How Saudis are adapting to fast-changing life in the Kingdom

Time : July 16, 2018

Women and children attend Saudi Arabia’s first-ever jazz festival in Riyadh on Feb. 23. (Reuters)

  • A retired psychologist Dr. Abdulrahman Al-Sobihi, 53, explains why the recent big changes in the Saudi Arabia have been accepted so easily.
  • Umm Al-Qura instructor Abdulrahman Al-Haidari says what’s even more amazing most of the Saudis who have taken up education abroad are returning to help in the Kingdom’s modernization program.

JEDDAH: Saudi Arabia is undergoing major changes to meet the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 objectives. These significant changes have had an impact on locals socially and psychologically.

A retired psychologist Dr. Abdulrahman Al-Sobihi, 53, explains how humans adapt to change.

“Humans find it difficult to accept change. It is a human trait, humans face fear and anxiety when it comes to change, they want things to stay the way they are because they fear the changes may bring disadvantages and negative outcomes. For this reason, governments face many difficulties when implementing new programs and activities,” Al-Sobihi told Arab News.

To understand why the big changes in the Kingdom have been accepted so easily, Al-Sobihi said, one has to look at the social and psychological pressures before they occurred.

“What is beautiful and sad about this is that our society accepted this change so quickly. Why? because it went through a period called Al-Sahwa (awakening) and this period pressured society. Everything was forbidden, shameful and wrong, this long period pressured society psychologically and socially.

“So when the major changes happened, society found an outlet. Therefore, they accepted these changes so quickly. Not because our society adapts to change quickly, but because of the period spent in the “awakening” period. It delayed so many natural changes that happen in any other society. What happened to our society was that some things were permanent for so long — when the chance came to receive all these changes, most were very welcoming to these changes.”

Umm Al-Qura instructor Abdulrahman Al-Haidari said the Kingdom has changed amazingly in the last few years.

“The country keeps going from one amazing phase of development after another. Who would imagine that 70 years ago, this land had displayed the poorest statistics in terms of economy, population, life expectations, education, and individual rights. It’s amazing how one generation ago we went from teaching in ill-equipped huts, to reach some of the most advanced educational projects where our students get to send Saudi satellites to outer space.”

Al-Haidari explained that the country had welcomed women into their new empowered roles within a short period of time.

“Today, we are going even further and faster with neck-breaking speed. Saudi’s ability of modernizing, and yet keeping true to its own culture and origins makes this country the center of attention: In one day, Majlis Al-Shoura had third of its positions filled with Saudi women. Suddenly we had Saudi women as vice ministers, engineers, PhDs, doctors and nurses and in all other sorts of fields.

“It’s amazing (when you consider) that my own generation was raised to not even allow a Saudi women to voice her thoughts in public, to let them share the wheel, steering the country’s march toward modernization.”

Saudis have embraced change, Al-Haidari added. “We can see how people are accepting change in the manner they approach the new festivals, we see musical events being sold out, (as well as) wrestling, cooking, even military and weapon production. However, I believe the most undeniable indicator for the Saudis’ welcoming attitude toward change is clearly displayed with the return of almost all overseas scholarship students.

“Just like myself, hundreds of thousands were sent overseas to learn, and almost none of them had any contract to be forced to come back to Saudi: But yet, they did, and still do. What could be more clearer than having the most elite and educated population of Saudi (if not even the world) wanting to come back home to advance both their careers and their country’s (future)?”

The majority of the nation adapted to the new social dynamics such as women working in the same fields and ranks as men, and the number of Saudi women in media, Al-Haidari added.

“Doubters were shown how much the community is longing to advance the role of the Saudi women. It would be so hard to even try to doubt that: Starting with Majles Al-Shoura having a third of its seats filled by Saudi women, having the issue of Saudi women’s right to drive as the first topic addressed, and now reaching the point where they will finally get some of their rights fulfilled finally.

