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RIYADH: A historic love story, passed down from generation to generation, has taken the stage at Princess Nourah bint Abdulrahman University. 
“Jamil and Bouthayna,” set in the deserts of the Arabian Peninsula, is a theatrical musical production that tells the legendary tale of the poet Jamil bin Ma’amar, who fell madly in love with Bouthayna bint Hayyan.
As one of the many events hosted by the Ministry of Culture, “Jamil and Bouthayna” has left crowds speechless with its costumes and choreographed performances, born in the deserts of AlUla. 
Two Riyadh, natives Areej Ahmed and Alanoud Bandar, came to see the musical on the opening night. The two friends shared their excitement with Arab News. 
“I honestly really enjoyed the show, there wasn’t a single moment where I felt bored or became distracted. Every scene was very captivating and I advise people to come see,” Ahmed said. 
“To be honest, I liked it, but it has some vocabulary and music that is dominated by the Jordanian, and not the Saudi, dialect,” Bandar told Arab News. 
The performance originally premiered in AlUla in February 2020 at the Maraya Concert Hall as part of the Winter at Tantora Festival. 
Fatima Hassan, an Eastern Province native, traveled from Alkhobar just to see the musical on its Riyadh opening night. 
“Honestly, the trip was exhausting and I left my husband and children to attend the show,” she said.  “The first show was in AlUla and it was too far away to travel so I could not attend.” 
She told Arab News that she was thrilled when she discovered the musical was coming to Riyadh.  
“I fell in love with the love (story) set in the Arabian Peninsula in AlUla, between Jamil and Bouthayna, and I loved the performance of the actress Amel Bouchoucha, who is the one behind the show,” she said. 
The Lebanese Caracalla Dance Theatre troupe brought the love story to life, with its lead performers, Algerian actress Bouchoucha and Syrian actor Samer Ismail, playing Jamil and Bouthayna.  
The opening night, which saw the use of poetry, musical composition, video projection, heritage costumes, singing and choreography to portray the story, came to a close with a standing ovation from the audience.
The show will run until June 14 at Princess Nourah bint Abdulrahman University’s Blue Hall with tickets ranging from SR75 ($20) to SR350. 
RIYADH: The Saudi Ministry of Hajj and Umrah has closed registration for domestic pilgrims for this year’s Hajj season, adding that the names would be announced later today following a draw.
The number of applicants for Hajj from inside Saudi Arabia had reached more than 390,000 requests, the ministry’s official spokesperson Hesham Saeed said. The selection of candidates will be done by e-lottery with priority given to those who have not performed Hajj previously, he said.
• The number of applicants for Hajj from inside Saudi Arabia had reached more than 390,000 requests. The selection of candidates will be done by e-lottery with priority given to those who have not performed Hajj previously.
• Pilgrims successful in their request will receive a confirmation via text message on their registered devices.
“The sorting and the e-draw process will begin to select nominators from pilgrims who meet with the requirements that have been previously announced by the ministry,” said Saeed, who is also assistant deputy minister of Hajj and Umrah.
Pilgrims successful in their request will receive a confirmation via text message on their registered devices saying that they have been selected to perform Hajj, Islam’s fifth pillar.
“The nominators will be given 48 hours to complete the payment of the fees for the selected packages, after which the Hajj permits will be issued to them,” he said.
The ministry has also slashed prices for the three hospitality packages for the Hajj season this year.
The “Al-Abraj” package now costs SR13,943.75 ($3,716.33) per pilgrim, the “Developed Tents” package is SR11,970.35, and the “Undeveloped Tents” package cost SR9,098.80 per pilgrim. All prices are not inclusive of value-added tax and do not include land or air transportation to and from Makkah, the ministry said.
Registration opened for domestic pilgrims at the beginning of June through the “Eatmarna” application and via the ministry’s website.
The ministry stipulated that those who wished to register for Hajj, whether resident or citizen, should not exceed 65 years of age, and demonstrate complete immunization in the “Tawakkalna” application.
Earlier, the ministry confirmed that pilgrims from Europe, North America and Australia could also register electronically for this year’s Hajj.
Pilgrims from these countries were able to register their data and submit their official documents, including passports and necessary vaccination papers for COVID-19. They then were also entered into the lottery process for the appropriate packages, and if successful, should complete the online payment process. After that, the requests are sent to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to issue visas in consultation with the ministry’s information center.
