The Place: Dhat Al-Hajj, a historically significant fort on the Shami Hajj Road in Tabuk

17/07/21

A prosperous village grew up around the fort, providing accommodation for pilgrims and a place to top up their stores of food and water
Dhat Al-Hajj fort lies between the Halat Ammar Center and Tabuk city on the ancient Shami Hajj Road, also known as Al-Tabukiya road, which was once a popular route for pilgrims from the Levant traveling to Makkah and Madinah.
Many of them would take the opportunity to rest at the fort during their long journey, and it was also a convenient meeting point for convoys of pilgrims — thus becoming a place where cultures would often mix, swap stories and trade goods.
Built in 1564 CE, Dhat Al-Hajj is a fine example of the regional architecture of the time and is one of the most historically significant forts on the Shami Hajj Road. Its name is reportedly derived from a plant that grew abundantly in the area.
The fort is a rectangular five-room building, with an entrance in the western wall through to the interior courtyard. Outside the fort stands a pool that is the source of the drinking areas used by passers-by.
A prosperous village grew up around the fort, providing accommodation for pilgrims and a place to top up their stores of food and water. The location became still more important when the Hijazi Railroad was established in the early 20th century.
Despite their names, both the fort and the road were used throughout the year by merchants, and not just by pilgrims during Hajj.

This article was first published in Arab News

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Saudi Arabia delivers $500,000 medical aid package to Kyrgyzstan

15/07/21

The King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Center (KSRelief) has dispatched a $500,000 medical aid package to support Kyrgyzstan in its fight against the COVID-19 outbreak. (SPA)

King Salman instructed KSrelief to support the country
Saudi Ambassador to the Republic of Kyrgyzstan Ibrahim bin Radi Al-Radi delivered the aid
RIYADH: The King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Center (KSRelief) has dispatched a $500,000 medical aid package to support Kyrgyzstan in its fight against the COVID-19 outbreak.

King Salman instructed KSrelief to support the country and Saudi Ambassador to the Republic of Kyrgyzstan Ibrahim bin Radi Al-Radi delivered the aid, state news agency SPA reported.

Earlier on Tuesday, Saudi Arabia announced it would send medical supplies, including one million doses of COVID-19 vaccine to Tunisia, where infections are rapidly rising.

The move was in response to a request from Tunisian President Kais Saied during a call with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman on Friday.

In April, the Kingdom delivered a medical aid package worth $1.5 million to help combat the coronavirus outbreak in Pakistan.

The consignment was officially handed over — on behalf of the center — by the Saudi ambassador to Pakistan, Nawaf bin Said Al-Malki, to Akhtar Nawaz, chairman of the Pakistani National Disaster Management Authority, at the Saudi Embassy in Islamabad.

This article was first published in Arab News

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Social media users praise first-ever female-led Hajj security briefing

13/07/21

Saudi soldier Abeer Al-Rashed conducts the first ever female-led security briefing for Hajj
LONDON: Saudi soldier Abeer Al-Rashed conducted on Tuesday the first ever female-led security briefing for Hajj in which she presented security and traffic plans for the pilgrimage.

The female-led briefing was met with positive reactions on social media in Saudi Arabia and the region.

Twitter user Mohamad Matoua praised the soldier saying “God willing, may God bless you… what a confidence and a wonderful voice that distinguish the daughter of our nation, the soldierAbeer Al-Rashed, may God protect her from all evil” in a tweet.

Meanwhile, Saeed Almordi, said that women constitute half of society, “and we are proud of her and of the women in our nation in all fields.”

Another twitter user, Um Loulou, said: “God praise, may Allah her and give her health and wellness, we are proud of her”

The Ministry of Hajj and Umrah in Saudi Arabia revealed on Monday the launch of a smart card for pilgrims this year.

The card will facilitate access to pilgrims’ medical history and will be used to purchase necessities and goods during the Hajj season.

It will be the first time the technology is used to aid the pilgrimage journey.

According to the Hajj security commander, no one will be allowed to enter holy sites without a valid security permit in an attempt to curb the spread of coronavirus.

