RIYADH: Announcing the opening of the VisitBritain office in Riyadh, Ambassador Simon Collis on Monday said it would boost the number of Saudi visitors to the UK.
He said the office is located on the British Embassy premises, and will be headed by Bader Al-Mandeel, a Saudi who will coordinate its activities throughout the Kingdom.
Collis said 99 percent of Saudi applicants are given UK visas without any problems.
“These visas were given in a period of five days,” he said, adding that the consular section has introduced a “super priority service” that will enable applicants to get their visa on the same day.
“The opening of the new VisitBritain office in Riyadh builds on a century of strong trade and cultural relations,” said Collis. “Every year Britain welcomes more and more Saudis, with thousands visiting on business, for tourism or to study. I would strongly encourage Saudis to go and see for themselves everything that the UK has to offer.”
VisitBritain director for Asia Pacific, Middle East and Africa, Sumathi Ramanathan, said: “Saudi Arabia is one of Britain’s most important and fastest-growing outbound markets. The appointment of Bader Al-Mandeel to head VisitBritain’s operations signals VisitBritain’s strong commitment to the market. We value the support of our media, travel trade, airline and social media partners, and Bader’s presence in the market will help us further build on these important relationships.”
Saudis are among the UK’s highest-spending visitors, spending on average £3,769 ($4,705) per visit. They also stay longer than other international visitors, with an average stay of 18 nights.
Research by VisitBritain shows that Saudi visitors are interested in luxury shopping and enjoy Britain’s high-end department stores and outlet shops, with more than 60 percent likely to have shopped at an outlet or department store during their visit.
Saudi Arabia is one of Britain’s top 10 most valuable inbound visitor markets, with spending forecast to reach £772 million in 2020. In 2015, there were 147,000 inbound visits from Saudi Arabia to the UK, with visitors spending £556 million.
The appointment of Al-Mandeel follows the development of a partnership with Al-Tayyar Travel Group Holding Co. that includes a campaign to promote London, Manchester and Edinburgh. The campaign will offer exclusive summer family travel packages to the UK, and an upgrade to visa processing via UK Visa and Immigration.
RIYADH: Announcing the opening of the VisitBritain office in Riyadh, Ambassador Simon Collis on Monday said it would boost the number of Saudi visitors to the UK.
RIYADH: German Ambassador Dieter W. Haller has hailed the election of Frank-Walter Steinmeier as the new German president. He said that, “he is one of the most experienced politicians in Germany and has always been engaged in building bridges between nations and cultures. This is a good day for Germany and German democracy.”
The German Federal Convention has elected Steinmeier by an overwhelming majority to become the country’s new president.
Steinmeier, Germany’s former foreign minister was elected Sunday in Berlin with 931 of the 1,260 votes. The special election assembly is made up of the 630 lawmakers in parliament’s lower house and an equal number of representatives from Germany’s 16 federal states. Steinmeier’s term of office as president begins March 19.
In his acceptance speech, Steinmeier stated that during hard times, and when the world is facing instability, Germans can count on the solidarity of society. He added: “This country is a beacon of hope for many people around the world. Germany encourages people, not because everything is going well, but because we demonstrated that things can improve.”
The members of the Bundestag and the representatives of the 16 federal states joined outgoing President Joachim Gauck and Chancellor Angela Merkel in congratulating the newly elected president.
Merkel lauded the election of Steinmeier as president, “I am convinced that he will be an outstanding president,” she said.
Steinmeier started his political career in 1996 as undersecretary of state and director of the State Chancellery of Lower Saxony. He was appointed in November 1998 as an undersecretary of state at the Federal Chancellery as Gerhard Schröder took office as Chancellor.
On Nov. 22, 2005 Steinmeier became minister of foreign affairs and served until 2009, he also acted as vice-chancellor from 2007 and 2009. In 2009, Steinmeier was elected to the Bundestag and also became chairman of the SPD’s parliamentary group. After the elections of 2013 and the formation of a new grand coalition government, he was appointed as foreign minister for the second time in December 2013. He left his position in December 2016 and is succeeded by the current foreign minister Sigmar Gabriel.