The ministry said that people should communicate by writing to [email protected], by phoning 920002814, or by using the official account on Twitter.
The likely date for Hajj this year will be during the first or second week of July, with the final date to be confirmed after the sighting of the new moon of Dhul Hijjah.
RIYADH: International travelers will no longer need to show proof of a negative COVID-19 test before boarding flights to the US.
The US Mission to Saudi Arabia also shared the news on their Twitter account.
@USAinKSA tweeted: “Starting June 12, air travelers to the US will no longer have to show a negative COVID-19 test result or any documents proving they have recovered before boarding the plane.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention late on Friday issued an order rescinding a 17-month-old requirement that people arriving in the US by air test negative for COVID-19.
The health agency said that it will continue to monitor state of the pandemic and will reassess the need for new testing requirements if the situation changes.
Meanwhile, people traveling from Saudi Arabian airports must present the Tawakkalna app, which shows their health status, according to the regulations of the General Authority of Civil Aviation.
Almost 541 million cases of COVID-19 have been reported worldwide since the outbreak of the pandemic, and more than 6.3 million people have died after contracting the virus.
Infections have been reported in 228 countries and territories since the first cases were identified in China in December 2019.
More than 516 million people have recovered from the virus.
The US, India and Brazil have seen the highest number of confirmed cases, followed by France, Germany, the UK, Russia, South Korea, Italy and Turkey.
PARIS: Saudi Arabia’s Minister of Human Resources and Social Development Ahmed Al-Rajhi met  Secretary-General of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development Mathias Cormann during his visit to Paris.
The Saudi minister participated in the ministerial meeting of OECD Working and Employment Group, which was held in the French capital.
Al-Rajhi stressed the importance of these international forums to intensify efforts and consolidate joint cooperation between countries to meet the challenges facing labor markets.
He added that the labor market in the Kingdom has recently enjoyed a great transformation in line with the Vision 2030 reform plans, which aims to build a more prosperous, developing and vibrant homeland.
Al-Rajhi pointed to the areas of cooperation with the organization in the economy and development during the upcoming period, especially as the ministry is currently working on several initiatives related to skills and employment.
He added that coordination with the organization’s stakeholders will contribute to developing policies, capacity building and related statistics.
Cormann expressed his thanks to Al-Rajhi for accepting the invitation and Saudi Arabia’s participation in the ministerial meeting, welcoming the joint work in all areas of cooperation available between the two parties.
He called for direct coordination with the concerned parties in the ministry to study and activate the available areas of cooperation.
The Kingdom’s participation in the ministerial meetings of the organization came in response to an invitation from the UK government and OECD.
Al-Rajhi participated in the main session on June 7 and delivered a speech highlighting the Kingdom’s distinctive experience in dealing with the repercussions of the pandemic on labor markets and societies.
RIYADH: The Royal Saudi Air Force has concluded a joint exercise with its Egyptian counterpart in the Kingdom’s northern region, the ministry of defense announced on Sunday.
The closing ceremony of the Saudi-Egyptian “Faisal 12-2022” exercise, which was held at the King Faisal Air Base, was attended by the Deputy Commander of the Air Force, Maj. Gen. Talal Al-Ghamdi, on behalf of the air force’s commander.
Al-Ghamdi praised the “positive results” of the exercises, which were carried out according “to specific tactical goals that achieved the desired military benefit for both parties.”
He said the impact of the intense exercises helped launch the two forces to a high level of readiness and preparedness.
The aircrews implemented a number of scenarios in a real combat environment, and pilots of both forces proved their high combat efficiency, and their rapid ability to deal with and destroy enemy targets, the ministry said.
The Royal Saudi Air Force participated with F-15SE and F-15C aircraft, and the Egyptian Air Force participated with F-16 and MiG-29 aircraft during the drill.
JEDDAH: Stan Lee’s Super Con saw fans in Saudi Arabia meet celebrity actors, musicians, and cosplayers from all over the world, who came to the Jeddah Superdome for the centenary event celebrating the late American comic book writer Stan Lee.
Mike Bundlie, the convention’s producer, told Arab News that he loved the fact that the Saudi fans are enjoying these events so much. “The beauty of movies and comics is that it appeals to everybody, and the fact that the people in Saudi are just as interested is really important for people in the US to know,” adding that every celebrity who has been to the conventions has been amazed by the reception.
