Jihad Alkhaldi, chief executive officer of the Music Commission

Time: 11 March, 2020

Jihad Alkhaldi
  • Alkhaldi obtained her master’s degree in business administration at Edinburgh Business School in the UK in 2004

Culture Minister Prince Badr bin Abdullah bin Farhan recently appointed Jihad Alkhaldi the chief executive officer of the Music Commission.
Alkhaldi has more than three decades of experience in the music sector. She is a violinist with a bachelor’s degree in music theory and violin playing from Conservatoire — The Higher Institute For Music, Cairo. She also remained associated with the Egyptian Orchestra for 8 years. Alkhaldi is a perfect combination of theoretical and practical knowledge of music.
Through the commission, the ministry seeks to regulate and develop the music sector in the Kingdom and to support and encourage local talent.
Her appointment comes as a first step to start the functioning of the authority and discharging of its responsibilities toward developing the Saudi music sector in all its directions, Saudi Press Agency said.
In addition to her musical talent, Alkhaldi is also well-versed with the requirements of the corporate world. She obtained her master’s degree in business administration at Edinburgh Business School in the UK in 2004.
She worked as the chief financial officer at Magrabi Hospitals and Centers from April 2007 to 2012. Later she was promoted as a group chief financial officer.
The commission is one of the 11 new bodies formed by the Ministry of Culture to manage and develop various branches of the Saudi cultural sector following a Cabinet decision in this regard earlier this month. This is part of the ministry’s vision and orientation document announced in March 2019. Twitter: @jihad_alkhaldy

This article was first published in Arab News

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Faces of Saudi: Arab News project profiling inspirational women in Saudi Arabia

08/03/2020

FacesOfSaudi.com features portraits and profiles of inspiring Saudi women from a wide range of backgrounds who defy Western society’s stereotypes. (Arab News)

  • FacesOfSaudi.com is an expansion of Arab News’ popular weekly feature The Face.

To mark International Women’s Day on March 8, Arab News, Saudi Arabia’s English-language daily, is launching a special website that celebrates successful Saudi women.

FacesOfSaudi.com features portraits and profiles of inspiring Saudi women from a wide range of backgrounds who defy Western society’s stereotypes.

“Saudi society is one that may still remain a mystery to some, but through this series I shed light on successful Saudi women in their homes, with their families,” said Rawan Radwan, a Saudi journalist with Arab News and the paper’s regional correspondent. “This series shows the world just who they are and their drive behind their success.”

FacesOfSaudi.com is an expansion of Arab News’ popular weekly feature The Face. “It was a wonderful experience being part of The Face, specifically the photography aspect where we were in our natural environment and not staged,” said fitness entrepreneur Fatima Batook. “To be among many women who make a positive impact in their communities is an honor. So proud that it still continues.”

FacesOfSaudi.com is the latest in a series of initiatives in keeping with the news organization’s mandate as “the voice of a changing region.”

“Arab News has been a champion of Saudi women as they step into their rightful place in society under the reforms of Vision 2030, including a 50/50 gender-balance target in our newsrooms,” Radwan said. “FacesOfSaudi.com is one of the best expressions of what we do: Pulling the veil off the world’s misconceptions of the Kingdom.”

Among our first Faces are research scientist Dr. Yasmin Altwaijri, UN diplomat Basma Alshaalan and Dina Alfaris, cofounder of the first Saudi caviar farm and founder of the Qamrah fashion brand. “I remind myself and all women to own our aspirations, believe in our power to live up to our potential with confidence, and enjoy the purposeful world,” Alfaris said. “We are ready to embrace ambition.”

Faces of Saudi will have its own pages on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook where users can interact and share these fascinating and true stories of successful women from the Kingdom.

