Fresh from collaboration with Net-a-Porter, Saudi fashion guru Norah Al-Eisa reveals career highs

Time: 27 May 2021

Based in Riyadh, she started her career as a fashion editor. (Instagram)

DUBAI: From reading her mother’s fashion magazines and playing dress up to international partnerships with leading global e-tailer Net-a-Porter, French luxury label Cartier, and more, Saudi fashion guru Norah Al-Eisa told Arab News how she was taking the fashion world by storm.

A stylist on the set of the film “Born a King,” she recently collaborated with Net-a-Porter on a live video session during which she shared her fashion tips and tricks of the trade with platform followers.

She pointed out that her passion for fashion had started at a young age.

“It came very organically to me as I grew up reading my mom’s fashion magazines and playing dress up with her clothes.

“As for the time I actually decided to pursue a career in fashion, it’s when I saw films like ‘The Devil Wears Prada’ and ‘13 going on 30’ where the main characters worked for fashion magazines,” she said.

Al-Eisa studied business administration but took “fashion business” and styling courses at London College of Fashion to broaden her knowledge.

Based in Riyadh, she started her career as a fashion editor, then dabbled in historical costume design before going on to style some of the biggest fashion and fine jewelry campaigns in Saudi Arabia.The influencer also regularly shares her fashion know-how and styling tips on social media through her Instagram account at @norahaleisa.

She noted that the Saudi fashion scene had been “almost nonexistent” until a few years ago. “But it seems to be thriving more and more lately and will only grow even more with the (Saudi) fashion commission. I hope to see a thriving fashion ecosystem in Saudi.”

However, her career comes with its challenges. “So many publications and brands expect freelance creatives to work for free in return for exposure when exposure should not even be considered a form of payment.

“It’s simply a given to provide credit. That being said, I am seeing more and more opportunities in the industry that offer sustainable wages and rates, and I hope it gets better from here,” she added.

Al-Eisa said she felt privileged to have a supportive family that had helped her along her chosen career path and being the stylist for “Born a King” had been one of the highlights and proudest moments so far.

The film tells the story of the late King Faisal who as a teenage prince was sent to London on a diplomatic mission to secure the formation of his country.

“It was the longest and most challenging project I’ve ever faced. I spent a whole year on pre-production working on the costume design for the film, so naturally finally seeing it at the cinema was a very emotional experience,” she added.

This article was first published in Arab News

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Saudi Arabia plans e-learning portal for kindergarten pupils

Time: 06 April 2021

Saudi Arabia’s new kindergarten e-learning portal will feature attractive and interesting tools that enable teachers to evaluate and enhance students’ basic skill

Abu Dhabi: Saudi Arabia will launch an e-learning portal for kindergarten pupils in the next academic year, local media reported.

Minister of Education, Dr. Hamad Al Sheikh, said the new portal would feature attractive and interesting tools that enable teachers to evaluate and enhance students’ basic skills.

The remarks were made on Monday as the minister honoured officials of the Madrasati e-learning platform, including the Public Education Agency, the E-Learning and Distance Education Department, the Digital Transformation Department, and the Cybersecurity Department, in appreciation of their efforts to render successful the distance learning process.

An online nursery, where children can learn by taking part in activities and watching videos on smartphones, has already launched in Saudi Arabia.

Children between the ages of 3 and 6 can log in to their nurseries on mobile phones and learn Islamic studies, play games, read stories and submit projects.

Through the virtual nursery, which is open to Saudi citizens and residents, children can access age-appropriate educational content similar to what is provided at schools.

“The children do not get direct support from teachers but can upload projects and work on the platform, which is assessed by a teacher.

As children cannot be exposed to smartphones for long periods of time, the application automatically shuts the child out after they have used it for an hour.

This article was first published in Gulf News

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Saudi Arabia’s revolutionary zero carbon city ‘The Line’ hailed as dawn of tech-based future

12/01/21

Saudi Arabia has placed foreign investment as a main focus in its plans for economic development. (SPA)

Saudis welcome plans for revolutionary zero carbon city
JEDDAH: Saudi officials and citizens have welcomed the Kingdom’s revolutionary zero carbon city, announced on Sunday by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.The city — named “The Line” — will be a car-free city within Saudi Arabia’s futuristic NEOM business hub along the Red Sea coast.

The construction is set to start in the first quarter of this year. It will allow 1 million residents to live in a “zero cars, zero streets and zero carbon emissions” city but around nature.

