Ramadan: ‘The Super Bowl of Mideast advertising’

Time: May 07, 2019  

Iraqi actors prepare to perform their roles in ‘The Hotel’ in Baghdad. ‘The Hotel’ is Iraq’s first TV drama in seven years. (AP Photo)
  • People spend an average of eight hours a day watching video content during the Muslim Holy Month
  • Investments in digital advertising almost doubled to $63.6 million during Ramadan last year, while advertising on TV increased by 6 percent

LONDON: If the Super Bowl is the pinnacle of the US ad calendar, its equivalent in the Arab world is Ramadan, when media consumption — and advertising — spikes.
People spend an average of eight hours a day watching video content during the Muslim Holy Month, while activity on digital video platforms rises by 122 percent, according to a report by advertising agency Spark Foundry in Saudi Arabia.
It found that investments in digital advertising almost doubled to $63.6 million during Ramadan last year, while advertising on TV increased by 6 percent.
“Ramadan, especially in the GCC, always comes with a heavy activity across media touch points,” the report noted.
“Ramadan is considered to be the Super Bowl of the Middle East. Digital usership peaks from 11:00 p.m. to 4:00 a.m. while TV consumption peaks from 7:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m., with comedy shows, drama series and game shows taking the lead in content.”
In Iraq, Ramadan viewers will be treated to Iraq’s first TV drama since 2012 — “The Hotel.”
Despite digital advertising having seen the biggest growth in spending during Ramadan, the Middle East’s biggest TV broadcaster MBC Group says it is “bullish” on the market outlook going forward.
The Dubai-based group is airing blockbuster Ramadan productions such as “Al-Asouf 2” (“Wind of Change”) and “Al-Zelzal” (“The Earthquake”) this year.
“The advertising market is currently going through a phase of ‘transformation’,” said Mazen Hayek, MBC Group’s official spokesman.
“MBC remains committed to investing in and offering the best available premium content that’s acclaimed and watched by millions of Arabs across MENA, during Ramadan and beyond. In sum, we’re bullish and optimistic about the future.”

This article was first published in Arab News

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KSRelief signs vital aid deals to help Yemenis during Ramadan

Time: May 07, 2019  

The King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Center provides free health services to Yemenis. (SPA)
  • Two deals will provide much needed food and medical aid to Yemenis

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia has signed two major deals to provide vital aid to Yemenis during Ramadan.

Emergency health services and food support are among the multimillion-dollar contracts agreed between the King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Center (KSRelief) and a civil society organization in war-torn Yemen.

Dr. Abdullah Al-Rabeeah, general supervisor of KSRelief, said on Tuesday that the aid programs aimed to save the lives of at-risk Yemenis and offer emergency and free health care to internally displaced persons (IDPs).

Special nutritional foods will be given to children under the age of five, and other services will include vaccinations for mothers and children, reproductive health care for mothers and lactating women, pregnancy follow-up, treatment of injuries, activation of a medical referral system, health education, and the safe disposal of waste.

Al-Rabeeah said the first contract signed will be directed toward 91,250 IDPs in the Hodeidah governorate. A second agreement will provide clean drinking water, and sanitation and hygiene services to 30,000 IDPs in the same region. A safe and healthy waste disposal system will be installed to reduce the risk of spread of disease.

The project will also secure healthy daily-use water sources, including the transporting and packaging of water, provision of hygiene kits and the establishment of an area for safe waste collection and disposal.

Al-Rabeeah recently signed two other agreements to provide food aid to the people of Yemen as part of the $240 million Saudi-UAE “Imdad” initiative.

UN World Food Program (WFP) representative, Rehan Asad, said: “The generous contribution from Saudi Arabia and the UAE will make a significant impact on innocent people in Yemen.”

“This contribution of $240 million will really assist the WFP to help the people of Yemen in the month of Ramadan and Eid Al-Fitr, to support them and their families to survive and to have the food support they truly deserve,” Asad added.

“On behalf of the WFP, we thank Saudi Arabia and the UAE for their generous contribution. WFP is committed to helping the people in Yemen, along with our partners and looks forward to continuing its partnerships in the future.”

This article was first published in Arab News

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KSRelief launches $1 million Ramadan aid program in Afghanistan

Time: May 06, 2019  

KSRelief is actively involved in humanitarian work in various war zones and areas hit by natural calamities. (SPA)
  • Food distribution across Yemen continues

KABUL/MARIB, Yemen: The King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Center (KSRelief) on Monday launched relief activities worth $1 million in five Afghan provinces.

The center will distribute 20,000 food baskets among needy people in the war-torn country during the month of Ramadan. The aid program was launched in the presence of Saudi Ambassador to Afghanistan Jassim Al-Khalidi, Afghan Minister for Refugees and Repatriation Sayed Hussain Alemi Balkhi and other senior Afghan officials.

KSRelief is actively involved in humanitarian work in various war zones and areas suffering from grave threats or hit by natural calamities.

