Arab News reports that an agreement has been reached between King Abdul Aziz City for Science & Technology and the Saudi Electric Company for the first meshing of solar power with the country’s electric grid. The goal is to reduce dependence on the country’s oil assets in meeting rising energy demand. Along the way, the project will seek to use homegrown talent, labor, and materials.

KACST gears up for KSA’s first solar power station
MOHAMMED RASOOLDEEN

RIYADH: The King Abdul Aziz City for Science and Technology (KACST) signed a memorandum of understanding on Thursday with the Saudi Electricity Co. (SEC) and Taqnia Energy to launch the first standalone 50MW solar power station at Al-Aflaj.

KACST also inked another memorandum to establish a joint research and development center at the SEC distribution sector.

KACST President Turki bin Saud bin Mohammad Al-Saud, SEC CEO Ziad Mohammad Al-Sheeha and Taqnia Energy CEO Abdul Rahman Ali Al-Muhanna signed the two memorandums.

Al-Saud said the memorandum aims to provide alternative and safe sources of energy that would ensure providing fuel and help building a sustainable future through engaging science, research and energy-related industries in reducing the cost of generating electricity through solar energy.


July:31:2015 - 07:14 | Comments & Trackbacks (0) | Permalink

Saudi Arabia’s lack of cinemas presents a huge barrier to Saudi filmmakers. What’s the point of making a film if no one’s going to see it? The options have been to go outside the country or to give up the quest.

Government-run Saudi TV is stepping in to offer a hand. According to this Arab News report, Saudi TV will be offering a showcase for Saudi-made films.

Young Saudi filmmakers’ works to be aired on TV
Rodolfo C. Estimo Jr.

RIYADH: Movies produced by young and amateur Saudi filmmakers will be shown on Saudi Television starting in the middle of next week.

“The films will be shown daily to encourage young Saudi filmmakers,” said Abdulaziz Fahad Al-Eid, senior broadcaster at Saudi TV and general supervisor of Cultural TV channel. He added that if they get support for the screenings, they could scale great heights in filmmaking and make a name for themselves.

Al-Eid said that he met some of these young Saudi filmmakers five years ago in Dubai when they were participating in filmmaking, and some of them won regional and international awards.

“When I took over the cultural show at Saudi Television, I already knew their capabilities as filmmakers. I also knew that their films had sophisticated ideas,” he said.


July:31:2015 - 07:09 | Comments & Trackbacks (0) | Permalink

It’s known, in a fairly widespread manner, that Saudi Arabia and Israel do not have diplomatic relations. When a car with Saudi license plates was discovered in Jaffa, Israel last week, it set off a bit of a social media firestorm. The car, driven by an expat working in the KSA, set social media all atwitter. I suspect the car’s owner (and driver, if they are different) will be hearing about it from Saudi authorities and soon.

Photo of ‘Saudi’ car in Israel raises storm

JEDDAH: A Mercedes car with a Saudi number plate was spotted in Israel. The discovery led to intense discussion on social media websites on Tuesday.

According to reports, the car was spotted last week in Jaffa’s Clock Tower Square by Jacky Hugi, the Middle East editor for Israel’s Army Radio, who posted the picture on Twitter.


July:29:2015 - 09:25 | Comments & Trackbacks (0) | Permalink

Al Arabiya TV carries an Agence France Presse story on a study conducted by the National Institutes of Health on a promising vaccine to counter MERS. The study has advanced to animal trials, including mice and monkeys, a necessary step before testing on humans can begin.

Study finds promising experimental MERS vaccine

An experimental vaccine for Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) showed promising results in animal testing, sparking an immune system response that could lead to a vaccine for people, researchers said Tuesday.

Currently there are no licensed vaccines for MERS, which first appeared in 2012 and has caused numerous scares including a recent deadly outbreak in South Korea.

Vaccinated mice produced antibodies that neutralized MERS strains, according to a study from the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

The vaccines that caused the largest immune responses in mice were then administered to monkeys.


July:29:2015 - 09:14 | Comments & Trackbacks (0) | Permalink

There’s been a recent media splash over portions of an ancient Quran discovered in a collection at Birmingham University in the UK. Some of the claims about it have been a bit extravagant, such as claiming it as “the world’s oldest.”

Saudi scholars think the reports are mistaken, according to this story from Saudi Gazette. The scholars point out that there are certain historical discrepancies such as the use of red ink (not appropriate for the period) and believe the Birmingham researchers should have carbon-dated the ink, not the parchments.

Experts doubt oldest Qur’an claim
Saudi Gazette report

MAKKAH — Historians and manuscript experts have cast doubt on the credibility of the recent Birmingham University claim that it had discovered the oldest copy of the Qur’an.

The university recently showed two leaves of parchment with Qur’anic verses from chapter 18-20 in legible Hijazi script. It said the verses could have be scribbled somewhere between 568 AD and 645 AD.

The university’s claims mean that the verses were written close to the time of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) who was widely believed to have lived between 570 AD and 632 AD.

