LONDON: Homayoun Sakhi closes his eyes and runs his fingers along the long neck of his wooden instrument encrusted with mother-of-pearl.
“I feel like I have my Afghanistan in my hand,” says Sakhi, one of the world’s most renowned performers on the country’s national instrument, the rubab.
He is jet-lagged after flying in from California to perform at London’s Barbican concert hall to raise funds for emergency medicine and education in his homeland.
Along with the growing humanitarian crisis, Afghanistan’s rich musical culture is under threat as the Taliban have banned music since their return to power last year.
Widely shared videos have shown them smashing and burning instruments. Musicians have fled the country.
“Right now we don’t have music in Afghanistan,” says Sakhi.
“It’s really difficult because there are no concerts, there’s no music, and (for musicians) it’s very difficult to be without any money and without a job.
“That’s why they’re trying to go somewhere to play.”
The Taliban clampdown is a repeat of the hard-liners’ previous time in power between 1996 and 2001, when they banned music as sinful, under a strict interpretation of Islamic law.
The rubab dates back thousands of years and has enjoyed a revival thanks to Sakhi, who is known as a musical innovator and has developed a more modern playing style.
BBC Music Magazine called him “one of the greatest performers” on the instrument.
Born in Kabul, he left Afghanistan with his family in 1992, in the chaotic aftermath of the Soviet withdrawal, moving to Pakistan.
He later settled in Fremont, California, which is known for its large Afghan community, and has launched an academy teaching the rubab.
“Each time I’m playing, I’m home, I feel like I’m in Afghanistan,” he says.
Music including pop was allowed a free rein during the past two decades in Afghanistan, with local television even showing a “Pop Idol” talent contest equivalent.
But following the Taliban’s return to power, traditional Afghan music now relies on devotees overseas.
The “Songs of Hope” concert at the Barbican last Saturday was organized by Afghanistan International TV.
The London-based channel was set up by Volant media company, which also runs a Persian-language channel for Iranians.
It will screen a documentary about the concert in March.
In the first half, Sakhi plays classical Afghan pieces, followed by folk music that gets the audience clapping along.
He performs with UK-based virtuoso Shahbaz Hussain on tabla and Iranian musician Adib Rostami on the kamancheh, a bowed string instrument.
“I had the idea to do the concert — that was the only thing I can do as a musician,” said Rostami, one of the event’s organizers.
“As we know, now the music is banned in Afghanistan — they cannot ban this from the people around the world.”
“We have to try as musicians, as music lovers, to find a way to keep this cultural heritage for the future.”
The current situation for musicians under the Taliban is “back in the 1990s,” he says.
“Again, you cannot be a musician in Afghanistan.
“As far as I know, most of the musicians... are trying to get out of the country.”
A group of students and teachers from a national music school in Kabul arrived as refugees in Portugal in December, after the Taliban’s takeover earlier last year.
Afghanistan’s first all-female orchestra, Zohra, set up in 2016 and named after a Persian goddess of music, has moved to Qatar.
Virtuoso keeps Afghan music alive despite Taliban ban
Virtuoso keeps Afghan music alive despite Taliban ban
- Afghanistan's rich musical culture is under threat as the Taliban have banned music since their return to power last year
- "Right now we don't have music in Afghanistan," says Homayoun Sakhi
LONDON: Homayoun Sakhi closes his eyes and runs his fingers along the long neck of his wooden instrument encrusted with mother-of-pearl.
Exclusive: Netflix’s Tinder Swindler stars recount transformation from victim to inspiration for women
- Norwegian-born Cecilie Fjellhoy and Stockholm native Pernilla Sjoholm to deliver special keynote address at Arab Women Forum
- Defrauded by a con artist, they have hit back by speaking up about their experience of romance scams
DUBAI: Just swipe left. At least that is what many an indecisive Tinder user may have found themselves doing after the notorious case of the dating app fraudster dubbed the “Tinder Swindler” came to light in an explosive Netflix docu-drama earlier this year.
Despite being defrauded by the conman, Norwegian TV personality Cecilie Fjellhoy and Swedish business owner Pernilla Sjoholm are hitting back by speaking up about their experience.
The women will appear during a special keynote address titled “When women fight back” at the Arab Women Forum, held in partnership with Arab News, at the Palazzo Versace Dubai on May 17.
“It was very traumatic,” Sjoholm told Arab News, reflecting on her experience ahead of Tuesday’s forum appearance. “It wasn’t only about the money you have lost. You have lost the way you viewed yourself, how you viewed everything.
