‘What Singapore did in 60 years, Saudi Arabia wants to accomplish in 15 years’: Diriyah Group CEO

The fifth edition, being held at the Pavillon Vendome in Paris ahead of the Bureau International des Expositions announcement of the Expo 2030 host country, gathers a delegation of Saudi ministers. (FILE/AFP)
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Updated 28 November 2023
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‘What Singapore did in 60 years, Saudi Arabia wants to accomplish in 15 years’: Diriyah Group CEO

  • Media Oasis gathers Saudi delegation for 3-day event ahead of BIE Expo 2030 announcement
  • For Diriyah, chief executive says 140m sq m must be finished by 2030 to welcome people from around world

PARIS: Media Oasis is a three-day event organized by the Saudi Ministry of Media, highlighting the Kingdom’s economic, development, and culture transformation.

The fifth edition, being held at the Pavillon Vendome in Paris ahead of the Bureau International des Expositions announcement of the Expo 2030 host country, gathers a delegation of Saudi ministers, the mayor of Riyadh, and the leadership of Saudi megaproject companies, to talk about their latest and upcoming projects under Vision 2030, what the Kingdom will look like by 2030, and why Riyadh is the place to be and host the next world expo following Osaka in 2025.

The Media Oasis comprises nine sections from hospitality to culture and sport with Riyadh Expo 2030, Diriyah, NEOM, the Ministry of Sport, Visit Saudi and more present to showcase the “city of tomorrow,” Saudi heritage, and the country’s cultural gems.

The Ministry of Sport is working on 33 new events for 2024 in addition to hosting Asia 2027, Trojena winter games, with sustainability factored into the Kingdom’s transformation efforts, sustainable sports events, and activities.

Jerry Inzerillo, CEO of the Diriyah Group, told Arab News how Diriyah was at the heart of the Kingdom’s transformation journey for 2030 and beyond.

Diriyah is a model for urban development and cultural renaissance, and an ambitious project aiming to become one of the leading culture centers, tourism hubs, and entertainment destinations on a global scale.

“We’re very blessed at this point in time to have two great visionary leaders of one time, King Salman, and the dynamic Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. Their vision of the Kingdom to give happiness and well-being to all its people is 2030.

“The reason why this Expo is more important to Saudi than anybody is because we feel that it will allow us to welcome people from all over the world to see the accomplishments of the Kingdom by 2030.

“The crown prince said we will not only show our commitment, but we will also physically be there to show how much this means to us and I think it was a very thoughtful and brilliant strategy,” Inzerillo said.

Moving forward and beyond the announcement, the megaprojects are in progress to achieve the targets of Vision 2030, alongside a continued conversation between Saudi Arabia and the rest of the world to meet the Kingdom’s economic, culture, and hospitality objectives.

With 50 years of experience in the tourism industry, Inzerillo highlighted authenticity and passion as a driving force behind the Diriyah projects, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and the birthplace of the Kingdom.

“Winning the bid is when the work begins, because we have a giant task to do to get everything completed by 2030. In the case of Diriyah, 140 million square meters must be finished by 2030 and we will be ready to welcome everybody from all over the world,” he added.

In the six years leading up to 2030 the biggest challenge was expected to be manpower.

Inzerillo said: “We’re lucky because the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has a very young population, highly educated.

“What Singapore did in 60 years, what the Emiratis did just in tourism in 30 years, the crown prince wants to accomplish that in 15 years.

“Diriyah will be very famous by 2030. Now we have to get NEOM going, Red Sea going, the city of Riyadh will be unrecognizable, one of the great G20 cities of the world, as the crown prince continues his global leadership as a G20 head of government,” he added.


Experts to discuss advances in Web3, AI, gaming ecosystem growth in Saudi Arabia

The summit aims to showcase advances in Web3 and gaming ecosystem development in Saudi Arabia. (@NFTLAlive)
Updated 7 sec ago
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Experts to discuss advances in Web3, AI, gaming ecosystem growth in Saudi Arabia

  • Big names set to assemble in Saudi capital

RIYADH: Outer Edge Riyadh, the Web3 innovation forum, is set to bring together some of the biggest names in the blockchain, artificial intelligence, and gaming ecosystems from around the world at The Garage in the Saudi capital on Tuesday.

The summit, in partnership with Animoca Brands and King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology, aims to showcase advances in Web3 and gaming ecosystem development in Saudi Arabia.

The Los Angeles-based company Outer Edge is renowned for hosting events that offer invaluable networking opportunities for founders, builders, and venture capitalists in emerging technologies.

Mohammad Hadhrawi, general manager at the Gaming and Immersive Technologies Institute at KACST, said: “We are dedicated to advancing the frontiers of R&D (research and development) in gaming and immersive technologies.

"Our efforts are aligned with the national vision and strategies, aiming to foster an innovative ecosystem that nurtures creativity, technological advancement, and economic diversification.

