Saudi Arabia to be guest of honor at Beijing Book Fair

The signing ceremony was attended by Saudi Minister of Culture Prince Badr bin Abdullah bin Farhan, Literature, Publishing, and Translation Commission CEO Dr. Mohammed Hasan Alwan, and officials from the Chinese side. (X:@MOCLiterature)
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Updated 29 March 2024
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Saudi Arabia to be guest of honor at Beijing Book Fair

BEIJING: The Saudi Literature, Publishing and Translation Commission and the China National Publications Import and Export Group Corporation have signed a contract to host Saudi Arabia as the guest of honor at the Beijing International Book Fair, to be held this year between June 19 and 23 in the Chinese capital.

The signing ceremony was attended by Saudi Minister of Culture Prince Badr bin Abdullah bin Farhan, Literature, Publishing, and Translation Commission CEO Dr. Mohammed Hasan Alwan, and officials from the Chinese side.

Saudi participation in the fair is astep toward strengthening cultural exchange, boosting cooperation in literature, culture, and the arts, and promoting dialogue and boosting friendship and cooperation between the two countries.

Several other Saudi entities will participate in the fair to highlight the heritage, knowledge, and cultural diversity of the Kingdom through a diverse cultural program, including seminars, dialogue sessions, workshops, and artistic performances.

The Kingdom was the guest of honor at the New Delhi International Book Fair, held between Feb. 10 and 18; and will be the guest of honor, after Beijing, at the Seoul International Book Fair, from June 26 to 30, 2024.
 


Saudi leaders offer condolences to Kuwait after passing of Sheikh Jaber Al-Ibrahim Al-Sabah 

Updated 12 sec ago
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Saudi leaders offer condolences to Kuwait after passing of Sheikh Jaber Al-Ibrahim Al-Sabah 

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman sent letters of condolences to Kuwait’s Emir Mishal Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah over the death of Sheikh Jaber Duaij Al-Ibrahim Al-Sabah, the Saudi Press Agency said Wednesday.

The Crown Prince also sent a separate letter to Kuwait’s Crown Prince Sheikh Sabah Khaled Al-Sabah.

Sheikh Jaber died at the age of 71 and will be buried after Thursday’s Maghrib (Sunset) prayer, Kuwait’s news agency said.


Looking sharp: Prickly pear cactus takes over Baha

Updated 38 min 39 sec ago
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Looking sharp: Prickly pear cactus takes over Baha

BAHA: In the heart of Saudi Arabia’s Baha region, a humble cactus is sparking an agricultural revolution. The prickly pear, known locally as Al-Barshumi, has blossomed from a niche crop into a burgeoning industry.

Once confined to private farms, prickly pear cultivation has spurred scientific research and yielded an array of food, medical and cosmetic products.

The fruit’s triumph is evident in the vibrant tapestry of green, yellow and red hues that now adorn Baha’s mountains, terraces, valleys and plains — a spectacle amplified by the region’s regular rainfall.

Fahd Al-Zahrani, director general of the Baha branch of the Ministry of Environment, Water and Agriculture, spoke about the government’s commitment to this agricultural renaissance.

“We have established a dedicated production line and oil press benefiting all regional farmers,” he said.

He also hinted at plans for a more comprehensive production line and the creation of an integrated prickly pear city, developed in partnership with the region’s Prickly Pear Association.

The initiative’s architect, Faeq Al-Ghamdi, recounted its humble beginnings. He said that what started as 80 tangled seedlings on a single farm had flourished into a network of 26 cooperating farms, collectively producing 40-70 tonnes annually.

By 2021, the farms had more than 400 seedlings of premium varieties, including “Gimoncaryo” and “Marez.” This growth has enabled a diversification beyond simple fruit production, with the range of innovative products, including prickly pear juice, ice cream and soap.

Al-Ghamdi’s original farm now has 3,000 seedlings, including imported varieties, with an annual yield of 3-5 tonnes.

“In just four years, we’ve developed 20 products, with some already registered and others in various stages of registration and research,” he said, adding that more innovations, including a perfume extract, were in the pipeline.

The project, known as the Al-Sarah Al-Barshumi Initiative, has also spawned seven scientific studies aimed at sustainable development of the prickly pear plant.

Al-Ghamdi’s vision extends beyond cultivation toward establishing Baha as a regional leader in prickly pear production, achieving domestic self-sufficiency and tapping into export markets. The project is working to double the current acreage dedicated to cultivation, establishing model agricultural cities, creating a specialized processing industry and marketing 30 prickly pear products.

