Souq Okaz visitors are introduced to Saudi wildlife

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Camel riders stage a spectacular performance at the Souk Okaz Festival in Taif. SPA
Updated 02 July 2018
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Souq Okaz visitors are introduced to Saudi wildlife

  • The number of ostriches has grown inside reserves, owing to the improved environmental and climatic conditions as well as the management of wild ostrich groups
  • The Arabian leopard, the most common wildcat species still spread in mountainous areas, was also featured alongside several endangered Accipitriformes

JEDDAH: The Saudi Wildlife Authority (SWA) has offered visitors to the 12th Souq Okaz festival the opportunity to be introduced to the Kingdom’s diverse wildlife and the resettlement of endangered species in reserves.
SWA has turned an area of the festival’s grounds into a mini-reserve for the Arabian oryx, which can survive the driest climates and most arid regions in the Arabian peninsula, explaining how it can be saved from extinction using the captive-reproduction method before resettling the species in its natural habitat.
The Arabian oryx featured at Souq Okaz can adapt well to hot climates found in deserts, semi-deserts, dry-grass plains and meadows, and areas of rocky slopes.
The white, wide-eyed animal is considered a bovid and a desert antelope.
In the mini-reserve, there is also an ostrich. The number of ostriches has grown inside reserves, owing to the improved environmental and climatic conditions as well as the management of wild ostrich groups.
Through photos and documentary films, SWA has also introduced the festival’s visitors to other animal species it seeks to save, including the houbara bustard, which lives in open arid areas. Overhunting causes the species’ declining number and the worsening of its natural habitat is due to overgrazing and agricultural development.
The Arabian leopard, the most common wildcat species still spread in mountainous areas, was also featured alongside several endangered Accipitriformes.
SWA has provided its corner’s visitors with information on the first studies conducted in several reserves through monitoring vegetation, which has grown steadily, encouraging SWA to move forward with its resettlement program, in addition to providing information on protecting animals inside reserves by surrounding them with fences to monitor their adaptation before releasing them into the wild.
SWA’s participation in this year’s Souq Okaz festival is in line with the recently issued royal order to establish a council of royal reserves as part of King Salman’s keenness to preserve the natural environment, vegetation, and wildlife, to promote ecotourism, limit hunting and overgrazing, to prevent forest erosion, and to ensure the enjoyment of natural reserves based on the regulations governing them.


Saudi female bikers ready to chart a new course

Updated 16 min 29 sec ago
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Saudi female bikers ready to chart a new course

  • Saudi Arabia’s female motorcyclists await clarification on licenses
  • The royal decree in September 2017 that gave women the right to drive in the Kingdom from June 2018 stipulated that the laws on driving would be equal for men and women

JEDDAH: Almost seven months since Saudi Arabia lifted its ban on female drivers, women hoping to be granted a license to ride a motorcycle are still waiting. According to Wael Huraib, founder of Bikers Skills Institute (BSI) — which he claims is the only motorcycle training school for female riders in the Kingdom — no motorbike licenses are currently being issued for women.
“For ladies, as of now, they’re not able to get a license yet, and we don’t really know why,” said Huraib. “We heard that women have received tractor-trailer licenses, but we know for a fact that no motorcycle license applications are being processed. We are assuming the traffic police are very focused on cars, but whatever the problem is, we hope it is resolved soon.”
The royal decree in September 2017 that gave women the right to drive in the Kingdom from June 2018 stipulated that the laws on driving would be equal for men and women. But it appears that is not yet the case, despite assurances from the Saudi Directorate of Traffic a year ago that women would be permitted to drive motorcycles and trucks.

Elena Bukaryeva, an instructor at BSI, said she suspects there is some confusion or miscommunication between the traffic police administration and the licensing division.
“My husband spoke to one of the highest-ranking traffic police officials in Riyadh,” she told Arab News. “He said that there was nothing at all to stop women being issued motorcycle licenses.
“But the following day, one of the ladies who finished our course went to the traffic police and she was told there are no motorcycle licenses for women, only for men. The same thing happened when I applied for my license and when other women did.”
The General Directorate of Traffic did not respond to Arab News’ request for comment.
Bukaryeva said that she has heard of women with licenses issued abroad riding motorcycles in the Kingdom, although added that they are “semi-disguised as men” when doing so.
“When you are wearing loose clothing and a full-face helmet, no one can tell if you are a man or a woman,” she said, adding that she has not tried it herself as her husband told her it was not worth the risk.
BSI began training female riders as soon as the driving ban was lifted.
The company has graduated 18 women so far, including Reem Al-Megbel, a 30-year-old Saudi financial operations manager.
Al-Megbel was at the motorcycle school on Wednesday evening to practice riding, because she cannot, yet, do so on the roads.
“My dream is to wake up one day and have a car and a motorcycle in my garage and be free to choose what to drive,” she said. “It would probably be the motorcycle.”
Al-Megbel added that her “ultimate” dream, though, would be to take a road trip across the Kingdom with a group of fellow female bikers.
“That,” she said, “would be freedom.”