Saudi Arabia distributes dates in Malawi, Eswatini

Saudi Arabia distributes dates in Malawi, Eswatini
Malawi in East Africa recently received five tonnes of dates for more than 20,000 Muslims. (SPA)
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Updated 01 April 2024
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Saudi Arabia distributes dates in Malawi, Eswatini

Saudi Arabia distributes dates in Malawi, Eswatini

RIYADH: Officials from the Saudi Ministry of Islamic Affairs, Dawah, and Guidance are continuing to implement King Salman’s gift program by distributing dates around the world during the holy month of Ramadan.

Malawi in East Africa recently received five tonnes of dates for more than 20,000 Muslims, while the southern African country of Eswatini was given two tonnes for 8,000 Muslims, the Saudi Press Agency reported on Monday.


AlUla targeting 2m visitors annually by 2035, top official says

AlUla targeting 2m visitors annually by 2035, top official says
Updated 22 April 2024
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AlUla targeting 2m visitors annually by 2035, top official says

AlUla targeting 2m visitors annually by 2035, top official says
  • Dr. Stephen Browne: We have set for ourselves three overarching targets for 2035: 2 million visitors annually, 40,500 new jobs to be created and SR150bn cumulative contribution to GDP
  • Dr. Stephen Browne: Our mission is to enable AlUla develop for its communities and visitors through regenerating and protecting its cultural landscape, and providing quality of life

RIYADH: The Royal Commission for AlUla aims to host 2 million visitors annually and create 40,500 jobs by 2035, a top RCU official has said.

Speaking on the second day of the inaugural Hima protected areas forum in Riyadh in a session titled “Protected Areas and Economic Development,” keynote speaker Dr. Stephen Browne, vice president of wildlife and natural heritage at the RCU, shared AlUla’s vision for protected area development and its economic impact.

He said: “Our efforts are rooted in an inspirational vision and a clear mission. We have set for ourselves three overarching targets for 2035: 2 million visitors annually, 40,500 new jobs to be created and SR150 billion ($40 billion) cumulative contribution to gross domestic product.

“Our mission is to enable AlUla develop for its communities and visitors through regenerating and protecting its cultural landscape, and providing quality of life,” he added.

“We are fostering a vibrant and prosperous community to support the development of a sustainable future for AlUla through capacity building: Providing world-class education and training, creating job opportunities for AlUla residents in tourism and other economic sectors, promoting local business entrepreneurs by establishing startup incubators, and improving quality of life by providing high-quality healthcare services and creating exciting community engagement opportunities,” Browne said.

“Nature and wildlife are core pillars of AlUla’s strategy — equally as important as economic and social development, tourism, heritage, art and culture. AlUla aspires to be a global destination — nature reserves and wildlife are a big part of that,” he added.

“Our strategy is built upon seven strategic pillars: Tourism, heritage, art and culture, nature and wildlife, economic and social development, spatial development, enabling services and institutional excellence.”

Dr. Talal Al-Harigi, CEO of the Imam Abdulaziz bin Mohammed Royal Reserve, said during the session: “Many conservation and protected areas often operate as cost centers. The challenge lies in transitioning from this model to one that generates profit or finding a harmonious balance between the two. Leveraging ecotourism and exploring additional economic activities presents viable pathways toward achieving this goal.”

Nada Al-Tamimi, assistant deputy of national affairs at the Saudi Ministry of Tourism, discussed the positive impacts of sustainable tourism on protected areas and local communities.

“Sustainable ecotourism meticulously curated and thoughtfully managed not only meets the desires of travelers, but also serves as a vital engine for revenue generation, job creation and economic prosperity,” she said.

Dr. Stuart Williams, chief adviser to the Protected Areas Directorate of the National Center for Wildlife, said: “We must adopt a long-term perspective: When our population’s well-being is ensured and their happiness secured, we will have more than demonstrated to economists that every riyal invested will yield significant returns.”