Follow Faces of Saudi on social media:

Twitter.com/facesofsaudi
Instagram.com/facesofsaudi
Facebook.com/facesofsaudi

This article was first published in Arab News

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TheFace: Princess Tarfa bint Fahad Al-Saud, artist

Time: 06 March, 2020

Princess Tarfa bint Fahad Al-Saud. (AN Photo by Ziad Alarfaj)
  • Life coaching and art are, to me at least, deeply intertwined on so many levels. At some point, I can barely see that fine line that separates them
  • When it rains, I take my canvas out (a task that involves some heavy lifting), and I let the sky express itself with the help of my colors

Like everyone else, I am someone with a story. Sometimes, on nights when I was feeling nostalgic, I would ask my mother to describe how I was as a child. “Obedient,” she would say, “a sweet girl who always listened to what her parents had to say. In her eyes I was calm, I had many friends, I was a healthy child and so were my three brothers and sister.

But I remember a different story. Yes, I was of course a happy child and I was, indeed, healthy — but I was far from obedient and I was rarely quiet. I remember being adventurous; I loved to explore and I always wanted to (and did) join the boys in their adventures and crazy plots and pranks, especially those that involved bike rides with my older brother.

Still, I wasn’t all wild, however. I had an inner life and I lived in my own bubble for a time, where I created a world that worked for me.

By the time I was in sixth grade I had produced my first piece of art, an abstract piece. I’m not sure if I knew what I had created at the time but I knew it had value. The teacher did not like it and I remember very well how disappointed I was with her for not understanding the importance to me of what I had created. Overthinking since day one.

One of the defining moments in my life was after I had my first child. I still cannot explain how significant it was for who I am as a person, for my consciousness, and for my purpose in life. I married young, so I had my first child at the beginning of my journey, when I was only 20 years old. We were going to grow together, learn together, and explore what the world has to offer together.

Sadly, that dream did not entirely come true. After turning one, my Saud was diagnosed with leukemia, while I was pregnant with my second child, my beautiful daughter Nora. After years of battling, my young hero passed at the age of 12.

My two other children, Nora and Yazeed, are my life. Even though I always involve them in the critique of my artworks, I know deep down they are my biggest fans. I love them, I cherish every minute I spend with them and I know that I am beyond grateful to have such smart, bright kids. Watching them grow, and their ambitions grow with them, has been a blessing.

A while ago I was invited to speak at Alfaisal University in Riyadh, where Nora is studying, I gave a talk titled: “The Creative Soul and the Structured World.” When I saw those young, eager eyes staring at me with all the curiosity in the world, listening to every word I said, I realized how much I loved helping young people; their appreciation was overwhelming.

To champion the youth has always been a goal for me; to help them indulge in life and face it with grace, and to adapt when the challenges are too much for a young spirit to handle. This is why I have always believed creativity is so important: it provides young people with the tools they need to navigate through the fog.

My experience with grief taught me a lot about myself, about human nature, about how the world works. Most importantly, it taught me to value what I have, what I had and what I will be given in the future to find balance and serenity in any given chaotic space.

I am deeply spiritual; I believe that everything happens for a reason and that God has a plan for each and every one of us. As part of my healing process, I started exploring and diving more into art. I fell in love with what I found. I decided to study for my diploma in visual arts in my thirties, and from there I began my professional career as an artist. Before that I was an amateur at best, the kind of person who is always going around with a sketchbook in their bag.

In our ancient culture, poets used to claim that creativity came from a magical place called the “Abqar Valley,” where creatives made deals with demons to provide inspiration. This story, despite its ancient symbolism, says a lot about working in a creative field.

Being an artist implies a certain lifestyle, a way of seeing the world. Being an artist means you are constantly exploring, wondering and arguing about how the world is or how it should be. In a nutshell, being an artist means having a free soul: untamed, bold and daring. Being an artist is a full-time job, because you are always working with your creative self. And most people know that; this is why people always roll their eyes when I tell them that in addition to being an artist, I am a life coach.

When I was young, I wanted to study one of two things: fine arts or psychology. I know now that the things we want when we are young always find a way to come back and haunt us, as they did to me until I started a professional career as an artist, studied art therapy, and became a certified life coach.

Life coaching and art are, to me at least, deeply intertwined on so many levels. At some point, I can barely see that fine line that separates them.

There is a saying that goes: “Talent hits a target no one else can hit, genius hits a target no one else can see.” I would not go so far as to say that every artist is a genius, but this is the goal of every artist: to grasp and display something no one else can see; to reveal what is concealed.

