Italy taps ‘design ambassador’ to photograph Saudi UNESCO heritage sites for posterity

Luca Capuano, an Italian design ambassador and a photographer for UNESCO, is on his first visit to Saudi Arabia. (AN photo)
Updated 06 March 2018
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Italy taps ‘design ambassador’ to photograph Saudi UNESCO heritage sites for posterity

JEDDAH: Italy wants one of its most celebrated photographers to capture images of Saudi UNESCO heritage sites for posterity.
“We have UNESCO sites in Italy, and we have UNESCO sites here. We want to create a link. We want to always show what brings us together, not what divides us,” said the Italian Consul General, Elisabetta Martini.
She was speaking on Sunday at an Italian Design Day, organized by the Italian Consulate at the Italian Cultural Club in Jeddah.
Also there was Luca Capuano, an Italian design ambassador and a photographer for UNESCO, the UN cultural agency. He is on his first visit to Saudi Arabia.
“I’ve seen a lot of interesting things. I’d like to explore the Kingdom more, and come back here again for further exploration,” he told Arab News.
Capuano, who is noted for his architectural work, was commissioned to photograph Italy’s 44 World Heritage sites in 2010, and in 2016 he documented the Dheisheh Palestinian refugee camp near Bethlehem in the occupied West Bank, also a World Heritage site.
“We hope to produce a catalog of UNESCO sites from the Western Region of Saudi Arabia photographed by Capuano,” Martini said.
Saudi Instagram sensation Hamza Jamjoom was also at the event.
“What interested me most is the environment … and of course the artwork,” he said. “It’s a great event.”


Tour operators and hotel groups sign up to Saudi tourism growth project

Saudi Arabia plans to create 1.2 million jobs in the tourism sector by 2030. (AN photo/Mo Gannon)
Updated 23 April 2018
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Tour operators and hotel groups sign up to Saudi tourism growth project

  • Vision 2030 has a goal to create 1.2 million new jobs in the industry
  • We are participating here to show people that Saudi Arabia has really changed: tour operator

DUBAI: From diving in the Red Sea to sand-skating in the desert, from Jazan’s Fifa Mountains to the archaeological wonders of Al-Ula, it has been impossible not to be wowed by all that Saudi Arabia has to offer on the opening day of this year’s Arabian Travel Market in Dubai. Travel posters of its varied regions blanketed almost every pillar in the concourse, through which thousands of visitors passed on their way into the Dubai International Convention and Exhibition Center, part of a colorful Saudi tourism campaign. 

And if you somehow missed that on your way into the exhibition halls, then you couldn’t have missed the Saudi pavilion, featuring 60 travel-related agencies under the umbrella of the Saudi Commission for Tourism and National Heritage.

“We are participating here to show people that Saudi Arabia has really changed,” said Abeer Al-Rashed, project co-ordinator for Al Sarh Travel and Tourism, which organizes tours and helps with visa arrangements. “It’s not just a desert in Saudi Arabia. We have a lot of activities.”

The expanded role of tourism under Vision 2030, which has a goal to create 1.2 million new jobs in the industry, is top of mind for those with a foothold already in the region.

“We are thrilled at this accelerated pace of growth in Saudi Arabia and want to make sure that we’re aligned with that,” said Simon Casson, president of hotel operations for Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts in Europe, the Middle East and Africa. Its Riyadh hotel, Four Seasons’ first in the Gulf when it opened in 2002, is now offering a tour of the Tuwaiq escarpment, otherwise known as the Edge of the World. 

Four Seasons’ plans for a hotel in Makkah, announced in the fall, are in the design phase, with construction expected to begin next year. “The site of the hotel is really the last remaining piece of land that’s ringside, if you like, and has a direct view facing onto the Kaaba, so that will partner very well with our Riyadh hotel,” Casson said.

As for more hotels? “I would say stay-tuned because we’re actively working on other opportunities within Saudi Arabia — not things we can announce at this time but we see a tremendous amount of opportunity as we look forward.”

Omer Kaddouri, Rotana’s president and CEO, also sees tremendous potential. It’s operating four hotels in the Kingdom right now and will have three more by the end of the year. 

“They’re building more reasons to travel there,” Kaddouri said, speaking of the recent changes. “I’d like to say that by the time they’ve reached their 2030 vision, Rotana will have no less than 20 operating hotels in the Kingdom, with more in the pipeline.”

As for the long-awaited Nobu Hotel in Riyadh, Khaled Al-Ashqar, director of sales and marketing, said it’s “very close” to opening. The boutique hotel, with a restaurant by chef Nobu Matsuhisa, will also have a tea lounge and a live cooking station in the Royal Suite. “I’m 100 percent sure it will be the spot of the city,” Al-Ashqar said.