“The cultivation process begins with what we call pads or stems,” he said. “These parts are carefully separated from the mother plant and we then expose these cuttings to sunlight for a period of seven to 10 days due to the high fluid content of the pads, allowing them to dry and prepare for planting. Once cured, we carefully select the planting formation.”

Beyond its economic impact, the prickly pear boom promises significant health benefits, according to Dr. Nadia Al-Zahrani, a nutrition specialist at Al-Baha University.

“Prickly pears come in a spectrum of colors, ranging from green to red, with the red variety being notably the sweetest,” she said.

Noting their rich content of fiber, vitamins E, C, and K, and various minerals she said: “These components contribute to weight management and blood sugar and lipid levels regulation.”

Al-Zahrani said another use of the prickly pear fruit was in skin care.

“The rich vitamin and mineral content of the cactus play a crucial role in enhancing skin appearance and health,” she said.

A number of farmers in the region are cultivating prickly pears, capitalizing on the area’s unique environmental assets, leveraging the region’s fertile soil and abundant water resources.

They have embraced modern cultivation techniques and begun introducing new varieties of fruits and trees, many of which were previously unknown in the region.


Like father, like son: 10-year-old walks 150 km to Abha

Updated 43 min 15 sec ago
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Like father, like son: 10-year-old walks 150 km to Abha

  • Sultan Al-Bariqi’s trek promotes tourism in Asir, health benefits of walking

MAKKAH: In a remarkable feat of grit, Sultan Al-Bariqi, a 10-year-old Saudi, has become the country’s youngest person to complete a 150-km journey on foot from Al-Namas to Abha in southern Saudi Arabia.

Accompanied by his father, who is also an adventure enthusiast, Sultan finished the five-day trek last Thursday.

Sultan’s father, Mohammed Al-Bariqi, told Arab News that the walk aimed to promote tourism in Asir, showcasing the region’s cool climate, dense vegetation and towering mountains.

The route offers visitors the chance to experience lush green landscapes and enjoy the natural environment. 

“We chose Al-Namas as our starting point, passing through Balasmar, Billahmer, Tanomah, and Shaar en route to Abha,” he said. He highlighted the region’s significance as a hub for domestic tourism, attracting thousands of visitors annually. 

“July typically sees high temperatures, but Asir enjoys a moderate, cool climate perfect for hiking and exploration,” he said.

Despite initial concerns about Sultan’s age, Al-Bariqi was impressed by his son’s enthusiasm for walking and experiencing nature first-hand.

Sultan, he added, was inquisitive about every stop throughout the five-day journey; the trip was filled with excitement for the young adventurer. He reported that the trip sparked joy in Sultan, keeping him motivated and eager from beginning to end.

The journey was also filled with encouragement from passersby, who offered drinks and motivational words. Sultan maintained high spirits and fitness throughout the trek, fueled by light meals and energy-boosting fruits, Al-Bariqi said.

With Abha as its final stop, the trek not only marked a spirited achievement for the young boy, but also highlighted environmental consciousness and long-distance walking’s therapeutic benefits.

Al-Bariqi, 52, is no stranger to long-distance walks, having previously journeyed from Asir to Makkah for Hajj in 16 days and to Madinah in 27 days.

He advocates walking as a holistic health practice, urging people to reduce dependency on cars and travel by foot, which he believes offers a comprehensive regimen for health and wellness. He also finds genuine pleasure in walking to explore tourist areas. 

The younger Al-Bariqi, initially apprehensive, found the experience life-changing. “I was afraid I could not complete the first stage, but my father’s encouragement motivated me,” he said.

The 10-year-old now aspires to make long-distance walking a regular part of his life and is encouraging his peers to embrace physical activity. 

He highlighted the universal importance of exercise, saying that it was not exclusive to any particular youth group. He also advocated for community-wide support and encouragement to foster a healthier, more active society.

Sultan eagerly anticipates recounting his adventure to schoolmates post-holiday, aiming to share the many benefits he discovered during his journey.


Development of Riyadh’s King Abdulaziz Park gets underway

Updated 37 min 44 sec ago
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Development of Riyadh’s King Abdulaziz Park gets underway

  • Project spanning 4.3 million sq. meters set to take 3 years to complete
  • Green space will feature 24 children’s areas, 2m trees

RIYADH: A three-year project to develop King Abdulaziz Park in the nation’s capital is underway following the completion of a design competition, the Royal Commission for Riyadh City announced on Wednesday.

