Royal visit a boost to Saudi-Spanish ties

King Salman honors King Felipe VI of Spain at Al-Yamamah Palace in Riyadh on Sunday. (SPA)
Updated 16 January 2017

Royal visit a boost to Saudi-Spanish ties

RIYADH: The three-day visit to Saudi Arabia by Spain's King Felipe Vl “is a shot in the arm for Saudi-Spanish bilateral trade relations,” said Abdullah Al-Meleihi, a board member of the Council of Saudi Chambers of Commerce and Industry, on Sunday.

Spanish Ambassador Joaquin Perez Villanueva said King Felipe Vl’s visit “is mainly intended to exchange notes on subjects of mutual interest … and drum up support for consolidating economic relations.”
The Spanish king’s delegation comprises a high-level delegation that was expected to meet local business leaders to promote bilateral trade and investment.
“Spain has longstanding … economic relations with the Kingdom, thanks in part to the excellent relationship between former King Juan Carlos and the Saudi royal family,” said Villanueva.
Al-Meleihi, president of Al-Ramez International Group, said: “Saudi Arabia as a country needs know-how, which Spain has in various sectors such as mining, solar energy and construction, among others.”
He added that the visit engenders the transfer of technology, paving the way for Saudi Arabia to eventually export its own finished products to other countries instead of raw materials.
“It would be in stark contrast to the situation some 30 years ago when we were after imports and looking for foreign investors to come to our country for investment purposes,” said Al-Meleihi, whose group is an investor in Euromarche, a major shopping center in the Saudi capital, and in other business ventures.
Dr. Yasser Al-Harbi, a member of the Saudi-Spanish Business Council, said he hoped the meetings would bolster bilateral trade.
“The Saudi and Spanish leaderships have been enjoying a good friendship for a long time now, and we in the private sector in the Kingdom consider Spain a good partner in technology and knowledge transfer,” said Al-Harbi, who is also vice chairman of the Aparal Group, which is involved in information and communications technology (ICT) in the Kingdom.
Saudi Arabia is Spain’s third-largest trade partner in the Arab world, and is ranked 12th among exporting countries to Spain from outside the EU.
The two countries are near to finalizing a $2.1 billion deal that will see Spain sell five warships to Saudi Arabia.
Spain is also involved in the $22.5 billion Riyadh Metro project, also called the King Abdulaziz Project for Riyadh Public Transport. The Spanish construction group FCC leads the FAST consortium in the ongoing project.
The Metro system will meet the demand of the city’s growing population while reducing congestion in the city. The population in Riyadh by 2030 is expected to reach 8 million.
The FCC said Riyadh Metro is the largest international contract in the history of construction in which a Spanish company has been awarded a contract. The contract covers the design and construction of three lines totaling 64.6 km.
Spain is also involved in building a high-speed rail line between Makkah and Madinah. Major Spanish companies such as Talgo, OHL, Adif and RENFE formed a consortium and won the railway project in 2011.

Hajj 2018: What’s on pilgrims’ bucket lists

Masjid Quba in Madinah is a favorite destination for Hajj pilgrims, according to tour guides. Below: The Cave of Hira, Al-Baqi’ cemetery and the Prophet’s Chamber allow visitors to step back in time. (Getty Images)
Updated 15 August 2018

Hajj 2018: What’s on pilgrims’ bucket lists

  • A number of companies in Makkah and Madinah help people organize their trips, making sure they cover the important sites in the two holy cities
  • Most of the sites in the two holy cities are spiritual, giving pilgrims a sense of the prophecies

RIYADH: Hajj is one of the biggest dreams of every Muslim’s life, and pilgrims looking forward to their stay in Makkah and Madinah say a bucket list is the best way to plan the trip. 

Most of the sites in the two holy cities are spiritual, giving pilgrims a sense of the prophecies. Standing in the places of the Holy Prophet transports them back to the past as if they lived those incredible moments. 

A number of companies in Makkah and Madinah help people organize their trips, making sure they cover the important sites in the two holy cities.

Sayed Shafei, an operation manager for City Sightseeing, a tour company in Madinah and worldwide, told Arab News: “We offer a special tour with a multilingual tour guide presented in eight languages. We also offer 24-hour tickets. We have scheduled tourism trips starting from the Prophet’s Mosque to 12 destinations every 30 minutes. The whole trip lasts for 14 hours a day.” 

Asked about the most popular requests, Shafei said: “Our customers always ask to visit Masjid Quba, the Sayed Al-Shuhada Mosque in Uhud, which is considered a vital historic landmark of Madinah, and Al-Qiblatain Mosque.” 

Most of the group’s customers are from East Asia, but many also visit from Kuwait, Bahrain, the UAE, Indonesia, Malaysia, the US and Europe.

Munirah Al-Jebreen, an English instructor at Princess Noura University who will perform Hajj this year, told Arab News her bucket list began with an online search. 

“I found a travel guide on Google that has all the best sites in Madinah and Makkah, so I decided to visit Uthman ibn Affan’s Farm and Well in Madinah, the Holy Qur’an exhibition, and one of the most important places I want to visit is the grave of the Holy Prophet,” she said.

The area between the Prophet’s Chamber, which holds his grave, and the Mimbar is known as the Rawdah, which is actually the Garden of Paradise. It is presently distinguished by a green carpet.

Al-Jebreen also listed some of her planned tour destinations in Makkah, including the Cave of Hira, where the Holy Prophet meditated frequently during the first 40 years of his life and the site of the first revelation. 

She will also visit Bilal Mosque and Mount Abu Qubais and, finally, will try Al-Garmushi, one of the famous traditional restaurants in Makkah.