Helicopter Company hauls largest airborne Saudi flag across the Kingdom’s skies

Time: 29 September 2020

  • Impressive spectacle marked the start of a first-of-its-kind airshow, as part of the Kingdom’s 90th National Day celebrations

RIYADH: The Helicopter Company (THC) helped Saudi Arabia’s 90th National Day Airshow get off to a flying start by displaying the largest airborne Saudi flag in the skies above the Kingdom.

The impressive spectacle marked the start of the first-of-its-kind event, which combined military and civil aviation displays in a single show. The week-long airshow, organized by the General Entertainment Authority, began in Jeddah on Sept. 21, before moving on to Riyadh and concluding in Al-Khobar.

It began with a THC AgustaWestland AW139 helicopter towing the 2,000-square-meter flag across the sky. At the end of each day’s airborne entertainment, THC took the skies again to display a banner decorated with the slogan of the 90th National Day, “mettle to the top.”

THC, which is wholly owned by the Kingdom’s Public Investment Fund, recently launched its banner-towing service. It offers clients the chance to display messages and advertise products on huge customized banners towed across the sky by a helicopter. The company’s participation in the National Day Airshow was the first official use of the service. THC has also introduced aerial photography, in addition to other recently announced aerial business services.

This article was first published in Arab News

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Saudi photographer reveals unfamiliar tourist sites in the south of the Kingdom

Time: 29 September 2020

  • Hassan Haroobi calls for investing in photography to develop visual culture
  • Nature is a divine beauty that encourages creativity and photography

MAKKAH: Hassan Haroobi began taking photographs in 2013, having had a “passion for photography” since his childhood.

“I got my first camera in 2013 and the regions which I took photos of reflect the beauty of the southern region of our beloved Kingdom, especially in the Harub province in eastern Jazan, 110 kilometers away from the city,” he told Arab News.

He has taken many distinguished photos since starting out, including one of a giant moon, and the famous photo of the student that lately circulated on social media. “Nature is a divine beauty that encourages creativity and photography,” he sphaid.

Any person who loves photography seeks to capture everlasting photos to show nature to the whole world, be it plants, animals, seas, soil, water, or air, he said.

“This is why nature is like a treasure granted by God for humans to benefit, and nature is our source of living,” said Haroobi.

He added: “It is from nature that people get natural resources to procure all their needs. It is from nature that they take materials they use in their daily life. This is why life is like a big store for whatever the human needs to live, starting from his food, and ending with things that he produces and uses. The human is an important part of nature and is an extension to it.”

The first thing a photographer needs to think of before going out to take pictures is “what is the best moment to take an extraordinary picture?” he said.

“This is something that some people consider trivial, for we can take photos anytime we want. Yes, this does not contradict reality; however everything has its suitable moments so that it would be done in the best way,” he added.


• Hassan Haroobi began taking photographs in 2013.

• He has taken many distinguished photos since starting out, including one of a giant moon, and the famous photo of the student that lately circulated on social media.

• Haroobi considers sunrise or sunset the perfect time for photography.

He noted that photography was a widespread art. Professional photographers, or those aiming to become one, should be organized in everything they do, he said, from planning the location, preparing the camera, and ensuring enough and suitable equipment for every photo session.

As for the best time to take photos, Haroobi said the “golden hour” before sunrise or sunset is perfect, especially with for portraits and landscapes with smooth, easily controlled light.

Photography in Saudi Arabia has become available to everyone through modern mobile devices, and anybody can become a professional photographer, he said.

“Photography does not depend on the type of camera; it primarily depends on the vision and perception of the photographer on how he takes the picture, what he will focus on, and how he will shed light on a certain part while discarding other less important parts,” he said.

He pointed out that taking into consideration the basic conditions of photography rather than the camera itself would turn a picture from an ordinary one to a professional one.

“Although using a professional camera would render the photo more brilliant and professional, it would not alone produce the beauty, for it could give worse results than the mobile if the user ignores photography techniques,” said Haroobi. “Because mobiles and simple cameras are designed to make autocorrections, and it is exactly like in painting where skills lie in the painter and not the pen.”

He advised photographers of both genders not to go out and take pictures during rainy days and storms, especially in mountains, for the southern regions of the Kingdom witness difficult and possibly dangerous conditions.

