Rick Boogs who visited in March and enjoyed games, rides, and dine.
Who’s Who: Majed Al-Saadi, general manager of investor outreach at Saudi Ministry of Investment
Updated 9 sec ago
Majed Al-Saadi has been the general manager of investor outreach at the Saudi Ministry of Investment since November 2019.
With more than 20 years of experience in investment generation, project management, and stakeholder engagement, he is skilled at building solid relationships and partnerships.
His role involves promoting Saudi Arabia as an investment destination, and he has been successful in attracting targeted investors, and engaging stakeholders.
As a mentor and team leader he aims to foster an ecosystem of strategic partnerships and oversees new regulations to facilitate economic growth and foreign investments.
His career highlights have included playing a pivotal role in the issue of investor licenses for 160 companies. His collaboration with 29 global forums led to 5,000 foreign investments being secured.
And his work in matching international investors with relevant government entities resulted in $17 billion in investments.
Prior to his current role, he was the ministry’s executive director of investor solutions for two years, being instrumental in encouraging positive relationships with investors and providing customized solutions.
As a business development specialist, general manager, and board and committee member, Al-Saadi has helped shape strategies and drive growth in diverse organizations and projects.
In addition, he has been a board member at the Halal Center since 2021, vice chairman of the Local Content Development Committee since 2022, and committee member at the Royal Court managing predefined investors since 2019.
Italy ‘deeply committed’ to stronger ties with Saudi Arabia, Gulf region, Deputy PM Antonio Tajani tells Arab News
Tajani describes Saudi Arabia as “a key player” in a geostrategically and economically significant region
Lauds Kingdom’s green transition and envisions Gulf region as renewable energy powerhouse for Europe
Updated 12 min ago
ROME: Italy is “deeply committed” to strengthening its relations with Saudi Arabia and other Gulf countries, according to Antonio Tajani, the country’s deputy prime minister and minister of foreign affairs and international cooperation.
In an interview with Arab News on the eve of his visit to Saudi Arabia, Tajani offered an expansive and promising perspective of both current and future relations between Italy and the Kingdom.
“The significance of this (Gulf) region on the global stage, in geostrategic and economic terms, can hardly be overstated,” he said.
“Saudi Arabia is a key player, and my visit to Riyadh is meant to reaffirm the strong ties that bind our two countries.”
He was referring to a relationship that has blossomed in recent years not only in the economic and commercial sectors but also at the geopolitical and cultural levels.
Ties between the two countries were first established in February 1932, which were cemented after the establishment of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia by a trade treaty signed on Sept. 22 the same year.
“Our objective is to strengthen our relationship even further,” Tajani said. “Italy’s approach is based on dialogue and consensus building across the board, with no hidden agenda. We can therefore play a role in fostering strategic partnership based on mutual understanding and capable of producing positive outcomes to the benefit of the countries involved, in the interest of international stability.”
According to data from the Observatory of Economic Complexity, Italy exported over $4 billion in goods to Saudi Arabia, mainly machine parts and medicaments, in 2021. The same year, Saudi exports to Italy — primarily crude and refined petroleum — reached $5.86 billion. In 2022, the volume of trade between Italy and Saudi Arabia reached 11.5 billion euros ($12.04 billion).
Italy and Saudi Arabia are also seeking to diversify their trade ties, particularly as both the Kingdom and the EU are moving away from fossil fuels as part of a transition to “green energy” and economic diversification.
Tajani described the Arab Gulf region as a potential renewable energy powerhouse of strategic importance for both Italy and Europe, maintaining over time its relevance as a key supplier in this domain.
In this regard, he pointed out that the EU plans to import clean electricity and hydrogen under the REPowerEU plan, which aims to end the bloc’s reliance on Russia’s gas supplies by 2030.
“We commend the great efforts undertaken (by the Gulf countries), particularly by Saudi Arabia, in the green transition by investing in solar and wind power and in refocusing fossil fuels for hydrogen production,” Tajani said.
“I am sure that this strategy will guarantee you amazing returns in the long run.”
Elaborating on the issue, he said: “For example, the green hydrogen produced at NEOM (smart city in Saudi Arabia) can indeed feed the European market by transiting through the Italian network.
“In addition, Italy is already acting as a supplier of knowledge and technology for the Kingdom’s journey towards net zero, as many Italian companies are engaged in a number of energy projects with Saudi energy stakeholders, starting from Saudi Aramco and ACWA Power.”
On Sept. 4, ACWA Power signed deals with six Italian companies, including energy firm Eni, additives manufacturer Italmatch Chemicals, industrial solutions provider Industrie De Nora and waste management firm A2A. The agreements, finalized at the Saudi-Italian Investment Forum in Milan, cemented collaboration in the fields of green hydrogen, water desalination, and research into sustainable technologies.
The forum saw 21 cooperation agreements concluded in various sectors, from clean energy and healthcare to real estate and waste management. More than 1,000 companies attended the forum, which was a follow-up to the previous forum held in Riyadh last year.
