First Saudi Women’s Sport Center Opens
A Saudi newspaper says the first women’s sports center in the kingdom has opened.
Al Watan daily said Monday that the General Presidency for Youth Welfare had granted the center a license allowing women to practice sports including karate. It also runs weight loss programs and special activities for children.
The kingdom last month allowed girls in private schools to play sports for the first time, the latest in a series of incremental changes aimed at slowly increasing women’s rights in the ultraconservative kingdom.
Center owner Hanaa al-Zuhair told the newspaper she hoped to recruit trainers through local and foreign agencies.
The newspaper did not report the name of the center, located in the eastern town of Khobar.
Saudi Arabian girls will be allowed to play sport in private schools for the first time in the latest in a series of incremental changes aimed at slowly increasing women’s rights in the ultraconservative kingdom.
Saudi Arabia’s official press agency, SPA, reported on Saturday that private girls’ schools are now allowed to hold sport activities in accordance with the rules of sharia law. Students must adhere to “decent dress” codes and Saudi women teachers will be given priority in supervising the activities, according to the education ministry’s requirements.
The decision makes sport once again a stage for the push to improve women’s rights, nearly a year after two Saudi female athletes made an unprecedented appearance at the Olympics.
PICTURED ABOVE: The female basketball team of Jeddah United warm up in Jordan on April 21, 2009.
Saudi Arabia is to license women’s sports clubs for the first time, al-Watan daily reported.
Last year the conservative Islamic kingdom, where women must have permission from a male relative to take many big decisions, sent women athletes to the Olympics for the first time after pressure from international rights groups.
Until now, women’s exercise facilities, including gyms, have had to be licensed by the Health Ministry and designated as “health centers”.
Last April Watan, owned by a Saudi prince, reported the government had set up a ministerial committee to allow women’s sports clubs. The General Presidency of Youth Welfare, which functions like a sports ministry, only regulates men’s clubs.
In 2009 a member of the country’s highest council of clerics said girls should not play sports lest they “lose their virginity” by tearing their hymens. State-run girls’ schools do not have exercise classes.
Watan said on Friday the Interior Ministry had decided to allow women’s sports clubs after reviewing a study that showed flaws in the existing system.
Suntech powers largest solar PV system in Saudi Arabia
Suntech Power Holdings Co., Ltd. (NYSE: STP), one of the world’s largest solar companies, announced the completion of the largest ground mounted PV system in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. The 3.5 megawatt (MW) system is owned by Saudi Aramco and installed on the grounds of the King Abdullah Petroleum Studies and Research Center (KAPSARC), the world’s largest energy research center, in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.
Klaus Friedl , Vice President Projects and Head Middle East of Phoenix Solar, said, “We are pleased to complete this historic project which will provide clean, renewable energy for KAPSARC as well as for the Saudi grid. We chose Suntech’s panels because of their proven durability and performance in high-temperature, desert conditions.”
Utilizing Suntech’s premium solar panels, Phoenix Solar designed and built the 3.5MW system, which will enable KAPSARC to achieve LEED platinum certification. The ground mounted solar field is comprised of 12,684 Suntech panels and covers an area of 55,000 square meters. The grid connected system is designed to supply 5,800 megawatt hours of electricity per year and offset roughly 4,900 tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions per year.
Ron Shen , Suntech’s Vice President of the Asia Pacific, Middle East and Africa, said, “This project represents an important milestone in the development of the solar industry in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. We are pleased to work with our partners Phoenix Solar and Saudi Aramco and look forward to continuing to support the ongoing growth of solar in the Middle East.”
The King Abdullah Petroleum Studies and Research Center (KAPSARC) is an independent non-profit institution that focuses on research in energy economics, policy, technology, and the environment. Its research areas include global energy markets and economics, energy efficiency and productivity, energy and environmental technologies, and carbon management.
Founded in 1999, Phoenix Solar is a global leader in designing, building and operating large commercial and utility-scale solar power plants. Phoenix Solar’s technology-neutral approach enables them to objectively provide the best solar solutions for their customers. Their people provide expertise at every level, from project finance all the way through to plant operations.
Suntech Power Holdings Co., Ltd. (NYSE: STP) produces solar products for residential, commercial, industrial, and utility applications. With regional headquarters in China, Switzerland, and the United States, and gigawatt-scale manufacturing worldwide, Suntech has delivered more than 25,000,000 photovoltaic panels to over a thousand customers in more than 80 countries. Suntech’s pioneering R&D creates customer-centric innovations that are designed to drive solar to grid parity against fossil fuels. Suntech’s mission is to provide everyone with reliable access to nature’s cleanest and most abundant energy source. For more information about our people and products visit: http://www.suntech-power.com.
