$3 billion ‘new city’ at Taif

King Salman was briefed on the new projects at Al-Salaam Palace in Jeddah on Sunday.
Updated 02 October 2017

$3 billion ‘new city’ at Taif

JEDDAH: Plans were approved on Sunday for a $3 billion “new city” at Taif, with more than 10,000 homes, a culture and heritage tourist center, technology and industry parks, a university and an airport.
The project will occupy nearly 1,250 square kilometers on a site in the northeastern part of the existing city of Taif, with the tourist center an expansion of the popular Souq Okaz destination.
An infrastructure contract has already been signed for the first phase of a three-stage project to build a residential suburb of more than 10,000 homes. The $160 million development over 12 million square meters is the biggest in Makkah Region.
The General Authority for Civil Aviation has signed a contract to develop and operate the new Taif International Airport with a group of companies including Asiad, the Contractors Association Co. and Munich Airports Co.
The airport will be built on a 48 million square meter site 40km from Taif and 117km from Makkah. It will cost $800 million and is expected to be operational by 2020.
The new Souk Okaz City, in addition to its culture and heritage tourist attractions, will also have 1,250 hotel rooms and 130 new homes. It is being supervised by the Saudi Commission for Tourism and National Heritage, with participation from the private sector, and will cost almost $1 billion.
The tourism project will create 4,400 jobs, is expected to attract more than 260,000 visitors a year and will contribute about $80 million a year to the the Kingdom’s GDP.
A consortium of global companies has been selected to design a business park called the Oasis of Technology, a joint venture between King Abdul Aziz City for Science and Technology and the Morganti Group.
The 35 million square meter site will accommodate projects to assemble and manufacture Antonov aircraft, make solar panels and develop solar energy.
A new Industrial City, the first in Taif Province, will be built on an 11 million square meter site 55km from the city center and 29km from the airport.
The $32 million first phase will include light, medium and heavy industries, and a vocational training center.
The new university will be built at Sysid National Park. It is composed of 16 separate projects over an area of 16 million square meters, at a cost of $530 million.
King Salman was briefed on the new projects at Al-Salam Palace in Jeddah on Sunday by Dr. Saad Mohammed Mariq, adviser to the governor of Makkah.
The king said the aim was to serve Saudi citizens and the homeland.
“Our doors, our phones, and our ears are open for every citizen,” he said.

Saudi Arabia lifts ban on women driving

Updated 13 min 36 sec ago

Saudi Arabia lifts ban on women driving

  • They start their engines and hit the roads throughout the Kingdom
  • End of driving ban is crowning achievement so far of Saudi Vision 2030

Women throughout Saudi Arabia waited for the stroke of midnight, turned the keys in the ignition, fired up their engines — and hit the road to a bright new future.

It was the moment they had waited for since King Salman issued the royal decree on September 26, 2017, to lift the driving ban on women. 

Just after midnight on Saturday and in the first minutes of Sunday, Samah Algosaibi grabbed the keys to her family’s 1959 Corvette C1 and drove out of the driveway of her beach house in Khobar.
“We are witnessing history in the making as we look toward the dawn of a promising future,” said Algosaibi, the first female board member of Ahmad Hamad Algosaibi & Bros.

“As a businesswoman in Saudi Arabia, I am grateful for the women’s empowerment movement taking place. Today, I am honored to be sitting behind the wheel of change.”

Another woman to hit the road after midnight was Lina Almaeena, a member of the Saudi Shoura Council. “It feels very liberating,” she said about driving her mother’s Lexus.
Almaeena, also the co-founder and director of Jeddah United Sports Co, had exchanged her UAE license for a Saudi one. 

“I am thrilled!” Sarah Alwassia, 35, a nutritionist in Jeddah, told Arab News. “I learnt how to drive 18 years ago in the States where I got my driving license. I can’t believe that the day to drive in my own home town has come.”

Alwassia obtained her first American license when she was 18 years old in 2000, and had it exchanged for a Saudi license on June 6 in Jeddah. She explained that she is a mother, and this change provided comfort for her and her family. It also comes with various benefits, such as taking quick action in emergencies, and economic benefits such as saving money instead of paying for a driver when she needs to run errands. 

“I will be driving my kids to school and picking them up in comfort and privacy,” she said.

Women in the Kingdom commented on how this event is changing the course of their lives. “Independence is a huge thing for me,” Alwassia said. “Driving is one small part of it. I am very optimistic of the change that our loving country has made.”  

Alwassia applauds the efforts the country has made to support women. “I am confident that driving in the beginning will be pleasant, since our country has made all of the effort to support women and to protect them.
“I think our society was looking forward for this change, and I am sure the majority will adapt fast.

“I feel safe, our country did everything to make this transition pleasant and safe for every woman behind the wheel. I am really thankful to witness this historic moment and I am so happy for all the women in Saudi Arabia, especially my daughters.”
Sahar Nasief, 64, a retired lecturer from the European languages and Literature Department at King Abdulaziz University, said: “Nothing could describe my feelings. I can't wait to get on the road.”
Nasief received a very special gift from Ford for this occasion.

“They gave me a 2018 Expedition to drive for three days, a Mustang California Special,” she told Arab News.

Nasief obtained her Saudi license on June 7. She also holds a British license and two American licenses. “Now, I have my national license too,” she said. 

She also said the lifting of the ban provided a sense of relief. “I feel that I can practice one of my rights, and I don't have to live at the mercy of my driver any more.”
Society has been demanding such a change for years, “as it will take the physical and economic burden off most men.”
Pointing to the anti-harassment law, Nasief said: “I feel very confident especially after announcing the strict harassment law.”
Joumana Mattar, 36, a Jordanian interior designer, exchanged her Jordanian driver’s license and obtained a Saudi one on June 11. 

“I had my Jordanian license since I was 18 years old, and the moment I heard about the opening of exchanging foreign licenses, I immediately booked an appointment,” she said.
Mattar said she looks forward to the change in so many ways. “I'm finally in control of my time, schedule and privacy.” 

Mattar said she is both confident and anxious about the event. “I'm anxious only for feeling that I'm part of a huge first step for women driving in the Kingdom, but I'm confident also because of the support that I'm getting from my husband and family.
“Every first step is the hardest. Society is facing a huge change, but I'm positive because this change is done and supported by the government and Vision 2030.”

Mattar said she feels secure now. “I'm in control of any case I'm facing.”

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