“I used to think about fraud as: ‘Oh my God, who gets defrauded? You must be of lower intelligence or something.’ And I’m very embarrassed to say this today, because of what I lost.
“I was 31 years old, and it was not the way I would have imagined my life to be. To lose everything. You also lose your soul.”
Based on an expose by Verdens Gang, a Norwegian tabloid newspaper known under the abbreviation VG, the program unearthed the story of Israeli national Shimon Hayut, who allegedly posed on the dating app Tinder as Simon Leviev, claiming to be the son of a diamond mogul.
Hayut notoriously charmed women and persuaded them to loan him money, swindling an estimated $10 million from people across the globe.
According to reports, Hayut followed a pattern. After matching with unsuspecting women on Tinder, he would take them on a lavish first date and slowly build up a relationship, all the while dating other women.
Eventually, the fraudster would confide in them that a nefarious set of “enemies” were after him, persuading the women to send him money on the understanding that he would quickly pay them back.
After a nifty piece of counter-swindling by one woman, Ayleen Koeleman, who had been alerted to the con by the expose in VG, Hayut was arrested in 2019 and sentenced to 15 months in prison for fraud in Israel.
However, Hayut served only five months behind bars before being released. He has never been charged for crimes related to Fjellhoy and Sjoholm, and denies their claims of fraud.
And the story does not end there. In a shocking twist, Hayut is now pursuing a Hollywood career, while the women he targeted remain in debt to this day.
“We were very disappointed,” said Sjoholm. “Unfortunately, there is no extradition from Israel to Europe. So he’s still there.
“We don’t think that they handled this case properly and they should have. And, unfortunately, that is the way it happens in a lot of fraud cases. I mean, I just know the numbers in Sweden. They drop 96 percent of all the cases they get, because they have too much.”
Instead of consigning themselves to a life of victimhood, both Sjoholm and Fjellhoy are working to inspire women across the world to identify and fight back against romance scams.
“We have talked about a lot of the shame that surrounds fraud and I think that it’s so important to stand up and say that this could happen to anyone,” said Sjoholm.
“Because it’s so common that fraudsters get away with fraud due to people being scared of sharing their story. So I definitely know that we helped a lot of people and hopefully will help a lot of people in the future as well.”
According to Action Fraud, the UK’s national reporting center for fraud and cybercrime, the majority of victims of romance fraud are women. Sjoholm believes women are specifically targeted for their perceived emotional vulnerabilities.
“I think that we women are more emotional people,” she said. “These fraudsters work a lot with emotions, because it is a form of emotional abuse.”
The Tinder Swindler case has raised many questions about what responsibility dating apps ought to hold for romance scams and what more they could be doing to safeguard users.
“I don’t feel like there was a lot that the dating app could have done in our case,” said Fjellhoy, also speaking to Arab News ahead of the forum.
“I feel like just doing proper identity checks so you can’t catfish someone, for example. We see that they have some, but I feel like fraud is much larger than just what happens on the dating app. They take you away from the dating app. It’s just one avenue of many that fraudsters are using.”
Beyond dating apps tightening their safeguards, there have also been calls to improve awareness in schools so that young people are better equipped to spot catfishing — the use of fake accounts to lure victims — and romance scams.
“If you’re going to educate young people, maybe teach them more about what kind of different people exist in the world,” said Fjellhoy.
“There are some people that don’t have empathy, there are psychopaths and narcissists who will take advantage of your empathy and those types of things. But I think it’s important to not put too much emphasis on us as victims as well.”
Indeed, there is a danger of victim blaming if the responsibility for spotting scammers is placed on users, when the onus ought to be on clamping down on fraudsters.
“We didn’t do anything wrong here,” said Fjellhoy. “And fraud will always happen. But, when fraud happens, how do we, as a society, talk about how to stop it?”
Nevertheless, there are several red flags that dating app users can look out for, says Sjoholm, including “love bombing” — the practice of lavishing someone with attention or affection with a view to influence or manipulate them.
However, Sjoholm believes that the very nature of social media makes it difficult to determine the truth about someone. “When it comes to social media, it is entirely about everyone wanting to show off their best side,” she said.
“Everyone wants to show off the good parts. When it comes to social media, I would say that 95 percent is just fraud in general.”
The mental health repercussions of romance fraud cannot be understated, as victims grapple with both the financial fallout and intense feelings of shame. “Regarding how your mental health is when you realize you’ve been defrauded, I think, for me, why I felt so low that I ended up in a psychiatric ward is that no one took you seriously,” said Fjellhoy.
