Saudi parents embrace child fitness culture

Wael Kayal coaches children at the 305 Lifestyle Venue in Jeddah. (Photo/Supplied)
Updated 10 September 2018

Saudi parents embrace child fitness culture

  • As well as improving their physical health, fitness classes will help their brain development and socializing skills, says coach Wael Kayal
  • It’s important to get them started at an early age, so they can grow up with a love for sports: Saudi mother

JEDDAH: Parents in the Kingdom are becoming more aware of the benefits of enrolling their children in fitness classes at a young age.

Former Al-Ahli footballer and Saudi international Wael Kayal, now a coach who runs a youth program at 305 Lifestyle Venue in Jeddah, ensures that children stay healthy through his fitness program and stresses the importance of enrolling them at an early stage.

“It is super important for children to start being active from a young age. Our program is more tailored for kids starting at the age of five, as they have better listening habits, concentration, commitment and social awareness,” Kayal, 43, told Arab News. “The sooner the better they develop the athletic fundamentals that are necessary.” 

He explained that every child differs in their ability owing to their lifestyle: “You can have a five-year-old developed and ready to move on to more speed development and strength conditioning, and a 12-year-old coming in overweight who has never exercised and you have to go back to develop their ABCs.”

Wael Kayal

Kayal is eager to encourage the children to stay committed to a healthier lifestyle and uses a very careful, considered approach. “You cannot be forceful with these kids because they already might have some insecurities. We take our time and go at a slower pace so that the child stays committed and sees results eventually,” he said.

The coach says sports shape a child’s character. “Our program is designed not only for kids to benefit from athletics but to develop their overall lifestyle. That includes eating habits, sleep habits and lifestyle choices. We have kids who come from a variety of schools in Jeddah, yet they all become friends and it helps them to become extrovert and confident. In the last half-hour of our program, they sit and mingle, enjoy smoothies and fruit, and play a team sport: football, dodgeball or sand volleyball. This is fun and it helps with their socializing skills after our workouts.”

Kayal’s message to parents is to “keep your kids committed. Communicate with your kids daily about the choices they are making. This stage in their lives will develop their habits for life. Visit your kids’ activities once in a while and give them positive feedback on their achievements, however small. This keeps them going. I can do my part, the child can do theirs and the parent does their part. This is a recipe for success.”

Arab News talked to a number of parents of the children enrolled at 305 Lifestyle.

Khloud Nazer, 43, a Saudi full-time mother, said: “It’s important to get them started at an early age, so they can grow up with a love for sports and to learn these healthy lifestyle habits early.”

She believes sports have an effect on the child’s character growing up: “Once they start developing their muscles and they see that they’re fit, it builds their confidence and that definitely trickles into other aspects of their life — it helps with their self-esteem. And that’s definitely going to help them when they grow up.”

She said she sees an increase in parents adopting this healthy culture for children, “especially with the younger generation now and the new parents. I’ve seen a lot more educated parents who are very careful about what their children are eating and what they do during the day. There definitely is a rise.”

Her advice to fellow parents is to “start your kids on a program from a young age, because this will be built into their habits. You see a lot of children who are obese and these things really break my heart. It’s avoidable. Instilling healthy eating habits and lifestyle habits and staying active is important for all children.”

Sociologist Reem Al-Saigh, 36, said: “Our parents didn’t raise this habit when we were younger. That is why I want to instill these habits in my children, as young as they are now.”

Al-Saigh said sports have an effect on the child’s cognitive abilities as well. “It will give them a stronger personality, and physical activity has an impact on the growth of their brain. It will make them more productive in their studying or when it comes to socializing with people.”

She applauds 305 Lifestyle for the number of children whom they teach these important habits. “Obesity can often be seen in young kids these days. This new type of awareness and the number of kids I see here today is very impressive.”

Thirty-three-year-old Jeddah Sondos Hajji, owner of Baby Sensory,??  said: “It is very important for children to run and play, especially after long hours at school. They should be doing this and playing sports throughout the day, not playing on  electronics.”

Sports builds their character from a young age, she said, “and also their cognitive and coordination skills.”

Departing British envoy ‘hugely optimistic’ about Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030

Updated 58 min 44 sec ago

Departing British envoy ‘hugely optimistic’ about Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030

  • Outgoing British Consul General Barrie Peach will remember the beaches, the historic sites ... and the delicious seafood
  • Peach offers valid reasons for optimism that Saudi Arabia's ambitious Vision 2030 project will be a success

JEDDAH: British Consul General Barrie Peach has reached the end of his third posting in Saudi Arabia. His two years as Consul General in Jeddah — preceded by three years in Riyadh — ends in September.

As he prepares to continue his diplomatic career elsewhere, Peach sat down for an interview with Arab News to reflect on his time in the Kingdom and the optimism he feels for its future in light of Vision 2030. It was, he pointed out, an apt final interview.

“When I first arrived in Saudi Arabia, my first job was in charge of communications, so I was the press officer,” Peach said. “So, I’ve had a very long relationship with Arab News. In fact, the very first time I was interviewed by a newspaper was by Arab News in 2003.”

As Peach explained, it was no surprise that he came to work in the Middle East as a diplomat. 

