Thanks for the memories: American recalls Saudi childhood dream

Sid Fritts friends love his ‘Saudi Room’ in the house that has the traditional Saudi seating and other artifacts. (Supplied)
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Updated 20 January 2022

Thanks for the memories: American recalls Saudi childhood dream

  • Georgia man tells Arab News that growing up in the Kingdom was the ‘opportunity of a lifetime’

MAKKAH: An American who grew up in Saudi Arabia is working to correct misconceptions about the Kingdom’s culture and traditions from his home in the US after labeling his childhood “the opportunity of a lifetime.”

Sid Fritts’ is passionate about the Kingdom, and spent many years living and working there.

One of his closest friends in the Kingdom, Abid Jan, told Arab News that Fritts is devoting his life to “correcting misconceptions about Saudi culture.” He added that Fritts has furnished his home with carpets and objects inspired by Saudi traditions. 

In an interview with Arab News, Fritts said: “Yes, I still have my thobe (traditional Saudi long dress) which I used to wear all the time when I was a young boy and I now have one that I wear when I receive my Saudi friends.

“My American friends love the ‘Saudi Room’ in my house, and I have so many friends in the Kingdom. I love the country, which I consider my second home.”

He added: “I have so many wonderful memories from when I lived there as a young boy. I get so emotional when I talk about it because of those memories and the friendships that I made while we were living there. 

“It was the opportunity of a lifetime. I am so grateful to my father because he gave me that opportunity.”

Fritts said: “When I was a young boy at Parents Cooperative School in Jeddah, I had no idea that being there would shape me into the man I am today.”

“My father served as a ground equipment manager for Saudi Arabian Airlines in the late 1970s and early 1980s. 

“I’m so thankful to Saudia for giving my father that opportunity.

“The Arab people were so caring and welcoming that we never felt like foreigners.”

He added: “We collected so many things when we lived in Saudi. You could not get stuff like that in the US. These items in my home are some of my most treasured memories.” 

Fritts said that among the memories he would “never forget” was the time he remembered hearing about King Faisal being the “People’s King.”

He added: “Honestly, I was a young boy. It was and still is a dream for me to meet King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. I am amazed by the transformation that Saudi Arabia has been going through since I left, especially that the memories I recall from life there as a young boy. 

“But I’m very excited in the direction that it is going. Mohammed bin Salman is doing an amazing job, especially with regards to Vision 2030.”

Fritts now lives in Canton, Georgia. His father taught Saudi workers how to operate aircraft for the flag carrier between 1978 and 1985. 

He said that he has Saudi friends in the US who visit his home and stay for weeks at a time. “My advice to Saudis would be to continue being kind people that they are and hopefully it will spread more love,” he added.

Fritts said: “I am 54 years old. I own several companies. I have owned a heating and air company for 14 years but am also co-owner of a company called Global Vision Plus, which specializes in sports and entertainment.

“We are now working on getting a project approved in the Kingdom.”

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Saudi Hajj ministry announces alternative flights, facilities for pilgrims from UK, Europe and US

Updated 02 July 2022

Saudi Hajj ministry announces alternative flights, facilities for pilgrims from UK, Europe and US

  • Move comes after people faced technical issues while applying for Hajj via the electronic portal
  • Additional seats were added on flights after people reported limited capacities on flights

RIYADH: The Ministry of Hajj and Umrah in Saudi Arabia announced on Wednesday that it will secure alternative flights and provide additional seats for pilgrims coming from Britain, the US, and Europe. 

In cooperation with relevant authorities, visas will also be “issued immediately to the pilgrims entering the Kingdom as part of the efforts”. 

This comes after people faced technical issues while applying for hajj via a new electronic portal called Motawif and had several issues including no access to the limited seats on flights. 

The statement was also confirmed by a ministry spokesperson who spoke exclusively to Katie Jensen, presenter of Frankly Speaking — the weekly political talkshow produced by Arab News.

The technical issues experienced by some pilgrims with the new Motawif online portal are “solvable and being dealt with”, according to the official spokesperson and deputy minister of Hajj & Umrah Services Hesham A. Saeed.

“I am assuring you now that everybody chooses a program, including the air ticket, now it is solvable, they have the air ticket and everything is done now,” he said. 

“(The pilgrims) still have time, the Hajj season still has not started, we still have ten more days to start the Hajj season and all their difficulties, we are solving it now and it is already solved by Motawif company and everything now, Inshallah, is going very fine and smooth,” added Saeed during the interview which will air in full on Sunday July 3 via www.arabnews.com/FranklySpeaking


Grand Mosque ready to receive worshipers on first Friday of Dhu Al-Hijjah – presidency

Updated 01 July 2022

Grand Mosque ready to receive worshipers on first Friday of Dhu Al-Hijjah – presidency

  • Cleaning and sterilization operations have been intensified
  • 600 employees have been enlisted at the mosque to receive visitors

RIYADH: The Grand Mosque in Makkah is fully prepared to receive pilgrims and worshipers on Friday, the General Presidency for the Affairs of the Two Holy Mosques has said.

This Friday will one of the busiest during the year as many pilgrims have already arrived in Makkah ahead of Hajj which will start on the 8th of Dhu Al-Hijjah (July 7).

The presidency has enlisted 400 employees to receive worshipers and pilgrims, direct them to the mataf and various other prayer spaces, and regulate entry and exit to and from the Grand Mosque.

Cleaning and sterilization operations have also been intensified and there has been an increase in Zamzam water being distributed to visitors.

Around 4,000 employees clean the Grand Mosque ten times a day using 13,000 liters of disinfectants.

There are 25,000 Zamzam containers dotted around the mosque, 20 smart carts holding 80 litres of water are in operation, and 516 drinking fountains are available.

600 employees have been enlisted at the doors of the mosque to receive visitors and direct them to the correct areas, organize entry and exit, and support security personnel in diverting and directing worshipers when prayer areas get filled up.

100 employees are on hand to help pilgrims perform tawaf and other rituals in accordance with the correct manner, the presidency added.


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.

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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.

 

 

 

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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.