“And I feel like, for example, you go to the police and they just brush you off. And I tried to contact the banks and they told me: ‘Well, you still need to pay down the loans.’ And you’re still mentally low. It’s double — emotional and economic. You see no way out.”
As a result of her ordeal, Fjellhoy established the Action Reaction Foundation to focus on the mental health challenges of survivors and to lobby for stronger laws as well as policies to protect victims.
One of the lasting effects of the ordeal is an inability to trust others easily. “I’m still having trouble with trust,” said Sjoholm.
“I have more good days than I have bad days. But even on my good days, when someone does something very nice toward me, I can sometimes feel like there’s an agenda behind it. That someone is there to hurt me.
“I can still socialize. I can meet new people, but I’m having a very hard time to really talk to people. I don’t want to take away trust. You should be trusting people, you should be helping people, because that is what makes this world better. But, of course, this has been a tremendous trauma.”
For Fjellhoy, it is also about having trust in the system to protect victims and take their claims seriously.
“That the police will be there to protect you, that if you go to the bank, and you’re saying you’re being defrauded, you can get some peace and quiet to figure things out, that they will give that to us,” said Fjellhoy.
“Just so many things that could have made everything that happened afterward much easier, which would have made the fight easier.”
For others who have fallen victim to romance scams, Fjellhoy’s advice is to speak up.
“Please report it to the police, no matter what,” she said. “We know that it hasn’t gone our way. But they need to know about all cases so they can see how big it actually is.
“Please, report it.”
Victims of Israeli ‘Tinder Swindler’ to speak at Arab Women Forum in Dubai
- Norwegian Cecilie Fjellhøy and Swedish Pernilla Sjöholm rose to fame after Netflix documentary
- Leviev emotionally manipulated women into giving him millions of dollars to support his lavish lifestyle
LONDON: Two women who were defrauded by Simon Leviev — notoriously known as the Tinder Swindler — are to speak at the Arab Women Forum in Dubai next week.
Norwegian TV personality Cecilie Fjellhøy and Swedish business owner Pernilla Sjöholm rose to fame after the Netflix documentary “The Tinder Swindler” told the story of how they were swindled by the Israeli conman through the popular dating app Tinder.
Leviev emotionally manipulated Fjellhøy, Sjöholm and others into giving him millions of dollars to support his lavish lifestyle and, as he claimed, to escape his “enemies.” Reports show that Leviev conned his victims out of more than $10 million.
The Arab Women Forum – a thought leadership platform for women — is taking place in Dubai on May 17 and will form part of the annual “Top CEO” awards and conference event organized on May 17 and May 18 by the Dubai-based publisher and event management company, Special Edition.
Julien Hawari, CEO of Special Edition, told Arab News he was fascinated by the strength the women showed in fighting a man with a long scamming experience.
Arab News is cooperating with the annual women-focused forum as its exclusive media partner. The event is held at a time of significant social change in Saudi Arabia and the UAE. Both countries have seen major reforms in recent years, including unprecedented freedoms granted to women in Saudi Arabia and the establishment of a gender balance council in the UAE.
The editorial cooperation includes moderating, participation, and special coverage of the event which also features leading international female executives and policymakers.
Folk rappers from Ukraine win Eurovision in musical morale boost
- Kalush Orchestra beat out 24 competitors in the finale of the world’s biggest live music event with “Stefania,” a rap lullaby combining Ukrainian folk and modern hip-hop rhythms
TURIN, Italy: Ukraine won the Eurovision Song Contest Sunday with an infectious hip-hop folk melody, as the embattled nation rides a wave of public support across Europe.
Kalush Orchestra beat out 24 competitors in the finale of the world’s biggest live music event with “Stefania,” a rap lullaby combining Ukrainian folk and modern hip-hop rhythms from an energetic, breakdancing band.
“Please help Ukraine and Mariupol! Help Azovstal right now,” frontman Oleh Psiuk said in English from the stage, referring to the port city’s underground steelworks where Ukrainian soldiers are surrounded by Russian forces.
Following the win, Psiuk — whose bubblegum pink bucket hat has made him instantly recognizable — thanked everyone who voted for his country in the contest, which is watched by millions of viewers.
“The victory is very important for Ukraine, especially this year. Thank you from the bottom of our hearts. Glory to Ukraine,” Psiuk told journalists.
Coming in second place was Britain with Sam Ryder’s “Space Man” and its stratospheric notes, followed by Spain with the reggaeton “SloMo” from Chanel.