The photographer also called on increasing investment in the art of photography by organizing competitions for the most beautiful pictures.

This article was first published in Arab News

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KSrelief Signs Joint Cooperation Agreement with IOM

Time: 29  September 2020

RIYADH, SAUDI ARABIA: The King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Centre (KSrelief) signed today a USD 15 million joint cooperation agreement with the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) to implement a number of projects in Yemen. The projects, which will include the shelter, education and camp coordination sectors, will be implemented in the governorates of Ma’rib, Aden, Lahij and Hadramawt, and will assist  224,918 beneficiaries. The agreement, which was signed virtually, is being funded as part of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia’s contribution to the UN Yemen Humanitarian Response Plan 2020.

Dr. Abdullah Al Rabeeah, Supervisor General of KSrelief, signed the agreement on behalf of the center, while IOM Director General, Mr. António Vitorino, signed on behalf of his organization.

The agreement aims to provide emergency assistance and response to internally displaced persons (IDPs), improving their access to educational services, supporting the continuity of these services, and helping Yemen’s education sector meet the needs of IDPs suffering from the effects of their displacement.

This agreement is just one way in which KSrelief is implementing vital aid projects in many countries, including Yemen, in partnership with the IOM. The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, represented by KSrelief, provides comprehensive, impartial assistance throughout Yemen and around the world, serving all in need through a wide range of humanitarian and relief projects.

This article was first published in KSRelief official website

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KSrelief Continues to Support Hajjah Health Center

Time: 28  September 2020

HAJJAH, YEMEN: The Al Ja’dah Health Center in Yemen’s Hajjah governorate continues to provide comprehensive health care services to area residents. The facility is supported by King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Centre (KSrelief) in partnership with the Taybah Foundation for Development.

From 10-16 September, the clinics provided treatment as follows: 673 patients in the ER, 350 in internal medicine, 113 in injury treatment, 81 in reproductive health, 640 in nursing services and 303 in the clinics for epidemic diseases. There were 5 waste disposal activities, 3 patients received blood transfusions, and 11 utilized the medical referral system. The obstetrics clinic received 6 patients, the therapeutic nutrition clinic received 59 patients, and the mobile clinics served 379 patients.

The clinic also dispensed prescriptions for 1,620 patients and provided lab testing services for 548 patients. The health awareness-raising and education department saw 1,123 people.

This article was first published in KSRelief official website

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Future Hospitality Summit eyes tourism recovery


Hot air balloons fly in the skies of AlUla. The hybrid virtual conference aims to explore big ideas and tackle the challenges facing the hospitality industry and will take place live from Riyadh.

Future Hospitality Summit, a hybrid virtual conference to explore big ideas and tackle the challenges facing the hospitality industry, is set to take place live from Riyadh and around the world, on Oct. 26 and 27. It is organized by the Saudi Ministry of Tourism and the G20 Saudi Secretariat, as part of the International Conferences’ Programme, honoring the G20 Saudi presidency year 2020.

The event, which promises to be one of the most impactful gatherings of the world’s hospitality community, will be delivered on Bench Digital’s tried-and-tested digital event platform, providing an immersive live experience, including a virtual exhibition, one-to-one video networking, and integrated chat features for all participants.

A comprehensive three-pillar program has been developed in collaboration with industry creators, innovators and mentors, with particular focus on understanding the new landscape, collaborating and assessing opportunities, and innovating to recreate the industry’s future. Arne Sorenson, president and CEO, Marriott International; Arnold Donald, CEO, Carnival Corporation; Gloria Guevara, CEO and president, WTTC; Jerry Inzerillo, CEO, Diriyah Gate Development Authority; and Anita Mendiratta, special advisory to the secretary general, UNWTO; are lined up as featured speakers, along with over 100 other speakers and thousands of attendees.

“As a country that is at the forefront of the tourism sector’s response and recovery plans through the G20 presidency, Saudi Arabia is leading the conversation on the future of tourism and will provide an international platform to bring the industry together at the Future Hospitality Summit. Together, we will map out the rebuilding of the tourism and travel sector and strategically plan a sustainable future for stakeholders at every level,” said Mahmoud Abdulhadi, deputy minister for investment at the Saudi Ministry of Tourism.

