Arab News provides a concise history of Saudi students studying in the US. Starting with a handful of students on scholarship in the 1940s and 1950s, the number now exceeds 125,000, male and female students. This year, a record 10,491 new students will be arriving.

Rapid rise of Saudi students in America

Saudi Arabia and the United States have enjoyed a fruitful relationship for over eight decades. This has been driven by shared interests and a vision of the late King Abdul Aziz to ensure that the Kingdom has wide and beneficial relations with the entire world, without prejudicing deep-held values and principles based on Islam.

With the discovery of oil, the Kingdom used its newfound economic status to ensure rapid development on all fronts. Apart from a massive focus on upgrading its infrastructure, there was a particular focus on the education and training of its citizens on the secular and religious fronts. This was based on the recognition that people are the true wealth of the nation.

Under the guidance of the late King Abdul Aziz, there were various institutions of learning set up in the Kingdom, with top educators brought in from other Arab countries. In addition, in 1927, Saudi citizens were granted scholarships to study in other Arab countries. It was only later that the king expanded the scholarship program to include the top universities in Europe and the United States.

September:04:2015 - 05:43 | Comments & Trackbacks (0) | Permalink

Ahmed Omran — known to long-term readers as “Saudi Jeans” and now a correspondent for The Wall St. Journal — used a tweet to nudge Uber and Careem — the alternative taxi services — to provide free transportation for women to the polls. Saudi women have complained that it’s proving difficult for them to even register to vote in the municipal elections as (quelle surprise!) they’re not allowed to drive. Not all Saudi women have drivers, either. Nor are they all rich enough to spend money on taxis. Stepping up to provide free rides is extremely helpful, not to mention its being good PR for the companies.

We will take care of their rides if they take care of their rights!

JEDDAH: Prompted by a tweet from journalist Ahmed Omran, new-generation car booking services Uber and Careem have decided to offer free rides to women wishing to vote in the upcoming municipal elections.

The elections, which will be held in December, are the first allowing Saudi women to both run as candidates and vote.

Careem, which operates in 18 cities in the Middle East, including Saudi Arabia, decided it would take up Omran’s idea, reported Al-Arabiya.

“The idea to tweet about this came after a female friend of mine complained that she can’t register to vote because she doesn’t have a driver, and she wondered if the government would reimburse her if she used one of these apps,” said Omran, Wall Street Journal’s Saudi correspondent.

September:02:2015 - 06:53 | Comments & Trackbacks (0) | Permalink

A commentary article in the Arabic daily Okaz slams the Ministry of Health for not knowing what it’s doing, or at least being incapable of explaining it to the public. The author notes that while the Minister of Health is saying that only two cases of MERS occurred in the prior two weeks, his ministry was reporting 54. Worse, the ministry is now consulting quacks to promise “natural, herbal cures” even though those same quacks had claimed an equally fatuous cure for HIV. The writer sees the ministry flailing about, lost and without direction.

Coronavirus: Confusion compounds
Khaled Al-Solaiman | Okaz

Our health officials never cease to astonish us. The health minister, in a press statement published on Sunday, said only two cases of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (MERS-CoV) were registered in the Kingdom during the past week.

This was a clear indication that the deadly virus was receding in the country and that people need not worry. But, statistics released by the ministry said as many as 34 confirmed cases of coronavirus were registered in the Kingdom during that very week!

Whom should we believe in this case: the minister or his ministry?

And on the MERS front, the count keep rising…

Six fresh MERS cases, two deaths in 48 hours

September:02:2015 - 06:43 | Comments & Trackbacks (0) | Permalink

Saudi Arabia’s beefing up its military presence on its border with Yemen has reduced the incidence of drug smuggling, Saudi Gazette reports, by almost 90%. The vast border with Yemen has been a primary route for drugs (and other contraband) to enter the KSA. Having thousands of troops, on active patrol, has cut into the business. I suspect there’s also been a drop in the transit of illicit arms as well as trafficking in people.

