Desert trek: Travel photographer Kyle Mijlof documents his month-long adventure in Saudi Arabia

Desert trek: Travel photographer Kyle Mijlof documents his month-long adventure in Saudi Arabia
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Kyle Mijlof had journeyed hundreds of kilometers through the Arabian deserts. He believes that the Saudi landscape is ‘incredible and untouched.’ During his tour, Mijlof uploaded aerial photos of several sites, including the reddish sand dunes and crystal-clear blue waters of Ras Al-Sheikh Hamid. (Photo/@KMijlof)
Desert trek: Travel photographer Kyle Mijlof documents his month-long adventure in Saudi Arabia
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Kyle Mijlof had journeyed hundreds of kilometers through the Arabian deserts. He believes that the Saudi landscape is ‘incredible and untouched.’ During his tour, Mijlof uploaded aerial photos of several sites, including the reddish sand dunes and crystal-clear blue waters of Ras Al-Sheikh Hamid. (Photo/@KMijlof)
Desert trek: Travel photographer Kyle Mijlof documents his month-long adventure in Saudi Arabia
3 / 3
Kyle Mijlof had journeyed hundreds of kilometers through the Arabian deserts. He believes that the Saudi landscape is ‘incredible and untouched.’ During his tour, Mijlof uploaded aerial photos of several sites, including the reddish sand dunes and crystal-clear blue waters of Ras Al-Sheikh Hamid. (Photo/@KMijlof)
Updated 30 January 2019

Desert trek: Travel photographer Kyle Mijlof documents his month-long adventure in Saudi Arabia

Desert trek: Travel photographer Kyle Mijlof documents his month-long adventure in Saudi Arabia
  • Travel photographer Kyle Mijlof documents his month-long Saudi adventure
  • Mijlof had journeyed hundreds of kilometers through the Arabian desert and found himself at Wadi Al-Disah, a stunning palm tree oasis surrounded by mountainous plains located about 180 km from Tabuk

