‘A different world’: Meet the vloggers sharing their adventures in a fast-changing Saudi Arabia

‘A different world’: Meet the vloggers sharing their adventures in a fast-changing Saudi Arabia
On one of his explorations, American vlogger Peter Santenello tried on a traditional Saudi thobe. (Photo/Supplied)
Short Url
Updated 02 January 2020

‘A different world’: Meet the vloggers sharing their adventures in a fast-changing Saudi Arabia

‘A different world’: Meet the vloggers sharing their adventures in a fast-changing Saudi Arabia
  • Tourist visas give travel bloggers a chance to marvel at the Kingdom’s landscapes and meet its ‘friendly, open’ people

JEDDAH: Video bloggers, or vloggers, sharing their travel adventures in Saudi Arabia are drawing attention to the changing face of the Kingdom — and helping to shatter some misconceptions along the way. 

Since the introduction of tourist visas in September last year, more than 77,000 tourists have visited the Kingdom, Ministry of Foreign Affairs statistics show.

American vlogger Peter Santenello has created a series detailing his journey in Saudi Arabia, with the first video attracting more than 1.7 million views on YouTube.

Stepping outside his hotel room on his first day in Riyadh, he said: “It is hot, it’s a different world, and I’m super pumped.”

Santenello soon became aware of changes taking place in Saudi Arabia, catching sight of the Kingdom Tower and seeing women driving in the capital.

“After two hours on the street, I’m seeing tons of development, a lot of new businesses,” he said.

Seeing the Kingdom firsthand was “smashing a lot of preconceptions,” the vlogger added.

Santenello said that he is comfortable in Saudi company, and no longer surprised by the wide-ranging social reforms visible in the country.

On one of his explorations, he tried on a traditional Saudi thobe. “Very stately, I like it. A new look I’m gonna rock throughout Saudi,” he said as he showed off his new purchase.

Walking around in his new outfit, the American vlogger met individuals from different countries who tried to guess his nationality. “It’s super diverse; many nationalities in the region are working here in Saudi,” he said.

Santenello said that excitement at the rapid changes is obvious among young people he met on his travels.

“Even before I was a travel vlogger, I’ve always wanted to go to Saudi Arabia,” he told Arab News. “Anyone from the West going in is a bit nervous at first, just because of what’s presented on the news, but it completely surprised me. Overall, it was a wonderful trip.”

The vlogger described his trip as “excellent,” and said he was surprised by both the country and its people. “Meeting locals, I found them to be very open, curious and friendly,” he said.




Before I arrived in Saudi Arabia, I was a little afraid of coming here. But from what I’ve experienced today, I’m already anticipating tomorrow. — Cho Won Kim aka Chomad, South Korean vlogger

Tourism is a fairly recent phenomenon in the country, but the people were welcoming and accepting.

“I realized it is many nations in one and there are many different ideologies,” he added. “It was surprising to hear different opinions on the country.”

Saudi Arabia’s varied landscapes, especially in southwestern areas such as Fayfa, were “different and beautiful,” he said.

Santenello’s visit began and ended in Riyadh, and included Jazan, Jeddah, Abha, Fayfa and Farsan Island. His series will include about 12 videos detailing his explorations.

South Korean vlogger Cho Won Kim, known by his YouTube channel name Chomad, visited Saudi Arabia during a tour of the Middle East.

Since there are no direct flights from South Korea to the Kingdom, Chomad spent his transit hours in Abu Dhabi learning Arabic words such as “Marhaba” (“Hello“) and “Shukran” (“Thank you“) to help him when he arrived.

For his first meal in Jeddah he went to a local favorite, Albaik, which specializes in fried chicken.

The vlogger ordered deep-fried shrimp and a chicken burger. “It’s so delicious,” he said.

“Before I arrived in Saudi Arabia, I was a little afraid of coming here. But from what I’ve experienced today, I’m already anticipating tomorrow,” he said before wishing viewers a good night.

During his trip, Chomad was fascinated by Saudi people’s discipline in maintaining their five prayers. Every time he was out, he would stop by the nearest mosque when he heard the call to prayer.

In an attempt to learn about the country and explore its religion, Chomad visited Al-Rahma, Jeddah’s floating mosque. He couldn’t believe he was finally seeing the Red Sea.

After viewing the interior of the mosque’s dome, with its beautiful chandelier and walls inscribed with intricately detailed Qur’anic verses, he said: “I honestly think the mosque is prettier than the mall.”

On his second vlog, the South Korean’s entry covers his journey through old Jeddah, shooting clips of his drive into the ancient sections of the city.

“Since I was the only Asian, I could feel all the attention on me,” Chomad said — but what he couldn’t understand was how people showered him with welcoming words.

Strolling in historic Al-Balad felt just like any other market as he checked out local produce before settling in to try a traditional beef stew at a restaurant.

“The splendid present and historical past coexist,” Chomad said when he visited Jeddah’s Urth Cafe. “I thought I could get only typical halal food in Saudi Arabia, but there are so many beautiful cafes — the vibe is entirely European,” he said.

