Cultural Development Fund Participates in the Red Sea Film Festival

Photo by SPA
Photo by SPA
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Cultural Development Fund Participates in the Red Sea Film Festival

Photo by SPA
Photo by SPA

The Saudi Cultural Development Fund (CDF) participated as an official sponsor of the third edition of the Red Sea International Film Festival (RSIFF), from November 30 to December 9, as part of its strategy to establish partnerships, with the non-profit sector, that contribute to the sustainable development of the Saudi film sector, according to a CDF press release.

According to the report, the interest in the fund-presented initiatives created "an atmosphere of dynamic cultural exchange", highlighting "the positive impact of the fund in enabling the sector and contributing to its development".

CDF hosted a "FilmFunding Lunch" at the Wasl Art Space, on December 3, on the sidelines of the festival. The event aligned with the fund's vision, enabled those working in the sector by opening lines of direct communication in a setting designed specifically for top local and international companies, giving them the opportunity to engage in private consultations, become aware of challenges and promote the Film Sector Financing Program, SPA reported.

Saudi Cultural Development Fund Chief Investment and Credit Officer Abdullah Alkhaldi, in a panel discussion titled "Unlocking Co-Production Opportunities with the Arab World", shed light on the government’s role in facilitating investments in the film sector.

Alkhaldi also talked about the fund's endeavor to offer comprehensive financial support for the sector’s full value chain, with a focus on de-risking investments to facilitate market entry for local and international businesses.

CDF concluded its participation at the festival by celebrating the first world premiere of “Ahlam Alasr”, by the Godus brothers “Sohayb Godus and Faris Godus”. The tickets for the film premiere were sold out within five days of the festival; the film garnered wide acclaim from both audience and critics. It was funded by CDF through its Cultural Projects Incentive Program.

Launched two years ago in partnership with the Quality of Life Program, the fund allocated a budget of SAR181 million to provide non-recoupable financing for projects in the cultural sectors, including filmmaking, to meet the needs of the cultural sector and contribute to its development.



In Cyprus Halloumi War, an Ex-Pilot Champions the Old Ways 

A worker prepares halloumi on Pantelis Panteli's farm in Kokkinotrimithia, Cyprus February 10, 2024. (Reuters)
A worker prepares halloumi on Pantelis Panteli's farm in Kokkinotrimithia, Cyprus February 10, 2024. (Reuters)
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In Cyprus Halloumi War, an Ex-Pilot Champions the Old Ways 

A worker prepares halloumi on Pantelis Panteli's farm in Kokkinotrimithia, Cyprus February 10, 2024. (Reuters)
A worker prepares halloumi on Pantelis Panteli's farm in Kokkinotrimithia, Cyprus February 10, 2024. (Reuters)

On a cold winter evening in a car park in the Cypriot capital Nicosia, queues are already forming before former airline pilot Pantelis Panteli arrives in a small van to sell his produce.

After being made redundant following the closure of Cyprus Airways in 2013, Panteli decided to try his hand at cheese-making. He hasn’t looked back.

Now the newcomer has become an unlikely bastion of an old tradition amid a bitter legal battle about the ingredients of Cyprus's prized Halloumi. Should it be made from cow's milk - which now forms the bulk of exports and has a mellower taste - or from tarter goat and ewe milk, which some purists swear by?

Panteli makes Halloumi exclusively from ewe's milk - even though some dairy farmers on the Mediterranean island say that method is not viable.

"Nobody is making the real thing anymore, and that is our aim," he told Reuters, standing in a pen with about 300 noisy sheep at his farm in Kokkinotrimithia, west of Nicosia.

Panteli started making Halloumi with guidance from his mother-in-law. Now he has his own "Kouella" brand, Cypriot for ewe.

"It was all trial and error with a small pot, then a bigger pot - and just like Steve Jobs - in our garage," he said.

Panteli only has a permit to sell direct to consumers, and is restricted to producing 150 liters of milk per day at a new purpose-built dairy in the farm compound.

But he is proving popular. He alerts customers to his whereabouts on social media, and makes videos on Tiktok and the social media platform X. Within two hours, he is normally sold-out.