JEDDAH: British author Aldous Huxley, famous for his 1932 dystopian novel “Brave New World,” once wrote: “To travel is to discover that everyone is wrong about other countries.”
For many travel photographers like South African’s Kyle Mijlof, these words are often proven true. An extensive traveler, Mijlof has visited more than 70 countries since 2010 and documented each with extraordinary photos on his Instagram page, @mijlof.
Like the thousands of new tourists that visited last year, Mijlof took advantage of Saudi Arabia hosting the Formula E-Prix event in December and applied online for a tourist e-visa, which allowed him to stay in the Kingdom for an entire month.
“I guess everyone has this image of it just being sandy, hot and hostile, but honestly, it was nothing like that,” he said.
“It was super beautiful. Green valleys, big mountains, clear blue waters and untouched marine life.”
Saudi Arabia’s transition last year to issuing official tourist e-visas is part of its modernization plan to increase tourism and diversify its economy ahead of 2030. The application process, as Mijlof would come to find out, was pretty straightforward.
“The process was pretty simple,” he said.
“Just log onto sharek.sa, fill in your details, let them know you need to apply for a visa, add your information, upload your passport, enter your dates and there you go. Done.”
Mijlof’s person of contact upon arriving to Riyadh was his friend and fellow travel photographer, Yousef Al-Sudais.
“Yousef and I met in Durban about three years ago during a trip to South Africa,” he said.
“He is the second biggest travel influencer in the whole country. I was selected based on this relationship I had with him.”
With Yousef as his guiding host, for nearly a month, they would travel throughout the northern desert regions of Saudi Arabia, all the while documenting every destination with striking photographs.
One of their first destinations was a desert trek through Riyadh to an area commonly referred to as “the edge of the world.” Located along the cliffs of the Tuwaiq escarpment, it is a cluster of extensive and wide-ranging canyons with scenic plateaus.
It is aptly named “the edge of the world” as the canyons in this part of the escarpment all contain long edges that reach outward from their plateaus, giving the impression of an endless horizon as far as the eye can see.
Documenting his experience on Instagram, Mijlof captioned his photo: “It has been a week since I entered country No. 71, Saudi Arabia. I have been absolutely blown away by the hospitality of its people and the beautiful landscapes. Yesterday, I went on an experience to ‘the edge of the world’ and got greeted with this incredible view. We took a microlight flight and dined out with some traditional Saudi food. Thank you, Saudi Arabia, I can’t wait to see more of this uniquely beautiful country.”
Mijlof was also able to take drone footage of Madain Saleh, an archaeological site located roughly 400 km from Madinah. Known for its 131 well-preserved rock-cut monumental tombs and elaborate facades that date back to the Nabataean Kingdom, it is also Saudi Arabia’s first of several UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
“We got to explore this region that dates back thousands of generations of the Nabataeans,” he wrote.
“It is a very beautiful, spiritual place that many people don’t know about.”
By week two, Mijlof had journeyed hundreds of kilometers through the Arabian desert and found himself at Wadi Al-Disah, a stunning palm tree oasis surrounded by mountainous plains located about 180 km from Tabuk.
Stringing his Instagram followers along, Mijlof captioned his latest upload: “Today marks two weeks since arriving to Saudi Arabia. I have not stopped saying wow since I arrived, the landscape out here is incredible and untouched. From the majestic mountain ranges and rugged valleys to the humility of the people, you guys have really made me feel like part of your family, so thank you for making me feel so welcomed. I am honestly at a loss for words. This is Wadi Al-Disah.”
Towards the end of December, and with one week remaining on his visa, Mijlof celebrated his 30th birthday in Tabuk.
He uploaded aerial view images of reddish sand dunes and crystal-clear blue waters of Ras Al-Sheikh Hamid.
This is where the Red Sea meets the Gulf of Aqaba. Ras Al-Sheikh Hamid is also one of the many sites that will encompass NEOM, the $500 billion Saudi-funded transnational megacity and economic hub. The sand banks here lie on coral reefs and host an incredibly rich marine life. Only 30 km separates it from the famous Egyptian diving town of Sharm El-Sheikh.
“Right now, I can’t think of a better way to spend my birthday than exploring the north of Saudi Arabia, which has quickly started to feel like my new favorite place to photograph,” said Mijlof.
“I stumbled across some red sand dunes hidden in the Tabuk region of northern Saudi Arabia. We drove out, set up camp, made a fire, drank some tea and waited for sunset in this landscape. I keep saying it again and again, but this country is so wildly beautiful and with five days left on my visa, I am already planning my next trip.”
Mijlof wrapped up his month-long visit to Saudi Arabia in the southwestern city of Abha.
“Got to spend a couple of days exploring the south of Saudi Arabia, kind of looks like somewhere in the alps, right? This is a road from Tabab to Al-Shabain. I have been so blown away by the diversity of landscapes in this incredible country and really need to explore more.”
Mijlof arrived to Saudi Arabia on a tourist e-visa for the Formula E-Prix event, but he would experience so much more: The historic Masmak fortress in Riyadh, the Tantora concerts at Madain Saleh, desert trips to the Disah Valley of Tabuk, as well as Ras Al-Sheikh Hamid and Abha.

Along the way, he enjoyed traditional Saudi food, his favorite? Kabsa with camel meat. “Things are changing and my aim in visiting the country was to showcase that,” he said.


Saudi Arabia announces 12 more COVID-19 deaths

Saudi Arabia announces 12 more COVID-19 deaths
Updated 15 min 38 sec ago

Saudi Arabia announces 12 more COVID-19 deaths

Saudi Arabia announces 12 more COVID-19 deaths
  • The total number of recoveries in the Kingdom has increased to 391,362
  • A total of 6,858 people have succumbed to the virus in the Kingdom so far

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia announced 12 deaths from COVID-19 and 1028 new infections on Wednesday.
Of the new cases, 431 were recorded in Riyadh, 220 in Makkah, 157 in the the Eastern Province, 45 in Madinah, 45 in Asir, 30 in Jazan, 25 in Tabuk, 14 in the Northern Borders region, 13 in Najran, 11 in Hail and 10 in Al-Jouf.
The total number of recoveries in the Kingdom increased to 391,362 after 824 more patients recovered from the virus.
A total of 6,858 people have succumbed to the virus in the Kingdom so far.
Over 7.5 million doses of a COVID-19 vaccine have been administered in Saudi Arabia to date.


