Riyadh book fair offers international flair

Simon Gwynn the managing director of The University Press Group shares his insight into the many international publications offered. (Photo Basheer Saleh)
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Updated 04 October 2021

Riyadh book fair offers international flair

  • New books coming from the 28 international publishing houses featured at the event have drawn the most interest from local readers
  • Crowds have already flocked to purchase international books on humanities, economics, science, children’s literature, and more

RIYADH: The Riyadh International Book Fair 2021 taking place this week has attracted international publishing houses from France, Italy, India, Australia, and the US as local readers have welcomed the influx of international literature never before seen in the Kingdom.

Writers, publishers, cultural figures, and leaders from around the world are expected to attend the 10-day event, which opened Thursday, while crowds have already flocked to purchase international books on humanities, economics, science, children’s literature, and more.

“This is the first time we have been here as there were not a lot of English publishers exhibited at this fair.” Brad Hebel, a director from the Associated Press, told Arab News.

“I think for people it comes as a surprise and a delight to see all of these English books.”

Considered the largest book fair in the region, the Riyadh International Book Fair will see the participation of 1,000 publishing houses, but it is the books coming from the 28 international publishing houses that have drawn the most interest.

“Many of our books are not easily available in Saudi Arabia right now and people would like to have more access to them,” Simon Gwynn, managing director of the University Press Group, said.

“We have been talking to people and there has been a lot of good feedback from the selection that we have brought.”

Gwynn is one of the many international publishers featured at the book fair as he represents American publishing houses such as Columbia, California, MIT, and Princeton.

“Princeton is based in the US and they have books from the UK on economics, science, history, and a wide range of different subjects,” he said. “California mostly specializes in books about anthropology, wine, culture, and history as well.”

Catherine Bonifassi, president and CEO of Cassi Edition, a publishing house in France, shared some of the books offered in her booth on the opening day of the fair.

“The catalog in Cassi Edition is mainly about lifestyle, fashion, interior design, architecture, and as you can see, lots of art,” she said.

One of the Cassi Edition books displayed was “Dream of Al-Ula,” by acclaimed photographer Gilles Bensimon, who takes readers on a visual journey through the natural wonder and storied history of AlUla, a vast desert area located in Madinah province.

The book fair also offers a variety of children’s publications published in multiple languages.

Ali Gator, a publishing group out of Australia, has displayed its books in Riyadh for the past three years.

“We mainly publish children’s stories on lessons, manners, and other topics that aid in increasing the awareness and knowledge for children,” Muayyad Masoud, the manager of Ali Gator, told Arab News.

Masoud said he has received positive feedback from guests during the past three days and has recognized guests from previous book fairs returning to his booth.

While reading is the main focus of the book fair, there will also be cooking shows, cultural exhibitions, and guest lectures throughout the 10-day event. Interactive games, children’s booths, as well as reading stations, are also available at the book fair.

US officials led by antisemitism envoy briefed on Saudi efforts to promote tolerance

Updated 01 July 2022

US officials led by antisemitism envoy briefed on Saudi efforts to promote tolerance

  • They were visiting the King Abdulaziz Center for National Dialogue, the leader of which stressed the importance of communication and dialogue in building bridges between cultures

RIYADH: A visiting US delegation led by Ambassador Deborah Lipstadt, Washington’s special envoy for monitoring and combating antisemitism, was briefed this week on the work of Saudi Arabia’s King Abdulaziz Center for National Dialogue.

After being welcomed to the center by its secretary-general, Abdullah Al-Fawzan, and other senior representatives, the delegates were given a brief presentation about its activities designed to promote and encourage greater tolerance among peoples.

They were also briefed on the results of the first study of its kind in the region on tolerance, carried out by the center to the highest scientific standards, which found that Saudi society is tolerant of other cultures and civilizations.

In greeting the visitors on Tuesday, Al-Fawzan stressed the importance of encouraging communication and dialogue between peoples, to help build bridges of understanding among cultures, as part of the efforts being made by the Kingdom, through its Saudi Vision 2030 development plan, to support tolerance and promote peaceful coexistence based on the principles of moderate Islam.

He said that Saudi society accepts and coexists with people from other societies and cultures, as evidenced by the large number of expatriates who live and work in the Kingdom. This shows that the values of tolerance, peaceful coexistence and unity are not new concepts in the country, he added.

Since its inception, the center has placed great importance in promoting the values of citizenship among among all sections of society, making it a mainstay of its work, Al-Fawzan said.

The members of the US delegation were also given a tour of the center’s Interactive Dialogue Exhibition so that they could learn more about the Kingdom’s efforts to support communications between cultures and civilizations. They also heard about local projects developed by the center to help strengthen the nation’s social fabric, and its regional and global initiatives designed to help build and enhance cultural diversity and human commonalities.


Program launched to measure pilgrims’ satisfaction during Hajj

Updated 30 June 2022

Program launched to measure pilgrims’ satisfaction during Hajj

  • Guests will be assigned incognito to help evaluate Hajj services according to a pre-studied scientific methodology

JEDDAH: The Saudi Ministry of Hajj and Umrah has launched a performance initiative aimed at measuring pilgrims’ satisfaction at service provision during this year’s Hajj season.

Assistant deputy minister of Hajj and Umrah, Hesham Saeed, signed a joint cooperation agreement with acting secretary-general of the coordination council, Dr. Abdullah Al-Muwaihi, in relation to the program.

Al-Muwaihi said the monitoring scheme would involve measuring quality-of-service performance and beneficiary satisfaction, while also including an incognito guest program, all designed to improve and enrich worshippers’ spiritual experience.

Under the incognito initiative, Saeed said a designated guest would, “serve as a pilgrim under mission, who lives the full experience of Hajj, starting from the country of the pilgrim, passing through the holy sites, and performing the rituals until they return to their country.

