Investing in Saudi art and culture in times of crisis

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Updated 23 December 2020

Investing in Saudi art and culture in times of crisis

JEDDAH: The coronavirus pandemic has posed unprecedented challenges for businesses around the world, but it has also accelerated the growth of ecommerce as people increasingly rely on online services.

Saudi interior designer Abrar Saggaf (@Abrarsaggaf) launched her brand Shaqmata in July at the peak of the outbreak in the Kingdom.

But, rather than get bogged down by the economic conditions thrown up by the pandemic, Saggaf decided to challenge herself with something new.

“I asked myself a question: Why would one limit themselves to one specialty, career, and source of income when they can invest in their talents and explore many potential opportunities?” she told Arab News. “I opened my drawer and found that I had many drawings which I collected over the years, and they resembled our local culture and I decided to convert my art style into products.”

Shaqmata (@shaqmata), which means scribbles in Arabic, turns Saggaf’s art into everyday products.

For years she had been encouraged by friends on social media to make decorative items like rugs and pillows out of her drawings that were the product of her stress-relief strategy - doodling.

Saggaf began with bags and has launched three designs since July. The designs are based on three different characters she created to resemble a certain culture.

She is also working on launching a new product - a modern abaya or light jacket - within a month.

What sets Shaqmata apart from other brands are its reasonable price point, as well as its quality and sophisticated design.

“Each character of our products has a name, a birth date, and a story. The more you give depth to your product the more people can connect with it,” she added. “At the beginning people used to order the products by design, now they know the designs by their names.”

Shaqmata targets a wide audience. Anyone interested in something unique and special that has a story - but is also practical - is a potential customer for Saggaf.

“Also, those interested in creative local brands and culture and art enthusiasts.”

Her 10 years interior design experience, together with her passion for art, helped to grow her business in a few months.

“Although this is a completely new experience for me, my long experience in interior design helped me understand how to satisfy the needs of the targeted audience.”

She encouraged young people to seize opportunities and dare to take the first step toward their dream projects. “If people try to explore themselves, everyone will be able to find a hidden talent inside that’s worthy of their attention and investment.”

Saggaf currently sells her products on Instagram and delivers them to all regions of Saudi Arabia. But they will soon be available at two concept stores in Jeddah and will become available in Riyadh and Alkhobar as well.

She also wanted to offer her products to a wider audience worldwide, with her brand functioning as a platform for creative artists with similar interests to contribute to it.

“My goals are limitless. I want to take this project to grow as big as possible, reaching customers all over the world.”
 


Want to visit Saudi Arabia for Umrah? Here are the procedures you need to know about

Updated 59 min 49 sec ago

Want to visit Saudi Arabia for Umrah? Here are the procedures you need to know about

  • Saudi Arabia reported 10 more COVID-19-related deaths on Thursday

JEDDAH: Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Hajj and Umrah has announced the procedures for pilgrims coming from outside the Kingdom to follow to perform the rituals.
Pilgrims need to go to a care center in Makkah six hours before performing Umrah to check the inoculation status according to the type of approved vaccines.
They will be handed their bracelet, which they must put on at the center. They will then be directed to the Al-Shubaikha gathering center. There, the pilgrims must present their bracelet to verify their data and their permit.
The ministry noted the need for the pilgrims to abide by the Umrah date and time period allocated to them.
The Kingdom began receiving pilgrims from abroad in mid-March, in accordance with requirements and controls set by the Ministry of Health as part of the precautionary measures set to prevent the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19).
The Ministry of Hajj and Umrah had previously confirmed the launch of the two updated versions of the apps “Eatmarna” and “Tawakkalna,” in cooperation with the Saudi Authority for Data and Artificial Intelligence.
Through these apps, Saudis and expats can reserve Umrah and visit and prayer permits inside the Grand Mosque during the holy month of Ramadan, with permits being displayed only on the Tawakkalna app.
The Ministry of Hajj and Umrah emphasized the need to adhere to the precautionary and preventive measures, and to reserve permits through the approved official platforms.
Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia reported 10 more COVID-19-related deaths on Thursday. The death toll now stands at 6,791.
The Ministry of Health reported 985 new cases, meaning that 402,142 people have now contracted the disease, of which 9,249 remain active.
It said 463 of the new cases were in Riyadh, 164 in Makkah, 140 in the Eastern Province and 30 in Madinah. In addition, 661 patients recovered from the disease, bringing the total to 386,102 recoveries.
Saudi Arabia has so far conducted more than 16 million PCR tests, with 45,843 carried out in the past 24 hours.
Saudi health clinics set up by the ministry as testing hubs or treatment centers have helped hundreds of thousands of people around the Kingdom since the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic.
Among those testing hubs are Taakad (make sure) centers and Tetamman (rest assured) clinics.
Taakad centers provide COVID-19 testing for those who show no or mild symptoms or believe they have come into contact with an infected individual, while the Tetamman clinics offer treatment and advice to those with virus symptoms, such as fever, loss of taste and smell and breathing difficulties.
Appointments to either services can also be made through the ministry’s Sehhaty app.
Saudis and expats in the Kingdom continue to receive their jabs of the coronavirus vaccine, with 6,607,384 people having been inoculated so far.