Chips with everything: Saudi restaurant where waiters are robots

Chips with everything: Saudi restaurant where waiters are robots
Updated 21 April 2021

Chips with everything: Saudi restaurant where waiters are robots

Chips with everything: Saudi restaurant where waiters are robots
  • Room is fitted with strategically placed sensors that allow the machines to move about and take food to customers

MAKKAH: We’ve all been there … you order a meal in a restaurant, and the waiter arrives with a pasta salad instead of a chicken biryani.
There are no such issues at Restaurant Robot in Jazan. As the name suggests, the waiters are not fallible human beings, but robots powered by sophisticated artificial intelligence.
Six robot assistants are operating in the city center restaurant to deliver trays of Asian dishes to patrons. The system was originally set up as a precaution to reduce human contact during the coronavirus pandemic, but it has proved a hit with visitors.
In a system designed by young Saudi engineer Reham Omar, the restaurant interior has been fitted with strategically placed sensors that allow the robots to move about and take food to customers.
“Thanks to the sensors, the robots can sense anything standing near them, allowing them to stop walking or change their routes accordingly,” she told Arab News
“Each robot has had a map of the restaurant interior and the location of each table programmed into their memory. When the robot gets to the targeted table, customers can pick up their food and order the robot to leave.”
Omar said the idea had been developed by drawing on the experiences of other countries, and with support from the Saudi government for the food industry.
“We are proud of our project, as small as it is,” she said. “Customers are loving the robots and are impressed with the idea.
“Cultures are changing, and people are now eager to discover new technologies that can improve their quality of life.”


Saudi Arabia re-elected to Chemical Weapons watchdog’s Executive Council

The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) held the 25th Session of the Conference of the States Parties in The Hague, Netherlands. (Twitter/@OPCW)
The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) held the 25th Session of the Conference of the States Parties in The Hague, Netherlands. (Twitter/@OPCW)
Updated 21 April 2021

Saudi Arabia re-elected to Chemical Weapons watchdog’s Executive Council

The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) held the 25th Session of the Conference of the States Parties in The Hague, Netherlands. (Twitter/@OPCW)
  • OPCW oversees the implementation of the Chemical Weapons Convention
  • The Kingdom has been a member of the council since 1997

LONDON: Saudi Arabia has been re-elected as a member of the Executive Council of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), in the Asia section, until 2023.
It happened at The Hague, in the Netherlands, on Tuesday during the 25th Session of the Conference of the States Parties, which oversees the implementation of the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC).
Ziyad Al-Attiyah, the Saudi ambassador to the Netherlands and the Kingdom’s permanent representative to the OPCW, thanked the nations that supported the re-election of his country, and said that it is a reflection of Saudi Arabia’s status under the leadership of King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. 
The Kingdom looks forward to working with the rest of the council’s members to enhance the implementation of the CWC, he added.
Al-Attiyah affirmed his country’s desire to strengthen cooperation as part of the efforts to prohibit weapons of mass destruction and prevent their proliferation, and to ensure the Middle East becomes a region free of such weapons to enhance international peace and security.
He added that the Kingdom’s chemical industries sector is one of the largest in the region and growing steadily, which makes it one of the leading countries in this field among the membership of Executive Council.
Saudi Arabia has been a member of the council — the main body of the OPCW — since its inception in 1997. It’s membership is made up of 41 countries, representing five geographic areas, that are elected for terms of two years at a time.


