Training program launched for Saudi youth

Time: 09 June, 2020

  • Courses will begin on June 21 and continue until Aug. 13

JEDDAH: A new training program to support entrepreneurship among Saudi youth will teach participants important steps in starting a business.

As part of the Kingdom’s drive to increase the role of small and medium enterprises in the economy, Neom, a planned cross-border city that aims to use smart technologies for a sustainable ecosystem, and the Misk Academy, an organization dedicated to youth empowerment and investment in local communities, have launched SPARK, a program that aims to attract investment in human capital development and advance the non-oil economy.

Through a series of programs and initiatives endorsed by GEN Saudi, the global entrepreneurship network, SPARK, Neom and the Misk Academy will work together to teach young professionals skills for the new economy, support business growth in provincial regions, and increase business opportunities outside main cities.

The program was co-created with industry leaders and experts in entrepreneurship.


• The program aims to teach participants important steps in starting a business.

• It has been co-created by industry leaders and experts in entrepreneurship.

• It will include online classes to help participants refine their business plans.

SPARK will include online classes to help participants refine their business plans and expose them to winning pitches from some of the world’s most successful startups. Saudi youth participating in the six-week course will learn how to create strong business strategies and investor pitches.

Experienced executive coaches will guide students through the critical process of refining an idea, building a business model and articulating a pitch. At the end of the program, students will present their business idea to a panel of judges from Neom, the Misk Academy, and the Small and Medium Enterprises General Authority (Monshaat).

Registration for the program continues until June 13. Courses will begin on June 21 and continue until Aug. 13. Interested people can visit the Misk Academy’s website for details.

This article was first published in Arab News

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YouTubers in Saudi Arabia attempt to set world record for largest virtual Iftar

Time: 18 May, 2020

Iraqi Noor Stars, American-Sudanese Omar Hussein, The Saudi Reporters and Saudi Mohamed Moshaya, Anasala Family and Asrar Aref are all taking part in the iftar. (YouTube)

DUBAI: Six Arab YouTubers in Saudi Arabia are set to host a virtual iftar from their homes on Tuesday, allowing friends, family and fans to connect online while adhering to social distancing restrictions in the Kingdom due to COVID-19.

The content creators —Iraqi Noor Stars, American-Sudanese Omar Hussein, The Saudi Reporters and Saudi Mohamed Moshaya, Anasala Family and Asrar Aref – will also attempt to set a new Guinness World Record for “Most Views for an Iftar YouTube Livestream Globally.”

The live stream, that will begin at 6 p.m. (Saudi time), is set to take place on Moshaya’s YouTube channel and will go on for an hour.

“Ramadan is usually a time where friends and family gather in mosques and homes to break the fast and pray together,” said Moshaya, who has been filming videos with his family since 2010, in a released statement.

“However with this global pandemic, Ramadan this year feels very different, which is why I decided to enlist a couple of my friends in the YouTube community to come together and turn this moment of isolation into celebration,” added Moshaya, the host of the virtual iftar.

For Abdullah and Abdulaziz Bakr, who make up The Saudi Reporters, YouTube “has always instilled the sense of togetherness in us.”

“As The Saudi Reporters we always love to make history and reach impossible goals, so we are very excited and honored to be a part of this experience,” the duo said.

“And as content creators and YouTubers we love entertaining people, and especially in these difficult times we feel it’s our duty to do whatever we can to help people get through this pandemic even with something as small as drawing a smile on people’s faces.”

This article was first published in Arab News

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How young Arabs are reacting to the COVID-19 crisis through art


Ruba Obaid

JEDDAH: Everything is changing as the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) rages on. Humanity is facing the biggest global crisis of this generation, where the impossible has already happened and things have suddenly overturned.

The current crisis has imposed radical changes on the way people practice daily life. Even the simplest acts of love, compassion,and solidarity have taken new forms that are completely strange from what humans used to consider normal, whereas the greatest act of love is to stay away from your loved ones.

Saudi artist Lina Amer used her art to express sentiments of Muslims across the world who are unable to visit mosques due to COVID-19. She showed mosques’ prayer rugs printed on a human heart depicting Muslims’ longing for mosques and prayer gatherings.

