Registration for Hajj opens for domestic pilgrims

Muslim pilgrims pray outside Namira Mosque in Arafat on the second day of the annual Hajj pilgrimage near the holy city of Makkah, Saudi Arabia, June 27, 2023. (AP)
Muslim pilgrims pray outside Namira Mosque in Arafat on the second day of the annual Hajj pilgrimage near the holy city of Makkah, Saudi Arabia, June 27, 2023. (AP)
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Updated 11 February 2024
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Registration for Hajj opens for domestic pilgrims

Muslim pilgrims pray outside Namira Mosque in Arafat near the holy city of Makkah, Saudi Arabia, June 27, 2023. (AP)
  • There they can review all Hajj package options, with booking priority given to those who have yet to perform Hajj previously

JEDDAH: The Saudi Ministry of Hajj and Umrah announced the opening of registration for prospective 2024 pilgrims who are Saudi citizens or residents in the Kingdom.

Those wishing to perform Hajj from the Kingdom can register via the ministry’s website localhaj.haj.gov.sa or through the Nusuk application on smartphones and tablets from 1 p.m. on Sunday, Feb. 11.

There they can review all Hajj package options, with booking priority given to those who have yet to perform Hajj previously.

To make it easier for registrants, the ministry has made it possible to either pay the total amount upon registration or pay partially according to the terms and conditions stated.

The ministry urged registrants to ensure accuracy of information when registering and selecting packages, highlighting the importance of not using the same mobile number for more than one application.

Inquiries can be sent to the ministry via email at [email protected], by calling the Pilgrims Care Center at 1966 from within the Kingdom or calling the unified number — 920002814 — from inside and outside the Kingdom, or through the beneficiary care account on X: @MOHU_Care.

 


Saudi Shoura Council speaker holds meetings during official trip to Jordan

Saudi Shoura Council speaker holds meetings during official trip to Jordan
Updated 17 April 2024
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Saudi Shoura Council speaker holds meetings during official trip to Jordan

Saudi Shoura Council speaker holds meetings during official trip to Jordan
  • Gatherings attended by several officials from the 2 sides

RIYADH: The Speaker of the Saudi Shoura Council Sheikh Abdullah Al-Sheikh met Jordanian Prime Minister Bisher Khasawneh on Wednesday as part of his official visit to Jordan, the Saudi Press Agency reported.

The discussion emphasized the strong and deep-seated relations between Saudi Arabia and Jordan, highlighting their extensive coordination and cooperation across various sectors.

Both officials explored ways to enhance bilateral ties, with a particular focus on strengthening parliamentary relations.

Al-Sheikh also held discussions with Faisal Akef Al-Fayez, president of the Jordanian Senate, on the same day.

He highlighted Saudi Arabia’s rapid economic growth and development, attributing this progress to the leadership of the Kingdom.

Al-Sheikh expressed gratitude for Jordan’s unwavering support and spoke of the consistent backing the Kingdom has provided to Jordan.

The meeting also focused on ongoing cooperative efforts between the Shoura Council and the Jordanian Senate, along with discussions on various other subjects.

Both meetings were attended by several officials from the two sides.
 


Saudi artist embraces the unconventional with anti-aesthetic artworks

Saudi artist embraces the unconventional with anti-aesthetic artworks
Updated 17 April 2024
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Saudi artist embraces the unconventional with anti-aesthetic artworks

Saudi artist embraces the unconventional with anti-aesthetic artworks

RIYADH: In a world fixated on beauty and aesthetic perfection, Saudi artist Asrar Al-Qarni is boldly producing anti-aesthetic and unsettling art.

Through her work, the 33-year-old challenges traditional notions of beauty and protests conformity. She compels viewers to confront uncomfortable truths and explore darker aspects of society.

This unconventional approach to art can be seen as a romantic rebellion against society’s constraints, as well as a celebration of individuality and freedom of expression.

Al-Qarni told Arab News that anti-aesthetic art encourages people to look beyond the surface and find beauty in the unexpected and the unconventional. It seeks to disrupt the status quo and provoke thought and discussion about the nature of art itself: “Instead of being visually appealing and comforting, anti-aestheticism prioritizes evoking emotions and disturbing expression within the artwork,” the artist said.

