Creative youth from across Saudi Arabia speak up about their art

Time: June 03, 2018

JEDDAH: An e-magazine held a special evening on Saturday to enable young Saudis from all over the Kingdom to showcase their ideas, poems and artwork.

Ward Magazine, which was also launching its first printed edition, is an e-magazine that aims to support and encourage artists in Saudi Arabia whatever their ages, nationalities and the topics they want to be discussed in their work.

Due to the limitation of available opportunities and spaces for Saudi-based artists, and their centralization in particular cities, Ward was founded to publish their work, and it includes all forms of creativity.

On June 2, Ward organized a special cultural night giving space to young Saudi dreamers from both genders to disclose their thoughts in a creative, literary way.

The spoken-word event gathered a large number of intellectual, ambitious youth from all over the Kingdom and offered them the chance to showcase their ideas and work.

The theme of the evening was “Beyond the frame.” It was presented through three categories, each aiming to deliver a different message through an artwork or a poem by eight participants.

Ward offers painters, writers, photographers and anyone in between the chance to submit their work freely, with no limitations on their age or the topics of their work.

The founder of the Ward project, 18-year-old Khalid Al-Gjahtani, told Arab News: “We wanted art enthusiasts to grow with us by volunteering their skills in editing, translation and graphic design. I created a team of nine people, including myself.”

All of them are secondary school and university students from different disciplines and parts of the Kingdom.

“The main goal of Ward is to give art and literature lovers the opportunity to know the reasons behind the creation of a particular work of art,” Al-Gjahtani said. “I believe that art encompasses all forms of creativity.”

The evening was against the famous quote of “Explanation kills art” because when we hear a poem or a work vision we face endless possibilities for interpretation.

During the event the first printed issue of the magazine was launched for the first time as it is considered the seventh edition of the e-magazine.

Ward Magazine aims to remove the stereotypical ideas about the Saudi nation as a mere geographical border, and to prove that it has a wholly different perspective.

The magazine contains articles, poems and other collective artworks of ever-growing young talents.

Al-Ghahtani said: “We are trying to break down the obstacles that artists face in reaching their audiences, by creating solutions to make their art see the light, such as showcasing their works through exhibitions and electronic editions.”

The event took place at 3alsat7 in Alrawdah district.

This article was first published in Arab News

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King Salman Youth Center

Time: June 02, 2018  

About Us

As youth, we should be proud of our country and the Custodian of the Two Holly Mosques, King Salman Bin Abdulaziz, as he has been working eagerly to build and enhance the initiative spirit within our youth to build a creative generation full of young leaders to raise the national economy and bring successfulness and flourishment to our country and people.KSCY is the result of King Salman Award for Young entrepreneurs, achieving the Custodian of the Two Holly Mosques’ vision.

Some of the Center’s core activities are:

  • TheYouth Club for seminars and meetings.
  • Publishing Department which aims to motivate the youth by publishing their creative works.
  • The Young Entrepreneurs Magazine which focus on developing entrepreneurs skills and experiences, updating the youth with the latest news in technology, knowledge, fashion, tourism, etc.

KSCY’s organizers, supervised by its Chairman, His Royal Highness Prince Muhammad Bin Salman bin Abdulaziz, and his Deputy, Prince Abdullah Bin Bandar Bin Abdulaziz, are exerting high efforts to make KSCY role model in discovering and developing entrepreneurs in different aspects and shedding lights on them.
Additionally, KSCY aims to elevating the youth by encouraging and developing their creative initiatives to serve these initaives clients, invest their resources, and improve their services.
Moreover, KSCY aims to enhance youth initiative from their first day to successfully luch it and achieve their goals.
KSCY also works to increase the awareness about entrepreneurship locally, regionally and globally as part of yout motivation.

This article was first published in KSYC

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Arabian Business Podcast: The unstoppable rise of social media in the MENA region

Time: May 23, 2018

Among the many revelations in the ASDAA Burson-Marsteller Arab Youth Survey of 2018, the one that was perhaps most revealing was that, for the first time in the survey’s ten-year history, young people aged between 18 and 24 said they use social media for news and information more than television.