Consequently, art and music production has also been affected. Arab artists are using their talents in different ways to enhance community connections, spread awareness, express appreciation and document history.
Saudi artist Lina Amer has used her art to document the effect of COVID-19 on the religious practices of millions of people around the world.
Saudi Arabia closed mosques for the customary five daily prayers as well as Friday congregations in March, many other countries took similar measures. Amer pictured mosques’ prayer carpets printed on the human heart with the caption “Pray at home, March 2020.”
Across Muslim countries, the call for prayer has partly changed, muezzins had to replace the penultimate part of the adhan — “Hayya Alasalah” (come to the prayer), with “pray where you are,” or “pray at home.”
Interpretations of sacred texts can change too in the time of the pandemic. Concept artist Yasmin (@yasmintoon) used a verse from the Qur’an that tells the story of the two sons of Adam, Able and Cain, to refer to the danger of handshaking as a greeting norm during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The verse reads: “If you will stretch forth your hand towards me to slay me, I am not one to stretch forth my hand towards you to slay you surely I fear Allah, the Lord of the worlds,” (5:28)
While Asma Khamis (@a0sma.k), Omani painter and graphic designer, chose to send more than one message in her work where she substituted a sanitizer for an engagement ring.

I hope that artists play a positive role in this difficult period because it is unfortunately very stressful and uncertain.

Amal Al-Ajmi

“First, I wanted to express how brides feel, whose weddings were postponed or canceled because of the crisis,” Khamis told Arab News, adding: “It is intended to console those women by reminding them that sacrificing their special day indicates a high sense of responsibility towards the health of the community.”
Khamis also wanted to say that sanitizers have become more important than jewelry because they help to preserve health. There is no more valuable gift than sanitizer because they are rarely available in the market.
Regardless of the obvious downside of this crisis, artists like Khamis see that it has given them two important things: “It has given us the time and a new problem, which is a new space for work and inspiration.”
Other artists used their work to express their appreciation to health workers, like Bahraini artist and art director Sayed Al-Majed (
Al-Majed pictured a medical staff member raising their hand with the victory sign using the line drawing technique, which he said “indicates interdependence, coalescence and unity between humankind, and the line ends with the heart symbol which indicates life, love, giving as well as gratitude to health workers.”
The circle represents Earth with its population under one roof.
Al-Majed said: “I believe that artists have an ethical and societal responsibility to devote their art in facing this crisis by spreading awareness and extending thanks and appreciation to the defenders of all humanity at this stage of our lives: Health workers.”

Sanitizers have become more important than jewelry because they help to preserve health.

Asma Khamis

Amal Al-Ajmi (@al.up2sky) from Kuwait agrees with Al-Majed that artists should use their art to spread awareness but she added that art has to be an antidote to the growing sense of alienation, isolation and anxiety.

“I hope that artists play a positive role in this difficult period because it is unfortunately very stressful and uncertain,” Al-Ajmi told Arab News. Al-Ajmi decided to use art as to declare an ironic statement, by drawing a Khaliji woman wearing niqab and a man covering his face with a mask adding the caption “it is the niqabi men era.”

Her work comes after a tweet by a Saudi influencer who wanted to promote niqab as obligatory for Muslim women said: “People are racing to buy masks to protect them from corona, while Islam discovered the treatment a 1400 years ago when it ordered the wearing of Niqab to as a protection against viruses.” The tweet went viral and was deleted days later after it received a lot of criticism.
Michelangelo’s legendary painting “The Creation of Adam” will always find its place in every trend and will forever inspire artists and internet meme creators. Ibrahim Al-Baker (@ibxrm) reconceptualized the painting by adorning one hand with henna as it reaches from behind the door to the hand of her lover who holds a sanitizer.
Al-Baker used a sentence from a popular Khaliji song and reworded it saying, “I stand at your door bewildered and sanitized.”
Similarly, collagist Razan Al-Naas (@razangryffindor) from Libya used the same hands from Michelangelo’s painting to place them under a huge sanitizer bottle, to resemble how suddenly sanitizers gained an existential meaning and an intrinsic value.

