DUBAI: Over the past six months, the Saudi Pavilion at Expo 2020 Dubai featured a packed schedule of workshops, meetings, concerts and exhibitions designed to share the very best of the Kingdom’s innovations, culture, heritage and investment opportunities.
Since it opened in October last year, millions of visitors from around the world flocked to the Saudi Pavilion — the second biggest at the Arab region’s first world expo — to learn more about the Kingdom as it embarks on a new era of greater openness.
The Kingdom’s ambitions for the coming decades, enshrined in its Vision 2030 economic and social reform agenda, featured prominently in the pavilion’s calendar of events.
At a series of business forums, the Saudi Pavilion invited entrepreneurs and leaders in global commerce to network and learn more about opportunities for cooperation in investment, sustainability, health care, digitization, innovation and smart cities.
As part of its economic diversification strategy, the Kingdom became a magnet for investment in new technologies, the creative industries, clean and renewable sources of energy, tourism, leisure and entertainment.
One area where the Kingdom has seen rapid growth is sports entertainment — a sector it has been eager to show off at pavilion events, offering visitors the opportunity to watch live motor racing, participate in youth sports tournaments, and the chance to experience virtual reality with top-of-the-range VR headsets.
The Kingdom has also been keen to promote its blossoming creative industries, in everything from filmmaking and theater to fine art and fashion. One series of events, dubbed “16 Windows,” gave visitors a taste of a different aspect of Saudi cultural innovation each week, enticing guests to return again and again.
In the spirit of greater openness, the Kingdom’s pavilion also hosted “Saudi Salon,” a program of monthly talks that invited experts and visitors to tackle the big issues of the day, from the role of the creative industries in transforming societies to the conservation of water.
In fact, the theme of environmental sustainability featured prominently in the Saudi Pavilion’s program of events. One family-friendly workshop that took place every weekday allowed children to learn about recycling by transforming scrap materials into spectacular works of art.
The Saudi pavilion’s events calendar was not all focused on the future, however. Throughout the expo, organizers laid on a program of workshops, concerts and activities that celebrated Saudi heritage, traditional crafts, storytelling and music.
Daily performances in the pavilion’s open square introduced visitors to Saudi Arabia’s rich folklore traditions, including the Saudi Ardah, Al-Liwa, Al-Azawi and Al-Khubaiti, while in the pavilion’s Palm Garden, guests were invited to hear authentic live music performances from captivating Saudi musicians.
In a program of workshops, children were invited to learn about Saudi Arabia’s regional handicraft traditions by making floral head wreaths and trying their hand at Al-Sadu weaving.
Some of the pavilion’s best events were reserved for Jan. 7, when the Kingdom marked its national day. They included mesmerizing performances by Saudi singers Mohammed Abdu and Ayed Youssef at the Jubilee Theater in a music extravaganza dubbed the Saudi Experience Festival.
“Saudi Day” also featured a cultural show in Al-Wasl Square, a parade around the expo site by performance groups wearing traditional and modern Saudi clothes, a Saudi fashion program, and a breathtaking airshow by the Green Falcons.
As Expo 2020 Dubai draws to a close, the success of the Saudi Pavilion’s events calendar will no doubt leave a lasting impression in the minds of its visitors and will live on in the cross-cultural bridges forged between the Kingdom and the world.
RIYADH: The Coalition to Restore Legitimacy in Yemen announced on Tuesday that it will stop all military activities in Yemen starting Wednesday March 30 at 6 a.m.
This comes in response to the request of the Gulf Cooperation Council Secretary General and in support of the efforts and endeavors to reach a comprehensive and sustainable political solution to end the Yemeni crisis, the coalition said in a statement.
The coalition also said it will take all steps and measures to make the ceasefire a success, and create appropriate conditions and a positive environment during the month of Ramadan to make peace.
“Our position is firm in support of the legitimate Yemeni government in all its political stance and military measures, and we affirm our stand with the Yemeni people to achieve their aspirations and build their state in a way that achieves security and prosperity,” the coalition further said.
