Performing arts in Saudi Arabia take center stage in new development strategy

(Ministry of Culture)
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Updated 05 May 2021

Performing arts in Saudi Arabia take center stage in new development strategy

  • Saudi Theater and Performing Arts Commission aims to ‘create inspiring performances with exceptional talents on every stage.’
  • Its mission is to “develop and promote the theater and performing arts sector by empowering Saudi talents to build successful careers’

RIYADH: The Theater and Performing Arts Commission has finalized its strategy for the development of the sector in Saudi Arabia, in line with the framework established by the National Strategy for Culture.

It was formulated after an in-depth analysis of the state of the theater and performing arts in the Kingdom. The commission also carried out international benchmarking comparisons and drew on a number of knowledge sources, including more than 50 documents, more than 20 interviews with stakeholders and local and international experts, and opinion polls covering various segments of Saudi society.

The studies identified the challenges facing the development of theater and the performing arts in the Kingdom, mainly relating to: limited talent-development programs; a lack of basic infrastructure; poor funding; the low-tier technologies available for use in performances; a lack of advanced governance to help achieve higher community participation; insufficient audience-engagement measurement tools; and a lack of licenses for sector-related activities and professions.

The strategy defines the scope of the sector, which takes in all forms of performing arts including theater, dance, circus shows, stand-up comedy, street performances, motion performances, and opera. It also encompasses venues, content, production, and the prevalence of the culture of performing arts in the Kingdom.

The aim of the commission’s vision is to “create inspiring performances with exceptional talents on every stage.”

Its mission is “to develop and promote the theater and performing arts sector by empowering Saudi talents to build successful careers and create inspiring content.”

The commission has set five strategic objectives: to enhance the quantity and diversity of content; increase and diversify local production; ensure access to the theater and performing arts sector; raise the level of appreciation among the public and practitioners; and generate audience demand.

To achieve these objectives, the commission has designed initiatives under several guiding principles that aim to address the main challenges, create an effective theater space for Saudi talent, ensure the transformation of the sector into a productive industry that contributes to economic growth, promote culture as a way of life, and enhance levels of professionalism and creativity.

The commission will implement 26 initiatives in stages between now and 2030 to serve and develop the sector. They fall under six guiding principles:

Talent development, which includes eight initiatives: education, training and talent-discovery; school theater; house of Ardha and house of Samri; cultural business incubator; theater academy; career development initiative; sector graduate recruitment; and sector awards.

Sector infrastructure development includes three initiatives: upgrading and activating infrastructure; national theater; and the Riyadh theater district.

The funding principle also has three initiatives: supporting local production; supporting processes of holding and hosting shows; and financing events and content.

Modern technology encompasses two initiatives: an innovation-support program; and multi-screen initiative.

The audience principle includes seven initiatives: subsidizing ticket prices; measuring audience satisfaction; developing theater criticism; raising awareness of local sector works; international awareness; stimulating community participation; launching programs for tourists; and international communication.

The governance initiatives are: activating the commission; activating civil society institutions; working with associations; and facilitating licensing procedures.”

The Theater and Performing Arts Commission will use its strategy to develop the entire performing arts sector. It aims to serve the needs of artists, investors and practitioners, especially through the provision of educational and training courses, with the target of producing about 4,500 graduate performers, about 4,200 qualified trainees, and discovering emerging talents in the field.

The efforts are in line with the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 plans to develop the cultural sector, enhance the quality of life and contribute to the nation’s economic growth.

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Taif rose oil a ‘treasure to be discovered’, says French envoy

Updated 35 min 33 sec ago

Taif rose oil a ‘treasure to be discovered’, says French envoy

  • Taif roses have, throughout history, expressed the cultural identity of Taif city, says Mayor Ahmed Al-Qathami

TAIF: “Treasure to be discovered,” were the words used by the French ambassador to the Kingdom describing the rose oil industry in Taif, after his recent visit to the 14th Taif Rose Festival held at Al-Radf Park and organized by the Taif Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

Ludovic Pouille toured the old town of Taif at night with representatives from the province and the Ministry of Culture, expressing his happiness to discover the vital market on the eve of the celebrations of Eid Al-Fitr, and to drink traditional coffee in the historic neighborhood of the capital of roses.

He also discovered the traditional professions in the old city of Taif, discussing with the mayor the tourist capacity of the city and opportunities to cooperate with France.

Mesmerized by the fragrance and the pink scenery around him, the envoy walked the roses’ stairway in the festival covered in roses from both sides, describing it as a “stairway to heaven.”

French Ambassador Ludovic Pouille

Dr. Ahmed Al-Qathami, mayor of Taif Province, said that the visit of the French envoy reflects the importance and reputation of Taif roses across borders, “one of the most important tools in promoting the Kingdom’s tourism, culture and economy.”

Al-Qathami told Arab News that Taif roses have, throughout history, expressed the cultural identity of Taif city, symbolizing its beauty thanks to their odor and perfume.

