INTERVIEW: Female Saudi driver feels right at home at Diriyah E-Prix

21/02/21

Saudi driver Reema Al-Juffali

Formula 4 driver Al-Juffali has high aspirations as 2021 Formula E season gets underway
RIYADH: Ahead of the 2021 Diriyah E-Prix double-header on Friday, Arab News caught up with Reema Al-Juffali, one of Saudi Arabia’s rising stars in motorsports. Al-Juffali, 29, talked about Formula E, sustainability and her dream race.

Q: You made history in Diriyah by becoming the first female racer to drive competitively in the Kingdom during the Jaguar I-Pace. What did that moment mean to you?

That was a day of many firsts for me and one I will cherish for the rest of my life. It was my first time racing in an electric car and my first time racing in an international event on home soil, so it was truly a historic moment for me and my country. I was so fortunate to have the opportunity to race in front of home fans and it was the highlight of my career so far. Hopefully, there will be many more opportunities like this in the future.

Q: The Diriyah Circuit has become one of the more iconic circuits in Formula E. What do you think makes it so special?

The circuit has been hailed by many drivers as a very unique and challenging track to drive. I think part of this is because we have the world’s most modern motorsport taking place on a site that honors the Kingdom’s past. It is a very special combination. Racing in the heart of Diriyah gives you a very strong feeling of connection to our Kingdom’s history. For me, having never raced on a street circuit before, I had to adjust to being closer to the walls while driving an electric car but it is something I love and will never forget.

Q: Now in its third year, we have seen Saudis become more engaged with the Diriyah E-Prix. Can you tell us about the excitement you are sensing ahead of this year’s race?

The passion for motorsport in the Kingdom runs deep. Bringing events like Formula E to Saudi is very exciting for racing fans who are not familiar with street racing. I am also very proud of the first Formula E night race to take place at the circuit on home soil, which will be an incredible moment for the country and the sport. It is fantastic to see the organizers making the most of the global spotlight that motorsport brings. It will showcase some of the beauty of our land and our capacity to put on brilliant, world-class events.

Q: Formula E stretches beyond just sports, it also aims to promote a sustainable and clean future, which is in line with the Saudi government’s initiatives. How important is it for a sport to promote the sustainability message in the Kingdom and beyond?

Our country is on a journey toward sustainability. Formula E’s message for promoting a clean future complements the aspirations of Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030. As a driver, I feel a responsibility to spread awareness regarding the need for a more sustainable approach to everyday life. I am honored to be a part of this journey towards a more environmentally conscious future.

Q: You are currently competing in Formula 4. What are your aspirations for the future?

One of my ultimate goals in life is to race Le Mans with some of the best drivers in the world. But more than anything I just want to excel in my field, regardless of the category or the event. I want to feel proud of my performance. The sky is the limit.

This article was first published in Arab News

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Saudi Arabia opens military recruitment to women

Time: 21 February 2021

All applicants must have a clean record and be medically fit for service. (Supplied)

Defense Ministry adds extra criteria for female applicants; ranks from soldier to sergeant will be available

JEDDAH: Women can now join Saudi Arabia’s armed forces, following a ruling by the Saudi Ministry of Defense that opened the way for both genders to sign up through a unified admission portal starting Sunday.

Military ranks from soldier to sergeant will be available in the Saudi Arabian Army, Royal Saudi Air Defense, Royal Saudi Navy, Royal Saudi Strategic Missile Force, and Armed Forces Medical Services.
All applicants must pass admission procedures according to specified conditions, have a clean record and be medically fit for service. But some additional criteria have been added for female applicants.
Saudi female applicants must be between the age of 21 and 40 years old, have a height of 155 cm or taller, and cannot be a government employee. Female submissions must also hold an independent national identity card and have at least a high school education. Applicants married to non-Saudi citizens will not be accepted.
The age range for first-time male applicants is between 17 and 40 while their minimum height is 160 cm. There were mixed reactions to the ministry’s new unified recruitment standards.

FASTFACTS
• Military ranks from soldier to sergeant will be available in the Saudi Arabian Army, Royal Saudi Air Defense, Royal Saudi Navy, Royal Saudi Strategic Missile Force, and Armed Forces Medical Services.• Saudi female applicants must be between the age of 21 and 40 years old, have a height of 155 cm or taller, and cannot be a government employee.

