Study to assess Makkah pilgrims’ commitment to anti-virus measures

(SPA)
Short Url
Updated 11 November 2020

Study to assess Makkah pilgrims’ commitment to anti-virus measures

  • The team will be conducting scientific field research dealing with high and low crowd flows

JEDDAH: Pilgrims performing Umrah at the Grand Mosque in Makkah are being monitored for adherence to coronavirus disease (COVID-19) precautionary measures as part of a study aimed at improving the quality of service offered to worshippers.

A team of crowd management experts from the holy city’s Umm Al-Qura University are focusing their research on circumambulation areas around the Kaaba during the third phase of the gradual resumption of Umrah.

Led by Dr. Bader bin Saud Al-Saud, the university’s assistant professor of crowd studies, the team will be conducting scientific field research dealing with high and low crowd flows and their impact on Umrah performers’ commitment to COVID-19 safety rules in the mataf area around the Kaaba.

Team members Dr. Bader bin Mohammed Al-Salami, Eng. Muhammad bin Nasser Al-Abdali, and Eng. Osama bin Mansour Al-Hujaili will gather data through close observation of a fixed group of Umrah worshippers.

The pilgrims chosen to take part in the study will be monitored for social distancing, how close they get to each other when breaking the rules, and other health protocols.

Selected Umrah performers from the Kingdom and abroad will also be asked to complete an online questionnaire as part of the study program.

It is hoped that the findings of the research team will help toward improving the quality of service provided to pilgrims performing Umrah rituals at the Grand Mosque during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.


How language and culture became pillars of Saudi-China friendship

Updated 18 sec ago

How language and culture became pillars of Saudi-China friendship

  • Celebration of Chinese New Year as part of Riyadh Season marked the start of a new era in bilateral relations
  • Exchanges of books, artistic fusions, and a cultural cooperation award have helped cement the relationship

RIYADH: Since Saudi Arabia and the People’s Republic of China formalized diplomatic relations in 1990, cultural ties between the two countries have blossomed into a robust relationship based on mutual respect.

Affirming the importance of this deep friendship, the iconic Boulevard Riyadh City in February this year celebrated Chinese New Year as part of the Riyadh Season entertainment festival.

The colorful occasion was attended by Chen Weiqing, the Chinese ambassador to Saudi Arabia, officials from the embassy, and a large number of visitors.

The celebration took several forms across the Boulevard zone. All its screens were lit red by midnight, displaying beautiful Chinese cultural images such as traditional houses and red lanterns, with congratulatory remarks written in Chinese, Arabic and English.

On the occasion Weiqing told Arab News: “The Spring Festival is the most important traditional festival for the Chinese people. The Boulevard Riyadh City lights up the symbolic red color of China, letting the Chinese people around the world feel the cordial greetings and best wishes from our Saudi friends.”

He added: “This is a great honor to celebrate our Lunar New Year, and we hope in this new year we will strengthen our bilateral relationship and friendship in different fields. This is the beginning of a new cultural era in bilateral relations. We have a lot of common principles, now we have a very strong cultural linkage, so I think in the future China and Saudi Arabia will be one of the closest partners.”

Further strengthening the cultural bonds, the world premiere of “Nine Songs” last Saturday filled the Saudi city of AlUla with excitement, with every seat occupied at the outdoor Wadi Al-Fann venue.

Created especially for AlUla by Rui Fu, the Chinese musician, vocalist and artistic director, “Nine Songs” brought together a world-class ensemble of performers from across the globe. Fu’s vocals were accompanied by new compositions played on violin, harp, dulcimer, oud, guqin and taiko drums, with remarkable costumes, scenery and lighting adding to the theatrical display.

Fu’s new work is inspired by the Chu Ci (Songs of Chu), an ancient anthology of Chinese poetry from the first century B.C., while also responding to AlUla’s stunning geological structures.

In June this year King Fahd National Library in Riyadh added to its collection Chinese books donated by the National Library of China.

The books — covering subjects including history, economics, tourism and culture — are distributed in Arabic and English. They include literature on the Chinese language and some for children, which serve as an opportunity for Saudis to become familiar with the country and its culture.

Dr. Mansour bin Abdullah Al-Zamil, secretary of the King Fahd National Library, said: “We attach great importance to strengthening cooperation in the cultural field with the National Library of China.”