The center also distributed 3,100 cartons of meat among 12,400 needy people in different parts of Yemen’s Al-Mahra governorate. On Monday, KSRelief distributed 2,600 cartons of dates among 15,600 poor in Al-Mukalla directorate of Hadramaut governorate.

Saudi Arabia’s financial contributions to international organizations and entities have reached $929,711,258, according to official statistics.

Development aid amounted to $493.88 billion and humanitarian aid to $353.44 billion, while philanthropic aid reached $82.381 billion.

The top five recipient countries of aid from Saudi Arabia are Yemen, Syria, Egypt, Niger and Mauritania.

Recently, the UN under-secretary-general for humanitarian affairs and emergency relief coordinator has praised the Saudi government and KSRelief for their humanitarian work in Yemen.

Mark Lowcock sent a letter of thanks to KSRelief’s Supervisor General Abdullah Al-Rabeeah.

“I would like to thank you for participating in the ‘high-level pledging event for the humanitarian crisis in Yemen’ that took place on Feb. 26, and particularly for your government’s generous contribution to support the humanitarian response in Yemen,” Lowcock wrote.

“The event was a great success to which member states and partners pledged $2.62 billion in support of the Yemen Humanitarian Response Plan,” he added.

“Your generous pledge of $750 million was central to the success of the event, and will significantly contribute to the alleviation of the suffering of the people of Yemen.”

Saudi Arabia is a key partner in the multilateral humanitarian system, Lowcock said, adding: “I look forward to our continued collaboration to ensure that together, we provide the Yemeni people with opportunities for a better future.”

The number of Yemenis who benefited last year from medical services provided by KSRelief was 2,501,897.

The center provides medical services to all Yemenis in coordination with the Yemeni Higher Relief Committee, represented by the Yemeni Ministry of Health and Population, and with local and international partners.

The Kingdom has undertaken a number of initiatives, including a program to rehabilitate child soldiers recruited by the Houthi militias currently fighting coalition forces in the country, and the Saudi Project for Landmine Clearance in Yemen.

This article was first published in Arab News

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Sighting of Ramadan crescent: When religion meets astronomy


Saudi Arabia’s Supreme Court calls on Muslims to look for the crescent moon signaling the start of Ramadan and, if they sight it, to inform the nearest court. (Supplied photo)

This article was first published in  Arab News

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Saudi King Salman calls for tolerance, moderation in Ramadan message


Saudi Arabia’s King Salman bin Abdulaziz al-Saud on Sunday has called for a message of tolerance and moderation following the announcement on the start of the holy month of Ramadan.

“Our country took upon itself the service of Islam and Islamic issues, and all that contributes to spreading this religion of tolerance and moderation,” the King said in his message.

“After the world was afflicted by the ravages of extremism and terrorism, the Kingdom turned to them with all its might and determination, calling for dialogue, rejection of violence and uprooting the sources of terrorism,” he added.

Saudi Arabia’s Supreme Court confirmed that Monday would be the first day of the holy month of Ramadan.

This article was first published in  Al Arabiya English

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How Ramadan is celebrated around the world


Children decorate streets to celebrate the holy month of Ramadan in Al-Beracil village in Giza, Egypt, on May 13, 2018. (Getty Images)

This article was first published in  Arab News

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KSrelief Launches Project to Distribute Food Aid in Sudan During Ramadan

Time: April 29, 2019  

King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Center (KSrelief) launched a project to distribute food baskets during the holy month of Ramadan in Sudan at an estimated cost of more than 549,000 US dollars.

Saudi Ambassador in Sudan Ali bin Hassan Jafar and the representative of the Director General of Sudanese Moral Guidance, Major General Fathi Al-Mahal, attended the inauguration ceremony.

The project aims to distribute 13,725 food baskets during the coming month of Ramadan to meet the needs of families in the areas of displacement and poverty in five states, the Saudi Press Agency (SPA) reported.

According to the Center’s implementation of such humanitarian initiatives, 68,625 people will benefit from the project.

The distribution comes in line with the directives of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud and the Crown Prince to provide a package of humanitarian aid to stand with the Sudanese people.

The Saudi aid Center was also engaged in several humanitarian and relief works in a number of countries, targeting the needy and the poor in those areas.

According to SPA it has given away an amount of 11200 kilos worth of the Kingdom’s gift of dates to the Republic of Senegal.

This article was first published in Asharq Al-Awsat 

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Saudi Arabia, UAE giving $200m in aid to Yemen for Ramadan

Time: April 09, 2019  

Dr. Abdullah Al-Rabeeah, KSRelief supervisor general, vows to continue relief works despite Houthi ‘transgressions.’ AN photo
  • Iranian-backed Houthis using ‘starvation as political tool’
  • The funding is allocated to UN partners: World Food Programme, UNICEF and WHO

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia and the UAE will allocate $200 million as urgent humanitarian assistance to the people of Yemen, the supervisor general of the King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Center (KSRelief) said on Monday.

The assistance comes a few weeks before Ramadan, and will enable Yemenis to observe the holy fasting month, Dr. Abdullah Al-Rabeeah added.

