IN PICTURES: Never-before-seen glimpse into natural reserves across Saudi Arabia

Time: June 09, 2018

Nine areas have been designated as royal reservations. (SPA)

Photos released by the Saudi Press Agency have offered a rare glimpse into natural reserves across Saudi Arabia.

King Salman bin Abdulaziz’s recent decreesto protect the environment and wildlife and transform them into tourist destination reflect a keenness on preserving the kingdom’s natural environment.

Nine areas have been designated as royal reservations and their board of directors have been appointed in an effort to limit overfishing and overgrazing, prevent deforestation and maintain and increase vegetation.

The reserves are not limited to deserts, but they include beaches and mountains, which based on the Kingdom’s Vision 2030, have drawn the interest of high-level governing bodies that want to transform them into attractions given the competitive environmental tourism in the region.

The Uruq bani Ma’arid natural reserve in the southwestern region of Saudi Arabia is home to some of the Kingdom’s endangered wildlife.

Located on the southern edge of the Empty Quarter and an area of about 480 km, the reserve is home to a burying range of desert ecosystems and limestone hills.

The most prominent of all animals in the reserve is the Arabian oryx. It is also an important environment for sand foxes, red foxes, Ethiopian hedgehogs and various types of desert and reptile species.

A total of 104 species of birds, including endangered eagle species are monitored on the reserve.

This article was first published in Saudi Gazette

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Saudi censors pass ‘The Message’ – Kuwait initially bans the film

Time: June 07, 2018

Anthony Quinn stars in the English-language version of the 1976 epic historical drama The Message, directed by Moustapha Akkad, chronicling the life of the Prophet Mohammed. Tarik Film Distributors

Saudi Arabian censors have today cleared Moustapha Akkad’s classic story of the foundation of Islam, The Message, to screen in cinemas in the kingdom. The 1976 film will open in Saudi on June 14 as part of its region-wide release – this will be the first time the film will have been seen in GCC cinemas. It was banned from screens on its initial release.

Distributor Front Row Films has confirmed that the process of achieving clearance was relatively straightforward. The film, which was shot in both English and Arabic with entirely different casts, is now set to go on rotation on Saudi’s five existing cinema screens. Another Eid release has cleared the censors there too, Jurassic World.

It is a different story in Kuwait, however. The National understands that the film was submitted to Kuwaiti religious leaders, who approved the film’s content for local audiences, however, a last minute intervention from Kuwait’s Ministry of Information put a block on the release. Front Row added that, in light of the Saudi approval, they will be resubmitting the film in Kuwait, with hopes the Kuwaiti authorities may reconsider in time for the film to release there along with the rest of the region.

Front Row chief Gianluca Chakra commented on the Saudi news: “We’re delighted that the film has been passed for screening in Saudi Arabia. This film is a vitally important part of the region’s history and culture, and to finally see it screening in Saudi Arabia is the culmination of a dream, and testament to the belief we’ve always had in this vital piece of cinema history. We’re thrilled and honoured to have been able to play our part in this journey.”

The Saudi screenings will represent a journey that has come full-circle for Akkad’s Oscar-nominated movie. Saudi Arabia was one of the countries that initially agreed to help fund the movie, and Akkad had hoped to shoot crucial scenes there before the controversy growing around his project led to numerous regional backers, including Saudi Arabia, withdrawing their support.

The film chronicles the life of the Prophet Mohammed without ever depicting him – it uses peripheral characters who followed Him to tell His tale.

The trailer for the English version of the film:

The trailer for the Arabic version of the film:

This article was first published in The National

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Historical Jeddah and Hejazi heritage grab the attention of Saudi Royals

Time: June 07, 2018

Old Jeddah in Saudi Arabia combines heritage with the authenticity of the Hejazi traditions, showcasing the historical gems of the place.

During the holy month of Ramadan, the historical area is transformed to a Hejazi festival showcasing traditions and customs through programs and events, in a way that highlights heritage as well as architecture.

Heritage preservation

Old Jeddah has always received the attention and care of the Saudi royal family until the reign of King Salman bin Abdulaziz, who recently approved a proposal put forward by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman establishing a Historical Old Jeddah Project Management that reports to the Ministry of Culture and allocate an independent budget toward the project.

The project is considered a major move by the Saudi leadership emphasizing their interest in preserving Old Jeddah as a historical site rich in monuments and a distinctive model of urban heritage.

The Saudi Commission for Tourism and National Heritage, headed by His Royal Highness Prince Sultan Bin Salman, has been developing old Jeddah while conserving its unique historic features and architecture.

Old Jeddah is also listed as one of the global urban heritage by UNESCO.

The historical area is a growing touristic attraction for visitors from all over the Kingdom, looking forward to attend this annual festival.

This article was first published in Al Arabiya English  

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Why Saudi Arabia Keeps Partnering With Blockchain Startups (Video)

Time: June 07, 2018

Saudi Arabia is getting friendly with U.S.-based blockchain-focused startups.

The Saudi Ministry of Communications and Information Technology recently partnered with ConsenSys, a Brooklyn-based production studio focused on building enterprise software products powered by Ethereum. The ministry co-hosted a “blockchain bootcamp” with ConsenSys as part of its efforts to support technological development.

The three-day bootcamp provided in-depth training on how to create a development environment and build decentralized applications. You might have noticed that this isn’t the first time Saudi Arabia has gotten cozy with a blockchain startup. It recently also partnered with Ripple, the San Francisco-based fintech startup known for the XRP coin.