GCC Secretary General Dr. Nayef Falah Al-Hajraf on Tuesday called on the coalition and all Yemeni parties to halt all military operations in Yemen.
The GCC said in a statement that Al-Hajraf’s call emanated from the keenness of GCC leaders and peoples to achieve peace and stability in Yemen. It also came to emphasize the great interest that Yemen and its people enjoy within the GCC.
The Secretary General affirmed that the call is addressed to all Yemeni parties, and renewed the invitation to Ansar Allah to attend and participate in the dialogue with their “Yemeni brothers”, and to prioritize Yemen’s interest and alleviate the suffering of the Yemeni people.
On Friday, the Iran-backed militia attacked an Aramco oil storage facility in Jeddah causing a fire.
The coalition announced later that the fire in two tanks at the North Jeddah oil facility had been brought under control, and there were no casualties.
Saudi Arabia said after those attacks that it would bear no responsibility for any shortage of global oil supplies caused by Houthi attacks.
The North Jeddah plant stores diesel, gasoline and jet fuel for use in the city. It accounts for over a quarter of Saudi Arabia’s supplies and also provides fuel for a desalination plant.
Last week and prior to Friday’s attack, Saudi air defenses forces destroyed seven drones and a missile launched by the Houthis targeting the southern part of the Kingdom. The attacks deliberately targeted civilian areas and energy installations, the coalition said, and threatened both regional and international security.
These attacks were condemned by countries and organizations from around the world.
RIYADH: The winners of this year’s King Faisal Prize on Tuesday received their awards at a glittering ceremony staged in Riyadh.
The annual gongs — held under the auspices of King Salman — are the most prestigious in the Muslim world and recognize outstanding achievement in services to Islam, Islamic studies, Arabic language and literature, medicine, and science.
The service to Islam prize was jointly awarded to former Tanzanian President Ali Hassan Mwinyi and Egyptian scholar Prof. Hassan Mahmoud Al-Shafei.
Since 1979, the King Faisal Prize has awarded 282 laureates of 44 different nationalities who have made distinguished contributions to serving Islam, and humanity at large.
The Arabic language and literature award went to Prof. Suzanne Stetkevych and Prof. Muhsin Al-Musawi from the US.
American Prof. David Liu secured the medicine prize while the science accolade was shared by Prof. Martin Hairer of the UK and Prof. Nader Masmoudi of Tunisia.
The Islamic studies prize, that this year focused on the Islamic heritage of Al-Andalus, was withheld because the nominated works did not meet the necessary criteria.
Mwinyi was honored for actively participating in Islamic advocacy and promoting religious tolerance. He established Islamic schools and translated many resources and references in hadith, jurisprudence, and the Prophet Mohammad’s biography into Swahili, the language spoken by millions of people in East Africa.
Al-Shafei, who was president of the Academy of the Arabic Language in Cairo from 2012 to 2020, held several academic positions and established a series of institutes concerned with Al-Azhar. He also contributed to the establishment of the International Islamic University in the Pakistani capital Islamabad.
The Arabic language and literature prize was jointly presented to Stetkevych, chair of the department of Arabic and Islamic studies at Georgetown University, and Al-Musawi, professor of Arabic and comparative literary studies at Columbia University.
Stetkevych’s extensive research and numerous works have analyzed Arabic literature with unmatched depth from the pre-Islamic period to the Nahda/revivalist period. Her research approach, which is characterized by its application of varied methodologies, resulted in the renewal of the critical perspective and methods of studying classical Arabic poetry.
The research and studies of literary critic and novelist Al-Musawi have had a great impact on Arabic studies students and researchers in the Arab world and the West, through his distinctive methods of presentation, analysis, critical interpretation, and openness to Arab and international creative texts in prose and poetry.
Meanwhile, the medicine prize concentrated on gene-editing technologies. Its winner Liu, director of the Merkin Institute for Transformative Technologies in Healthcare, invented the first so-called base editor to make alterations on DNA and genes by replacing letters in the DNA base.
