Saudi Arabia, China sign deal to boost cultural cooperation

Saudi Minister of Culture Prince Badr bin Abdullah meets with his Chinese counterpart Sun Yeli in Beijing. (SPA)
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Saudi Minister of Culture Prince Badr bin Abdullah meets with his Chinese counterpart Sun Yeli in Beijing. (SPA)
Saudi Minister of Culture Prince Badr bin Abdullah meets with his Chinese counterpart Sun Yeli in Beijing. (SPA)
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Saudi Minister of Culture Prince Badr bin Abdullah meets with his Chinese counterpart Sun Yeli in Beijing. (SPA)
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Updated 27 March 2024
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Saudi Arabia, China sign deal to boost cultural cooperation

Saudi Arabia, China sign deal to boost cultural cooperation
  • Agreement reached during Prince Badr bin Abdullah’s visit to Beijing
  • Kingdom also named guest of honor at upcoming Beijing International Book Fair

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia and China on Wednesday signed an agreement to enhance cooperation across multiple cultural sectors during a visit to Beijing by the Kingdom’s culture minister.

Prince Badr bin Abdullah signed a memorandum of understanding with Chinese Minister of Culture and Tourism Sun Yeli after talks on increasing collaboration between the two sides.

The deal seeks to increase cooperation in the areas of museums, cultural heritage, theater and performing arts, visual arts, architecture and design arts, libraries, and traditional and craft arts.

The two sides agreed to exchange regulations and policies and take part in each other’s festivals and other cultural events.

The deal also involves artistic residency programs between government and private institutions as well as sharing expertise and organizing cultural activities.

The Saudi Ministry of Culture is keen to promote international exchanges as one of its strategic goals under the Vision 2030 initiative, the Saudi Press Agency reported.

During the meeting, Prince Badr congratulated Sun on his appointment as minister of culture and tourism in December and hailed the existing ties between the two countries.

He also invited Sun to visit the Kingdom to see its many cultural treasures and learn about its heritage and people.

During the visit, Saudi Arabia was chosen to be guest of honor at this year’s Beijing International Book Fair in June, at which the Ministry of Culture will be represented by the Literature, Publishing and Translation Commission.

“With the support of the leadership of the two friendly countries, Saudi-Chinese cultural cooperation begins a new chapter with several agreements,” Prince Badr said on X.

“I was pleased to sign a memorandum of understanding between the Saudi Ministry of Culture and the Ministry of Culture and Tourism of China to promote cultural cooperation, (and witness the signing of a) cooperation agreement for the Film Commission with the Chinese film group Bona.”


More than 12 million liters of water pumped into Yemen by KSrelief

More than 12 million liters of water pumped into Yemen by KSrelief
Updated 58 min 30 sec ago
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More than 12 million liters of water pumped into Yemen by KSrelief

More than 12 million liters of water pumped into Yemen by KSrelief

RIYADH: A water supply and environmental sanitation project in Yemen by Saudi aid agency KSrelief has continued to improve conditions for those living there.

From June 19-25, some 1,033,550 liters of drinking water and 10,849,000 liters of non-drinking water were provided in Hajjah. The project group worked in the Midi, Haradh, Hayran and Abs districts, as well as As-Ashour camp in the Razih area of Saada.

There were 38 trips to remove waste from displaced people’s camps, while in Saada 70,000 each of drinking and non-drinking water were pumped through, to the benefit of 30,100 people.

KSRelief pumps over 12 million liters of water into Yemen as part of water and sanitation project. (SPA)

KSrelief also launched a volunteer medical project for ear, nose, and throat surgeries and tumor removal in Mukalla, in the province of Hadhramaut.

The initiative, which started on July 20 for one week, involves 22 volunteers from various medical specialties. To date, the medical team has successfully performed 60 specialized surgeries.

Meanwhile, in Sudan, KSrelief concluded its project for urological surgeries in Port Sudan. The week-long scheme involved 11 volunteers with 119 successful specialized surgeries being carried out. 

KSrelief concluded the voluntary medical project for urological surgeries in Port Sudan. (SPA)

 


Saudi provides food aid to Sudan, Yemen

Saudi provides food aid to Sudan, Yemen
Updated 24 July 2024
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Saudi provides food aid to Sudan, Yemen

Saudi provides food aid to Sudan, Yemen

RIYADH: The Kingdom’s aid agency KSrelief has continued to provide food to vulnerable families in Sudan and Yemen, the Saudi Press Agency reported on Wednesday.

In the River Nile state of Sudan, 1,200 boxes of food were given to 6,900 individuals affected by the ongoing conflict in the country.

In the Al-Mansoura district of Yemen’s Aden governorate, KSrelief handed out 413 boxes of food for 2,891 individuals, as a part of its continuing aid project in the war-torn country.