Ukraine beat out a host of over-the-top acts at the kitschy, quirky annual musical event, including Norway’s Subwoolfer, which sang about bananas while dressed in yellow wolf masks, and Serbia’s Konstrakta, who questioned national health care while meticulously scrubbing her hands onstage.
“Only at Eurovision do people celebrate bananas, heartbreaks and wash their hands in one and the same show,” Swedish fan Martina Fries told AFP Saturday ahead of the finale.
“Eurovision is a way to show that different countries can celebrate peacefully together.”
The joy of Eurovision is in its camp and theatrics, although the nearly three-month war in Ukraine hung heavily over festivities.
The European Broadcasting Union, which organizes the event, banned Russia on February 25, the day after Moscow invaded its neighbor.
“Stefania,” written by Psiuk as a tribute to his mother before the war, mixes traditional Ukrainian folk music played on obscure flute-like instruments with an invigorating hip-hop beat. The band donned richly embroidered ethnic garb to perform their act.
Nostalgic lyrics such as “I’ll always find my way home even if all the roads are destroyed” have taken on outsized meaning as millions of Ukrainians have been displaced by war.
President Volodymyr Zelensky thanked the group for topping the contest.
“Our courage impresses the world, our music conquers Europe!” he wrote on Facebook.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson called the win “a clear reflection of not just your talent, but of the unwavering support for your fight for freedom,” while European Council President Charles Michel said he hoped next year’s contest “can be hosted in Kyiv in a free and united Ukraine.”
Kalush Orchestra received special authorization from Ukraine’s government to attend Eurovision, since men of fighting age are prohibited from leaving the country, but that permit expires in two days.
Psiuk said he wasn’t exactly sure what awaited the band as war rages back home.
“Like every Ukrainian, we are ready to fight as much as we can and go until the end.”
Other contenders at Eurovision included Sweden’s break-up belt “Hold Me Closer” from Cornelia Jakobs, Greece’s somber “Die Together” by Amanda Georgiadi Tenfjord, and “Brividi” (Shivers), a gay-themed duet from Italy’s Mahmood and Blanco.
Italy won the competition last year with “Zitti e Buoni” (Shut up and Behave) from high-octane glam rockers Maneskin, who performed their new single “Supermodel” during Saturday night’s finale.
Eurovision’s winner is chosen by a cast of music industry professionals — and members of the public — from each country, with votes for one’s home nation not allowed.
After a quarter-century of being shut out from the top spot, Britain had hoped to have a winner in “Space Man” and its high notes belted by the affable, long-haired Ryder.
Britain had been ahead after votes were counted from the national juries, but a jaw-dropping 439 points awarded to Ukraine from the public pushed it to the top spot.
Eurovision is a hit among fans not only for the music, but for the looks on display and this year was no exception. Lithuania’s Monika Liu generated as much social media buzz for her bowl cut hairdo as her sensual and elegant “Sentimentai.”
Meanwhile, Sheldon Riley of Australia — one of Eurovision’s few non-European entries — sang his self-affirmation ballad “Not the Same” through a sparkling face veil laden with crystals.
And since no Eurovision is complete without a smattering of gyrating and undulating bodies onstage, Spain’s Chanel came to the rescue with her energetic dancing and memorable “booty hypnotic” refrain.
Surprise! Justin Timberlake is in ‘Candy’ with Jessica Biel
- The musician and actor portrays a deputy who investigates the murder the show is centered around
- Biel, a co-executive producer on the project, says Timberlake first approached her producing partner, Michelle Purple, about wanting to be involved
NEW YORK: Viewers tuning in to Thursday’s episode of “Candy,” starring Jessica Biel, may recognize a familiar face: Biel’s husband Justin Timberlake.
The musician and actor portrays a deputy who investigates the murder the show is centered around.
Biel, a co-executive producer on the project, says Timberlake first approached her producing partner, Michelle Purple, about wanting to be involved.
“They sort of had this whole plan. I didn’t even know about at first. And then I thought he was kidding. And then he said, ‘No, for real, I want to do this.’ And then it was off to the races. He was getting a wig fitting, it was so fun and was such a good surprise.”
Biel admits to being worried at first about whether their dynamic would “translate at work” but that quickly went away.
“I actually felt total peace when he was around. Like, I knew he was going to hold that sort of safe space for me to work in the way I needed to and be non-judgmental and open and free. And he gave me the freedom to improvise, which he’s so good at and I’m less comfortable with.”