During his time as foreign minister, Steinmeier visited the Kingdom five times. Moreover, he also traveled to Saudi Arabia as part of an official visit as chairman of the SPD´s parliamentary group in 2012.
His last visit to the Kingdom as foreign minister was in February 2016, on the occasion of the Opening Ceremony of Al Janadriyah Festival with Germany as the guest of honor. During his visit, he met King Salman as well as high-ranking Saudi officials.
JEDDAH: Engaging more women in the workforce in Saudi Arabia is a key pillar in turning the recommendations of Vision 2030 into reality.
Shahd Attar, a Saudi young professional who co-founded the “CellA Network,” utterly disagrees with the saying: “Women are their own worst enemy.”
She told Arab News: “It makes me sad when I hear this (saying). In CellA (a network for professional women in Saudi Arabia), the idea is to surround yourself with positive energy by meeting other women who are encouraging, who believe that when they see you succeeding in your organization, it’s a success for all women.”
CellA, which means “connection” in Arabic, is the brainchild of Attar and her partner Ghada Al-Arifi.
Since they started the non-profit initiative in 2011, they have managed to connect qualified, talented women with employers who wish to utilize their skills and create a gender balance in the workplace. They hold regular meetings in Jeddah, Riyadh and the Eastern Province.
Since the beginning of the 2000s, the number of working women has been increasing in Saudi Arabia.
According to the Labor Ministry, as of 2016 there were 477,000 Saudi women working in the private sector.
The number is set to rise further following Vision 2030, which states that a major goal is “to increase women’s participation in the workforce from 22 percent to 30 percent” by 2030.
“Sometimes we have companies who are looking to implement (Vision 2030) and hire more women, but they ask: ‘Where are the women? We can’t find women’,” said Attar.
“That baffles me, because through this network I’ve met so many talented women who are ambitious, well-educated and want to find rewarding careers.
“So there’s a gap. I hope CellA is filling at least a small part of that gap to help women find rewarding careers and pursue their dreams.”
Attar’s career in the male-dominant field of information technology (IT) drove her to stand for all working women in her society. She believes the great thing about technology is that “it levels the playing field.”
Recruiters need hard work and talent, but she thinks Saudi society still has a long way to go to encourage more women in STEM fields (science, technology, engineering and math).
After finishing high school, she could not find an engineering school that enrols women. So she went to Dar Al-Hekma Private University for women in Jeddah and studied management information system (MIS), which she thought was “a great place to grow and flourish.”
She then pursued a master’s degree in business, specializing in entrepreneurship and technology management at the University of Waterloo in Canada.
Being a working mother with two children, she chose to do another master’s degree in software engineering and take evening classes at Prince Sultan University in Riyadh, where she is now finishing her thesis.
In 2006, she started working in business operations at Cisco in Riyadh, staying there for 10 years before joining the Saudi Telecommunication Co. (STC) as the female segment’s consumer insights manager.
“We’d like to have a better flow of opportunities where women can get the same access to opportunities,” said Attar.
“If she’s looking for a job, if she’s an investor and looking for business ideas, or if she’s a business owner and looking for clients, we’re creating a platform for women to empower and enable each other. We’re developing an environment where women help women.”
CellA invites inspirational figures who broke the glass ceiling to speak about their stories. They have invited businesswoman Lubna Al-Olayan and Nahed Taher, CEO of Gulf One Investment Bank.
“What I’m most proud of is that a lot of these women come out of these events with very powerful positive energy that they see other women who’ve done it,” said Attar.
“They feel inspired and learn from others, or they find a woman to hire or a partner, so it’s amazing what stories have come out just by enabling these women to meet and help each other.”
The initiative also run development workshops where small groups of women strengthen their networking and self-introduction skills.
“We offer a safe environment where you can practice, and other women you trust can give you feedback, so you can feel more confident,” said Attar. “The more you know about people and what they can do, the better you can recommend them.”
The meetings are for women only, but men can support them by recruiting, sponsoring meetings and recognizing talented women.
The challenges faced in the technology job market are that women need the right training and internships to become favored candidates.
“I think women need more experience in technology in order for them to develop their talents,” said Attar.