“It is a new era of civilization, a new model for a city which is clean, proper and with zero carbon,” Saudi economist Mazen Al-Sudairi told Arab News welcoming this major step. “This will improve the efficiency of humankind.”

He added that Saudi Arabia is moving toward a new data-based civilization as compared to the older civilization, which was built on the flow of water and vegetation.

Moreover, Al-Sudairi believes that this model will attract more foreign direct investment and provide a tech-based future.

Saudi Minister of Communication and Information Technology, Abdullah Alswaha, said on Twitter: “Saudi Arabia enters the great book of history as an innovative force for the 21st century.”

He noted that the city is moving to green and renewable energy, stressing that the region can exploit solar energy and winds by more than 70 percent, which makes NEOM one of the top three places around the world for energy efficiency.

In addition, NEOM also has the capability to produce green hydrogen, he told Al-Arabiya on Monday.

HIGHLIGHTS

• The construction is set to start in the first quarter of this year.

• The city will receive huge cloud computing investments, amounting to more than $1.5 billion.

• It will allow 1 million residents to live in a ‘zero cars, zero streets and zero carbon emissions’ city but around nature.

He added that the futuristic city will receive huge cloud computing investments, amounting to more than $1.5 billion.

The crown prince said the backbone of investment would come from Saudi Arabia and the Kingdom’s sovereign wealth fund — the Public Investment Fund — and local and international investors for the NEOM project.

Saudi Arabia has placed foreign investment as a main focus in its plans for economic development.

Even in light of the global economic tension resulting from the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, foreign investment in the Kingdom jumped by 2 percent in the third quarter of 2020, Al-Eqtisadiah reported.

Saudi Deputy Defense Minister Prince Khalid bin Salman, said on Twitter: “It is one of the major projects that places people first and employs technology to serve societies.”

The project is a direct response to some of the vital challenges facing humanity, such as infrastructure, pollution, traffic and human congestion, NEOM said.

Education Minister Hamad bin Mohammed Al-Asheikh also welcomed the announcement saying: “The crown prince’s global vision for The Line places the humans’ life, health, environment, productivity and entertainment first.

“The project is characterized by the principles of global humanity, economic diversity and artificial intelligence, and the enhancement of research and innovation opportunities for the future industry.”

This article was first published in Arab News

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Saudi Arabia in partnership deal with UN agency to empower children in cyberspace

Time: 18 December 2020

Keeping children safe in cyberspace is a key priority. (AFP)
  • Program’s launch reinforces crown prince’s international initiative to protect youngsters

JEDDAH: Saudi Arabia on Thursday signed a cybersecurity cooperation deal with a specialist UN telecoms agency to help strengthen child online safety.
The strategic partnership agreement was inked between the Saudi National Cybersecurity Authority (NCA) and the UN’s International Telecommunication Union (ITU) to coincide with the launch of a global program to create a safe and prosperous cyberspace for children.
NCA Gov. Khalid bin Abdullah Al-Sabti and ITU’s telecommunication development bureau director Doreen Bogdan-Martin penned the accord at the union’s headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland.
Delegates from both sides attended the ceremony, including the Kingdom’s permanent representative to the UN in Geneva, envoy Dr. Abdul Aziz Al-Wasel, and deputy governor of the NCA for international cooperation, Majid bin Mohammed Al-Mazyed.
The program launch will reinforce Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s international initiative to protect children in the cyberworld, announced in February at the Global Cybersecurity Forum in Riyadh.
The agreement will focus on developing best practices, policies, and programs to protect children against increasing cyber threats targeting them while using the internet. It will also provide guidance on keeping children safe in cyberspace via at least 50 global training programs offered in the UN’s official languages of Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Russian, and Spanish.
More than 500 open consultation sessions will be held to follow up on the implementation of the program.
Trainers around the world will be advised on how to implement guidance and develop mobile apps and entertaining educational games that would contribute
to achieving the aims of the scheme.
The program will also support countries in evaluating, developing, and improving relevant policies, launching awareness campaigns, enriching discussions on child protection in developing nations, and establishing task forces to help countries set up child protection programs.
ITU secretary-general, Houlin Zhao, praised the Kingdom’s role in supporting international activities to protect children in cyberspace.