“The assigned incognito guest will be living all the details, seeing what contact points they pass through, and will give an evaluation according to a pre-studied scientific methodology regarding the measurement criteria,” he added.





Top Mawhiba students prepare to represent Saudi Arabia at five international scientific olympiads

Updated 30 June 2022

Top Mawhiba students prepare to represent Saudi Arabia at five international scientific olympiads

  • Members of physics, chemistry and biology teams are in Hungary for a two-week training program; the math and informatics teams already completed their preparations in the Kingdom
  • The events, some of which are virtual and some in-person, will take place in July and August in Norway, Indonesia, China, Switzerland and Armenia

JEDDAH: Top students from the King Abdulaziz and His Companions Foundation for Giftedness and Creativity, also known as Mawhiba, are preparing to participate in five international scientific olympiads that will be held virtually and in person during July and August.

Two teams of students have already completed their training programs in the Kingdom at King Abdullah University for Science and Technology. They will compete in the International Mathematical Olympiad in Oslo, Norway, from July 6 to 16, and the International Olympiad in Informatics in Indonesia from Aug. 7 to 15. The informatics event involves programming and algorithmic problem-solving challenges.

Meanwhile, 38 male and female members of three other teams arrived in Budapest, Hungary, on Monday to begin intensive two-week training programs at some of the country’s most prestigious universities.

They include 14 students hoping to earn a place on the team that will compete at the International Chemistry Olympiad, which will be hosted by China; 12 students nominated for the team at the International Physics Olympiad 2022, hosted by Switzerland; and 12 trying to claim a place on the team at International Biology Olympiad 2022 in Armenia. The first two events will be virtual and the third in-person, and all three take place between July 10 and 18.

The physics team’s training event is being held at the Budapest University of Technology and Economics, the biology team’s at the Hungarian Society of Biology, and the chemistry team’s at Eotvos Lorand University. They team members will complete an average of about eight hours a day of lectures and tutoring in their specialist subjects, delivered by experienced, qualified international trainers. The lessons will include practical and theoretical elements, along with training on how to find solutions to advanced scientific problems.

According to Mawhiba, at the end of the training camp the best performers on each team will be selected to represent Saudi Arabia at their respective olympiads.

Amal Al-Hazzaa, the acting secretary general of Mawhiba, told Arab News that the talented students had already completed more than 10,000 hours of training before participating in the preparatory camps.

She added that they have all attained high levels of proficiency and experience to reach the point where they can represent the Kingdom at an international competition.

In the past 10 years, Al-Hazzaa revealed, students from Saudi Arabia have won more than 500 medals and other awards at the olympiads.

“We are hopeful that these students will achieve further successes in the coming five olympiads,” she added.

Who’s Who: Abdulrahman Alrebdi, acting chief legal counsel for Diriyah Gate Development Authority

Updated 29 June 2022

Who’s Who: Abdulrahman Alrebdi, acting chief legal counsel for Diriyah Gate Development Authority

Abdulrahman Alrebdi has been acting chief legal counsel for Diriyah Gate Development Authority since February, 2022, overseeing department functions for the construction and real estate, corporate advisory, litigation, and risk and compliance departments.

Previously, Alrebdi was associate legal director for a month and legal manager from 2020 to 2021 at the DGDA. In his role as a legal manager, he was responsible for leading the corporate advisory division, which managed transactions, corporate contracts, corporate advisory and regulatory support. 

As a legal and regulation adviser, he led the establishment of the contracts and transactions department by drafting seven contract templates, which included the construction contract, design and build contract and professional services agreement.

Before that, he was the project manager at Saudi Grains Organization in 2018. Alrebdi was part of the consultancy team that developed the organizational structure and the organization’s manual. Alrebdi was also a part-time consultant for the Ministry of Justice in 2017.

He was a law faculty member at the Institute of Public Administration from 2011 to 2018 and led a team that drafted the governance regulations for the Public Pension Agency. These regulations include the board’s charter, delegation policy and investment policy.

Alrebdi took part in public policy consultations and studies for government entities, including the Ministry of Justice, Ministry of Labor and Social Services, and Ministry of Civil Service. 

Alrebdi completed the leadership in the corporate counsel program at Harvard Law School, Cambridge, Massachusetts in 2021.

He received a master’s degree in law with a focus on government contracts in 2014 from Ohio State University,  Columbus, and gained a bachelor’s degree in law from King Abdulaziz University in 2010.

Madinah welcomes almost 313,000 Hajj pilgrims

Updated 29 June 2022

Madinah welcomes almost 313,000 Hajj pilgrims

  • Saudi Arabia is allowing up to 1 million people to join the Hajj this year

RIYADH: Almost 313,000 pilgrims from around the world had arrived Madinah by Wednesday to perform Hajj, according to official figures.

The Ministry of Hajj and Umrah said that 252,140 people had landed at Prince Mohammed bin Abdulaziz International Airport since the start of the first Hajj flights, while 60,731 pilgrims had arrived in the city by land.

A total of 221,267 pilgrims had already left Madinah and were on their way to the holy sites in Makkah, while 91,689 were still in the city, it said.

Authorities in Madinah are working around the clock to ensure the best experience for visitors, the ministry said.

Saudi Arabia is allowing up to 1 million people to join the Hajj this year, welcoming foreign pilgrims for the first time in two years after COVID-19 restrictions meant the annual pilgrimage was limited to residents of the Kingdom.

The General Presidency for the Affairs of the Two Holy Mosques recently launched its operational plan for this year’s Hajj season. It confirmed its readiness to receive pilgrims, saying it had mobilized 10,000 workers to serve them.