NEOM becoming major attraction for filmmakers

NEOM becoming major attraction for filmmakers
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Updated 10 August 2023

NEOM becoming major attraction for filmmakers

NEOM becoming major attraction for filmmakers
  • Nine films in pipeline, says Telfaz11’s Ibraheem Al-Khairallah
  • NEOM’s landscape has desert, sea, mountains and snow

RIYADH: The diverse landscape and high-tech facilities of Saudi Arabia’s NEOM development are set to attract an increasing number of filmmakers over the next few years.

This is according to Ibraheem Al-Khairallah, the creative director and partner of Telfaz11, the media production company, who appeared recently on The Mayman Show.

Al-Khairallah said an agreement has recently been signed with NEOM to produce nine films over the next three years.

“We’re happy to announce that NEOM has all the facilities to make the greatest projects happen in Saudi; and also in terms of locations, in terms of equipment there, in terms of sound studios, as we know that (a) couple of international films have been shot there. And now they want to put the light on some locals there on the ground and we’re happy,” he said.

“The ground there is rich. They’ve got the sea, they’ve got the mountains and they got the desert … (and) in the winter they got the snow,” he added.

Al-Khairallah said NEOM’s world-class facilities that will facilitate the production practices similar to the film “300.” The “entire film was shot in a studio. So you can shoot whatever you want,” he added.

Al-Khairallah said that it would also be possible for Saudi Arabia to produce “spaghetti” Westerns in NEOM, like Italian producers had done in Europe.

On Telfaz11, Al-Khairallah said the company has been focusing on various local and international productions.

He explained that a part of Telfaz11’s expansion strategy involves showcasing content through their theater project called Asphalt. In addition, international projects would be released under Telfaz11 Studios at various festivals, which would hopefully see networking and collaboration with globally-recognized musicians, directors and actors.

Al-Khairallah produced and acted in the movie “Sattar” which is considered Saudi Arabia’s most successful film. He said the film’s production was “an amazing journey.” He was “very proud” of his first role as a producer, and now has a great deal more respect for those individuals who are involved on the production side of filmmaking.

He praised Egypt’s movie industry because of its ability to reach audiences, including in the Kingdom. There was a gap in the market to produce films in the mould of Egypt, including comedies and musicals, which Saudis would “love.”

He said it would be “a win” even if such Saudi Arabia-produced films break even.

Health, Transport, and Logistics Ministries Collaborate for Smooth Pilgrimage Experience

 Health, Transport, and Logistics Ministries Collaborate for Smooth Pilgrimage Experience
Updated 15 June 2024

Health, Transport, and Logistics Ministries Collaborate for Smooth Pilgrimage Experience

 Health, Transport, and Logistics Ministries Collaborate for Smooth Pilgrimage Experience

MAKKAH:The security spokesman for the Ministry of Interior, Colonel Talal bin Abdulmohsen Al-Shalhoub, announced the successful implementation of the plan's first phase to smoothly transport pilgrims to the holy sites. 

He made his statement on Friday during the daily press conference for the Hajj season 2024, with the participation of official spokespersons for the Ministries of Hajj and Umrah, Health, Transport and Logistics.

Al-Shalhoub announced the completion of transporting pilgrims from the Grand Mosque to Mina, where they will stay overnight in preparation for their next stop at Arafat.

He indicated that 160 fake hajj campaigns were seized thus far, with 135,098 illegal vehicles were denied access.

Al-Shalhoub said that the number of non-residents of Makkah who were returned reached 250,381 people, and 6,135 were caught violating the city’s residency, work, and border security regulations.

“Saudi Arabia will always and firmly hinder all efforts to turn the holy sites during Hajj into an arena for demagogic chants that are far removed from the purposes of Sharia law, the holiness of the occasion and the spirituality of worship,” he said.

Al-Shalhoub added that any attempts to disrupt the security of pilgrims in any way will be dealt with firmly.

“The safety of the guests of God is a red line for the security authorities working in Hajj.”

