500 million birds migrate through Saudi Arabia every year

04/09/20

International efforts have been intensified to support biodiversity, especially in light of the coronavirus pandemic, in line with the methodology of the Convention on Migratory Birds and the UN Convention on Combating Desertification, according to Saudi observers. (Shutterstock/Supplied)
  • Saudi Wildlife Authority adviser: Dangerous risks facing birds include plastic pollution, dredging and illegal trade

MAKKAH: More than 500 million birds representing 500 species migrate across Saudi Arabia every year through the Red Sea, according to an expert in the Kingdom.
Dr. Mohammed Shubrak, a Saudi Wildlife Authority adviser, said that birds migrating from their habitats to other habitats reflected biodiversity, since most species were well-known and classified.
He explained that the route of migratory birds covered the yearly migration from nesting to resting and feeding grounds.
During migration, birds made many physiological adaptations such as increasing their fat percentage, reducing the size of their organs and increasing the size of their feathers. To migrate from one place to another, birds also adopted different behavior according to their size and species.
“Birds have four movements: Flailing, flying, walking and swimming,” Shubrak told Arab News.
“Flailing and flying are two types of movements of the migratory birds to the Kingdom that cannot escape potential hazards. Some birds come to the same place each year for the same foods, like the imperial eagle that has been seen in Saudi Arabia visiting the same places repeatedly.
Eagles provide a free service to humans as they feed on dead animals. According to a study conducted in a reserve in Taif, eagles get rid of 32 percent of dead animals and 3 percent of mammals (foxes and stray dogs) knowing that livestock numbers represent nine times the load capacity of
grassland in the region.”
Migratory birds are an indicator of environmental changes, he said, adding that environmental interdependence was the movement of species without obstacles ensuring the flow and continuity of natural life.

FASTFACT

• There are about 10,966 bird species in the world.

• 1,469 species are threatened with extinction — equivalent to 13 percent — and illegal hunting is one of the reasons behind their declining numbers.

• 5 billion birds migrate between Eurasia and Africa.

“Environmental interdependence also supports the movement of land, sea and air species and benefits in pollinating flowers of birds, insects, and the environmental hydrological cycle.”
Birds are one of the most common animal species as they exist in all regions of the world, from polar to desert.
According to Saudi observers, international efforts have been intensified to support biodiversity, especially in light of the coronavirus pandemic, in line with the methodology of the Convention on Migratory Birds and the UN Convention on Combating Desertification.
Shubrak said that migratory birds played a vital role as they had a major relationship with the world that people lived in, whether in terms of culture, the environment, the economy or tourism.
Some birds resorted to hopping and moving for short distances between tens to thousands of kilometers. There were also species that flew thousands of kilometers without stopping, relying on large quantities of food sources to get them through their journey.
Other birds migrated through narrow routes or straight lines, Shubrak said. “The coastal line toward the Red Sea between the mountains and coast lines — this trajectory threatens species like the Siberian crane that by disappearing, caused the disappearance of species migrating through Pakistan to spend winter in India.”
He added that the most dangerous risks facing birds were noncontrolled hunting, poisoning, plastic pollution, dredging and land filling, power lines, illegal trade and climate change.
“There are plans of action to protect migratory birds in Saudi Arabia, including hawks, in partnership with hunters. Saudi Arabia has contributed financially and scientifically to developing plans to protect hawks in partnership with hunters from Saudi Arabia.”
He added that a national plan needed to be carried out to preserve hawks in the Kingdom since the numbers of most hawks used for hunting were dwindling, such as the mountainous falcon, whose numbers have decreased by 93 percent.

This article was first published in Arab News

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Saudis try sandboarding as domestic tourism booms

04/09/20

While the international airport and borders remain closed due to the Covid-19 pandemic, Saudis and expats turn to domestic tourism, many heading for a sandboarding experience on the dunes of the “Saed” desert area, 110 km east of the capital Riyadh.

