Saudi, S. Korean experts join hands to fight MERS

Updated 16 June 2015

Saudi, S. Korean experts join hands to fight MERS

RIYADH: Health experts from Saudi Arabia and their South Korean counterparts have joined hands to combat the dreaded MERS outbreak in the Far East Asian country, where 16 people have succumbed to the contagion so far.

Five new cases were reported by the Korean Health Ministry on Monday, taking the total to 150, the largest outbreak outside of Saudi Arabia.
Jungho Lee, a senior diplomat and spokesman at the embassy of the Republic of Korea in Riyadh, told Arab News on Monday that Saudi health experts were in Seoul and were working in close coordination with local health workers to fight the disease.
“Having a sophisticated health system, Korea exports medical technologies to the Kingdom and helps in various health care projects. Now, as Saudi Arabia has accumulated solid experience and knowledge in dealing with MERS since its outbreak in June 2012, it is but natural for the Kingdom and the Republic of South Korea to strengthen collaboration in this field,” he said.
Earlier, Health Minister Khalid Al-Falih had offered help to his South Korean counterpart, Moon Hyung-pyo, in the form of Saudi health experts with experience in tackling MERS cases.
The MERS outbreak in South Korea has sparked off international concern and stalled the nation’s economy. According to the Korean ministry of finance, it has resulted in over 100,000 canceled tourist visits.
Jungho said that the Saudi Health Ministry delegation reached Seoul on June 11 and on June 12. “Experts from both the countries held a joint workshop to discuss the outbreak in Korea and the Kingdom, which has recorded the highest number of MERS cases, crossing 1,000 confirmed infections and 454 deaths till Monday.
The first MERS case was reported in South Korea on May 20, when a businessman, who had returned from a tour to the Gulf countries including the Kingdom, testing positive.
Meanwhile, a Korean citizen was hospitalized in Slovakia after being suspected of carrying the MERS virus.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has called an emergency meeting on Tuesday to discuss the MERS outbreak in South Korea, which it described as “large and complex.”


Lebanese luxury soap brand sees boost in sales amid pandemic

Updated 27 May 2020

Lebanese luxury soap brand sees boost in sales amid pandemic

DUBAI: In 1999, Syrian-Palestinian fragrance connoisseur Hana Debs Akkari pursued her passion project in Lebanon by founding a sophisticated soap company called “Senteurs d’Orient,” or “Fragrances of the East” in French.

Akkari envisioned that her handcrafted soaps would symbolize the beloved floral essences of the Middle East, particularly the Levant, which is reportedly the world’s oldest soap-making region.

With the pandemic caused by the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), Akkari’s small, family-run luxury soap business has witnessed an increased demand in their natural products nearly twenty years since its founding.

Portrait of Sarah Akkari, CEO of Senteurs d’Orient. (Supplied)

“Since the pandemic was declared, we saw a spike in our online sales,” said Lebanese-Canadian and New Yorked-based Sarah Akkari, Hana’s daughter and CEO of Senteurs d’Orient, to Arab News. “People are washing their hands more often, and their hands are becoming drier as a consequence. So, they’re also looking for a natural soap, such as the ones we offer. Our antibacterial soaps are packed with different nourishing ingredients like glycerin, Shea butter and Vitamin E.”

Operating from Lebanon, Senteurs d’Orient’s factory is run by a diligent team of chemists and artisans, many of whom are women as female education and empowerment in the workforce is at the heart of the company’s ethos.

Engraving soaps at the Lebanon factory. (Supplied)

After mixing the chemical-free ingredients by hand, the soaps are air-dried for 10 ten days and later machine-molded and carefully hand-wrapped. True to the company’s name, the delicate floral scents of gardenia, jasmine, tuberose, and rose of Damascus draw their inspiration from eastern gardens.

To show support for the selfless medical workers, some of whom reached out to Akkari and expressed interest in Senteurs d’Orient’s soaps, she recently donated nearly 500 packages to doctors and nurses from four American hospitals — two in Los Angeles, one in New York and another in New Jersey.

Each package is an ‘Oriental Trio Box’, containing three bars of soap, the shapes and engravings of which are inspired by the decoration of ‘maamoul’, the Levant region’s quintessential pastry.

“When you’re facing this type of crisis and you’re receiving emails from doctors and nurses or anyone on the frontlines, it’s a not a request you can reject,” explained the 32-year-old entrepreneur. “It’s something that we really wanted to be part of and it brought us much satisfaction knowing we could contribute in this way.”

The company has expanded its international presence and line of therapeutic products, creating bath salts, multi-purpose oils and thinly sliced, single-use soap leaves. (Supplied)

Under the leadership of Akkari, the company has expanded its international presence and line of therapeutic products, creating Mediterranean orange blossom bath salts, multi-purpose oils and thinly sliced, single-use soap leaves of amber and tea flower.

It is the authenticity of Senteurs d’Orient’s products that Akkari hopes will come through.

“You feel the fragrance is coming straight from the flower,” she said.