Poll shows rising drug use, mental health fears

Arab youth report an increase in the use of illegal drugs in the region and are concerned about mental health. (Shutterstock)
Updated 01 May 2019

Poll shows rising drug use, mental health fears

  • Young Arabs thought that stricter laws and more enforcement would help to stop the spread of drugs, with smaller numbers opting for awareness and counseling

DUBAI: Two new features in the Arab Youth Survey this year will give regional policymakers food for thought: The increasing use of illegal drugs in the region, and concerns about mental health and how it is treated in the Arab world.
Despite the universal criminal status of illegal drugs and strong penalties for their use in almost all of the countries polled, many young Arabs reported that drug use was on the rise, and drugs were easy to obtain in their countries.
A total of 57 percent of respondents said that more drugs were being used and that they were easy to get hold of. Even in the GCC, where most said that drugs were hard to obtain, only 30 percent said that drug use was in decline.
More than three-quarters of those polled in the Levant (76 percent) said drug use was on the rise, as well as 59 percent in North Africa. 
Encouragement by friends at school and work, stress and boredom were cited as the top three reasons for the increase.
Young Arabs thought that stricter laws and more enforcement would help to stop the spread of drugs, with smaller numbers opting for awareness and counseling.
While the poll results on mental illness were less clear-cut, there was still widespread concern among young people about its incidence in their societies. Half of those polled said there was a stigma attached to mental health issues.
Only 31 percent said they knew of someone facing mental health issues, spread evenly across the three sub-regions. But 54 percent said that qualified medical care was difficult to access in their countries. In the strife-torn Levant, 81 percent said it was difficult to get proper care.
What causes the stress many young people suffer differed across the region. In the GCC, personal relationships were cited as the biggest source of stress, followed closely by academic factors.
In the Levant, however, respondents cited lack of national safety and security as the major cause
of stress.


Three soldiers executed for treason — Saudi defence ministry

Updated 56 min 27 sec ago

Three soldiers executed for treason — Saudi defence ministry

RIYADH: The Saudi Ministry of Defense has announced the execution of three soldiers - Mohammed bin Ahmed bin Yahya Akam, Shaher bin Isa bin Qasim Haqqawi, and Hamoud bin Ibrahim bin Ali Hazmi on charges of high treason, Saudi Press Agency, SPA reported.
The soldiers were convicted of cooperating with the enemy in a way that violated the Kingdom’s military interests, and were sentenced to death. the report said. 
Denouncing the three convicted, the ministry reaffirmed its confidence in the men of the armed forces “who took their oath and sacrificed their blood to preserve the security and stability of Saudi Arabia.”


Film AlUla to boost Saudi film industry

Updated 10 April 2021

Film AlUla to boost Saudi film industry

  • New film commission will shine a light on Saudi Arabia by attracting international producers

DUBAI: A new regional film commission is launching in Saudi Arabia, Film AlUla, which is being set up by the Royal Commission for AlUla in the northwest region of the country.

Located 1,100 kilometers from Riyadh, AlUla is a place of natural beauty and heritage. It is home to Saudi Arabia’s first UNESCO World Heritage Site, Hegra, which is a 52-hectare ancient city.

AlUla is also home to other historical and archaeological sites, including an old town surrounded by an ancient oasis and the Lihyan Kingdom, which is considered one of the most developed cities of the first millennium B.C. in the Arabian Peninsula.

Extreme E, the off-road electric race championship, will hold this year’s inaugural race in AlUla.

Arab News spoke to Stephen Strachan, film commissioner at Film Alula, to learn more.

Give us a little background on AlUla’s new film commission, Film AlUla. 

Film AlUla is a new regional film office, established in 2020 and launched officially earlier this year by the Royal Commission for AlUla at the Berlin International Film Festival. It was met with a positive reaction from both the film industry and international media.

Film AlUla has been tasked with the mission of promoting the county of AlUla as a filming destination and attracting local, regional and international productions to shoot films, TV series, commercials and documentary projects. The Film AlUla team is made up of local and international industry professionals who offer a range of services, expertise and resources to support production projects in AlUla. 

A view of an old town in ALUla surrounded by an ancient oasis. (Supplied)

What is Film AlUla’s objective? 

We have a range of objectives. Firstly, we want to attract production companies to shoot film projects in AlUla so as to showcase this county of outstanding natural beauty and cultural significance, which has, until recently, remained undiscovered by filmmakers and the world at large.  

This in turn will encourage tourists from around the world to visit AlUla, and to discover the region and the rest of the country, in support of Saudi Arabia’s 2030 vision. Developing our film industry also puts us in a position to shine a spotlight on the wealth of Saudi talent and to provide a platform to champion and support emerging and established creatives here.  

We aim to build a film hub centered in AlUla that generates local and regional employment and educational opportunities for those interested in pursuing a career in the film industry.  

What is the investment in the film and production industry in the city?

AlUla has been identified as one of Saudi Arabia’s most promising destinations. We are confident that the stunning landscapes, wide range of diverse locations and millennia-old archaeological sites will attract film productions and make AlUla a major filming destination. Preserving our heritage sites and landscapes remains a priority in AlUla and the sustainable building of our local screen industries.

A robust financial strategy is in place to make the AlUla region the Kingdom’s cultural capital. Archaeological, cultural and touristic complex plans are underway so we can support film productions with world-class infrastructure and a range of accommodation options, from luxury and unique hotels to eco-friendly, desert canyon resorts, designed to raise the profile of AlUla on the international stage.

