Saudi land forces, Pakistan Army conduct joint military training exercise

Saudi land forces, Pakistan Army conduct joint military training exercise
Soldiers of the Pakistani Army and the Royal Saudi Land Forces during a joint military exercise in Pakistan’s eastern city of Muzaffargarh on Feb. 19, 2024. (Radio Pakistan)
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Updated 19 February 2024
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Saudi land forces, Pakistan Army conduct joint military training exercise

Saudi land forces, Pakistan Army conduct joint military training exercise
  • Saudi Arabia and Pakistan enjoy strong defense ties and bilateral security cooperation
  • Nations regularly engage in joint air, ground, and sea military exercises

ISLAMABAD: The Royal Saudi Land Forces and the Pakistan Army held a joint military exercise in the eastern city of Muzaffargarh to enhance their military capabilities and exchange expertise, the Pakistani military said on Monday.

Saudi Arabia and Pakistan enjoy strong defense ties and bilateral security cooperation. The two nations regularly engage in joint air, ground, and sea military exercises. Several cadets from the Kingdom, along with counterparts from other Middle Eastern nations, visit Pakistan to undergo specialized military training annually.

Last month, the Royal Saudi Land Forces and Pakistan Army personnel kicked off a joint military training exercise in the eastern city of Okara. In January, a joint Saudi Arabia-Pakistan defense forum met in Islamabad to discuss enhancing bilateral cooperation and increasing collaborations in all domains.

“Pakistan Army and Royal Saudi Land Forces conducted a joint military training exercise at Muzaffargarh Field Firing Range,” the Inter-Services Public Relations, the Pakistani military’s media wing said in a statement.

It added both forces “actively participated” in the training, which involved Combined Battle PT, small-scale operations, room clearance, close marksmanship, and firing and repelling.

Cobra helicopters were used in the joint exercise, during which both forces underwent “intensive training” to master helicopter mounting and dismounting “in the context of terrorism,” according to the ISPR.

“These training exercises will provide a unique opportunity for Pakistan Army and the Royal Saudi Land Forces to align their strengths, exchange expertise and enhance their military capabilities,” it added.


Swifties in Saudi Arabia gather for listening party

Swifties in Saudi Arabia gather for listening party
Updated 5 sec ago
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Swifties in Saudi Arabia gather for listening party

Swifties in Saudi Arabia gather for listening party
  • Fans of the American pop icon are diving deep into ‘The Tortured Poets Department’ double album

ALKHOBAR: Overlooking the city of Alkhobar, with colorful neon lights shimmering in the night sky, Swifties of the Eastern Province came together to listen to Taylor Swift’s anticipated double album, “The Tortured Poets Department,” on the night of its release.

At the very same time the album started playing in Alkhobar’s Trip Lounge, Riyadh hosted its own listening party at Level Up and Jeddah’s Swifties tuned in from Makan.

It was a full house with almost every seat occupied in Trip Lounge. Musicians Zamzam and Naif Hashem, who hosted the event, engaged in dialogue with everyone in the room between songs. Only two of the attendees admitted to listening to the album before coming, but still expressed surprise with others when lyrics began to spill from the speakers.

Musicians Zamzam and Naif Hashem, who hosted the Taylor Swift listening party, engaged in dialogue with everyone in the room between songs from the new album. (AN photo)

Zamzam and Hashem, each of whom have demanding day jobs, separately release music. Zamzam, who often performs locally at places such as Bohemia, is the lead singer of the indie/folk band also called Zamzam, and Hashem, a dentist, just released a new song, “The Great Divide,” earlier this month.

Both hosts avoided listening to the album, which had been released earlier in the day, before hosting the Taylor Swift Nights experience. They self-identify as Swifties, as fans of the singer are known, and have combed through Swift’s discography with the attentiveness of a fellow musician.

HIGHLIGHTS

• Riyadh hosted its own listening party for Taylor Swift’s new album ‘The Tortured Poets Department’ at Level Up and Jeddah’s Swifties tuned in from Makan.

• The album’s title has been influenced by the cult classic 1989 film ‘Dead Poets Society.’

• Alkhobar Swifties’ unanimous favorite of the night seemed to be ‘Florida!!!’ which featured Florence & The Machine.