Jonathan Worsley, chairman and founder of Bench Digital, added: “During this difficult time, it is vital that hospitality professionals across the globe come together as a community to work toward the recovery of our industry. Future Hospitality Summit will not only provide a powerful platform to network virtually, showcase best practice and demonstrate thought leadership, but it will also prove invaluable in ensuring that the industry emerges stronger as a whole from these unprecedented challenges.”

Empowering tomorrow’s workforce and attracting talent into the hospitality sector — imperative factors in sustaining the industry — will be two of the key focus points of the hybrid summit. Developing a skilled workforce is paramount in order to quickly evolve and keep pace with the demand being created from the hospitality sector. In Saudi Arabia, for example, 253 new hotels are coming online by 2030. Consequently, Future Hospitality Summit is a forum to engage with the hospitality workforce of the future and promote the sector as an attractive career path.

This article was first published in Arab News

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Saudi aid agency distributes food baskets in Lebanon

Time: 28  September 2020

Saudi aid agency distributes food baskets in Lebanon. (SPA)
  • KSRelief signed a joint cooperation agreement to operate a prosthetics and rehabilitation center in Yemen’s Aden and Seiyun governorates, benefiting 2,572 people

BEIRUT: The King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Center (KSRelief) on Sunday distributed 35 tons of food aid in Lebanon. The baskets were distributed in a number of governorates and benefited 4,375 people, including Syrian and Palestinian refugees as well as needy Lebanese families. The aid comes within a project framework to secure and distribute food baskets in Lebanon.
Also on Sunday, KSRelief signed a joint cooperation agreement to operate a prosthetics and rehabilitation center in Yemen’s Aden and Seiyun governorates, benefiting 2,572 people.

This article was first published in Arab News

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How Saudi Arabia is emerging as a MENA cloud-data hub


Saudis attend the second International Cyber Security Conference, in Riyadh on February 27, 2017. (AFP/File Photo)
  • American information technology firm Oracle’s cloud data center is one of 20 global offices of its kind
  • Focus is on digital security technologies and innovations including virtual simulation of evolving threats

DUBAI: Saudi Arabia is one step closer to becoming a global cloud-data hub with the launch of a data center by Oracle, a leading computer technology corporation based in the US. The Kingdom has been designated as the company’s cloud-data hub in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region.

The center in Jeddah will focus on digital security technologies and innovations, including virtual simulation of evolving threats. It is yet another step in Saudi Arabia’s digital transformation, in line with Saudi Vision 2030’s goal of upgrading the country’s information and communications technology infrastructure.

In emailed comments to Arab News, Dr. Muhammad Khurram Khan, CEO of the Washington-based Global Foundation for Cyber Studies and Research and cybersecurity professor at King Saud University, said: “Being one of the leading and fastest-growing digital powers in the region, Saudi Arabia is in great need of technological innovations, solutions and services to cater to its requirements for smart cities, industry 4.0, cloud computing, 5G, cybersecurity, the Internet of Things, blockchain, and artificial intelligence.

Participants attend a hackathon in Jeddah on August 1, 2018, prior to the start of the annual Hajj pilgrimage in the holy city of Makkah. (AFP/File Photo)

“To meet this massive demand for digital transformation by public- and private-sector organizations, the cloud data center by Oracle in the Kingdom will play a pivotal role in accelerating innovation, generating new horizons of digital services, creating competition and providing customers with incredible experiences in the thriving market.”

He believes the move will also pave the way for job creation and spawn new business opportunities for local talent. “The presence of the cloud data center in the Kingdom will enable organizations to scale up their digital services faster than ever before,” Khan wrote in the email. “It may also provide them with cheaper in-country services, better data management, a more secure and resilient environment, data sovereignty controls, and on-demand customer service for more efficient business operations.”

Khan cited additional likely benefits from the center, including the empowerment of local start-ups, entrepreneurs and innovators enabling new products and services to enter the market faster.

A person works at a computer during the 10th International Cybersecurity Forum in Lille on January 23, 2018. (AFP/File Photo)

“The development could underpin the efforts of Saudi Arabia to be among the leading nations that are bracing for the Fourth Industrial Revolution,” he said.