Saudi Arabia must ‘confront power with power’ in Yemen, says expert

Updated 16 April 2021

Saudi Arabia must ‘confront power with power’ in Yemen, says expert

  • The Arab coalition destroyed five ballistic missiles and four explosive-laden drones launched by the Houthis toward Jazan on Thursday.

JEDDAH: The international community bears responsibility for prolonging the crisis in Yemen, and Saudi Arabia should not simply wait for the Iran-backed Houthis to cause a disaster, according to a Saudi expert in international relations.

Political analyst Dr. Hamdan Al-Shehri said on Thursday that although a number of proposals had been put forward to put an end to Yemen’s ongoing conflict, there had been a lack of will from the international community to implement those initiatives.

“If the international community was honest, it would have (acted on) UNSC Resolution 2216, demanding the Houthis relinquish the arms they seized from military and security institutions and cease all violence. The international community is delaying taking action against the Houthis for its own interests,” Al-Shehri told Arab News.

“The international community’s regional interests are its top priority, not Yemen or the Yemenis,” he added.

Al-Shehri believes that, in the face of continued silence from the international community, Saudi Arabia should ‘confront power with power’ when dealing with Houthi attacks.

“We should not wait until the Houthis (cause) a disaster. We count on the Arab coalition and the Yemeni army, especially after the UN’s leniency with regard to putting pressure on the Houthis to accept diplomatic solutions,” Al-Shehri said.

He added that if attacks on the Kingdom continue, then Saudi Arabia should take military action. “The Houthis are using power and this power should be confronted with power. We have tried the international community for seven years, but unfortunately (nothing has been done).”

The Arab coalition destroyed five ballistic missiles and four explosive-laden drones launched by the Houthis toward Jazan, Al-Ekhbariya reported on Thursday.

Those attacks were the latest in a long line of hostile actions against the Kingdom by the Iran-backed Houthi militia.

Jazan University was one of the targets, as well as other civilian sites protected under international humanitarian law, coalition spokesman Turki Al-Malki said in a statement to the Saudi Press Agency, adding that such actions amount to war crimes. He also said that the attacks originated from Yemen’s Saadah governorate and were a “continuation of the Houthis’ systematic and intentional hostile attempts to target civilians.”

The Houthis, who took over the Yemeni capital, Sanaa, in 2014, have been widely condemned for their actions against the Kingdom.


62 Jeddah outlets shut for COVID-19 breaches

Updated 16 April 2021

62 Jeddah outlets shut for COVID-19 breaches

JEDDAH: Authorities in Jeddah have shut down 62 commercial outlets for breaching coronavirus disease (COVID-19) protocols.
Municipalities in the Kingdom have stepped up their efforts to ensure compliance with COVID-19 safety measures designed to protect public health.
The municipality of Jeddah governorate carried out 4,219 inspection tours of commercial centers and facilities and identified 166 violations for issues related to overcrowding and the failure to effectively use the Tawakkalna app.
Officials urged people to report any suspected breaches of COVID-19 regulations to the 940 call-center number.


Saudi students win four awards in European Girls’ Mathematical Olympiad

Updated 16 April 2021

Saudi students win four awards in European Girls’ Mathematical Olympiad

JEDDAH: Saudi Arabia ranked 16th of 55 countries in the European Girls’ Mathematical Olympiad (EGMO), which ended on Thursday, rising 10 places from last year and winning four medals.
Each country involved in the competition is represented by a team of four female mathematicians of school age, This year’s EGMO was hosted by Georgia, but held remotely due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Saudi Arabia was represented by four students who have all been members of programs run by the King Abdul Aziz and His Companions Foundation for Giftedness and Creativity (Mawhiba) and have received thousands of training hours and attended several training camps.
In the past, Saudi teams have won 20 medals at the EGMO. This year, Rafaa Qanash from Jeddah won a silver medal, while Lara Munqal from Jeddah, Joud Bahwini from Yanbu, and Fatima Al-Ghanam from Al-Ahsa all won bronze medals.
All four students have been members of Mawhiba’s Program for International Olympiads and have received thousands of training hours and attended several training camps.
Mawhiba works in partnership with the Ministry of Education to qualify Saudis to compete in scientific Olympiads. Over 1,300 hours of training are provided annually to prepare students to participate.
The EGMO — launched by the UK in 2012, when 19 countries participated — seeks to encourage female students to compete in mathematics tournaments and to increase female representation in international Olympiads. Currently, only 10 percent of participants in math-based Olympiads are female.


Saudi ambassador to Indonesia launches iftar program

Updated 16 April 2021

Saudi ambassador to Indonesia launches iftar program

Saudi Ambassador to Indonesia Essam bin Abed Al-Thaqafi on Thursday launched a massive iftar program and started distributing King Salman’s gift of dates for the year under the supervision of the Ministry of Islamic Affairs, Dawah and Guidance.
The program includes the distribution of 3,000 food baskets and 10,000 iftar meals to hospitals, orphanages and others in Indonesia. Al-Thaqafi oversees the project in cooperation and coordination with the Indonesian Ministry of Religious Affairs, along with other prominent Islamic societies and centers.
The initiative was launched at the religious attache’s office for the Kingdom’s Embassy in Jakarta. Representatives from the Minister of Religious Affairs of Indonesia and the Istiqlal Mosque in Jakarta also attended the launch ceremony.