Heated debate

Soft, rubbery Halloumi can be eaten raw, grilled, boiled or fried without losing its shape. It is the island's largest export after pharmaceuticals.

Panteli cooks the milk in rennet which allows curdles to form. After resting, the curdles are cut and reheated. He hoists up layered grills from the whey, containing steaming hot slabs of Halloumi, and flips them onto a counter where he salts and folds them. He puts them in brine for a few hours, then packages them for sale.

It has been three years since Cyprus won its status as the only country able to produce and market the prized cheese. In gaining a protected designation of origin (PDO) from the European Union, Cyprus committed to increase the quantity of ewe or goat milk to just over 50% by July 2024.

But the dispute about ingredients has triggered farmers demonstrations. Industry stakeholders say ewe and goat's milk is highly seasonal, and could therefore have an impact on production capacity. Cheese makers had threatened to shut their dairies because there wasn't enough milk, while cattle-breeders are angry at the threat to the market for cows' milk.

Authorities now plan to push back full compliance with the specifications to 2029.

Nicos Papakyriakou, director-general of the cattlebreeders association, said that based on an older 1985 trade standard, accepted ingredients for Halloumi were not only goat and ewes' milk, but cows' milk as well.

He says it is the mellower cows' milk that has allowed Halloumi to capture overseas markets.

"The PDO says it should smell like a farm," he said, referring to official product specifications that Halloumi should have a 'barnyard' smell.

"It would smell like goats! What consumer abroad would buy that?" he said.


Saudi Arabia: Royal Commission for AlUla Signs Partnership with French Sorbonne

The agreement aims to build capacities, exchange knowledge, and establish integrated systems for research, training, and information sharing. SPA
The agreement aims to build capacities, exchange knowledge, and establish integrated systems for research, training, and information sharing. SPA
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Saudi Arabia: Royal Commission for AlUla Signs Partnership with French Sorbonne

The agreement aims to build capacities, exchange knowledge, and establish integrated systems for research, training, and information sharing. SPA
The agreement aims to build capacities, exchange knowledge, and establish integrated systems for research, training, and information sharing. SPA

The Royal Commission for AlUla has entered into a partnership agreement with Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne University to establish the Jaussen and Savignac Center for Archaeological Research in AlUla and Paris, alongside a named chair to foster academic excellence and archaeological research.

This collaboration aligns with efforts to implement the comprehensive development plan for AlUla and deepen cooperation with leading institutions in culture, heritage, and education.

The agreement aims to build capacities, exchange knowledge, and establish integrated systems for research, training, and information sharing, documenting 200,000 years of human history in one of the world's largest archaeological reference libraries.

It seeks to develop cooperation in scientific studies and the fields of tourism, archaeology, history, and arts, contributing to AlUla's growth journey and cementing its position as the world's largest living museum and a global center for culture and heritage.

The partnership includes holding an annual symposium that provides a collaborative environment for academics, students, and Ph.D. candidates, encouraging dialogue among various disciplines and cultures, in addition to offering a master's program in archaeology and the conservation and restoration of cultural heritage.


West Bank Museum Showcases Gaza 'Artistic Demonstration' against War

The Palestinian Museum's display features contemporary artworks alongside traditional costumes from war-torn Gaza. Zain JAAFAR / AFP
The Palestinian Museum's display features contemporary artworks alongside traditional costumes from war-torn Gaza. Zain JAAFAR / AFP
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West Bank Museum Showcases Gaza 'Artistic Demonstration' against War

The Palestinian Museum's display features contemporary artworks alongside traditional costumes from war-torn Gaza. Zain JAAFAR / AFP
The Palestinian Museum's display features contemporary artworks alongside traditional costumes from war-torn Gaza. Zain JAAFAR / AFP