Ayed Al-Ghuwaynem, the undersecretary of the Ministry of Hajj and Umrah for Hajj Affairs, said that the most prominent infrastructure development projects in the holy sites include water networks and electrical power to improve services and raise the efficiency.

He added that the digital transformation processes led by Nusuk platform created a shift for pilgrims to access services, indicating that the number of readings of the response code printed on the Nusuk card exceeded 3 million readings.

Nusuk is the first-ever official planning, booking and experience platform for Hajj and Umrah.

The official spokesman for the Ministry of Health, Dr. Mohammad Al-Abdulali, reviewed the services and care provided by the health system, in integration with various agencies and entities, to the pilgrims during this year’s Hajj season.

He said that approximately 35,000 members of the healthcare system, along with approximately 5,500 volunteers, are responsible for providing services through 189 integrated hospitals, health centers, and mobile clinics.

“Fourteen health control centers in the Kingdom’s ports, 98 emergency centers, 32 mobile medical-supply trucks, and 12 laboratories are operational for pilgrims.”

Al-Abdulali added that there are 6,515 beds, including more than 800 intensive care beds and over 280 beds for heatstroke and heat exhaustion.

Aside from virtual clinics, there are seven ambulance planes, 729 ambulance cars and emergency and rapid response vehicles.

He said that 99 percent of domestic pilgrims had completed the health requirements for vaccinations.

“One-hundred and fifty permits were canceled to preserve the pilgrims’ public health, while others who adhered to the health requirements were enabled.”

The official spokesman for the transport and logistics system Saleh Al-Zwaid, stated that the Kingdom’s airports received, as of Thursday, more than 19 thousand flights from over 72 air carriers, coming from more than 90 countries.


Muslim pilgrims converge at Mount Arafat for daylong worship as Hajj reaches its peak

Muslim pilgrims converge at Mount Arafat for daylong worship as Hajj reaches its peak
Updated 15 June 2024

Muslim pilgrims converge at Mount Arafat for daylong worship as Hajj reaches its peak

Muslim pilgrims converge at Mount Arafat for daylong worship as Hajj reaches its peak
  • Hajj officially started Friday when pilgrims moved from Makkah’s Grand Mosque to Mina
  • Saudi authorities expect the number of pilgrims this year to exceed 2 million

MOUNT ARAFAT, Saudi Arabia: Following the footsteps of prophets beneath a burning sun, Muslims from around the world congregated Saturday at a sacred hill in Saudi Arabia for intense, daylong worship and reflection.
The ritual at Mount Arafat, known as the hill of mercy, is considered the peak of the Hajj pilgrimage. It is often the most memorable for pilgrims, who stand shoulder to shoulder, feet to feet, asking God for mercy, blessings, prosperity and good health. The mount is about 20 kilometers (12 miles) southeast of Makkah.
It’s believed that Prophet Muhammad delivered his final speech, known as the Farewell Sermon, at the sacred mount 1,435 years ago. In the sermon, the prophet called for equality and unity among Muslims.
“It’s indescribable,” Ahmed Tukeyia, an Egyptian pilgrim, said on his arrival Friday evening at a tent camp at the foot of Mount Arafat.

Muslim pilgrims gather at top of the rocky hill known as the Mountain of Mercy, on the Plain of Arafat, during the annual Hajj pilgrimage, near the holy city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia, Saturday, June 15, 2024.  (AP)

Hajj is one of the largest religious gatherings on earth. The rituals officially started Friday when pilgrims moved from Makkah’s Grand Mosque to Mina, a desert plain just outside the city.
Saudi authorities expect the number of pilgrims this year to exceed 2 million, approaching pre-coronavirus pandemic levels.
The pilgrimage is one of the Five Pillars of Islam. All Muslims are required to make the five-day Hajj at least once in their lives if they are physically and financially able to make the demanding pilgrimage.

