Saudi Arabia’s Maraya hall in historic AlUlawins major architecture prize

Time: 05 August, 2020

The cube-shaped structure is covered in 9,740 square meters of mirrors that reflect the breathtaking surrounding landscape. (Supplied)
  • Maraya achieved the most public votes in its category and was named the 2020 popular choice winner.

RIYADH: Maraya, a concert and entertainment venue in AIUIa, northwest Saudi Arabia, has won one of the world’s biggest architecture awards.

The Architizer A+ Awards — hosted by New York-based community Architizer.com, a 7-million-plus online group of leading architects — consists of five peer-judged finalists, with one jury winner and one popular choice winner in each category. The awards promote and celebrate the year’s best architecture.

A finalist in the Architecture + Glass category, Maraya was selected by distinguished figures from industries including design, technology, real estate and fashion. Finalists were selected for excellence in architecture with criteria based on form, function, and impact.

Maraya achieved the most public votes in its category and was named the 2020 popular choice winner.

Philip Jones, chief destination management and marketing officer at the Royal Commission for AIUIa (RCU), welcomed the announcement, saying that although Maraya is closed for renovation, the venue will be have a key role when AIUIa reopens to visitors as a year-round destination in late 2020.

“It’s particularly gratifying to win the popular vote. Visitors are mesmerized by Maraya’s impact and the way it blends in so perfectly with its surroundings.

“Maraya has been conceived and designed in line with the RCU’s core values to develop AIUIa using a sensitive and responsible approach. AIUIa is a significant archaeological wonder and we look forward to welcoming the world when we reopen the sites,” he added.

The cube-shaped structure is covered in 9,740 square meters of mirrors that reflect the breathtaking surrounding landscape.

The building and its extraordinary facade were unveiled at a special ceremony staged by the Royal Commission for AlUla during the second season of the Winter at Tantora festival. The 500-seat venue has since hosted leading international artists, including Egyptian musician Omar Khairat and Italian opera singer Andrea Bocelli.

It achieved a Guinness World Record for being the largest mirrored building in the world in 2019 with its 26-meter-high theater.

Maraya’s giant retractable window of more than 800 square meters can open to offer an experience blending nature and entertainment.

Maraya means mirrors in Arabic. The building, designed by Florian Bole and architect Massimo Fogliati, of Gio Forma, Milan, was inspired by the surrounding landscape.

The site was recently used a location for commercial film shoots by luxury brands including Cartier, Rolls-Royce and Monot.

Maraya is located 12 km from Saudi Arabia’s first UNESCO World Heritage site, Hegra.

The venue is undergoing further renovations, including increased capacity, a dedicated conference floor, a ground-floor restaurant and a stunning rooftop terrace overlooking the Ashar valley, oasis and desert surroundings.

Maraya will be well-positioned to host regional and international business events, conferences, weddings and other special events when it reopens for business in late 2020.

This article was first published in Arab News

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Riyadh roads turn green as world’s largest urban greening project branches out

03/08/20

Based on experience, roads and streets without trees contain eight to 10 times the amount of dust compared with streets lined with trees on both sides. (Photo/Supplied)
  • Capital gets a facelift as Vision 2030 program works to plant 7.5 million trees
  • Most of the tree species used in the project are from a well-developed local environment with low agricultural service and care

RIYADH: The Green Riyadh project, one of the world’s largest urban greening initiatives, is rapidly bearing fruit as it transforms main roads in the capital.

Major thoroughfares, including King Khalid, Makkah and King Salman roads, are getting a facelift as part of the Vision 2030 goal of improving quality of life in the city.
Dr. Fahad Al-Mana, a professor of Ornamental Plants, Gardens and Green Areas at King Saud University, told Arab News that native tree species being used for the project include Ziziphus spina-christi, Acacia gerrardii and Prosopis cineraria, commonly known as the ghaf tree.
According to Al-Mana, the trees can survive in harsh desert conditions and will grow without intensive agricultural care.
“Most of the tree species used in the planting of the Green Riyadh project are from a well-developed local environment with low agricultural service and care,” he said.
Environmental conditions in Riyadh were taken into account during the tree selection process. The species can grow to a large size in only three years.
“In some locations, they have moved large 3-year-old local trees that were taken care of in plant nurseries to new locations where they are growing successfully,” Al-Mana said.
Green Riyadh will increase the amount of greenery in the city and augment the green cover in the Saudi capital with the planting of 7.5 million trees around the city’s main features and facilities.
The project will reduce the average ambient temperature by 2 degrees Celsius and improve air quality, encouraging people to follow a healthier lifestyle by walking or cycling.