“Taif roses are a source of cultural inspiration to all Saudis for whom the roses are a way of life and a cultural destination that attracted dignitaries and important figures throughout history,” he added.

He added that the visit of the French ambassador indicates the depth of friendship and love he has for Saudi Arabia. “This visit reflects his knowledge and appreciation for the efforts made to sustain the Taif rose industry, and develop its products and promote them at local and global levels.”

Al-Qathami pointed out that Taif roses were, and still are, an “honorable image” for Taif province, and all the celebrations and festivals held in the past and the accompanying exhibitions contributed in shaping its identity as a cultural hub that helped in strengthening the
ties of communication between the city and those who love and admire it.

Adel Al-Nimri, a rose factory owner in Al-Hada, Taif, said that the prominent and important figures who visit Taif and admire the great efforts “give us the impetus to continue and improve the product to reach the highest standards of
production, and export them abroad after gaining widespread fame.”

He stressed the importance of caring for the Taif rose industry and teaching people about it for future generations, adding that Taif roses are known for their purity and fragrance.


Saudi interior minister greets security personnel for Umrah success

Updated 13 May 2021

Saudi interior minister greets security personnel for Umrah success

RIYADH: Saudi Interior Minister Prince Abdul Aziz bin Saud bin Naif on Thursday conveyed the congratulations of King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to the personnel of the Ministry of Interior and security sectors on the success of security plans for the Umrah season and the advent of Eid Al-Fitr.

Prince Abdul Aziz, who is also the chairman of the Umrah Supreme Committee, expressed thanks to the leadership for the support that enabled the security sectors to perform their duties in this year’s exceptional Umrah season, expressing his pride in the efforts made by security men in the service of Umrah performers and visitors.

Muslims performed Eid Al-Fitr prayer throughout Saudi Arabia on Thursday.

In Makkah, the prayer was performed at the Grand Mosque and led by the Imam of the Grand Mosque Sheikh Saleh bin Abdullah bin Humaid. The prayer was attended by Makkah Gov. Prince Khalid Al-Faisal and a number of princes.

In Madinah, the prayer was performed at the Prophet’s Mosque. The prayer was attended by Madinah Gov. Prince Faisal bin Salman.

The prayer was also performed in various regions and attended by regional governors and senior officials.

The imams who led the prayer congratulated Muslims on Eid Al-Fitr, praying to Allah to accept their fasting, prayers, charity and good deeds.


Who’s Who: Dr. Mohammed Al-Nuwairan, CEO of Saudi National Center for Palms and Dates

Updated 13 May 2021

Who’s Who: Dr. Mohammed Al-Nuwairan, CEO of Saudi National Center for Palms and Dates

Dr. Mohammed Al-Nuwairan has been the chief executive officer of the Saudi National Center for Palms and Dates (NCPD) since April 2016.

He heads a number of initiatives aimed at improving the management and efficiency of the sector’s supply chains, from farms to local and international consumers, and is involved in highlighting palm and date-related investment opportunities in areas such as services, technology, and bi-products.

Al-Nuwairan and his NCPD team have been working to transform the sector’s digital offering with the launch of electronic platforms covering aspects of the business including e-marketing, quality marks, government support, and subsidies.

Under his stewardship, the center has established strategic partnerships with companies such as Saudi Basic Industries Corp. (SABIC), Takamol Holding, and Taibah Valley along with other major international firms.

He sits on several government committees with sector interests and has participated in numerous international industry conferences and workshops.

Al-Nuwairan helped set up the Kingdom’s annual international dates conference, along with the International Council for Dates, the Saudi Dates Mark certification scheme, and a dates exhibition in Riyadh.

From July 2003 until joining the NCPD, he was an assistant professor at King Faisal University’s business school.

He gained a Ph.D. from the University of Manchester’s business school, specializing in supply chain management, a master’s degree in manufacturing management from Canada’s University of Windsor, and a bachelor’s degree in business administration and management from King Faisal University, in Al-Ahsa.


Ancient site in Nefud Desert offers glimpse of early human activity in Saudi Arabia

Updated 13 May 2021

Ancient site in Nefud Desert offers glimpse of early human activity in Saudi Arabia

  • An Nasim is the first Acheulean site to be dated in the Nefud Desert, say researchers
  • Evidence of diverse species of small-to-large mammals can be found at the sites of these palaeolakes in the Nefud

RIYADH: An important archaeological site showing signs of ancient human activity dating back 350,000 years has been discovered in the Hail region of northern Saudi Arabia.

According to a scientific report published in the journal Nature, An Nasim is the first Acheulean site to be dated in the Nefud Desert. Acheulean technology refers to the distinctive style of oval and pear-shaped stone tools believed to have been developed about 1.7 million years ago by the archaic humans that preceded modern homo sapiens. It is thought these “hand axes” remained in use until as recently as 130,000 years ago.