In July this year China’s Sinopec, one of the largest energy and chemical companies in the world, gifted 2,000 books on Chinese culture to King Fahd National Library.

It was marked in a ceremony attended by senior officials from both countries, including Beijing’s ambassador, who inaugurated the Chinese books corner at the library.

The section was established by Sinopec as part of its mission “to offer a window on China for Saudi citizens, provide reference books for students, beneficiaries, and graduates, and provide support for teaching Chinese in the Kingdom.”

Significantly, Saudi Arabia announced a cultural cooperation award with China on the occasion of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s visit to the country in February 2019.

Prince Badr bin Abdullah bin Farhan, the Saudi minister of culture, announced the “Prince Mohammed bin Salman Award for Cultural Cooperation between the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the People’s Republic of China.”

The announcement was made during Prince Badr’s visit to the King Abdulaziz Public Library at Beijing University. The library was inaugurated in 2017 by King Salman during his official visit to China, when the monarch was also awarded an honorary doctorate.

The cultural award honors outstanding Saudi and Chinese academics, linguists and innovators. The categories include for the best scientific research in the Arabic language, artistic creative work, translation of a book from Arabic to Chinese and vice versa. In addition, there are prizes for personality of the year and the most influential personality in cultural circles for the year. The awards form part of the common objectives of both the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 and China’s Belt and Road Initiative.

“This partnership in the name of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is an embodiment for joint commitment to building cultural bridges between the two countries, developing the cultural exchange and enhancing artistic and academic opportunities for our citizens,” the minister has said.

During the crown prince’s 2019 tour Saudi Arabia and China agreed to include the Chinese language as part of the curriculum at schools and universities in the Kingdom. 

The agreement came during a meeting between the crown prince and a high-level Chinese delegation in Beijing, in a bid to strengthen bilateral friendship and cultural cooperation.

The inclusion of the Chinese language is aimed at enhancing the cultural diversity of students in the Kingdom. It is an important step toward opening new academic horizons for students of various educational levels, will serve as a bridge between the two people, and promote trade and cultural ties.

Moreover, King Abdulaziz Public Library in April this year signed a memorandum of understanding with the Bayt El-Hekma Chinese Group as part of the two nations’ cultural cooperation. The MoU includes joint translations and publications, mutual visits, and the holding of scientific meetings and specialized exhibitions.

Prince Badr held a virtual meeting with the Chinese ambassador in April 2021 to discuss ways to enhance Saudi-Chinese cultural exchange, including with regard to the Prince Mohammed bin Salman award and the Saudi-Chinese Cultural Year initiative.
 


Saudi Arabia and China: Chronicle of a strategic partnership

Updated 50 min 12 sec ago

Saudi Arabia and China: Chronicle of a strategic partnership

  • Leaders have worked steadily since the establishment of diplomatic relations to strengthen bilateral ties
  • President Jiang Zemin became the first Chinese head of state to visit Saudi Arabia in 1999

RIYADH: China’s President Xi Jinping embarks on an official visit to Saudi Arabia on Wednesday at the invitation of King Salman, during which the leaders of both countries will attend a Saudi-Chinese summit, a Gulf-Chinese summit, and an Arab-Chinese summit for cooperation and development.

Since diplomatic ties were established more than three decades ago, the leaders of both Saudi Arabia and China have worked steadily to develop and enhance the bilateral relationship. Here is a timeline of some of the key developments in the Saudi-Chinese relations.

Former Chinese president Jiang Zemin became the first head of state from the country to visit the Kingdom in 1999. (AFP/File)

The two countries established diplomatic ties in 1990.

Nine years later, China’s President Jiang Zemin became the first Chinese head of state to visit the Kingdom. The high point of the 1999 visit was the signing of the Strategic Oil Cooperation agreement.

In 2004 Saudi Arabia and China initiated a series of regular political meetings. Sinopec, the Chinese state-run energy company, signed an agreement to explore for gas in the Kingdom’s Empty Quarter.

Saudi Arabia’s King Fahd welcomed Jiang in 1999. (AFP/File)

Two years later, King Abdullah became the first Saudi head of state to visit China officially and sign several major agreements on energy cooperation.