This can lead to anti-aesthetic works being labeled ugly, jarring, or anti-art by those who prefer more aesthetically focused works.

By highlighting discord and dissonance in her paintings, Al-Qarni, a self-taught artist, creates a unique and thought-provoking experience for those who encounter her work. “Incorporating elements of chaos, ugliness and discomfort forces viewers to confront their preconceived notions about what art should be,” she added.

Al-Qarni became interested in anti-aesthetic art because of its raw human expression and beauty hidden by imperfections.

She uses bold colors and abstract shapes to create pieces that challenge viewers’ preconceptions and provoke a strong emotional response.

“I use various materials for my art, including mixed media, oil paint, acrylic paint and watercolor. My choice of materials depends on the specific technique or effect I want to achieve in my artwork,” Al-Qarni said.

By breaking free from the constraints of conventional beauty, the artist is pushing boundaries and inspiring others to think outside the box.

Al-Qarni said she cultivated her style through dedicated practice. She started copying and sketching cartoons from her favorite television shows as a child. “As I got older, I got into realistic portrait painting, trying to capture the world around me, but I soon realized that realism did not allow me to express my emotions deeply enough,” she added.

The Saudi artist eventually resorted to a more liberated method, allowing her to follow her instincts and let her brush strokes guide her: “When I hold the brush against the canvas, it becomes a way to quieten the noise of life and connect with my inner self, providing a source of relaxation and tranquility.”

The artist maintains a multi-purpose space where she paints, serving as both a studio and a cozy personal area.

“It is where I sleep, read and spend most of my time. Waking up surrounded by the creative mess of my art provides me with a sense of passion and inspiration to continue my artistic journey each day.”

Ten years ago, Al-Qarni decided to pursue art professionally, and she has not looked back since. Her work has been featured in galleries and exhibitions across Saudi Arabia, earning her recognition and acclaim from critics and audiences.

Al-Qarni’s first showing was in 2016 in Jeddah with Behance, the world’s largest network for showcasing and discovering creative work.

“Facing the audience, I received both compliments and critiques. The experience was helpful and encouraging, inspiring me to create more and improve my art,” she said.

She has taken part in several art exhibitions, such as the Misk Art Institute in 2019, which provides a platform for creative individuals to influence present-day discussions.

Al-Qarni also showcased her work at Grey Art Gallery in Alkhobar, and Zawaya Art Gallery and Sensation Art Gallery in Jeddah.

The artist gives each painting a title that reflects the overarching emotion or story behind the artwork. The title can be inspired by a novel, a song, or a personal experience related to the painting.

“How someone perceives and feels about a painting can vary depending on the person looking at it,” she added. “We all bring our own thoughts and experiences, which adds to the richness and meaning of any artist’s work.”

To aspiring artists who might be intimidated to share their artwork and innermost emotions with an audience, Al-Qarni preaches that the world needs art.

“Embrace the opportunity for growth and connect with other artists through feedback and experiences, and remember that every artist starts somewhere, and sharing your work is a step toward achieving your goals.” 


Stage is set for Saudi Arabia’s first Arabic grand opera

Stage is set for Saudi Arabia’s first Arabic grand opera
Updated 17 April 2024
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Stage is set for Saudi Arabia’s first Arabic grand opera

Stage is set for Saudi Arabia’s first Arabic grand opera
  • ‘Zarqa Al-Yamama’ aims to bring Saudi heritage to life and lead the way into a new cultural era in the Kingdom
  • Saudi singers Sawsan Al-Bahiti, Khayran Al-Zahrani and Reemaz Oqbi take on 3 key roles in the opera

RIYADH: With just a week to go, the stage is set for the eagerly anticipated first performance of “Zarqa Al-Yamama,” which organizers describe as the first grand Saudi opera in Arabic, at King Fahd Cultural Center in Riyadh on April 25.

The libretto will be sung in Arabic, which is rare in opera as the vast majority of works are performed in European languages. As such, the Kingdom’s Theater and Performing Arts Commission said the event, which takes place under the patronage of Minister of Culture Prince Badr bin Abdullah bin Farhan, marks a turning point in an increasingly vibrant Saudi cultural scene, given the high artistic value of opera and the interest of connoisseurs and audiences around the world in the art form.