Hairer, chair in probability and stochastic analysis at Imperial College’s mathematics department, was one of the science prize recipients. His work has been in the general area of probability theory with a focus on the analysis of stochastic partial differential equations. He recently developed the theory of regularity structures which gave a precise mathematical meaning to several equations that were previously outside the scope of mathematical analysis.
The other joint science award winner, Masmoudi, a professor of mathematics at the New York University of Abu Dhabi, unlocked the mystery surrounding many physics problems which have remained unsolved for centuries.
He found a flaw in (Leonhard) Euler’s mathematical equations, which for more than two centuries had described the motions of fluids under any circumstance. Masmoudi discovered that the equations did not apply to all circumstances, as previously thought, and his findings helped to solve a raft of conundrums related to fluid-modeling, such as weather predictions.
Since 1979, the King Faisal Prize has awarded 282 laureates of 44 different nationalities who have made distinguished contributions to serving Islam, and humanity at large.
Each winner received a $200,000 prize, a 24-carat gold medal, and a certificate written in Arabic calligraphy signed by chairman of the prize board, Prince Khalid Al-Faisal.
RIYADH: As the diplomatic relationship between the Kingdom and Thailand, which was fully restored in January, continues to develop, skilled workers in the hospitality, healthcare, and food and beverage sectors will soon begin to arrive in Saudi Arabia, according to Thai Minister of Labor Suchart Chomklin.
“In the past, Thai workers in Saudi Arabia were mainly unskilled workers,” he told Arab News. “Nowadays, however, Thailand has changed its policy to one of sending semi-skilled and skilled workers.”
Speaking on Monday after roundtable talks held at the Federation of Saudi Chambers, the minister said that Thailand aims to export labor to fill jobs in various industries in the Kingdom, covering a wide range of positions.
“Thai workers have many skills that are very acceptable to the international standards and they are very hard working,” Suchart said. “We believe that Saudi Arabia should be able to receive many quality Thai workers.”
He gave some examples of the types of roles that Thai workers are expected to fill in the Kingdom.
“There are many demands in Saudi Arabia for high-skilled workers in industries such as hotels, as receptionists, and in healthcare and rehabilitation services, for nurses,” he said.
The minister said that progress has already been made since a visit by Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha to Riyadh in January, during which he held talks with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
“The Thai government has developed an electronic application process to receive requests from Thai workers who want to work in Saudi Arabia,” he said.
“As of now there are more than 1,000 workers in Thailand who (have said they want) to work in Saudi Arabia and we expect that there will be demand for chefs, cooks, healthcare workers and in other service sectors.”
The expected timescale for Thai workers to begin arriving in the Kingdom is yet to be confirmed. Suchart said that general labor requirements were discussed during the roundtable discussions, along with the procedures for supplying Thai workers.
“We are waiting for the public sector to contact us to share the demands of Thai workers, and which occupations and which sectors are most in demand in Saudi Arabia,” he said.
He also emphasized the importance of meeting salary expectations among Thai workers interested in coming to the Kingdom.
“The most important thing they need is the same salary for their work; they are skilled workers so they expect the base salary (to be) at least the same as in your neighboring countries; for example, the UAE,” said Suchart.
The minister added that the Thai Embassy in Riyadh will serve as a point of contact for requests for Thai workers. In addition, the Thai Ministry of Labor has created a skills-development department to provide vocational training.
“Many Thai workers are interested in working in hotel services in Saudi Arabia,” said Suchart.
He added that by providing skilled labor, Thailand aims to contribute to the development of the Kingdom by helping to achieve the objectives of Saudi Vision 2030.
To accomplish this, he said, “service-sector workers will be needed and we are even looking at the main industry of Saudi energy. I think we can focus on tourism and the financial sectors as well.”
Suchart also highlighted the role that Thai workers can play in the ongoing development of the tourism sector in the Kingdom through the building of new resorts and hotels.
“We think that construction workers will be needed as well as construction services,” he said.
