French artist produces rich portrayals of Saudi history, culture

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Updated 01 June 2024
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French artist produces rich portrayals of Saudi history, culture

  • Joel Alessandra sheds light on his artistic adventures in the Kingdom

JEDDAH: Joel Alessandra, the renowned French comic book artist, travelled through Saudi Arabia recently so that he could portray the nation’s rich culture and heritage.

Known for his innovative use of coffee and watercolors in his drawings, Alessandra’s visit was facilitated by the French Embassy and the Alliance Francaise Saudi Arabia.

Having visited Riyadh, Alkhobar and AlUla, Alessandra found himself captivated by the charm of Al-Balad, Jeddah’s old town.

“This part of the city of Jeddah is the one that inspired me the most. We feel the atmosphere of a time when pilgrims stopped here, we perceive this fervent activity, there is an atmosphere of a centuries-old tradition that is still palpable,” Alessandra told Arab News.

The ancient architecture was a rich source of inspiration for his sketches, including the patina-covered walls and the intricate doorways. Alessandra’s drawings during his days in Jeddah aimed to capture the essence of Al-Balad's vibrant past and present.

He also held a live performance in Jeddah, where he recreated scenes from Al-Balad, offering spectators a glimpse into his artistic process.

“The subject was an improvised walk in Al-Balad, based on my sketches from the afternoon, I reproduced them in watercolor on the screen. Scenes of life in the street, buildings from past centuries, mosque minarets from the neighborhoods you pass through,” he said.

For Alessandra, travel serves as a constant wellspring of inspiration. Drawing from his experiences across Africa, he said “it is the atmosphere and the people of a country that shape my way of drawing, my real inspiration is taken on the ground.”

Reflecting on his recent visit to the Kingdom, Alessandra said he was amazed by Saudi Arabia’s burgeoning cultural scene and the enthusiasm for artistic expression among its youth.

While Alessandra’s sketches convey a deep appreciation for Saudi Arabia’s cultural heritage, he shies away from conveying explicit messages.

“I just want to convey the emotion felt in front of all the incredible and immensely rich cultural, architectural, and historical heritage. I am lucky to know how to draw and show this emotion through my sketchbooks and my books ... I hope that my readers will also be sensitive to it,” he said.

He said AlUla left him in awe.

“It would be difficult to forget the fascination AlUla had on me. The Nabataean tombs, just imagining a vibrant life there, in the middle of the desert, at this ancient time is simply incredible.

“Also imagining that the Roman Empire pushed its armies so far from Italy is inconceivable.

“But also the old town with its shaded and covered streets. It is a paradise to inspire designers,” he said.




Joel Alessandra

Last year, he ventured out to sketch in the streets of AlUla with female students from the local art school.

“This moment is engraved in my memory as these students were attentive and wanted to produce and learn how to draw their environment. I’m not sure I’ve ever encountered such a desire among young people in other countries.”

His use of coffee as a medium adds depth and richness to his artwork, capturing the nuances of skin tones and desert landscapes.

During his stay in Jeddah, he conducted workshops focusing on the Francophonie, bringing together students from various schools to collaborate on a work of fiction through text and drawings.

Engaging French school students in a collaborative storybook project, Alessandra explored a fictionalized journey of Muslim traveler Ibn Battuta in modern-day Arabia. Through writing and drawing, students reimagined Ibn Battuta’s adventures, blending elements of history and fantasy.

“The quest for a key to access the door of time and allow Ibn Battuta to return to his century, it was very amusing to see how the young people translated this graphically,” Alessandra said.

On his growth as an artist, Alessandra said that constant practice was key, and to aspiring artists, he added: “Draw, draw, and draw some more.”

“Always have a drawing pad in your pocket and train your hand and mind every chance you get. While waiting for the bus, at the cafe, during TV commercials, take advantage of every free moment to scribble in this notebook, there are no issues, just a few lines for practice,” Alessandra added.


Al-Jubeir reviews Saudi Arabia’s climate efforts at FII Brazil summit

Updated 14 June 2024
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Al-Jubeir reviews Saudi Arabia’s climate efforts at FII Brazil summit

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s climate envoy Adel Al-Jubeir said the Kingdom is one of the largest investors in clean energy and has huge projects aimed at reducing the effects of climate change and initiatives to enhance global climate action.

Al-Jubeir, who is also the Minister of State for Foreign Affairs and Cabinet member, added that these projects include a waste recycling program, Middle East Green Initiative, and one of the largest hydrogen schemes in the world, which is being established in NEOM. 

During the Future Investment Initiative Institute’s Priority Summit in Brazil, he tackled the Kingdom’s role and efforts in energy development, and its goal to be one of the largest exporters of all types of energy, including clean, renewable and traditional energy.

