Motorsport, rock bands, tourists … welcome to the new Saudi Arabia

There was an explosion of joy at the podium when Antonio Felix da Costa lifted the winner’s trophy at the conclusion of the Formula E Saudia Ad Diriyah E-Prix on Saturday. (Photo/Supplied)
Updated 16 December 2018
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Motorsport, rock bands, tourists … welcome to the new Saudi Arabia

  • Three-day event at Ad Diriyah reaches spectacular climax in an unprecedented spirit of openness

AD DIRIYAH: The driver with the winner’s trophy was Antonio Felix da Costa — but the real winners were Saudi Arabia itself, and more than 1,000 tourists visiting the country for the first time.

Da Costa, the Andretti Motorsport driver, won the Formula E Saudia Ad Diriyah E-Prix in front of thousands of race fans at a custom-built track in the historic district on the outskirts of Riyadh.

But in truth, the event was about much more than high-tech electric cars hurtling round a race track — thrilling though that was. The three-day festival of motorsport, culture and entertainment was Saudi Arabia’s chance to prove that it can put on a show to rival anything in the world, and which only two years ago would have been unthinkable.

The event was also the first to be linked to the Sharek electronic visa system, allowing foreigners other than pilgrims or business visitors to come to Saudi Arabia.

Jason, from the US, is spending a week in the country with his German wife, riding quad bikes in the desert and visiting heritage sites. “I’ve always wanted to come for many, many years ... I’m so happy to be here and that they’re letting us be here,” he said.

Aaron, 40, a software engineer, traveled from New York for two days. “Saudi Arabia has always been an exotic place ... and I didn’t think I’d ever be able to come here,” he said.

About 1,000 visitors used the Sharek visa, a fraction of what Saudi Arabia aims eventually to attract. 

“Hopefully we will learn from this and see what we need to do for the future, but I can tell you from now that there is a lot of demand,” said Prince Abdul Aziz bin Turki Al-Faisal, vice chairman of the General Sports Authority.

His optimism was backed by Kirill Dmitriev, chief executive of the Russian Direct Investment Fund and a visitor to Ad Diriyah. “Such events will attract tourists and are a true celebration for young Saudis who desire a bright future,” he said.

“The vision of moderate Islam, promoted by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, is important both for the region and the entire world, and its realization needs to be appreciated, respected and supported.”

The event ended on Saturday night with a spectacular show by US band OneRepublic and the superstar DJ David Guetta. “Just when you think things can’t get better, they suddenly do,” said concertgoer Saleh Saud. “This is the new Saudi Arabia, and I can’t wait to see what’s going to happen next.”


Saudi Aramco recognized as a leader in the Fourth Industrial Revolution

Updated 22 January 2019
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Saudi Aramco recognized as a leader in the Fourth Industrial Revolution

JEDDAH: Saudi Aramco’s Uthmaniyah Gas Plant (UGP) has been recognized by the World Economic Forum (WEF) as a “Lighthouse” manufacturing facility and a leader in technology applications of the Fourth Industrial Revolution. 
Saudi Aramco is the first energy company globally to be included in this select group of manufacturing sites. The plant is also the only facility in the Middle East to be recognized by WEF. 
The announcement was made ahead of WEFs annual meeting in Davos, Switzerland.
The gas plant is one of the world’s largest gas processing plants and was commissioned in 1981 as part of Saudi Aramco’s Master Gas System to process associated gas from oil wells. 
The use of drones and wearable technologies to inspect pipelines and machinery has helped cut inspection time by 90% in this industrial facility.
“The recognition of the Uthmaniyah Gas Plant demonstrates Saudi Aramco’s shift to transform and adapt in the rapidly changing global energy landscape. Uthmaniyah is only one part of our large integrated energy value chain where IR 4.0 technologies are playing a critical role to enable significant capital and operational efficiencies,” said Amin H. Nasser, Chief Executive Officer of Saudi Aramco.
The seven new facilities join nine other “Manufacturing Lighthouses” which WEF unveiled in September 2018. The 16 factories were selected from an initial list of 1,000 manufacturers based on their successful implementation of cutting-edge technologies of the future that drive financial and operational impact.
The “Lighthouse” program was conducted by WEF in collaboration with McKinsey during a year-long study. A study team visited UGP in Saudi Arabia and performed a thorough audit.