They were the ideal guides to fill the gaps between songs.

“We’re here to listen to Taylor’s new double album because there’s a community here that really likes to listen to things together. We’ve done this before and it was successful, and we’ve been planning this since the album was announced; it’s so much nicer of an experience to have people gasp, yell and cry with you,” Zamzam told Arab News.

Since its release on Friday, the album quickly climbed the charts and became the most streamed album in a single day in Spotify history. (AN photo)

Swift’s latest release is a chaotic but self-aware collection of 31 songs which all sound like signature Swift, while still offering a new sonic collage of stories made of playful, petty and witty narratives. In almost every song there was a lyric, or a few, which made fans groan or applaud in unison.

Since its release on Friday, the album quickly climbed the charts and became the most streamed album in a single day in Spotify history.

We’ve been planning this since the album was announced; it’s so much nicer of an experience to have people gasp, yell and cry with you.

Zamzam, Musician

Swift said in an Instagram post announcing the release: “This writer is of the firm belief that our tears become holy in the form of ink on a page. Once we have spoken our saddest story, we can be free of it … and then all that’s left behind is the tortured poetry.”

A songwriter since her teens, Swift has always offered a romantic notion to her work, bending across genres, starting with country and experimenting with various styles since. No matter what style she sings in, Swift’s fans consider her a modern poet who combines the soul of the tortured artist with a playful, never-want-to-grow-up Peter Pan millennial attitude.

Since its release on Friday, the album quickly climbed the charts and became the most streamed album in a single day in Spotify history. (AN photo)

Swift has made a habit of finding poetic ways to revive the voices and stories of people from the past, especially women, such as the “It Girl” of the the Roaring Twenties, Clara Bow, who one of the tracks on the album is named after.

Speculation on the subject of lyrics is a constant pastime for Swifties, who sift through puns and references in her lyrics in search of cryptic meanings. Swift rarely ever confirms who she writes about or why, so it is all open to interpretation.

The album’s title was rumored to have been influenced by the cult classic 1989 film “Dead Poets Society.” The music video for the song “Fortnight” with Post Malone featured cameos by the film’s beloved stars Ethan Hawke and Josh Charles.

“I think Taylor is finally coming into herself … this is my own interpretation of Taylor, but throughout the years, she really likes to reference classic literature and she’d really like to view herself as an American poet,” Zamzam said. “I read one of her speeches (where) she referenced Emily Dickinson as a huge inspiration for her … I think this was her just finally ripping off a band-aid she’s been wanting to rip off for a while, because she tried with ‘Evermore’ and ‘Folklore’ (previous albums) and was just like, ‘You know what? I'm leaning into it’.”

The listening party featured a calm ambience, dimmed lights and seats lined up as if in an intimate concert. Lyrics scrolled down, karaoke-style, on a big screen. Some in the crowd quickly took to the beat and sang along. Some swayed silently.

The crowd’s unanimous favorite of the night seemed to be “Florida!!!” which featured Florence & The Machine.

The double album, which Swift has said took her two years to write, appeared to have strong influences from her previous work.

Zamzam said that hosting the listening party in her hometown was important as it offered a dedicated space for Swifties, many of whom are from the millennial and gen Z generations. It offered Swifties a chance to come together to celebrate their favorite singer and openly discuss her lyrics.

“Hosting Taylor Swift Nights started in 2021 … I didn’t have anything on my mind, didn’t have any expectations or anything. It was just me and my best friend,” Hashem said of the first time they hosted the event several years ago in Jeddah.

“We didn’t have any expectation but we were blown away at how many people showed up! It was like 100 something. I was shocked. And then it was like ‘OK, there (are) die-hard Swifties here in Saudi Arabia.’ I thought I was the only one,” he added.

He connected with Zamzam and the collaborative effort to host an in-person event for Swifties in Alkhobar was born.

“We managed to find Trip Lounge and we hosted our first TS Nights back in August (last year). Having this community is very wholesome. Like Zamzam mentioned before, it’s having a community to experience happiness, grief and all of that. We are going to hand out tissues, just in case someone wants to cry,” he said.