GALLERY: Hajj 2024: Muslims converge at Mount Arafat as pilgrimage reaches peak
The rituals largely commemorate the Qur’an’s accounts of Prophet Ibrahim, his son Prophet Ismail and Ismail’s mother Hajjar — or Abraham and Ismael as they are named in the Bible.
The time of year when the Hajj takes place varies, given that it is set for five days in the second week of Dhu Al-Hijjah, the last month in the Islamic lunar calendar.
Most of the Hajj rituals are held outdoors with little if any shade. When it falls in the summer months, temperatures can soar to over 40 Celsius (104 Fahrenheit). The Health Ministry has cautioned that temperatures at the holy sites could reach 48 C (118 F). It urged pilgrims to use umbrellas and drink more water to stay hydrated.

Muslim pilgrims arrive at the Mountain of Mercy, on the Plain of Arafat, during the annual Hajj pilgrimage, near the holy city of Makkah, Saudi Arabia, Saturday, June 15, 2024. (AP)

After Saturday’s worship in Arafat, pilgrims will travel a few kilometers (miles) to a site known as Muzdalifa to collect pebbles that they will use in the symbolic stoning of pillars representing the devil back in Mina.
Pilgrims then return to Mina for three days, coinciding with the festive Eid Al-Adha holiday, when financially able Muslims around the world slaughter livestock and distribute the meat to poor people. Afterward, they return to Makkah for a final circumambulation, known as Farewell Tawaf.
Once the Hajj is over, men are expected to shave their heads, and women to snip a lock of hair in a sign of renewal. Most of the pilgrims then leave Makkah for the city of Medina, some 340 kilometers (210 miles) away, to pray in Prophet Muhammad’s tomb, the Sacred Chamber. The tomb is part of the prophet’s mosque, which is one of the three holiest sites in Islam, along with the Grand Mosque in Makkah and the Al Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem.
In recent years, Saudi authorities have made significant efforts to improve access and avoid deadly accidents. Tens of thousands of security personnel were deployed across the city, especially around the holy sites, to control the crowds, and the government built a high-speed rail link to ferry people between holy sites in the city, which has been jammed with traffic during the Hajj season. Pilgrims enter through special electronic gates.
Saudi authorities have also expanded and renovated the Grand Mosque where cranes are seen around some of its seven minarets as construction was underway in the holy site.

Saudi Arabia receives Asian Physics Olympiad flag, prepares to host 2025 event

Saudi Arabia receives Asian Physics Olympiad flag, prepares to host 2025 event
Updated 55 min 32 sec ago

Saudi Arabia receives Asian Physics Olympiad flag, prepares to host 2025 event

Saudi Arabia receives Asian Physics Olympiad flag, prepares to host 2025 event
  • Malaysia handed over the symbolic flag after its successful hosting of the 2024 APhO edition last week

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia has officially received the Asian Physics Olympiad flag as it prepares to host the 2025 round of one of the largest scientific events in Asia, the Saudi Press Agency reported on Friday.

The symbolic flag was handed over to the Kingdom by Malaysia, which recently hosted the 2024 APhO event in Kampar.

Saudi Arabia’s team of eight students won five awards in the 2024 competition, which featured 208 students from 27 countries from June 3 to June 10.

Saudi Arabia won five awards during the 2024 Asian Physics Olympiad held in Kampar, Malaysia. (SPA)

Some 27 countries are participating in the 25th APhO, which will be held in May 2025, organized by the King Abdulaziz and His Companions Foundation for Giftedness and Creativity — also known as the Mawhiba foundation — and the Ministry of Education, in cooperation with King Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals, SPA said.

Dr. Amal bint Abdullah Al-Hazza, secretary-general of the Mawhiba foundation, was quoted by SPA as saying hosting such international competition “reflects the great importance and international appreciation of the Kingdom’s position in the scientific and educational field.”

It also “confirms the Kingdom’s strength globally, and the extent of its interest in creating a future to achieve the Kingdom’s Vision 2030,” he said.

“This cooperation reflects the Kingdom’s commitment to promoting science and knowledge and encouraging students to participate in such international events.