This article was first published in Arab News

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240,000 students take part in stellar Saudi space education program

29/08/20

Photo/Supplied
  • ‘Through the program, I learned why countries spend billions of dollars on space exploration and the most important satellites launched for this purpose’

JEDDAH: A Saudi space education program for students has proved a stellar success after attracting more than 240,000 online participants.
The “9 Space Trips” initiative, launched by the Saudi Space Authority (SSA) in cooperation with the Ministry of Education, was run during the summer to promote space science and its related fields among middle and high school students.
The program included a variety of space-orientated topics and scientific experiments aimed at youth wishing to learn more about the sector.
Dr. Abdul Aziz Al-Asheikh, the SSA’s chief executive, noted the large number of students who had taken part on different interactive platforms and pointed out that through the Space Generations Program (Ajyal) for the development of human capital, the authority aimed to provide an inspirational education environment to encourage the Kingdom’s space scientists of the future.
To help achieve the program’s strategic goals, a number of projects and initiatives have been designed to empower young people to lead and develop the sector. The Ministry of Education is the SSA’s strategic partner, and the “9 Space Trips” summer program marked the start of a joint cooperation project between the two bodies.
Over a three-week period, it included nine virtual and interactive trips on Mondays, Tuesdays, and Wednesdays lasting two hours per session.
Program participant Mahmoud Al-Hamoud, a 12th grade student from Jeddah, told Arab News that prior taking part he knew little about space, but the experience had enriched his knowledge on the subject.
“Through the program, I learned why countries spend billions of dollars on space exploration and the most important satellites launched for this purpose. Before, I thought that there was only one galaxy, the Milky Way. We were told that there are 12 trillion galaxies, and this reflects the greatness of the Creator,” he said.
Al-Hamoud added that the program taught students how they could become the astronauts of the future and what NASA’s requirements were for becoming a space pilot. “We also learned about the training courses that astronauts receive, in addition to other interesting information about space.”
Although planning to study pharmacology, Al-Hamoud said that participating in the “9 Space Trips” project had made him think seriously about space travel and possibly pursuing a career as a space scientist.
He added that the program mirrored Saudi Arabia’s ambition to produce a generation that could further space exploration.
“The Saudi Space Authority and the Ministry of Education offered an inspiring program that will pave the way for many ambitious students to study space and contribute to international efforts to discover the outer world.”

This article was first published in Arab News

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Saudi Arabia will not approve vaccine until completely safe, says health minister

22/08/20

Saudi Arabia announced 32 more deaths from COVID-19 and 1,213 new cases of the disease on Friday. (File/AFP)

  • The total number of recoveries in the Kingdom has increased to 277,067
  • Saudi Arabia reports 1,213 new COVID-19 cases, 1,591 recoveries and 32 deaths

JEDDAH: The Saudi health minister has revealed that Saudi Arabia is working with Oxford in the UK and with Russia, the US and China on a COVID-19 vaccine, but he confirmed that it would not be used on people until it had passed tests by the Saudi Food and Drug Federation (SFDA)

“Our leadership is keen on boosting whatever is needed to enhance the health of society and vaccine availability, and to be one of the first to acquire a vaccine, but the safety of the vaccine and the procedure employed are also of great importance when approving any treatment,” said Tawfiq Al-Rabiah.
The vaccine is being tested by each country and, once it is approved by the SFDA, it will be used in the Kingdom.
The minister said in his interview with Al Arabiya that the situation is stable in Saudi Arabia, where health services and tests are available to all those who need them.
“One of the reasons for our number of tests is that we have 21 testing centers that are accessible by car. A person can book an appointment on their phone and go to get tested. The number of tests done in a day can exceed 70,000. The high number of tests helps to reveal infected individuals at an early stage, which helps us with prevention. Although our case numbers are high, our number of deaths is low in comparison to total cases; it is also the lowest among G20 countries,” he said.
He said that the number of cases was decreasing — 90 percent of recorded cases have recovered — due to the adherence to precautionary measures.
The minister praised Saudis and expats for their understanding. He noted that it is evident in the way people are wearing their masks and are committed more than ever before to being safe.
“It helps that schools are closed, and the ministry’s decision to continue with remote learning helps to maintain stability,” he said.
Initially, people had to wait long periods because of the pressure on emergency rooms in hospitals, but there now are more than 230 Tettamman (Make sure) clinics open 16 or even 24 hours a day to help anyone experiencing COVID-19 symptoms.
“Around 15,000 people visit these clinics daily. Most of them experience symptoms that turn out to be unrelated to COVID-19. Out of the 15,000, 10,000 are tested and only 300 are then transferred to hospitals,” said Al-Rabiah.
These 15,000 used to come to emergency rooms every day, but when hospitals receive only 300 patients, the quality of service increases and people can expect to receive quicker treatment, he said.
“This pandemic has challenged the entire world. In the Kingdom, the situation never became so dire that we had to start choosing who to save and who to let die as in some countries, due to a lack of critical care availability. In the past three months, we have been able to raise our critical care capacity by to 50 percent, adding 3,600 beds,” said the minister.