This article was first published in Arab News

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Saudi Arabia among top 10 countries in digital literacy: WEF report

Time: 17 December 2020

The report recognized the importance of digital transformation in the recovery of countries. (File/Shutterstock)
  • The Global Competitiveness Report this year focused on how countries are adapting to the changes brought by the COVID-19 pandemic

DUBAI: Saudi Arabia ranked among the top ten countries in digital literacy in a report by the World Economic Forum, the Saudi Press Agency has reported.
The Kingdom joins other developed nations in the list of countries whose “active population possess sufficient digital skills,” including Singapore, Denmark, and Finland leading the pack.
The Global Competitiveness Report this year focused on how countries are adapting to the changes brought by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The report recognized the importance of digital transformation in the recovery of countries, particularly noting four factors including digital legal framework and the flexibility of work arrangements.
“The impact of the pandemic crisis should serve as a wake-up call for countries that need to embrace the digitalization process, incentivize companies to move towards digital business models, and invest in ICT development and digital skills,” the report said.

This article was first published in Arab News

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The traditional Bedouin coat is a Saudi’s best friend in the cold December nights

14/12/20

Niclas Trouve, ambassador of Sweden to Saudi Arabia, Oman and Yemen, tweeted recently: ‘Ready for a winter night in the desert of Al-Jouf with my new warm farwa.’ (Twitter photo)
  • Farwas won’t give you the cold shoulder in winter

RIYADH: As the nation moves into the winter season, many Saudis have begun packing away the sundresses and shorts and reaching for their sweaters and thermals. But one of the most highly coveted articles of winter clothing is the traditional Bedouin farwa.

Farwas are believed to have originated from Syria and Levant where Bedouins would wear them during the cold winter months.
The long, sweeping, fur-lined overcoat has now established a firm foothold in countries all over the Gulf.
It is a staple in many Saudi households, particularly in the northern and central regions where the biting desert cold can reach surprisingly low temperatures.
Farwas range in material from cheaper offerings, lined with synthetic fur with a protective cloth overlay of linen, velvet, or cotton, to pricier options, such as those made with real fur or hand-dyed sheep’s wool, which can set you back more than $250.
Ahmad Alsharif, a resident of Turaif in the northern province, told Arab News that, living in a town where the average winter temperature can be as low as -5C, he considers a farwa an essential household item.
“During winter, people in the cities wear farwas both at home and when going out. For the Bedouins who live outside of the city, the farwa is even more of a necessity, given how cold it gets in the desert,” he said.
Alsharif said that a real fur farwa can be considered a luxury item or a statement piece among residents in the north. “They make very popular gifts for friends and loved ones,” he said. One of the most favored types, and the most expensive due to its soft touch and light weight, is the karakul, made from the fur of fetal lambs, commonly known as broadtail, or of new newborn lambs. Similar but cheaper is the “Persian” farwa, which is less dense.

FASTFACT

Farwa is a staple in many Saudi households, particularly in the northern and central regions where the biting desert cold can reach surprisingly low temperatures.

Other types include the Iraqi farwa or “Mosuliya Iraqia,” a native of northern Iraq and one of the more expensive types that could reach up to over $1,000. Similarly, the hand embroidered Syrian farwa could reach up to $400 and can take up to 2 weeks to be designed and made.
Faisal Althunayan, a college student from Riyadh, said that getting to show off his collection of farwas was his favorite part of the winter season.
“My friends and I are avid campers; in the winter, we go for a kashta (traditional Saudi camping trip) almost every weekend. Sitting around the fire, grilling burgers and kebabs on an open flame, and huddled up against the cold while bundled up in our furs is my idea of heaven on earth,” he said.

Saudi Tourism Minister Ahmed Al-Khateeb

Althunayan says that due to the relative shortness of the winter season in Saudi Arabia, every second of cold is one that he appreciates.
“Our winters aren’t long, so we take advantage of them when we can. And despite what most people think, desert cold is actually some of the worst you can experience because the cold is very dry. Hits you right in the bone. A farwa is really helpful during those moments,” he said.
Though the farwa’s purpose remained the same, the styles have become more versatile as more city dwellers have taken to them and designers are adding their personal touch using leather, fabrics and ornaments for their designs.
The traditional-looking farwa, which is usually a nondescript black or brown with minimal decoration, is turned into stunning, modernized pieces for both men and women to flaunt.
Bright colors, delicate trims and decorations, and even shorter, jacket-like farwas have all found their way into mainstream culture.
Hana Abu Said, a Saudi abaya designer, said that farwas were one of her favorite things to design.
“There’s so much you can do with them. The challenge lies in making sure the article is functional as well as beautiful. It has to do what a farwa is supposed to do first and foremost — keep you warm. As long as the purpose is achieved, it can look however you want it to look,” she said.
“Some women choose to wear a farwa instead of an abaya during the winter. And sometimes, with the excess fur, I can trim winter abayas for those times when the weather is cool, but not yet cold enough for a full-on farwa.”

