Swizz Beatz gearing up for second round of AlUla Camel Cup

Special Swizz Beatz gearing up for second round of AlUla Camel Cup
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Swizz Beatz owns the Saudi Bronx camel racing team. (Supplied)
Special Swizz Beatz gearing up for second round of AlUla Camel Cup
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Swizz Beatz and friend Will Smith display Saudi Bronx merchandize. (Supplied)
Special Swizz Beatz gearing up for second round of AlUla Camel Cup
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Swizz Beatz owns the Saudi Bronx camel racing team. (Supplied)
Special Swizz Beatz gearing up for second round of AlUla Camel Cup
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Swizz Beatz with his grandfather Elbert Dean, who managed the late great Muhammad Ali. (Supplied)
Special Swizz Beatz gearing up for second round of AlUla Camel Cup
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Swizz Beatz’s grandfather Elbert Dean with legendary boxer Muhammad Ali. (Supplied)
Special Swizz Beatz gearing up for second round of AlUla Camel Cup
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Saudi Bronx merchandize. (Supplied)
Special Swizz Beatz gearing up for second round of AlUla Camel Cup
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Action from the 2023 AlUla Camel Cup. (RCU)
Special Swizz Beatz gearing up for second round of AlUla Camel Cup
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Action from the 2023 AlUla Camel Cup. (RCU)
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Updated 23 April 2024
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Swizz Beatz gearing up for second round of AlUla Camel Cup

Swizz Beatz gearing up for second round of AlUla Camel Cup
  • Swizz Beatz: I feel like they might not know my music, but they definitely know the Saudi Bronx and it’s kind of amazing that I had a new identity in a whole new field in a whole new country
  • Swizz Beatz: To be the first outside of the GCC to own a team in the entire federation … that will forever be in history; you cannot erase that

DHAHRAN: The “ships of the desert” will start racing on Wednesday, April 24, when the second AlUla Camel Cup takes off. At the race this year will be a familiar face: Swizz Beatz, the first and only American owner of a camel racing team in Saudi Arabia. He will, once again, be participating in what is deemed the “world’s most prestigious camel racing event,” which ends on April 27.

Born Kasseem Daoud Dean and known professionally as “Swizz Beatz,” the American record producer and rapper joined the camel-racing world five years ago and hasn’t looked back. His team’s name, Saudi Bronx, which is also a brand offering clothing and accessories, is inspired by his hometown in New York’s South Bronx and Saudi Arabia.

“I'm having fun with it,” Swizz Beatz told Arab News ahead of the race. “Anything that I’m having fun with is easy for me to do. And then on top of that, we got over 20-something trophies.

“The fact that we’re even in the AlUla Cup is major because that means that we have four chances to do some big things.”

Wanting to participate in the race does not grant one an automatic shoo-in, celeb or not. There is a rigorous process and strict criteria to qualify.

“We can’t just apply for this race; they have to pick camels based on speed and based on rankings and things like that,” he explained.

This year, the UN and the Ministry of Culture both designated 2024 as The Year of the Camel, highlighting the cultural and civilizational significance of the majestic animal. 

This special focus adds a new cultural dimension to the event, marking AlUla as a must-visit destination to celebrate and honor the camel. It will showcase the best of the best as the animals race for speed, the jockeys demonstrate skill and everyone honors tradition.

“The journey has been very educational, very humbling. It’s a glimpse into something that has been such a pillar in (Saudi) heritage that it’s just awesome to see,” Swizz Beatz continued.

As with the previous edition, this year’s event will also be organized by the Royal Commission for AlUla in partnership with the Saudi Camel Racing Federation.

“The AlUla Camel Cup stands proudly as the pinnacle of camel racing and has assumed a starring role in elevating AlUla’s regional and global standing as a premier heritage sports destination,” Ziad Al-Suhaibini, RCU’s chief sports officer, said.

Taking place at AlUla’s Mughayra Heritage Sports Village, the four-day event will feature the region’s fastest camels and most talented riders across several rounds of competition. There will be substantial prize pots and AlUla Camel Cup champion trophies up for grabs.

Camel racing, which dates to the 7th century, is an ancient heritage sport woven into the fabric of the local culture. 

“There’s nothing that I need to change with them; they’ve been bringing home the magic,” Swizz Beatz said of his camel racing trainer, Hamed, and his team.

When asked what was different this time around, he replied: “I just think that we’re more prepared this time.”

The Saudi Bronx merch store will also be stocked with fresh drops.

“We just wanted to have something for the brand (so) that even if people can’t come to the race, they can represent,” he said. “People go crazy over the Saudi Bronx hoodies and stuff like that. Last year was a very small setup, which was cool because everybody was just starting,” he said.

This year’s AlUla Camel Cup is expected to be the most spectator-friendly race, thanks to the freshly formed Royal Pavilion and the expansive Heritage Village. 