Decisive Storm curtails drug smuggling by 89%
Mishal Al-Otaibi | Saudi Gazette

RIYADH — There has been a sharp decline in the percentage of smuggling into the Kingdom from across the southern Yemeni border after the launch of the Decisive Storm military operation in March this year, said Maj. Gen. Mansour Al-Turki, security spokesman at the Ministry of Interior.

“The rate of smuggling fell by 89 percent during the first four months of the operation,” he said at a press conference at the Officers’ Club in Riyadh on Tuesday evening.

Al-Turki said that the Kingdom has been successful in foiling smuggling of drugs and this has been possible with the support of some Arab countries.

“We managed to carry out preemptive operation to prevent smuggling of drugs, thanks to the flawless coordination and cooperation with the authorities of some countries. The General Directorate of Narcotic Control managed to exchange information with their counterparts in five countries about involvement of some people in the manufacturing and trafficking of drugs which led to the foiling of smuggling attempts,” he said.

September:02:2015 - 06:36 | Comments & Trackbacks (0) | Permalink

Saudi Gazette/Okaz report that there’s not exactly a stampede of women signing up to vote in the upcoming municipal elections in Saudi Arabia…

16 female voters in 3 Jazan governorates

Female voter registration centers in the governorates of Farasan Island, Al-Darb and Dhamad in Jazan region registered only 16 voters for municipal council elections. Shaha Muhammad Asiri, chairperson of the women’s election circuit in Al-Darb, said only five female voters registered during the past days due to difficult conditions and lack of awareness on elections among women. In Farasan Island, female voters registration center registered six voters and Dhamad governorate registered four female voters. — Muhammad Al-Kadawmi/Okaz/Saudi Gazette

A piece in Arab News on the topic points out that women are having a hard time even getting to voter registration locations.

Politically emancipated Saudi women are socially constrained
Molouk Y. Ba-Isa

Municipal elections will be held throughout Saudi Arabia on Dec. 12. In a historic first, Saudi women have been invited to participate as voters and candidates. This Arab News journalist went to register as a voter and discovered that for many Saudi women, making it to the polls won’t be easy.

The first voter registration center visited was No. 1061, located in a girls’ school on the outskirts of the Thuqbah District, Alkhobar. With the registration timing from 4 p.m. to 9 p.m., a police car was parked at the door to the registration center, its vehicle lights on to illuminate the entrance. Inside the school there was an enthusiastic greeting from the center’s registration manager, Abeer Al Owirdi, and her team of three women.

August:30:2015 - 07:42 | Comments & Trackbacks (0) | Permalink

Leaders of some 20 Islamic states have declared that it is an Islamic duty to come to terms with climate change. This includes moving away from fossil fuels to renewable energy, Saudi Gazette reports. The report does not present any sort of action plan or timeline, but only that something must be done.

Islamic leaders take a stance to tackle Global Warming
Saudi Gazette report

Islamic leaders from 20 countries launched a bold Climate Change Declaration to engage the world’s 1.6 billion Muslims on this urgent issue.

Adopted by the 60 participants at the International Islamic Climate Change Symposium held early last week in Istanbul, the Declaration urges governments to deliver a strong, new international climate agreement in Paris this December that will signal the end of the road for polluting fossil fuels. The Declaration can give us a chance to limit global warming levels by 2 or preferably 1.5 degrees Celsius.

The Declaration presents the moral case, based on Islamic teachings, for Muslims and people of all faiths worldwide to take urgent climate action. It was drafted by a large, diverse team of international Islamic scholars from around the world following a lengthy consultation period prior to the symposium.

The Declaration calls for a rapid phase-out of fossil fuels and a switch to 100% renewable energy as well as increased support for vulnerable communities who are already suffering from the impact of climate change. People from all walks of life are calling on governments to scale up the transition away from fossil fuels. Wealthy and oil-producing nations are urged to phase out all greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. All people, leaders and businesses are invited to commit to 100% renewable energy in order to tackle climate change, reduce poverty, and achieve sustainable development.

