‘Asayel’ equestrian theater show wins hearts in Diriyah

‘Asayel’ follows Fahad, a man from Diriyah, and his strong bond with his horse. (AN photos by Huda Bashatah)
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‘Asayel’ follows Fahad, a man from Diriyah, and his strong bond with his horse. (AN photos by Huda Bashatah)
‘Asayel’ equestrian theater show wins hearts in Diriyah
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Visitors are set to attend Asayel in Diriyah, an exceptional horse show taking place in Mayadeen, displaying the story of Fahad and his beloved horse, Asayel. (AN photo by Huda Bashatah)
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Updated 01 March 2024
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‘Asayel’ equestrian theater show wins hearts in Diriyah

‘Asayel’ follows Fahad, a man from Diriyah, and his strong bond with his horse. (AN photos by Huda Bashatah)
  • “Asayel” is part of the collective events of Diriyah Season, which aims to promote the cultural and historical heritage of the city

RIYADH: The story of Fahad and his beloved horse Asayel are at the heart of a new theatrical equestrian show in Diriyah that is captivating visitors.

The show follows Fahad, a man from Diriyah, and his strong bond with Asayel. The horse is later passed to Fahad’s son, Faris, who experiences hardship before navigating the modern city of Diriyah with his animal companion, eventually leading the community to unity and determination.

“Asayel,” which runs from Feb. 28 to March 8 at Mayadeen Theater, is presented by Z7 Show Horses, a company of 40 performers and 40 horses bringing sophistication and passion to Diriyah.




‘Asayel’ follows Fahad, a man from Diriyah, and his strong bond with his horse. (AN photos by Huda Bashatah)

The team’s director, Laura Arkle, said: “Z7 Show Horses and the team are extremely excited to be performing in Saudi Arabia. Being able to tell the Diriyah story whilst incorporating the rich culture through the art of equestrian entertainment is a dream come true for all of us.”

“Asayel” has been met with high praise from audience members, including Saudi model and content creator Reyouf Madkhali, who said: “This is my first time attending a show with this high-quality performance.”

FASTFACT

‘Asayel’ runs until March 8 at Mayadeen Theater in Diriyah.

She added: “It was very professional, clean cut … honestly, it was very well organized.”

Events like “Asayel” in Diriyah, which celebrate the ancient city’s heritage, have reached a new level of professionalism and showmanship, Madkhali said.

Nada Abdul Hakim, a young Saudi singer and actress who plays the role of Nourah in the show, told Arab News: “It is a beautiful experience … my role is Nourah in the story, Faris’ friend. Nourah taught Faris how to ride a horse because he loved horses.”

“Asayel” is part of the collective events of Diriyah Season, which aims to promote the cultural and historical heritage of the city.

 


WFP welcomes funding from KSrelief to combat malnutrition in Sudan and South Sudan

WFP welcomes funding from KSrelief to combat malnutrition in Sudan and South Sudan
Updated 16 April 2024
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WFP welcomes funding from KSrelief to combat malnutrition in Sudan and South Sudan

WFP welcomes funding from KSrelief to combat malnutrition in Sudan and South Sudan
  • The funding will benefit over 35,000 children and pregnant or breastfeeding mothers affected by conflict, economic instability, and climate-related disasters

The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) has signed two agreements worth a total of US$1.4 million with Saudi Arabia.

These agreements aim to provide treatment and prevention measures for malnutrition in Sudan and South Sudan.

The funding will benefit over 35,000 children and pregnant or breastfeeding mothers affected by conflict, economic instability, and climate-related disasters. Specifically, it will aid nearly 29,000 individuals in Sudan and close to 6,000 individuals in South Sudan.

Michael Dunford, WFP's Regional Director for the East Africa region, emphasized the importance of this funding, especially given the dire situation unfolding in Sudan, which is on the brink of becoming one of the world's largest hunger crises. He stressed the urgency of addressing malnutrition to prevent needless deaths and mitigate the long-term consequences of childhood malnutrition.