The 2006 visit served as an opportunity to discuss broader issues of economic trade, technical accords and a vocational training agreement, and to finalize an urban-development loan from the Saudi Arabian Development Bank for China’s Xinjiang province.

The same year, China’s President Hu Jintao paid a return visit. He predicted that bilateral relations would “write a new chapter of friendly cooperation between China and Saudi Arabia in the new century.”

Saudi Arabia’s King Salman visited China in 2017. (AFP/File)

He and King Abdullah signed several agreements for energy exploration and security. King Abdullah adopted a pro-Asian “Look East” trade policy, with more than half of Saudi oil exports going to Asia.

In 2008, when a devastating earthquake hit China’s Sichuan province, Saudi Arabia demonstrated its support by pledging $50 million of cash aid and $10 million of materials.

In 2009 President Hu visited Saudi Arabia for a second time, during which he and King Abdullah discussed international and regional issues of common concern.

Former Chinese president Hu Jintao also toured the Kingdom in 2006. (AFP/File)

The year 2014 saw Saudi Arabia emerging as China’s biggest supplier of crude oil while the value of bilateral trade reached $69.1 billion.

Three years later King Salman visited China to cement Saudi ties with the world’s second-largest economy. The 2017 signed saw deals worth $65 billion being inked.

In 2019, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman visited China as part of a tour of Asia. He met Chinese President Xi Jinping and other high-ranking officials.

As both countries had their own long-term strategic development plans — China with its Belt and Road Initiative and Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 — the two leaders expressed their willingness to collaborate on connecting their initiatives.

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman met Chinese President Xi Jinping and other high-level officials in Beijing in 2019. (AFP/File)

They signed a cooperation agreement for the enhancement of research and studies in the maritime-transport industry.

The Saudi crown prince also agreed to allocate $10 billion to establish a refinery and petrochemical complex in China.
 


How China’s Xi Jinping became the embodiment of a new, multipolar world

Updated 06 December 2022

How China’s Xi Jinping became the embodiment of a new, multipolar world

  • Xi Jinping’s rule likely to prove transformative as China eyes title of world’s pre-eminent economic power
  • Since taking power in 2013, Xi has pursued what he has called a “great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation” 

RIYADH: When Xi Jinping became China’s president in 2013, the world’s most populous country had already emerged as the second-biggest economy and appeared poised to reset the global geopolitical balance.

Nearly 10 years into his premiership, Xi has cemented China’s place as a regional power, expanded Chinese influence in Central Asia and Africa, and made enormous strides in everything from robotics and artificial intelligence to space exploration.

China today has the world’s largest internet infrastructure, with the number of users increasing from 564 million to 1.03 billion over the past decade, and a robust digital economy, which has increased in value from 11 trillion yuan ($1.6 trillion) to 45.5 trillion yuan.

In that time, China’s GDP has grown from 53.9 trillion yuan to 114.4 trillion yuan, now accounting for 18.5 percent of the world economy. Meanwhile, average life expectancy has risen to 78.2 years, and around 100 million people have been lifted out of poverty.

Over the course of his lifetime, Xi has borne witness to China’s transformative rise, from the first tumultuous decades after the communist revolution of 1949 to the nation’s rapid ascent to superpower status.

Xi was born in Beijing on June 15, 1953, the son of Xi Zhongxun, a senior Communist Party official, one-time deputy prime minister, and former guerrilla commander in the civil war that brought the communists to power.

As the son of a senior official, Xi spent his early years among China’s elite. However, in 1969 at the age of 15, Xi was among the many educated urban youths who were sent to live and work in the countryside during the Cultural Revolution — a period of immense social upheaval.

Xi would remain in the remote northeastern village of Liangjiahe, in Shaanxi province, for seven years, learning firsthand how the majority of his countrymen lived and worked. While there, Xi joined the Communist Youth League and then, in 1974, the Communist Party of China.

In 1975, Xi returned to Beijing to study chemical engineering at the prestigious Tsinghua University. It was the following year, on Sept. 9, 1976, that Mao died at the age of 82, ending a 27-year rule characterized by radical social and economic transformation.

Hua Guofeng, Mao’s handpicked successor, emerged as the nation’s new leader. However, he was soon sidelined by Deng Xiaoping, who would go on to introduce significant economic reforms in the 1980s, sowing the seed of China’s emergence as a global superpower.