Saudi Arabia calls for Iran to engage in talks, avoid escalation

Saudi Arabia calls for Iran to engage in talks, avoid escalation
Updated 21 April 2021

Saudi Arabia calls for Iran to engage in talks, avoid escalation

Saudi Arabia calls for Iran to engage in talks, avoid escalation

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia renewed its call for Iran to engage in ongoing negotiations in Vienna, avoid escalation and not expose the region to more tension.
This came following a council of ministers meeting, chaired by King Salman on Tuesday.

The Cabinet reiterated that it is closely following the current developments related to Iran's nuclear program, citing the emphasis of the Kingdom's call for Iran to get involved in the current negotiations, prevent escalation and desist from jeopardizing the regional security and stability to further tension. 
The Saudi government also urged the international community to reach an agreement with stronger and longer determinants that are implemented through monitoring and control measures to prevent the Iranian regime from obtaining nuclear weapons and developing the necessary capabilities.

The Cabinet also renewed condemnation of the Iran-backed Houthi terrorist militia's attempts to target civilians as well as civilian facilities in the Kingdom in a systematic and intentional manner, through using bomb laden drones and ballistic missiles.


Saudi Arabia’s virus cases surge past 1,000

Saudi Arabia’s virus cases surge past 1,000
The authority reiterated that it was continuously monitoring the safety of the vaccines available in Saudi Arabia by studying cases of side effects. (SPA)
Updated 21 April 2021

Saudi Arabia’s virus cases surge past 1,000

Saudi Arabia’s virus cases surge past 1,000
  • The ministry said 940 people recovered from the virus over the past 24 hours, meaning 390,538 people have made full recoveries

JEDDAH: The Saudi Food and Drug Authority (SFDA) on Tuesday confirmed 34 cases of blood clots or thrombosis and low platelet count among people who received the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine.
“The authority suggests the existence of seven possible cases of thrombosis that are related to the vaccine, due to the absence of other reasons for the appearance of clots in them,” the SFDA said in a statement.
However, the authority also said that thrombocytopenia and blood-clotting immune response associated with the AstraZeneca vaccine is yet to be confirmed in these cases.
It said based on the local reports received, the rate of occurrence of these symptoms in conjunction with the administration of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine in the Kingdom is “very rare.”
The SFDA said that all approved vaccines for the coronavirus (COVID-19) being used in the Kingdom are safe. It stressed that the desired benefits of the vaccine in question outweigh the potential risks.
The authority reiterated that it was continuously monitoring the safety of the vaccines available in Saudi Arabia by studying cases of side effects along with the local and international scientific evidence and data available.

FASTFACTS

• The Kingdom reports a 55 percent increase in the number of cases among women.

• 1,070 new infections were reported on Tuesday.

The SFDA advised recipients of the vaccine to consult a doctor or go to the nearest health center if any of the following symptoms appear or continue for more than three days after receiving a vaccine: Dizziness, severe and persistent headache, nausea or vomiting, issues with vision, shortness of breath, severe pain in the chest or abdomen or coldness in the extremities, swelling of the legs, small blood spots under the skin other than the injection site.
Dr. Abdullah Asiri, an infectious diseases consultant at the Saudi Ministry of Health, allayed public fears following the reports.
“How can a wrong conclusion deduced from a generalization become the most circulated news?” he wrote on Twitter. “In short, not every blood clotting after vaccinations is due to vaccinations. Thanks to vaccines, lives are saved every day. We have not yet had confirmed cases of platelet deficiency and blood clotting immune responses associated ‘hypothetically’ with COVID-19 vaccines.”
Dr. Mohammed Al-Abd Al-Aly, a Ministry of Health spokesman, said: “We are still monitoring an increase in the number of COVID-19 infections, which is the highest since the beginning of this year. There has also been an increase in cases among females by 55 percent.”
The Ministry of Health reported 1,070 new confirmed cases in the Kingdom over the past 24 hours, meaning 407,010 people have now contracted the virus. Of the 9,626 active cases, 1,105 were in critical condition. There were 12 fatalities, which brought the national death toll to 6,846.
The ministry said 940 people recovered from the virus over the past 24 hours, meaning 390,538 people have made full recoveries.