This article was first published in Arab News

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ThePlace: Shada Palace, one of the historical buildings in Saudi Arabia’s Abha

Time: 10 July 2021

Photo/Supplied

The residential quarters and living areas of the building are open to visitors and entry to the palace is free of charge, Saturday to Thursday
Shada Palace is located in Saudi Arabia’s city in the sky, Abha, and reflects the traditional architecture of the Asir region and the Kingdom as a whole.
It is one of the few historical buildings left standing in Abha and currently houses exhibits of handicrafts, old household items, antique coins, and early photographs depicting local life.
The palace, that stands prominently between modern buildings, was constructed in 1927 for the then-governor. The lack of windows and the high walls on the roof were designed to maintain privacy for female occupants. The residential quarters and living areas of the building are open to visitors and entry to the palace is free of charge, Saturday to Thursday.

This article was first published in Arab News

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OIC chief stresses women’s role in economic, social, cultural fields

Time: 09 July 2021

OIC Secretary-General Yousef Al-Othaimeen. (SPA)

Al-Othaimeen commends the unprecedented attention and time given to women issues in Saudi Arabia
OIC seeks to deliver a message to the world that the moderate Islam religion extremely values women, Al-Othaimeen says
CAIRO: OIC Secretary-General Yousef Al-Othaimeen commended the unprecedented attention and time given to women issues in Saudi Arabia during the eighth session of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) Ministerial Conference on Women.

Egypt hosted the conference on Thursday under the patronage of President Abdelfattah El-Sisi.

Al-Othaimeen said the conference was held at a time where women’s empowerment to take part in political, economic, social and cultural fields has become a must.

He praised the Kingdom for unlocking the full potential of women as a driving force for development across all areas of Saudi Vision 2030.

Al-Othaimeen thanked Egypt for hosting the session, which reflected the country’s concern to promote the comprehensive objectives of the OIC and strengthen the foundations of the joint Islamic work in women empowerment and other fields.

He added that the OIC seeks to deliver a message to the world that the moderate Islam religion extremely values women and considers them as an effective partner in different fields.

This article was first published in Arab News

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Saudi aid agency eyes 2,400 surgeries in fight against blindness in Yemen

Time: 08 July 2021


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KSrelief’s medical team in Aden has performed 286 surgeries so far. (SPA)

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KSrelief’s medical team in Aden has performed 286 surgeries so far. (SPA)

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KSrelief’s medical team in Aden has performed 286 surgeries so far. (SPA)

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KSrelief’s medical team in Aden has performed 286 surgeries so far. (SPA)

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KSrelief’s medical team in Aden has performed 286 surgeries so far. (SPA)


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KSrelief’s medical team in Aden has performed 286 surgeries so far. (SPA)

KSrelief medical team has performed 286 eye surgeries so far
Agency’s food relief and potable water programs also continuing
ADEN: The King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Center (KSrelief) is continuing its campaign in Aden to combat blindness and its causes, the Saudi Press Agency reported.

A KSrelief medical team has examined 309 patients, performed 286 surgeries, provided 286 pairs of glasses, and dispensed 286 prescriptions since the campaign was launched.

The campaign helps families and individuals of limited income who cannot afford treatment costs. It falls within Saudi Arabia’s projects, being implemented through KSrelief, to combat blindness in Yemen.

The aim is to perform more than 2,400 eye surgeries to combat blindness.


KSrelief’s medical team in Aden has performed 286 surgeries so far. (SPA)
Al-Jaada Health Center clinics in Yemen’s Hajjah governorate have continued providing treatment services for patients with the support of KSrelief.

In one week, the clinics received 1,809 patients with various health conditions, provided them with the necessary medical services, and dispensed 1,288 prescriptions.

KSrelief distributed more than 20 tons of food baskets to displaced and needy families in Al-Mahrah governorate, helping 1,100 individuals and 190 families, and provided services for a child soldier rehabilitation project in Marib governorate.

There were individual and group sessions, as well as activities in psychological, cultural, social, educational, and sports rehabilitation.

The project falls within the humanitarian inititatives being carried out by KSrelief to rehabilitate children recruited by the Houthis.


KSrelief’s medical team in Aden has performed 286 surgeries so far. (SPA)
KSrelief, in cooperation with the World Health Organization, also held a water quality monitoring training course in Aden governorate.

The two-day course aims to train 30 technicians and engineers from the National Water Authority, and its branches in a number of Yemeni governorates, on the use of water biological testing devices in areas with a high risk of communicable disease and acquiring water purification skills.