The same applies to life coaching. The goal is to reveal to a person that which is concealed from him or her, what they cannot see, and to help them through the journey of self-actualization and realization. That is the essence of life coaching.

After spending a year and a half at the Misk Foundation, working with the Misk Art institute, doing what I love and enjoy, a narrative crystallized, a window opened into the future of my life, and I saw what I wanted: me focusing on my work, my art and my hobbies. So I left my position there and started my practice as a cultural and creative consultant, where I have had the chance to work on many exciting projects, one of which was the movie “Born a King.”

Now, I spend my days in my studio, focusing on my art, developing and experimenting with the creative process, whether it is through painting or other mediums. Documenting scenes of daily life that seem dull to the untrained eye is one of my obsessions: a floating balloon, birds, forgotten roses on the street — I love searching for beauty where no one else cares to see it.

A perfect day for me includes yoga, some family time, art, moments of self-awareness, deep conversations with interesting people, a good meal and a little rain. Why the rain, you ask? Because when it rains, I take my canvas out (a task that involves some heavy lifting), and I let the sky express itself with the help of my colors.

This article was first published in Arab News

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The Face: Fatmah Al-Rashed, a Saudi architect

21/02/20

“Ithra was a wonderful opportunity and a joyful experience that added so much value to my life.”
Early on in life I learned that there is no one way to happiness, no one stereotype for accomplishment or self-satisfaction. This belief has been a drive for me to achieve more. I was born and raised in Alkhobar city; my father was a businessman and my mother was a housewife.

My life is rich with love provided by my family, my siblings, nieces and nephews and I’m enjoying motherhood and my family through nonconventional means.

My parents raised us as equals, they supported us, thought very highly of us and believed that we could excel in anything that we did. Our opinions were highly respected, but there were high expectations to be upheld.

My father once told me after finishing a novel on Marie Curie, “you know you’re no less than she is, you can be the Marie Curie in your own field. You have all it takes.”

I enrolled in the Imam Abdulrahman Al-Faisal University as I’ve always wanted to become a pediatrician. My parents raised my siblings and I with one motto in mind: “It’s not about you, it’s about how you can give back to your community.” My mother was not in favor of my chosen vocation. This is not to say that she went against me; in fact, I was given the freedom to decide my life path and my parents were supportive.

In those days, you had to apply to the university by physically providing all the necessary paperwork. As I stood in line to apply for medical school, I saw another queue. Inquisitive by nature, I went to ask what it was for. The administrators told me it was for the department of architecture and planning. Upon hearing that the course was just 5 years, I remembered my mother’s words, and within a minute, I decided to enroll in the department.

Two steps is all it took, stepping into the queue to the right and that decision changed my life’s path and helped make me who I am today. After graduating, I was hunting for jobs with no luck.

As I am not the type to lay back and do nothing, I volunteered to teach English at a local charity. One day, my father surprised me and said I had a job interview in Aramco.

I was shocked since I never applied and because it’s my father, he simply said that I applied for you because it’s time for you to give back. He told me: “The country invested in you, you are smart and you can take whatever job they give you. Who’s going to build the country but you and your generation?” Doors were opened.

I worked in my field for a while and that led me to the King Abdul Aziz Center for World Culture, also known as Ithra.

Twenty-five years later, I’m a still proud employee at Saudi Aramco and one of the first to bring the concept of Ithra to life. My role in Ithra began as an architect and was extended to be part of the creative team responsible for managing the creative program, its concept, and established the first Fablab at the King Fahad University for Petroleum and Minerals — the first in the Eastern Province. Building the concept of Ithra, or as I prefer to call it “the land of dreams,” was a group effort.

I joined with a dream and it was fate that we, the dreamers, were able to gather and meet at the right time and place, and most importantly we were given the opportunity to build something amazing.

This was a selfless act from our end because we wanted to see it come alive, to ensure that we played our part in giving back to a community that helped us grow to who we are today.

Ithra was a wonderful opportunity and a joyful experience that added so much value to my life. What comes next is going to also be part of my journey of growth, to explore our identity.