July 21: World’s hottest day since records began

July 21: World’s hottest day since records began
Updated 24 July 2024
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July 21: World’s hottest day since records began

July 21: World’s hottest day since records began
  • Last Sunday was hottest day ever recorded
  • Saudi experts say Kingdom can cope

MAKKAH: Last Sunday was the hottest day measured globally since records began in 1940, climate scientists said on Tuesday.

The global average surface air temperature on July 21 was 17.09C, just above the previous record of 17.08C registered on July 6, 2023. “The Earth has just experienced its warmest day,” said the Copernicus Climate Change Service, the EU’s climate monitor.

Service director Carlo Buontempo said: “We are now in truly uncharted territory and as the climate keeps warming, we are bound to see new records being broken in future months and years.”

Despite the global heat spike, meteorologist Abdulaziz Al-Hussaini told Arab News that temperatures in Saudi Arabia were within their normal annual range. “Observers of Saudi weather patterns are not seeing anything out of the ordinary, even as other nations like Japan report record-breaking temperatures,” he said. “June was actually hotter than what we have experienced in July so far.”

Another weather expert, Walid Al-Haqeel, said that while both June and July had elevated temperatures worldwide, July was notably hotter with more high-temperature days.

Comparing with previous years, he said, “2022 and 2023 had similar heat patterns, but this year there were more hot days, especially in southern Europe, parts of America, the Middle East, Turkey, Bosnia, and Azerbaijan.”  

 


Riyadh rent hike drives demand for home ownership

Riyadh rent hike drives demand for home ownership
Updated 23 July 2024
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Riyadh rent hike drives demand for home ownership

Riyadh rent hike drives demand for home ownership
  • Ongoing construction boom to improve housing affordability, expert says
  • Harmon described Ejar platform as unresponsive and biased toward landlords, with tenants feeling that their interests are not being adequately protected

RIYADH: The Kingdom’s capital has experienced a significant surge in apartment rental prices in recent years, making it increasingly difficult for many residents to afford suitable accommodation.

This sharp rise in rental costs has led to a growing trend among Riyadh’s population to prioritize home ownership over renting, as they seek to gain more stability and control over their living situations.

According to recent real estate market data, the average rent for a one-bedroom apartment in central Riyadh has skyrocketed to over SR5,000 ($1,300) per month (numbers differ daily). For larger units, the costs can be even more staggering, with three-bedroom apartments often commanding monthly rents in excess of SR10,000, a CBRE.sa report states.

Exorbitant rent prices have placed a significant financial strain on many middle-class and lower-income families, forcing them to make difficult choices about their housing options. (AN photos by Hajar AlQusayer)

These exorbitant prices have placed a significant financial strain on many middle-class and lower-income families, forcing them to make difficult choices about their housing options.

“It’s become almost impossible for my family to continue renting,” said Shahad Al-Ghamdi, a young administrative manager living in Riyadh. “The rent for even a modest apartment eats up a large portion of my monthly salary, leaving little room for other expenses. I’ve been seriously considering taking out a mortgage and buying a home instead, as it would ultimately be more cost-effective in the long run.”

FASTFACTS

• According to recent real estate market data, the average rent for a one- bedroom apartment in central Riyadh has skyrocketed to over SR5,000 ($1,300) per month (numbers differ daily).

• The Saudi government has introduced mortgage financing programs and other incentives to make it easier for citizens to purchase their own properties.

• Economist and financial analyst Talat Zaki Hafiz cautioned that factors, such as interest rates and inflation, will play a crucial role in determining overall market dynamics.

Al-Ghamdi’s sentiment is echoed by countless other Riyadh residents, who are increasingly viewing home ownership as a more viable and sustainable option compared to the ever-rising rental market.

To address this pressing issue, the Saudi government has introduced mortgage financing programs and other incentives to make it easier for citizens to purchase their own properties. As a result, the demand for home loans has surged, with many banks reporting a significant increase in mortgage applications over the past few years.

However, as highlighted by the experiences of residents like Romana Harmon, the government’s efforts to regulate the rental market through initiatives like Ejar platform have been perceived as largely ineffective.

Exorbitant rent prices have placed a significant financial strain on many middle-class and lower-income families, forcing them to make difficult choices about their housing options. (AN photos by Hajar AlQusayer)

Harmon described Ejar platform as unresponsive and biased toward landlords, with tenants feeling that their interests are not being adequately protected.

Romana said: “I have had experience with them (Ejar), and they do not respond to people who alert them to overly expensive apartments. They should protect both the landlord and tenant, but they don’t. They seem to be on the side of the landlord and owner.”

Harmon’s concerns raises the question of how can the system more effectively serve the people it is designed to help. Harmon’s own rental experience has been a rollercoaster of broken promises and escalating costs, with the landlord apparently increasing her rent by an astonishing 58 percent despite the standard maximum of 5-10 percent.