He reviewed the most prominent objectives of the Saudi Vision 2030 and its focus on improving the quality of life, empowering youth and attracting investments to achieve stability, growth and prosperity in the Kingdom.

Al-Jubeir said the Kingdom is working to intensify its communication and rapprochement with the world to face climate challenges, as it is located between three continents, and is surrounded by the most important waterways. It is also one of the important countries in energy markets, and one of the investors in global markets.

FII Priority is a program that consists of summits, initiatives, and resolutions, focusing on humanity’s priorities, concerns, and hopes. The Rio de Janeiro summit is designed to deliver impactful change by transforming ideas into tangible solutions, according to the institute. 


Pilgrims reminded of benefits provided by Tawakkalna app during Hajj

Updated 13 June 2024
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Pilgrims reminded of benefits provided by Tawakkalna app during Hajj

  • The services it provides include alerts for pilgrims, a distress call function, weather updates, help to determine the direction to face the Kaaba for prayer, and prayer timings
  • The app provides support for seven languages: Arabic, English, Filipino, Indonesian, Bangladeshi, Urdu and Hindi

MAKKAH: Authorities have reminded pilgrims that the Saudi Data and Artificial Intelligence Authority’s Tawakkalna app provides access to several digital services that can help them during Hajj.
The app provides support for seven languages: Arabic, English, Filipino, Indonesian, Bangladeshi, Urdu and Hindi. The services it provides include the latest information and alerts for pilgrims as they perform Hajj rituals; weather updates for Makkah and Madinah provided by the National Center of Meteorology; readings from the Qur’an; help to determine the qibla, the direction to face the Kaaba for prayer; and prayer timings.
Pilgrims can also use Tawakkalna to display their digital Hajj card (Nusuk), while Hajj workers can access entry permits for holy sites. A “rituals” section gives pilgrims with Hajj permit the option to obtain a permit for Umrah, and provides other services such as a “Help Me” section, a distress call function, and a way to check volunteers’ credentials.
Authorities said the app has 32 million users, provides 315 electronic services, and can be used in more than 77 countries. The annual Hajj pilgrimage will begin on Friday, June 14 and continue until Wednesday, June 19.


Saudi leaders send condolences to leader of Malawi over death of vice president

Updated 13 June 2024
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Saudi leaders send condolences to leader of Malawi over death of vice president

  • King Salman: We express to your excellency and your friendly people our deepest condolences and sincere sympathy
  • Deaths of Saulos Klaus Chilima and the others were confirmed on Tuesday when the wreckage of the small military plane in which they were traveling was discovered

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s King Salman sent a message of condolence and sympathy to Malawi’s President Lazarus Chakwera following the deaths of Vice President Saulos Klaus Chilima and nine others in a plane crash.

The king wrote: “We received news of the death of the vice president of the Republic of Malawi, Mr. Saulos Klaus Chilima, and his companions, and we express to your excellency and your friendly people our deepest condolences and sincere sympathy.”

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman sent a similar message to the president, the Saudi Press Agency reported.

The deaths of Chilima and the others were confirmed on Tuesday when the wreckage of the small military plane in which they were traveling was discovered in a mountainous region in the north of the country. Contact with the aircraft had been lost the previous day. The victims also included former first lady Shanil Dzimbiri, the ex-wife of former Malawian President Bakili Muluzi, and three military crew members.

  • With AP

Egypt’s president prays in the Prophet’s Mosque ahead of Hajj

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi prayed at the Prophet’s Mosque in Madinah on Thursday. (SPA)
Updated 13 June 2024
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Egypt’s president prays in the Prophet’s Mosque ahead of Hajj

  • The annual pilgrimage starts on Friday and El-Sisi will be taking part this year

RIYADH: Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi arrived in the Saudi city of Madinah on Thursday and prayed at the Prophet’s Mosque, the Saudi Press Agency reported.

El-Sisi was received by Prince Salman bin Sultan bin Abdulaziz, the governor of the Madinah region, and a number of local officials on his arrival at Prince Mohammad bin Abdulaziz International Airport.

The annual pilgrimage starts on Friday and El-Sisi will be taking part this year. 


King Salman Arabic Language Academy signs deal with Tashkent State University of Oriental Studies

Updated 13 June 2024
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King Salman Arabic Language Academy signs deal with Tashkent State University of Oriental Studies

RIYADH: King Salman Global Academy for Arabic Language on Thursday signed an agreement with Tashkent State University of Oriental Studies in Tashkent.

The agreement aims to enhance cooperation in promoting the Arabic language, teaching it, preserving its integrity and supporting its use in alignment with the objectives of the human capability development program, one of the initiatives of Saudi Vision 2030.

The academy aims to fulfill its mission of caring for the Arabic language, fostering pride in it, and enabling its civilizational, scientific and cultural contributions.

The academy implemented Arabic language month in Uzbekistan as part of a series of scientific programs undertaken in various countries.