My life has been a whirlwind of opportunities. One lesson I learned was to never underestimate an opportunity no matter how small it was. You never know what you’ll get out of it.

This article was first published in Arab News

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Saudi shoe designer Lulu Al-Hassan shows off new collection at LFW

Time: 19 February, 2020

Saudi shoe designer Lulu Al-Hassan unveiled her latest collection at London Fashion Week. (Getty)

LONDON: OK ladies, take a deep breath and get ready for a new way of looking at shoes. Are they items to protect your feet? Fashion statements from towering heels to trending trainers? Comfy  friends or crippling assassins? Or as Lulu Al-Hassan, founder and creative director of the Lu Vixen luxury shoe brand would have it ‘lingerie for the feet?’

Yes, you heard that right. That was the message the Saudi national wanted to convey at her mind-boggling show at the Hotel Café Royal’s Oscar Wilde Lounge as part of “Stories from Arabia” at London Fashion Week.

It was as though someone in Hollywood had shouted: “I want a room full of international people of glamour – people of all races, all styles from outrageous to demure – and I want them to assemble in a big crush in the Oscar Wilde Lounge right now!”

Boom! I found myself transported into that opulent room and, to be honest, at first it was all a bit overwhelming. Pouting models with impossibly long legs reclined languidly on chaise lounges dotted around the room.

In the middle of all this glitter, glamour and mayhem stood Al-Hassan looking like Goldilocks. As she moved about the room in her floaty green gown, graciously posing for pictures with well-wishers, you had to admire her chutzpah.

In fact, one of Wilde’s quotes could have been written for her. “Be yourself; everyone else is already taken.”

She has bravely forged her own path to follow her passion for shoes. Her journey has not been an easy one, particularly as her family did not support her breaking away from her corporate career.

“My family really did not like my idea because I have a masters in IT from a good university in the US and I was holding a good position in Saudi Arabia,” she told Arab News. “All of sudden, I decided to quit all that and go to Italy and study shoe design which is my passion. It wasn’t easy because at that time Saudi wasn’t as open as it is today. So, I had to struggle and make my own way.”

She studied shoemaking and pattern cutting at Milan’s prestigious Arsutoria School, established in 1947. She also took pattern-cutting classes in London.

“I wanted this collection to be very chic and detailed,” she said about her latest collection. “We have used a lot of chiffon and delicate fabrics not usually associated with shoes. Lu Vixen is basically lingerie for the feet so the shoe has to be soft on your skin and comfortable.”

Alongside the stilettos with gold and silver metallic aspects paired with classic black were beautifully crafted lower-heeled shoes and sandals in suede and leather. Chiffon trims complement a palette of fuchsia, orange and lime green.

“I try to focus on a big range because whatever I like you might not like. It is important for women to understand their feet and to choose shoes not just by brand but by what works for them. What is comfortable for one woman might not be comfortable for another because everyone is different in terms of height and weight.”

Al-Hassan has made a success of a dream she nurtured from a very young age through using her initiative.

“Shoes are my passion. I have loved them since childhood and over the years I have done a lot to learn about the shoemaking craft. I used to be a collector and I taught myself. I studied the anatomy of the feet. I was so thirsty for knowledge. I used to travel and pay all my own costs to attend leather fairs and the like just to educate myself.”

The numbers of guests entering the Oscar Wilde Lounge for the show were restricted for safety reasons, meaning hundreds of people had to stand outside on Regent Street waiting for admission. That they did so on a cold February night is a big tribute to the designer, who is brimming with talent, vitality and fun.

This article was first published in Arab News

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Saudi Princess Lamia bint Majed, goodwill ambassador for the Arab world

Time: 13 February, 2020

Princess Lamia bint Majed

Princess Lamia bint Majed, secretary-general and a member of the board of trustees of Alwaleed Philanthropies, has been appointed as the first regional goodwill ambassador for the Arab world by the UN Human Settlements Program (UN-Habitat).

Her appointment came during a press conference held on the sidelines of the 10th session of the World Urban Forum in Abu Dhabi, UAE.