Her experience in IT was enhanced by joining internships at Cisco, developed by a Saudi management that focused on both men and women.
“I wish more companies would take on the challenge of inviting interns and giving them real projects to work on.”
JEDDAH: A specialized criminal court in Riyadh put on trial a Saudi doctor accused joining terrorist organizations in Syria and treating their wounded.
The defendant was a lecturer in the Faculty of Medicine in a Saudi university.
The bill of indictment by the Bureau of Investigation and Public Prosecution includes the defendant’s support for terrorist organizations involved in the fighting and traveling to Syria in order to support the militants and treat their wounded fighters, and meeting with terrorist leaders.
The bill of indictment includes creating a Twitter account in order to facilitate the travel for fighting, storing materials that threaten public order and possession of a Kalashnikov automatic weapon while he was staying in Syria. The defendant allegedly sold it when he returned to the Kingdom.
The prosecutor requested in the list of indictment to penalize the doctor, confiscate his assets and to prevent him from traveling. The defense requested a grace period to submit a defense.
The case is not the first one involving a Saudi doctor joining a terrorist organization in Syria. A Saudi doctor was killed in 2014 after he joined Daesh in Syria and Iraq, where he was treating the wounded militants.
A photo of the doctor was found in which he was holding an automatic weapon and wearing a black surgical gown.
JEDDAH: Indian Consul General Noor Rahman Sheikh met with prominent Indian community members at the consulate on Sunday.
The meeting was organized to reach out to community members to seek their suggestions for redressal of grievances and steps to be taken for quick delivery of consular services.
Sheikh briefed community members about the e-migrate system, which is in place for registration of workers, housemaids, etc., going to the Kingdom for employment. He conveyed the highest priority that India’s government attaches in extending services to community members with full transparency.
As suggested, the consulate will put up an additional suggestion box at the reception area for suggestions and feedback. There was also a suggestion to conduct a job fair at the consulate for the community, which will be explored further.
RIYADH: The Knights of Rizal — Riyadh Chapter will soon launch a project to further institutionalize the works and ideas of Dr. Jose P. Rizal, the Philippine national hero.
Resty S. Sibug, chapter commander, told Arab News that five Philippine international schools in the Saudi capital have agreed to collaborate in the project.
He said the project involves a bust of Rizal to be located in what is called “Rizal’s Corner” inside the school building or campus.
Sibug said the busts will come from the Knights of Rizal’s headquarters in the Philippines.
The project also involves books containing Rizal’s works, such as articles, poems, novels and essays.
Sibug said the Knights of Rizal — Riyadh chapter, chaired by Philippine Embassy Charge d’Affaires Iric Arribas Cruz, deemed it proper to enlist the schools to propagate the teachings of Rizal among children.
He said children should know about the national hero, who could be a good example for them and whose teachings could be adopted by them so they become good citizens when they grow up.
Aside from the project, expected to be launched in April, the Knights of Rizal — Riyadh chapter has been conducting academic contests among Philippine international schools in Gulf countries.
With members contributing money, the contests are held in Bahrain during Ramadan.
The five schools that have signaled their intention to cooperate in the project are the Elite International School (EIS), Palm Crest International School (PCIS), Al-Danah International School (ADIS), Al-Taj International School (ATIS) and International Philippine School in Riyadh (IPSR).
Considered a genius because he spoke several languages, Rizal was born on June 19, 1861, to Francisco Mercado and Teodora Alonzo. He was executed on Dec. 30, 1896, because of his writings.
RIYADH: A Sri Lankan guest of King Salman at this year’s Janadriyah festival told Arab News the annual event is a must for anyone interested in a glimpse of Saudi Arabia.
“As the guests of the king, we were well looked after by the authorities and were given an audience with the monarch,” said Rizmi Reyal, managing director of the Traveler Global in Colombo, adding that the festival provides a comprehensive picture of Saudi Arabia.
He said Muslim guests were allowed to perform Umrah on completion of their visit to Janadriyah.
“Two of us came from Colombo for this memorable experience,” he said, adding that he was able to witness the unprecedented enthusiasm of visitors and exhibitors at the festival.