• Female submissions must also hold an independent national identity card and have at least a high school education. Applicants married to non-Saudi citizens will not be accepted.

Operating systems specialist, Halah Al-Ynabawi, said Arab countries allowing women in the military has been a controversial topic over the past 30 years.
“But today, with the vision of King Salman, he has played a big role with the inclusion of women in all fields — governmental and now military,” she told Arab News.
“In my personal opinion, it is very important for women to be in the military, where they can have an active role in our conservative society.” Rahma Al-Khayri, an information technology specialist, shared a different point of view.
“Throughout history, we have not heard of a woman who came to the field and fought,” she said. “We always hear about women healing people, or perhaps monitoring supplies in the administration and in the control units. The man is the one who fights in the field.”

This article was first published in Arab News

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KSrelief sends 6th batch of Saudi medical aid to help Palestinians battle COVID pandemic

Time: 16 February 2021

Saudi Arabia’s King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Center (KSrelief) has delivered a sixth batch of medical aid to help limit the spread of COVID-19 to the Palestinian health ministry. (SPA)

Health Minister Mai Al-Kaila thanked Saudi king and crown prince for helping the Palestinian people
The shipment was organized in cooperation with the Jordanian Hashemite Charitable Organization

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Center (KSrelief) has delivered a sixth batch of medical aid to the Palestinian health ministry.
The shipment, organized in cooperation with the Jordanian Hashemite Charitable Organization, included medicines, equipment and other medical supplies to help limit the spread of COVID-19.
It was delivered by six convoys to the ministry via the Palestinian embassy in the Jordanian capital Amman, Palestinian Health Minister Mai Al-Kaila said. She thanked the Kingdom for its support, and praised King Salman, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and KSrelief for their efforts in sending aid to the Palestinian people.
KSrelief said: “This comes within the framework of the humanitarian aid provided by the Kingdom, through the center, to stand with brotherly and friendly countries and peoples in various crises and adversities.”

This article was first published in Arab News

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Haql, the perfect beach getaway at northern end of Saudi Arabia’s Red Sea coastline

Time: 15 February 2021

Sparsely populated, the area is prime location for adventurers and those wanting to camp out on one of the charming beaches of the area. (SPA)

Residents of Haql like to head to the Palm Garden, a park area that offers wonderful views of the Gulf of Aqaba and its surroundings

JEDDAH: With more than 1,000 miles of Red Sea coastline, one of Saudi Arabia’s northern-most towns has the potential to be a diving hotspot for residents of the Kingdom and beyond.

Haql, a city at the northern end of Saudi Arabia’s Red Sea coastline, offers many natural destinations, from tumbling cliffs and clear waters brimming with a thriving marine ecosystem to colorful coral reefs and white sandy beaches surrounded by mountains such as Jabal Al-Tayeb.
Sparsely populated, the area is prime location for adventurers and those wanting to camp out on one of the charming beaches of the area.
Near the city lies Ras Al-Mashee bay, a little known area that has attracted divers who swim round the half-submerged Georgios G shipwreck, known as the “Saudi Titanic,” and enjoy the array of fish and coral. The British-made cargo ship, which ran aground on the coral reef in 1978, is home to moray eels, lion fish, barracudas, sand tiger sharks and garden eels.

HIGHLIGHT
Haql, a city at the northern end of Saudi Arabia’s Red Sea coastline, offers many natural destinations, from tumbling cliffs and clear waters brimming with a thriving marine ecosystem to colorful coral reefs and white sandy beaches surrounded by mountains such as Jabal Al-Tayeb.

Waleed Bakhraibah, 43, an advanced-level diver, has visited the site more than 20 times in the past decade, bringing along his wife and eldest son just a few months ago. Bakhraibah, a government sector worker, often thought his young children would enjoy the many pristine beaches of the area.
“I’m still in awe of the quiet beauty that surrounds the inside of the ship,” he told Arab News. “The last time I visited, I tried to stay still and take it all in and everything around me, from fish to eels, just swam freely. I was merely an observer.”
Al-Sultaniyyah beach, 42 km south of Haql, has attracted a small but steady flow of tourists over the past few months with its crystal-clear and pristine waters.
Residents of Haql like to head to the Palm Garden, a park area that offers wonderful views of the Gulf of Aqaba and its surroundings. The garden abounds with palm trees, and has many areas for families and children.