This press release contains forward-looking statements. These statements constitute “forward-looking” statements within the meaning of Section 27A of the Securities Act of 1933, as amended, and Section 21E of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, as amended, and as defined in the U.S. Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995. These forward-looking statements can be identified by terminology such as “will,” “expects,” “anticipates,” “future,” “intends,” “plans,” “believes,” “estimates” and similar statements, and includes Suntech’s ability to support the ongoing development of the solar industry in the Middle East, KAPSARC’s ability to achieve LEED platinum certification and the ability of Suntech’s panels to generate 5,800 megawatt hours of electricity per year and offset roughly 4,900 tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions per year. Such statements involve certain risks and uncertainties that could cause actual results to differ materially from those in the forward-looking statements. Further information regarding these and other risks is included in Suntech’s filings with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, including its annual report on Form 20-F. Suntech does not undertake any obligation to update any forward-looking statement as a result of new information, future events or otherwise, except as required under applicable law.
Saudi king chooses women for spots on advisory council
The king of Saudi Arabia has named dozens of women to serve on his advisory council, a new step in the ultra-religious country where women remain strictly confined in daily life.
Thirty women were among 150 people chosen Friday to serve on the council, a purely advisory body. King Abdullah also insisted that women make up at least a fifth of the members of the advisory council in the future, setting out the quota in a royal order.
“Women selected as members of the Shura Council will enjoy full rights of membership, be committed to their duties, responsibilities and assume their jobs,” said the royal order published Friday by the official Saudi Press Agency.
Plans to grant women seats on the Shura Council were first announced by Abdullah more than a year ago, one in a batch of reforms meant to bolster the standing of Saudi women. At the time, the king also said that women would be allowed to vote and run for local office, gradual moves that could nonetheless run afoul of Saudi Arabia’s ultraconservative clerics.
By pressing ahead with bringing women onto the council, Abdullah appears to be trying to burnish his reputation as a reformer. Yet critics charge that his attempts to propel progress have been limited in deference to religious conservatives who help support the Saudi monarchy.
In the Friday announcement, the king reassured religious conservatives by stating that women on the council would follow Islamic law, including wearing the hijab, and would be seated in a special area with its own entrance and exit constructed to prevent them from touching men.
Women had been appointed as advisors to the body in previous years but have never been part of the Shura Council, the Associated Press reported Friday.
The decision “gave confidence to women to take part in important decision-making matters in the country,” poet and new council appointee Thuraya Arrayed told Al Arabiya. “I expect this decision to open doors for qualified women to take part in all fields and not just in politics but in all areas.”
Some activists complained that even with women, the Shura Council remained a toothless body of appointees. The changes “ignored Saudis’ demands of electing the members and increasing the council powers!” tweeted Manal Sharif, one of the activists behind the campaign to allow women to drive and enjoy other personal freedoms. “It still cannot pass or enforce laws.”
Activists were also quick to point out that Saudi women are still barred from driving and forced to obtain male permission to work or travel, rendering them legally the same as minors. The kingdom recently began sending text messages to Saudi men when their wives or sisters try to leave the country, a system feminists deride as a digital leash.
“Women in Saudi accountable enough to be executed and responsible enough to be parliament members but still have guardians and can’t drive cars,” Saudi blogger Eman Nafjan wrote on Twitter. A Sri Lankan woman was executed this week in Saudi Arabia on charges of killing a baby in her care.
It’s “great to have women on the Shura,” Nafjan later added, but they are still appointed, not elected, making the move a “status symbol more than agent of change.”
Holy Mecca will be Saudi’s first solar city
Saudi Arabia’s government has confirmed that it will develop and build a $640 million solar power plant in the holy city of Mecca. It continues the country’s recent talks of bolstering its clean energy sector and with the holy pilgrimage of Hajj beginning, the government believes this is the best time to announce the massive project.
More importantly, however, the announcement of the solar power plant, one of the largest in the Middle East North Africa region, comes as numerous reports, including one from Citibank, have said the country could become a net importer of oil by 2030, making it difficult to meet the energy needs of the population.