At a museum in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, Gazan works on display are proclaimed to be an "ongoing artistic demonstration" in solidarity with the war-ravaged Palestinian territory.
"This is not an exhibition", reads the sign at the entrance to the Palestinian Museum in Birzeit, near Ramallah, showcasing art and heritage from the Gaza Strip.
Alongside contemporary pieces, the works include old, traditional paintings and costumes, as well as archeological artifacts, said board member Ehab Bessaiso, a former culture minister.
He told AFP that the museum had launched the initiative to "preserve Palestinian heritage work in Gaza, which has faced destruction due to the war".
Fighting has raged in Gaza since October 7, when Hamas carried out an unprecedented attack on southern Israel.
Gaza's bloodiest war has devastated the small Hamas-ruled coastal territory, with its cultural heritage just one of the many casualties of war.
Bessaiso said the museum had received "the works of hundreds of artists" from Gaza that had been held in West Bank universities and cultural centers and by individuals.
The display presents "the Gazan artistic scene in a new way" which helps "to face the challenges and difficulties which artists and culture are confronting in Gaza amid the destruction and siege", he said.
In a January report, the Palestinian culture ministry said 24 cultural centers in Gaza had been destroyed "in whole or in part" since the start of the war.
They include the Arab Orthodox Cultural and Social Center, the Rashad Shawa Cultural Center -- which includes a theater, library and printing presses -- and the Al-Sununu for Culture and Arts Association in Gaza City.
Historical buildings such as mosques, churches, the old Phoenician port and the Al-Qarara Cultural Museum have also been destroyed.
'Whole lives stolen'
"It's a beautiful thing to see the work of artists from Gaza here in the West Bank, especially because Gaza no longer has a place to show them after all the destruction there," said Alma Abdulghani, a visitor in her 30s.
The war erupted with Hamas's October 7 attack, which resulted in the deaths of about 1,160 people in Israel, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally of official figures.
Israel's retaliatory offensive has killed at least 29,782 people, mostly women and children, according to Gaza's health ministry.
Bessaiso said the museum display is "a journey through Gazan Palestinian art, especially following the killing of dozens of artists, writers, poets and journalists".
"This journey affirms the oneness of the Palestinian people, which the (Israeli) occupation is trying to destroy."
The names of 115 artists are on display at the main entrance, with black marks around the names of those killed in the war, among them visual artist Heba Zagout and painter Mohammed Sami Qariqa.
"Those who have had their homes, dreams, memories, loved ones and their whole lives stolen by the genocidal war," read the words inscribed above their names.
The museum administration described the display, which opened in mid-February, as "an alternative space to the one that once existed in Gaza before the war's fires destroyed it".
It said the project aims to be "an alternative platform for the voices" from Gaza, where repeated communications blackouts during the war have prevented them "from reaching us".
'Cut off life'
In the main exhibition hall, a pile of rubble evokes the destruction that has befallen Gaza.
The scene is completed by a constant buzzing noise, a nod to the Israeli surveillance drones that are ever-present in the skies above Gaza, and footage of ambulances transporting a never-ending stream of wounded.
Mohammed al-Huwajia, a visual artist from Rafah in southern Gaza, told AFP by video call that the "exhibition is a reminder of the solidarity between the West Bank and Gaza".
It "affirms that we still exist", he added.
Near the main entrance to the exhibition, traditional dresses and bridal gowns from multiple Gazan cities are on display, as well as braided necklaces and bracelets dating from the British Mandate years.
A painting by Gaza-born artist Tayseer Barakat depicts military machines and vehicles, while another 16 carry written messages about the war.
"This series is a message and an expression of what I saw and heard of what our people in Gaza are living through in this insane war," said Barakat, who was born in Gaza's Jabalia refugee camp and has lived in the West Bank since 1984.
"How do you lose more than 7,000 people? Rain bombs on them one after another, and then prevent them from being removed from the rubble," says the writing on one painting.
"How do we lose a population of two and a half million people? Cut them off from communications, electricity, water and life," says another.


Red Sea Global Releases First 'Red Sea Waves' Music Album

Red Sea Global (RSG) announced the release of its first 'Red Sea Waves' album, produced by its own Red Sea Studios
Red Sea Global (RSG) announced the release of its first 'Red Sea Waves' album, produced by its own Red Sea Studios
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Red Sea Global Releases First 'Red Sea Waves' Music Album

Red Sea Global (RSG) announced the release of its first 'Red Sea Waves' album, produced by its own Red Sea Studios
Red Sea Global (RSG) announced the release of its first 'Red Sea Waves' album, produced by its own Red Sea Studios

Saudi Arabia's Red Sea Global (RSG), the developer behind regenerative tourism destinations The Red Sea and Amaala, has announced the release of its first 'Red Sea Waves' album, produced by its own Red Sea Studios.
The creative team at Red Sea Studios -- led by Adham Alzanbagi in his role as Senior Manager, Content Production -- supervised the production of this unique album. The specialized team worked diligently to present an unprecedented musical experience that captures the essence of cultures and civilizations along the Red Sea coast.

