The hundreds of little visitors to the first-ever LEGO zone at Saudi Aramco’s popular iThra Knowledge Program include at least one young builder with an innate talent for model construction.
Fahad Al-Mughaiseeb, 12, tried out the Lego area at the start of the Riyadh program in early August and has since become a regular, constructing impressive models of famous and complex buildings, including the Al Faisaliah Tower and a large Riyadh mosque.
The child-friendly area of the 157,627 square-foot, Riyadh International Convention and Exhibition Center was designed for free play with LEGO blocks, figures and shapes. LEGO, with its famous brightly-colored interlocking plastic bricks, is thought to help develop cognitive skills and enhance creative abilities through free play, an important element of childhood sensory development.
Fahad says the hands-on LEGO zone helped him discover a hidden talent for free-form building with blocks.
“My mother continued to support me during all this period and brought me to the exhibit every day; she encouraged me during my work, and got me a few kits of LEGO cubes in order to continue using them at home,” said Fahad.
The program’s LEGO corner is designed to resemble the city of Riyadh itself, and offers separate sections for children above and below five years of age.
A 2 x 4 meter platform allows young people to build models, towers and imaginary creatures in an atmosphere that is both entertaining and free from distractions.
The family-friendly Riyadh program, which came to an end on August 29, drew a total of 640,747 visitors over the course of four weeks.
Serving as a stunning showcase for talents from across the Kingdom and around the globe, the Ithra Knowledge Program is one of the most successful outreach programs in Saudi Aramco’s history.
Developed in conjunction with Saudi Aramco’s King Abdulaziz Center for World Culture, the program has already welcomed more than 2.1 million visitors Kingdom-wide in the space of 10 months, at shows in Dhahran, Al Hasa, Jiddah, and now Riyadh.
Diplomats and VIPs representing dozens of countries have had high praise for Saudi Aramco’s iThra Knowledge Program in Riyadh.
Special visitation groups had topped 1,700 in the final week of the program, with distinguished visitors, including Canadian Ambassador Thomas MacDonald, who applauded the program, now in its final week at the Riyadh International Convention and Exhibition Center.
“Everything in the program delighted and impressed me. Saudi Aramco should be proud of this program, especially the Energy Efficiency and Traffic Safety Pavilions. When I listened to the explanations they provided at these two pavilions, I found them very informative and essential for the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.”
Turkish Ambassador Yunus Demirer also visited the Riyadh event and saw potential for an expanded outreach outside the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia: “I extend my congratulations to Saudi Aramco for this great accomplishment that demonstrates how the company has taken it upon itself to raise social responsibility topics in an educational and creative way,” he said.
“I think the program is too important to be just a permanently touring program without a specific time or place. I think this program could be useful in tours outside the Kingdom.”
His Excellency Abdullatif Bin Ahmed Al-Othman, Governor and Chairman of the Board of Directors of Saudi Arabian General Investment Authority, also paid tribute to the program during a recent visit.
“The program embodies the concepts of knowledge and community service as well as the idea of using edutainment to transfer knowledge and information,” said Al-Othman.
“iThra Knowledge is a holistic experience in which visitors learn something new from the moment they arrive, until they leave. I extend my thanks to the Saudi Aramco staff for their commendable efforts and outstanding work.”
The 500-plus hard-working male and female volunteers at the Riyadh program also received their share of accolades. Al-Othman added: “The program has skillfully engaged male and female volunteers and has excelled at crowd management and safety… Today we saw dedication at work. I was especially happy to see both male and female Saudi volunteers who presented an honorable image of the youth of this country through their manners and work ethic.
Honored visitors to the iThra Knowledge program also include: Dr. Joseph Westphal, Ambassador — U.S. Embassy; Jiro Kodera, Ambassador, Embassy of Japan; Laurens Westhoff, Ambassador for The Netherlands; Jaime Sergio Cerda, Argentina Ambassador; Kim Jin-Soo, South Korea Ambassador; Mohammed Sadiq Jaafar, South Africa Ambassador; Gloria Jean Castaño- Zafra, Cultural representative, the Philippine Embassy; Hemant Kotalwar, Deputy Chief of Mission, Embassy of India; and Tran Ngueyen Tuyen, Vietnam Ambassador.