“And we printed a bunch of papers; one paper so they can comment and rate each song, and one where they can write down their predictions for each track. If they got the prediction right, they can cross it out. It’s like bingo. We want to entertain them (attendees). We don’t want them to be bored,” he added.

Sixth grader Ghada Bajaber, the youngest Swiftie in the room, certainly was not bored. She sipped on lemonade in between scribbling fiercely into her Bingo sheet.

“I’m here with my mom — we always listen to Taylor Swift songs, me and my mom. It is what we do together and it’s special for us,” she told Arab News. “I have exams in two days but I still came. I didn’t study, I didn’t do my homework … I just came to memorize Taylor Swift lyrics — not the multiplication table,” Bajaber added.

 


Taif’s rose farms bloom into global fragrance production hub

The fragrant crops have elevated the mountainous Taif region into a global rose capital. (SPA)
The fragrant crops have elevated the mountainous Taif region into a global rose capital. (SPA)
Updated 2 min 57 sec ago
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Taif’s rose farms bloom into global fragrance production hub

The fragrant crops have elevated the mountainous Taif region into a global rose capital. (SPA)
  • Flowers ‘represent our region’s heritage and competitive advantage’

RIYADH: Taif’s mountainous and famed rose farms have become a major fragrance production hub, producing over 550 million flowers annually and driving an economic engine worth millions.

Spanning 270 hectares, some 910 rose farms nurture around 1.14 million bushes across areas like Al-Hada, Al-Shifa, Wadi Muharram, Al-Wahat, and Al-Wahit, the Saudi Press Agency reported.

The fragrant crops have elevated the mountainous Taif region into a global rose capital. (SPA)

From March through to April, a kaleidoscope of petals unfurls across terraced fields, supplying over 70 factories and laboratories dedicated to extracting and producing over 80 sought-after derivatives that enjoy widespread popularity in the SR64 million ($17 million) domestic market.

The fragrant crops have elevated the mountainous governorate into a global rose capital which has even set a Guinness World Record with a basket of 84,450 roses.

NUMBER

550m

Some 910 rose farms in Taif nurture around 1.14 million bushes, resulting in production of over 550 million flowers annually.

“These roses represent our region’s heritage and competitive advantage,” said Majid Al-Khalif, director general of the Ministry of Environment, Water and Agriculture’s branch in the Makkah region, underscoring the ministry’s dedication to showcasing the agricultural prowess of each region through festivals and events.

The fragrant crops have elevated the mountainous Taif region into a global rose capital. (SPA)

“These initiatives not only promote local products but also foster knowledge exchange among farmers.”

Al-Khalif acknowledges the pivotal role played by collaborative efforts with local authorities in ensuring the success of these events, particularly the Rose Festival, which draws significant tourist interest.

The fragrant crops have elevated the mountainous Taif region into a global rose capital. (SPA)

Visitors are treated to a firsthand experience of the rose distillation process, seminars, workshops, and other activities tailored to enthusiasts of Taif’s roses.

Hani bin Abdulrahman Al-Qadi, director of the Ministry of Environment, Water and Agriculture’s office in the Taif region, shed light on the significance of the Rose Festival, which features the participation of more than 60 farms and the families who run them, showcasing their products over five days of festivities.

The fragrant crops have elevated the mountainous Taif region into a global rose capital. (SPA)

Al-Qadi said that the Sustainable Agricultural Rural Development Program, also known as Reef, was a key initiative aimed at bolstering the rose farming sector. The program focuses on enhancing the productivity of vital agricultural crops, aiming for a balanced rural development strategy. It also seeks to diversify agricultural production across rural areas while ensuring optimal and sustainable use of natural agricultural and water resources.

A dedicated unit for Taif’s roses has been established within the ministry’s office in Taif. Additionally, the adoption of tissue culture propagation for seedlings and the formation of a cooperative association to advance Taif’s rose cultivation are part of Reef’s objectives.

The fragrant crops have elevated the mountainous Taif region into a global rose capital. (SPA)

The ministry is actively involved in guiding and educating rose farmers on modern techniques to increase their productivity, Al-Qadi explained. Last year, a select group of rose farmers was sent to Bulgaria under a joint cooperation effort between Saudi Arabia and Bulgaria.