Artists have an ethical and societal responsibility to devote their art in facing this crisis by spreading awareness.

Sayed Al-Majed

In the same sense, designer Anas Al-Absi ( has placed the sanitizer in what Michelangelo depicted as God’s hand outstretched to Adam.
In another piece, Al-Nass explained how quarantine measures are not new for people living in war zones, “In Tripoli, you can’t spell quarantine without war.”
On the social impact of the pandemic, Moroccan artist Ichraq Bouzidi pictured how distancing has impacted society’s hospitable social habits, especially the Atay or Moroccan mint teatime, which is central to social life.
Bouzidi pictures two Moroccan neighbors continuing their teatime tradition though the windows, socializing while maintaining social distancing. One woman appears to pour traditional mint tea from her window to her neighbor’s cup reached out from the other window and the caption reads, “Confinement Story: So close no matter how far.”
The piece also reflects another important phenomenon that appeared during the crisis, which is the revival of the use of windows and balconies in different societies around the world.

This article was first published in Arab News

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How online streaming is shaping Saudi pop culture — at the push of a button



JEDDAH: Ever since streaming services became available in the Middle East, leading online sites have been dictating people’s tastes and preferences, their mass media effect influencing Saudi Arabia as it does the rest of the world.

Sara Al-Rifai, an English instructor in Jeddah, believes that streaming services are gaining influence in mainstream culture simply because younger people are unwilling to watch cable TV and sit through ads, or wait a week or more for new content.
“Competition on quality and cost is another factor in favor of streaming services. Neflix’s monthly subscription is affordable. The quality of its shows is rapidly improving, and many of its films and series have won prestigious awards such as the Oscars,” she told Arab News.
Renad Flimban, 26, from Jeddah, said that movies and TV shows have the ability to set mainstream culture in areas ranging from food to fashion and even hairstyles long before streaming became available.
“New streaming services have just made it easier to consume the media and the culture behind it,” she said.
The popular HBO series “Game of Thrones” is perhaps the best example of pop culture “spread,” with local fans joining a global audience in their love for the show. Many viewers in the Arab world watched the series on OSN, while it was also available on HBO.

New streaming services have just made it easier to consume the media and the culture behind it.

Renad Flimban

“I think it blew up here even though it was on HBO, which isn’t that popular here, because people seemed to really like/dislike the characters and the writing. They had extremely strong feelings on both ends of the spectrum,” Flimban said.
Popular shows in the 1990s and early 2000s have been reinvigorated after streaming services acquired the rights to reshow them for viewers. Many popular shows that used to air on MBC2 and Saudi TV, such as “Friends,” “Full House” and “The Fresh Prince of Bel Air,” have won new fans following recent exposure.
“Most of these shows’ themes — friendships, families and relationships — are still relevant today, and having easy access to these shows on current media platforms certainly helped to introduce them to a new audience and reconnect with an established audience,” Flimban said.
Al-Rifai agrees, saying these shows have become more popular among a younger generation due to their availability and a desire to understand the hype surrounding them.
“‘Friends’ is still the most-watched show on Netflix, yet it has been criticized for tolerating sexism and body shaming,” she said. “The generation gap and viewers’ beliefs affect the way they perceive a show, no matter how popular it was in the past.”

• Fans of popular shows and films in Saudi Arabia behave just as worldwide fans do.

• Young Saudis collect merchandise and organize character-themed parties.

For Razan Sijeeni, a Jeddah university graphic design instructor, the pinnacle of pop culture in the Kingdom would be “Tash Ma Tash,” which aired every Ramadan for 18 years, often tackling conservatism and racism, among other controversial social issues.
“Unfortunately, there is very little authentic representation of our culture in our own media nowadays, and whatever there is, even when it’s well executed, it is being Westernized and viewed through a Western gaze,” she said.
However, Sijeeni has Netflix to thank for her favorite series, “Star Trek,” which she discovered on the streaming site.
“It was fascinating to me, watching the visuals of an explosion or space in the 1960s, and how the series progressed and improved considerably as the years went by,” she said.