In “Candy,” Biel plays Candy Montgomery, a young, outgoing, church-going wife and mother in Texas who voraciously reads romance novels. She seems to have it all — but is bored — so she begins an affair with a man from her town (played by Pablo Schreiber) and ends up killing his wife, Betty, with an ax. Montgomery pleaded not guilty to the crime and a jury sided with her, some even saying they never liked Betty.
The story is based on a real case from 1980 and is of interest in Hollywood at the moment. Elizabeth Olsen recently wrapped filming her own limited series version called “Love and Death,” in which she plays Candy.
Melanie Lynskey, who plays Betty, hopes the story will lead to compassion for the victim, and that people will see how the trial was a popularity contest.
“As somebody who has had a hard time fitting in for a lot of my life since I was a little girl, I really, really responded to that and just how deeply unfair it was,” she said.
Timberlake isn’t the only surprise casting in the show: Lynskey’s husband, Jason Ritter, plays Timberlake’s partner. A memorable moment is when the two recreate the crime as part of their investigation.
Biel credits “Candy” co-creator and showrunner Robin Veith for “the idea to have Jason as well and have these two be partners in crime. It tickled us,” said Biel.
Biel wears a wig with short, curly brown hair in the series which gotten a lot of attention. She jokes that it’s a similar hairstyle to one her husband had in the late 90s with his boy band NSYNC.
“He definitely had that hairstyle,” said Biel. I always ask, “Please grow those beautiful curls back out. I love that curly hair. I know. It’s so weird. We were laughing about that.”
How Bollywood expertise can cement cultural ties that bind Saudi Arabia and India
- Movers and shakers of Hindi film industry see vast opportunities opening up in fast-changing Kingdom
- Saudi authorities aim to build mutually beneficial relations with India’s highly successful film industry
RIYADH: Collaborations in cinema and entertainment are expected to play a crucial role in the promising new era of cross-sector cooperation between Saudi Arabia and India as part of their strategic partnership.
Barely four years after the resumption of movie screening in the Kingdom, the movers and shakers of India’s multibillion-dollar Hindi film industry, better known as Bollywood, are being invited to seize the opportunities opening up in a fast-changing country that now aspires to be a world-class center for film.
The twin facts of India being a market with immense potential and the presence of a large Indian diaspora in the Kingdom make the nation of 1.38 billion people a natural partner for Saudi Arabia as it seeks to diversify its economy away from oil and into the creative industries, among other fields.
“I see a huge potential for future collaboration on film production and other cultural sectors between India and Saudi Arabia,” Saudi Minister of Culture Prince Badr bin Abdullah bin Farhan wrote in an opinion piece for The Times of India newspaper on May 1, following a three-day visit.
“We have seen many synergies across the value chain of filmmaking, such as the co-production of family-oriented content, infrastructure development and nurturing local talent.”
Under Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 social and economic reform agenda, the government aims to increase household spending on cultural and entertainment activities inside the Kingdom from 2.9 percent to 6 percent.
To achieve this, the Kingdom has been allocating resources generously to the domestic film industry, as well as opening scores of new cinemas, concert venues, sports arenas and leisure facilities across the country.
Having long enjoyed cordial diplomatic and commercial relations with New Delhi, Saudi authorities now aim to build mutually beneficial ties with India’s highly successful Hindi film industry.
Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Culture established its dedicated Film Commission in February 2020 to help transform the Kingdom’s film industry into a major economic driver.
Existing collaborations with Bollywood have already resulted in an increase in the distribution and exhibition of Indian films in Saudi Arabia.
“Kaala,” a film by the iconic Indian actor, producer and screenwriter Rajinikanth, became the first Indian film released in the Kingdom in 2018, while the acclaimed Bollywood film “83” premiered at the Red Sea International Film Festival in 2021.
The potential returns from an expanded partnership are huge. The global film and video market reached a value of nearly $234.9 billion in 2020, having increased at a compound annual growth rate of 2.4 percent since 2015.
The market is expected to reach $318.2 billion by 2025, and $410.6 billion by 2030.
“With the Indian film industry being one of the largest and most celebrated in the world, and as Saudi Arabia aims to become a world-class center for film with an anticipated contribution of $6.9 billion to the Kingdom’s GDP by 2030, there are numerous opportunities for the film industries of both nations,” Prince Badr said.
“From talent, through to production, distribution, and technical know-how across the value chain, there are plenty of areas for both countries to collaborate and create content that is suitable not just in their respective countries, but also for a global audience.”