What are the incentives being offered to producers?

Production companies are encouraged to get in touch with the Film AlUla team directly to discuss our financial incentives. 

Production companies can also benefit from a range of incentives such as free bespoke production support; location scouting; expert knowledge of filming in AlUla and the rest of Saudi Arabia; assistance in sourcing equipment and professional crew locally and regionally; and, of course, year-round sunshine.

With a temperate climate nine months of the year, AlUla presents filmmakers with an uninterrupted extended period of time during which to shoot their productions. 

What are the procedures and guidelines for local and foreign companies to shoot their productions in AlUla?

We are very excited to open AlUla’s doors to film production and share with the world the wealth of beauty, history, and diversity on display here. We welcome all types of production, and as a member of the Association of Film Commissioners International (AFCI), we follow best practices as laid out by the AFCI.  

We have a very effective regulatory system in place that is simple and straightforward to ensure production and crew have all the necessary permits in place. Hosted on our website is a Film Production and Location guide that provides a comprehensive overview of all the benefits of choosing AlUla as your production destination. Of course, preserving and protecting our landscape and heritage remain paramount. And, for anyone interested in filming in AlUla, we suggest you reach out to us so we can support you during every step of the process and ensure a successful and enjoyable filming experience.

For more information, please visit filming.experiencealula.com.

Can you comment on the Extreme E races being filmed in AlUla?

We are thrilled to be the first location featured in the inaugural Extreme E five-stop global race next month, designed to highlight the impact of climate change and promote switching to electric vehicles to protect the planet.  

AlUla will make for an extraordinary and thrilling backdrop for the event. And with Extreme E set to be aired around the world, this is the perfect opportunity to capture the attention of global audiences, enabling them to see the majestic, cinematic landscapes and breathtaking natural wonders of the region for themselves.


Who’s Who: Prince Waleed bin Nasser Al-Saud, founder and CEO of Mukatafa

Updated 10 April 2021

Who’s Who: Prince Waleed bin Nasser Al-Saud, founder and CEO of Mukatafa

Prince Waleed bin Nasser Al-Saud is the founder and CEO of Mukatafa.
Mukatafa is a Saudi firm that, according to its website, aims to “build an ecosystem of collaboration between the private and public sectors that empowers Saudi Arabia to grow as a prosperous nation with a sustainable future,” in line with the goals of Saudi Vision 2030.
Prince Waleed has previously served as CEO for a group of private business initiatives in the Kingdom, vice president of the People and Shared Services department at McDonald’s, Saudi Arabia, and vice president of marketing and business development at NAFA Enterprises, a Saudi holding company.
Prince Waleed is also a member of several business groups, including the Restaurant and Cafes Association (Qoot), the Grocery Store Association (Mo’an), and the Fashion, Jewelry and Beauty Association (ZY).
He sits on the supervisory committee of the Trade Franchise Center at the Small and Medium Enterprises General Authority and is on the board of directors at both Alfa Co. for Operation Services and Tamkeen Human Resources. Additionally, he is a member of the advisory committee for investment in the municipal sector and a member of the commercial committee in the Riyadh Chamber.
Prince Waleed holds a bachelor’s degree in marketing, graduating with honors from the University of Tampa in Florida, and a master’s degree in accounting, graduating with honors from King Saud University, Riyadh. He also holds certificates in advanced leadership, strategic management, project management, and human resource management programs.


Islamic Development Bank president receives Chinese envoy to Saudi Arabia

Updated 10 April 2021

Islamic Development Bank president receives Chinese envoy to Saudi Arabia

The president of the Islamic Development Bank, Bandar Hajjar, met in his office the Chinese ambassador to the Kingdom, Chen Wei Cheng, the Saudi Press Agency reported on Friday.
They discussed partnerships between China and the bank, in its member states, in a number of fields, including the transfer of knowledge and expertise, science, innovation, scholarships and laboratories.

Prophet’s Mosque in Madinah prepares for Ramadan amid pandemic

Updated 09 April 2021

Prophet’s Mosque in Madinah prepares for Ramadan amid pandemic

  • Three million bottles of Zamzam water will be distributed to worshipers and visitors during Ramadan
  • Each worshipper will be individually presented with dates and water for Iftar

MADINAH: The General Presidency for the Affairs of the Prophet’s Mosque is intensifying efforts to prepare the mosque ahead of the holy month of Ramadan in line with COVID-19 precautionary measures.
Only people who have received two doses of a coronavirus vaccine or have recovered from the virus or have had one shot of a vaccine more than 14 days prior to visiting the mosque may visit or pray in the Rawdah, Saudi Press Agency (SPA) reported.
The Rawdah lies between the Sacred Chamber (known as the Prophet’s house), and the Prophet’s Minbar (pulpit).
Each person’s vaccination status will need to be registered on Saudi Arabia’s COVID-19 app, Tawakkalna.
Three million bottles of Zamzam water will be distributed to worshipers and visitors during Ramadan which amounts to 100,000 bottles of water per day, the presidency said.
Each worshipper will be individually presented with dates and water for Iftar and social distancing is to be observed at all times.
Arranging and distributing sahoor meals in the mosque’s courtyards is prohibited, the presidency said.
Itikaf (staying in a mosque for a certain number of days whilst devoting oneself to worship) will be suspended for the second year running due to the pandemic.
Worshippers are also required to use the national parking app “Mawqif” to facilitate their exit from the mosque.
Ramadan 2021 is due to start on either Monday or Tuesday in the Kingdom.