FASTFACTS

• The project will reduce the average ambient temperature by 2 degrees Celsius and improve air quality, encouraging people to follow a healthier lifestyle by walking or cycling.

• The project will maximize the use of recycled water in irrigation works by increasing usage from 90,000 cubic meters per day to more than 1 million cubic meters per day through the construction of a new recycled water network.

• Green space in the city will increase from 5 percent to 9 percent by 2030

“The aim of planting trees in the streets is to provide shade and moderate the temperature, especially in summer, which contributes to the purification of air and reduces environmental pollution by protecting the city from sand storms, winds and dust. In addition, it gives an aesthetic view and the element of nature enters the city and nearby structures,” said Al-Mana.
He added that trees, especially those planted in central street islands, must have long trunks and high branches to avoid hindering the movement of pedestrians and cars. The trunk must measure at least 3 to 4 meters and the size of the trees planted must be proportional to the width of the island.
Al-Mana said green space in the city will increase from 5 percent to 9 percent by 2030.
According to the Green Riyadh website, the project will maximize the use of recycled water in irrigation works by increasing usage from 90,000 cubic meters per
day to more than 1 million cubic meters per day through the construction of a new recycled water network.
Al-Mana said the Green Riyadh project will also reduce carbon dioxide and impurity levels in the city.
“Based on experience, roads and streets without trees contain eight to 10 times the amount of dust compared with streets lined with trees on both sides,” he said.

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Arab-American series ‘Ya Bint’ in the works by Disney-owned cable network

Time: 03 August, 2020

Dina Shihabi, a Saudi actress, is one of the writers of the show. (File/AFP)
  • The show follows an Arab trio as they struggle with the clash of cultures and the idea that “freedom equals happiness”

DUBAI: Disney-owned US cable network Freeform is launching a new show with an Arab twist that follows three best friends and their new life in Los Angeles.

The show, titled “Ya Bint” which loosely translates to “Hey girl,” centers on Arab-American women Maya, Jumana, and Lara who have moved from their homes in the Middle East to Los Angeles, according to Hollywood Reporter.

It follows the Arab trio as they struggle with the clash of cultures and the idea that “freedom equals happiness.”

Hit series “Empire” executive producers (EP) Danny Strong and Sanaa Hamri will also serve as the show’s EPs, while Dina Shihabi and Rolla Selbak will write it.

Shihabi is a Saudi actress who has appeared in shows such as “Altered Carbon,” “Jack Ryan,” and critically acclaimed comedy “Ramy.” She was the first Middle East-born woman who was accepted into the prestigious acting programs of Julliard and New York University (NYU).

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Saudi Arabia’s MiSK launches second annual entrepreneurship world cup

Time: 23 July, 2020

    • Organizers aim to top success of inaugural event by attracting 150,000 entries from 200 countries

JEDDAH: Following the success of the inaugural event last year, the Mohammed bin Salman Foundation (Misk) is gearing up for the second Entrepreneurship World Cup (EWC).

The international initiative aims to support young entrepreneurs, improve their knowledge and experience of the economy and commerce, locally and globally, evaluate their businesses and encourage the launch of successful ventures.

It includes an integrated training and mentoring program to help entrepreneurs hone their skills and increase their chances of success. The participants will work closely with mentors and other specialists, from the idea stage through to the growth and structuring of the business.

As a result of the coronavirus pandemic, this year’s event — presented by the Misk Global Forum and hosted by the Global Entrepreneurship Network and the Global Education and Leadership Foundation — will be staged virtually. Organizers aim to attract more than 150,000 participants from 200 countries. Last year, there were about 102,000 entries from 187 countries,

Participants will have access to a digital library that contains a wide range of expert knowledge and advice to help them succeed, from how to draw up a business plan and structure the project, to collecting customer feedback, product development, team building and corporate culture.

“The second (edition of the) competition seeks to achieve success more comprehensively than the previous version, by embracing as many young businessmen and businesswomen as possible in Saudi Arabia, where this year it targets up to 150,000 startups,” said Abdulrahman Al-Suhaymi, director of the EWC initiative.

“The world today, more than ever, needs to foster entrepreneurship among young people, encourage them to innovate and develop solutions for a better future.”

He also stressed the important role played by entrepreneurs in solving many of the problems caused by by unemployment, through the creation of new job opportunities and generating economic growth for individuals and businesses.

Al-Suhaymi urged young Saudi entrepreneurs and the owners of startups not to miss this opportunity and to register online for the training and mentoring program. The deadline for applications is Aug. 9.

About 100 participants reached the semi-final stage last year, and had the chance to present their ideas to thousands of people.