“Saudi people are so kind,” the vlogger added. “The country is not scary at all.”

Ending his trip, Chomad stopped by the hip cafe Cup & Couch, where he met a new group of Saudi friends, some of whom even spoke a little bit of Korean.


Saudi Arabia’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic places it at the highest ranks on international indexes

Saudi Arabia’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic places it at the highest ranks on international indexes
According to ADAA, Saudi Arabia ranked among the top countries in three international indexes, among the world’s eight top countries in two indexes and among the 20 top countries in two others. (Shutterstock)
Updated 21 June 2021

Saudi Arabia’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic places it at the highest ranks on international indexes

Saudi Arabia’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic places it at the highest ranks on international indexes
  • ADAA follows up on the Kingdom’s progress and performance through the International Performance Hub, which compares the Kingdom’s performance against 217 other countries

JEDDAH: Saudi Arabia’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic has placed it at the highest ranks on several international indexes according to the National Center for Performance Measurement (ADAA) for the years 2020-2021.
According to ADAA, Saudi Arabia ranked among the top countries in three international indexes, among the world’s eight top countries in two indexes and among the 20 top countries in two others.
According to the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM), the Kingdom ranked first worldwide in the response of entrepreneurs and the government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The two indexes measured the levels of entrepreneurial motivation as Vision 2030 provided an ideal and flexible business environment able to withstand challenges such as the pandemic.

SPEEDREAD

According to the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM), the Kingdom ranked first worldwide in the response of entrepreneurs and the government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Kingdom has maintained its advanced position in the “food standards” indicator, where it was ranked first in 2020. This indicator is considered one of the sub-components of the “food security” index, released annually by the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) to measure food security in countries based on four indicators: Food affordability, availability, quality and safety, and natural resources and resilience.
“The pandemic has forced many in the food industry to rethink our strategies and elevate our standards, providing the best food quality and services for our customers,” Mohammed Saleh, a restaurant owner based in Riyadh and Jeddah, told Arab News. “Our customers always come first and the quality of food was always a top priority but now with the extra care and precautions, customer satisfaction and safety is even more important.”
“Many restaurant owners I know have put into consideration all the changes that needed to be made to ensure that both quality and safety go hand in hand,” Saleh added. “We’ll only go forward from here.”
During the peak of the pandemic, the Kingdom jumped to eighth position among 113 countries in “the national food supply sufficiency” indicator and came ahead of 105 countries in growth of production of cereals and vegetables, climbing nine spots in the indicator in comparison to 2019. In the post-harvest and pre-consumption crops’ safety indicator, the Kingdom made significant progress, ranked among the 20 top countries worldwide.
The Kingdom has also come a long way in most of the indicators of the soft power index, measured based on three key performance indicators (KPIs): Reputation, familiarity and influence, where it ranked 20th and came ahead of 85 countries in its response to the pandemic, according to the Brand Finance report.
ADAA follows up on the Kingdom’s progress and performance through the International Performance Hub, which compares the Kingdom’s performance against 217 other countries. ADAA monitors and follows up on international indicators while the hub provides an overview of the Kingdom’s performance in 700 KPIs under 12 main pillars.


Saudi aviation authority links boarding passes with health app

Saudi aviation authority links boarding passes with health app
The boarding passes are issued electronically to passengers whose status in the app is “immune,” “immune by first dose,” “immune by recovery” or “no record of infection”
Updated 21 June 2021

Saudi aviation authority links boarding passes with health app

Saudi aviation authority links boarding passes with health app
  • Tawakkalna was launched last year to help track COVID-19 infections

RIYADH: The General Authority of Civil Aviation (GACA) has announced the completion of linking the issuance of boarding passes for domestic flights for all national airlines with the health status in the Tawakkalna app.
The boarding passes are issued electronically to passengers whose status in the app is “immune,” “immune by first dose,” “immune by recovery” or “no record of infection.”
The initiative is the result of cooperation with government agencies — namely the Presidency of State Security, the Saudi Data and Artificial Intelligence Authority, and the Health Ministry — and with national airlines.
Tawakkalna was launched last year to help track COVID-19 infections. It has since been updated to include vaccination information and infection status reports. It also functions as a COVID-19 “passport.”
Earlier, GACA said that all foreign travelers and their companions traveling to the Kingdom must complete registration for their COVID-19 immunization data before departure. The registration is applicable to all citizens from Gulf Cooperation Council countries, holders of new visas, residents, and their companions, both inoculated and non-vaccinated.

 


Royal Saudi Land Forces continue ‘Falcon Claws 4’ exercise with US forces

Royal Saudi Land Forces continue ‘Falcon Claws 4’ exercise with US forces
Updated 21 June 2021

Royal Saudi Land Forces continue ‘Falcon Claws 4’ exercise with US forces

Royal Saudi Land Forces continue ‘Falcon Claws 4’ exercise with US forces
  • The exercise began last week in the Kingdom’s northwestern region

RIYADH: The Royal Saudi Land Forces continued a joint exercise with counterparts from the US Forces, Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Defense said on Sunday.
The “Falcon Claws 4” exercise began last week in the Kingdom’s northwestern region.