Princess Lamia will advocate for sustainable urbanization, helping UN-Habitat to address urban challenges in Arab states and advance sustainable urbanization as a driver of development and peace.

Princess Lamia has also worked as the secretary-general of Alwaleed Philanthropies since March 2016. She also worked as executive manager of media and communications at Alwaleed Philanthropies between 2014 and 2016.

Princess Lamia has a bachelor’s degree in public relations, marketing and advertising from Misr International University in Cairo, Egypt.

In 2003, the princess founded Sada Al-Arab, a publishing company operating from Cairo, Beirut and Dubai.

Princess Lamia also co-founded Media Codes Ltd. in Egypt and the Fortune Media Group in Lebanon and Saudi Arabia.

She was editor in chief of Rotana magazine between 2004 and 2006. She held the same position at Mada magazine between 2002 and 2008.

In 2017, she was awarded the prestigious Arab Women’s Award for her charitable work.

In 2019, Princess Lamia was appointed as a champion of Generation Unlimited, a global partnership that aims to boost the productivity of young people. Her Twitter handle is @lamia1507.

This article was first published in Arab News

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Basmah Al-Mayman, Middle East regional director at the UN World Tourism Organization

Time: 12 February, 2020

Basmah Al-Mayman
  • Forbes Middle East published a 2020 “power list” ranking 100 businesswomen who are at the top of their game, with Al-Mayman ranking 13th and the only woman representing tourism in the Arab world

Basmah Al-Mayman is the Middle East regional director at the UN World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), and the first national from a Gulf Cooperation Council country to become director of that department since the agency was established more than three decades ago. She is also the first woman to lead the Middle East region in the UNWTO’s history.
Forbes Middle East published a 2020 “power list” ranking 100 businesswomen who are at the top of their game, with Al-Mayman ranking 13th and the only woman representing tourism in the Arab world.
Forbes said its list was built through nominations and in-depth research based on criteria including the size of the businesses headed by the 100 women, “their accomplishments over the last year, the initiatives they champion, and their overall work experience.”
She obtained her bachelor’s degree in English literature and linguistics from King Saud University, and an MBA from Al-Faisal University.
She is a founding member of the Saudi Commission for Tourism and National Heritage (SCTH) and later became a member of the board of directors.
She has held many positions and pioneering roles. She was the only Arab founding member of the UNWTO’s Program and Budget Committee, which sets the agency’s work and that of its executive council. From 2013 she was manager of the international organizations and committee department at the SCTH, and continues to be the official Saudi focal point for the UNWTO and other international organizations.
Al-Mayman was appointed to her UNWTO position in 2018, beating hundreds of applicants from all over the world to get the job.
She is on Twitter as @Basmah_Aziz.

This article was first published in Arab News

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Mayada Badr appointed CEO of Culinary Arts Authority in Saudi Arabia

Time: 12 February, 2020

Mayada Badr, CEO of Saudi Arabia’s Culinary Arts Authority. (SPA)
  • Badr is a chef who graduated from Le Cordon Bleu in Paris
  • Culinary Arts Authority is one of 11 bodies by the Saudi Culture Ministry

RIYADH: Saudi Minister of Culture Prince Badr bin Abdullah bin Farhan has appointed Mayada Badr as CEO of the newly formed Culinary Arts Authority, the Saudi Press Agency reported on Wednesday.

Badr is a talented Saudi chef who graduated from Le Cordon Bleu in Paris and trained under a number of renowned international chefs. Through the Culinary Arts Authority, she will be responsible for regulating and developing the Kingdom’s culinary sector and supporting other practitioners in the field.

The Culinary Arts Authority is one of 11 cultural bodies launched by the ministry to manage, promote and advance the Kingdom’s cultural sector. It will be responsible for issuing licenses for culinary activities; organizing conferences and exhibitions; providing courses and vocational training programs; and encouraging research, studies, and development in its field.

This article was first published in Arab News

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Dalia Fatani, founder and CEO of Studio Lucha

10/02/20

Dalia Fatani is the founder and CEO of Studio Lucha. Since 2012, she has led the art, craft and design studio, aiming to build a creative community in Saudi Arabia.