Workshop sessions will be available throughout the four days, with enriching sessions centered on calligraphy, traditional pottery-making, Sadu weaving, and bakhour, or incense. Children will be able to ride camels, create camel origami and clay models, and use augmented reality to bring their imaginative camel creations to life.

Last year, the races attracted 2,550 visitors and created a flurry of posts on social media.

“My kids are very into culture — period. We travel and they’ve been here (to the Kingdom),” Swizz Beatz shared.

He credits his children with motivating him to pursue his goals. They influence his moves, he said, but he also aims to do the same for them.

“I teach them to believe in their vision. Even if no one is able to comprehend it at that moment, you might be ahead of your time. I also am influenced to show them different things and to step outside of the box because a lot of people were laughing at me (for owning a camel racing team) … The same people (now) want to come to a race,” he said.

He sees being part of the camel-racing world as a way to “give back to the people,” pay homage to the locals, and combine all of his passions; family, fun, music, movement, culture, and a fresh experience steeped in history and nostalgic vibes.

Swizz Beatz, who usually brings his family along, will come solo this time. His wife, superstar Alicia Keys, will stay behind in New York to tend to the recent opening of her Broadway show based on her life, “Hell’s Kitchen.”

He has been adamant about showcasing his trips to the Kingdom on his social media platforms. Unlike many American stars who have only recently parachuted into AlUla either for work or pleasure, his family has a long history with the Kingdom.

“The journey (into Saudi Arabia) for me has been very natural. My grandfather went to Makkah in the 1970s. Back then, my grandfather also managed (boxing legend and cultural icon) Muhammad Ali,” Swizz Beatz told Arab News. 

He hopes to take that same trip alongside his grandfather soon.

“I haven’t been to Makkah. I’m planning on taking my grandfather because he’s been with me about it and because I didn’t want to do the trip without him. Inshallah, we have to do that this year. He’s not getting younger,” he said.

After earning recognition for his other projects, which granted him celeb status in the US and even within the Kingdom, Swizz Beatz is excited about this new chapter in his life.

In AlUla, the camel-racing community knows him as one of them.

“They call me Abu Nasser. I feel like they might not know my music, but they definitely know the Saudi Bronx and it’s kind of amazing that I had a new identity in a whole new field in a whole new country — and it has nothing to do with music,” he said.

Nonetheless, he will still use his musical talents while at AlUla.

The Grammy winner will be spinning at AlUla on Wheels II to DJ on two of the nights at his AlUla on Wheels spot. 

He hopes to expand his skating energy with live DJs into places like Jeddah and Riyadh, but for now, is happy to continue to spin in AlUla.

But the priority of his current trip will be the camels. He said that his first interaction with a camel was many years ago, perhaps at Disney World. Since then, he has studied the scene and has worked hard to be part of the community.

He hopes his participation at the Camel Cup will continue to raise awareness. While mindful of the obstacles ahead, he is grateful for the overall journey.

“You know, even if everything was to stop today, we’ve made history. To be the first outside of the GCC to own a team in the entire federation … that will forever be in history; you cannot erase that,” he said.

He concluded, saying he hopes camel racing will become as popular and well-known as Formula One.


KSrelief sends aid to Sudan and Pakistan

KSrelief sends aid to Sudan and Pakistan
Updated 43 min 51 sec ago
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KSrelief sends aid to Sudan and Pakistan

KSrelief sends aid to Sudan and Pakistan
  • Agency provided 956 food parcels, benefitting nearly 5,500 people in Sudan
  • Nearly 600 shelter kits distributed in Pakistan's Gwadar to 4,000 people

Saudi Arabian aid agency KSrelief distributed hundreds of food aid packages and shelter kits to thousands most in need in Sudan and Pakistan, state news agency SPA reported on Tuesday.

The agency provided 956 food parcels, benefitting nearly 5,500 people in Sudan, while nearly 600 shelter kits were distributed in the Gwadar district of Pakistan’s Balochistan province, benefitting more than 4,000 people.

The assistance is part of a series of relief and humanitarian projects implemented by KSrelief across the world.


Saudi, Japan discuss ties at Vision 2030 business forum in Tokyo

Saudi, Japan discuss ties at Vision 2030 business forum in Tokyo
Updated 10 min 1 sec ago
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Saudi, Japan discuss ties at Vision 2030 business forum in Tokyo

Saudi, Japan discuss ties at Vision 2030 business forum in Tokyo
  • Focus on mutual investment growth, says Saudi official
  • Manufacturing, entertainment and health are key areas

TOKYO: The Saudi Arabia-Japan Vision 2030 Business Forum took place in Tokyo on Tuesday with over 300 industry officials and leaders discussing ways to boost trade, investment and cultural ties.

In her keynote speech, Sara Al-Sayed, Saudi Arabia’s deputy minister of international partnerships at the Ministry of Investment, outlined plans for further collaboration between the two nations.

“Under the Saudi-Japan Vision 2030, we aim to take this partnership to a new level,” she said. “We want to leverage our mutual strengths, drive sustainable mutual economic growth, enhance technological innovation, and promote cultural exchange. We will be able to unlock the potential to expand the Japan partnership to be a key driver of growth.”

She added: “We have noticed in the last decade the strength of the partnership between Saudi Arabia and Japan. Over the last decade alone, the number of companies that have been established in Saudi Arabia by the Japanese has doubled and we have over 50 headquarters that have been established in Saudi Arabia. This forum will act as a catalyst to accelerate this growth and translate interest into investment.”

Saudi Arabia’s Minister of Investment Khalid Al-Falih, Minister of Energy Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman Al Saud and Japan’s Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry SAITO Ken attended the forum, each giving a speech commemorating the relationship between the two nations. 

Saito said the Japanese government will extend its maximum support to expand business with Saudi Arabia, while Prince Abdulaziz said the Kingdom “will bring collaborations to the forefront and will make sure that in all of the forums, we advocate the same aspirations in the national transition process attending to energy requirements.”

Al-Falih said in his closing remarks that the Kingdom’s non-oil income has “doubled and is looking for an accumulated investment of over $3 trillion that offers big chances to Japanese.”

He added that Saudi Arabia has a “bubble of projects as it will host expo 2030 in Riyadh.”

Saudi Arabia will also host the Winter Olympics in NEOM, and the World Cup 2034, that offers investment chances for the Japanese companies to participate, he explained.

Sessions at the forum included “Forging stronger manufacturing collaboration between KSA and Japan,” “Collaboration in the new era of sustainability and circular economy,” “Reinventing entertainment and gaming industries across borders,” and “Expanding the area of cooperation in healthcare.”

Additionally, the forum hosted a “Digital Entertainment Roundtable,” to discuss Saudi Arabia’s efforts to build a local gaming industry, which includes localizing Japanese games for the Saudi market, collaborating with esports tournament organizers, and investing in the digital entertainment sector. 

Saudi Arabia’s Minister of Communications and Information, Abdallah Alswaha, and Minister of Investment attended the roundtable, with the former giving a short speech during the opening. 

Saudi Arabia’s gaming sector is expected to grow to 1.3 billion dollars in the next two years, with 58 gaming companies operating in the Kingdom. 67% of Saudi Arabia’s population (around 24.8 million people) are active video game players.  

The Kingdom will be hosting this year’s Esports World Cup in July and will be giving away approximately $60 million in prize money to further grow the gaming sector.

Saudi Arabia has previously collaborated with Japanese companies, which have provided the Kingdom with expertise, knowledge, and cutting-edge technologies to improve the overall quality of projects and elevate the reputation of the digital entertainment industry.     


KSrelief sends aid to Sudan and Pakistan

KSrelief sends aid to Sudan and Pakistan
Updated 21 May 2024
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KSrelief sends aid to Sudan and Pakistan

KSrelief sends aid to Sudan and Pakistan

Saudi Arabian aid agency KSrelief distributed hundreds of food aid packages and shelter kits to thousands most in need in Sudan and Pakistan, state news agency SPA reported on Tuesday.

The agency provided 956 food parcels, benefitting nearly 5,500 people in Sudan, while nearly 600 shelter kits were distributed in the Gwadar district of Pakistan’s Balochistan province, benefitting more than 4,000 people.

The assistance is part of a series of relief and humanitarian projects implemented by KSrelief across the world.


KSrelief to install water desalination plant at Mogadishu hospital

KSrelief to install water desalination plant at Mogadishu hospital
Updated 21 May 2024
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KSrelief to install water desalination plant at Mogadishu hospital

KSrelief to install water desalination plant at Mogadishu hospital

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s aid organization KSrelief on Monday signed an agreement to install a water desalination plant at the kidney dialysis center of Banadir Hospital in Mogadishu.

The initiative in Somalia’s capital will benefit 270 individuals.

KSrelief’s Assistant Supervisor-General of Operations and Programs Ahmed bin Ali Al-Baiz signed the agreement at the center’s headquarters in Riyadh.

Elsewhere, KSrelief on Saturday distributed 585 shelter bags in Gwadar district in Pakistan’s Balochistan province, benefiting 4,095 families in the flood-affected areas.

The program is a part of KSrelief’s third phase of support for vulnerable people in Pakistan.

Also, KSrelief on Saturday distributed 956 food baskets to displaced families in the north of Sudan, benefiting 5,497 individuals. This is a part of the second phase of KSrelief’s food-security project in the country.


Digital wellbeing summit at Ithra to confront technology’s dangers, advantages

Digital wellbeing summit at Ithra to confront technology’s dangers, advantages
Updated 20 May 2024
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Digital wellbeing summit at Ithra to confront technology’s dangers, advantages

Digital wellbeing summit at Ithra to confront technology’s dangers, advantages
  • Event at Ithra will have over 110 digital experts, 70 speakers from 20 countries

DHAHRAN: After a two-year hiatus, the second Sync Digital Wellbeing Summit 2024 returns to the King Abdulaziz Center for World Culture, or Ithra, this week for discussions and debates by world-leading experts.

Scheduled for May 22 and 23, Ithra will be buzzing with all things that merge technology and wellness, and will feature 110 digital experts and 70 speakers from 20 countries.

The second Sync Summit is scheduled for may 22 and 23, and Ithra will be buzzing with all things that merge technology and wellness. (Supplied)

“The Sync Summit 2024 is not just another conference. It’s a platform for meaningful discussions, critical reflections, and collective actions for a better digital future,” said Wadha Al-Nafjan, head of digital wellbeing at Sync. “As we navigate the digital paradox, it is vital to recognize our responsibility in shaping the world we want to live in.”

Topics including algorithmic homogenization and identity loss, AI’s impact on the creative industries, and misinformation will be tackled under the theme “Confronting the Digital Paradox.”

The second Sync Summit is scheduled for may 22 and 23, and Ithra will be buzzing with all things that merge technology and wellness. (Supplied)

The summit will be held at the Ithra headquarters in Dhahran, with a live stream available.

Day one, organized around the sub-theme “Cuts Both Ways: Wrestling with the Tensions of the Digital Era,” includes seven panels, two fireside chats and two keynote talks.

It’s a platform for meaningful discussions, critical reflections, and collective actions for a better digital future.

Wadha Al-Nafjan, Head of digital wellbeing at Sync

Day two, centering on the sub-theme “A Digital Renaissance: Shaping Our Relationship with Digital for a Better Future,” will have eight panels and three keynotes. In addition, it will have the Sync Spotlight series finale, for which creative influencer Omar Farooq will screen his new documentary, “The Dark Side of Japan.”

Although there was no summit last year at Ithra, the Sync team conducted extensive research globally that led to some compelling findings.

Wadha Al-Nafjan, Head of digital wellbeing at Sync

According to their research, 81 percent of those surveyed are concerned about the unsolicited collection of their personal data, 53 percent struggle to maintain boundaries between their work and personal lives, while 66 percent believe that the internet needs more regulation. About 73 percent of participants think social media was designed to be addictive.

Furthermore, the average time spent online daily has gone down, compared with 2021. About 68 percent claim to understand AI, 87 percent think technology is allowing people to work and study more flexibly, and 91 percent use digital devices to access resources including books and tutorials.

The second Sync Summit is scheduled for may 22 and 23, and Ithra will be buzzing with all things that merge technology and wellness. (Supplied)

“Never before has the world been so connected to everything and everyone. We know technology has improved our lives, but it also has the painful potential to distract and harm,” Ithra said in a statement to Arab News. The summit’s activities are geared toward “ensuring that we as humans come together to keep digital technology in check and working towards the greater good, safeguarding its future, and our own.”

The event will bridge the gap between academic research, industry practices, and end-users regarding digital wellbeing through a variety of sessions.

Sync Spotlight

A series of sessions will run in parallel to the two-day Sync Summit stage program, offering greater interaction between speakers and audience members.

Sync Action Forum

The worldwide Gen Alpha Forum, an initiative developed by Sync Research with McCann Worldgroup, will see the community expand to include Saudi Arabia parents of Gen Alpha children, as well as educators, and other Gen Alpha stakeholders.

Majlis

In partnership with Johns Hopkins, which has a local hospital at Aramco, the Majlis will host three sessions exploring digital wellbeing with educators, researchers and students.

The Plaza

The gamified experience will dive into the findings compiled by the Sync Research team through the lens of three projects which were developed with partners Horizon Group, PSB and McCann Worldgroup.

Sync Immersive

In this interactive journey, the organizers promise to provide a three-step experience designed to impact participants’ emotions and understanding, while guiding them into navigating the complexities of digital ethics.

Podcast

The booth experience will serve both as a studio to record live podcast episodes hosted by Mo Gawdat, formerly of Google, and as a multi-functional space for hosting media interviews. Saudi Arabia’s Mohammed Islam, host of the English-language podcast, The Mo Show, will also be present.

Other notable speakers this year include US data scientist and AI specialist Rumman Chowdhury; Saudi Arabia athlete, FIFA World Champion and owner of an esports team, Abdulaziz Alshehri; and Apple Inc. co-founder Steve Wozniak.

One May 21, Ithra will host the Global Digital Wellbeing Assembly, a gathering of experts from across the Kingdom and the globe to discuss the guiding objectives and roadmap for a new digital wellbeing society.

Registration is now open and attendance is free.