Red Sea Farms, a Saudi startup based at King Abdullah University of Science and Technology that specializes in saltwater greenhouse technology, finished third in the inaugural EWC. First place went to Canadian business NREv Technology, which makes health-monitoring systems that warn of complications that can develop in patients recovering from surgery.

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Saudi Arabia permits Eid Al-Adha prayers with coronavirus measures

Time: 14 July, 2020

The Minister of Islamic Affairs, Dawah and Guidance said it has intensified its awareness and guidance campaign to adopt preventive protocols to combat the spread of the coronavirus.
  • Prayers will only take place in certain mosques

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia said on Monday it would permit worshippers to perform Eid Al-Adha prayers at mosques.
The Minister of Islamic Affairs, Dawah and Guidance, Sheikh Abdullatif Al-Asheikh, directed the ministry’s branches in the regions throughout the Kingdom to provide for this year’s Eid Al-Adha prayers.
Prayers will only take place in certain mosques and ensuring they use the government’s preventative measures, due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The ministry said it has intensified its awareness and guidance campaign to adopt preventive protocols to combat the spread of the coronavirus through the participation of a group of advocates and scholars, in addition to publishing what was recommended by the medical committees concerned with combating the epidemic.

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250 Saudi doctors volunteer for scheme offering free medical consultations

Time: 11 July, 2020

At least 250 Saudi doctors and health practitioners have signed up to an ambitious community volunteer program offering free medical consultations to patients throughout the Kingdom. (SPA)
  • Health Ministry records 2,220 critical COVID-19 cases, deaths toll reaches 2,151
  • The scheme’s health volunteers are hoping to provide 250,000 consultations by the end of the year

At least 250 Saudi doctors and health practitioners have signed up to an ambitious community volunteer program offering free medical consultations to patients throughout the Kingdom.

The We Are All Sanad initiative, supervised by the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Development, aims to recruit more than 2,000 medics to offer expert advice and raise awareness on key health issues.
Covering around 30 specialties, the scheme’s health volunteers, 45 percent of whom have so far been women, are hoping to provide 250,000 consultations by the end of the year.
The project is being run in tandem with Saudi government efforts to combat the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.
The head of the initiative, Dr. Mohammed bin Rashid Al-Hamali, said the volunteer advisers had already provided hundreds of free teleconsultations remotely through the Mawidy (my appointment) platform which had contributed toward achieving sustainable goals, such as improving community service, increasing access to health care, and raising health awareness.
The initiative, launched on March 1, has been designed to help overcome obstacles faced by patients in relation to access to health care.
“These challenges include geographic barriers, a lack of clarity in the appointments available to patients, the high costs of treatment in some private sector facilities, and fear of disease exposure when visiting hospitals and clinics.
“We Are All Sanad provides services to everyone, however, priority has been given to beneficiaries of charities, especially under the unprecedented current conditions and the coronavirus pandemic, which threatens the health and safety of the world,” said Al-Hamali, adding that the program supported more than 15 associations.
The Mawidy app, available in Arabic, English, and sign language, offers telemedicine and appointment booking services, and users will soon be able to make home health care reservations as part of a raft of upcoming additional services.

FASTFACTS

The total number of coronavirus cases in KSA reached 226,486.

The total number of recoveries in the Kingdom reached 163,026.

The number of active cases in Saudi Arabia stood at 61,309.

The total number of PCR tests in the Kingdom reached 2,179,448.

Deputy head of the initiative, Dr. Sultan bin Faisal, praised the ministry for its support for health charity staff and beneficiaries through the provision of telemedicine consultations, educational lectures, and scientific seminars.
He said volunteers wishing to join the initiative could register through the Mawidy platform, provided they had a valid license from the Saudi Commission for Health Specialties, adding that the scheme offered a unique opportunity for health practitioners to exchange experiences.
Faisal pointed out that the team included 30 young volunteers who would receive skills development training through the Ibtikar program, which offered scientific and practical training courses.
Meanwhile, the Kingdom on Friday recorded 51 new COVID-19-related deaths, raising the total to 2,151.
There were 3,159 new cases reported in Saudi Arabia, meaning 226,486 people had now contracted the disease. There were 61,309 active cases, with 2,220 patients in critical condition.
According to the Ministry of Health, 296 of the newly recorded cases were in Riyadh, while 249 were reported in Al-Hofuf, and 209 in Jeddah. In addition, 1,930 more patients had recovered from COVID-19, taking the total number of recoveries in the Kingdom to 163,026.
Saudi Arabia has so far conducted 2,179,448 tests for COVID-19.
As part of the Kingdom’s strategy to tackle the virus outbreak, several services and products have been rolled out throughout the country.
These have included Takkad (make sure) centers which have conducted more than 480,000 lab tests, 239 Tetamman clinics which have dealt with at least 265,000 patients, the provision of an extra 2,500 intensive care unit beds, the building of four field hospitals, the carrying out of at least 2.1 million lab tests, and the conducting of 3.7 million medical consultations through the ministry’s 937 service center.
Earlier, Health Ministry spokesman Dr. Mohammed Al-Abd Al-Aly said that we are currently going through a phase of stability and control of the COVID-19 curve in the Kingdom. “This is due to the successful measures taken by authorities, and public awareness, and we should maintain this level of commitment.”
The ministry urges those who have come in contact with an infected person to immediately isolate themselves and call them at 937. They should also stay away from others and self-isolate at home.