Khan pointed to skyrocketing demand for cybersecurity solutions and services in the Kingdom — which ranks in the top 10 countries most targeted by “significant” cyberattacks. “Cyber threats faced by public- and private-sector organizations are growing exponentially due to the Kingdom’s geopolitical importance in the region and its fast-paced digital transformation,” he said.

A recent report on the cybersecurity sector in the Middle East and Africa estimates that Saudi Arabia’s market may grow to $5.5 billion by 2023. “This huge cybersecurity demand could be efficiently met by the local deployment of cloud-based cybersecurity services,” Khan said. “The role of cloud computing is of paramount importance to predicting and defeating cyberattacks, which leverages AI, big data and instant analytics in real time to address threats and suppress vulnerabilities that seek to undermine security.”

People work on computers on January 22, 2019 in Lille, during the 11th International Cybersecurity Forum. (AFP/File Photo)

In his comments, Khan further pointed to the interest shown by regional and local organizations in the cloud-based security operations center, and cost-effective solutions for security orchestration, automation and response, security information, and event management.

The move is timely too, as a new report revealed that 95 percent of businesses in the Kingdom have been hit by at least one cyberattack in the past year. According to “The Rise of the Business-Aligned Security Executive,” released by Tenable and conducted by Forrester Consulting, the majority of businesses in Saudi Arabia have witnessed a rise in cyberattacks over the past two years.

“More than ever, Saudi Arabia must make a specific tailor-made solution for its sovereign requirements to include digital security and virtual simulation,” said Matthew Cochran, CEO and co-founder of URS Laboratories in the UAE. “Post COVID-19, the region will look to the Kingdom for alignment and leadership on these issues.”

He described the developments as the culmination of decades of planning for scenarios that are becoming increasingly likely due to global circumstances.

“Pre COVID-19, the future of digital security and virtual simulation in the region was important,” Cochran told Arab News. “Now, it is vitally important, if not life-saving, to have it in place — not tomorrow, today. The future is at stake and we must meet the challenges together.”

Commentators have said that the Saudi center will allow Oracle to facilitate in-country or in-jurisdiction disaster-recovery capabilities and allow their clients to meet their obligations on data security in the country.

“Oracle has a strong presence within the GCC region, particularly in the UAE and Saudi Arabia,” said Dean Mikkelsen, an independent IT and cybersecurity consultant working with UAE-based Hannibal Global Insight. “Companies are moving more and more data to the cloud within the GCC. These nations also require that data be kept within their own country, as it relates to privacy and data-security issues.

In the Kingdom, provisions in the Cloud Computing Regulatory Framework state that cloud clients must ensure that no customer content — including sensitive content from public authorities — is transferred outside the Kingdom.

“The Essential Cybersecurity Controls issued by the National Cybersecurity Authority in the Kingdom — which are all applicable to Saudi government entities — require that information be hosted and stored in-country,” Mikkelsen told Arab News. “With Oracle developing this capability in-country, they are meeting the requirements necessary to protect data in the nation.”

Saudi Arabia is one step closer to becoming a global cloud-data hub with the launch of a regional data center by Oracle, a leading computer technology corporation based in the US. (AFP/File Photo)

As Saudi Arabia continues to move away from a petroleum-based economy, it has allowed its technology sectors more room for growth.

“With Oracle moving further into Saudi Arabia, it matches the Kingdom’s vision to become an international leader in science and technology,” said Mikkelsen. “There has been, over the past few years, a large-scale migration of data to the cloud and making sure that data is secure is very important.”

He said data breaches are becoming more widespread, be they from phishing attacks or malware, in a potentially costly development for businesses. UAE-based cybersecurity company DarkMatter recently stated that breaches are “widespread and frequently undetected” in the Middle East.

“During the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been a spike in network spoofing and phishing attacks, as cyber attackers look to exploit the unfamiliar current climate for their own nefarious purposes,” Mikkelsen said.

“Through regulatory environments and legislation, such as those defined in Saudi Arabia or the UAE, companies and governments are working together to protect the digital assets of individuals, corporations, and their critical infrastructure. With the move made by Oracle in Saudi Arabia, the Kingdom is saying it is open for business and that anyone’s data will be safe and secure.”


Twitter: @CalineMalek

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Arabs and normalization with Israel: What role does the UAE play?