After university, Xi joined the military as an aide in the Central Military Commission and the Defense Ministry. Then, in 1982, he was given his first position of authority as deputy and then leader of the Communist Party in Zhengding county, south of Beijing, in Hebei province.

In 1985, having proved himself as a skilled provincial official, Xi was appointed vice mayor of the city of Xiamen, a manufacturing hub in coastal Fujian province — a post he would hold for the next 17 years.

It was during this time, in 1987, that Xi married Peng Liyuan, a popular singer in the People’s Liberation Army’s song and dance troupe. The couple had one daughter, Xi Mingze, who went on to study at Harvard University in the US.

With the new millennium, Xi’s national standing grew rapidly. In 2000, he was appointed governor of Fujian province. Two years later, he was transferred to neighboring Zhejiang province, where he was appointed party chief — a post that outranks governor.

Now a rising star within the CPC, Xi was appointed party chief of Shanghai in March 2007. He was to remain in this post for only a few months, however, as that October he joined the national leadership as part of the nine-member Politburo Standing Committee. The following year, in March 2008, he was named vice president.

Xi then began building his international profile. The same year he became VP, he was placed in charge of the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing  — an event that marked China’s own re-emergence on the world stage.

In Aug. 2011, Xi hosted then-Vice President Joe Biden on his visit to China, nearly a decade before Biden became US president.

Then, in Nov. 2012, Xi secured the top job in the CPC, replacing Chinese President Hu Jintao as general secretary, beginning his first five-year term as president of China in March the following year.

Since taking power, Xi has pursued what he has called a “great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation” with his “Chinese Dream” vision.

Under his leadership, China has enacted reforms to combat slowing growth and has launched the multi-billion-dollar “Belt and Road” infrastructure project aimed at expanding China’s trade links with Central Asia and Europe.

The country has become more assertive on the global stage, from the South China Sea and Taiwan in the east to countries of Asia and Africa in the west.

It was in 2022 that China under Xi truly emerged as a global force with influence over world events. (AFP)

In Oct. 2017, marking the start of his second term, and in recognition of his transformational premiership, the CPC enshrined Xi’s ideology, known as “Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era,” in its constitution, as well as his signature Belt and Road initiative.

Such was Xi’s prestige at the outset of his second term that China’s legislature voted in March 2018 to abolish the nation’s two-term limit on the presidency.

Xi’s second term was not without its challenges, however. In July 2018, the US, under then-President Donald Trump, imposed tariffs on Chinese imports, triggering a trade war. China retaliated with tariffs on US goods.

Then, in Jan. 2020, China locked down the city of Wuhan as a new virus sparked what would become the COVID-19 pandemic. Although China has seen one of the world’s lowest per capita death rates, its “zero-COVID” policy has required the imposition of periodic lockdowns.

As one of the world’s major industrial powerhouses, and one of its top manufacturers, China has been eager to play its part in reducing greenhouse gas emissions, weaning its power grid off coal, developing clean renewable technologies, and promoting sustainability.

In Sept. 2020, in a video speech to the UN General Assembly, Xi announced China’s aim to reach peak carbon dioxide emissions before 2030 and to achieve carbon neutrality before 2060.

It was in 2022 that China under Xi truly emerged as a global force with influence over world events. In February, at the opening of the Beijing Winter Olympics, Xi met Russian President Vladimir Putin, announcing a renewal of the Sino-Russian relationship.

Three weeks later, Russia invaded Ukraine, leading to Western sanctions and NATO efforts to shore up the Ukrainian defenders. China, meanwhile, like many equidistant nations, refrained from criticizing Russia’s operation, but stopped short of backing Moscow militarily. This episode alone demonstrates just how far China has come in the new, multipolar world.

In October, Xi began a third five-year term as CPC leader, setting him on a course to become the nation’s longest-serving leader since Mao, and very likely its most transformative, as China eyes the possibility of becoming the world’s pre-eminent economic power.
 


China's Xi to visit Saudi Arabia, attend Chinese-Saudi summit

Updated 06 December 2022

China's Xi to visit Saudi Arabia, attend Chinese-Saudi summit

  • Summit will be chaired by King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman
  • Will focus on relations between GCC and Arab states and People's Republic of China

King Salman invited President of China Xi Jinping for an official visit to attend the Saudi-Chinese summit held in Saudi Arabia from Dec. 7 to 9, state news agency SPA reported on Tuesday.