“I studied Arabic in Scotland and in Lebanon, so I guess the foreign office was a logical choice,” he said. “I’ve been with the Foreign Ministry since the year 2000. Since then, I have worked in a number of Arab countries. I suppose as a diplomat I’m slightly unusual in that I’m coming to the end of my third posting in Saudi Arabia. Most commonly, diplomats will go to a country once in their career, maybe twice at most. In addition to that, I’ve also served in Qatar, Iraq, Algeria, and Libya.”

Peach was already well versed in both the language and customs of Saudi Arabia when he became consul general in Jeddah, having worked in the Kingdom for many years. “I have spent more of my adult life in Saudi Arabia than I have in the UK. So, I guess I really do consider myself in many ways to be part of the fabric of Saudi society,” he said. “I’ve lived here through many changes, many experiences, and I’ve always found Saudi Arabia to be a very warm and welcoming place that I’ve very much enjoyed living in.”

Peach cited the consulate’s coordination with Saudi authorities to provide British pilgrims with security and hospitality during their travels to Makkah as one of the highlights of his time in Jeddah.

“I would say one of the most important functions that our consulate has carried out has been our care toward British pilgrims. When I speak to my Saudi friends and colleagues, they are often surprised at just how many British Muslims visit Saudi Arabia each year. This past year, we’ve had around 130,000 pilgrims visit, including, most recently, 26,000 pilgrims for Hajj. As you know, for many people, this is one of the most important journeys of their lives, and we are ready to help them if — God forbid — they get into any trouble. We are very grateful to the Saudi authorities for the huge efforts that they make in facilitating the pilgrims with safety, security, and tranquility. Thankfully, the vast majority of visits have been trouble free.”

As consul general, Peach has witnessed first-hand the progressive reforms that the Kingdom is going through, and offers valid reason for optimism that the ambitious Vision 2030 project will be a success.

“An important role of the consul general is to promote trade between our two nations, and I’m delighted to say that over the past year we have increased mutual trade between businesses in Saudi Arabia and the UK. We’re expanding into new areas, so we’re mapping our work onto Vision 2030, following the creation of a Strategic Partnership Council as a result of the Crown Prince’s visit to the UK earlier this year,” he said.

“So, we’re looking for opportunities in new areas such as the creative sector, which we see Saudi Arabia is opening up to, not forgetting the more traditional areas where we have longstanding relationships — commerce and manufacturing.

“I’m hugely optimistic about the future of Saudi Arabia. It’s a country that has been blessed with many resources. The oil has been a blessing, the pilgrimage has been hosted here for centuries, and I know under Vision 2030 there are plans to significantly increase the number of pilgrims — which I’m sure will be very successful.” Peach also believes that the Kingdom’s tourism drive has great potential, describing it as “one of the most exciting things” about Vision 2030.

“I’ve lived in Saudi Arabia for over nine years, and I’ve been very fortunate to visit most of the country. It’s an amazing country from the mountains in the North, to the greener lusher mountains of the South, and world-class beaches along the Red Sea. I’m hugely optimistic that, in the future, tourists from around the world will get to experience the Kingdom that I’ve seen. Saudi Arabia has a very young population, and that means a very creative, dynamic population who want to change things and who want to work hard.”

While he may be leaving his official post in the Kingdom, Peach said the country’s natural beauty will certainly lure him back for frequent visits in the future.

“Jeddah will always be a special place for me,” he said. “It’s the first place where I’ve held the head post, and there are certainly unique responsibilities that go along with that. It’s been a very important place for my professional development, but also a place that I’ve been very much made to feel at home. I’ve found the people to be very open, friendly, warm and welcoming. I’ve built up many new friendships and partnerships and I’m sure those relationships will endure. In the years to come, I’m sure I’ll be a regular visitor to the Kingdom.

British envoy Barrie Peach with Makkah Gov. Prince Khaled Al-Faisal. (AN photo by Huda Bashatah)

“Jeddah is perhaps the most familiar environment to me as I enjoy spending time at the beach, the Red Sea, and eating some great fish. Some of my more memorable experiences though, are from my time in Riyadh, from camping in the desert to eating some of the more interesting foods that we might not be so familiar with in the West. I will always miss my jareesh (a Saudi dish). 

“Al-Ula in Mada’in Saleh is, without a doubt, one of the most spectacular places that I’ve ever visited — a mixture of beautiful natural landscape, desert mountains, and ancient civilization. When I’ve been there in the past, there were so few tourists, unlike — for example — the Nabatean ruins in Jordan, where you’re there with thousands of people. It was actually a really special experience to be at Al-Ula and almost completely alone. I also had the pleasure of organizing the visit of the Prince of Wales to Mada’in Saleh a few years ago, which was quite a unique experience.” 

“A career in foreign service is a uniquely rewarding experience. It has given me the opportunity to travel to places I might not have otherwise visited,” he said. 

“To have been able to travel and experience new cultures and languages, for me, has been the most rewarding part of my career in the foreign office. My advice to anybody who might enjoy that kind of lifestyle would be that a career in diplomacy is an excellent way forward.” 

As Saudi Arabia and Great Britain usher in a new chapter of diplomacy, the departing consul general made sure to welcome his successor.

“I would like to wish him the very best of luck during his time as consul general. For me, he has one of the best jobs in foreign service. I hope that he will very much enjoy it. He’s arriving here at a very interesting time of change, and a change that the UK is very happy to be part of to help and support,” he said. 

And finally, what’s next for the outgoing consul general? Peach kept it short and sweet. “A very long holiday,” he said with a laugh.