“You can also see the Saudi population welcoming this change: You can see that with the families that attended recent soccer matches in stadiums, families on YouTube supporting their wives, sisters, and mothers to drive, and not to forget: Thousands of Saudi girls going overseas to obtain their higher education. These are just a fraction of the current manifestations displayed by the Saudi community to show its welcome to Saudi women to take their rightful place, and to help the community grow with the help of all its members.”

Commenting about the General Entertainment Authority that changed much of the societal landscape, Al-Haidari said: “I find it to be amazing. Who would have thought a year ago that World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) would come and have an event here? Who would have thought that we would get (Algerian musician) Cheb Khaled or (US hip-hop artist) Nelly to come and perform in Saudi? Who would have thought that it would have been this easy and quick to establish cinemas, female gyms, even a whole opera theater a year ago? Of course, we still want more, and much more. But the trend is going so quick and so fast showing that we are to expect great events and functions to come in the near future.”

YouTuber Rahaf Jambi, 27, described how the country’s economy has diversified. “We just don’t count on oil now, the economy is growing better. It’s true that we are at war with Yemen, but this didn’t stop the Kingdom from growing and there are a lot of improvements, there are a lot of human rights fulfilled. Women driving, this is one of the main important things that happened and it will be good for the Kingdom because it will improve the market.

“Women will not have to rely on drivers. It’s a better opportunity for Saudis to work in transportation companies such as Uber and Careem, even the girls can work in this field, and girls can become police officers,” Jambi told Arab News.

“Having cinema in the Kingdom is a good thing — we will have more Saudi movies and movies that will be produced in Saudi Arabia. It’s going to be a good environment for Saudi talent.”

With women working in the same fields as men and reaching high ranks, and the many women emerging in the media, Jambi added: “I see a bright future for women.”

Jambi said he hoped big name world brands such as Apple would come to the Kingdom. “We need the Apple store in the Kingdom, we need a lot of brands to open in the Kingdom.”

This article was first published in  Arab News

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Saudi opera house

SOURCE: Saudi Gazette

Apr 17, 2018 

Al-Watan newspaper

I BELIEVE the Saudi opera building in the capital city would soon outshine Riyadh Towers and Jeddah Fountain as the major tourist attraction in the Kingdom because of its countless cultural, social and economic benefits. It will bring about a qualitative change in our mindset after extremist forces deprived us of art and culture for a long period and prohibited us from things that would contribute to softening our hearts and minds, cleansing our souls and connecting human beings with one another.

I was very happy along with many other citizens when Saudi Arabia signed an agreement with the Paris Opera House a few days ago to help the Kingdom establish a national orchestra and opera house. I cannot explain my feelings thinking about such a wonderful cultural edifice, which we have been dreaming so long and awaiting its dawn in this land of love and beauty. Since the project will soon become a reality on the ground, there is no point in making negative comments on its cost and managers. It will spearhead the Kingdom’s endeavors to fight the forces of militancy and extremism.

At times of wars people will sacrifice their money and lives in their bid to achieve victory, and today we are in a cultural war with the enemies of happiness and forces of darkness. No voice can defeat the peaceful battle against the forces of extremism.

I’m not claiming thorough knowledge about opera. I know that my knowledge of opera and world of music would not exceed that of many people. I am expressing here my personal feelings while enjoying music. It’s similar to the feeling of those who listen to Indian music without knowing a single Hindi/Urdu word. Yes, this is music and art, which can be considered universal languages.

You don’t need to understand German language to enjoy Beethoven’s music, for example, and the Austrian language to understand Mozart Orchestra. You need not learn Spanish to enjoy Picasso’s music. When you live in a society that does not promote these arts but fight them, you will lose the ability to converse in global languages and you will not be able to understand others and you will not have the desire to build bridges of contact with people of other cultures and faiths.

As a result, one will become an introvert following his own customs and traditions, his language and faith. Yes, the absence of art and culture is the main cause for the corruption of souls and morals and subsequently the corruption of everything.