August:28:2015 - 08:55 | Comments Off | Permalink

The plunge in the Chinese stock market hammered stock markets around the world. Saudi Arabia wasn’t spared. The Saudi market, Tadawal, dropped 5.88% with most of the damage coming to oil futures, Arab News reports. China, now the largest importer of Saudi oil, is seen to be facing a contraction and thus lower demand for oil. This is driving oil prices down around the world. The Gulf, already facing economic pressure from lower oil prices since last year, is going to be squeezed a bit more.

Tadawul slips to 29-month low
Khalil Hanware

JEDDAH: The Saudi stock market (Tadawul) had a steep fall as crude oil futures fell sharply on Monday.

The plunge was a 29-month low, which erased more than SR375 billion ($100 billion) of market value.

The Tadawul All-Share Index dropped 5.88 percent to 7,024.6 points, breaking major technical support on its December low of 7,226 points.

The value of traded shares reached SR7.83 billion on Monday despite big drops in petrochemical, industrial investment and real estate sectors.

The Tadawul index, which plunged 6.9 percent on Sunday, has now lost 23 percent in August, erasing more than $100 billion of market value, Reuters reported.

James Reeve, deputy chief economist and assistant general manager at Samba Financial Group, told Arab News that most global stock markets have been oversold and there will be some bounce back, especially in the United States and Europe.

August:25:2015 - 06:34 | Comments Off | Permalink

The slaughter of animals, primarily sheep but also camels, is a part of Eid Al-Adha which marks the end of Haj. This year, due to the presences of MERS in Saudi Arabia, the sacrifice of camels will be banned. While the exact route of transmission of the disease is still not perfectly known, it is known that camels play some role. So, in the interest of safety, they’re not going to be available this year. The ban will have economic consequences for Egypt, Sudan, and Somalia, traditional sources of camels brought into Saudi Arabia. Antibodies to the MERS virus have been found in at least some camels across the Middle East though the disease is more prevalent in Saudi Arabia and the other Gulf States.

No camel slaughter during this Haj

RIYADH: In a major step toward preventing the spread of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV) among pilgrims, the Kingdom will impose a ban on sacrificing camels as part of the Haj rituals this year.

As part of the pilgrimage, each person must sacrifice or pay for part of the sacrifice of a sheep, goat, cow or camel. The cooked meat is then shared with the poor.

Camels are thought to harbor the virus, and health officials suspect that sporadic zoonotic transmission plays a role in fueling MERS-CoV transmission in the Middle East, especially in the Kingdom, the hardest-hit country.

During the past 48 hours, the Ministry of Health (MoH) has reported three deaths and 15 new MERS cases.

August:22:2015 - 07:38 | Comments Off | Permalink

There’s a constant battle being fought — usually out of sight, but not always — over the name of the body of water that lies between Iran and the Arab states that comprise the GCC. Arabs call it the “Arabian Gulf” while Iranians insist on “Persian Gulf.” Each side chooses its evidence and tries to find the earliest historical precedent that supports its argument.

Arab News reports that a late-17th C. globe shows the gulf being named “Al-Ahsa Gulf.”

Arabian Gulf formerly named ‘Al-Ahsa Gulf’

AL-AHSA: An ancient map drawn up by Italian sailors in Venice in 1693 had once named the Arabian Gulf as the ‘Al-Ahsa Gulf.’

This is according to Sami Al-Maghlouth, a historian and map specialist. “After strenuous attempts to read the titles printed on the old map using a magnifying lens,

I found that the existing Arabian Gulf was labeled ‘Al-Ahsa Gulf’ in the Italian language,” he said.

Al-Maghlouth said the body of water had various other names in the past, determined by those who controlled the area. The names Hajr, Qatif and Basra were also used, he said.