This article was first published in Arab News

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KSrelief continues education projects in Burkina Faso

10/02/21

One of the programs implemented by KSrelief in partnership with the UNICEF is the Radio Education Program. (SPA)
Center is providing psychosocial support services to children in areas where schools are not available

RIYADH: The King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Center (KSrelief) is carrying out several programs in Burkina Faso to ensure child protection and enhance their access to basic education.
The number of direct beneficiaries of the program has reached 22,287 while 30,000 have benefited indirectly.
The center is providing psychosocial support services to children in areas where schools are not available.
One of the programs implemented by the center in partnership with the UNICEF is the Radio Education Program. The courses offered through the program target students aged between 10 and 17.
The number of students who benefited from the program has reached 11,600.
The program offers nine-month courses in various subjects. It mainly targets children living in the north central region of Burkina Faso and could not attend schools due to various reasons.
Since it was founded in May 2015, KSrelief has implemented 1,329 projects in 53 countries, worth more than $4.42 billion.
The countries that have benefited most from its work are Yemen ($3 billion), Palestine ($360 million), Syria ($296 million), and Somalia ($192 million).

This article was first published in Arab News

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Saudi legal reforms ‘to speed access to justice’

Time: 08 February 2021

  • Crown Prince says previous discrepancies in court rulings hurt many — especially women
  • Sweeping reforms will bring clarity and consistency to legal process

JEDDAH: Saudi Arabia is to implement sweeping reforms to the legal system to eliminate inconsistency, speed up verdicts and make the Kingdom’s judicial institutions more efficient.

At the heart of the reforms are four new draft laws — a Personal Status Law, a Civil Transactions Law, a Penal Code for Discretionary Sanctions, and a Law of Evidence.

The new laws would eliminate discrepancies and ensure consistency in court rulings, improve the reliability of oversight mechanisms, and clarify accountability, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman said.

The crown prince said discrepancies in court rulings had led to a lack of clarity, which had hurt many people, mostly women. “The absence of applicable legislation has led to discrepancies in decisions and a lack of clarity in the principles governing facts and practices,” he said.

“That resulted in prolonged litigation not based on legal texts. In addition, the absence of a clear legal framework for private and business sectors has led to ambiguity with respect to obligations.

“This was painful for many individuals and families, especially women. It also permitted some people to evade their responsibilities. This will not take place again.”

A previous draft Code of Judicial Decisions was insufficient to meet society’s needs and expectations, the crown prince said. The new draft laws will be submitted to the Council of Ministers for review before being sent to the Shoura Council, and are expected to be finalized this year.

The crown prince said the Kingdom had taken major steps in recent years to develop its legislative environment.  The aim was to preserve rights, entrench the principles of justice and transparency, protect human rights and achieve sustainable development.

The new laws adopt international judicial practices and standards in a manner that does not contradict Sharia principles, the crown prince said.

Saudi Justice Minister Dr. Walid bin Mohammed Al-Samaani, president of the Supreme Judicial Council, said the new penal code would enhance the application of justice in criminal cases.

It was based on strong legal principles and modern legal practice, he said, classifying crimes into different categories according to their nature, magnitude and consequences, and the penalties applicable in each case.

Saudi lawyer Dimah Al-Sharif told Arab News the reforms would “contribute to an unprecedented standardization of the system of rulings,” particularly in relation to family law. “We will bid farewell to the wide and indefinite scope of discretion that a judge enjoys,” she said.

At the moment, she said, there were often wide discrepancies in judicial rulings on different cases in which the facts and circumstances were essentially the same. The reforms, she said, “will play a huge role in empowering not only women, but the whole of society.”

