LONDON: The Red Sea should be the most pristine sea in the world but its ecosystem also contains ancient endangered species and this should be treated as a global issue, according to the director of a new documentary.
The film, “RED, A sea worth protecting,” highlights the efforts of scientists and conservationists to save endangered species including the dugong, turtles and sharks, listed under the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s red list of threatened species.
“The point we are trying to make is that it is a global issue and you can have what is supposed to be the most pristine place in the world, like the Red Sea, which is a very strong sea, (but) you still have problems and it’s important that the governments, officials, policymakers, NGOs and scientists communicate that and do something accordingly,” said Philip Hamilton, the film’s director.
“It’s one planet, the species migrate and they move (and) the problems of either coral bleaching, temperature rising or acidity is actually a global problem,” he told Arab News on the sidelines of a preview screening in London hosted by the Saudi embassy to the UK.
“So when we look at, for instance, the Red Sea, we should think about how we can protect the migratory species, how we can protect the pollution, moving from one place to another due to currents.”
The documentary, produced by UK-based Ocean Souls Films, focuses on ocean conservation. It starts with an introduction to the history of the Red Sea and its geography, highlighting its exceptional coral formations, mangrove forests and seagrass beds.
The film moves on to more specific details about the extraordinary, but critically endangered, marine species that make the Red Sea their home and provides an insight into what should be one of the “least concerning” seas in the world.
It follows the inspiring journey of a group of people dedicating their lives to protecting the Red Sea, sharing their frustrations and sacrifices, and their achievements and hopes.
“Even in the most remote places — thousands of kilometers south of the Antarctic Peninsula, you couldn’t possibly imagine that (after testing) certain animals who have never seen humans are infected with metals and microplastics and so on,” said the filmmaker, photographer and author.
The crew began filming the documentary — being presented at major international film festivals and soon to become available on social media channels — during the COVID-19 pandemic, which provided an opportunity to work in locations that would otherwise be crowded or full of tourists.
The Red Sea is a narrow strip of water lying between Africa and Asia, and which connects Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan, Sudan, Yemen, Somalia, Israel, Eritrea and Djibouti.
Hamilton said that the team worked extensively with Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah University of Science and Technology, which is doing extensive work via their coral research and development accelerator platform — launched in 2020 during the Kingdom’s presidency of the G20 to fast-track research and development solutions to save the world’s corals.
“I know they are doing a lot (and) the reality is that they are top in the world in terms of the technology, the know-how, and the people they have,” said Hamilton, who has more than 30 years diving and sailing experience and has documented most marine animals on the planet.
“When you highlight the work of one scientist or one NGO, it’s very important for me that it inspires other people around the world because then you have the leverage effect that you really want,” he said.
“It’s great if you are an inspiration and you do great work in one place, and then you are being copied 100 times around the world and you have a real important effect.
“I would love to see KAUST or plenty of other organizations be better known, not only by the scientific community, but people need to see all the great work they are doing.”
Hamilton called on the global community to increase collaboration and implement more marine protected areas. There was a need to replicate what happened in the Galapagos, Malpelo, Cocos and Coiba, he said, “where four countries got together and united to protect their own different individual zones and created one large corridor for species to migrate and be protected” throughout the migratory year.
“I think that’s what we need going forward,” he said. “We need countries to cooperate and go and act together.”
Hamilton was speaking with particular reference to the UAE’s hosting of the UN Climate Change Conference, also known as COP28, which will be held in November. The UAE will be the second consecutive Arab country to stage the annual global gathering, after Egypt held it last year in the resort city of Sharm El-Sheikh, which also lies on the Red Sea.
“We need to protect certain species before it’s too late,” Hamilton said, calling for more integrated planning. “I would expect not only this film to inspire solutions, but for instance, if you want to further develop your tourism, have a look at what could be causing certain problems to certain species, so when you grow, you do it properly.”
Hamilton said the Red Sea project and NEOM were bringing scientists together to provide information as the development of tourism was being planned.
Territorial waters extended to a limit of 12 nautical miles, he said. After that, areas were considered exclusive economic zones but there was a lack of sufficient marine protection laws protecting them.
“When we think about nature, we need to think about no borders, no frontiers, no passports, no visas, no religion, no race. We need to think about the animals and ecosystems in a totally different way.
“But from there to implementing high seas policies and (doing this) worldwide, it is very, very hard (and) that’s a little bit frustrating,” he said.
Saudi artist expresses faith, culture at Kosovo exhibition
Ghadeer Hafez has hints of blue on black and white paintings, which portrays ‘hope’ when turning humbly to God
Updated 02 October 2023
Jeddah: Saudi Arabia’s Ghadeer Hafez says her recent exhibition in Kosovo showcases her belief that faith can restore balance, meaning and purity in one’s life.