Saudi citizens granted 5-year visas in EU-Schengen rule update

Saudi citizens granted 5-year visas in EU-Schengen rule update
Updated 22 April 2024
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Saudi citizens granted 5-year visas in EU-Schengen rule update

Saudi citizens granted 5-year visas in EU-Schengen rule update
  • New relaxed code to allow Bahrain, Oman and Saudi Arabia nationals to be eligible for multiple-entry visas

LONDON: The EU announced on Monday the relaxation of visa rules for citizens of Saudi Arabia, Oman and Bahrain.

The European Commission has adopted three implementing decisions updating the rules on issuing multi-entry visas for the three Gulf countries.

Under the new rules, nationals living in Bahrain, Oman and Saudi Arabia will be eligible for multiple-entry visas, allowing them to visit the EU multiple times over a period of five years with the same visa.

The updated visa code is part of a concept known as the “cascade,” a “harmonized approach” to issuing multiple-entry visas with long validity for all eligible applicants, including first-time travelers.

During the validity period of these visas, holders enjoy travel rights equivalent to visa-free nationals.

This update aims to standardize visa regulations for all GCC countries whose citizens require visas to access the Schengen Area.

The implementation of the five-year visa rule marks a significant step forward in strengthening people-to-people relations between the EU and the GCC.

It also comes in the context of the EU’s Joint Communication on a “Strategic Partnership with the Gulf,” which also covers EU relations with the Kingdom, Oman and Bahrain.

Experts also view it as a preliminary move toward a Schengen waiver.

The Schengen Area, which includes 29 European countries and is the largest free-travel zone globally, expanded last February to include Bulgaria and Romania, eliminating all air and maritime border controls. A decision on the removal of land controls will be made later.

In November, Gulf countries announced plans for a unified tourist visa similar to Schengen, aiming to streamline logistical efforts for both residents and tourists.


Saudi, Italian foreign ministers discuss Gaza at EU-GCC event in Luxembourg

Saudi, Italian foreign ministers discuss Gaza at EU-GCC event in Luxembourg
Updated 22 April 2024
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Saudi, Italian foreign ministers discuss Gaza at EU-GCC event in Luxembourg

Saudi, Italian foreign ministers discuss Gaza at EU-GCC event in Luxembourg
  • The meeting was also attended by Saudi Arabia’s ambassadors to Belgium and Luxembourg and the EU

LUXEMBOURG: Saudi foreign minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan met with Italy’s deputy prime minister and foreign minister Antonio Tajani on Monday on the sidelines of the EU-GCC High-Level Forum on Regional Security and Cooperation in Luxembourg.

The two ministers discussed aspects of developing joint cooperation in various fields, as well as ways to intensify bilateral and multilateral coordination on issues of interest, a Saudi foreign ministry statement said.

They also discussed developments in the Middle East region, particularly the crisis in the Gaza Strip.

The meeting was also attended by Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to Belgium and Luxembourg, Khalid bin Ibrahim Al-Jindan, the head of Saudi Arabia’s mission to the EU, Ambassador Haifa Al-Jedea, and MOFA advisor Manal Radwan.


Saudi, Malaysian officials discuss boosting halal industry

Saudi, Malaysian officials discuss boosting halal industry
Updated 22 April 2024
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Saudi, Malaysian officials discuss boosting halal industry

Saudi, Malaysian officials discuss boosting halal industry
  • Discussed unifying halal standards and boosting coordination in legislative and technical research
  • Stressed the need to have a global regulatory and legislative framework for the halal industry

RIYADH: Saudi Food and Drug Authority CEO Hisham bin Saad Aljadhey met Malaysian Minister of Religious Affairs Mohamad Naim bin Mokhtar in Kuala Lumpur on Monday to discuss supporting and expanding the halal industry in Malaysia.

Malaysian Department of Islamic Development Director General Hakimah Yusuf also attended the meeting.

The two sides discussed unifying halal standards and boosting coordination in legislative and technical research, the Saudi Press Agency reported.

They also stressed the need to have a global regulatory and legislative framework for the halal industry, joint work to develop global oversight in this field, mechanisms to ensure the authenticity of halal products for Muslims around the world, and mutual acceptance of products manufactured in the two countries.