Instead of sitting on their hands and waiting, Riyadh is moving forward on clean energy, and the Mecca power plan will have a capacity of 100 megawatts, Saudi economy newspaper Eqtisadiah reported. The office of Mecca’s Mayor Osama bin Fadl al-Bar told Green Prophet that the solar station “will save the city at least $550 million off its electricity bill every year.
“This is a great project and we are very proud that Mecca is going to be pushing a cleaner energy bill that promotes environmental awareness,” the mayor’s office added.
The mayor himself told Al-Eqtisadiah that “the project will be established on an area of about 2m sqm. About 20 international consortiums consisting of about 100 companies will compete for the execution of the project.”
In line with Saudi’s push toward clean energy, the city will be accepting bids for the tender in the first week of next year. Overall, the Saudi government hopes to create some 10 percent of its annual energy needs by 2017 through solar and wind power projects.
According to al-Eqtisadiah, the move into cleaner energy sources could save the Kingdom some 8 million barrels of oil daily.
Sarah Attar makes Olympic track debut for Saudi women, receives standing ovation
Sarah Attar finished last and more than a half-minute slower than her nearest competitor in the women’s 800 meters. Yet hundreds rose to give her a standing ovation as she crossed the finish line.
For the first woman from Saudi Arabia to compete in track and field at the Olympics, the principle was more important than the performance Wednesday.
Covered in clothing from head to toe, except for her smiling face poking out from her hood, Attar made her debut five days after a Saudi judo athlete became the ultraconservative country’s first female competitor at any Olympics.
“This is such a huge honor and an amazing experience, just to be representing the women,” Attar said in an interview with The Associated Press. “I know that this can make a huge difference.”
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Saudi Arabia helps Morocco kick-start solar program
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It said there would be three loans, one to develop a power station at Sousse, one to invest in the transport of gas and one to be spent on vocational and other training.
The loans are repayable over 20 years at 2 percent interest, and loan agreements will be signed in the coming days, it said in a statement on the official TAP news agency.
Egypt’s Mursi visits Saudi Arabia to mend ties
Saudi Arabia gave a lavish reception to Egyptian President Mohamed Mursi on Thursday, a gesture analysts said indicated the Arab world’s wealthiest country was ready to put old tensions behind it to do business with the new Islamist president.
In his first official foreign visit since his election in June, Mursi, who belonged to Egypt’s influential Muslim Brotherhood movement which had long had strained ties with Saudi Arabia, arrived in Jeddah late on Wednesday.
Saudi media said on Thursday that Crown Prince Salman and a host of other royal family members were at the airport to greet Mursi upon his arrival in Jeddah, the summer seat of the Saudi government, before he was driven to a meeting and dinner with King Abdullah late on Wednesday.
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PICTURED ABOVE: Showjumper Dalma Rushdi Malhas.
Saudi Arabia is to allow its women athletes to compete in the Olympics for the first time.
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Saudi school defies religious ban on female sports by letting girls play basketball
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World’s largest solar thermal plant opens in Saudi Arabia
The world’s largest solar thermal plant recently opened in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. The new plant is almost double the size of what was previously the largest solar thermal facility (located in Denmark), and it will generate enough power to heat water for a university of 40,000 students. GREENTecONE, an Austrian solar design company, supplied the solar panels for the project.
The 388,000 square foot (36,000 square meter) rooftop system is the size of five soccer fields and was built at a cost of $14 million. The solar technology is just one of the many features that will make the new $11.5 billion Princess Noura Bint Abdulrahman University for Women in Riyadh a showcase for environmental innovation. The project is also a signal that countries in the Middle East, which have become wealthy thanks to fossil fuels, are now planning for post-oil future.
Plentiful sun shines down on Saudi Arabia, and the solar panels that allow this project to run are massive. Each one covers 107 square feet (10 square meters) and weighs 375 pounds (170 kilos). The panels have a transparent coating to enhance their performance, and they also require a special mounting system to keep them bolted to the roofs when Saudi Arabia’s notoriously vicious sandstorms hit Riyadh.
Watch for similar projects to appear in Saudi Arabia the coming decade. The Kingdom has set a goal for 10 percent of its energy to come from solar power by 2020. Currently oil is plentiful, and over half of Saudi Arabia’s electricity comes from the country’s black gold. But with oil pricing at over $100 a barrel, it makes economic sense for Saudi Arabia to reduce their dependency at home and export more of it abroad. With the country expected to grow even more in the coming years, Saudi Arabia could become a global leader in solar power generation.