This initiative, organized by the Ministry of Environment, Water and Agriculture, aimed at facilitating knowledge exchange, enhancing farmers’ skills, and promoting development in rose cultivation, distillation, and various applications in medicine and cosmetics.

The fragrant crops have elevated the mountainous Taif region into a global rose capital. (SPA)

The ministry’s office in Taif is actively engaged in providing crucial support services to local farmers, aimed at enhancing their productivity in rose farming. These services encompass agricultural guidance, initiatives to rehabilitate agricultural terraces, and rainwater harvesting schemes, tailored specifically to benefit Taif’s rose growers.

Farmers receive expert guidance on adopting best agricultural practices, with dedicated pest control teams responding promptly to requests for pesticide spraying to safeguard crops from potential threats.

The ministry also spearheads the construction of essential water infrastructure, including tanks and barriers, while also facilitating the establishment of irrigation networks to boost agricultural activities.

Emphasizing the importance of sustainable practices, the ministry encourages small-scale rose farmers to embrace and implement best agricultural methods, providing them with valuable insights into leveraging advanced technologies and optimizing rose production techniques, including essential oil extraction as part of a value chain development approach.

 


Saudi FM arrives in Luxembourg for GCC-EU forum

Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan arrived in Luxembourg on Sunday. (File/AFP)
Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan arrived in Luxembourg on Sunday. (File/AFP)
Updated 29 sec ago
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Saudi FM arrives in Luxembourg for GCC-EU forum

Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan arrived in Luxembourg on Sunday. (File/AFP)
  • Prince Faisal is due to discuss ways to enhance cooperation between GCC states and the EU in various fields

RIYADH: Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan arrived in Luxembourg on Sunday to participate in a high-level forum on regional security and cooperation between the Gulf Cooperation Council and the EU.

He will discuss with participants at the forum ways to enhance cooperation between the GCC and the EU in various fields, the importance of multilateral coordination, and regional and international developments, the Saudi Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

Prince Faisal will also hold bilateral meetings on the sidelines of the forum.

The EU-GCC High Level Forum on Regional Security and Cooperation will be held on Monday.

“The forum will gather EU foreign ministers and their counterparts from the GCC member states, and the EU special representative for the Gulf region,” the EU’s diplomatic service said.


First Hima forum discusses wildlife conservation in Saudi Arabia

First Hima forum discusses wildlife conservation in Saudi Arabia
Updated 21 April 2024
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First Hima forum discusses wildlife conservation in Saudi Arabia

First Hima forum discusses wildlife conservation in Saudi Arabia
  • One of the center’s projects is an expedition to examine and study Saudi Arabia’s wildlife and landscapes across all regions, in collaboration with universities and educational centers in each area, Qurban told Arab News

RIYADH: The National Center for Wildlife organized the first Hima protected areas forum on Sunday to discuss conservation efforts for natural habitats and wildlife in Saudi Arabia.

The forum was inaugurated by the minister of environment, water, and agriculture and chairman of the board of the National Center for Wildlife, Abdulrahman Al-Fadhli.

The event, held from April 21-24, is the first of its kind in the region and attracts both local and international participants.

Red Sea Global, Catmosphere, the Royal Commission for AlUla, and the Imam Abdulaziz bin Mohammed Royal Reserve Development Authority are among the companies and projects participating in the three-day forum. (AN photo by Abdulrahman Alnajim)

“We are talking about participation from Red Sea Global, AMAALA, and NEOM to work together and deliver conservation efforts,” said Mohammad Qurban, CEO of the National Center for Wildlife.

Qurban added that hosting Hima will bring knowledge, effort, and expertise together to preserve and protect natural resources.

In addition, the center will highlight some of the Kingdom’s sustainable practices related to environmental health, he added.

One of the center’s projects is an expedition to examine and study Saudi Arabia’s wildlife and landscapes across all regions, in collaboration with universities and educational centers in each area, Qurban told Arab News.

Institutions including the UK’s University of Oxford and King Abdullah University of Science and Technology will take part in the program.

Major local companies and projects are attending the three-day forum, including Red Sea Global, Catmosphere, the Royal Commission for AlUla and the Imam Abdulaziz bin Mohammed Royal Reserve Development Authority.