The winning design was one of several presented by four international companies and once completed will cover about 4.3 million sq. meters. It comprises six distinct green spaces, the most prominent being the central Botanic Garden spanning 200,000 sq. meters and featuring more than 200 species of local plants.

Part of the Green Riyadh initiative, the new park will be built in the north of the city, close to King Khalid International Airport, Princess Nourah bint Abdulrahman University and a train station.

A key element of the design is the Munsiyah Tributary, a branch of the Al-Sulai valley, which runs for 11 km through the park. The design also includes sustainable commercial buildings and a 2 km pathway overlooking them.

More than 2 million trees and shrubs will be used to provide shade throughout the park, each of them served by an irrigation system using recycled water. 

Khaled Al-Bakr, CEO of the Quality of Life Program. (Supplied)

As well as terraces, squares, open theaters for events and festivals, restaurants, the design includes 24 children’s areas and 30 sports zones.

Khaled Al-Bakr, CEO of the Quality of Life Program, said parks and other green spaces were vital to a good quality of life for the residents of any city.

“King Abdulaziz Park, King Salman Park and King Abdullah International Parks are among the major park projects in the city of Riyadh, which will enhance the humanization of the city of Riyadh and provide vast spaces for residents and visitors,” he told Arab News. 

“Parks enable sports activities and provide recreational places for individuals and families, in addition to their environmental and climatic benefits.”

The parks development project, supported by the government, was helping to change the face of the city and achieve the goals of the Green Riyadh and Vision 2030 initiatives, he said.

Several other green spaces, including Al-Urubah, Al Munsiyah, Al Qadisiyah, and Al-Rimmal parks, and planting along main roads like King Salman Road and King Khalid Road are already underway.

An irrigation network spanning 1,350 km has also been developed to service the new parks.


Who’s Who: Dr. Hartwig Fischer, founding director of Museum of World Cultures

Updated 31 min 47 sec ago
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Who’s Who: Dr. Hartwig Fischer, founding director of Museum of World Cultures

Saudi Arabia’s Museums Commission has appointed Dr. Hartwig Fischer as the founding director of the Museum of World Cultures, set to open in 2026 within the Royal Arts Complex in King Salman Park, Riyadh.

He is a distinguished scholar, art historian and museum director with more than 30 years’ experience at major cultural institutions in Europe.

In his new role, Fischer is responsible for the development and implementation of the museum’s strategic plan, overseeing its construction and operations, and curating a collection of artifacts and artworks that represent the diverse cultural heritage of humanity.

He is also tasked with building partnerships with international institutions, developing innovative exhibitions and programs, and promoting public engagement and outreach.

Before his role in Riyadh, Fischer served as director of the British Museum from 2016-2023, spearheading a comprehensive masterplan for the museum’s renewal, securing significant funding for capital projects and transforming the museum’s physical and digital presence.

He also oversaw the development of exhibitions that reached diverse audiences and fostered global networks through collection sharing, research and training programs.

Before heading the British Museum, Fischer was director general of the State Art Collections in Dresden from 2012-2016. He oversaw major renovation and reconstruction projects, secured substantial funding and collaborated internationally to expand the collections’ reach.

He also held positions at the Museum Folkwang in Essen and the Kunstmuseum Basel, demonstrating a commitment to strategic leadership and innovation.

Fischer has a long history of fostering international collaboration and partnerships. He has overseen research and heritage partnerships, innovative exhibition series on world cultures, and extensive community and outreach programs. He has expanded global connections between Europe, Asia, the Middle East, Africa and the Americas, providing leadership to distinguished professionals and developing international teams.

While working with renowned museums of world cultures with vast historical collections, he has maintained his expertise in the field of modern and contemporary art, and integrated the work of living artists in these institutions, for example, by expanding the collection of modern and contemporary art of the Middle East and North Africa at the British Museum.

His expertise encompasses a wide range of areas, including museum management and strategic planning, capital project development and implementation, collection development and research, exhibition design and programming, global partnerships and collaboration, fundraising and philanthropy.

His academic background includes extensive studies in art history, archeology and history, pursued at universities in Bonn and Berlin, Rome and Paris.

Fischer earned his Ph.D. from Bonn University in 1994. He has published extensively on topics related to art history, museum studies and cultural heritage. He is fluent in English, German, French and Italian.