The summit will be chaired by King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman. It will look at relations between the countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council and Arab states with the People's Republic of China,

Discussions are expected to focus on strengthening joint cooperation in economy and development.


Crown Prince announces Sindalah, NEOM’s first luxury island development

Updated 06 December 2022

Crown Prince announces Sindalah, NEOM’s first luxury island development

  • Extending over 840,000 square meters, Sindalah is expected to create 3,500 jobs for tourism, leisure services
  • The island will act as main gateway to the Red Sea and is expected to start welcoming guests from early 2024

RIYADH: NEOM’s first luxury island destination Sindalah will play host to superyachts and top-end apartments, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman revealed as he announced the latest project set to boost Saudi Arabia’s tourism industry.

Extending over an area of approximately 840,000sq. m., Sindalah is one of a group of islands that will be developed in the giga-project, and is expected to create 3,500 jobs for the tourism sector and hospitality and leisure services.

The island will act as a main gateway to the Red Sea, offering bespoke nautical experiences and is expected to start welcoming guests from early 2024, according to the Saudi Press Agency.

The Crown Prince said: “This is another significant moment for NEOM and a major step in the Kingdom realizing its tourism ambitions under Vision 2030. 

“Sindalah will be NEOM’s first luxury island and yacht club destination in the Red Sea, providing a scenic gateway to the Red Sea that will become the region’s most exciting and attractive tourism location. 

“It will be a destination where travelers can experience the true beauty of NEOM and Saudi Arabia, above and below the water, making Sindalah the future of luxury travel.”

Speaking to Arab News, Chris Newman, executive director of hotel development at NEOM, set out the range of events and activites that the island will see once it has opened.

"Sindalah expects to host sophisticated cultural events, grand sporting spectacles and glamorous social celebrations throughout the year," he said, adding "There will be a year-round calendar of imaginative experiences, curated across various seasons."

These will include a social season from December to February which will offer guests access to exclusive music concerts, art and culture events, hosted in inspiring creative venues.

The 'Glamour season' will run from March to May, and then from October and November, and will coinciding with the peak yachting event season. gGuests will enjoy exclusive access to concerts, fashion and culinary festivals as part of the glamour season.

The active season from June to September will offer guests a range of family-friendly beach and recreational activities.

"Sindalah is one of many islands in NEOM. There are additional islands in development, and we will make the announcements in due course as more information becomes available," Newman added/

Mohammed bin Salman, who is also the chairman of NEOM’s Board of Directors, said the launch of Sindalah is a major step in realizing the Kingdom’s tourism ambitions, in line with the goals outlined in Vision 2030.

Sindalah will have an 86-berth marina, as well as hosting 413 ultra-premium hotel rooms, in addition to 333 top-end serviced apartments. 

Other attractions in Sindalah include a luxe beach club, yacht club and 38 unique culinary offerings that will provide an incomparable experience in the Red Sea.

Sindalah is also expected to become a popular golfing destination by offering enthusiasts the opportunity to experience a world-class 6,474-yard (5,920 meters) par 70 course. With its 18 tees, the Sindalah golf course will deliver two unique nine-hole experiences.

NEOM, the $500 billion smart city, is one of the most important projects supporting Saudi Arabia’s national tourism strategy, as the Kingdom steadily diversifies its economy which was heavily dependent on oil for decades. 

In November, speaking at the World Travel and Tourism Council Global Summit, Nadhmi Al-Nasr, CEO of NEOM said that the hanging stadiums in the smart city will make tourists reimagine and visualize the future. 

“In The Line, we want people to come and see how sports stadiums are built, and where they are built. The sports stadiums in NEOM are 300 meter high, loose and hanging in the air,” said Al-Nasr.

He also added that OXAGON, the industrial city in NEOM also has all the potential to become a world-class tourist destination, where visitors can come and see how the future will be.

“It is in OXAGON where all industries will be, and it is the port of NEOM. Yet, we would like to see tourists spending a day or two in OXAGON. They will see the future of industries in OXAGON. Everything in NEOM is built for the future era. We want them to come and see how future sea ports will operate,” he added.