KSrelief handed over 11 biological devices to test and purify water and combat cholera to course participants.

This article was first published in Arab News

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Asir, Saudi Arabia’s summer destination for nature lovers

Time: 08 July 2021

Famous locations in the Asir region include Shada Palace, the mud-walled embodiment of traditional architecture
ABHA: In the high altitudes of Asir, green landscapes that stretch as far as the eye can see offer a unique connection with nature.
Asir topped the destinations announced by the Saudi Summer 2021 program launched by the Saudi Tourism Authority through the “Saudi Arabia Spirit” portal, under the slogan “Our Summer, Your Mood.”
The program began on June 24 and will last until the end of September. It includes 11 tourist destinations, with over 500 touristic experiences in cooperation with more than 250 partners from the private sector.
Famous locations in the Asir region, which can be accessed through roads paved between mountains and greenery, include Shada Palace, the mud-walled embodiment of traditional architecture, which has been turned into a museum.
As one explores the region, the archaeological village of Rijal Almaa appears from atop a hill with its immortal image that dates back over 350 years. The village retains its glory and beauty, illustrated by the white quartz that adorns its structures from the outside and merges into the rural scenery from afar, with the green terraces that extend along the mountains and on all edges.
Heritage is seen as an eternal symbol throughout the region, and this is reflected in its residents, who are proud of their deep-rooted sense of belonging to the land.
The small neighborhood of Al-Muftaha village is a distinct cultural center characterized by bright murals and narrow lanes with beautiful art.
Despite the ideal scenic landscape, the spirit of adventure remains the major motive for enjoying the trip.
Riding the cable car is one of the most enjoyable experiences in the Asir region, with panoramic views that will be remembered forever.
The cable car journeys between the mountains, traveling through four stations, the first based on the Abha Palace Hotel.
The new Abha cable car station, which heads toward the Green Mountain, is exciting in daylight and picturesque at night. The mountain is lit with green neon lights whose warm glow can be seen from all over the city.
The third station is the Al-Soudah cable car, which transports passengers from the Jabal Al-Soudah to the village of Rijal Almaa. The last station is the Habala cable car, which extends toward the old village of Habala, and is the only means of transportation since it can only be reached by cable car.
After experiencing the cable car, tourists can visit the high city linked to the summit of the mountain. Mountain rocks were carved into walls and sidewalks on which the city rests. The high city has recently flourished with cafes, restaurants, and various recreational activities that cater to everyone’s taste.
The Asir region offers a wide range of nature scenes every day depending on the light, wind or rain. The image of the earth changes from bright and glowing on clear days to refreshingly wet after rain, and the air tends to cool as people ascend the hanging roads that rotate around mountains.

This article was first published in Arab News

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Prince Faisal bin Farhan to UN: A culture of peace, justice and the rule of law at the heart of fighting terrorism

03/07/2021

Saudi Arabian Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan called on all member states to implement the UN goals stated in the Counter Terrorism strategy. (SPA)

  • Saudi Arabia has managed to “drastically degrade and defeat these terrorists,” FM told UN on Monday
  • UN chief said member states bear “the ultimate responsibility” to prevent technologies from falling into terrorists’ hands

NEW YORK: Saudi Arabia condemns terrorism in all its forms, Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan told the UN on Monday.

At the second UN High Level Conference of Heads of Counter Terrorism Agencies of Member States, Bin Farhan called on all member states and international and regional organizations to come together and implement the UN Global Counter-Terrorism strategy in the face of this “persistent challenge to international peace and security.”

The UN Counter-Terrorism Centre (UNCCT), of which Saudi Arabia is a founding nation, is celebrating its tenth anniversary and Bin Farhan told participants that the center remains a vital and supportive partner of the UN system in combating terrorism.

Saudi Arabia pays particular attention to the financing of terrorism, Bin Farhan said. For that, the Kingdom has ratified a number of bilateral, regional and international agreements and stepped up international legal cooperation in criminal matters related to terrorism and its financing.

This year’s conference theme, “Countering and Preventing Terrorism in the Age of Transformative Technologies,” highlights the fact that the threat of terrorism has evolved with technology, but also, as US Ambassador to the UN Linda Thomas-Greenfield put it, provides the opportunity to harness technology to counter terrorism and prevent violent extremism from taking root in communities.