The 1001 Inventions display as a component of the Ithra Knowledge Program has seen a heavy turnout of people passionate about discoveries and knowledge, wanting to learn more about the inventions of Muslim pioneers.
“Actors play out the roles of the most prominent inventors, scientists and intellectuals from various fields and times for an interactive experience for the visitors,” says Ayid Al-Qurni, a supervisor with 1001 Inventions. “One of them is to highlight the significance of the inventions that were made in ancient times as well as their impact on communities throughout history.”
As they enter the 1001 Inventions wing, visitors find a statue of Abbas Ibn Firnas suspended from the ceiling, drawing attention to his attempt to fly. While the attempt failed, his work is hailed as a key contribution in the eventual discovery of flight.
The 1001 Inventions wing is divided into eight sections with each section reinforcing a general theme such as medical inventions or engineering. Interactive, high-definition screen displays transport visitors back to the golden era of the Islamic civilization.
The 1001 Inventions exhibits have reached over 70 million people worldwide, including 33 million viewers and 4 million visitors of the exhibits that were held in many countries and capitals around the world.
The iThra Knowledge Program, developed through Saudi Aramco’s King Abdulaziz Center for World Culture, continues its run in Riyadh until Aug. 29.
At the Ithra Knowledge program running in Riyadh until August 29, budding film makers are offered the chance to explore and develop their filmmaking instincts at the YouTube studio.
The studio gives visitors the opportunity to produce professional videos using simple technology that is widely available – including smart phones.
After producing the videos, participants can upload them to YouTube or watch their productions with relatives and friends in the House Corner section of the studio.
Wing supervisor Nouf Al-Fara’idy explained that the YouTube Studio is a series of short workshops that are held in cooperation with YouTube. She added that the workshops strive to encourage young men and women to produce quality videos that address important topics such as saving energy and water and health as well as other issues.
The workshops are free and present a golden opportunity for all amateurs who are seeking to learn and polish their filming skills. The film makers can then upload their videos to YouTube to participate in the closing ceremony of the YouTube Studio under the title: Create, Share and Win!
A panel of experts will select the top three videos and the producers will win SR 20,000 worth of professional filming equipment.
People can book a place at the studio by visiting www.ithraknowledge.com/cs. Workshops are held twice daily until the end of the program. Each workshop can accommodate up to 30 people, and are divided into men-only and women-only sessions on alternating days.
DHAHRAN, 08/20/2014 — The Eastern Province free flight paragliding team recently competed in the “Asir International Competition for Paragliding Accuracy 2014.” The competition was held recently at Al Soodha in the Sirwat Mountains west of Abha City in the Asir region, on the west coast of Saudi Arabia. The mountain itself is more like an escarpment or cliff rising up from the Tihamah costal plain adjacent to the Red Sea. The paragliding site is 2,982 meters above sea level and is arguably the highest point in Saudi Arabia. The cool temperatures in the 20s at Al Soodha were very refreshing after the 44 degree days in Dhahran!
The competition was a “precision landing” event where the goal was to take off and quickly fly to the designated landing site 1,300 meters below the launch, where a team of judges was waiting to measure the distance from touchdown to the center of the bulls eye to score the flight.
At the very center of the landing target was a 3-cm electronic button – that gave you a perfect score of zero for the flight. Around this button was a 15-cm radius electronic pressure plate (a much more reasonable target unless you are wearing ballet shoes), followed by concentric chalk circles out to 15 meters from the bull’s eye. Landings farther than 15 meters from the center, or landings where something other than the pilot’s foot touched the ground before the wing collapses were scored the maximum score. The contestants performed as many takeoffs and landings as the competition allowed and the scored distances were tallied to determine the winner. This type of contest is the opposite of most paragliding competitions where the goal is to stay in the air for hours and to fly as fast as possible following a cross country course of many kilometers, usually resulting in an undesirable landing in an unknown location followed by a hike to a main road and a long wait for a retrieval vehicle.