Indeed, some 49 percent get their daily news from Facebook.

This, of course, reflects the opportunities presented by the ongoing fracture of traditional media, particularly in a region like the Middle East where television channels and newspapers have been traditionally tightly controlled.

The democratisation of media has meant youth in the region have not only gained access to a new world news sources, pundits, bloggers, activists, critics and cultural curators – and a whole slew of unhelpful and hateful noise in between – that was off-limits a decade ago, but also the ability to participate in global conversations, whether as citizen journalists or, with the rise of the influencer, entrepreneurs, entertainers and thought leaders.

It’s a trend that will only continue; there are now more than 100 million social media users in the MENA region and around 320 million mobile phone subscriptions – a penetration figure of 127 percent.

As brands increasingly turn their gaze onto both the platforms and the personalities emerging on them, the rise of social media in the Arab World seems unstoppable.

On this week’s podcast, Arabian Business magazine editor Eddie Taylor talks to Benjamin Ampen, managing director of Twitter in the region,

Ramzi Halaby, co-founder of Dubai-based social media and digital consultancy The Online Project and Tamara Jamal, social media influencer and TV presenter about the ever-evolving landscape

This article was first published in Arabian Business

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Six deals signed to secure jobs for 10,000 Saudi youth

Time: May 15, 2018

JEDDAH: Makkah Gov. Prince Khalid Al-Faisal on Monday patronized the signing of six agreements for Prince Khalid Al-Faisal’s “Tomouh” project  to train and employ 10,000 young men and women before the end of 2020.

This came on the sidelines of the project’s workshop, the “Tomouh Forum,” which was organized by the Makkah Emirate in cooperation with King Abdullah Economic City (KAEC), with the participation of 200 companies as well as the province’s universities.

Prince Khalid said: “This project was achieved as a result of the wise policy adopted by the leadership of Saudi Arabia in all its previous, current and future plans. This is evident in the Kingdom’s Vision 2030, which was launched to set an example of a developing country that is quickly turning into a developed one.”

The Makkah governor patronized the signing of several partnership agreements with a number of firms for training a group of Tomouh’s young men and women.

Among these firms were Saudi Aramco’s National Power Academy, Creet International Contracting Co., Zuhair Ahmed Zahran and Partners Contracting and Trading Co., Salem Saleh Al-Hareth General Contracting Co., Yaghmour Contracting and Maintenance, and Roziq Al-Jadrawi Contracting Co.The project will provide training courses in the English language, computer programming, information technology, self-development, office management, and career management in addition to hands-on training at several firms.

The Tomouh Project connects qualified professionals with the job market by introducing them to major companies.  The group CEO and managing director of the KAEC, Fahd Al-Rasheed, said the governor’s patronage and visit to the forum was part of the continuous care and attention given to the KAEC and the prince’s efforts to develop the province.

This article was first published in Arab News

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Opinion: Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince steps up to his young country’s desire for reform

11 May 2018

The 10th Arab Youth Survey finally provides reliable, quantitative data on the attitudes of Arab and Saudi youth regarding the personality and policies of Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman. Until now, there were only anecdotal claims that Saudi youth – roughly 70 percent of the population are under the age of 30 – overwhelmingly approved of MBS and his economic and social reform policies.

Journalists, such as Thomas Friedman and others, have reported on the enthusiastic and positive opinions that many young people in Saudi Arabia has of MBS. With this survey, we now know that more than 90 percent of Saudis between 18-24 approve of his appointment as Crown Prince and are supportive of his anti-corruption drive. An overwhelming majority also believe MBS is taking the kingdom in the right direction, feel that his economic reforms are likely to succeed, and that he is a strong leader who will have the biggest impact on the region of any Arab leader over the next decade.

What is equally interesting is that a significant majority of youth across the Arab world – some 60 percent – share the same positive view. In the case of the anti-corruption campaign, 86 percent of Arab youth are supportive. This data must come as very good news to MBS and the policy team around him, and he must seek to capitalise on the goodwill and favour he enjoys.