“This exercise comes as an extension of the joint exercises between the two friendly countries, with the aim of training in command and control operations, indirect shooting training, offensive combat transport, explosives disposal, and improving the compatibility between the military equipment of the two sides,” the ministry said.


Mohammed bin Dayel appointed CEO of Saudi Cultural Development Fund

Mohammed bin Dayel appointed CEO of Saudi Cultural Development Fund
Updated 21 June 2021

Mohammed bin Dayel appointed CEO of Saudi Cultural Development Fund

Mohammed bin Dayel appointed CEO of Saudi Cultural Development Fund
  • Bin Dayel comes to the position with nearly 20 years of leadership and practical experience in the investment sector
  • The fund specializes in supporting projects of private-sector enterprises, NGOs and associations working in the cultural sectors

RIYADH: Mohammed bin Abdulrahman bin Dayel has been appointed as the CEO of Saudi Arabia’s Cultural Development Fund.
The fund specializes in supporting projects of private-sector enterprises, NGOs and associations working in the cultural sectors and their supporting fields.
The decision to appoint Bin Dayel was issued by the fund’s board of directors, headed by Minister of Culture Prince Badr bin Abdullah bin Farhan.
Bin Dayel comes to the position with nearly 20 years of leadership and practical experience in the investment sector.
Throughout his career, he has held many leadership positions, the last of which was executive director of investment operations at Raidah Investment Company. He also worked in the treasury department at Saudi Aramco, in addition to his membership of Alinma Bank’s board of directors.
Bin Dayel’s appointment comes within the fund’s plans to attract national talent, and to ensure the implementation of its development plans that support investment in cultural sectors by providing programs to develop the cultural scene with the support of the Quality of Life Program, one of the initiatives to achieve the Kingdom’s Vision 2030.
Bin Dayel holds a master’s degree in business administration from the American University in Washington and a bachelor’s degree in finance from George Washington University, and has a number of qualifications in treasury and investment management.


Saudi Arabia could consider mix-match second doses of coronavirus vaccine

Saudi Arabia could consider mix-match second doses of coronavirus vaccine
More than 47.7 percent of Saudi Arabia’s population have received at least one dose. (AP)
Updated 21 June 2021

Saudi Arabia could consider mix-match second doses of coronavirus vaccine

Saudi Arabia could consider mix-match second doses of coronavirus vaccine
  • Many of Saudi Arabia’s regions have shown signs of stability and decline in cases

JEDDAH: Saudi Arabia could consider administering second doses from other vaccine manufacturers as soon as they are accredited in the Kingdom according to the Ministry of Health (MoH) spokesman.
At Sunday’s press conference, MoH spokesman Dr. Mohammed Al-Abd Al-Aly said that studies conducted in several countries have shown positive results, with more countries now applying the mix-match vaccine doses, including the US, Canada, Britain, the UAE and more.
Refuting claims about the depletion of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine in the Kingdom, Al-Aly reassured the public that the vaccine is still available and is being administered. More than 16.6 million doses of the vaccine have been administered in the Kingdom so far, at a rate of 107,857 doses per day. More than 47.7 percent of Saudi Arabia’s population have received at least one dose.
The Kingdom reported 1,079 new cases, bringing the number of active cases in the country to 10,896, a decline of 149 cases in the past 24 hours.
“The rate at which the curve is going in the past few weeks have shown positive signs of stability,” said the MoH spokesman, adding: “Many of the Kingdom’s regions have shown signs of stability and decline in cases. We continue to encourage everyone to register for the vaccine as both vaccines and precautionary measures will help in overcoming this pandemic.”

FASTFACTS

474,191 Total cases

455,618 Recoveries

Most cases were registered in the Makkah region with 320, there were 216 cases in Riyadh and 206 cases in the Eastern Province. All other regions reported new case totals below 100, the Northern Borders reported six cases while Jouf reported only four.
The reports brought the total number of cases to 474,191 since the start of the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in the Kingdom.
There were 1,214 new recoveries from COVID-19 in the last 24 hours. Most recoveries were registered in Jeddah with 187, Makkah followed with 150 and in Riyadh there were 138 recoveries. This has brought the total number of recoveries to 455,618. The Kingdom’s recovery rate is holding steady at 96 percent.
There were 20 new critical cases, bringing the total number of critical patients to 1,516. Fourteen people died in the last 24 hours, raising the overall death toll to 7,677. Some 84,652 PCR tests have been conducted via numerous testing hubs across the country. Clinics and treatment centers have been set up by the government to help thousands of people around the Kingdom in the fight against COVID-19. Through Sehhaty (my health) app the citizens have easy access to the Tetamman (rest assured) and Taakad (make sure) clinics, aimed at helping those who show symptoms and those who do not but believe they have been in contact with the virus.