Her work was displayed at the Euro Kosovo International Art Festival from Sept. 22 to 29, which was held under the title “My Creative World in Kosovo,” and featured the output of 30 renowned artists from 20 countries.
Hafez was the only artist from Saudi Arabia invited to participate in the festival by Kosovo’s Ministry of Culture.
In an interview with Arab News recently, she said: “I am very keen to represent my country in international artistic forums around the world, and I consider this an integral part of my duty toward my country as a Saudi citizen and visual artist.”
In her latest work, Hafez departed from her previous style — characterized by vibrant colors depicting the hustle and bustle of life — with hints of blue on largely stark black and white paintings.
“We may get confused sometimes, but we find ourselves when we return to God. The works were dressed in two colors, black and white, as it distinguishes between the psychological state that a person experiences when he elevates his heart with God and a little ... the blue color is an expression of hope in life.”
“The goal of my artistic works is the human being and how God takes care of him.”
Hafez also believes that her work expresses Saudi Arabia culture, which she says speaks to all areas of life.
Saudi Arabia’s chief of staff meets Bahraini counterpart in Riyadh
Updated 02 October 2023
RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s chief of staff held discussions with his Bahraini counterpart on Sunday in Riyadh, and the two officials also visited the injured Bahraini soldiers receiving treatment in the capital.
During the meeting, Saudi Arabia’s Lt. Gen. Fayyad bin Hamid Al-Ruwaili and Bahrain’s Lt. Gen. Dhiyab bin Saqr Al-Nuaimi discussed ways to strengthen ties on the military front, the Saudi Press Agency reported.
The generals later visited the Bahraini soldiers who were injured in the Houthi drone attack on their positions last week, at Prince Sultan Military Medical City.
Saudia reveals bold rebranding for a tech-infused future
Top official says new look represents airline’s commitment to digital advancement
Saudia introduces option for female passengers to request seating next to other females
Updated 02 October 2023
REINA TAKLA & NOUR EL-SHAERI
RIYADH: The unveiling of a new brand identity for Saudi Arabian Airlines is more than a change in its appearance, as according to a top official it is but a part of a huge transformation in the company’s approach in line with the ongoing digital transformation.
Khaled Tash, group chief marketing officer at Saudia, told Arab News on Sunday the new look represented the airline’s commitment to digital advancement and an array of new services and products in the pipeline.
He said the rebranding signifies the company’s embrace of the developing tech industry, reflecting the Kingdom’s broader ambitions.
The official said: “This is not about changing our logo or changing our colors.” It is, he added, more about improving our services and introducing new products.
“We are very keen to accelerate the transition…the overall reaction from the market” has been overwhelming, Tash said.
Elaborating on how the update reinforces the airline’s digital transformation, Tash noted that Saudia stands out as one of the pioneering airlines in Europe, the Middle East, and Africa to integrate artificial intelligence into its customer experience.
“The Travel Companion is an AI-driven personal aide. When users access the Saudia app, it intuitively recognizes them without requiring manual data input and promptly aids with all travel-related queries,” elaborated Tash.
Highlighting its capabilities, he mentioned that users can ask Saudia’s travel companion bot for holiday recommendations, which will engage in an interactive dialogue to understand preferences before offering tailored suggestions.
Additionally, users can seamlessly book their flights directly within the chat interface when conversing with the travel companion, eliminating the need to navigate away from the conversation.
The AI-driven bot is slated for launch by the end of this year, coinciding with an enhanced version of the airline’s application.
“Digital transformation is not just a buzzword that we use, we aim to improve the customer experience using new innovations,” Tash stated.
He elaborated that, guided by that motto, the company has pinpointed 260 features and services for introduction or enhancement if they already exist.
The airline has also launched a VIP meet-and-greet service. Tash expects this addition to boost revenue from booking services by 10 percent.
In alignment with Arab culture, the airline has introduced an option for female passengers to request seating next to other female passengers on specific, long-duration flights.
Tash said the unprecedented growth in the Kingdom’s tourism sector is also proving to be fruitful for the airline and it is part of the ongoing transformation. He specifically mentioned the fact that Saudia is the first airline to begin operations to and from the Red Sea International Airport.
The marketing head also revealed that the airline has ambitious goals to more than triple its passenger count over the next seven years.
Clarifying the shift in Saudia’s vision, Tash mentioned that historically, the airline’s objective was to connect the Kingdom’s citizens to the world. However, the current goal emphasizes bringing the world to Saudi Arabia.