Over half of Saudis are considered regular gamers. The kingdom has spent billions of dollars over the past year on stakes in global game developers (Shutterstock).

Islamic Lifestyle

Newswrap: Islamic lifestyle

PIF invests $1 billion in gaming company Embraer Group; Saudi Arabia introduces new Hajj regulations for Western pilgrims; Indonesia develops National Tourism Development Index; Saudi Arabia allocates $100 million for tourism training; Tourism bouncing back in Malaysia; Lady of Heaven film pulled from UK cinemas.


PIF invests $1 billion in gaming company Embraer Group

Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund’s Savvy Gaming Company has acquired 100 million shares for $1 billion in Sweden’s Embraer Group, making it the group’s second largest shareholder, the Financial Times reported. The Savvy Gaming Company was launched by the Public Investment Fund (PIF), this year, acquiring Modern Times Group’s esports division for $1 billion in January, and the competitive multiplayer technology platform Faceit.

In May, PIF acquired a 5% stake worth $2.98 billion in Japan’s Nintendo, and earlier in the year undisclosed stakes in Nexon and Capcom, the maker of the Street Fighter franchise. In 2021, PIF invested $3 billion in Activision Blizzard, Electronic Arts and Take-Two Interactive. In May, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s MiSK Foundation acquired a 97% stake in Japan’s SNK Corporation, which behind games Metal Slug and Fatal Fury.

The games market in Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt is estimated to be worth $1.76 billion, according to a Niko Partners report, led by Saudi Arabia at $1 billion, the UAE at $520 million, and Egypt at $172 million. According to a survey by the Ministry of Sports, around half of Saudis considers themselves regular gamers, while 67% (23.5 million) said they were gaming enthusiasts.

Saudi Arabia introduces new Hajj regulations for Western pilgrims

Saudi Arabia’s Hajj Ministry has issued new regulations requiring Muslim pilgrims from Europe, the Americas and Australia to book through the government website Motawif, reported Middle East Eye. Pilgrims will be subjected to an “automated lottery” draw, and if accepted, will have to book flights and hotels through the website. No dates have been released as to when this will start, but travel agencies have been urged to provide pilgrims with refunds. The kingdom’s long term policy has been to allocate a certain number of pilgrims per country.

Indonesia develops National Tourism Development Index

The Ministry of Tourism and Creative Economy has created the National Tourism Development Index platform to measure the magnitude of the role of regional governments in building tourism ecosystems, It is based on the WEF (World Economic Forum) Global Travel and Tourism Development Index (TTDI) indicator. The Indonesian index is to be launched at the end of the year, reported TribunBatam.

The country has seen tourism rebound in 2022, attracting nearly 50 times as many foreign visitors in April as the same month last year, up 172.27% to 111,1110, according to Statistics Indonesia (BPS) data. Indonesia attracted 13.03 million foreign tourist arrivals in 2019, dropping to 2.2 million in 2020, and just 141,211 in 2021, reported The Star.

Saudi Arabia allocates $100 million for tourism training

The tourism ministry has launched a $100 million programme to train 100,000 young Saudis a year in the tourism and hospitality sector, reported Markets Insider. Under the Vision 2030, Saudi Arabia aims to attract 100 million tourists and create 1 million jobs. The 'Tourism Trailblazers' programme is to develop trainees at all career levels across the country, while training scholarships are to be provided at institutions in France, Spain, Switzerland, UK, Australia, and Italy.

"It is vital that we invest in our youth now. Creating a skilled workforce with the talent and ambition to support and drive the tourism sector regionally and globally is key to realising Vision 2030. This programme demonstrates our commitment to empowering young people by providing them with right skills, support and opportunities to shape the future of the tourism industry." said Tourism Minister Ahmed Al Khateeb.

Tourism bouncing back in Malaysia

Malaysia, which was ranked the top Muslim-friendly destination by CrescentRating, has seen a rebound in visitors, with 1 million arrivals since the beginning of April. Around 60% however are from neighbouring Singapore. The country hopes to attract 5 million tourists this year, the Malaysian Association of Tour and Travel Agents (MATTA) said to Xinhua news agency. Malaysia attracted 26.1 million arrivals in 2019, generating $19.59 billion, dropping to 4.33 million arrivals in 2020 and 130,000 arrivals in 2021.

Lady of Heaven film pulled from UK cinemas

A film about the Prophet Muhammad’s (PBUH) daughter has been pulled by one of the UK’s biggest cinema chains following protests over blasphemy, reported Middle East Eye. Released in early June, there have been several protests across British cities, prompting Cineworld to cancel screenings. The $15 million film, directed by Eli King and written by Kuwait-born Sheikh Yasser al-Habib, tells the story of Fatima and the contemporary era, with links to the rise of the Islamic State in Iraq. Fatima’s face is not depicted, being a faceless figure in a black shroud, but the Prophet’s face was depicted.

Protestors accused the film of inaccurately and negatively depicting three of Islam’s most important figures, and stoking sectarian hatred. More than 120,000 people signed a petition calling for the film to be pulled from British cinemas.

The film has been banned in Egypt and Pakistan, while Iranian clerics have issued fatwas against viewing it, saying it could cause sectarian discord, according to the Tehran Times.


Media and recreation