“Every year for Ramadan, we have large programs for iftar (breaking the fast), especially in Yemen and for all countries in need,” he said.

The funding is allocated to UN partners: $140 million to the World Food Programme, $40 million to UNICEF to address sanitation issues and malnutrition among children and mothers, and $20 million to the World Health Organization to tackle cholera and provide intravenous feeding fluids.

“Transgressions” by the Houthi militia “will not stop us from supporting Yemen, especially with the holy month of Ramadan upon us,” Al-Rabeeah said.

“We were able to contain cholera before, but now we face two problems: The rainy season, and its spread in places where the Houthi militia is prevalent,” he added.

“We’re serious about reaching all parts of Yemen to eliminate this disease (cholera) and any (others) that the Yemeni people face,” he said.

“We must recognize that the Saudi-led coalition forces (supporting Yemen’s internationally recognized government) make sure the assistance reaches through ports or land. However, when the aid reaches militia-controlled regions, there are obstacles preventing beneficiaries from gaining proper access to humanitarian aid. That starvation method is a political tool that the Houthis use to control Yemen.” Al-Rabeeah said there must be accountability for these abuses.

This article was first published in Arab News

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Arab Fashion Week in Riyadh: Saudi debut for UAE’s Aiisha Ramadan

SOURCE: Arab News

April 14, 2018

DUBAI: Aiisha Ramadan is having a chaotic week. The UAE-based Lebanese designer – considered one of the region’s most prominent names in fashion – only had her visa come through at the beginning of the week ahead of her trip to Saudi Arabia. Ahead of her runway show at the Kingdom’s first Arab Fashion Week on Thursday night, she was busy prepping for what was set to become one of her biggest public appearances.
Ramadan was one of the regional designers to be showcased alongside international names such as Jean Paul Gaultier and Roberto Cavalli at Riyadh’s Arab Fashion Week, which runs until Saturday. Since it is organized by the Arab Fashion Council – which, according to organizers is the largest fashion authority representing the 22 Arab countries – it is now recognized as one of the world’s five most important fashion weeks, alongside New York, London, Milan and Paris.
“This is my first show ever in Saudi Arabia,” Ramadan said on the phone as we caught her rushing around Dubai to finalize some details of her collection before catching her flight. “It’s going to be exciting to put the faces to the names of so many people who have supported me. Saudi Arabian women are [some of the most] beautiful women in the world. They’re fashion-savvy, so it’s exciting to now get an insight into this beautiful, mysterious market.”
“I’ll be showcasing a collection, which I’m calling the Golden Age of Aiisha; it comprises the best of Aiisha Ramadan from the past year,” she said, adding that she won’t be showing her brand new collection until next month.
“Most of my clients are from Saudi Arabia and therefore this show is going to be a tribute to them.”
Ramadan – who has been dressing Saudi customers since 2009 – has been a couturier since 2007, working from the UAE, which has been her base for more than 30 years. In 2013, she changed direction by reviving the art of couture in a contemporary manner, creating two collections per year for all of her lines, including ready-to-wear, couture and bridal.
For her show, Ramadan showcased ready couture – she takes pride in her cuts, embroidery and technique – with her stating that each piece “has a story behind them in the embroidery.”
She continued: “For this show I have picked pieces that are timeless.”
Ramadan believes that an event such as Arab Fashion Week is much more than just a series of runway shows, however, presenting an opportunity to support local and regional designers.
“I’d like to see more identity in the region, along with finding production solutions for regional designers,” she says. “We do not produce large quantities, and therefore the right support is required. We need buyers to become [more generous] with their budgets toward Arab designers.
“Designers coming from abroad almost always get paid, whereas Arab designers get left on consignment. It’s important to support local talent. In fact, out of all of the individuals I have dressed, all the [non-Arab] celebrities have liked my pieces so much that they have offered to buy them, and the same applies to Arab celebs.”
In the past, Ramadan hasn’t focused on regional celebrity clientele, instead working with stars from the West, including dressing Jennifer Lopez, Ariana Grande and Christina Aguilera. But she was ecstatic to dress Yemeni singer Balqees Fathi this past year.
“A major highlight for me this past year was dressing Balqees. I’d love to dress Cate Blanchett; she’s beautiful.”
One more thing Ramadan would like to see change is the concept of blagging by many social media influencers. The designer believes it impacts brands and business.
“They usually want to wear something no one has worn before, yet they won’t pay for it. I don’t see how a dress costing between 8,000 dirhams ($2,178) to 15,000 dirhams ($4,084) worn by an influencer will help my brand,” she states. “I have no problem dressing my friends – because they are my friends and I love them.”
Looking ahead, Ramadan is “opening our first ever outlet” this October, although she declined to disclose the location.
“It’s going to be a very big surprise,” she said.
In the meantime, she’s focusing on her time at Arab Fashion Week.
“This is a wonderful step for the GCC in terms of fashion… it’s a way of moving us forward to become a leader and establishing identity. I am very exciting about what’s to come.”