RIYADH: Riyadh Season has announced that Winter Wonderland will conclude its run on March 31 after a successful comeback following two years of pandemic restrictions.
Winter Wonderland has become one of the most anticipated Riyadh Season events, with more than 60,000 entry tickets sold during the first minutes of the ticket portal opening.
Turki Al-Sheikh, chairman of the board of the General Entertainment Authority (GEA), revealed that the season had recorded more than 15 million visits in all of its zones since October last year, with up to 7 million participants heading to Winter Wonderland since opening day.
The theme park is extremely popular with families, offering them various games, rides and fun gifts to keep as memories after a thrilling evening.
The main takeaway of this year’s wonderland was the amount of effort put into recovery back from the pandemic.
Throughout its opening period from Oct. 20, 2021, the park has maintained stringent COVID-19 precautions. The GEA and the National Events Center both created a list of secure rules that prevent the virus from spreading.
Beyond adapting to the pandemic, the park has also gone through some major upgrades, increasing its area space by 40 percent. This created more access for newer rides to be implemented, including the arrival of the world’s longest mobile roller coaster, the “Sky Loop.”
This year, Winter Wonderland has more areas that serve different age groups, including the most crowded area, “Horror Adventures,” with zombies dancing around, frightening and delighting the audience.
Samir Odeh, a 16-year-old student, told Arab News about his enjoyment of the rides. “I love the new rides because they are way more exciting and breathtaking. Some of my favorites are the Wonder Road and Magic Box,” he said.
Haya Al-Sanei, another 16-year-old student, acknowledged the improvement, telling Arab News that “Winter Wonderland had more opportunities built” for locals and foreigners, showcasing their broad range of businesses, rides and platforms for even more excitement.
The wonderland is now coming to a close, but anticipation for its return is already hotting up. The next season will be announced at a later date by the GEA, the organizers of the event said.
RIYADH: King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST) announced on Tuesday a collaboration with the Ministry of Environment, Water, and Agriculture to develop algae biotechnology in the Kingdom.
The project, DABKSA, aims to develop technologies that encourage the production of animal feed for agriculture in the the Kingdom. The project — overseen by MEWA’s National Fisheries Development Program and located on the KAUST campus — is set to establish a sustainable feed industry in Saudi Arabia while opening new economic ventures for the aquaculture industry.
Finite resources such as land, water and energy are used to rear animals.
According to KAUST, animal feed is vital to the process, and a significant amount of global greenhouse gas emissions are related to feed production and processing.
New innovation and technology in sustainable feed solutions can lower environmental impacts. One such solution is the development and promotion of aquaculture and the use of plentiful seaweed. With Saudi Arabia’s Red Sea and Arabian Gulf coastlines measuring about 3,400 kilometers, there is ample opportunity for innovation.
DABKSA will see the design, build and operation of a proof of concept algae plant at KAUST. This strategic project aligns with Vision 2030 and the Saudi Green Initiative’s focus on food security. Producing local raw material for animal feed will enable the Kingdom to be less reliant on importing raw materials.
“We’re extremely proud to announce the partnership between MEWA and KAUST that targets the localization of algae production in the Kingdom. This collaboration will result in major progress in this field, further delivering Saudi Arabia’s food security and sustainable future for generations to come,” said Dr. Kevin Cullen, vice president of KAUST Innovation.
Phase one of the project is now under development, and includes the building and commissioning of 870 square meters of microalgae facilities.
During the first phase, microalgae biomass will be produced and incorporated as raw material to feed animals such as fish and poultry.
The pilot-scale facilities will provide documented data of algae productivity during an entire year of operation. These production numbers will allow for a realistic life cycle and economics assessment while proving its use towards sustainability.
CEO of the National Fisheries Development Program Dr. Ali Al-Shaiki said: “This project is an extension of the concerted efforts undertaken by the ministry in this field; starting with the algae road map developed by several local and international experts. The ministry aligned with the major players in this field and financial resources were allocated to this project — a real turning point in algae production in Saudi Arabia.”