This article was first published in Arab News

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Saudi Arabia improves rank in Global Knowledge Index

11/12/20

Saudi Education Minister Hamad Al-Sheikh. (SPA)

RIYADH: The Kingdom has been ranked in 42nd place out of 138 countries in the Global Knowledge Index. The UN index measures education, research and development and innovation around the world.
Saudi Education Minister Hamad Al-Sheikh said that the ranking represented important progress compared to previous years, where the Kingdom had advanced 10 and 24 places compared to its rankings in 2019 and 2018 respectively.
Al-Sheikh said: “The Kingdom has made a quantum leap in this indicator at the international level in seven areas, namely pre-university education, technical and vocational education and training, higher education, research development and innovation, information and communications technology (ICT), economy and enabling environments.” He added: “The Kingdom’s overall index (50.9) is nearly four points higher than the international average, with an international average of 46.7.”
The minister underlined that the achievement came at a time when education continues to achieve globally advanced positions according to international indicators, thanks to the support that the Saudi leadership accords to the education sector so as to achieve global leadership.
Al-Sheikh said that the Kingdom scored 68.5 in the field of technical and vocational education and training index, while the international average was 50.8.
In the research and innovation index it scored 29.7, while the international index averaged 26. The Kingdom’s index in the higher education surpassed the international index by one point, scoring 41.3 against 40.3.

This article was first published in Arab News

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Saudi Arabia in top 20 list for coronavirus research globally

Time: 08 December 2020

A Saudi nurse checks a patient’s temperature at a mobile clinic catering for the residents of Ajyad Almasafi district in the holy city of Mecca. (AFP)
  • Saudi researcher discovers low-cost early detection method for COVID-19

JEDDAH: Saudi Arabia’s commitment to global research on the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) spans several fields, with one receiving a US patent and trademark for early detection methods.

According to Saudi Education Minister Dr. Hamad Al-Sheikh, Saudi Arabia was ranked first in the Arab world and 17th globally for Saudi universities’ efforts to publish research on COVID-19, accounting for 1.8 percent of global research production.
Drawn from the Kingdom’s MERS experience, a number of COVID-19-related scientific findings and publications were readied and published in record time.
An innovative COVID-19 detection and diagnostic method by one Saudi researcher was registered at the US Patent and Trademark Office. The method uses a low-cost technology and produces results in record time, without using polymerase chain reaction (PCR) analysis.
Speaking to Arab News, Dr. Hani Abdullah Al-Hadrami, a consultant and associate professor of molecular diagnostics and medical biotechnology at King Abdul Aziz University in Jeddah, explained that the idea behind his innovation focuses on the development of an economical, sensitive and rapid diagnostic platform for the detection of COVID-19.
“The novel platform is a simple diagnostic sensor that can be used by unskilled personnel, such as nurses in the field, or that can be employed in a physician’s office,” Al-Hadrami said. Explaining the method, he said that the sample is directly applied to a sensing platform without the use of any processing equipment and is low in cost, compared to PCR analysis. This technology replaces the need for specialized laboratories and devices to detect COVID-19. It can also be carried to public places where tests and results can be ready in a few minutes.

FASTFACT

An innovative COVID-19 detection and diagnostic method by one Saudi researcher was registered at the US Patent and Trademark Office. The method uses a low-cost technology and produces results in record time, without using PCR analysis.

“The technology requires neither medical experts nor specialized laboratories to operate it. It is easy to use in airports, for example, to examine pilgrims who come to visit Makkah and Madinah before they can reach the holy sites. It would be useful during Hajj and in any public places where people normally gather in large numbers,” he added. “We have identified and validated a probe, which is specific for COVID-19 and which will be integrated with conventional and commercially available fluorometers to be used as a screening assay to make it durable and portable so it can be carried in hospital emergency rooms and clinics.”