However, to make sense of the numbers, one has to appreciate the context of the Arab world, and Saudi in particular, today. There is a deep and broad desire across these societies for reform, and the youth see MBS as the most engaged agent in its transformation.

Reform agendas

In Saudi Arabia, this desire for change is particularly acute because the country has been led for at least two decades by a gerontocracy that only paid lip service to economic and social reform and kept the country in resolute stasis – change of any kind appeared impossible. In effect, the status quo consisted of a combination of extremely conservative social policies and government handouts in the form of public sector jobs, along with subsidies and various entitlements. Rent-seeking behaviour was rewarded over entrepreneurship, private initiative and merit.

These extraordinarily high numbers in favour of MBS and his reforms are nonetheless fraught with danger. They signal very high expectations among the youth about the changes MBS can generate and the results he must deliver.

Young Saudis no doubt believe that well-paying jobs will soon be plentiful as a result of the economic reform and diversification programme, otherwise known as Vision 2030. And, in fact, more than 90 percent of those surveyed believe that “Vision 2030 will succeed in securing the future of the Saudi economy”.

It bears keeping in mind that youth in Saudi Arabia are among the most connected and networked people on the planet, and are keenly aware of the affluent lifestyles that other youth enjoy in the West or in the Far East. Their expectations have to be managed carefully, because reform and job creation will take time.

Diversification is key

In his speeches and interviews MBS has given voice to the frustrations of the young generation, which explains, in part, why so many are supportive of his policies. But MBS has also been clear that diversifying the Saudi economy away from its heavy dependence on oil revenues will be a very difficult and painful process.

It is a fact that no country in the world that has experienced the extremely rapid economic development that Saudi Arabia has witnessed has been able to successfully reform its economy. Because of this, it is worth reminding people of the difficulty of this process, not least because it will help curb the belief that MBS can single-handedly work miracles. Expectations have to be managed because if they are unmet, they will eventually spill over into discontent.

Despite the huge support this survey shows, MBS is not necessarily in an enviable position. He has to make up for the decades of wasted opportunities during which real economic reform was endlessly deferred into the future by the government. Yet he must also manage expectations while reforming the economy with the aim of producing well-paying jobs and reducing the fiscal budget’s dependence on oil revenues.

Diversifying the economy is a generational challenge and will take more than a decade to complete. There is no doubt that a generation of Saudis will face hardship and may never attain their aspirations. Therefore, it is important to find the means to reset their expectations and to explain that their hard work and sacrifice is necessary for future generations to have it better.

Nonetheless, success in effecting change is more likely with the widespread popular support of the youth – which this survey shows – than it would be if they were antagonistic and despondent.

Bernard Haykel, professor of Near Eastern Studies at Princeton University

Arab youth across the region are energised and encouraged by Mohammed Bin Salman’s promise of social reform


This article was first published in  Arabian Business

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Beware: Saudi pranksters are on the prowl, and they’re ready to catch you out