“By spearheading projects that leverage Web3, AI, and immersive experiences, we aim to impact the global technology landscape and equip our nation with the skills and opportunities to excel in these fields.

“Our commitment is to deliver tangible outcomes that contribute to the Kingdom’s position as a leader in the future economies — a key priority area for the Kingdom — ensuring a sustainable and prosperous future for all.”

Joshua Kriger, Outer Edge co-founder and co-host of the “Edge of NFT” and “Edge of AI” podcasts, said that when launching Outer Edge in Los Angeles, the intention was always to catalyze innovation globally.

He said: “We are thrilled to bring the concept of co-creation, connection, and community to Saudi Arabia and unite regional and global leaders in Web3, AI, and gaming. Our unique format fosters long-term collaboration opportunities at the intersection of culture, entertainment, and technology.”

Yat Siu, the co-founder and executive chairman of Animoca Brands, said: “Through our partnership with Outer Edge Riyadh, we are honored to help support the MENA (Middle East and North Africa) region’s progress toward fully harnessing the power of Web3 and blockchain.

“Global leaders at Outer Edge Riyadh will gather to engage in spirited discussions, forge valuable partnerships, create new opportunities, and mobilize on various topics ranging from revolutionizing smart cities to redefining finance and entertainment.”

Topics at the summit will include smart cities, gaming, esports, art, culture, and more. For more information about the Outer Edge Innovation Summit in Riyadh, visit https://www.outeredge.live/riyadh.


Riyadh meeting focuses on modern Shariah issues

Updated 21 April 2024
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Riyadh meeting focuses on modern Shariah issues

  • Leaders from Islamic nations gather to discuss jurisprudence and challenges facing the Islamic world

Riyadh: The grand mufti of Saudi Arabia, Sheikh Abdulaziz Al-Asheikh, and senior scholars of the Islamic world are in Riyadh for the Islamic Fiqh Council’s 23rd session to discuss contemporary jurisprudence challenges.

Scholars and researchers from Islamic and Muslim-minority countries are attending the session, which runs from April 20 to 22.

The Islamic Fiqh Council sets out to clarify Shariah rulings for Muslims on a range of issues, show the adaptability of Islamic jurisprudence, and promote its heritage. The council also seeks to explain its terminology in contemporary language.

Al-Asheikh emphasized that Islamic jurisprudence, with its general principles, comprehensive rules, array of jurisprudential branches, fatwas, and diverse research on various topics provides flexibility and broad perspectives for contemporary scholars.

He also expressed appreciation to King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman for their efforts in serving the Two Holy Mosques and their visitors, as well as for the support provided to scholars.

Dr. Mohammed bin Abdulkarim Al-Issa, secretary-general of the Muslim World League, said in his speech that the session would review Shariah issues, based on in-depth academic research surveys conducted by distinguished scholars.

Hissein Brahim Taha, secretary-general of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, said that the session was taking place during a critical period for the Islamic world, filled with significant intellectual and political challenges.

Dr. Mohammed bin Abdulkarim Al-Issa (C), secretary-general of the Muslim World League, said in his speech that the session would review Shariah issues, based on in-depth academic research surveys conducted by distinguished scholars. (SPA)

The president of the International Islamic Fiqh Academy, Dr. Saleh bin Abdullah bin Humaid, mentioned that the topics discussed by the academy’s committees and councils encompass Shariah, family, medical, economic, financial, and intellectual policies, all of which are of interest to the Islamic nation.

The secretary-general of the academy, Dr. Koutoub Moustapha Sano, said: “We are all required to work to unify rulings in Islamic countries in all matters of life, in accordance with the provisions of Islamic Shariah. That is the only way to accomplish Islamic unity among Islamic peoples.”

The session will have several scientific sessions devoted to contemporary jurisprudential issues and challenges.


Saudi Arabia’s Asir magpie faces conservation challenges

Updated 21 April 2024
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Saudi Arabia’s Asir magpie faces conservation challenges

RIYADH: Spring paints a vibrant picture across Saudi Arabia, creating ideal nesting conditions for its feathered residents. The abundant food, comfortable temperatures, and increased rainfall from March to July provide a breeding haven. Yet, amid this avian activity, one particular bird faces an uphill battle for survival: the Asir magpie.

This stunning bird, scientifically known as Pica asirensis, holds a precarious position on the global endangered species list. Restricted to a small pocket in the juniper forests of the Asir region, fewer than 100 breeding pairs remain.

Initially thought to be a subspecies of the Eurasian magpie, the Asir magpie was recognized as a distinct species in 2016. Its geographical isolation — over 1,200 km from its closest Eurasian relative — along with unique physical and genetic characteristics, confirmed its separate classification.

The Asir magpie has darker feathers, with a tail adorned in richer greens and purples. Compared to its Eurasian cousin, it has shorter wings and tail, larger feet, and a noticeably bigger beak. Its call is also distinct, with unique sounds used during foraging.