This article was first published in Arab News

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Saudi Arabia’s Farasan Islands, the place to beat the winter blues

Time: 02 February 2021

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From mangroves to white sandy beaches, the islands are an ideal spot for bird watchers looking to get a peak at over 165 migrating birds. (SPA)

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From mangroves to white sandy beaches, the islands are an ideal spot for bird watchers looking to get a peak at over 165 migrating birds. (SPA)

  • The bright turquoise waters are also home to dolphins, over 200 types of fish and if lucky, visitors can catch a glimpse of the dugongs that are native to the area

JEDDAH: With most of Saudi Arabia’s residents reeling from the cold, the Kingdom’s southwestern islands are basking in the warm sun, enticing many to head south.
The small archipelago, made up of 84 coral islands, are approximately 40 km off the coast of Jazan in the Red Sea and is considered one of the Kingdom’s most pristine areas.
It was chosen as one of the Saudi Tourism Authority’s (STA) 17 Saudi Winter Season destinations.
From mangroves to white sandy beaches, the islands are an ideal spot for bird watchers looking to get a peak at over 165 migrating birds.
Divers make their way around the bright colored corals and wanderers look for glimpses of history hidden in the villages’ old stone buildings that dot the islands, including the remains of an ancient Ottoman castle overlooking the coastline.
The bright turquoise waters are also home to dolphins, over 200 types of fish and if lucky, visitors can catch a glimpse of the dugongs that are native to the area.

HIGHLIGHT

The small archipelago, made up of 84 coral islands, are approximately 40 km off the coast of Jazan in the Red Sea and is considered one of the Kingdom’s most pristine areas.

The weather is at its prime during the winter months. With a lower chance of rainfall and an abundance of sunshine, the temperature is perfect for a short trip over the weekend.
The STA has provided a wide variety of touristic activities within the Saudi Winter Season for citizens, residents and visitors of GCC countries, to create long-lasting memories and unforgettable family experiences especially during the wake of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.
In its effort to promote local tourism, the season, which will run until the end of March, provides visitors with more than 300 experiences and packages by over 200 tour operators and tourism companies.

This article was first published in Arab News

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The Place: Al-Nawras Island in Saudi Arabia attracts thousands of visitors every year

30/01/21

Launched by the Saudi Tourism Authority, the slogan for this year’s season, which runs until the end of March, is “Winter Around You”

Al-Nawras Island Saudi Arabia is home to many majestic beaches and enchanting islands along its Red Sea coast and Al-Nawras Island is considered one of the Kingdom’s gems.
Located in the governorate of Yanbu and highlighted among the Saudi Winter Season tourist destinations, the tranquil isle attracts thousands of visitors every year.
Most travelers are drawn to the island in search of relaxation and recreation. Visitors can enjoy Red Sea fishing trips, delicious meals in one of the numerous restaurants, or can simply camp under the stars.
Spread over 11 km, Al-Nawras Island has been developed by the Royal Commission for Jubail and Yanbu and boasts green spaces, fountains, and walking routes which are ideal for families. Paths are equipped with children’s games and also feature viewing areas offering panoramic photo opportunities.
Launched by the Saudi Tourism Authority, the slogan for this year’s season, which runs until the end of March, is “Winter Around You.” It has more than 17 locations throughout the Kingdom offering visitors in excess of 300 packages provided by 200 tour operators.

This article was first published in Arab News

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KSrelief teams perform 4 open-heart surgeries on children in Yemen

Time: 27 January 2021

The ‘Saudi Pulse’ program was launched in Yemen to provide healthcare to children belonging to low-income families. (SPA)

  • Under the program, the cost of the procedures and post-surgery care will be borne by the center

RIYADH: The King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Center’s (KSrelief) medical teams on Tuesday performed four open-heart surgeries and two cardiac catheterizations on children in the Yemeni city of Mukalla.

The surgeries were part of the “Saudi Pulse” voluntary program launched in Yemen to provide medical assistance to children belonging to low-income families.

Under the program, the cost of the procedures and post-surgery care will be borne by the center.

In the Marib governorate of Yemen, the center launched a project to empower and support orphans.

The project aims to provide integrated care for the families of orphans. The program will ensure healthcare services and access to education for these orphans.

In November 2020, the center signed an agreement, worth more than $600,000, with the International War and Disaster Victims Protection Association to help Yemeni orphans in Aden, Al-Mahrah and Marib governorates.

Winter aid

The center distributed 2,171 winter bags among families in parts of Jordan. These bags were in addition to 4,342 blankets distributed among the 2,171 families.