The agreements were formalized during a pledging conference for the Sudan crisis in Paris, where WFP's Executive Director, Cindy McCain, and Dr. Abdullah Al Rabeeah, Royal Court Advisor and Supervisor General of King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Centre (KSRelief), signed the documents.

Dr. Abdullah Al Moallem, Director of KSRelief's Health and Environmental Aid Department, reaffirmed their commitment to supporting vulnerable populations in Sudan and South Sudan. He highlighted the importance of these projects in providing emergency nutritional aid to children and pregnant or lactating women, which will ultimately contribute to combating famine and malnutrition in both countries.

In Sudan, nearly 4.9 million children under five and pregnant or breastfeeding women face acute malnutrition—a 22% increase from the previous year. South Sudan is also grappling with high malnutrition rates, with approximately 1.6 million children and 870,000 pregnant and breastfeeding women expected to be malnourished this year.


Pakistani premier says Saudi FM’s visit heralds ‘new era’ of strategic, commercial partnership

Pakistani premier says Saudi FM’s visit heralds ‘new era’ of strategic, commercial partnership
Updated 16 April 2024
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Pakistani premier says Saudi FM’s visit heralds ‘new era’ of strategic, commercial partnership

Pakistani premier says Saudi FM’s visit heralds ‘new era’ of strategic, commercial partnership
  • Saudi foreign minister’s visit comes a little over a week after Saudi crown prince met Pakistani PM in Makkah
  • Crown prince has reaffirmed commitment to expedite investment worth $5 billion that was previously discussed

ISLAMABAD: Pakistani Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif said on Tuesday the ongoing visit of Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan to Islamabad would herald a new era of strategic and commercial partnerships between the two long-time allies.

The Saudi foreign minister arrived in Islamabad on Monday on a two-day visit aimed at enhancing bilateral economic cooperation and pushing forward previously agreed investment deals. His trip comes a little over a week after Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman met Sharif in Makkah and reaffirmed the Kingdom’s commitment to expedite investments worth $5 billion that were previously discussed.

“The visit is the beginning of a new era of strategic and commercial partnership between Pakistan and Saudi Arabia,” Sharif was quoted as saying in a statement from his office after he met Prince Faisal. “Pakistan wants to further promote cooperation in the fields of trade and investment between the two countries.”

The PM said Pakistan was taking steps to promote foreign investment and make partnerships “mutually beneficial” for allies, adding that Islamabad was grateful to the Saudi leadership for increasing investment.

Informing the Saudi delegation about the wide potential of investment in Pakistan, Sharif briefed them about the Special Investment Facilitation Council and measures the body was taking to promote investment. The body was set up last year to oversee all foreign funding.

Sharif also invited the Saudi crown prince to Islamabad.

“The people of Pakistan are looking forward to the visit of His Highness the Crown Prince Muhammad Bin Salman to Pakistan,” the PM's office said.

'Investment Push'

In a statement shared with media on Monday, the Pakistan information ministry said the Saudi delegation would consult with Pakistani officials “on the next stages of investment and implementation issues.”

Saudi Arabia’s planned investment in the Reko Diq gold and copper mining project would also be discussed during the visit, the ministry said, a day after Pakistani state media reported Saudi Arabia was likely to invest $1 billion in the mine project in Pakistan’s southwestern Balochistan province, one of the world’s largest underdeveloped copper-gold areas.

Riyadh was also interested in investing in agriculture, trade, energy, minerals, IT, transport and other sectors in Pakistan, the statement said.

“As a result of this visit, Pakistan’s export capacity will increase, joint ventures will be launched and new opportunities will be paved.”

The Pakistani foreign office has said the Saudi foreign minister is expected to hold meetings with the Pakistani PM, president and members of the apex committee of Pakistan’s Special Investment Facilitation Council.

The Pakistani and Saudi foreign ministers will also address a joint press conference after a bilateral meeting scheduled for 4pm.

Pakistan and Saudi Arabia enjoy strong trade, defense and cultural ties. The Kingdom is home to over 2.7 million Pakistani expatriates and the top source of remittances to the cash-strapped South Asian country.