Al-Hadrami pointed out that the proposed platform will offer a low-detection limit that will meet the infectious dose and eliminate laborious lab-processing techniques.
“It will encourage the development of new technology that provides low-cost, in-situ testing to facilitate treatment, both saving time and enabling the correct action to be taken with minimal interventions,” he said.
Al-Hadrami noted that this integrated approach will result in cost-efficient, rapid and accurate detection of COVID-19 with immediate, targeted treatment, eliminating the need for any sample processing.
“This innovation will show the whole world that Saudis, like any other scientists in developed countries, have contributed to finding innovative solutions for the detection and diagnosis of COVID-19,” he said.
“This will greatly help in controlling the virus and preventing its spread by identifying infected people. When manufactured and produced, this technology will make a great return on the local national economy as it is exported to countries across the world,” he said in a tweet.

This article was first published in Arab News

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Saudi Arabia, Google partner in plan to ‘level-up’ Mideast

18/10/20

Lino Cattaruzzi, managing director for Google in MENA. (Supplied)

  • The program includes cloud training for local businesses, as well as workshops on advanced digital skills, such as a machine learning platform that will teach about 140,000 developers with a focus on women

DUBAI: Several Saudi ministries have teamed up with tech giant Google to launch a set of projects aimed at helping the Kingdom’s economic strategy and digital transformation.

Google said the initiatives will focus on Saudi Arabia and the MENA region and will boost economic recovery amid the coronavirus pandemic. The program, named “Grow stronger with Google,” will include a comprehensive list of digital tools, grants and training opportunities to support local businesses and job seekers across the region. In the Kingdom, Google will target the retail, tourism and technology sectors, including Saudi Post, which will list 100,000 local entities on the company’s digital platform and train employees in online marketing.
“We are proud to partner with Google in this initiative to bring value to Saudi nationals, residents and local businesses, especially SMEs through bringing them together using the Google ‘My Business’ platform,” said President of the Saudi Post Anef Abanomi.
“Through this partnership we aim to list up to 100,000 businesses in the first phase in line with Saudi Post’s strategic transformation objectives to improve quality of life and help SMEs achieve their e-commerce and digitization goals,” he added.
Lino Cattaruzzi, managing director for Google in MENA, said in a press release: “During the pandemic, online tools have been a lifeline for many in Saudi Arabia. Making the most of the online opportunity can help Saudi people, businesses and communities and in the wider region bounce back stronger.” He said the program will equip businesses and individuals in the Kingdom with digital skills, especially in sectors that have been most affected by the pandemic, such as retail and tourism.

HIGHLIGHT

In the Kingdom, Google will target the retail, tourism and technology sectors, including Saudi Post, which will list 100,000 local entities on the company’s digital platform and train employees in online marketing.

The tech giant has also partnered with several Saudi bodies — including the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology and the Ministry of Tourism — to implement the programs. One project is set to train 50,000 students and businesses in digital marketing.
“We remain fundamentally optimistic about the future of this region, and we’re confident that by working together with local partners, we can boost recovery and build on the rapid acceleration of tech adoption we’ve seen during the crisis,” Cattaruzzi said.
The program also includes cloud training for local businesses, as well as workshops on advanced digital skills, such as a machine learning platform that will teach about 140,000 developers with a focus on women.
Google said it wants to help 1 million people and businesses throughout the MENA region learn digital skills and grow businesses by the end of 2021.

This article was first published in Arab News

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Saudi megaproject NEOM to build world’s smartest city

Time: 13 October 2020  

Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Sport signed an MoU with NEOM to help it become a global destination for sporting activities. (SPA)
  • The NEOM CEO said the cooperation with the Sports Ministry aims to create a vibrant environment to attract global talent from around the world

RIYADH: Saudi Sports Minister Prince Abdul Aziz bin Turki Al-Faisal and NEOM CEO Nazmi Al-Nasr signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) at the ministry’s headquarters in Riyadh on Monday.
The ministry will cooperate with NEOM to help the world’s smartest city become a global destination for various physical and electronic sports.
The sports minister vowed to continue the development of the sports industry in the Kingdom. He said the Kingdom is working relentlessly to ensure a sustainable environment for athletes.
The NEOM CEO said the cooperation with the Sports Ministry aims to create a vibrant environment to attract global talent from around the world.
He said investments in the sports sector are growing significantly in the Kingdom.
“The memorandum will allow exploring all possible opportunities and building sports entities that will help empower the Saudi youth and NEOM resident,” he said.

This article was first published in Arab News

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