TUNIS: The president of Tunisia has expressed his thanks to Saudi Arabia for its support through the Saudi Fund for Development.
President Kais Saied was speaking during a meeting with the CEO of the fund, Sultan bin Abdulrahman Al-Murshed, at Carthage Palace in Tunis.
Saied praised the work of the fund and expressed his thanks to King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. Dr. Abdulaziz bin Ali Al-Saqr, the Saudi ambassador to Tunisia, was also at the meeting, which was held to discuss the development of closer Saudi-Tunisian ties, particularly with regard to projects under the SFD’s supervision.
Al-Saqr noted the good relationship between the two countries and thanked Saied for receiving the SFD delegation.
The ambassador was also present at a meeting between Tunisian Prime Minister Najla Bouden and Al-Murshed at government headquarters in Tunis.
The two sides looked at ways to strengthen economic partnerships, and discussed a number of current and future projects developed through the SFD.
Bouden also expressed her thanks and appreciation to the Saudi king and the crown prince for their continued support for Tunisia.
Al-Saqr further stressed that this support from the Saudi wise leadership is proof of the depth of the relationship between the two brotherly countries.
The two parties explored ways to strengthen economic partnerships and discussed several current and future development projects between Tunisia and Saudi Arabia through the SFD.
RIYADH: Saudi Arabia announced one death from COVID-19 and 1,982 new infections on Tuesday.
Of the new cases, 617 were recorded in Riyadh, 141 in Dammam, and 119 in Jeddah. Several other cities recorded less than one hundred new cases each.
The total number of recoveries in the Kingdom increased to 698,842 after 3,372 more patients recovered from the virus.
A total of 8,975 people have succumbed to the virus in the Kingdom so far.
Over 59.7 million doses of a coronavirus vaccine have been administered in the Kingdom to date.
DHAHRAN: The COVID-19 pandemic has helped Saudi Arabia become one of the most tech-savvy countries. For the past two years, you couldn’t leave your home without two main essentials: Your mask and your smartphone. Forget your bulky wallet or potentially forgetting to bring one of your IDs; all you need now could easily fit into your pocket.
• Absher, perhaps the mother of all the apps, was created in 2015 as an umbrella to connect individuals and businesses to government services provided in the Kingdom.
• Launched in 2020, Tawakkalna app aims help keep track of curfews and to book timed slots for individuals to exercise or grocery shop.
• During the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, citizens and residents alike constantly refreshed their Sehhaty app to book their vaccination appointment, and later, the booster shot.
• Being the land of the Two Holy Mosques, authorities launched a mobile app, aptly named Eatmarna, in early 2021 to support the transition back to allowing worshippers to congregate.
I recently returned from New York City, arguably one of the most “time is money” places in the US. While roaming the streets of Manhattan, what struck me was that everyone took out flimsy pieces of paper to show proof of vaccination, a rule imposed for indoor dining at restaurants. While everyone scrambled to dig into their bags to take out that piece of paper, I quickly took out my phone and showed them my Tawakkalna app, where the dates of my vaccination were clearly visible on the screen. Every barista I talked to told me how impressed they were with the “Saudi app,” which they said was among one of the best they’d seen.
Saudi Arabia found a way to be eco-friendly by being paperless and efficient by grouping together all necessary documents in one place. The US, the home of Google, Facebook or Meta, and Hollywood, have not yet found a way to uniformly regulate what many call a health passport, much less any of the other functions. In this area, Saudi Arabia seemed more advanced than First World countries.
When Saudi Arabia introduced the Tawakkalna app in 2020, it was meant to help keep track of curfews and to book timed slots for individuals to exercise or grocery shop.
In Arabic, the word “tawakkal” describes the Islamic concept of “trusting in God’s plan.” Since the beta version of the app launched, it has broadened in scope and combined various government services into one place as the Kingdom pushed to digitalize its public sector. Users can access services for health, education, Hajj and Umrah, for everything driving-related, for insurance, passports, in addition to other items, directly within the app. Now your most important tool is your finger. It has become a way of life.
Saudi Arabia found a way to be eco-friendly by being paperless and efficient by grouping together all necessary documents in one place. The US, the home of Google, Facebook or Meta, and Hollywood, have not yet found a way to uniformly regulate what many call a health passport, much less any of the other functions. In this area, Saudi Arabia seemed more advanced than First-World countries.