Omar Al-Attas, head of environmental protection and regeneration at Red Sea Global, said: “Red Sea Global, since the beginning of its development, kept the protection, enhancement and preservation of the environment as the main target. We have been working through the years to understand exactly what we are dealing with from both sides, terrestrial and marine.

“Based on a long time, which exceeded three years of assessment and establishing a baseline, we understand clearly our marine area, which led to the design of the marine protected area, a proposal that we will be working on with the National Center for Wildlife and the ministry.”

The forum offers a comprehensive program for visitors, featuring activities including panel discussions, presentations and workshops. All sessions are conducted by local and international experts focused on conserving nature and protecting biodiversity.

“In King Khalid Reserve, which we are also responsible for, we introduced the oryx. We started introducing it in the year 2021,” said Talal Al-Harigi, CEO of the Imam Abdulaziz bin Mohammed Royal Reserve Development Authority.

“On the other side, we are increasing the number of plants. One month ago, we completed planting 1 million plants for both of the reserves.

“We are working with local communities to support handicrafts relating to honey bees. Bee grazing is now one of our new activities … for the second year, honey bees are producing Rudhat Khuraim honey,” Al-Harigi added.

Since its founding in 2019, the National Center for Wildlife has addressed challenges facing wildlife and marine ecosystems, aiming to protect the environment for future generations.

 


Experts discuss Saudi Arabia’s environmental achievements

Experts discuss Saudi Arabia’s environmental achievements
Updated 21 April 2024
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Experts discuss Saudi Arabia’s environmental achievements

Experts discuss Saudi Arabia’s environmental achievements
  • Kingdom’s progress tracked at forum in Riyadh

RIYADH: Mohammed Qurban, the CEO of the National Center for Wildlife, has said that Saudi Arabia has designated 18.10 percent of its land and 6.48 percent of its marine habitats as protected areas.

He made the comments at the first Hima protected areas forum in Riyadh on Sunday, where experts had gathered to discuss Saudi Arabia’s environmental progress during a panel called “Achieving the 30 percent by 2030 Target for Terrestrial and Marine Protected Areas: Aligning International and National Efforts.”

Saudi Arabia is advancing its conservation initiatives and through the Saudi Green Initiative, which was launched in 2021, the country aims to protect 30 percent of its terrestrial and marine areas, through protected areas, by 2030, with the help of the National Center for Wildlife.

Osama Faqeeha, deputy minister for environment at the Ministry of Environment ,Water and Agriculture, said that effective conservation required collaboration between the private and public sectors.

He said: “The National Environment Strategy outlines the necessary initiatives and resources to meet national environmental protection and development goals. It aims to engage all stakeholders to balance economic growth with environmental sustainability, ensuring a thriving natural environment for future generations.”

John Grainger, consultant at International Conservation Services, described Saudi Arabia as a “can-do society,” especially when it comes to tackling environmental conservation challenges.

He said: “Establishing protected areas is not about managing nature, it’s about managing people, and for that you will need a cadre of committed conservationists or those empowered to carry out the Kingdom’s conservation agenda.”

Grainger added that building connections between local communities and institutional capacity was important for achieving specific conservation goals and development objectives.

Neville Ash, the director of the UN Environment World Conservation Monitoring Centre, said that the Kingdom’s progress in conservation aligned with the global understanding of sustainability.

He said: “The progress being made at the national level in Saudi Arabia is reflected in the global understanding of progress, both to showcase and champion the work that’s done in the Kingdom and because of that huge contribution to global progress that has been made.”

Ash pointed out the effective use of reporting mechanisms for tracking conservation progress through the platform Protected Planet.

He said: “This year we are producing the next version of the 2024 Protected Planet Report, which will be the first assessment of progress to target three of the global biodiversity framework.”

He emphasized the importance of collaboration between the UN Environment Programme, the WCMC, and the National Center for Wildlife to keep conservation data updated to ensure it was reflected in the reports.

Protected Planet is a resource for business, conservation, and aid investment planning, serving as a foundation for tracking and reporting on progress toward global environmental goals such as target three of the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals.