Award-winning Saudi film ‘Norah’ premieres in theaters across the Kingdom

A special screening of award-winning Saudi film “Norah”  was held on Wednesday night at Roshn Front’s Vox Cinema. (Abdulrhman Bin Shalhuob)
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A special screening of award-winning Saudi film “Norah” was held on Wednesday night at Roshn Front’s Vox Cinema. (Abdulrhman Bin Shalhuob)
Maria Bahrawi attends the special screening of award-winning Saudi film “Norah”. (Abdulrhman Bin Shalhuob)
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Maria Bahrawi attends the special screening of award-winning Saudi film “Norah”. (Abdulrhman Bin Shalhuob)
Maria Bahrawi and co-star Abdullah Al-Sadhan attend the special screening of award-winning Saudi film “Norah”. (Abdulrhman Bin Shalhuob)
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Maria Bahrawi and co-star Abdullah Al-Sadhan attend the special screening of award-winning Saudi film “Norah”. (Abdulrhman Bin Shalhuob)
Maria Bahrawi and co-star Abdullah Al-Sadhan attend the special screening of award-winning Saudi film “Norah”. (Abdulrhman Bin Shalhuob)
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Maria Bahrawi and co-star Abdullah Al-Sadhan attend the special screening of award-winning Saudi film “Norah”. (Abdulrhman Bin Shalhuob)
A special screening of award-winning Saudi film “Norah”  was held on Wednesday night at Roshn Front’s Vox Cinema. (Abdulrhman Bin Shalhuob)
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A special screening of award-winning Saudi film “Norah” was held on Wednesday night at Roshn Front’s Vox Cinema. (Abdulrhman Bin Shalhuob)
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Updated 20 June 2024
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Award-winning Saudi film ‘Norah’ premieres in theaters across the Kingdom

A special screening of award-winning Saudi film “Norah”  was held on Wednesday night at Roshn Front’s Vox Cinema.
  • “Norah” achieved great success at the 78th annual Cannes International Film Festival
  • Film was first screened last December at the Red Sea International Film Festival, where it won the “Best Saudi Film” award

RIYADH: The award-winning Saudi film “Norah” made its premiere in the Kingdom on Thursday after its international success at the Cannes Film Festival.

A special screening was held on Wednesday night at Roshn Front’s Vox Cinema, where director Tawfik Al-Zaidi was in attendance alongside the film’s star, Maria Bahrawi, and her acclaimed co-stars Yaqoub Al-Farhan and Abdullah Al-Sadhan.

Al-Farhan told Arab News: “To be accepted in Cannes is an indication of how important this film is, and also an indication of how much progress the film industry (has made) here.

“Although it’s still the beginning of it, we’re starting to see the results of the huge work that’s happening right now.

“I’m very positive about the future. If this is the beginning, I think after five or 10 years, we’ll be seeing a lot of great films from Saudi.”

“Norah” achieved great success at the 78th annual Cannes International Film Festival, where it was the official selection for the “Un Certain Regard” competition, one of the most critical titles of the event. It also received the Special Mention from the jury, making it the most notably recognized Saudi film at Cannes.

The film takes place in a remote Saudi village in the 90s, where Norah (played by Bahrawi) dreams of seeing horizons beyond her small village. As a new teacher, Nader (played by Al-Farhan) makes his way to her hometown, and Norah’s world begins to open up through art, knowledge and creativity, leading her to discover more about her own family history.

“The fact that they chose me for the role only two weeks before production was a surprise for me. But, thankfully, my first role in a film was a success and reached international audiences. I’m very proud and happy that today it’ll be in cinemas and the world can see it, and I’m excited to see people’s reactions,” Bahrawi told Arab News.

While it was first screened last December at the Red Sea International Film Festival, where it won the “Best Saudi Film” award, the nationwide cinema premiere is a culmination of the film’s journey to its intended audience: the Saudi public.

Bahrawi said: “The fact that they chose me for the role only two weeks before production was a surprise for me. But, thankfully, my first role in a film was a success and reached international audiences. I’m very proud and happy that today it’ll be in cinemas and the world can see it, and I’m excited to see people’s reactions.

“Since I was young, I’ve always dreamed of being an actress, and today I can say that I’ve reached that and acted in my first film as a lead role… AlUla was the city that made my first dream come true.”

Taking public participation even further, a competition was presented to the public last Thursday inviting all girls named Norah to play a part. About 500 girls took part, and two winners received tickets to the special pre-screening event.

“Norah” is the first Saudi feature to be filmed entirely in AlUla. “The city itself and its locations really complemented the film’s story, so that was a wonderful choice for the location,” Bahrawi said.

While the film is both Bahrawi’s debut on the big screen and Al-Zaidi’s first feature film, it was also a personal experience for Al-Farhan, who is widely known for his role in the TV mini series “Rashash.”

“There’s so many similarities between me and the character, which is why it’s a very personal project for me and it’s so dear to my heart, especially after the achievement of the Cannes Film Festival,” he said.

In preparation for the role, Al-Farhan spent time with a professional sketch artist in order to learn the craft for his role — even simple things like holding a pencil the right way.

He said that the beginning sketches featured in the film were his own work, but the final results were “by a real artist.”

Production was supported by the Film Commission through Daw, a national initiative to support and encourage Saudi filmmakers. The film also received support from Film AlUla, the Red Sea Film Fund and Generation 2030.

The inspiration for “Norah” came to Al-Zaidi in 2015 from his need to express something within him. In the same way that Al-Farhan’s character, Nader, portrays his feelings on sketchbooks and canvases, Al-Zaidi uses the big screen.

He told Arab News: “I’m a lover of art in all its forms, whether its music, drawing or visiting museums, cinema encapsulates all of these arts and shows them beautifully through a film’s crew.

“I wanted to create these emotions between two people who love art, Norah and Nader. Art is a means of communication between people, and a means of expression as well.”

As the Saudi film scene continues to develop and grow toward global horizons, Al-Zaidi is confident that the industry can overcome challenges.

“Challenges will always be there, but as they say, ‘success has many fathers, but failure is an orphan’ ... if you believe in yourself, you will get there,” he said.


July 21: World’s hottest day since records began

July 21: World’s hottest day since records began
Updated 16 sec ago
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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.

 


King Salman oasis hosts global chemistry talent event

King Salman oasis hosts global chemistry talent event
Updated 23 July 2024
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King Salman oasis hosts global chemistry talent event

King Salman oasis hosts global chemistry talent event
  • The students toured an exhibition showcasing research priorities, development and innovation in the Kingdom, focusing on energy and industry-related technologies

RIYADH: The King Salman Science Oasis hosted 333 talented individuals from 90 countries who participated in the 56th International Chemistry Olympiad 2024.

This event was organized by the King Abdulaziz and His Companions Foundation for Giftedness and Creativity in partnership with the Ministry of Education and King Saud University.

The program is in Riyadh from July 22 to July 30, the Saudi Press Agency reported on Tuesday.

During their visit, participants were immersed in a rich learning experience, exploring the history of chemistry in the Kingdom and its crucial role in the industry’s development.

They also delved into the petrochemical industry’s contributions to innovation and entrepreneurship in the Kingdom, gaining valuable insights and knowledge.

The students toured an exhibition showcasing research priorities, development and innovation in the Kingdom, focusing on energy and industry-related technologies.

They also interacted with 13 researchers from the King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology, who provided insights into areas such as refining, petrochemicals, hydrogen, nuclear sciences, advanced materials, electronics, semiconductors, advanced manufacturing, future energy and mining.

At the end of their visit, students participated in making Taif perfume as part of their experience at the King Salman Science Oasis.

 


GCC secretary general receives newly appointed Uzbekistan ambassador to Saudi Arabia

GCC secretary general receives newly appointed Uzbekistan ambassador to Saudi Arabia
Updated 23 July 2024
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GCC secretary general receives newly appointed Uzbekistan ambassador to Saudi Arabia

GCC secretary general receives newly appointed Uzbekistan ambassador to Saudi Arabia
  • The parties looked at ties between the GCC and Uzbekistan, and relations between the GCC and Central Asia

RIYADH: Secretary-General of the Gulf Cooperation Council Jassim Mohammed Al-Budaiwi on Tuesday in Riyadh received the recently appointed Ambassador of Uzbekistan to the Kingdom Nodirjon Turgunov.

The parties looked at ties between the GCC and Uzbekistan, and relations between the GCC and Central Asia, and ways to enhance them, the Saudi Press Agency reported.

They also exchanged views on the latest regional and international developments and political issues of mutual concern.

Al-Budaiwi wished the ambassador success in his new duties.