“More than 20 million people, out of a population of roughly 35 million, have downloaded the app,” according to the Saudi Press Agency’s latest stats. That number will likely keep growing.
Abdulaziz Al-Salman, a talent management professional based in Riyadh, thinks that apps such as Tawakkalna are a natural evolution in how the Kingdom is easing into modern life.
“Being wired is a part of life right now. If I’m here in Saudi and I need to go anywhere, I’m stuck — I have to make sure that I have my phone on me. We are so dependent on them. It would be a nightmare if you went out and you figured out that you forgot your phone or it had low battery,” Al-Salman told Arab News.
Sarah Sebai, a doctor in Jeddah, grew up at a time when everything was offline, but gradually became more and more connected.
More than 20 million people out of a population of about 35 million have downloaded the Tawakkalna app, according to the Saudi Press Agency’s latest statistics.
“As a millennial, I feel like I’ve gone through all the phases; from not having this amount to technology and just dial-up to a one-stop-shop app. Everything is in there — from the countries you traveled to, to the kids you have. I have no idea how I lived all my life without this,” Sebai told Arab News.
As a doctor, she feels the Tawakkalna app has opened up some unexpected doors and vital conversations.
“Now you are able to donate organs on the app — it’s really beneficial to have this. The idea of donating organs, especially when someone is on ventilation or life support, the idea of doing that in a culture like Saudi is not easy,” Sebai said.
Even as a mother, Sebai is not concerned about privacy or the constant tracking while using the app, since it is encrypted. She feels smartphones are now almost too important — that every resident could not afford to not get one.
“The average smartphone price point is still a burden for some workers since each and every member of the family has to have one. My maid didn’t have one and we had to get her one. One of the things that happens is that if the app, for any reason, does not work, nobody can help you. You’re stuck. If you’re at the airport and you need to show them something and the phone is off-service and you can’t get the verification code, that’s it — game over. Everyone should have a smartphone at this point. It’s not a luxury anymore, it’s a necessity,” she said.
There are a few other notable apps that have contributed to how well Saudis have adjusted to life during the pandemic — and beyond.
Absher, perhaps the mother of all the apps, was created in 2015 as an umbrella to connect individuals and businesses to government services provided in the Kingdom.
When the Saudi Ministry of Interior launched it, it instantly became the leading platform for e-services, which included three divisions: Absher for individuals, Absher for business and Absher for government.
The ministry recently announced that in 2021 the platform served 23 million users who carried out more than 85 million operations. Last year, Absher contributed to raising the quality of life of citizens, residents and visitors by facilitating access to more than 330 services and linking them to more than 80 government and private entities.
During the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, citizens and residents alike constantly refreshed their Sehhaty app to book their vaccination appointment, and later, the booster shot. It also became a useful place to check all health-related data, such as scheduling medical appointments, keeping track of prescribed medications and checking the status of their COVID-19 test.
Being the land of the Two Holy Mosques, the Ministry of Hajj and Umrah launched a separate mobile app, aptly named Eatmarna, in early 2021 to support the transition back to allowing worshippers to congregate.
Pilgrims can now book appointments to visit the holy sites and request their timed slots to pray in the Grand Mosque and the Noble Rawdah.
All of the mentioned apps have one thing in common: They are linked to Tawakkalna, which became the most useful app to download in the Kingdom. You can open a bank account, pay any fines and update your ID in one place.
In March 2021, Tawakkalna upgraded its services to accommodate expats without legal status by allowing residents to download the app without first creating an Absher account. For a country that started off reluctant to tap into dial-up internet, mostly on shared family computers, Saudi Arabia has advanced so rapidly that now almost every single person has to have a smartphone to live here.
RIYADH: The city of AlUla said goodbye to the Winter at Tantora festival on Saturday, which began last December with candle-lit concerts at the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Hegra.
The festival featured a host of equestrian activities, including a new haute couture fashion event for horses called Ikmah Fashion Cavalry, the return of the competitive Fursan Endurance Race Cup, and AlUla Desert Polo.
