Stronger Saudi-Lebanese ties bode well for tourism

Lebanon's President Michel Aoun meets with Saudi Arabia's Arab Gulf Affairs Minister Thamer Al-Sabhan. (Dalati Nohra/Handout via Reuters)
Updated 10 February 2017

Stronger Saudi-Lebanese ties bode well for tourism

BEIRUT: Saudi tourism to Lebanon is tipped to increase after a boost in diplomatic ties between the two nations. In a visit to Lebanon by Thamer Al-Sabhan, Saudi minister for Arabian Gulf Affairs, the diplomat told President Michel Aoun that Saudi Arabian Airlines would increase its flights to Beirut. Lebanese-Saudi relations have been troubled in recent years as a result of the Syrian crisis.
The Gulf countries earlier barred their citizens from traveling to Lebanon, while Saudi Arabia last year suspended $3 billion in military aid involving French arms to Lebanon.
But President Aoun’s visit to Riyadh at the beginning of the year paved the way for restoring warm ties between the two nations, and Al-Sabhan’s visit to Beirut was perceived as “a complementary effort comfortably received by the Lebanese,” said Future Bloc MP Ammar Houri.
“The Kingdom has always been keen to offer Lebanon help and support in all fields and arenas,” Houri said.
“The Lebanese state’s proven ability to control security and fight terrorism combined with a warm welcome to our Saudi brothers constitutes favorable conditions for the Saudi comeback to Lebanon,” he said.
The head of the Lebanese Hotel Owners’ Association, Pierre Ashkar, has a similar view. He perceives Al-Sabhan’s visit as another positive step complementing President Aoun’s trip to the Kingdom.
“The Gulf people, especially the Saudis, represent the backbone of tourism in Lebanon. Our country’s history is a witness to the importance of these relations which date from the second half of the last century to the present,” Ashkar said.
He thinks that further coordination between Lebanon and Saudi Arabia will be a critical factor in improving relations between them.
However, Ashkar doesn’t expect an immediate increase in the number of Saudi tourists.
“Saudi tourists have not been coming to Lebanon for the last three or four years and they were previously in full swing for 365 days a year,” Ashkar said. “Now we have to wait a while before things get back to normal.”
“Some VIP Saudi tourists, though in small numbers, have visited Lebanon after being absent for a long time. They found that Lebanon was as welcoming as ever and the streets were not filled with garbage as the media had suggested.”
Economic expert Dr. Marwan Iskandar stressed that the visit by a Saudi minister indicated that the Kingdom was returning to comfortable relations with Lebanon.
“Saudi trips to Lebanon are very significant, as there are many Saudis who have properties in Lebanon and the country is, after all, a desirable destination. And Lebanon suffered a great deal from the boycott by Arab nations, specially the Gulf ones, as a result of the Syrian crisis,” he said.


Passionate Saudi musicians Jwa ready to take the world by storm

The group has plans to perform in Jordan, Egypt, Dubai and Bahrain, as it awaits the release of its first album before exploring new horizons. (Photo/Supplied)
Updated 19 February 2020

Passionate Saudi musicians Jwa ready to take the world by storm

  • Jwa’s first album is due to be released on Feb. 25
  • The word “jwa” in Arabic means the “highest levels of passion and love,” which embodies how the quintet feel about Indie music — the thing that brought them together

RIYADH: The music scene in the Kingdom is exploding, with young, talented Saudis taking full advantage of the developments in the country by showcasing their talent.
 In a limited time, young Saudi musicians have proven that they are equal to any other young cohort of musicians anywhere in the world.
 One of those talents is a young band from Dhahran, Jwa. Currently performing locally in Riyadh, Jeddah and other cities in the Eastern Province, the group has plans to perform in Jordan, Egypt, Dubai and Bahrain, as it awaits the release of its first album before exploring new horizons.
 The band, formed in 2018, is composed of Methgal Al-Shammari on drums, Mohammad Al-Nahas (bass and vocals), Arkan Al-Zahrani (guitar), Mansour Al-Gallaf (guitar) and Fawaz Baasem (keyboard).
They have had two local hit singles, “Ya Safina” and “Min Jadeed.” Methgal and Mohammad, the founders of Jwa, say that at first they “performed at numerous local events and parties” across the Kingdom. It did not take them long to become popular among Saudis.

FASTFACTS

• Jwa was formed in 2018.

• Since its launch it has two local hit singles.

• The band’s first album is due to be released on Feb. 25.

The word “jwa” in Arabic means the “highest levels of passion and love,” which embodies how the quintet feel about Indie music — the thing that brought them together.
However, they have faced many challenges in the last two years. Methgal and Mohammad said initially a “lack of support for independent bands” and “weakness of the nurturing music environment” within the country halted their progress.
However, due to the steps taken by the General Entertainment Authority, bands like Jwa have become able to make their voices and music heard. In the future, they are looking to go international, to “make their band known not only to different regions of Saudi Arabia but also abroad to gain more momentum and attraction.”
Jwa’s first album is due to be released on Feb. 25.