The report — titled “The Expansion of Acheulean Hominins into the Nefud Desert of Arabia” — notes that until now, detailed knowledge of the Acheulean in the region was limited to a single, well-documented site: Saffaqah, in central Saudi Arabia.

However, tools were also found in the Nefud Desert. Researchers at An Nasim discovered evidence of what was once a deep lake, probably freshwater, as well as features associated with the Middle Pleistocene era, which covers the period from about 780,000 to 130,000 years ago.

Jasir Al-Harbash, CEO of the Kingdom’s Heritage Commission, told Arab News: “Many sites have been discovered and are under study.”

HIGHLIGHT

According to a scientific report published in the journal Nature, An Nasim is the first Acheulean site to be dated in the Nefud Desert. Acheulean technology refers to the distinctive style of oval and pear-shaped stone tools believed to have been developed about 1.7 million years ago by the archaic humans that preceded modern homo sapiens. It is thought these ‘hand axes’ remained in use until as recently as 130,000 years ago.

However the discovery in the Nefud Desert is particularly important, he added, because it is “the oldest dated site of the Acheulean period in Saudi Arabia.”

Surveys by the Green Arabian Project (GAP) in the past 10 years have confirmed that the Arabian Peninsula experienced climate changes during the Pleistocene era that produced wetter conditions, which affected the movement and distribution of humans within and between continents. This is particularly true of Acheulean communities, who appear to have been more tethered to water sources than others.

An Nasim offers insights into the diverse stone tool assemblages used by Middle Pleistocene humans in the region, probably indicating their repeated return to the peninsula during the wetter “Green Arabia” climate phases.

The site includes a deep, narrow basin with outcrops in the central part, where several artifacts from the early Palaeolithic era were discovered. About 354 items were collected, primarily hand axes and stone “flakes” cut from a rock core. The survey found that the archaeological materials are closely associated with the lake. The report notes that the tools are similar to those found elsewhere in the Nefud Desert. The presence of some of the flaked pieces suggest that the raw materials were brought to the site and some discarded after testing. Other pieces had been partly shaped before being abandoned.

Broader surveys of the Nefud Desert have found that local quartzite rock was frequently used in undated Acheulean assemblages, including diverse sizes and shapes of hand axes.

The Acheulean tools at An Nasim have been dated to the late Middle Pleistocene era, about 350,000 to 250,000 years ago, when the formation of lakes was seemingly widespread in the Nefud Desert. In comparison tools found at the site at Saffaqah are more recent, dating back about 240,000 to 190,000 years.

The similarities between the Acheulean materials found at An Nasim and other undated Acheulean sites in the Nefud Desert indicates that the lakes that once existed in this region provided an important resource for the expansion of humans in the region, and a viable habitation environment for them and other mammals.

Evidence of diverse species of small-to-large mammals can be found at the sites of these palaeolakes in the Nefud, indicating the migration of animals to the region during wet phases and suggesting the availability of fauna as food sources at watering holes.

With the participation of Saudi experts, the Kingdom’s Heritage Commission has been working on the GAP scientific program in collaboration with counterparts from the Berlin-based Max Planck Institute for Human Development. It focuses on studying climate changes in the Arabian Peninsula over time, and the immigration of ancient humans into Arabia and their settlement there.

Previous GAP studies have found evidence of hundreds of paleolakes, rivers and forests, and the animals they helped to sustain, around which successive civilizations emerged thanks to the mild climate at that time.

Late last year, the Heritage Commission announced that the footprints of humans, elephants, camels and predatory animals had been found at the site of what was once lake, dating back more than 120,000 years, in Tabuk. They are believed to be the oldest footprints of man and animals found in the Arabian Peninsula.

Through the GAP, the Heritage Commission carries out intensive surveys and systematic excavations to identify and gain insight into ancient climatic conditions and the nature of the prevailing environment in Arabia’s past, as well as the movement of humans. This is part of the Commission’s efforts to excavate, preserve and promote archaeological sites in the Kingdom as part of Saudi Vision 2030.

Al-Harbash highlighted the importance of cooperation between local and international teams in excavating and researching antiquities in the Arabian Peninsula. He added that joint projects are in progress with more than 20 of the most prestigious international institutes and universities involved in archaeological research and excavation.


Saudi air defenses intercept 8 UAVs and 3 ballistic missiles launched by Houthis from Yemen

Updated 13 May 2021

Saudi air defenses intercept 8 UAVs and 3 ballistic missiles launched by Houthis from Yemen

RIYADH:  Saudi air defenses have intercepted and destroyed eight drones and three ballistic missiles targetting Saudi Arabia, the Arab Coalition supporting  supporting Yemen's legitimate government said on Thursday.

In a statement announced on Twitter, the Coalition said the UAVs and missiles were launched by the Iran-back Houthi militia in Yemen.

The new attacks came as fighting for Yemen’s strategic Marib city continued and despite calls by the UN for the Houthis to halt the violence.