Saudi basketball team Riyadh United recently celebrated a year of sporting diplomacy aimed at strengthening international relations. Through a unique initiative, the players have been holding regular games with the capital’s diplomatic community in a bid to promote the message of peace and understanding between nations through sport.

Fatani, who was one of the first members to join Riyadh United, attended the anniversary event in the capital. She said that the teams were established to build bridges between countries through sport.

Fatani obtained three diplomas in space design, fine art techniques and product design in 2011 from Emily Carr University of Art and Design in Canada. In 2015, Fatani received her diploma as an accredited art, craft and design trainer from SB Arts Academy in the UK.

Between 1995 and 1997, Fatani served as an ophthalmic assistant at King Khalid Specialist Hospital, before moving to the hospital’s research center to work as a neonatal intensive care assistant until 2000.

Between 2005 and 2006, she worked for the World Trade Center as an HR training and development officer. In 2006, she switched to the Mainline Media company as an account executive till 2007.

Fatani worked for a freelance art project in 2012 in the Five Houses Gallery. Between 2013 and 2013, she was a content manager in Al-Holair Fashion Retail. Her last appointment was at the General Authority for Culture, where she was a visual arts consultant from March 2018 until the end of the year.

Her Twitter handle is @DselectiveD

This article was first published in Arab News

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Racism goes beyond words or beliefs

09/02/20

HODA AL-HELAISSI

The King Faisal Center for Research and Islamic Studies has an amazing program that should be replicated by other institutions. It is called Gateway and it invites students from some of the best universities in the world to visit Saudi Arabia. It’s a program that, in a distinctive and interesting way, tries to shatter countries’ stereotypes of the Kingdom. Participants, like many people visiting Saudi Arabia for the first time, are amazed at how different the reality is from the perception they have been fed throughout their lives.
I was recently asked an interesting question by one of the students. He wanted to know what caused the world to hate Saudi Arabia so much. Although there are many reasons, the one I elaborated on was racism, which is destructive globally.
Racism takes on many forms and has reprehensible consequences. Starting from biological race and developing into exploitation and the more commonly seen human invention of cultural differences, racism goes beyond words or beliefs. It touches attitudes and behavior, is disdainful and disrespectful, affects the dignity and self-esteem of victims and, as such, harms society in general.
It is a vehicle of recognition and admission of differences between peoples, communities, cultures, faiths, traditions and deeds, provoking disruptiveness, divisiveness and dissention, prompting hatred and misunderstanding based on suspicion and doubt. Racism is not only founded on hatred, it is also built on ignorance and fear, usually of minorities who are seen as threats to national identity or social security. Often, national pride is used as a justification for this loathsome behavior and it is interesting to see that certain words and expressions have become interchangeable either to justify a certain stance or to hide deeper nefarious feelings without being outspoken about it.
We have seen countries which once prided themselves on being multicultural and multifaith fight the very richness of their diverse social fibre in the name of nationalism. The melting pot of globalization is rapidly being replaced by inner-looking individualism which can no longer accept the other, the different or the diverse, and which breeds sentiments of prejudice, discrimination and sectarianism.
Today, abusive, violent or intimidating racist behavior has found a new and more powerful platform — social media, where racial harassment marginalizes or excludes individuals. Cyber-racism commits these blatant offenses — which spread like wildfire — under the blanket of anonymity and in the name of freedom of speech. Traditional media, too, is a perpetrator of racism by voicing unfair or negative opinions on racial minorities, or unknown and misunderstood cultures in articles or programs that are capable of reaching millions of readers or viewers. People use this information as a weapon to attack and judge that of which they know nothing about, as is the case for Saudi Arabia.
Racism is learned. A child is not born racist. Racism is wrong. It challenges social equity and value systems. It needs to be fought, if not eradicated, through awareness and education and by denouncing practices that are demeaning and patronizing. Although laws and policies cannot change mindsets, they can nevertheless restrain social conduct and attitudes.

Hoda Al-Helaissi has been a member of the Shoura Council since 2013. She is a member of the Foreign Affairs Committee within the Shoura.

Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not necessarily reflect Arab News’ point-of-view

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