Quoting the experts, Makkah daily said on Sunday that the manuscript might have possibly been written after the time of the Prophet (pbuh) due to several factors.

Experts contend that during the time of the Prophet (pbuh) there was no separation between the Surahs (chapters) in red colors, no red ink was used in writing “Bismillah Al-Rahman Al-Raheem” with which a Surah begins and that the holy book itself was not put in its today’s order.


July:27:2015 - 07:54 | Comments & Trackbacks (0) | Permalink

Al Arabiya TV carries an Asharq Alawsat column by Abdulrahman al-Rashed exploring how the group variously known as ISIS or Daesh is very wittingly playing word games to its benefit. By insisting on the use of the name “Islamic State,” the group attempts to give itself unearned legitimacy, wrapping itself in the honor of Islam. This, al-Rashed says, is doubly pernicious. Not only does it delude young Muslims into thinking the group righteous, but it provide an easy example for Islamophobes to point out and say, “See what Muslims really are?!”

ISIS: Why should we care about the acronym?
Abdulrahman al-Rashed

Many governments have begun urging the media to not use the “ISIS” acronym. The terrorist organization started using this acronym two years ago, when its leader declared himself a caliphate and changed the name of his group from ISI (Islamic State of Iraq) to ISIS in order to expand from Iraq to include Syria.

When the group’s formation was announced in April 2013 under the appellation of the “Islamic State of Iraq and Syria”, the media and specifically Al Arabiya News Channel decided to call it as “Daesh” (the Arabic abbreviation of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria). We are all aware that ISIS wants to use us, as media platforms around the world, to build a picture that serves its purposes. A lot of people objected to the appellation and the coverage because it is insulting the true defenders of Islam against the Western occupiers or the oppressed Sunni community. It offended the defenders of the people of al-Anbar or the rebels against al-Assad regime in Syria. In fact, ISIS activities confused people initially, but most of them discovered later on that ISIS is nothing but the same al-Qaeda evil group, despite adopting rightful issues.

ISIS (Daesh in Arabic) is not a cynical label as said and written in the Western media. It is just the acronym of the appellation. The group is certainly against this acronym because it intentionally wants to be known as the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, to rally around it Muslims from all over the world.


July:25:2015 - 09:07 | Comments & Trackbacks (2) | Permalink

Saudi Gazette reports on Hatun Madani, a Saudi woman making a splash in the UAE with her Saudi-inspired restaurant. While she would have had a hard time — if not an impossible one — opening her own restaurant in the Kingdom, she was able to do so in the neighboring UAE. It’s a demonstration that Saudi women aren’t incapable, but they are handicapped by their society that refuses to see them as adult actors, competent to lead their own lives.

Saudi restaurateur making it big in Dubai

THE past few years have seen the coming in numerous eating joints. Since 2012, the restaurants and hotels sector has been one of the highest growing sector in Dubai’s economy. About 19,000 more F&B outlets are expected in the UAE by 2019, according to Euromonitor International, which reported that there are currently over 6000 outlets in the Emirates. Many of these new food establishments come and go, some are still talked about while some are forgotten. But there are a few that strike the right chord with the food lovers. One such new restaurant is Hatun Cuisine, and it looks like it‘s here to stay.

Opened on June 4, 2015 by master chef Hatun Madani, the brand ambassador of Mazola, Hatun Cuisine serves authentic Saudi inspired home-cooked food that is healthy and delicious. After 2 of her children were diagnosed with diabetes at an early stage, Hatun was inspired to switch to healthy cooking, but without compromising on the taste. And now she has extended this vision to her menu at the restaurant. “Flavor is always top priority when eating out, for casual diners and food enthusiasts alike. While many think it is only achievable by compromising on the health quotient, I beg to differ,” said Hatun Madni, the mastermind behind Hatun Cuisine. “My food is healthy and delicious, while being true to its authentic Hijazi roots,” she added.


July:20:2015 - 06:32 | Comments Off | Permalink

Saudi Gazette/Okaz report that Saudi telecommunication companies are claiming to have lost a quarter-billion riyals in business over the Eid to text messaging. Disruptive technologies like social media do just that: disrupt. The telcoms aren’t going to put that horse back in the barn, no matter how much they whine.

Telecom firms lose SR250m during Eid due to WhatsApp
Saleh Al-Zahrani | Okaz/Saudi Gazette

JEDDAH — Telecommunication companies in the Kingdom must have lost about SR250 million during Eid festivities this year due to a huge increase in the use of WhatsApp texting messages to convey Eid greetings, a noted economist has said.

In the not so distant past, Eid greetings were being sent by using SMS via mobile phones. But that system is outdated and completely out of sync with the present system of texting messages through WhatsApp, which, of course, is free of charge.

Muhammad Shammakh said telecommunication companies used to make a profit of at least SR250 million during the feast from the exchange of Eid greetings only through SMS service. This is through at least one billion messages. Shammakh said despite the recent uproar regarding cancellation of WhatsApp service due to complaints by companies that they will lose over SR3 billion, the service still exists and thrives. He said at the pace with which technological development is taking place around the world, the latest telecommunication services will make people’s life much easier and more comfortable.