“This hosting is an affirmation of the efforts made to develop education in the Kingdom, and it also represents an opportunity to enhance communication and cooperation with other countries in the field of science, as the event promises rich educational and interactive opportunities for ambitious students and youth from various parts of Asia, which contributes to enriching their educational experience and encouraging them,” Al-Hazza said.

Saudi Arabia is currently preparing to host the International Chemistry Olympiad set for next month, with 90 countries participating.

The international event is also being organized by Mawhibah, together with the Ministry of Education and King Saud University, with exclusive sponsorship from the Saudi Basic Industries Corporation.

How Saudi Arabia aims to make Hajj 2024 an eco-friendly pilgrimage

How Saudi Arabia aims to make Hajj 2024 an eco-friendly pilgrimage
Updated 15 June 2024

How Saudi Arabia aims to make Hajj 2024 an eco-friendly pilgrimage

How Saudi Arabia aims to make Hajj 2024 an eco-friendly pilgrimage
  • Journey causes environmental strain through waste, water and energy consumption, and carbon emissions
  • By adopting sustainable practices, pilgrims can contribute to a greener journey and minimize their impact

JEDDAH: Hajj draws about 2 million people each year. However, this monumental event places a significant strain on the environment through waste, water and energy consumption, and carbon emissions. 

That is why measures have been put in place to encourage pilgrims to minimize their waste, use resources judiciously, and reduce their overall carbon footprint while fulfilling their Hajj obligations.

Various government bodies are collaborating to manage solid waste, promote environmentally conscientious behaviors, and mitigate the adverse effects of litter on the environment.



In a statement posted on X, the National Waste Management Center said: “With integrated efforts to safeguard the environment of the holiest places on earth, MWAN inspection teams are conducting rounds to ensure safe waste management, facilitating the performance of Hajj rituals with ease and peace of mind.”

Its teams inspected 49 operational facilities in the waste management sector across Makkah and Madinah in May to ensure their compliance with waste management regulations.

Teams from the Saudi National Waste Management Center conduct inspections regularly to ensure safe waste management. (X: @ncwmsa)

MWAN says that it aims to roll out several initiatives to serve pilgrims, optimize natural resource use, and promote public health and environmental sustainability.

The National Center for Environmental Compliance plays a crucial role in gathering data and monitoring air quality before, during and after the Hajj season.

“These figures are sent directly to the central monitoring station, where national experts analyze them and issue daily reports provided to the Hajj Committee,” Saad Al-Matrafi, the center’s spokesperson, told Arab News.

“Quick responses from field committees and appropriate decisions are made upon observing significant deviations to ensure the safety of the pilgrims.”

In the streets of Makkah province, thousands of cleaners are hard at work separating plastic waste from compost as more than two million Muslims wrap up their annual hajj pilgrimage. (AFP)

The center also conducts inspection rounds of sites and facilities to ensure compliance with environmental regulations and standards.

“The first phase of this year’s operational plan has been completed, which includes inspection rounds of sites and facilities in the health, municipal, industrial, agricultural, fuel stations, and roads used by pilgrims,” Mohammed Ammar Ameen, the head of the center’s Hajj Operations Room, told Arab News.

Ameen said that any facility found to be non-compliant during these visits was reported to the relevant authorities to ensure the quality of environmental conditions before the start of Hajj rituals.

Maintaining the sacred ambiance: Sanitizing and perfuming the Grand Mosque ensures lasting memories of cleanliness and pleasant fragrances for all pilgrims. (SPA)

In the second phase, the center will intensify its field visits around Makkah and the holy sites, monitoring water, soil and air samples to ensure their safety.

“This year’s monitoring plan includes monitoring environmental violations and responding to environmental emergencies in the holy site camps,” Ameen said. 

“The center’s team of inspectors and environmental specialists work around the clock to ensure the comfort of guests through continuous environmental monitoring and instant detection of any violations in environmental standards and noise pollution.”


• The electric Holy Sites Train produces zero carbon emissions, preserving the environment and pilgrims’ health.