There was also a four-day event celebrating the region’s homegrown citrus delights, and stunning sunrise and sunset views of AlUla from the top of the Harrat Uwayrid.
Cultural and archaeological workshops were held in the heritage sites, and there were historical performances in the old town of AlUla and in the oasis.
Just as the festival started with a magnificent performance, so it ended with a parade showcasing the beauty of horses and the majesty of knights who wore traditional Saudi costumes.
Even though Winter at Tantora is over, the AlUla festival continues until the end of March. Visitors can enjoy contemporary art by 15 Saudi and international artists in an open-air art exhibit set among the dramatic backdrop of the desert.
Many international and Arab artists will perform on the Maraya stage, such as Seal, comedian Russell Peters, the international singer-songwriter and viral internet sensation Naika, and the Iraqi singer Rahma Riad.
Many more artists will also bring their talent to the Maraya stage during this month and next.
There is also a chance for people to have a multi-sensory meal, where smell, sound, sight, and taste come together.
The suppers celebrate AlUla’s place on the incense road, the routes that enabled the trade of incense and other luxurious items.
DUBAI: Saudi Arabia’s pavilion at Expo 2020 Dubai, one of the six-month event’s biggest hit experiences, has welcomed 3 million visitors since opening, a testament to growing interest in the Kingdom.
Pavilion staff and volunteers marked the occasion with a special ceremony in the Open Square and a reception at the pavilion’s Palm Garden.
The Kingdom’s pavilion is drawing about a quarter of all Expo 2020 Dubai visits, which now total just over 12 million.
Hussain Hanbazazah, commissioner-general of the Kingdom, said: “We are incredibly proud of what the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia Pavilion has realized thus far and reaching 3 million visits is evidence of all our achievements to date as well as proof that our concept of sharing the real and authentic Saudi Arabia, driven by our limitless ambitions and efforts, is really resonating with visitors.
“In addition to its impressive five-storey building which acts as a ‘window’ into the country, the rich and diverse program of activities hosted at the Saudi Arabia Pavilion provides visitors with many reasons to explore as well as return to the pavilion. They can engage with our people, learn more about our heritage, experience our culture through vibrant and powerful cultural shows from dance, music to poetry and art, as well as scout for future business opportunities in the Kingdom.”
RIYADH: The Muslim World League secretary-general, Mohammed Al-Issa, recently met the Maldives’ minister of Islamic affairs, Ahmed Zahir, and discussed several topics of common interest as part of his visit to the tropical island nation.
Al-Issa also visited the Islamic Center in Male and reviewed its activities and most notable works.
He gave a lecture at the Ministry of Islamic Affairs on important regulations in legal fatwas and religious preaching. It was attended by the country’s vice president, ministers, clerics, selected academics, and young people.
The lecture was followed by an open dialogue with the young people on the most prominent issues they were concerned with at Islamic and international levels.
Al-Issa was invited by Maldivian President Ibrahim Solih to the capital as it was announced earlier that an MWL regional office would open in the country, fulfilling the president’s wishes.
The office is a stepping stone to serve the Maldives and the states of the region and will include the Exhibition of the Life of the Prophet and training seminars on the Makkah Declaration.
Solih gave a medal of honor to Al-Issa in recognition of his efforts to serve Islam and world peace.
The ceremony started with a presidential statement: “The tribute comes in recognition of the MWL Secretary-General Mohammed Al-Issa’s efforts to strengthen Islamic unity and harmony and peace around the world, and to promote partnership between the Maldives Islands and MWL in this regard. In conformity with the powers granted to me by the Constitution of the Maldives Islands, I, therefore, grant Dr. Al-Issa, the medal of honor.”
Solih congratulated Al-Issa for the medal of honor, which extends the ancient heritage left by Sultan Ibrahim, who ruled the islands from 1585 to 1609.
Following the ceremony, Al-Issa gave a lecture in the presence of high-level leaders on ways to counter extremism and terrorism intellectually and electronically.
He also met senior figures from the Ministry of Defence, headed by Minister Mariya Didi, with both parties looking into joint working mechanisms to combat terrorism.
Al-Issa held an expanded meeting with the Foreign Affairs Ministry, headed by Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Ahmed Khaleel, followed by a joint press conference that addressed the visit’s most significant themes.