July:20:2015 - 06:24 | Comments Off | Permalink

I wish a joyous Eid al-Fitr to all those celebrating the end of Ramadan

Eid Mubarak


July:17:2015 - 07:15 | Comments Off | Permalink

Saudi Gazette/Okaz report that Saudi authorities have arrested a gang alleged to have attempted using a quadracopter drone to deliver drugs into Briman Prison.

The report also notes that drones are illegal in Saudi Arabia.

7-member gang uses drones to smuggle drugs into prison
Adnan Al-Shabrawi | Okaz/Saudi Gazette

JEDDAH — The police arrested the head of a gang of seven members for smuggling drugs into Briman Prison by hauling the drugs on an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (drone) and flying it past security into the prison.

Briman Prison surveillance cameras recorded a drone hovering over the fenced walls of the prison and landing on the rooftop of one of the buildings. The drone had four propellers and was being controlled by a remote control. The person behind the drone was nowhere nearby.

A Briman Prison officer reported the drone was seized and investigated. The drone had a diameter of 45 cm. The officers found more than 2,000 amphetamine pills and a large amount of hashish hung on the drone. The operation was an attempt to smuggle the drugs into the prison for the prisoners.


July:15:2015 - 08:52 | Comments Off | Permalink

It’s not really surprising that the vast majority of new Saudi university graduates think finding a job is the most critical next step. Nearly 80% of them think so, according to a survey done by Bayt.com and reported by Saudi Gazette.

An even larger percentage see entrepreneurship in their futures, not relying on either government jobs or working for corporations. Many chose their academic majors with the job market in mind even though about a third ended up in jobs with a different focus. An interesting read…

Finding job greatest challenge facing fresh graduates living in KSA: Survey

RIYADH — When pursuing their first job, 78% of fresh graduates living in Saudi Arabia used or plan to use leading online job sites, Bayt.com 2015 “Fresh Graduates in the Middle East and North Africa” survey conducted by Bayt.com, the Middle East’s leading career site, and market research agency YouGov, revealed.

The majority of respondents state that finding a job is the biggest challenge of their generation, in line with this, 81% are leaning towards entrepreneurship as a potential future career option.

The study has also revealed that 54% of KSA respondents obtained their most recent qualification in KSA, followed by Egypt, at 10%. The two most common fields of study pursued by respondents were engineering (29%) and information technology/computer science (19%). Most graduates living in KSA (65%) were satisfied with the quality of higher education they received; in fact, 39% consider the preparation it gave them for the workplace to be ‘very good’ or ‘good’. Qualification of teachers (76%), curriculum (70%), teaching methods applied (61%), quality of infrastructure (56%), technology usage (60%), and value for money paid (62%), are also rated positively by KSA respondents.


July:15:2015 - 08:48 | Comments Off | Permalink

In an op-ed for Asharq Alawsat, Abdulrahman Al-Rashed says that trying to shut down social media (typified by Twitter) won’t do much to address the real problems caused by ISIS or other extremist groups. Social media are just that: media. They’re the channels through which information is flowing. Blocking the channels won’t alter the information; won’t make the groups or their ideologies any less dangerous. Block one channel, and another one will appear.

Blocking social media will, however, annoy and inconvenience multitudes of people who aren’t involved in extremism for no good purpose. It’ll be just another ham-handed government effort that burdens citizens, including those who use social media to fight against extremism.

Blocking Twitter is not the solution
Abdulrahman Al-Rashed

Many counterterror experts believe they have pinpointed the source of the problem when it comes to terrorism and extremism. They believe social media networks are to blame because they play a hand in inciting extremism and help with the recruitment of militants. Some experts have even called for blocking these sites in order to starve the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and its ilk of their primary means of communicating with sympathizers and potential recruits.

Despite the rush of calls to shut down Twitter and other social media sites, this is not an ideal solution, because these groups will just end up using alternative platforms. It’s also not fair to punish millions of ordinary users in order to get rid of the thousands of militants or militant supporters online. It is a known fact that the world is battling against extremist ideologies, and therefore it is understandable that this sometimes requires giving up our privacy and freedom. However, even the necessities of war aren’t enough of a reason to restrain millions of people just because the problem was not dealt with from another angle. Reform education, reform da’wah (the preaching of Islam), and spread Islam’s real and beautiful values, then you’d realize that extremist concepts are an exception and are actually rejected. If such steps are implemented, moderation would become a real ideological movement that everyone adopts.

Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and other websites are a means of communication that can either eliminate extremism or help spread it. What distinguishes extremists is that they are an active and determined party with a cause which they believe is righteous. They are capable of adapting to technological changes. They exploit religious communities, which they don’t belong to, and try to lure people into their extremist ideologies. There are hundreds, and perhaps thousands, of militants who spend hours surfing these websites in search of lost, angry, or curious youths, attempting to “guide them” to jihadist solutions and then recruit them as soldiers who await orders.


July:13:2015 - 06:00 | Comments Off | Permalink
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