INNUMBERS

• 305,186 COVID-19 cases

• 277,067 Recoveries

• 24,539 Active cases

• 3,580 Total deaths

He revealed that the toll-free number 937 receives around 100,000 calls per day to provide medical consultations and other services. The swift response has helped calm the people of Saudi Arabia.
Any psychological trauma or distress caused by the virus was also being dealt with. People were able to call on 937 to report their struggles. The minister confirmed there were a few cases that needed further support, but the overall state is stable.
The minister also confirmed that Saudi Arabia has not witnessed any variations in the virus, nor had any patient reported catching the virus twice. In most cases where this has happened around the world, he said, it was probably that the virus never left the patient’s body, as there are cases where the virus lingered for six to eight weeks.
Throughout the Kingdom, coronavirus cases are decreasing. In Tabuk, King Fahd Specialist Hospital announced it has shut down its COVID-19 isolation ward as the number of patients in a critical condition had dropped to zero.
Meanwhile, the Kingdom recorded 32 new COVID-19-related deaths on Friday, raising the death toll to 3,580.
There were 1,213 new cases reported in Saudi Arabia, meaning 305,186 people have now contracted the disease. There are 24,539 active cases, 1,675 of them in critical condition.
According to the Health Ministry, 1,591 more patients had recovered from coronavirus, bringing the total number of recoveries in the Kingdom to 277,067.
Saudi Arabia has so far conducted 4,563,517 PCR tests, with 62,413 carried out in the past 24 hours.

This article was first published in Arab News

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King Abdul Aziz Center for World Culture launches ‘Tanween Challenges’

Time: 21 August, 2020

The program will run from Aug. 27 to Oct. 18. (Shutterstock)

DHAHRAN: The King Abdul Aziz Center for World Culture (Ithra) launched its Tanween Challenges program on Thursday. The program, which runs from Aug. 27 to Oct. 18, will encourage participants to work with industry experts to design and develop projects and products to benefit Saudi Arabia.
The five challenges announced so far on Ithra’s website are: “Reimagining the Crafts of Saudi Arabia,” “The Future of Creative Placemaking,” “Creativity Needs You,” “Cardboard Furniture” and “A New Outdoors.” Participants will discuss ideas and existing projects in each field, and attempt to create their own product or project. Winners will have their designs featured by the relevant industry experts.

This article was first published in Arab News

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Community sports at public parks to encourage Saudis to stay fit

Time: 17 August, 2020

The ceremony was attended by Prince Abdul Aziz bin Turki Al-Faisal, minister of sport, and Majid bin Abdullah bin Hamad Al-Hoqail, the acting minister of municipal and rural affairs, and minister of housing. (SPA)
  • Prince Abdul Aziz: This agreement aims to strengthen cooperation between various sectors, in order to achieve the goals of Vision 2030

JEDDAH: A series of multi-sport park facilities and activities are set to be launched in three Saudi Arabian cities to encourage residents to be more active.

After signing an agreement with the Ministry of Municipal and Rural Affairs (MoMRA), the Saudi Sports for All Federation (SFA) will launch parks and public spaces in Riyadh, Alkhobar and Abha by introducing a range of multi-sport and running and walking programs, equipment rentals, and community academies, all part of the SFA’s wider strategy to impact long-term behavior and entrench positive attitudes toward physical activity.