The Kingdom had signed a memorandum of understanding with Malaysia on mutual recognition of halal certificates issued by both countries.

The memorandum covers cooperation in recognizing halal certificates issued by the Saudi Halal Center, which is affiliated with the SFDA and JAKIM in Malaysia, and in conformity-assessment procedures, standards, technical regulations and standards for issuing halal certificates, as well as the exchange of expertise and knowledge in training, research and laboratory analysis.


Saudi Arabia slashes cinema license fees, ticket prices set to drop

Saudi Arabia slashes cinema license fees, ticket prices set to drop
Updated 22 April 2024
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Saudi Arabia slashes cinema license fees, ticket prices set to drop

Saudi Arabia slashes cinema license fees, ticket prices set to drop
  • Saudi Film Commission is encouraging cinema operators to offer discounts and promotions to attract more moviegoers
  • Initiative aims to increase the number of cinema halls, make Saudi films more accessible, and encourage more people to visit cinemas across the Kingdom

RIYADH: Cinema ticket prices in Saudi Arabia are set to drop significantly after the Film Commission’s recent decision to cut cinema operating license fees.

The move, approved by the commission’s board of directors chaired by Minister of Culture Prince Badr bin Abdullah bin Farhan, aims to foster growth, boost audience engagement and establish Saudi Arabia as a regional filmmaking hub.

The commission has simplified the licensing process and reduced fees for various operations, including permanent, temporary and special-needs cinemas, the Saudi Press Agency reported.

Applicants can now easily obtain licenses to operate a production studio, create visual and audio content, distribute or import films, and obtain no-objection licenses for cinematography through the Cultural Licenses Platform, Abde’a.

License fees for operating permanent or temporary cinemas in Saudi Arabia have been significantly reduced in various categories of cities:

In category “A” cities, the cost of a permanent cinema license has been reduced to SR25,000 ($6,666), down from SR210,000. In category “B” cities, the fee is now SR15,000, reduced from SR126,000, while in category “C” cities, the cost is SR5,000, down from SR84,000.

For temporary cinema licenses, the fees have also decreased. In category “A” cities, the cost is now SR15,000, down from SR105,000. In category “B” cities, the fee is SR10,000, reduced from SR63,000, and in category “C” cities, it is now SR5,000, down from SR42,000.

The commission also reduced the fee for a license to operate a cinema, whether for showing one or more films on a permanent or temporary basis.

The reduced fee for a permanent cinema in “A” category cities is SR3,000 per branch, down from SR21,000 per screen. In “B” category cities, the new fee is SR2,000, reduced from SR12,600, while in “C” category cities, the cost is SR1,000, down from SR8,400.

For temporary cinemas, the reduced fee in “A” category cities is SR500 per branch, reduced from SR5,000 per screen. In “B” category cities, the fee is now SR500, down from SR5,000, and in “C” category cities, the current fee is SR500, also down from SR5,000.

The commission is encouraging cinema operators to offer discounts and promotions to attract more moviegoers. This initiative aims to increase the number of cinema halls, make Saudi films more accessible, and encourage more people to visit cinemas across the Kingdom.

These measures are part of the Film Commission’s efforts to achieve the strategic goals of the film industry by fostering growth in the number of box offices across the Kingdom and boosting the economic contributions of companies in the sector.

Additionally, the commission aims to support cultural and creative diversity in cinema, create a competitive environment that encourages investment in the film industry, and enhance the overall movie-going experience. This approach is designed to strengthen the Kingdom’s position as a leading regional center for the film industry.

Film Commission CEO Abdullah Al-Qahtani said: “At the commission, we are working to stimulate the film industry by encouraging private-sector companies operating cinemas in the Kingdom to provide discounts and promotional offers to cinema viewership, with the aim of enhancing the film culture in the Kingdom.

“We also work intensively to enhance the presence of Saudi films by stimulating the showing of Saudi films in various cinemas.”