Hollywood celebs dazzled fans on the red carpet at the event which concluded on Saturday including Zachary Levi, known for playing the superhero Shazam, “Guardian of the Galaxy” star Micheal Rooker, “Eternal” actress Lauren Ridloff, and “Arrow” star Katie Cassidy.
Ridloff, also known for playing Connie in “The Walking Dead,” said that Jeddah’s Super Con was especially important because it was her first time at the event. “I have to say it is amazing just to be here, I never thought my first comic-con would be in Saudi Arabia, and it’s been such an awesome experience. I loved meeting the fans yesterday, and everybody is so warm and open.”
Ridloff, who is deaf, said that she takes representing her disability on the screen seriously. She told Arab News that her role as Makkari in “The Eternals” will open doors for a lot of people all over the world who feel different to others due to their disabilities.
She added that she is excited to soon share with her fans an upcoming project with American filmmaker Ava DuVernay and Canadian-American actor Joshua Jackson.
American actor Levi, 41, told Arab News it was easy for the “Shazam” superhero to play 16-year-old Billy Batson. “Basically, I am a man-child, so I am a person who has never really grown up, a little bit like Peter Pan. So, it was not all that difficult to find myself trying to behave like a 16-year-old boy again, because I am still kind of that person in a lot of ways.”
Hollywood celebs dazzled fans on the red carpet at the event which concluded on Saturday including Zachary Levi, known for playing the superhero Shazam, ‘Guardian of the Galaxy’ star Micheal Rooker, ‘Eternal’ actress Lauren Ridloff, and ‘Arrow’ star Katie Cassidy.
Levi said that spending time in Toronto, enduring the biting cold in Canada where the first movie was shot, was a complete contrast to experiencing Jeddah’s summer heat for the first time.
Describing the effect that the cold of Canada had on filming, Levi said: “We had to do extra takes because we couldn’t pronounce the words that we were trying to say, but at the end of the day, we ended up making a really great movie.”
The second installment, “Shazam! Fury of the Gods” — expected to be released in December — was shot in Atlanta, Georgia, which the actor said was “not as hot as it is in Jeddah in the middle of the Summer but still pretty hot.”
Levi added he was very excited about the second movie as it will be much better than the first, with a bigger budget and more superheroes. “We have got Helen Mirren and Lucy Liu to be the bad guys, and that’s fun, Helen Mirren is just an icon, and so is Lucy. That I got to work with them is such a treat, and I think that the script is fantastic and the action is great.”
Expressing his joy to be in the Kingdom, Levi said visiting Saudi Arabia was something he can now finally tick off his bucket list: “I got to meet new people in a new place and learnt more about this incredible world we live in, and the warmth we have received from all the fans has been incredible.”
Cassidy, who plays a very physical role in The CW television series “Arrow” as Black Canary, told Arab News staying in shape is vital at all times. “When it comes to action, I don’t like to get ready, I like to be ready. Even if I am not filming, I am constantly keeping up with fitness and health and staying in shape because that way when an action role comes, it is seamless for me.”
She stays fit through martial arts and fight training, such as kickboxing and muay thai. The actress said that doing this also helps her get into the headspace of the character, “and do more of the artistic script analysis, backstory, and focus more mentally on the character rather than just the physical part, because the physical part will hopefully already be there.”
Cassidy also thanked her Saudi fans for their loyalty to the show. “You are the reason why we are here, and I can’t even express how much gratitude I have for everyone.”
Clive Standen, who played the brutal Rollo in the popular series “Vikings,” said that he got into acting to draw attention away from himself, so he loves playing characters where he wouldn’t even recognize himself in the mirror. This was easy for him to do in the violent historical drama-action series. “There isn’t much make-believe, you just come to set, and you feel like a Viking.”
“The type of character I play, he is far removed from me, but I have to ask some dark and deep questions about myself and put them up on the screen. I don’t take the character home with me. I hang him up on the door and come to the carpet and play tickle fights with my son.”
The actor said that this was the furthest he had flown to meet his fans, a 17-hour flight from Los Angeles to Jeddah. Standen shared some of his future projects as well, saying that he will be in a horror movie called “Possessions,” which he described as being like “The Shining” but with a twist.