Cash-strapped Pakistan desperately needs to shore up its foreign reserves and signal to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) that it can continue to meet requirements for foreign financing that has been a key demand in previous bailout packages. Pakistan’s finance minister, Muhammad Aurangzeb, is currently in Washington to participate in spring meetings of the International Monetary Fund and World Bank and discuss a new bailout program. The last loan deal expires this month.

Saudi Arabia has often come to cash-strapped Pakistan’s aid in the past, regularly providing it oil on deferred payments and offering direct financial support to help stabilize its economy and shore up its forex reserves.


Saudi Arabia did not participate in intercepting Iranian attacks on Israel – sources

Saudi Arabia did not participate in intercepting Iranian attacks on Israel – sources
Updated 16 April 2024
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Saudi Arabia did not participate in intercepting Iranian attacks on Israel – sources

Saudi Arabia did not participate in intercepting Iranian attacks on Israel – sources
  • Israeli news websites have alleged Kingdom participated in recent defense coalition that confronted Iranian attacks
  • Iran launched drones and missiles toward Israel on Saturday evening into Sunday morning in response to Israeli strikes

RIYADH: Informed sources denied to Al Arabiya on Monday Saudi Arabia’s participation in intercepting Iranian drones during its attack on Israel on Saturday.

Israeli news websites had published statements attributed to an official Saudi website stating that the Kingdom participated in the recent defense coalition that confronted the Iranian attacks.

“There is no official website that published a statement about Saudi participation in intercepting attacks against Israel,” the sources told Al Arabiya.

Iran launched drones and missiles toward Israel on Saturday evening into Sunday morning and described the attack as a response to several crimes, including the strike on its consulate in Damascus on April 1.

Tehran indicated that the attack targeted military targets, while the Israeli army announced that it intercepted 99 percent of the Iranian missiles.


Saudi king, crown prince send condolences to Sultan of Oman after flood deaths

King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. (SPA)
King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. (SPA)
Updated 16 April 2024
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Saudi king, crown prince send condolences to Sultan of Oman after flood deaths

King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. (SPA)
  • A group of school children and a driver died when their vehicle was overtaken

RIYADH: King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman on Monday sent cables of condolences to Sultan Haitham bin Tariq after 17 people died in flooding in several parts of Oman.

The Saudi leaders sent their sincerest condolences to the sultan, and the families of the deceased, the Saudi Press Agency reported.

A group of school children and a driver died when their vehicle was overtaken, authorities said.
Civil defense officials gave the death toll for the rains, which saw Oman’s North Al Sharqiyah province hardest hit. The Royal Oman Police and the Omani military deployed to the province to transport citizens out of flooded areas

Heavy rainfall often causes flash flooding in the sultanate, drawing the curious from their homes to nearby dry riverbeds, known in Arabic as “wadi.” In flooding, they can quickly fill and wash away people and vehicles.

— with input from The Associated Press

 


Saudi independent musician takes road less traveled

Saudi independent musician takes road less traveled
Updated 15 April 2024
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Saudi independent musician takes road less traveled

Saudi independent musician takes road less traveled
  • Artist SOVL speaks on the challenges and joys of making music independently

RIYADH: As the music scene diversifies in Saudi Arabia, from psychedelic rock to electronic dance, young artist SOVL is bringing a new flavor to the mix.

SOVL is a self-taught independent musician who was on a quest to create a top-notch, industry-standard album on his own that reflected his personal artistry and carried a meaningful narrative. He platformed a distinct blend of alternative, modern, and indie rock, all rooted in the DNA of guitar music.

“As an independent musician, it’s a harder process than someone, say, signed to a label. But I try to take advantage of what I have,” he said.

SOVL visually represents the theme of ‘Too Much Is Not Enough’ on the album’s cover with the image of the artist pouring water into an already large and abundant sea. (Supplied)

The Saudi rockstar, 22, debuted his first album “Too Much Is Not Enough” last December. The album represented a bold artistic leap as SOVL, a producer, songwriter, and singer, ventured into the captivating realm of full-length storytelling through his music.

The 10-track work is an emotional odyssey. Open to interpretation, the songs become a canvas upon which the listener’s own feelings are painted.