“I heard a great deal of improvements had been made to the festival, and this year, under the able guidance of King Salman, it has attracted more local, regional and global visitors.”
The Janadriyah heritage and culture festival in Riyadh City District is a showcase for crafts from across the Kingdom organized by the National Guard.
It celebrates the cultural traditions that unite the country, while also revealing the regional differences that create the distinctive character of Saudi individuality
The festival includes displays of regional architecture, cuisine, crafts, markets, dances and folklore. It lasts approximately two weeks and takes place in the winter, when the weather is cooler.
There are working displays of carpet-weaving, pottery-making and woodcarving from different regions.
Arabian dancers and singers provide entertainment while reviving the traditional songs of different regions. There are also displays by the armed forces, and displays of traditional swords and daggers.
The Janadriyah site is 30km northeast of Riyadh on Al-Janadriyah Road.
JEDDAH: The Pakistan Repatriation Council (PRC) held a symposium entitled “Kashmir and the obligation of the Muslim world” in solidarity with Kashmiris fighting for self-determination.
Saudi columnist and former diplomat Ali Al-Ghamdi presided over the event.
Other guests and speakers included Mohammed Jamil Rathore, secretary-general of the Pakistan Journalists Forum; Tayyab Moosani, secretary-general of the Pakistan Memon Association; Mohammad Riaz Ghumman of the Kashmir Committee; Shamsuddin Altaf of the Pakistan Peoples Community; and scholars and community leaders Mohammad Ashfaq Badayouni, Tariq Mahmood and Mohammad Amanatullah.
Al-Ghamdi thanked the PRC for organizing the symposium on the important Kashmir issue.
He said it is an old and unresolved issue like Palestine, adding that India should give Kashmiris the right to self-determination as stipulated by the UN, which is essential for peace in the Indian subcontinent.
He urged the secretary-general of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) to take the lead in solving issues facing the Muslim world, and to press the UN and global powers to play their role in solving conflicts in Kashmir, Palestine, Pakistan, Syria, Yemen, Myanmar and elsewhere.
PRC Convener Syed Ehsanul Haque said: “Quaid-e-Azam declared Kashmir as the life line for Pakistan so we must have to take it seriously and act.”
Journalist Syed Musarrat Khalil conducted the symposium and also presented a write-up on Kashmir.
Poet Zamurrad Khan Saifi and Sher Afzal presented poems in honor of the struggle of the Kashmiris.
RIYADH: The NRI Forum Riyadh and Bazm-e-Rabab-e-Sahra honored a promoter of Urdu in Riyadh, two Urdu poets and a journalist.
Mir Ahmed Ali, who plays an important role in promoting Urdu language and literature in Riyadh, Urdu poets Hashmat Siddiqi and Malik Mohiuddin, and journalist Mohammed Saifuddin were honored for their contributions and services in their respective fields. Mohiuddin and Siddiqui recited their poetry highlighting the situation in Syria.
Editor of the Hyderabad Express, Mohammed Tajammul Ali Khan, introduced Saifuddin and emphasized his journalistic accomplishments.
Bilingual in English and Urdu, Saifuddin started writing for newspapers and magazines when he was at school.
Mohiuddin, Siddiqui and Ali are returning to India permanently.
The two honorees and Mir Ahmed Ali are returning back to India permanently.
Abdul Hameed, general-secretary Hindustani Bazm-e-Urdu and former president Bazm-e-Urdu Toastmasters Club, presented a memento of appreciation to Mir Ahmed Ali.
Mohammed Quaiser, president, Tanzeem Hum Hindustani and Osmania University Alumni Association Riyadh, presented an appreciation award to poet Malik Mohiuddin.
Ozair Ghazi, former president, Bazm-e-Urdu Toastmasters Club, presented a memento to another poet Hashmat Siddiqui.
Journalist Mohammed Saifuddin received a memento of appreciation from Mir Firasat Ali Khusro.
Khursheedul Hasan Nayyar, general-secretary Bazm-e-Rabab-e-Sahra, welcomed the gathering and introduced the award winners.
Chief Guest Iqbal Aijaz Baig congratulated all the award winners and wished those who are returning home well.