“(Italy) is only in the top 20 as an investor in the Kingdom, and the value of our bilateral non-oil trade amounts to a mere $1.4 billion — which means we are far from reaching the full potential of our partnership,” Saudi Arabia’s Minister of Investment Khalid Al-Falih stated at this year’s forum.
Tajani said the Saudi-Italian Investment Forum was successful partly because “many Italian companies got to know the tangible opportunities available under Saudi Vision 2030, both in terms of upcoming tenders in the framework of megaprojects and giga-projects, and in terms of incentives for direct industrial investments.”
With more than 150 Italian companies currently holding foreign investment licenses in Saudi Arabia, there could be far greater economic cooperation on the horizon for the two countries.
Tajani said Italy can contribute to the megaprojects and giga-projects “because of its universally recognized know-how and expertise in sectors on which the Saudi authorities are focusing such as new mobility, new urban and architectural design, new residential areas and new touristic resorts.”
For good measure, he said: “We could collaborate with the Kingdom in getting the most from the nexus between tourism and historical heritage. We are already cooperating for the development of the AlUla and Diriyah UNESCO sites as well as Dumat Al-Jandal, where Italy has an important archeological mission for the last two decades.”
The Italian conservation institute Centro Conservazione e Restauro “La Venaria Reale” partnered with the Royal Commission for AlUla this year, which will see 12 Saudi professionals participating in workshops in northern Italy’s Turin and the Kingdom’s cultural heritage site at AlUla.
Last year, Italy was among the top five countries of origin for tourists to Saudi Arabia. The first half of 2022 witnessed around 1,500 Italians travel to the Kingdom.
Rome hosted the Saudi Village in late September this year, giving Italians a chance, in their own capital, to experience the Kingdom’s culture, heritage, cuisine and tourist attractions. Organized by the Saudi Embassy in Italy, the event was held in Villa Borghese, the historical park in the heart of Italy’s capital, with attractions for adults and children.
Several Italian and Saudi Arabia companies were represented at the event, as well as representatives from the Kingdom’s ministries of investment, sports, and education, Saudi Tourism Authority and Royal Commission for AlUla.
Italy is seeking Gulf and Saudi Arabia investments in the “Made in Italy” strategic fund, meant to boost critical supply chains. Referring to the fund, Tajani said it would be “a safe and profitable investment for Gulf sovereign funds, such as the Saudi Public Investment Fund (PIF), considering also that it is in line with their long-term strategies.”
He added: “The fund will be soon in place, after the approval of the parliament, which is underway, and will become a key instrument of Italian industrial policy. Through direct or indirect private equity investments, the fund will boost key Italian companies with considerable growth and of strategic importance for the overall economy.”
Tajani also said that Italy has launched a series of travelling exhibitions to showcase its manufacturing and creative industries abroad, highlighting their links with the local territory and know-how.
“‘Made in Italy’ is not only the so-called three Fs, namely fashion, food, furniture. In fact, Italy is the second-largest manufacturing country in Europe, a leader in high-value-added sectors, such as mechanics, electronics and pharmaceutical,” Tajani said.
“It is the combination of tradition and innovation that makes Italy capable of producing products that are increasingly appreciated in international markets. Against this backdrop, we would like to expand our economic and commercial partnership with countries like Saudi Arabia, which appreciate the value of Italian know-how, craftsmanship and beauty.”
He cited Ferrari and Maserati as examples of two “very well known ‘Made in Italy’ brands chosen all over the world not for their quality, design and functionality but also for the rich and diversified cultural heritage they embody.”
While Italy is searching for strategic investment from Saudi Arabia, it is also looking beyond the Gulf for partners in economic cooperation, although there are challenges and rewards to being part of international economic blocs.
Italy has recently questioned its continuing role in China’s Belt and Road Initiative, while agreeing to join the planned India-Middle East-Europe Economic Corridor, or IMEC, in mid-September.
“During my recent trip to Beijing, I confirmed Italy’s interest to develop even further our cooperation on many fronts. At the same time, I told my Chinese counterparts that Italy did not benefit from being part of the Belt and Road Initiative,” he said.
Tajani’s view is that there are other bilateral frameworks that could help develop and strengthen Italy’s relationship with China.
Looking to the future, he said: “Our government is willing to create stronger ties with key partners in the Middle East, such as Saudi Arabia, and India. Our decision to be part of the IMEC goes exactly in this direction.”
Italy is also seeking partners in the struggle against irregular migration, according to Tajani. “In July, we convened in Rome the International Conference on Development and Migration with key partners from Africa, the Mediterranean, and the Gulf,” he said.
“On that occasion, we launched the Rome Process to establish an inclusive and comprehensive dialogue to put in place wide-ranging cooperation to address the root causes of mass migration, fight against human trafficking and illegal immigration, govern legal migration flows, and support refugees and displaced persons.”
Tajani praised the participation of Prince Abdulaziz bin Saud bin Naif, Saudi Arabia’s interior minister, for his participation in the summit. “We are grateful for your country’s valuable contribution to its success. Italy and Saudi Arabia share the same view on fighting against human trafficking and criminal networks active in this field,” Tajani said.