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Saudi Arabia conducts 60k PCR tests daily in fight against COVID-19

08/07/20

So far, over 2 million PCR tests have been conducted in the Kingdom. (AFP)

  • The death toll in the Kingdom stands at 2,017, with 49 new fatalities

JEDDAH: Saudi health authorities are conducting 60,000 polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests daily in a bid to check the spread of COVID-19, Health Ministry spokesman Dr. Mohammed Al-Abd Al-Aly said at a press briefing on Tuesday.
So far, over 2 million PCR tests have been conducted in the Kingdom, indicating the efficiency of its health-care system, he added.
Jalal Al-Owais, supervisor general of the ministry’s Emergency, Disasters and Ambulatory Transportation General Department, said: “One of the directives given by our leadership was to increase the number of hospital beds in critical care units. In only three months, capacity has risen by 30 percent. This shows the Kingdom’s great care and attention to its people’s health and safety.” Timely action helped health facilities cope with the number of patients effectively, he added.
On Tuesday, Saudi Arabia recorded 3,392 new COVID-19 cases, raising the total number of infections to 217,108. A total of 60,252 cases are active, of which 2,268 are in critical condition.
With 5,205 new recoveries, the total number of people having recovered from COVID-19 has reached 154, 839. The death toll in the Kingdom stands at 2,017, with 49 new fatalities.

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Saudi school smashes world record for longest chain of bottle caps

Time: 30 June, 2020

An environment-conscious Saudi school in Jeddah has topped the world record for the longest chain of bottle caps. (Supplied/BISJ/Guinness World Records)
  • Staff and children at the British International School of Jeddah (BISJ) threaded together 323,103 caps

JEDDAH: An environment-conscious Saudi school has topped the world record for the longest chain of bottle caps.

Staff and children at the British International School of Jeddah (BISJ) threaded together 323,103 caps to break the previous Guinness World Records title of 260,866 gained in the Netherlands.

The official attempt followed a plastic pollution awareness campaign, in which the school managed to collect a massive amount of bottle caps with the aim of taking them to a recycling firm and donating the funds locally to support children with disabilities by buying items such as wheelchairs and leg braces.

Sonja Sutcliffe, deputy head of the BISJ, said: “We have tried to break the Guinness World Records title for over a year with an aim to raising community awareness of the problem of plastic pollution, especially in oceans.

“We started by collecting as many bottle caps as we could, even cleaning up the local areas a little on the way.

“The message was to visually represent how many plastic bottles we use and see how the tops could be converted into specialized equipment for less-fortunate children. This is an amazing achievement of teamwork, vision, and resilience,” she added.

The school approached the challenge in a methodical and scientific way, working out the best ways to put holes in the caps and measure out fishing line to string them together.

Organizers used standard-size bottle caps, fishing line to make the lines of caps and large needles to thread the caps onto the line, as well as specific recording sheets for counting and measuring.

The final length of the chain was measured at 2,738.5 meters.

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Media training program aims to put global spotlight on budding Saudi talent

29/06/20

Education and training platform, MBC Academy, has launched its latest skills development program covering TV, film, radio, theatre, content production, digital content, photography, music, lighting, editing, and comedy. (Supplied)

  • Part of MBC Group, the academy was established with the aim of building a fully integrated and vibrant media production industry in Saudi Arabia
  • Successful applicants will receive intensive training in media and production techniques in line with international industry standards

RIYADH: Budding Saudi media talents are being invited to take part in a high-profile industry training scheme aimed at showcasing the region’s potential on the world stage.

Education and training platform, MBC Academy, has launched its latest skills development program covering TV, film, radio, theatre, content production, digital content, photography, music, lighting, editing, and comedy.