SOURCE: Arab News

Time: April 16, 2018

JEDDAH: Although people have been pranking each other for thousands of years, the age of the internet paved the way for mainstream video-sharing websites such as YouTube, Instagram and Snapchat, ushering in a global platform of viewers for pranksters. Famous YouTube and Instagram pranksters are quickly establishing themselves as the new generation of self-made celebrities.
They have built a fan base by creating entertaining user-friendly content, even if at others’ expense.
Pranking is entertaining on multiple levels because it serves to manipulate social power, cultural norms and status hierarchies while initiating strong human emotional responses.“Not only is a good prank harmless, but like a good story, it reveals an essential truth that would otherwise be hidden,” said American author Mac Barnett. “It is a great way to indicate the underlying absurdities of the world.”
There can be a lot to learn about human responses through this sometimes-cruel engagement. Since pranking is heavily influenced by societal and cultural norms, they function as a release of pent-up societal tensions.
Confusion, embarrassment, flattery, fear and ultimately laughter are sought when individuals are being pranked.
That feeling of losing control or being rendered powerless in a situation can illicit powerful human responses.
A well-constructed prank is a sort of social experiment on human emotions under the guise of seeking laughter.
Saudi Arabia, too, has a culture of pranksters to contribute to this trending industry, in Mohammed and Murad Salem, and Hassan and Hussein bin Mahfouz.
The two sets of twins have garnered nearly 2 million subscribers and followers combined on YouTube and Instagram by uploading entertaining skits and pranks in the Kingdom and abroad.
“Pranks have been our hobby long before social media. Now with social media, the idea has become more of a prank war between us as twins,” the Salems told Arab News.
“In Saudi Arabia, pranks are far from dangerous or intimidating. They rely on public embarrassment. We find they’re usually popular among most society groups, especially youngsters, and although not everyone will like our pranks, most encourage us to keep doing them.”
But it is imperative to not just look at pranking through rose-colored glasses, as it can deeply affect and emotionally scar some victims.
Since pranking can often involve social humiliation, a three-way relationship between the one who humiliates, the victim and the witness can create a helpless power dynamic for emotionally sensitive individuals.
“The reaction we often get from friends and family is positive,” the Salems said. “Although we don’t always agree on how bad the pranks should be, we make sure not to cross any red lines, as certain pranks have led to serious confrontations.”
Saudi prank culture has always existed, but it is only now starting to garner exposure and attention via social-media platforms. An added incentive is the potential income these content creators can accumulate via advertising revenue.
But the Salems aim to use their fame from pranking as a stepping stone to much bigger ventures. “We want to expand and enter the fields of media and acting,” they said.
“Pranks were one of the reasons that led us to fame, but we also sing. We’re currently studying some ideas to create sketches that portray everyday situations in a comedic way.”


Adaptability the key to survival in jobs market

SOURCE: Arab News

Time: April 15, 2018

With university graduation ceremonies coming up in the next couple of weeks in Saudi Arabia and all over the world, all recent graduates’ eyes and thoughts are on career days, CV writing and getting prepared for anxiety-provoking job interviews. Are our beloved fresh graduates prepared for all of this? Well, I can’t answer for all of them, but I am sure the ones that did their homework and set themselves goals and a plan to achieve them will no doubt be in a better position than their colleagues who are relying solely on their degree to land them a job. Will the courses and majors the graduates studied at university be enough to get them a good job these days? Will a degree alone help them get ahead in the fast-paced world we are living in?

A study by Singularity University shows 45 percent of today’s jobs won’t exist 10 years from now. We are starting to see this happen with the automation of a number of sectors: Transportation, customer service, and retail with the introduction of Amazon Go, for example. We have to face the inconvenient truth — that the future of jobs is changing. So ask yourself, does your job involve repetitive tasks? If it does, then I am sad to say that you might soon be replaced with a robot that can do your job more efficiently and a lot faster than us humans can.

“Graduates these days must be proactive and complement their academic education with training and workshops to expand their knowledge and prepare themselves to become lifelong learners.” 

Dr. Taghreed AlSaraj

Some people might suggest we need to look at what academic majors we currently offer at the university level and develop what looks promising while closing down majors that are considered obsolete. I couldn’t agree more with this thought, but I still say it would be too little, too late. I think what we really need to develop our educational system with a team consisting of educators, trend analysts and risk managers to come up with new interdisciplinary majors fields. We need to start combining two or more academic disciplines into one. This will help train our students to think across boundaries and understand diverse subjects in order to solve complex problems, which will be an asset both now and in the future.

Not everyone will agree with me, but what I do know is that we need to adapt to changes around us and in our jobs or careers, even if the majors we studied at university did not provide us with such skills. Employers now want employees that can adapt quickly to new changes, so people must be ready to learn fast and implement faster. Graduates these days must be proactive and complement their academic education with training and workshops to expand their knowledge and prepare themselves to become lifelong learners. So get ready to continue learning.