Sijeeni said that online streaming also offers people from around the world an introduction to different cultures, languages and beliefs at the press of a button.
“I’ve seen a Saudi influencer meet the cast of “Money Heist,” and people were reacting to it — it’s like they know these people and it isn’t just a show.”
She said that in an age where the internet has a growing place in people’s lives, even individuals who don’t watch shows such as “Game of Thrones” and “Friends” still know who the characters are, and go as far as creating memes to help cope with the coronavirus crisis, for example.
Fans of popular shows and films in Saudi Arabia behave just as worldwide fans do, collecting merchandise, holding character-themed parties and recreating recipes from fictional universes.
Flimban’s favorite show since 2010 has been “Gilmore Girls,” and she admits to owning a few show-inspired items and attending a “marvelous” Gatsby-themed party.
Sijeeni had not been as lucky with her “Star Trek” obsession, however, and said that she was envious of fan events she saw happening worldwide. “My favorite mug was given to me by a friend,” she recalled. “It has the main ‘Star Trek’ six and they transport as you fill the mug with boiling water.”
Now she is on the hunt for a “Star Trek” pilot jacket. We recommend Etsy artists for fan-replicated items.

This article was first published in Arab News

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How Saudi Arabia cares for girls who go astray

Time: December 11, 2019 

Saudi Arabia operates a modern and effective system of care and welfare homes for troubled girls and young women who are the subject of arrest or detention orders. There have been vocal complaints recently from a few of these young women, related to their social status, or alleged mistreatment. So what are their rights?

These homes are affiliated with the Girls’ Social Welfare Institution, established by the Ministry of Labor and Social Development; the ministry also oversees the mechanisms by which the homes function. The women they care for are no older than 30, and there is a separate section for girls under the age of 15.

Because of girls’ specific entitlement to privacy, the law requires that any investigation into their conduct must take place in the same institution, and include specialized psychological and social assessments.

Confidentiality is also crucial. By law, any information obtained by care homes in the course of an investigation is strictly confidential, and no authority may have access to it without specific permission from the interior minister.

On the issue of security, there is close cooperation between the Ministry of Labor and Social Development and the Interior Ministry. The two ministries work together to set regulations governing the conduct of guards appointed to protect the homes and their occupants, and of escorts who accompany the young women to court for trial and other legal procedures.

It is also important to focus on the role these homes play in rehabilitating girls and young women who have somehow gone astray, and preparing them for a return to society. Education, including religious teaching, is a key element, with the aim of developing the women’s culture and accustoming them to good habits through reading and thinking.

Self-reliance is also a goal, with vocational and technical training programs to equip the women with skills that will help them in the job market.

When can the occupant of a welfare home expect to leave? First, obviously, when the period of detention to which she has been sentenced ends, she is free to return to society.

This may also happen if investigations find she has committed no offense, or there is a court ruling to that effect. Finally, if it is proved to the satisfaction of the Minister of Labor and Social Development that her condition has improved, a judge may agree to release her before the end of her sentence.

It is important to stress that this social and psychological rehabilitation applies not only to the young woman who has lost her way, but also to her family; everyone benefits from these programs, including society as a whole.

• Dimah Talal Alsharif is a Saudi legal consultant, head of the health law department at the law firm of Majed Garoub and a member of the International Association of Lawyers. Twitter: @dimah_alsharif 

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We’ll turn the world green, say young Saudis



The Saudi team participating in the FIRST Global Challenge 2019 in Dubai. (SPA)

  • Saudis among more than 1,500 contestants from 190 countries taking part in the FIRST Global Challenge 2019 in Dubai
  • The challenge is to create robots to clean up the world’s seas by eliminating waste and pollutants

DUBAI: A young Saudi team competing in a major international robotics competition vowed on Saturday to play their part in creating a pollution-free world.

“We represent hope for the future not only for Saudi Arabia, but also humanity at large,” team leader Maysoon Humaidan told Arab News.

More than 1,500 contestants from 190 countries are taking part in the FIRST Global Challenge 2019 in Dubai, which focuses on creating robots to clean up the world’s seas by eliminating waste and pollutants.