Since it was founded in May 2015, KSrelief has implemented 1,329 projects in 53 countries, worth more than $4.42 billion. The countries that have benefited most from its work are Yemen ($3 billion), Palestine ($360 million), Syria ($296 million), and Somalia ($192 million).

KSrelief’s 1,367 projects and programs cover 54 different countries around the world.

This article was first published in Arab News

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Exploring the hidden treasures of Saudi Arabia’s Mawan Valley

Time: 27 January 2021

The hidden Mawan Valley is considered to be one of the most important archaeological sites in Saudi Arabia. (Photo by Saeed Al-Qarni and Tareq Mohammed)

  • Archaeological missions reveal human presence in the region dating back to the Paleolithic Age and the Upper Paleolithic Age

MAKKAH: The hidden Mawan Valley is considered to be one of the most important archaeological sites in Saudi Arabia.

Located near the city of Ad-Dilam, south of Riyadh, it is also an area of stunning natural beauty.

Dr. Abdul Aziz Al-Ghazzi, a history professor and archaeologist, told Arab News: “There are two types of valleys: Ones that cannot be seen from a distance but only by standing at its head, such as Mawan Valley, and those that can be seen from a distance such as Wadi Al-Rummah, Al-Tiri and Al-Shawki.”

The majestic view of the valley consists of two stone structures on both sides. There are also remains of forts and castles and a pair of watchtowers reflect the strategic importance of the area due to its vegetation and water resources.

He said the valley cut west to east through a high plateau and was known for its depth and meanders.

“There are fortifications that are still standing at the main points of the valley. Along the valley there are flowing springs, crests, and bodies of water in solid lands that last for a long period of the year,” he added.

As well as Mawan, several other towns are dotted along the valley. Al-Ghazzi said: “We don’t know whether the town was named after the valley or the other way around. But, for sure, the valley existed before the town. However, the archaeological sites in the valley and on its sides have not yet been studied.”

Dr. Salma bint Mohammed Hawsawi, an associate professor of ancient history at King Saud University, told Arab News: “Archaeological missions revealed that human presence in the region dates back to the Paleolithic Age and the Upper Paleolithic Age — approximately 100,000 years ago.”

She said that Mawan, according to Arabic sources, meant place of shelter and pointed out that numerous Arab tribes, including the Hazzan and Rabi’ah, had lived in the area.

FASTFACTS

• The majestic view of the valley consists of two stone structures on both sides.

• There are also remains of forts and castles and a pair of watchtowers.

• The valley cut west to east through a high plateau and was known for its depth and meanders.

The valley was also mentioned in pre-Islamic Arabic poetry by writers such as Ibn Duraid, Imru’ Al-Qais, and Orwa ibn Al-Ward Al-Absi. “Poets wrote about it and the animals that were in the area, such as camels, zebras, and horses. The poets’ describing fresh water flowing in the area is evidence that humans inhabited it,” Hawsawi said.

Pottery vessels, bracelets, and soapstone (steatite) pots have been found in the area in addition to forts and watchtowers on the valley sides.

“There are two forts built of rocks and mud, and it is clear that the mud was brought from the floor of the valley, and the rocks were cut from the surface of the edge which extends to the south.”

She noted that the fort located in the southern part of the valley was a wall that resembled the Arabic letter “Baa.”

“The foundations of the wall were supported by stone slabs that are 60 to 80 centimeters high cut from the adjacent land. The wall is 6 meters high or even more. The towers are conical in shape, with their centers open to the bottom, and they seemed to be without a roof.

“As for the tower located in the eastern corner, it consists of two floors, each with its own function,” she added.

The building on the northern side consists of a yard surrounded by four connected but irregular walls, which also include a number of towers, she said, adding that some may date back to the first Saudi state.

Hawsawi said the watchtowers were used as observation posts to monitor the area and send military signals to the forts. The defensive fortifications were built to protect the region from foreign invaders.

Arabs used to move from one region to another in search of water, pasture, and stability. The apparent difference in the geographical nature of the Arab countries is the reason for the existence of two types of population: The Bedouins (nomads) lived in the desert, while the Hadaris preferred cities and worked in agriculture, trade, and industry, she added.

“We must preserve these relics to introduce future generations to the cultural heritage of our ancestors,” Hawsawi said.

This article was first published in Arab News

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