Part of MBC Group, the academy was established with the aim of building a fully integrated and vibrant media production industry in Saudi Arabia while also upskilling the Kingdom’s talent across various media sectors.

Its programs, developed with leading international experts, have been designed to hone skills, improve career opportunities, and give participants the chance to be involved in major global media-related projects.

MBC Group chairman, Waleed Al-Ibrahim, said: “We believe in telling our own stories; bringing them to the rest of the world. MBC Academy is part of the group’s mission to showcase the region’s potential, as well as create a more open space for exchanging dialogue and expertise between our region and international entities in similar fields.

“We believe in investing in our own youth and empowering them with the skills they need to pursue a thriving and promising career.

“Saudi Arabia is home to top-tier talent with incredibly promising potential. What this talent is missing is a platform to help them reach their full potential, as well as offer them once-in-a-lifetime work experience opportunities not available anywhere else.

“We cannot wait to provide the space this year for more Saudi youth to achieve their goals and realize their potential. We also cannot wait to showcase to the world what our burgeoning Saudi youth in media is made of,” added Al-Ibrahim.

Successful applicants will receive intensive training in media and production techniques in line with international industry standards.

Led by Jana Yamani, the group’s executive director of talent, the academy will initially focus on the core pillars of inspiration and awareness, skills development, and talent management.

Emphasis will be placed on improving the perception of careers in the media and creative industries among younger generations, society influencers, and decision makers, increasing the number of world-class media professionals through structured educational and training programs, and connecting talented individuals with local and global opportunities.

“With the major developments occurring in the Saudi media space, as well as in the Kingdom overall, we are witnessing more interest from Saudi youth wanting to pursue a career in media or related creative industries,” said Yamani.

“MBC Academy’s work revolves around providing an integrated program that can provide the necessary skills in order to transform promising talent into distinguished professionals who have acquired skills to the highest standards in line with international best practices.

“The historical success of discovering and upskilling talent within MBC GROUP has provided an excellent foundation for us to build on with MBC Academy.”

She added that trainees would benefit from the group’s three decades of experience in the fields of media and production, hands-on training in MBC studios and departments, and the prospect of future involvement and management opportunities within the group for the most promising individuals.

“Looking ahead, we will be introducing more initiatives such as online courses, non-degree programs, and work experience opportunities in Hollywood,” said Yamani.

2020 PROGRAM

MBC Academy’s 2020 program is scheduled to welcome its first cohort of successful applicants later this year, with students due to begin training on set at MBC locations – pending global conditions – from October 2020.

This will be followed by a second phase focusing on e-learning courses in various disciplines, such as filmmaking and screenwriting.

The final phase of the program will see top-performing candidates offered job opportunities within the organization. For more information and to apply, visit www.mbcacademy.me.

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Jeddah bids fond farewell to iconic airport terminal

27/06/20

Named after the Kingdom’s founder, the south terminal is just shy of celebrating its 40th anniversary. (Supplied)

For many worshippers, south terminal has been their first stop on a journey of a lifetime to perform Hajj or Umrah
JEDDAH: Jeddah’s international airport is bidding a fond farewell to its distinctive south terminal, known for its unique triangular tent-shaped exterior and large glass facade, as flight operations move to a new base.

Inaugurated by King Khalid in April 1981 after transferring all operations from its previous location near Jeddah’s Al-Sulaimania district, King Abdul Aziz International Airport (KAIA) has become one of the main gateways into the Kingdom not only for travelers but for millions of pilgrims.
For many worshippers, the airport’s south terminal has been their first stop on a journey of a lifetime to perform Hajj or Umrah at the Grand Mosque in Makkah or visit the Prophet’s Mosque in Madinah.
Named after the Kingdom’s founder, the terminal is just shy of celebrating its 40th anniversary.

BACKGROUND
Inaugurated by King Khalid in April 1981 after transferring all operations from its previous location near Jeddah’s Al-Sulaimania district, King Abdul Aziz International Airport has become one of the main gateways into the Kingdom not only for travelers but for millions of pilgrims.

With its iconic high ceilings that resemble the inside of a tent, it has served millions of passengers and is one of the busiest air terminals in the Kingdom. It also serves as the headquarters for Saudi Arabia’s national airline Saudia.
The first direct flight to New York City took off from KAIA in June 1981 and other international destinations were added that year.
It was recently reported that KAIA accounts for 36 percent of the total number of passengers in the Kingdom.
The closure of the south terminal and the moving of all operations to the airport’s newly opened T1 terminal — inaugurated by King Salman last September and capable of handling 30 million passengers a year — is aimed at ensuring the airport remains a key link between the East and West and continues to serve the city’s residents and welcome pilgrims.

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