Abu Nabeel Khaja Masihudin conducted the proceedings, while Hafiz Mohammed Shahid Ali Khan recited Qur’anic verses.
Sayeed Mohiuddin, acting president NRI Forum Riyadh, expressed vote of thanks.
JEDDAH: Just like many Saudi children who grew up in the 90s, Arabic dubbed Japanese animations influenced Mohammad Makki as a child and paved the way for his filmmaking career.
Makki, 28, is a Saudi filmmaker with Indonesian roots. He got into the Comic Con world when he was around the age of 6, as he used to read manga comics such as “Dragon Ball Z” in Indonesian, in addition to watching Arabic dubbed Japanese anime cartoons “Plawers Sanshiro,” “Future Boy Conan” and “Romeo’s Blue Skies.”
Makki is filming his new comic show named “Mas7our” or “Bewitched.” He is also the director and producer of the YouTube show “Takki,” a Saudi TV drama centered on the lives of six characters living in Jeddah, and is currently working on the third and final season.
The concept of “Mas7our” was inspired the well-known X-Men character.
“The idea came when I was chilling with my friends and we talked about why there is no Saudi superhero,” Makki said. “We want to create a story that has a universal theme with a local Saudi touch.”
The idea of “Mas7our” was born and will soon come to light with the help of his friends Bador Al-Hethell, Jotaro, and Adham Adel, Makki said in an exclusive interview with Arab News.
Makki does not want capes made of shimagh (headwear for men) nor sirwal and fanelah (traditional underwear for men) as a costume. “We want Mas7our to be a simple concept with compelling and rich characters with superpowers.”
The story will set in modern day Jeddah, where the events will take place between the young Saudis and the clergies or religious police.
The story will show how these two groups of people work together on solving the mystery of a sudden wave of superpowers.
“Of course, like any other drama it needs obstacles and conflict between them, but nothing to an extent that would cause controversies or divides in the real life,” Makki said.
Every group will be presented decently, as no group will be presented in a demeaning way. Makki revealed that the show will have dark moments, but, like any other drama, it all will be resolved.
“It’s a choice between normal life and extraordinary life,” Makki added.
“It’s a choice between being extremely talented and not. It’s a choice between following your deep beliefs and others. Between what you want to do and what you should do. Between what you personally want and what the world needs.”
Makki has never participated in any comic con event before, but he attended Dubai’s Middle East Film & Comic Con Festival (MEFCC) in 2015.
Makki was thrilled to receive the invitation to speak at Saudi Comic Con, which kicks off Thursday. “It is overwhelming,” he said. “It makes me proud and happy. (I) hope it happens every year, as it gives the boys and girls (the opportunity) to create and show their work.”
Makki said that he is not very much involved in the local comic community, but he knows Mohammad Tamimi from Medina who writes and distributes a Shonen Jump Comic journal (manga anthology) published in Saudi Arabia, where there are three small manga stories in one book and collaborating with other manga creators, according to Makki who is fascinated by his work.
As for the international celebrity guests who will be joining the first Saudi Comic Con event, Makki expressed his excitement abut meeting the three announced celebrities: Mads Mikkelsen, Julian Glover and Giancarlo Esposito. “I’m honored to see them. We watch these guys on TV all our lives and [now] we get to see them in real life. It’s too good to be true. Hopefully, in the near future, they’d even film productions here in Saudi.”
Every Saudi child has grown up watching Japanese animations dubbed in Arabic, and Makki is expecting a good number of people to show up for the three-day event.
One of Makki’s biggest supporters is his wife who is also a filmmaker studying at Effat University. He sees a potential talent in his wife “she’s becoming excellent in her skills every day. [She is] very passionate, always trying new things.” he said proudly about his life partner who also shares the same passion.
“She will be someone really great in the Saudi film industry one day.”
Makki advised comic amateurs who aspire to get their works out there to keep creating and posting their works on Instagram. Making money, in the beginning, may be not an option, but they should never neglect their creation. “Have a job somewhere else, keep creating on the side and share it with the world. Work on it hardly that one day it becomes your full-time job,” he said.