He will also be in the video game “Space Marine 2,” where he described his character to be, a “two meters tall, 400-pound, crazy space marine.”
Lexi Rabe, a 9-year-old actress, known for playing Tony Stark’s daughter in “Avengers: Endgame” said American actor Chris Pratt, who plays Star-Lord in the “Guardians of the Galaxy” movie franchise, would pick on her by stealing her bagels. “What did I do about it? I found a fake bee, and I chased him with it.”
She told fans at the event: “I love you 3000.”
Basically, I am a man-child, so I am a person who has never really grown up. A little bit like Peter Pan but in a good way I think, I hope. Yeah, I have always been very much about fun. I love having fun, I like bringing fun, I love people, I love love, I just like, I love life. So, it was not all that difficult to just find myself trying to behave like a 16-year-old boy again, because I am still kind of that person in a lot of ways.
The first one we shot in Toronto Canada, in the middle of winter and it is very very cold. It is the opposite of how it feels here in Jeddah right now. That was not that fun, so we were really creating a lot of fun in a climate that was not very fun. In fact, there were some nights where it was so cold. I and young Jack Grazer who plays young Freddie, it was so cold some nights that our mouths and our tongues started to like, basically, not freeze but they were moving very slowly because the cold will do that and we had to do extra takes because we couldn’t pronounce the words that we were trying to say like that kind of cold. But at the end of the day, we ended up making a really great movie.
Then in the second one, we shot that in Atlanta, Georgia. Which is nearly — it’s not quite as hot as it is in Jeddah in the middle of summer, but it’s still pretty hot. So we got the two polar opposites of the weather. But I will take the heat over the cold any day.
I think you know, in the first movie nobody really knew how it was going to be received. We all hoped that it would do well and it did pretty well. It did even better, you know our initial box office was good but then a lot of people watched on-demand afterward, on streams.
Going to the movies, you know you are like, is this worth going for? I think a lot of people who didn’t go see it in the theaters initially, did see it on TV later and really enjoyed it. I think, I hope that a lot of these people are going to be like oh we definitely want to go see the next one in the theaters.
I think it will do even better because of that, but the movie itself we got more budget, we got more time, now the big fun reveals of all the kids getting superpowers, now that’s all very much established so we get a lot of older superhero versions of them in the movie which is a lot of fun.
And we have got Helen Meeren and Lucy Liu to be the bad guys and that’s really fun. Helen Meeren is just an icon and so is Lucy. They are both such icons. That I got to work with them is such a treat and I think that the script is fantastic and the action is great, I think it’s even better than the first one and that is saying something because the first one was really good.
You are awesome, you are fantastic. I was so grateful that I was invited. I was invited a few years ago to the Con in Riyadh but I couldn’t make it, so I am very very grateful that I got to come this time and experience this incredible country. I have been to the UAE before and I have been to Bahrain before, but I have never been to Saudi Arabia before so I am just checking off bucket list things, like oh I get to meet new people in a new place and learn more about this incredible world we live in, and the warmth we have received from all the fans have been incredible.
I have to say that a lot of doors will be open for a lot of people all over the world, who felt, you know, different than others, and I think that is what it meant to me.
I have to say it is amazing just to be here, I mean here in Saudi Arabia, I never thought my first comic con would be here in Saudi Arabia, and it’s been such an awesome experience. I loved meeting the fans yesterday and just everybody is so warm and open. I am just so happy that I am able to connect with people on that level.
I am very excited to say that there is a new project coming up with Eva Deverene and Joshua Jackson, so that is in the works currently.
I am so excited to be here, thank you guys so much for having me. It’s beautiful. We landed at 3 in the morning and I had the best sleep. It’s exciting to be here, I just can’t wait to experience this, it looks like it’s going to be a blast.
When it comes to action I don’t like to get ready, I like to be ready. Even if I am not filming I am constantly keeping up with fitness and health and staying in shape because that way when an action role comes it’s seamless for me. so I don’t have to worry as much about the physicality and I am still in fight training, kickboxing, and muay thai. So I just keep up with that and that way when I finally am shooting I can get into the headspace of the character and do more of the artistic script analysis and backstory and focus more mentally on the character rather than just the physical part, because the physical part will hopefully already be there.
Thank you for being such amazing loyal fans, you are the reason why we are here and I can’t even express how much gratitude I have for everyone.

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