Humaidan said the Saudi team was “strapped in” for the contest, and described the team members as “young enthusiasts for science and knowledge.” Their dream was to “motivate Saudi youth to enter the fields of science, technology and mathematics in order to find solutions to the problems and challenges facing humanity,” she said.

Team member Sulafa Al-Shehri, 14, said the robotics challenge had expanded her knowledge of technology, sustainability and environmental protection. Fadel Younes, 15, said modern technology could solve many of the world’s most pressing problems.

The team’s ambitions reflect the giant strides the Kingdom has made in involving youth in the tech sector and its applications across all walks of life.

Recently the Kingdom said it was introducing artificial intelligence and robotics applications in the Ministry of Education to improve customer service. Two years ago, Saudi Arabia granted Saudi citizenship to the robot Sophia, symbol of the Neom “smart city.”

This article was first published in Arab News

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‘Project Khayal’ to empower women & university students


Alfaisal University will collaborate with Detasad to develop courses in cybersecurity and artificial intelligence.

Detecon Al-Saudia (Detasad), Alfaisal University and WSB (Women’s Skills Bureau) have launched a new initiative to be a catalyst in enhancing, developing and growing entrepreneurship among women and university students in Saudi Arabia.
Project Khayal is a joint effort that aims to find hidden talents among women and university students living in the Kingdom, by giving them a platform and tools to make their technical/ICT ideas come to life.
During the program, the university students together with expat women will have the opportunity to present their technical ideas to a jury, which includes Alfaisal University, WSB and Detasad representatives. Selected ideas will be developed and implemented by the volunteering students and women using the right IT infrastructure, tools, office space and consultation, which Detasad will provide.
Detasad, which has 37 years of experience in the information, communication and technology industry, will also commercially support suitable products selected among the applicants. In addition, the ICT company will offer internship opportunities and permanent positions after graduation to Alfaisal students. Detasad will also provide lectures covering ICT/telecom and business subjects and collaborate with the university in developing courses in cybersecurity and artificial intelligence.
“Detasad, Alfaisal University and WSB believe in the potential power of entrepreneurship, which is aligned with Saudi Vision 2030. Students and young adults comprise the majority of our population, and they are the true resources that need to be refined, shaped and set for the future with a strong grip on digital transformation, especially in the upcoming IoT era,” a press release said.
“These students from Alfaisal University will be the engine behind Project Khayal as they will work closely with the women entrepreneurs and Detasad in developing the new ideas. Detasad, Alfaisal University and WSB are delighted to announce Project Khayal and welcome new, innovative ideas from all women to transform their dreams into reality.”

This article was first published in Arab News

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Cyber Saber Hackathon boosts skills of Saudi students

Time: August 07, 2019  

The hackathon, sponsored by Integrated Telecom Co., will be held in September.

Cyber Saber Hackathon will continue to support Saudi talent in achieving new heights in the cybersecurity industry through hands-on application of several cyber-attack and defense tactics, said Samer Omar, CEO of VirtuPort’s 7th MENA Information Security Conference 2019.

He added that the hackathon, sponsored by Integrated Telecom Company (ITC), will be held on Sept. 9-10.

Ghassan Itani, CEO of ITC, said: “Cybersecurity remains one of the critical elements in ensuring a successful digital economy. ITC’s sponsorship of the Cyber Saber Hackathon is one of our initiatives to invest in corporate social responsibility in line with Vision 2030, where our youth will play a critical role in the future of defending and protecting our company and the overall digital asset.”

The hackathon is characterized by its ability to provide a holistic simulation environment that will allow contestants to experience real-world hacking and breach scenarios of vital sectors including financial sectors, airports, oil and gas industry among others. The students will get to interact with it through their computers.

What distinguishes the hackathon’s model smart city is that the students will experience and witness the implications of cyberattacks and the importance of equipping themselves with the right knowledge to face the attackers.

The organizers of the hackathon said the competition has been designed to prepare the contestants for the challenges they will face in protecting the organizations they will work for.