He said Islamic maps had documented the area as the ‘Bahrain Gulf.’ The ‘Gulf of Basra’ was used under the Ottoman Empire. It was renamed the Arabian Gulf after the end of the British occupation.

Al-Maghlouth said that during the Renaissance, which saw a flowering of arts and culture in Europe in the 16th century, the Italians excelled at cartography.

August:20:2015 - 05:43 | Comments Off | Permalink

After many years’ delay, Saudi women are finally able to vote. Their political franchise was promised years ago, then delayed because Saudi custom required an elaborate piece of theater to ensure that unrelated members of the opposite sex didn’t meet at the polling stations. But now, Saudi Gazette reports, women are finally registering to vote in the municipal elections to be held later this year.

KSA sees first female voter registrations
Saudi Gazette report

MADINAH — They don’t know each other, and are separated by about 450km, but Jamal Al-Saadi and Safinaz Abu Al-Shamat became the first two women to register as voters for the upcoming third municipal elections in Madinah and Makkah respectively.

“The participation of the Saudi women in the municipal elections as voters and candidates was a dream for us,” Saadi said. “The move will enable Saudi women to have a say in the process of the decision-making.”

Voter registration began in the Two Holy Cities on Sunday, a week earlier than the rest of the Kingdom. Both women said they had thoroughly prepared all the documents they would need so that nothing would stop them from participating in elections for the first time.

“I was quite ready for this day,” Saadi said. “I have prepared all the documents needed to obtain a voter’s card. This is a nice experience to go through. We are just at the beginning of the road.”

August:18:2015 - 08:20 | Comments Off | Permalink

After several weeks passing with no reports of new cases of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome virus, 21 cases have appeared in a week, Saudi media report. This Arab News article points to Riyadh as the hot spot. So far, the Kingdom has seen 1092 cases and 475 deaths from the disease. Reports suggest that this outbreak is hitting health care workers harder than the general public. Because initial symptoms are ambiguous, those workers may not be taking the necessary containment steps when they see new patients.

Riyadh hotbed of MERS, reports 20 of 21 cases

RIYADH: Majority of the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) coronavirus cases last week were from Riyadh, according to the latest report from the Ministry of Health( MoH) for a period of seven days ending Saturday.

Speaking to Arab News, MoH spokesman Dr. Khalid Al-Mirghalani pointed out that 20 of the 21 cases diagnosed positive for the virus during this period were from the capital, while the other was from Abha.

He said that the cases were detected out of 844 samples that were tested in the MoH laboratories in all parts of the Kingdom. He indicated that five of the positive cases are being treated at the MoH hospitals and the other 16 are being attended by government and non-government hospitals in the capital.

August:16:2015 - 17:23 | Comments Off | Permalink

France’s International Institute of Nuclear Energy (I2EN) will be cooperating with Saudi Arabia to train Saudi engineers in the handling of nuclear reactors, Arab News reports. The Saudis see nuclear energy as one of the better means of producing the electricity the country consumes in prodigious quantities.

French scientists to train Saudis in nuclear energy

King Abdullah City for Atomic and Renewable Energy (K.A.CARE) joined hands with the International Institute of Nuclear Energy (12EN) to train Saudi engineering graduates in nuclear energy programs to achieve its vision 2032, which aims to replace 50 percent of the dependence on traditional fossil fuels with eco-friendly atomic and renewed energy.

“K.A.CARE organized a training program of skill development in the field of nuclear energy for 26 trainees from the engineering faculty of King Abdulaziz University (KAU),” a K.A.CARE spokesman said on Thursday.

The program was organized in collaboration with the International Institute of Nuclear Energy (12EN), AREVA and EDF Center, he added.

Notably, the International Institute of Nuclear Energy (I2EN) is a French government initiative to bring together the leading universities and engineering schools to contribute in helping country partners of France in the responsible development of nuclear energy.

August:15:2015 - 07:02 | Comments & Trackbacks (1) | Permalink
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