As chairman of the Film Commission, Prince Badr led a Saudi delegation to India in April to discuss ways to expand cultural partnerships, particularly in the film industry.
The delegation included representatives from Film AlUla, a company established in early 2020 by the Royal Commission for AlUla with a mandate to promote filming in Saudi Arabia’s historic AlUla region and develop a film-friendly ecosystem to support productions.
During the Saudi delegation’s visit, Film AlUla’s representatives met prominent Indian filmmakers, including Shah Rukh Khan, Salman Khan and Akshay Kumar.
“The Indian film sector is among the best known and most successful in the world and, during our recent visit, we were delighted to meet with many of the industry’s most celebrated individuals and entities,” Abdullah Al-Eyyaf Al-Qahtani, the Film Commission’s CEO, told Arab News.
“With our own film industry among the fastest growing in the Middle East and North Africa, we can learn much from Bollywood and introduce opportunities to key Indian productions and businesses in Saudi Arabia. We hope to continue to bolster ties with India as the Saudi film sector reaches new heights both at home and abroad.”
India and Saudi Arabia have enjoyed decades of strong economic and socio-cultural ties since formally establishing relations in 1947.
These ties were cemented during the 1950s when King Saud and Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru exchanged visits — a cordiality that has continued to this day with similar visits by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Commercial partnerships between the two nations have meanwhile grown apace. In the financial year of 2017-18 alone, Indo-Saudi bilateral trade was worth $27.48 billion — up from $25.1 billion in the preceding year, according to India’s Economic Times newspaper.
Plans to bring Bollywood to Saudi Arabia have been underway for several years. In February 2019, the Kingdom’s General Entertainment Authority signed two agreements with Indian firms committing to host a series of concerts featuring top Hindi cinema artists.
The agreements were reached at the Saudi-Indian Forum in New Delhi during Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s 2019 visit to India, when he envisioned investment opportunities of more than $100 billion in India.
Significantly, the highlight of the final day of the Red Sea International Film Festival in Jeddah last December was the presence of a number of Bollywood celebrities, including Ranveer Singh and Deepika Padukone, who brought their full glamor to the world premiere of the film “83.”
In comments to Arab News, Singh said: “I’m really happy to be here. It’s my first time in Saudi Arabia. I’ve always been fascinated by Saudi Arabian culture, and I hope to get a taste of it tonight.”
“83” was released across the Gulf region on VOX cinemas on Dec. 23, a day before its worldwide release.
“I think the opening we Bollywood performers have got in Saudi Arabia is a great opportunity to showcase the talents of both these beautiful countries,” Abu Malik, a Mumbai-based Indian singer and music director, told Arab News.
“Many shows have happened in Saudi Arabia now with immense success. I hope I get an opportunity soon to perform a musical show in Saudi Arabia.”
The film industry is not the only area where the two nations have been keen to foster collaborations. Running in parallel to strategic investments has been a focus on bolstering cultural ties.
For instance, on June 21 last year, coinciding with International Day of Yoga, the Saudi Ministry of Sports’ Leaders Development Institute signed a memorandum of understanding with the Morarji Desai National Institute of Yoga, affiliated with India’s Ministry of Ayush, to promote yoga education in the Kingdom.
The agreement has paved the way for the establishment of formal yoga standards and courses in Saudi Arabia and collaborations in research, education and training.
Yoga, which originated in India, is a popular pursuit across the world. In Saudi Arabia, acceptance of the physical and mental health benefits of yoga has been aided by the Kingdom’s burgeoning investments in sports and public health initiatives.
“Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 holds a great deal of potential and promise for creating a mutual cultural legacy between two nations that have rich histories and strong ties,” Shobhaa De, an influential Indian columnist and socialite, told Arab News.
De, who has written 22 books including “Bollywood Nights,” added: “Beyond Indian cinema, there is enormous potential for enriching the cultural landscape in deeply meaningful ways.”
For both Riyadh and New Delhi, the commemoration of 75 years of India’s independence is a valuable opportunity to reflect on past decades of strong economic and socio-cultural relations while also looking toward the future.
“India continues to be a market of high strategic relevance to Saudi Arabia, and we are seeing a sustained increase in opportunities for cooperation and knowledge-sharing among the two nations, as well as synergistic investments for mutual growth,” Prince Badr said in his Times of India op-ed.
“Through consistent and meaningful engagement with government entities, strategic partners, and wider participants in India, we look forward to bolstering this very promising sector as we together shape a shared future for our nations.”