The album is the result of considerable collaboration between Saudi, Egyptian, Sudanese, Somali, and other artists and musicians.
“Our Red Sea Studios team has delivered an exceptional musical experience stemming from our responsibility to provide an authentic and enriching guest experience at The Red Sea, through the promotion of cultural and artistic initiatives. Furthermore, releasing this album is a first step towards achieving our objective to establish a creative center in The Red Sea to serve as a hub for pooling local and international talents in various aspects of art and culture,” explained Eng. Ahmed Darwish, the group chief administrative officer at Red Sea Global.

“The Red Sea has always been an area of interest and a continuous source of inspiration for numerous artists at both regional and global levels. It embodies a rich scene of cultural heritage and a long history of arts. It's no wonder that its bordering countries enjoy a unique musical legacy, blending cultures and civilizations along its coasts,” he said.

The album features 12 tracks, each of which is characterized by a different genre and origin. The first track of the album stems from Yanbawi music, whereas later tracks are rooted in several musical cultures. These include a piece of music from the city of Suakin in Sudan, a Tohami song from Hodeidah in Yemen, Ngoni playing from West Africa, Balo Somali Music, and many others.

In collaboration with MDLBEAST, the album was also released on music-streaming platforms to allow a wider audience to enjoy the tracks and to further amplify Red Sea coastal music around the globe.


Cultural Development Fund Reviews Opportunities in Saudi Film Sector at Berlin Festival

Director Mati Diop receives the Golden Bear for Best Film for 'Dahomey' during the awards ceremony at the 74th Berlinale International Film Festival in Berlin, Germany, February 24, 2024. REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch
Director Mati Diop receives the Golden Bear for Best Film for 'Dahomey' during the awards ceremony at the 74th Berlinale International Film Festival in Berlin, Germany, February 24, 2024. REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch
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Cultural Development Fund Reviews Opportunities in Saudi Film Sector at Berlin Festival

Director Mati Diop receives the Golden Bear for Best Film for 'Dahomey' during the awards ceremony at the 74th Berlinale International Film Festival in Berlin, Germany, February 24, 2024. REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch
Director Mati Diop receives the Golden Bear for Best Film for 'Dahomey' during the awards ceremony at the 74th Berlinale International Film Festival in Berlin, Germany, February 24, 2024. REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch

The Cultural Development Fund recently concluded its participation in the 74th edition of the Berlin International Film Festival.

At the festival, the fund joined the Saudi pavilion alongside various government agencies to attract top-notch establishments to enter the Saudi film market.

The fund also held meetings with filmmakers and investors to discuss potential cooperation in the film industry.

Throughout its participation, the fund showcased financing and investment opportunities it offers to both local and foreign enterprises and shed light on the promising Saudi film market. In addition, the fund participated in a dialogue session called "Discover the Richness of Cinema in the Kingdom.”

The Festival took place from February 15 to 25.

During this session, Program Development Department Director Faisal Al-Aseeri highlighted the fund's efforts to provide financing solutions that cater to the sector's needs.

He also discussed the fund's role in reducing investment risks in the sector.


King Abdulaziz University Wins Global 'Zero Project Award’ for 2024

King Abdulaziz University Wins Global 'Zero Project Award’ for 2024
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King Abdulaziz University Wins Global 'Zero Project Award’ for 2024

King Abdulaziz University Wins Global 'Zero Project Award’ for 2024

King Abdulaziz University (KAU) won the "Zero Project Award" for the third consecutive time, amidst participation from 523 candidates representing 97 countries.
On Saturday, KAU’s initiative "We Hear You: The Preparatory Year for the Deaf Students" was awarded at the United Nations headquarters in Vienna, Austria.

