Taste of kindness as tweet saves Saudi restaurant owner from jail

Abdullah Al-Qahtani, owner of Al-Basha Koshari restaurant.
Updated 10 November 2019

Taste of kindness as tweet saves Saudi restaurant owner from jail

  • Al-Qahtani’s daily financial losses started to mount, but he decided “it was only a matter of waiting 30 more days

JEDDAH: A Twitter post has helped save a Riyadh restaurant owner from a possible prison term after construction work on the capital’s rail project left his restaurant business saddled with debts.
Following a plea by Abdullah Al-Qahtani, owner of Al-Basha Koshari restaurant, on Twitter, people rushed to his eatery to offer help, showing the difference that social media can make in times of need.  
The restaurant owner told Arab News that his problems began when he and other shop owners on the same road were told about construction work for the train project.
Al-Qahtani said that he worried about losing loyal customers who for years have enjoyed his grilled meals and koshari, a popular Egyptian dish made of rice, macaroni and lentils.
“The train project company told us that the work would take no more than three months. I thought of moving to another location, but that would have cost me a lot. I decided to wait. After that we were informed that the work would need one more month,” he said.

Al-Qahtani’s daily financial losses started to mount, but he decided “it was only a matter of waiting 30 more days.”
However, the situation continued for more than 16 months, leaving Al-Qahtani drowning in debts of SR1.7 million ($453,330).
“Not only that, the problem has also caused us financial losses of nearly SR4 million. Some of the workers even decided to leave. The sales dropped by 90 percent,” he said.
The final straw came when the road’s traffic flow was changed, leaving the restaurant isolated and difficult to reach.
Al-Qahtani found himself in a real dilemma. He then thought about sharing his anguish with his compatriots through social media.
“When I posted my first tweet on the issue, I thought a thousand retweets or so would be my voice to the officials, but did not expect that the retweets would reach 7,000 on the first day,” he said.

In his tweet, Al-Qahtani said that he has lost a lot because of the train project and there was no compensation.
“I will soon be taken to prison due to debts that exceeded SR1.7 million in addition to losses of more than SR4 million. I care not about prison, but I’m worried about the future of my five children, who will suffer,” Al-Qahtani said in a tweet, which has made over 51,000 retweets.
“I am very proud of the citizens of Saudi Arabia who have shown all possible support that reflected the social coherence of Saudi society. In fact, even foreigners have come to buy from my shop to support me. Their gesture is highly appreciated,” he said.
The sales and distribution arm of STC Group, @STCChannels tweeted: “As part of our social responsibility and support for national projects, every Thursday, lunch meals for all our employees will be from Koshari Al-Basha for one month.”
Another offer came from Riyad Bank, which announced in a tweet that it has allocated a fully equipped room as an outlet for the restaurant at the bank’s headquarters.
The National Gas and Industrialization Co. promised a free one-time refilling for all gas cylinders at the restaurant.
Meanwhile, a Riyadh travel agency offered a lucky draw on 15 air tickets to Dubai or Cairo for visitors to the restaurant.  
Al-Qahtani expressed his gratitude to all those who helped him, saying: “I always believe in the maxim that says, ‘Keep your head up, you’re Saudi.’”


Saudi Arabia launches strategy to become global AI leader

Updated 20 min 10 sec ago

Saudi Arabia launches strategy to become global AI leader

  • Ambitions for 2030 include training 20,000 data and AI specialists and the creation of 300 active data and AI startups

DUBAI: Saudi Arabia launched a national strategy on Wednesday to become a global leader in artificial intelligence (AI) and data by 2030, attracting more than $20 billion in foreign and local investments.

“Saudi Arabia wants to set the best example globally in using AI for the development of a nation,” Abdullah Bin Sharaf Alghamdi, president of the Saudi Data and AI Authority, said during his opening speech at the Global AI Summit announcing the launch of the National Strategy for Data and AI.

 

Alghamdi also touched on the Kingdom’s other AI and data ambitions for 2030 including training 20,000 data and AI specialists, and attracting the creation of 300 active data and AI startups.

“The strategy aims to make Saudi Arabia the place where the best of data and artificial intelligence is made reality… it sets the foundation and direction upon which we will unlock the potential of data and AI to fulfil our national transformation priorities and establish Saudi Arabia as a global hub for data and AI,” he said.

Alghamdi told participants that Saudi Arabia viewed the summit as an annual platform that would take a look at AI in a fresh and positive perspective that “elevates international collaboration over competition” which emphasizes on the potential benefits with the responsible application of artificial intelligence.

“AI’s potential has led to fierce competition between nations to claim global leadership… there has been an overly negative debate on the risks and dangers of AI,” he said.

The inaugural summit, which honors Saudi Arabia’s presidency of the G20, aims explore artificial intelligence’s role in the new global era and how its transformational potential can be deployed “to create a better future for all.”

Several major partnerships and initiatives are expected to be announced during the course of the two-day summit focused on accelerating AI for sustainable development in low- and middle-income countries, according to Alghamdi, for a more inclusive future and “no one is left is behind.”