“Zarqa Al-Yamama” is based on well-known sung poems and music inspired by the operatic tradition, together with elements of Saudi music. It tells the story of the legendary figure Zarqa Al-Yamama, who lived in the Al-Yamama region of Najd during the pre-Islamic era and is caught up in a dispute between her tribe and another that ends in tragedy.

The producers describe the opera as a poignant tragedy with breathtaking suspense, brought to life in a state-of-the-art theatrical production filled with sweeping orchestral movements and mesmerizing choral performances that deliver a unique cultural experience. 

Sawsan AlBahiti. (Supplied)

Sultan Al-Bazie, the CEO of the Theater and Performing Arts Commission, said the opera embodies well-established elements of Saudi heritage and presents a well-known story within a contemporary framework that reflects modern artistic trends and audience expectations.

It is a collaborative project featuring Saudi and international artists. Saudi poet Saleh Zamanan, who has received several local and international awards for his poetry and plays, wrote the words, inspired by the historical story of Zarqa and adding his own literary stamp.

Saudi artists Sawsan Al-Bahiti, Khayran Al-Zahrani and Reemaz Oqbi take on three key roles in the opera, which is a sign of the progress in the development of musical entertainment in the Kingdom.

“I will be performing the role of the bridesmaid, which is part of a major scene in the opera where the story takes a major turn to more thrilling events,” Al-Bahiti told Arab News.

Considered the first Saudi opera singer, she has been leading the way in the development of the Saudi opera scene and “Zarqa Al-Yamama” provides the latest showcase for her incredible vocal talent. She said the production is contemporary and innovative, and demonstrates a rich complexity that will captivate the audience.

“From the day I started training as an opera singer in 2008, I dreamed of an original Saudi opera production sung in Arabic,” said Al-Bahiti. “This day has finally come, and arrived sooner than I expected, which makes me even happier.”

Amid the rapid development and evolution of all forms of entertainment in Saudi Arabia in recent years, “Zarqa Al-Yamama” represents a significant step forward for opera in the Kingdom, and Al-Bahiti serves as a shining example of the growing opportunities as the art form continues to evolve and grow.

“Zarqa Al-Yamama” will run from April 25 until May 4, with 10 performances scheduled.


Saudi FM receives phone call from EU foreign policy chief

Saudi FM receives phone call from EU foreign policy chief
Updated 17 April 2024
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Saudi FM receives phone call from EU foreign policy chief

Saudi FM receives phone call from EU foreign policy chief
  • Officials discussed Gaza war

RIYADH: Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan received a phone call on Wednesday from European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borrell, Saudi Press Agency reported.
The officials discussed the latest developments in the Gaza Strip and its surrounding areas, and the international efforts being made to end the war.
Earlier in February, Prince Faisal and Borrell held similar discussions on the sidelines of the Munich Security Conference.

 


The 44th King Abdulaziz Qur’an competition begins in August

The 44th King Abdulaziz Qur’an competition begins in August
Updated 17 April 2024
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The 44th King Abdulaziz Qur’an competition begins in August

The 44th King Abdulaziz Qur’an competition begins in August
  • Total prize pool of SR4m in prestigious event

RIYADH: The 44th King Abdulaziz International Competition for the Memorization, Recitation, and Interpretation of the Qur’an begins in early August in Makkah, the Saudi Press Agency has reported.

The prestigious event, which attracts contestants from around the globe, offers a total prize pool of SR4 million ($1.07 million).

The competition is divided into five categories: memorization of the entire Holy Qur’an, with accurate recitation and intonation following the seven rules of recitation; memorization of the Qur’an along with interpretation of its terms; memorization of 15 juz (parts) of the Qur’an with proper recitation and intonation; memorization of five juz with correct recitation and intonation; and a category for shorter lengths of memorization with corresponding recitation and intonation requirements.

In the first category, the top three winners will receive SR500,000, SR450,000, and SR400,000.

The event’s closing ceremony will be held at the Grand Mosque in Makkah.

Saudi Minister of Islamic Affairs, Dawah and Guidance Sheikh Abdullatif Al-Asheikh expressed gratitude toward the Kingdom’s leaders for their dedication to the Qur’an, adding that the competition showcased the country’s commitment to promoting its values among Saudi Arabia’s youth.