“Terrorists (have) adapted,” said Thomas-Greenfield. “They use communication technology to enhance their networks, recruit and inspire supporters, disseminate propaganda, and challenge our ability to prevent acts of terrorism. (Increasingly) they’re using advanced technology to actually perpetrate criminal acts.”

The American envoy called for a new strategy that keeps up with the evolving landscape of terrorism.

Bin Farhan said that his country’s counter-terrorism approach goes beyond conventional measures to include countering terrorist cybercrime through “legal and technological” means.

“The National Cybersecurity Authority and the Intellectual Warfare Center are examples of national institutions established to address the root causes of extremism and terrorism, as well as the Global Center for Combating Extremist Ideology, which counters extremist ideologies using new and innovative methods including by analyzing extremist narratives,” he said.

The Saudi foreign minister also highlighted the memorandum of understanding (MoU) signed in April 2021 between the Global Center for Combating Extremist Ideology and the UNCCT which “shows the Kingdom’s commitment to supporting the international community’s effort in fighting the scourge of terrorism.

“Under the MoU the two centers will launch joint projects focused on capacity building, countering the use of internet for terrorist purposes, raising awareness among youth, promoting tolerance and supporting the victims of terrorism,” he said.

Bin Farhan also underscored his country’s attachment to the promotion of a culture of peace and dialogue. A case in point is the recent signing of an MoU between King Abdullah Bin Abdul Aziz International Center for Interreligious and Intercultural dialogue and the UN Alliance for Civilization.

Bin Farhan told the participants, which included the UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and the president of the General Assembly, Volkan Bozkir, that although the Kingdom has suffered from terrorist attacks, it has managed to “drastically degrade and defeat these terrorists.

“We have taken numerous counter measures at the national, regional and international levels and upheld international law and relevant resolutions on prohibiting actions such as committing, financing, inciting and participating in terrorist acts.

“We have also complied with all resolutions and decisions of international counter terrorism agencies.”

He called on member states to couple their access to counter-terrorism instruments with a “genuine desire to combat and eliminate this phenomenon,” and to devote more effort to the first pillar of the strategy: “Most importantly to education, development, justice and the rule of law, given their contributions to eliminating the root causes of the problem.”

He also stressed that a distinction must be made between terrorism on one hand and the right of people to self-determination, sovereignty and resisting foreign occupation on the other.

“Condemning terrorism must go as far as condemning terrorism committed by states,” he said.

Thomas-Greenfield warned that as the world’s counter-terrorism approach evolves, “we cannot waver on human rights and free expression. Because ultimately, our steadfast commitment to those rights and freedoms are our most powerful counter-terrorism tool of all.”

Guterres said that some progress has been made in the fight against terrorism but such progress has been “slow and not comprehensive.

“Years of increasing polarization, governance failures, and a normalization of hate speech have benefitted terrorist groups,” Guterres said.

“The threat stemming from white supremacist, neo-Nazi and other ethnically or racially-motivated movements is increasingly transnational. 

“It is also clear that terrorist groups will exploit hardships and inequalities related to the coronavirus disease pandemic.”

Guterres urged the international community to establish and strengthen “strong, just, and accountable institutions” as a pre-requisite to deny terrorists the space to operate, bring them to justice, and provide safety for the population.

To break the cycle of violence, Guterres called for the rehabilitation and reintegration of terrorists after serving their sentences. The secretary-general also called for a “human-rights reset” for counter-terrorism to avoid the latter being used to “infringe upon the rights and freedoms of people, the result (of which) is more alienation within communities and stronger terrorist
narratives.

He finally told member states that they bear “the ultimate responsibility to prevent technologies from falling into terrorist hands,” where social media is already being used to foster hate speech and violent ideologies, blockchain and ransomware to fund terrorists, commercial drones and 3-D printing to access weapons, and deep-fakes to stoke conspiracy theories peddled by terrorists.

This article was first published in Arab News

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Female workers help Saudi Arabia jobless rate hit five-year low

Time: 03 July 2021

The decline in the unemployment rate was helped by an increase in female participation in the workforce. (Supplied)

Economic and social reforms, pandemic response praised as experts hail rapid jobs growth
RIYADH: A rapid Saudi government response to the coronavirus pandemic, women’s active participation in the workforce and Vision 2030 economic reforms have been cited by experts as major factors in the Kingdom’s unemployment rate falling to its lowest level in almost five years.