In a world where the pursuit of “too much” often takes center stage, “Too Much Is Not Enough” offers a message that resonates with all: In the pursuit of everything, we must not forget to preserve the most essential part of our being — ourselves.

I firmly believe that you can write and record music right from your own bedroom and doing so can make the final product more genuine, presenting your art exactly as you envision it.

SOVL, Saudi music artist

But before the full body of work came along, his journey was nothing but relentless.

“When I laid my hands on my first electric guitar in 2019, I was taking a different approach in learning the instrument,” he said. His technique was more makeshift than anything: placing his fingers wherever they landed or strumming whatever sounded right until he began learning some basics of guitar chord theory.

SOVL, Saudi music artist

He later began recording his music on the beginner-friendly GarageBand before moving on to using the Logic Pro software and experimenting with different sounds.

SOVL released his single “What’s Going On?” in 2021, his first official launch into the local music scene as an indie alternative artist. The refreshing sound brings listeners back to the rock gems of the 70s like The Who and The Clash, who inspired much of his music.

He also tries to infuse a bit of Arabic spirit into his music; the oud instrument makes an appearance in some of his songs, including “Ana.”

While making music is the easy part, some other aspects of the industry like marketing and distribution can be difficult to tackle.

A record label, for example, would handle cover art, music video production, and music distribution. “It (would have) been much easier to sign with a record label so they could get all that sorted,” he said.

Regardless of the challenges, SOVL expressed his joy in having the freedom of creative direction: “I’m a strong advocate for the do-it-yourself approach. I firmly believe that you can write and record music right from your own bedroom and doing so can make the final product more genuine, presenting your art exactly as you envision it.

“Don’t get me wrong; there’s absolutely nothing wrong with signing to a major label,” he noted. “It’s a fantastic opportunity for those who have it. However, in a world flooded with too much music content, it can be challenging to stand out and get your unique sound heard.”

For his first album’s cover art, he enlisted the help of his friends. They took an impromptu one-day trip to the Eastern Province for the makeshift photoshoot and ended up filming one of his music videos there as well.

“It takes a whole lot of belief, and my friends have had my back since the get-go,” he said about the experience.

Many independent artists now are utilizing social media platforms like TikTok to promote their music, but SOVL says their approach is a bit “cliche” for his persona.

Personifying a rather mysterious image, hence the anonymous stage name, and presenting a style that is much more nuanced than generic pop, he allows his sound and lyrics to speak for themselves.

His album, although niche in genre, presents an exploration of a rather universal experience. He narrates the battle within to settle for what we already have. The theme is encapsulated in the album cover, which features the artist pouring water into an already plentiful and vast sea.

What distinguishes SOVL is his continuous pursuit to diversify not just genres but the very composition of albums in the novel Saudi music industry. Concept albums, which can tell a larger story than what could be contained in a single track, enhance the listeners’ experience of various notions.

SOVL is adamant about making and releasing music that is authenticated by genuine and soulful feelings, and his name serves as a reminder of that.

He said: “The album is super focused lyrically, on the theme, the sound, and some of the listeners criticized me on that point. Because it was my first album, (they believe) it should be a showcase of what you’re capable of, but on a broader aspect.

“With the Extended Edition, going forward, I’m going to broaden the sound, experiment a bit, but still with the same themes … It’s also to compel the story.”

While the writing and producing process is personal and self-centric, the product may not be everyone’s cup of tea, he said. Pop sensibility is not the artist’s goal, but he understands that broadening the scope of his work, even slightly, will create a more palatable experience for listeners to get into more psychedelic and grunge alternative rock.

“What I’m trying to do here is get people interested in different colors of music,” he said. “This is one that hasn’t been targeted yet here (in Saudi Arabia), but I’m really glad to try and start it.

“The scene here and the talents are still developing their musical identities … If you’re interested in music, just go for it. Once you start and find it’s really interesting, you’re maybe gifted, so try to invest more time on that,” he added.  

SOVL’s goal is to prove, not only to himself but also to his friends and aspiring musicians, that artists can take an indie approach and still achieve their dreams in the world of music.

His album is out now on all popular streaming platforms.