Seminar sets disabled Saudi youth on path to work

SOURCE: Arab News

Time: March 28, 2018

JEDDAH: Saudi youth with disabilities were challenged to “Start the Impossible” and fulfil their job potential at a workshop for people with special needs. The workshop in the Abdul Latif Jameel Hospital hall on Monday provided activities and information to help participants recognize their abilities and smooth their path into employment.
The Saudi Abdul Latif Jameel corporation has signed a partnership agreement with the Sa’ee program to employ Saudi youth with special needs and contribute to community development. Sa’ee is a non-profit initiative established this year to find job opportunities and provide training for disabled people.
“We provide psychological support and legal services to help people with special needs blend effectively into the community,” Sa’ee’s founder, Marzoog Al-Otaibi, said.
One workshop participant, Mariam Al-Sulami, 26, told Arab News that cerebral palsy — a movement disorder that appears during childhood — meant she had been unable to attend school every day.
“I had to have surgery 13 times to be able to walk,” she said. “Every summer vacation I had to have an operation on my legs and I would spend six months of the year with my legs in a cast.
“But I was determined to continue my studies — nothing could stop me.”
Al-Sulami earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration and for the past two years has worked as a certified technical and vocational trainer. “I was among the best female students in the city and I received a scholarship to Batterjee Medical College in Jeddah,” she said.
“I was dreaming of studying medicine and becoming a doctor or pharmacist because my GPA in high school was excellent and qualifies me easily to join any medicine school. But when I applied they could not take me into consideration as my appearance is ‘medically unfit,’ so I decided to pursue business administration,” Al-Sulami said.
President of the Physiotherapy Association in Jeddah, Heba Felimban, said: “We are trying to show the community that physiotherapy is one of the best ways to help people get over their disability and live their everyday lives normally, depending fully on themselves.”
Chairman of Abdul Latif Jameel’s car division, Rowaid Al-Sawwaf, said: “We want to provide people with safe transport in accordance with the support the government is giving to help people with special needs overcome any obstacles they face.


Saudi students abroad are watching in hope as dramatic reforms in the Kingdom promise a new era of optimism

Time: March 26, 2018

NEW HAMPSHIRE: From 4,000 miles away, Saudi students in the US have been watching a political transformation unfold in their homeland with a renewed sense of hope for their own futures — and for the future of a country in a region beset by turmoil.
Since becoming crown prince in June, Mohammed bin Salman has embarked on a series of bold policies designed to curb corruption, push back against religious extremism and confront an expansionist Iran.
Domestically, social reforms have been high on the agenda, including the headline-grabbing decision to allow women to drive. Prohibitions on women driving had consistently been invoked by Saudi Arabia’s overseas friends and critics alike as an unacceptable restriction on civil rights.
“When I came to the US, the first thing I did was get my driving license and get my own car to drive,” said Siham Karkaah, a 33-year-old Saudi student from Riyadh. She arrived in the US in August, and is studying for a master’s degree in education at Southern New Hampshire University (SNHU).
A month after she arrived, the crown prince issued a decree that means she will be able to drive when she returns to Saudi Arabia after completing her studies, something she plans to do.
“I have always been supportive of women’s rights, and I definitely believe in that and women’s freedom, and doing what you want to do as a woman.
“I fully support the changes that have been made. When I do go home, it will be to a different country,” she said.
Karkaah’s enthusiasm was echoed by other young Saudis studying in the US, who believe the crown prince understands their dreams and aspirations far better than previous leaders.
“It’s really important that the crown prince is close to our age; it means he understands our generation. We have a new way of thinking, and he does, too,” said Abdullah Al-Mutairi, 26, another SNHU student from the Kingdom.
He also supported the crown prince’s anti-corruption drive, which included seizing assets from some wealthy members of the Saudi royal family and prominent businessmen.
The crown prince’s methods have provoked concern in the US about respect for property rights and due process, although there is a widespread belief among US experts and Saudi expats that serious action against financial corruption was needed.
“I wasn’t expecting the crown prince to do what he did, but I’m glad he chose to,” Al-Mutairi, a business studies student, said.
Although supportive of the decision to let Saudi women drive, Al-Mutairi said the measure would run up against a strong strand of conservatism in Saudi society.
“Women may now be legally allowed to drive, but if there are men in their family who don’t want them to, that is a real barrier. The women could go to court, and they could win, but it might mean breaking ties with their family, which would be a huge sacrifice,” he said.
Saudi students typically come to the US to benefit from a learning environment they say is more open, supportive and of higher quality than they are able to get at home. Fees are usually paid by a Saudi government-funded scholarship fund, which also covers living costs.
SNHU, in the New Hampshire city of Manchester, is considered one of the most innovative higher education establishments in the US and has long been popular with Saudi students.
Another SNHU student, Hussam Samir Al-Deen, said he had longed to visit the US and had learned a great deal from his time there. He hopes to find work in the US after graduating, but expects to return home one day.
The 28-year-old from Jeddah said he tried to be a good ambassador for his nation. “Most Americans I’ve met have been very nice, but some have the wrong impression about Saudi Arabia and about Islam. I hope I have helped to improve their view,” he said.
Al-Deen said he and friends had suffered isolated cases of racism, or had been called terrorists by people in the street.
“I just ignore them, they don’t really understand what they are saying — most people are very kind,” he said.
His years studying in the US had changed him and some of his views on culture, he said. If there was one social reform that could be added to the list of those underway in Saudi, he hoped it would be a shift in the nature of personal relationships.
“In Saudi Arabia, it is more difficult to be friends with women, or to work alongside women, and it is not always accepted that you get to marry the woman you love. Instead you are supposed to marry and hope you fall in love with your wife afterwards. I would like to see those things change one day,” he said.