The United Arab Emirates is not only a pioneer in the cultural renaissance with the facilities it has established and initiatives it has launched, but has also managed to achieve a true diplomatic renaissance with the peace treaty it signed with Israel recently — an agreement that protects its borders and stability, but also exceeds the geographical frontiers of the nation to reach the whole Arab region.

The initiative has reflected on the geopolitical relationships in the Arab region and its relations with the Western countries, especially the US, Russia and China, placing Arabs in the heart of international events and achieving development in the Arab region.

However, the “normalization” agreement with Israel divided opinion in the Arab world between supporters, opponents and skeptics about the normalization possibility with a Hebrew state. Whether it is betraying the Palestinian cause or defending it, what might seem like a harsh treatment in reality is the only way to bring recovery, health and security.

Wise people see that normalization with Israel is the best gift to Palestinians, as it reflects positively on the security, social and economic aspects.

The tolerance that the UAE has promoted though this agreement is not just a theory but a true effort to embody it on the practical and diplomatic levels, preceded by efforts to spread awareness about just issues, equality, co-living and accepting differences, thus contributing toward building the new awareness of Arab people, who believe in freedom, dignity and humanitarian values.

Throughout the decades, all the diplomatic efforts and numerous foreign ministerial meetings — even those held with presidents and kings of Arab nation — have not succeeded in achieving peace or stability in the Arab region, leaving border conflicts ongoing, and creating security, social and economic conflicts, especially in the past few years.

These crises have recently become a threat to neighborly relations with Arab countries that share the same religion, language and history, as well as the relations with the Western countries. Therefore, the success of the UAE in signing a permanent peace treaty with Israel represents an important event on the Arab level, to reflect positively on the whole region and pave the way for a new era.

Believing in a common destiny and the right to live and exist is a prologue to modifying many convictions, especially those stemming from the remnants of extremist and racist parties, which consider themselves sole possessors of the truth.

Now is the time to amend misconceptions and purify the Arab mind from the remnants of corruption and backwardness, by declaring tolerance and reconciliation with all entities, which is consistent with the principles of our religion, as Islam was purely founded on peace, yielding to the truth and defending peace.

Abu Dhabi’s Crown Prince, Mohammed bin Zayed, chairman of the Abu Dhabi Executive Council, is one of the most prominent planners of the peace treaty with Israel. Many political figures in Arab and Islamic countries followed in his footsteps, in favor of what is right and believing in the unity of a common destiny. There will be no injustice, aggression, or violation of the rights of any party, as long as everyone resides on one land. There is either a necessity for coexistence or common mortality, there is no in-between. He who has the slightest bit of sound thinking can sense a rational decision for a healthy life free from any threat. So, can a person be innovative in an environment marked by fear and oppression?

Security and stability represent the basis of a decent life, but an authoritarian or transcendent policy — if not to say extremism — spoils a lot of friendliness. Instead of creating opportunities for survival, we see them stifling life’s chances. This is exactly how we describe the confusion that stemmed from the ideas and positions of some extremist parties, when the UAE announced the decision to normalize with Israel.

These parties hide behind TV channels, websites and all kinds of media platforms to sow disparity and conflict among the children of a single people, instead of standing together against others. But despite all attempts to downplay this decision and call it treason, they do not have the power to change reality and are unable to suggest a real alternative that ends the Arab-Israeli conflict and brings stability to the region.

People do not aspire for more than a decent life. However, some arrogant regimes want to fish in troubled waters and do not wish to see stability, unity and cooperation among Arabs. Perhaps many signs of hope are looming on the horizon with the increasing number of diplomatic voices who are supporting the UAE’s decision to normalize relations and revive the bonds of exchange and cooperation.

This will undoubtedly be a new revolution that will fix what the blind revolutions — or what is known as the Arab Spring — have ruined. The blind revolutions were incapable of achieving stability, but rather have unlawfully and without any shame destroyed and demolished homes above their innocent inhabitants’ heads. And at the end of the day, they say: “Normalizing with Israel is a betrayal and a setback.” They have forgotten that the greatest betrayal lies in the failure to keep up with civilization.

Fares Al-Ghanami is a Saudi writer and intellectual interested in political affairs. Twitter: @farescom200

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