Like few other activities, the music involves the use of the whole brain. It improves memory, attention, physical coordination and mental development. The classical music stimulates the regeneration of brain cells. Certain music improves the mood, intelligence, motivation and concentration. It also improves the quality of life and aids in physical, emotional, cognitive and social needs. It helps in the treatment of autism, dementia, Alzheimer’s, chronic pain, emotional trauma, mental disorders and depression. Music decreases anxiety, anger, stress and frustration.

The Italian word ‘opera’ means ‘work’ both in the sense of the labor done and the result produced. It is a theatrical piece that tells a story totally through music with the support of instruments. In some operas the music is continuous throughout an act while in others it is broken up into discrete pieces or numbers separated either by recitative (a dramatic type of singing that approaches speech) or by spoken dialogue.

Opera consists of poetry, music and melodies as well as ballet, decorative and fine arts and mime and their blending. Its songs include singles, duets and triads as well as recitatives and choir accompanied by full orchestra.

The establishment of an opera house in the Kingdom is a significant cultural shift in Saudi Arabia that would strengthen its relations with peoples and civilizations of the world. It is wrong to believe that opera is just a Western model. There are Egyptian, Kuwaiti, Omani, Emirati, Chinese, Japanese and Korean opera houses.

Finally, I would like to thank the government, and everyone contributing to the creation of this great cultural landmark in the Kingdom. We hope its opening day would be a memorable one in the history of Saudi Arabia as it would mark our exit from the tunnel of gloom and return to the path of progress and renaissance.

In pictures: The best looks from Saudi’s first Arab Fashion Week

SOURCE: Emirates Woman

Apr 16, 2018 

The sartorial event made history – and the clothes certainly lived up to the momentous occasion.

It kicked off fashionably late, being held a few weeks after its scheduled date back in late March.

But Saudi Arabia’s first-ever Arab Fashion Week was certainly worth waiting for.

The kingdom welcomed big-name designers, models and the fashion industry’s movers and shakers last week, as the event officially launched on April 12.

While the women-only shows, held in Riyadh’s Ritz Carlton Hotel, weren’t open to photographers, there are some images available that give a sneak peek of what paraded down the catwalk.

Headlining the event were Roberto Cavalli and Jean Paul Gaultier, the latter of which showcased a collection rich in fluid femininity and avant-garde silhouettes.

It was the first show for the legendary French designer held outside of Paris, Arab Fashion Week later revealed.

Saudi Princess Noura Bint Faisal Al-Saud, honorary president of the Riyadh branch of Arab Fashion Week, said ahead of the event that fashion has always been important in the kingdom.

“It has not been something that wasn’t on the table or in the picture… Our fashion council is trying to bring the fashion industry in Saudi Arabia to a whole new level, a whole new industry,” she told The National.

The moment was connected to larger changes in the Kingdom, she said.

“This historical movement is not exclusive to Saudi Arabia, but to the whole world. Fashion is a universal language that the whole world speaks,” Princess Noura added to Arab News

We completely agree – and to celebrate, we’ve rounded up some of the best looks seen on the Riyadh catwalk over the weekend…

Arwa Al Banawi 

Saudi’s own womenswear designer is famed for her cutting-edge suiting, and she certainly delivered with her collection of urban separates. We particularly adore her use of feather-light fringing against breezy silks.

We’re also feeling this slouchy jacquard co-ord that we think we might have to add to our workwear wardrobe.

Bibisara 

The label founded by Kazakhstan’s Asem Altynbekova sent out a line clad in rich velvets and ornate embroidery, such as this romantic Gothic-inspired number.

Tony Ward 

The Lebanese designer is nicknamed “the Architect of Detail”, and you can see why in this elegant couture gown, speckled with measured embellishments and a cascade of ruffles.

Yanina Couture

The Russian label (which has dressed celebrities including Kate Hudson and Gigi Hadid) further proved why it is so beloved by the A-list with its structured yet fairytale-worthy dresses.

Jean Paul Gaultier

Aside from the scarlet gown above, the French designer also sent out mesmerising prints and diaphanous silhouettes.

Naja Saade

An ultra-sweet palette and frothy fabrics created an elegantly feminine finish at the Lebanese designer’s show.