Exorbitant rent prices have placed a significant financial strain on many middle-class and lower-income families, forcing them to make difficult choices about their housing options. (AN photos by Hajar AlQusayer)

Harmon said that she was able to contact Ejar but they told her that there are no laws that stop the landlord from increasing a new lease.

Harmon, who is an expat working temporarily in Saudi Arabia, is not considering buying a house and has to deal with rent that keeps getting higher.  

Economist and financial analyst Talat Zaki Hafiz acknowledged the ongoing construction boom in Saudi Arabia which has a “value of construction outputs reaching $141.5 billion, a 4.3 percent increase compared to the previous year.”

Hafiz believes that this expansion in housing and office buildings may help narrow the gap between supply and demand, potentially leading to more balanced rental prices and improved housing affordability.

However, Hafiz also cautioned that other factors, such as interest rates and inflation, will play a crucial role in determining overall market dynamics. He remains optimistic about the future, but emphasized the need for continued efforts to address the root causes of the rental crisis and ensure that housing remains accessible and affordable for all.  

“But we are still in good condition compared to countries who are members of G20 and I believe solutions are taking place … it is matter of time to increase the supply of houses,” Hafiz added.

To truly address the rental crisis in Riyadh, the Saudi government must take a more comprehensive and responsive approach. This may involve strengthening rent control regulations, empowering regulatory bodies like Ejar to effectively protect tenants’ interests, and exploring innovative solutions to increase the supply of affordable housing units.

By addressing the systemic issues underlying the rental market, the government can help alleviate the financial burden on Riyadh’s residents and foster a more inclusive and prosperous future for the city.

 


Thriving tree planted by King Faisal a symbol of Saudi-Pakistani relations

The Sapium sebiferum, or Chinese tallow tree, was planted by King Faisal during his 1966 visit to Pakistan. (SPA)
The Sapium sebiferum, or Chinese tallow tree, was planted by King Faisal during his 1966 visit to Pakistan. (SPA)
Updated 23 July 2024
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Thriving tree planted by King Faisal a symbol of Saudi-Pakistani relations

The Sapium sebiferum, or Chinese tallow tree, was planted by King Faisal during his 1966 visit to Pakistan. (SPA)
  • Dr. Salma Hawsawi: “The Sapium sebiferum tree holds an exceptional place and importance, connecting Saudi Arabia and Pakistan. It represents a model of international bonding for nearly 58 years, since the era of King Faisal”

MAKKAH: In the heart of Islamabad’s International Friendship Garden, a tree stands as a living testament to the enduring bond between Saudi Arabia and Pakistan.

The Sapium sebiferum, or Chinese tallow tree, was planted by King Faisal during his 1966 visit to Pakistan.

The Sapium sebiferum, or Chinese tallow tree, was planted by King Faisal during his 1966 visit to Pakistan. (SPA)

The tree’s presence in Shakarparian, as the garden is known locally, has inspired a wave of goodwill. Across Pakistan, streets, neighborhoods, mosques, and universities now bear the names of Saudi monarchs, reflecting the deep-rooted affection between the two countries.

The garden, home to trees planted by various world leaders, bursts into bloom each spring. Yet, for many Pakistanis, King Faisal’s tree, as it is locally known, holds special significance. It stands as a living reminder of the shared history and mutual respect between the two nations.

HIGHLIGHT

The presence of the tree planted by King Faisal in Shakarparian, as the garden is known locally, has inspired a wave of goodwill.

King Faisal was among the first guests to plant a tree in this garden, which blossoms with flowers in spring and has become a destination for tourists from around the world.

The Sapium sebiferum, or Chinese tallow tree, was planted by King Faisal during his 1966 visit to Pakistan. (SPA)

Dr. Salma Hawsawi, professor of ancient history at King Saud University, told Arab News: “The Sapium sebiferum tree holds an exceptional place and importance, connecting Saudi Arabia and Pakistan. It represents a model of international bonding for nearly 58 years, since the era of King Faisal.”

The “warmth and enthusiasm” displayed during the state visits are telling, she noted. “They reveal the deep-rooted connection and mutual respect that have grown between our nations over the decades.

“These trees, with their vibrant green hue, have long symbolized hope and prosperity,” Hawsawi explained. “Their robust root systems serve as the foundation for branches, leaves, and fruits. King Faisal laid down the primary foundation.”

The tree is known for its quick growth which “perfectly encapsulates the dynamic expansion of our bilateral ties,” she added, elaborating on how this natural metaphor extends to various facets of the countries’ partnership.

“We have witnessed this accelerated growth in our strategic partnerships, knowledge exchange programs, cultural dialogues, economic investments, and efforts toward political stability and peace. Trees embody growth, prosperity, stability, and continuity. These qualities are deeply ingrained in the multifaceted relationship between our two nations,” Hawsawi concluded.