Our team was led by Sadeg Jubran and consisted of seven pilots, six of whom were Aramcons working in Dhahran, Abqaiq and Ras Tanura. The team members competing in the event hold Saudi paragliding licenses and are members of the Saudi Aviation Club (SAC) which regulates general aviation, paragliding, sky-diving and radio-controlled modelling in the Kingdom. Most of the Aramco paragliding pilots are also members of the Aramco Hangar Flyers self-directed group in Dhahran that provided the conduit that brought the team together.
We left Dhahran on a 3 a.m. flight to Abha and arrived at the competition just in time to pay the registration fee, sign numerous wavers, show proof of license and eventually receive our official competitor number, badge and T-shirt. We met many of the other competitors as well as the organizers. Pilots were there from the local Asir flying club as well as from Kuwait, Abu Dhabi, Qatar, Australia, Hungary, Czech Republic, New Zealand, and of course, Saudi Arabia. Our team was the most diverse with an American, a Romanian, a Russian, a Scotsman, and two Saudis. We were tired from the flight so we cut the comaraderie short and headed to the villa that was graciously provided for us for a short nap before returning at 3 p.m. for the opening of the first competition window.
We returned somewhat refreshed and prepared our equipment. We were all anxious as none of us had flown this particular site before. On a previous trip we scouted out the landing location and noticed that it seemed small and somewhat perilous. I had been harboring this feeling for days and was happy to discover that the landing zone had been improved for the competition, as it was flatter and somewhat longer than what we had previously seen. This helped to moderate my apprehension, but I still had pre-flight jitters that didn’t go away until a split second before launch (when they were then replaced with a huge grin).
We were given a full safety briefing in the headquarters tent describing the takeoff procedures, landing zone, recommended approach patterns, alternative landing sites and information on how to get a free ride back up to the takeoff on the cable car! Before we were allowed to fly we were weighed with all of our flying gear to verify that we were operating within the proper weight category for the certified glider we were flying. Our flying equipment was checked – radio, helmet, harness, and emergency reserve parachute. Once that was done, it was time to parawait (sit around until conditions were safe for flying). Eventually the organizers decided that the competition could begin and began calling for the contestants to prepare for takeoff by random selection. I was the first from our team to be called up and I quickly made my way to the launch area and performed my final preflight check – helmet on, radio on, shoe laces tied, chest strap fastened, leg straps fastened, wind direction and speed OK, no traffic – everything was go! A quick tug on my A risers and the wing came up perfectly – all of the lines were clear and it was fully inflated. With a slight tug on the brakes to stop the wing from overflying, I spun around and started my takeoff run. I was airborne and flying before reaching the edge of the ramp, what a feeling…wow!
The flight was a sled ride, the air was smooth, not like the rough bouncing around we sometimes get when thermal flying. As I flew, I watched the pilots before me and took mental notes as they flew their landing patterns, trying to decide what I would do when it was my time to land. When landing paragliders there is no second chance, you can’t just pull off on the side of the road and park while you study a map, you can’t just hit the “reset” button and there are no mulligans. You have one chance to get it right and the result of getting it wrong can at best be embarrassing and at worst be your last major life event. I paid close attention to the pilots below me while also making sure that pilots who took off after me were enough behind me and high enough above me to not present any complication at the landing. Needless to say, as I am writing this article the landing went well, as did the subsequent flight.
We missed the last day of the competition as we had to return to work on Sunday. We were having so much fun, none of us wanted to leave. Hopefully we will be more prepared next year and can book the flights and L days with more anticipation.
No one on our team managed to make more than two competition flights but many of us did manage to land inside the scoring area. Maxim and I even managed to hit the 15-cm plate once. Unfortunately, I touched the ground with my hand so my flight was disqualified, – which meant that as the team’s best pilot Maxim had to buy the pizza at the airport while we waited for our flight back to Dammam. Every cloud has a silver lining. The Asir flying club did a great job organizing a safe and enjoyable event. It was a great trip and a very well-run competition. The team refers to the trip as Abha III as it marks the third time we have come to this beautiful part of Saudi Arabia to enjoy the paragliding and the socializing with the fantastic Saudi Arabian paragliding community.
- Daniel C. Istrate
- Maksim Oparin
- Robert Wilson Rowe
- Sadeg A. Jubran
- Martin F. Hogg
- Hussain A. Alssamen
- Kareem Neemer