The third edition of the hackathon is considered to be one of the most important competitions in the region. In the last two editions, more than 20 Saudi private and public universities participated.

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Saudi Arabia’s scouts participate in world jamboree

Time: July 28, 2019  

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The delegation included more than 100 scouts between the ages of 14-17. (SPA)
  • The Jamboree, co-organized by the US, Mexico and Canada

RIYADH: A delegation from the Saudi Arabian Scout Association participated in the opening ceremony of the 24th World Scout Jamboree, held at the campground in Summit Bechtel Reserve, Virginia, US.

“The number of participants exceeded 40,000 from 170 national organizations, committees and associations around the world,” said the chairman of the International Scout Committee (ISC), Craig Turby.

“The Jamboree, co-organized by the US, Mexico and Canada, focused on ‘Unlocking a New World’ through solving problems, and cooperating to face the most pressing issues in the world.”

Chief Ambassador of World Scouting Bear Grylls said: “The scouts are facing great challenges, such as tackling health, education, peace and climate change, which require the largest youthful contribution in order to achieve sustainable development.”

Princess Nourah bint Abdulrahman University, represented by the Deanship of Community Service and Continuing Education, continued its participation in the event.

The university’s team participated in the activities of the “Global Development Village.”

The village provides young boys and girls with the opportunity to participate in the Global Development Agenda, empowers them and raises their awareness about global issues.

“The number of participants exceeded 40,000 from 170 national organizations, committees and associations around the world.”

Craig Turby, Chairman of the International Scout Committee

The Saudi Arabian Scout Association also took part in the “Cultural Celebration Day,” which showcases traditional clothes, foods and folklore from the participating countries.

The delegation’s members participated in competitions organized by the jamboree’s leadership as well as many other volunteering activities, handing out brochures and CDs highlighting the Kingdom’s development process and some of its traditions.

A photo exhibition was also organized shedding light on the work done by the Saudi scouts to serve their communities, particularly pilgrims and the environment, along with the global scout project “Messengers of Peace,” which witnessed a lot of interaction from the participants.

Earlier, Dr. Abdullah bin Suleiman Al-Fahad, vice president of the Saudi Arabian Scouts Association, said that the Kingdom’s delegation included more than 100 scouts between the ages of 14-17.

The jamboree will run from July 22 until August 2. It is the largest outdoor educational event organized by the Scout movement, which serves more than 51 million young people worldwide.

This article was first published in Arab News

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3,000 young Saudis undergo intensive guidance and counseling on marriage through Al-Zawaj program

Time: July 14, 2019  

In this file photo, young men attend a program to prepare them for marriage in Abu Arish in the southern region of Jazan. Civic associations in Saudi Arabia, such as Al-Zawaj, are giving young people pre-marital guidance counselling to prepare them to cope with the challenges of family life. (AN file photo)
  • Training courses help young people understand the requirements of marriage
  • Prospective couples are also taught about their responsibilities to build a stable family and live a harmonious life

JEDDAH: Al-Zawaj, a civil association helping young Saudi people in marriage and family guidance, has launched an intensive training program for 3,000 young men and women.

The program, which will be held at Al-Zawaj’s headquarters in Jeddah, consists of a list of training courses offered by a number of specialists in family rehabilitation.

Ahmed Al-Sultan Al-Omari, chairman of Al-Zawaj, said the courses would help young people to understand the requirements of marriage, and their responsibilities towards each other in order to build a stable family and live a friendly and harmonious life.

Last year, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman ordered a social initiative titled “SNAD Mohammed bin Salman” program, based on social and nonprofit initiatives the crown prince has launched in partnership with various parties.

The first initiative was “SNAD marriage,” which aims to motivate young people to get married and to ensure a stable family and social life.

The program aims to address the needs of different sectors of society as well as setting up frameworks and rules for Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s charitable initiatives.

Recently, the program announced the distribution of more than SR90 million ($24 million) to 4,700 beneficiaries.

Since its launch, the program has given over SR300 million to more than 15,000 Saudis, as part of its aim to support newlyweds, promote knowledge and achieve sustainable social development.

Applications are received via

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