With the first pilot activations due to be launched at the end of this year, the initiative is the federation’s first step towards delivering its Active Places mandate.

The ceremony, held at the Ministry of Sport, was attended by Prince Abdul Aziz bin Turki Al-Faisal, minister of sport, and Majid bin Abdullah bin Hamad Al-Hoqail, the acting minister of municipal and rural affairs, and minister of housing. The agreement was signed by SFA President Prince Khaled bin Alwaleed bin Talal Al-Saud, and the Deputy Minister of Planning and Programs Khalid bin Mohammad AlDughaither.

“Every opportunity to encourage young men and women of this country to practice sports is a valuable approach that paves the way for the future of our country on all scales,” said Prince Abdul Aziz. “This agreement aims to strengthen cooperation between various sectors, in order to achieve the goals of Vision 2030, which among its priorities is to give its citizens various opportunities in all aspects including the sports side,” he added.

“This comes in line with the newly released bylaws regarding the use of municipal real estate. The bylaws enable the development and activation of these facilities by other government entities and in cooperation with the private sector, will support different opportunities across vital sectors,” said Al-Hoqail.

“During a year of successes for the Sports for All Federation, this agreement stands out as a major achievement,” said Prince Khaled. “Working closely with the Quality of Life Program, we have activated people, and now, with our partners at the Ministry of Municipal and Rural Affairs, we will be activating places. With the strong support of Prince Abdul Aziz bin Turki Al-Faisal and the Ministry of Sports, we hope to see our country’s parks become hubs of physical activity, health, and wellness.

“Every park that we are able to put to work for the fitness of people across Saudi Arabia gets us closer to realizing Vision 2030’s goals of a healthy and active community,” he added.

“We have prepared a plan in collaboration with the SFA to implement the memorandum. A number of parks and public spaces have been designated in different Saudi cities. This will improve the quality of services offered in this memorandum, the experience of those who try it, as well as enabling optimal use of municipal buildings,” said AlDughaither.

The SFA will be the lead entity in designing and launching the parks; developing plans and managing operations, as well measuring the impact of the initiative. MoMRA will act as an enabler and facilitator with municipalities to ensure ease of access and provide any necessary permits or endorsements.

Active Places is one of three initiatives the SFA is responsible for delivering as part of the Quality of Life Program under Vision 2030; the other two being Active People, and Initiatives for Residents of Saudi Arabia.

This article was first published in Arab News

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Saudi clinics carry out 2 million virus tests

Time: 13 August, 2020

Saudi Arabia announced 36 more deaths from COVID-19 and 1,569 new cases of the disease on Wednesday. (SPA)
  • The total number of recoveries in the Kingdom has increased to 257,269
  • A total of 3,269 people have succumbed to the virus in the Kingdom so far

JEDDAH: Saudi Arabia’s Takkad centers have launched a 24-hour testing service as part of an early detection campaign to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus.
Tetamman clinics and Takkad (make sure) centers have carried out more than 2 million polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests across the Kingdom since the start of the pandemic.
Takkad centers are designated for those who have no symptoms or only mild symptoms, but who believe they might have come into contact with a person infected with COVID-19.
Commenting on Saudi Arabia’s participation in vaccine clinical trials, Ministry of Health spokesman Dr. Mohammed Al-Abd Al-Aly said on Wednesday that the Kingdom is committed to joining the global effort to find a COVID-19 vaccine.
“Effectiveness and safey are priorities for clinical trials conducted in Saudi Arabia,” he said. “The Kingdom has been participating since the beginning of the pandemic to support all research departments and efforts in finding a cure and treatment.”
A total of 1,569 new cases of COVID-19 were recorded in the Kingdom on Wednesday, meaning 293,037 people in Saudi Arabia have now contracted the disease. There were 32,499 active cases, 1,826 of which were critical.
Al-Aly announced 2,151 new recoveries, taking the total number to 257,269, while 36 new fatalities were reported, raising the death toll to 3,269.
More than 4 million polymerase tests have been carried out in the Kingdom, including 67,676 in the past 24 hours.

This article was first published in Arab News

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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.

This article was first published in Arab News

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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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