This award, presented annually, honors innovative projects and initiatives that aim to empower people with disabilities worldwide, SPA reported.
The university's third consecutive award is a testament to its commitment to sustaining its achievements, particularly in supporting students with disabilities.

This recognition also underscores the university's dedication to ongoing efforts aimed at enhancing the services offered to this demographic and prioritizing their participation in global events and celebrations.


The Other Profile, by Irene Graziosi. Translated by Lucy Rand.

Irene Graziosi
Irene Graziosi
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The Other Profile, by Irene Graziosi. Translated by Lucy Rand.

Irene Graziosi
Irene Graziosi

By Lovia Gyarkye

Kevin Systrom, a founder of Instagram, recently confessed that the platform he helped create had lost its soul. Gone are the days when friends and family shared photos with earnest and eager passion. Now, influencers reign supreme. No one is real. It’s “terrifying,” Systrom said on the journalist Kara Swisher’s podcast. “It’s this race to the bottom of who can be the most perfect.”

Maia, the sharp-tongued protagonist of Irene Graziosi’s debut novel, “The Other Profile,” already knows this. She thinks of Instagram profiles like vision boards — evidence of aspiration, not reflections of reality. Her own page counters the trend with an ascetic banality. She prefers not to be perceived.

Maia’s a depressed graduate school dropout living in Milan with her boyfriend, Filippo. He was a professor at the university where she was enrolled, and their courtship was a sweaty encounter of grief (Maia’s, after the death of her sister) and desperation (his). Now, their relationship is sustained by mutual ambivalence. Filippo wishes Maia would do more than eat gummy bears and watch Olivia Benson solve crimes on TV. Maia hates that Filippo dragged her away from Paris and into a city where he is respected and she is unknown.

Maia eventually gets a job — first as a bartender and then as an assistant to an influencer named Gloria, a teenager with millions of Instagram followers. “I’ll need someone who can help me in the public transition from being a high schooler to being ... something else,” Gloria tells her. As part of the job, Maia not only recommends books, writes speeches and composes social media captions, she is also expected to be Gloria’s soul.

Graziosi, the founder of a cultural YouTube channel and magazine, is particularly attuned to the language of the chronically online. Her novel, which is translated from the Italian by Lucy Rand, is at its most nimble when Maia observes influencer culture. The sponsored events, brand meetings and vague clichés about self-love are fodder for her acerbic judgments and acid humor. Gloria’s world is filled with frauds and Maia loves to call them out.

The pair’s relationship enters dangerous territory when Maia finds herself first obsessed with, and then consumed by, Gloria. A mandate issued by Gloria’s manager about her client still haunts me: “You have to give her a personality,” she tells Maia. “That’s how she works; she’s an empty vessel.” As Gloria extracts more and more from Maia, I kept waiting for the novel to make good on the suggestion of psychological thrill. But the stakes of Maia and Gloria’s increased mutual dependence hardly simmer. Graziosi divides attention between this parasitic bond, Maia’s failing relationship with Filippo and how Maia mourns her sister Eva.

Graziosi tries to knit these threads together to add layers of suspense and mystery, but her language struggles to keep up with the demands of the story. There’s an overreliance on direct exposition to carry us through scenes, which undercuts the charm and acuity of Maia’s wry voice in the novel’s early pages. It also softens any tension. Impatience creeps in as nervy prose is replaced with colorless revelations like: “I’m sometimes caught out by how much I’ve changed, even since the previous week. I can’t say precisely what these changes are.”

“The Other Profile” lumbers around, depriving us of specificity as it submits to cliché. By the end, I wondered what Maia, with her lacerating opinions, would think of this fate. How she might feel to know that the intensity of her relationship with Gloria had been tempered by the same hazy sentiments she once mocked. Maybe she’d shrug or, considering the way Systrom now feels about Instagram, maybe she’d find it kind of terrifying.