The kingdom’s defacto central bank teamed up with Ripple to pilot instant cross-border payments between banks in the region using the blockchain. Ripple said this would allow for faster, cheaper, and more transparent transactions.

The Saudi central bank is also working with the United Arab Emirates central bank to issue a digital currency that would be accepted in cross-border transactions between the two countries. As the Saudi government continues to experiment with digital currencies, it signifies a transfer of focus from oil to emerging technologies, such as blockchain and digital tokens.

Ahmed Al-Thenayyan, Saudi Arabia’s deputy minister for the technology industry and digital capacities, said that AI, Internet of Things, and the blockchain “serve as major contributor[s] to the Industry 4.0 and the development of GDP.”

This article was first published in FORTUNE

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Six inspiring Saudi girls to lead Green Falcons out at opening World Cup game

Time: June 05, 2018

RIYADH: Six Saudi Arabian girls are set to become the first all-female delegation to lead a national team out at the opening game of the World Cup in Russia as the Green Falcons take on the hosts in the opening game on June 14.
The girls have been appointed as part of the Coca-Cola Flagbearers Program.
Aged between 13 and 17, the girls have been chosen for their ambition, for going above and beyond in their chosen fields and being role models to the youth of Saudi Arabia.
One of the girls, Mariam Shalan, is a professional free-diver and she said how proud she was to be chosen as a flagbearer.
“It’s an honor for me to represent Saudi Arabia at the World Cup in Russia. Personally, it’s amazing to witness the change that is happening to our country, to ourselves, the youth and everyone.
“I think Saudi Arabia is on a beautiful path, a path with a lot of opportunities.”

Her fellow flagbearer, Rayouf Al-Humedhi, agrees. As creator of the hijab emoji, she was inspired by the hope of showing the millions of young girls across the globe who are veiled that they have a space in the world.
And on her historic role at the World Cup, Al-Humedhi said: “(Our generation) is the image of the future, we are the image of change. I’m definitely looking forward to this experience and everything about it.
“All Saudi youth have an important role because these changes will affect them. The changes happening in Saudi Arabia are positive and I’m happy to be living through these changes which will influence my generation and the ones to come.”

The program is part of Coca-Cola’s continued efforts to recognize and celebrate the positive changes sweeping the region. Late last year, the brand was one of the first to acknowledge King Salman’s royal decree allowing women to drive in Saudi Arabia by releasing the ‘Change Has a Taste’ campaign, and coincides with the company’s commitment to shining a light on the talent of young Saudi women.
Coca-Cola’s Middle East General Manager Murat Ozgel said: “We are delighted to support the changes that are happening in Saudi Arabia and spread the message of inclusion, diversity and support by championing these Saudi girls who are role models for the future generation of the Kingdom.”

This article was first published in Arab News

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Saudi Takes Part in UN Anti-Corruption Meeting, Mark 15th Anniversary of Convention Adoption

Time: May 23, 2018

Saudi Arabia, represented by a delegation from the National Anti-Corruption Commission (Nazaha), will take part on Wednesday in a high-level meeting of the U.N. General Assembly (UNGA) to mark 15 years since the adoption of the U.N. Convention against Corruption.



The meeting will be attended by UNGA President Miroslav Lajcak, U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and Yuri Fedotov, executive director of the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime.

The opening session will discuss the most notable developments and best practices in the application of the U.N. Convention against Corruption, which has been adopted by 184 countries, including Saudi Arabia. The meeting will conclude with a speech by Lajcak.

Dr. Khalid bin Abdul Mohsen Al-Muhaisen, president of Nazaha and head of the Saudi delegation, will stress the Kingdom’s anti-corruption efforts locally and internationally.



This article was first published in Albawaba

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Al-Ula Treasures: How the site of Mada’in Saleh paved the historic Incense Route (Video)

Time: May 20, 2018

Mada’in Saleh, also called “Al-Hijr” or “Hegra”, was the first Saudi site listed by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site for its huge historical significance.

Mentioned in the Holy Quran, many religions and peoples coexisted in its land for peoples of civilizations throughout history.

The area of Mada’in Saleh stretches about sixty hectares, and what is known on the surface is only a fraction of the treasures buried under the land. These immortal features made by the former Nabataeans who settled around this region between the first century BC and the first after AD are only the highlights of the civilization who ruled the land at the time.

Tombs dug neatly in Mada’in Saleh still tell the tales of the fallen kings, dignitaries and merchants who for centuries were the rules of the region’s game of politics and trade of the Incense Route and the site served as a link between Asia, the south of the Arabian Peninsula and the Levant, as well as Pharaonic Egypt and the Roman Empire in the Mediterranean.

This article was first published in Al Arabiya English  

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Saudi rendition of Money Heist’s Bella Ciao

Time: May 15, 2018

DUBAI: Saudi fans of the Netflix show “Money Heist” have created their own version of the characters’ theme song Bella Ciao.

The video, named “Bella Ciao: From Jeddah to Berlin” was filmed in a collaboration between Netflix and fans of the show in Jeddah.

Featuring the voice (in Italian) of Amine El-Berjawi and accompanied by oud player Faisal Salim, the video was shot in a Junk yard.

The show, originally known as La Casa de Papel in Spanish, is about a man who is planning to break into the Spanish Royal Mint and print $2.8 billion.

Since its launch in May 2017, Le Casa de Papel has developed a significant fan base in Saudi Arabia, Netflix MENA said in a statement.

This is what led the online American entertainment company to partner with fans to create fan video.

Correction: The above has been amended to state the song was sung in Italian by Amine El-Berjawi, not Spanish as originally stated.

This article was first published in Arab News

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