• The National Center for Waste Management is raising awareness about environmentally friendly behaviors.

• The National Center for Environmental Compliance established 20 air quality monitoring stations in Makkah and Madinah.

• The National Center for Wildlife Development works to ensure baboon-free zones at the holy sites.

Clean water for drinking and for carrying out ablutions is provided at dispensing stations around the holy sites and along connecting routes to keep pilgrims and performers of Umrah cool and hydrated.

The Ministry of Environment, Water and Agriculture has initiated 10 projects to enhance water infrastructure, with 2,000 employees dedicated to providing services to pilgrims.

Abdulrahman Al-Fadley, minister of environment, water and agriculture, said that there was an average daily pumping volume of more than 750,000 cubic meters per day to Makkah and the holy sites, rising to more than one million cubic meters per day on the day of Arafa and the days of Eid Al-Adha.

During the Hajj season, 750,000 cubic meters of water are pumped in Makkah every day. (SPA)

Water storage has reached 3.2 million cubic meters. There are also about 4,100 daily laboratory tests carried out to ensure water quality.

Meanwhile, the National Center of Meteorology is monitoring weather conditions in the event of extreme heat events.

Al-Matrafi of the National Center for Environmental Compliance said that he and other departments had devised a set of environmental performance metrics to help encourage improvements.


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“Through strategic analysis of environmental performance and challenges during the Hajj seasons, we aim to pinpoint areas for improvement and innovation,” he said.

“This approach enables us to develop sustainable environmental standards and introduce forward-looking initiatives, including implementing smart cities, adopting alternative energy sources, promoting recycling, and integrating environmentally friendly transportation systems.”

The Grand Mosque in Makkah has a fleet of rides running on electric battery. (Shutterstock)

These include electric trains, a fleet of electric buses, a rollout of brand new e-scooters, and even a pioneering, all-electric, self-driving aerial taxi service — the world’s first to be licensed by a civil aviation authority.

Despite its many environmental challenges, Hajj presents an opportunity for pilgrims to embrace sustainable practices — be that choosing to travel by electric vehicle, to reuse garments rather than buy new clothing, or simply by carrying a reusable bottle.

By adopting these sustainable practices, pilgrims can contribute to a greener Hajj journey and minimize their environmental impact.


Owner detained over fatal building collapse in Jeddah

Owner detained over fatal building collapse in Jeddah
Updated 14 June 2024

Owner detained over fatal building collapse in Jeddah

Owner detained over fatal building collapse in Jeddah
  • Request for a building permit contained false information, says Oversight and Anti-Corruption Authority

RIYADH: The owner of a building that collapsed in Jeddah at the end of May, killing seven people and injuring another eight, has been detained, the Oversight and Anti-Corruption Authority announced on Thursday.
The authority found that the building owner, Firas Hani Jamal Al-Turki, the deputy minister for shared services at the Ministry of Culture, had tried to apply for a building permit.
The local municipality ordered Al-Turki to stop construction on the building after it was found to have technical defects, but he failed to comply.
Al-Turki’s legal representative, Fahad Hussein Ali Sanba, who works at the same ministry department, communicated with an engineering consultancy office owned by a Saudi citizen, Majed Mohammed Jameel Bushnaq, through a Yemeni intermediary contractor, Mohammed Salim Ahmed Al-Hussaissi, the authority said.
The legal representative sought to obtain a building permit through the office to construct two additional floors and an upper annex. Subsequently, an employee of the engineering office submitted a request for a demolition permit, followed by a request for a building permit containing false information, including doctored photos indicating that the building had been demolished, in exchange for SR50,000 ($13,325).
Al-Turki transferred the money to his legal representative, who then handed it to one of the office employees in cash. The project contractor proceeded with the construction, leading to increased loads and the collapse of the building.
The building owner admitted to paying the financial amount as a bribe in exchange for the illegal issuance of the building permit.
All individuals involved have been detained and legal proceedings are being taken against them, the authority said.