The New York Times


Eiffel Tower Operator Says Strike by Staff Has Ended, Site to Reopen on Sunday

 This photograph taken on February 23, 2024, shows the Eiffel Tower on a cloudy day in Paris. (AFP)
This photograph taken on February 23, 2024, shows the Eiffel Tower on a cloudy day in Paris. (AFP)
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Eiffel Tower Operator Says Strike by Staff Has Ended, Site to Reopen on Sunday

 This photograph taken on February 23, 2024, shows the Eiffel Tower on a cloudy day in Paris. (AFP)
This photograph taken on February 23, 2024, shows the Eiffel Tower on a cloudy day in Paris. (AFP)

A strike by staff at the Eiffel Tower has ended, the company that runs one of the most visited tourist sites in the world said in a statement on Saturday.

The tower will reopen on Sunday, the Societe d'Exploitation de la Tour Eiffel (SETE), which is owned by Paris City Hall, added.

Workers at the Eiffel Tower went on strike on Feb. 19 in protest over the way the Paris monument is managed.

It came as Paris prepares to host the 2024 Summer Olympics, which begin on July 26 and will feature metal from the tower in the winners' medals.

SETE and trade unions "reached an end-of-strike agreement stipulating that the parties will regularly review the company's business model, maintenance costs and sales through a body that will meet every six months", the company said.

SETE said visitors who bought tickets between Feb. 19-24 will get refunds.

Unions claim Paris City Hall, which owns 99% of SETE, is underestimating the cost of planned maintenance and repairs to the monument ahead of the Olympics.


Saudi Ministry Launches 1st National Cultural Metaverse Platform in the World

The flag of Saudi Arabia (Asharq Al-Awsat)
The flag of Saudi Arabia (Asharq Al-Awsat)
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Saudi Ministry Launches 1st National Cultural Metaverse Platform in the World

The flag of Saudi Arabia (Asharq Al-Awsat)
The flag of Saudi Arabia (Asharq Al-Awsat)

The Ministry of Culture announced Friday the launch of the first national initiative in the world of the Metaverse supported by the artificial intelligence system for Generative Media Intelligence (GMI), SPA said on Saturday.
The initiative is launched in partnership with droppGroup and its World's First 'Phygital' Metaverse using Hyper ledger Fabric 2.5 block chain technology, which is represented by the Saudi Heritage Metaverse platform.
The platform offers a mix of cultural shows, performances and digital innovation powered by GMI technology, and hosts a dynamic digital environment that allows users to experience many activities and attractions "in real life".
This includes engaging cultural attractions such as the History Walk, sectors dedicated to music, art, history, culinary arts, and crafts, as well as mini-video games. The Performance Center will also stream live events including the Founding Day Commencement Symphony Concert on the ministry's Metaverse platform.
The Ministry of Culture's Metaverse platform is a fully immersive, and web-based experience ready for Mobile XR, ensuring accessibility across a wide range of devices, whether through mobile phones, VR headsets, desktops and other digital devices, as the users are guaranteed a seamless entry into the Metaverse to embody the Ministry of Culture’s commitment to inclusivity, enabling a diverse global audience to explore and participate in the rich history of Saudi culture.
This experience enables millions from the Kingdom, and from all over the world, to experience Saudi events in the Metaverse, which represents a turning point in cultural participation, and this initiative represents a major leap in the future of cultural expression and participation.


Culture Ministry Launches ‘1727’ Competition to Mark Saudi Founding Day

The Ministry of Culture
The Ministry of Culture
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Culture Ministry Launches ‘1727’ Competition to Mark Saudi Founding Day

The Ministry of Culture
The Ministry of Culture

The Ministry of Culture has announced the launch of the ‘1727’ competition, featuring a prize pool of 100,000 Saudi riyals on the occasion of Saudi Founding Day.

The competition, open to the general public, started Thursday and will run through Saturday. It entails a series of questions related to the establishment of the Saudi state by Imam Muhammad bin Saud in 1727 AD.

Participants will encounter eight diverse questions divided into four phases, with two questions per phase, focusing on the cultural and historical aspects of Founding Day.

Participants who correctly answer all questions, progressing through all phases, will qualify for a prize draw. Randomly, 100 winners will be chosen, each receiving 1,000 Saudi Riyals.

The competition is part of numerous activities and events presented by the Ministry of Culture to commemorate Founding Day, a source of immense pride for all Saudis. These events aim to engage all segments of society throughout the Kingdom.