This article was first published Arab News

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Young Saudis urged to seize opportunities to shape economic future

SOURCE: Arab News

Time: March 23, 2018

WASHINGTON: Saudi students who have forged reputations as innovators are urging fellow young Saudis to seize a once-in-a-generation opportunity to reshape their futures.
At a packed conference room at Washington DC’s most iconic hotel, the Willard InterContinental, just across from the White House, a series of speakers took to the stage on Wednesday to call on the Saudi-majority audience to take up the challenge of reform.
“Never be afraid to do something or to be the first to do it,” said Razan Alageel, who last year won the outstanding youth delegate award at a UN youth project.
Alageel, who is studying political science at Appalachian State University in the US, said Saudis must not be intimidated by the scale of the tasks ahead as they face up to domestic and international challenges.
“You will always have a mountain to climb and another cliff to jump off. Believe in your instincts. You are powerful beyond measure, so use it,” she said.
She made her comments at a Misk Talk event in Washington DC, organized by the Prince Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz Philanthropic Foundation.
Misk, as the foundation is known for short, was set up in 2011 by the crown prince to promote innovation and education opportunities for young Saudis, and to encourage media that “knows no boundaries.”
More than half of the Kingdom’s 27 million nationals are below age 30, a demographic situation that poses a serious economic challenge, and many get their news from social media outlets rather than relying on traditional sources.
Saudi Arabia has historically been able to employ young people in government agencies, paid for by the country’s massive oil wealth. But the crown prince has embarked on a bold economic reform agenda that, if successful, will radically shake up government subsidies in the state.
The Misk foundation is part of that effort. At Wednesday’s presentation, the message to young Saudis was that they, not oil, are the country’s most valuable resource.
Mohammed Bakhsh, an undergraduate at George Washington University, used his presentation to encourage young Saudis to take risks and not fear failure, both central elements of the entrepreneurship the crown prince has called for.
“Failure is one of the best teachers, failure is the essence of success,” he said, a mantra more typically associated with Silicon Valley than old-style Saudi economic policy.
Much was also said about the reforms that have taken place in Saudi, including allowing women to drive.
“Remember, less than five years ago we couldn’t have discussions about women’s rights in this formal capacity, that was impossible and unheard of,” said Jehan Al-Mahmoud, a PhD student in socio-lingustics at Georgetown University.
“It has been a journey for all of us. The Saudi youth, we are all witnessing this incredible transformation in our country and we are getting there.
“As the Saudi nation, we got lucky with the oil at first but we continue to get lucky with knowledgeable, ambitious leadership that cultivates the most valuable resource that we have — us,” she said.