Nearly one year has elapsed since the formation of a new government, which has been marked by the rekindling of international diplomatic relations and the rebuilding of bonds with the Arab world. Tajani called the progress made under the current government “remarkable.”
“Our main objective was to strengthen our partnership with Washington, make our voice more relevant in the EU arena, and infuse new energies in our relationship with key players in the Mediterranean, the Gulf, and Africa,” he said.
The government has made strong efforts toward improving and widening its ties with Arab countries. Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni has met with Jordan’s King Abdullah II and UAE President Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al-Nahyan. Meloni also visited Libya’s capital Tripoli in January this year, and recently spoke to Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman over the phone.
“Building upon the work we have done, we will keep creating new partnerships aimed at forging those alliances that are necessary to tackle the challenges of our times,” Tajani said.
Given Italy’s record of frequent government changes, did Tajani think the intense diplomatic activity will outlive the current government?
“I am confident that this government will arrive at the end of its five-year mandate. The majority in the parliament is strong and the Italian people trust us.”
Saudi Arabia condemns terror attack in Niger that left 29 soldiers dead
Foreign ministry sent condolences to the victims’ families and the people of Niger
Updated 13 min 37 sec ago
RIYADH: Saudi Arabia has condemned a terrorist attack in Niger on Monday that targeted soldiers deployed close to the nation’s border with Mali, the Saudi Press Agency reported on Wednesday. At least 29 Nigerien soldiers were killed and many more were seriously injured.
More than 100 extremists used homemade explosives in the assault on security forces who were carrying out a clearance operation in the border region of the West African nation, Niger’s defense minister, Lt. Gen. Salifou Mody, said on Monday. It was the second such attack on Nigerien soldiers in the space of a week.
The Saudi Ministry of Foreign Affairs said that the Kingdom strongly condemns the attack and rejects all forms of violence and terrorist activities. It also sent its condolences to the victims’ families and the people of Niger.
Saudi artist brings a unique perspective to the Saudi cultural landscape
Ruqaya Ismail, who describes herself as the Saudi van Gogh, aims to capture the essence of the Kingdom in her whimsical and imaginative works
Updated 18 min 4 sec ago
JEDDAH: As the Kingdom continues to go through a period of rapid change and modernization, and at the same time experiences an unprecedented cultural revival, Saudi artist Ruqaya Ismail is exploring and showcasing this transformative time through her whimsical and imaginative artwork.
Born in the US and raised in Saudi Arabia, she combines her background in interior architecture with a love of drawing to create captivating works that aim to capture the very essence of the Kingdom.
Ismail believes her country is successfully managing to strike a balance between its desire to modernize and its determination to preserve its rich culture, values, heritage and traditions. And she sees this equilibrium as providing a unique and inspiring platform for creativity that offers ample room for growth and exploration.
“From where I stand and what I see, Saudi Arabia is doing a fantastic job of balancing between modernization and culture, values and traditions,” she said.
Describing herself as the “Saudi van Gogh” on her social media platforms, Ismail said she has long been an admirer of Dutch master Vincent van Gogh and draws the inspiration for her art from Impressionism. Her works express her Saudi Arabian identity in a playful manner, she added, and through them she aims to contribute to the cultural landscape of Saudi Arabia by expressing her thoughts and emotions about the current state of the country.
“Art is a form of expression,” Ismail said. “It is a fun way to communicate our thoughts and emotions. I am showing my feelings about the current state of the Kingdom through my drawings.
“When my viewers understand my message, or sometimes continue the joke or idea in a comment or private message, I automatically feel a connection with them. And I know they feel the same towards me, though we don’t know one another.”
Her drawings often feature specific examples of Saudi culture presented in new and imaginative ways.
“I try to add whimsy, imagination and fantasy to my drawings,” she said. “This creates interest and opens the mind to new ideas. It somehow takes us back to earlier days when we as children had unlimited imaginations, which is also, in a way, nostalgic.”
To bring her visions of Saudi culture to life, she uses brown paper, markers and Gelly Roll pens.
“The brown paper gives a vintage effect and adds texture,” she explained. “Markers are beautiful because they are smooth and even, with no texture at all, emphasizing the texture of the brown paper.”
The gel pens add highlights and make certain parts of the artwork pop, she added.
“Being in college and working on my computer took me away from drawing for years,” said Ismail. “I started drawing again earlier this year and decided I wanted to move myself away from screens and go totally organic.”
She said she actively seeks inspiration from her followers on social media and engages with real people instead of search engines to capture the essence of the Kingdom.
“When I do start a drawing, I allow my feelings to navigate me through the creative process,” she explained.
Her Instagram page, @saudi_van_gogh, is relatively new but Ismail said she has already achieved some notable recognition. She won a contest to design a coffee cup for an international fast-food chain, and a video she made to celebrate Saudi National Day went viral. International companies have mentioned her art in their social media feeds, and her work has been showcased in a gallery.
“My social media page is not even a year old but so far, it has been a positive experience,” she added.