The decline in the jobless rate comes as the Saudi economy begins to rebound from the pandemic and women join the workforce in record numbers.

The overall Saudi unemployment rate fell to 11.7 percent in the first quarter of 2021 compared with 12.6 percent in the last quarter of 2020, the General Authority for Statistics (GASTAT) said on Wednesday.

According to GASTAT, the joblessness figure is the lowest since an 11.6 percent rate in the second quarter of 2016.

The decline in the unemployment rate was helped by an increase in female participation in the workforce, which rose to 33.6 percent from 32.1 percent in the previous quarter.

The Kingdom is benefiting from a surge in investment as Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman seeks to diversify the economy under the Vision 2030 reform plan.

Economic reforms since 2016 have created millions of jobs, with plans to reduce unemployment to 7 percent by 2030.

Speaking to Arab News, economist Talat Zaki Hafiz said that unemployment in Saudi Arabia has fallen to its lowest level in almost five years for many reasons, including rigorous efforts by the government to Saudize most of the commercial sectors in private businesses.

HIGHLIGHT
The overall Saudi unemployment rate fell to 11.7 percent in the first quarter of 2021 compared with 12.6 percent in the last quarter of 2020, GASTAT said.

“Empowering women in the labor market and offering them a wider chance to work and participate more actively has reflected positively in unemployment sliding in the Kingdom,” he said.

“Today we have more and better Saudis to work in the private sector from the point of view of qualification or even willingness to accept the kind of jobs that were not appealing to them.”

Hafiz said that he was confident the Kingdom will reach its Saudi Vision 2030 target of 7 percent unemployment.

Dr. Osama Ghanem Al-Obaidy, adviser and law professor at the Institute of Public Administration in Riyadh, said: “Saudi Vision 2030 highlights the importance of raising the employment levels of Saudis. Despite the challenges posed by the pandemic, Saudi Arabia managed to lower its unemployment rate, while other countries suffered huge job losses.

“Policies implemented by the government were effective in avoiding an increase in unemployment rates,” he said.

Al-Obaidy said that employment programs and initiatives for young Saudis, especially women, and investments by the Saudi Public Investment Fund as well as economic reforms undertaken by the Saudi government have led to a lowering of the unemployment rate.

This is in addition to the support and incentive packages that the government provided to businesses and business owners to help avoid mass job losses, he said.

“The lowering of the unemployment rate in the Kingdom is a testament to the strength and resilience of the Saudi economy and its labor market,” Al-Obaidy added.

This article was first published in Arab News

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Who’s Who: Moudhi Al-Jamea, VP at Saudi Telecom Co. and dean of STC Academy

Time: 01 July 2021

Moudhi Al-Jamea

Moudhi Al-Jamea was recently appointed vice president of Saudi Telecom Co. (STC) and dean of STC Academy, STC’s technology and leadership academy. Previously, Al-Jamea was the acting dean of STC Academy and acting vice president of STC between January and June this year.

Al-Jamea was also the general manager of digital technology at STC Academy from February 2019 until June 2021.

She has a bachelor’s degree in computer and information systems from King Faisal University, a master’s degree in information technology and e-business from the University of Greenwich, and a doctorate in computer security and informatics from King’s College London.

After graduating in 2006, Al-Jamea took on the role of CEO at Superior IT Services for seven years. In 2013, while studying in the UK, she became the vice president of the Scientific Society for Saudi Students.

From 2015 to 2016, she was a member of the board of trustees behind the first Innovation and Entrepreneurship Prize for Saudi Students in the UK, aimed at encouraging students to participate in creative thinking.

She then worked as a security consultant partner at Ibtkar Strategic Consultancy, liaising between its offices in the UK, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia.

Al-Jamea has retained a career in education while completing her studies and acting as CEO. She began lecturing in 2010 at Imam Abdulrahman bin Faisal University in Dammam. In 2017, she became an assistant professor while also serving as president of the entrepreneurship and incubator unit. She is certified in ethical hacking from the EC-Council and in 2017 completed the women’s leadership program at Prince Mohammed bin Salman College of Business and Entrepreneurship.

This article was first published in Arab News

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