Ants, bees, and locusts are staples in the Asir magpie’s diet, along with plant seeds and fruits. It also consumes fallen berries and leftover rice found in picnic areas.

During the breeding season, females lay five to seven eggs, with an incubation period of 16 to 22 days. However, chick survival rates are generally low — typically, only two to four chicks survive — due to food scarcity, nest predation, and other hazards.

Recognizing the Asir magpie’s critical status, government agencies have increased conservation efforts. In 2018, Saudi Aramco conducted a vital study, deploying advanced tracking devices to understand the bird’s population density, habitat preferences, and movement patterns. This data is crucial for implementing effective protection measures.

Saudi Arabia boasts remarkable avian diversity, with the National Center for Wildlife documenting an impressive 499 bird species. Of these, 401 are resident or migratory, while 11 are rare species that regularly visit the country. Additionally, 87 vagrant species also grace Saudi skies.

The Asir magpie exemplifies Saudi Arabia’s rich biodiversity. Conservation efforts are essential to ensure the survival of this unique species and to protect the Kingdom’s natural heritage for future generations.


Saudi Masam project clears 857 Houthi mines in Yemen

Updated 21 April 2024
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Saudi Masam project clears 857 Houthi mines in Yemen

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s Project Masam cleared 857 mines in Yemen — which had been planted by the Houthi militia — between April 13 to 19, according to a recent report.

Overseen by the Kingdom’s aid agency KSrelief, the project’s special teams destroyed 782 items of unexploded ordnance and 75 anti-tank mines.

The explosives, which were planted indiscriminately by the Houthis across Yemen, posed a threat to civilians, including children, women and the elderly.

Project Masam is one of several initiatives undertaken by Saudi Arabia at the request of King Salman, which has cleared routes for humanitarian aid to reach the country’s citizens.

The demining operations took place in Marib, Aden, Jouf, Shabwa, Taiz, Hodeidah, Lahij, Sanaa, Al-Bayda, Al-Dhale and Saada.

A total of 437,616 mines have been cleared since the start of the initiative in 2018, according to Ousama Al-Gosaibi, the project’s managing director.

These include 279,002 items of unexploded ordnance, 144,101 anti-tank mines, 8,018 improvised explosive devices, and 6,495 anti-personnel mines.

The initiative trains local demining engineers and provides them with modern equipment. It also offers support to Yemenis injured by the devices.

About 5 million people have been forced to flee their homes since the beginning of the conflict in Yemen, many of them displaced by the presence of land mines.

Masam teams are tasked with clearing villages, roads and schools to facilitate the safe movement of civilians and the delivery of humanitarian aid.

The project’s contract was extended for another year in June 2023 at a cost of $33.29 million.


Award winners crowned at close of Gulf Cinema Festival in Riyadh

Updated 21 April 2024
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Award winners crowned at close of Gulf Cinema Festival in Riyadh

RIYADH: Award winners were crowned on the final day of the fourth Gulf Cinema Festival in Riyadh on Saturday, at a ceremony attended by prominent artistic and cinematic names, the Saudi Press Agency reported.
The winners were nominated by a jury headed by Ibrahim Al-Hasawi from Saudi Arabia, who was joined by Bassam Al-Thawadi from Bahrain, Rawda Al-Thani from Qatar, Khaled Amin from Kuwait, Nujoom Al-Ghanem from the UAE and Ibrahim Al-Zadjali from Oman.
“Hajjan,” a coming-of-age drama set in Saudi Arabia about two brothers who battle to save their favorite camel starring Omar Al-Atawi and Abdulmohsen Alnemr, won the award for best feature film.
It also picked up the best photography award, with Jerry Fassbender recognized for his work on the film. Al-Atawi won the best actor award for his role.
The best actress award went to Bahraini Maryam Zeman for her part in the movie “My Word.”
The award for best short film went to the heavily tipped “Clouds,” about a widower and war veteran who are forced to balance their own morals with societal expectations in southern Oman, directed by Muzna Almusafer.
The award for best documentary film went to Mansoor Al-Dhaheri’s climate change expose “Swimming 62.”
Ziad Al-Hussein took home two awards, including one for best director, for his film “Shiabni Hani.”
The award for best original soundtrack went to Khaled Al-Kammar for his music that featured in the movie “Hawjan,” a modern twist on the ancient Arab jinn mythology, which also opened the latest edition of the Red Sea Festival last year.
The Gulf Cinema Festival was held under the patronage of Saudi Culture Minister Prince Badr bin Abdullah bin Farhan, who is also chairman of the board of directors of the Film Commission, which organized the event.
This year’s festival hosted screenings of 29 films, three training workshops and six cultural seminars.
Abdullah Al-Qahtani, CEO of the commission, said in a speech during the ceremony that the festival embodied a commitment to supporting the film sector in the region and building bridges for cinematic cooperation between the Gulf countries.
He thanked Prince Badr for his sponsorship and support of the festival and the film sector in Saudi Arabia, as well as the general secretariat of the Gulf Cooperation Council.