‘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)
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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.


Overdue business rents waived by Saudi court

Overdue business rents waived by Saudi court
If a contract obliges one of the parties to carry out a task, which cannot be completed on time due to the pandemic, the court can temporarily suspend the implementation of the obligation. (SPA)
Updated 19 January 2021

Overdue business rents waived by Saudi court

Overdue business rents waived by Saudi court
  • The new regulations cover construction contracts, supply contracts, and the like, which have been affected by the pandemic

RIYADH: The General Assembly of the Saudi Supreme Court has ordered the waiving of overdue rents on businesses hit by the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, and called for a review of such contracts between tenants and owners.

The steps have been taken in view of the circumstances caused by the pandemic, wherein an obligation or contract cannot be implemented without unusual losses.

The president of the Supreme Court, Khalid bin Abdullah bin Muhammad Al-Luhaidan, approved the decisions backed by 32 members of the assembly, Okaz newspaper reported.

Authorities have set conditions that have to be met before a case can be considered for review under the new regulations.

If a contract was concluded before the commencement of the preventive measures announced in the wake of the pandemic, then the impact was direct and unavoidable. If in such a case, an affected party was not compensated or did not reach a deal to mitigate the impact of the health crisis, then it qualifies for a review and the new regulations will then take effect, said legal sources.

The Supreme Court said a competent court will issue its verdict based on facts and circumstantial evidence, and may order amendments to a contract.

It also said the new provisions will be applicable to tenancy contracts and movable properties affected by the pandemic.

It clarified that if, due to the pandemic, a tenant was unable to use the leased property, in whole or in part, the court would reduce the rent as much as the usually intended benefit was reduced.

A lessor, meanwhile, does not have the right to terminate the contract if a tenant is late in paying rent for the period during which it was impossible to fully or partly use the property due to the pandemic.

HIGHLIGHT

The Supreme Court said a competent court will issue its verdict based on facts and circumstantial evidence, and may order amendments to a contract.

The new regulations also cover construction contracts, supply contracts, and the like, which have been affected by the pandemic.

If the pandemic causes an increase to the cost of materials and labor wages, etc., the court shall increase the value of the contract while ensuring the obligor can afford to bear the expense. The obligee, upon increasing the obligation, has the right to request the termination of the contract. If the increase in the cost of materials is temporary, the court reserves the right to temporarily suspend the contract.

If the pandemic causes a shortage of material in the market, the court can reduce the quantity to the extent it deems sufficient to protect the obligor from harm.

Moreover, if the shortage of materials is temporary, the court can temporarily suspend the contract if the person obligated to it is not severely affected by this suspension. If he is harmed, he may request termination of the contract. If the materials were not available at all, leading to the impossibility of implementing the contractual obligations or some of them, the court will terminate the clauses that are impossible to implement upon the request of one of the parties to the contract.

If a contract obliges one of the parties to carry out a task, which cannot be completed on time due to the pandemic, the court can temporarily suspend the implementation of the obligation. If the other party fears unusual damage due to the suspension, he may request termination of the contract.

In addition, the court also stressed the need to carefully assess the damages on a case-to-case basis, and that one or more experts should do the assessment. While assessing damages, it should be made clear what losses were incurred directly due to the pandemic and had nothing do to with seasonal upswing in certain activities.

The Supreme Court explained that a court is bound, when considering cases arising from contracts and obligations affected by the pandemic, not to apply penalty clause or fines in whole or in part — depending on the case.

In the event that a contract includes a clause of exemption from liability for one of the contracting parties when an emergency or force majeure occurs, the condition has no effect, and the party that breaches the obligation must provide evidence that the pandemic was the reason for the breach.

The affected contracts that are not covered by the provisions of this principle shall be subject to the legal and statutory litigation principles, said the court.

Commenting on the decision, Talal Albotty, the regional director of the Central Region, Salama Insurance Co., said there is a type of insurance called “suspension of operations” because of continuous epidemics, and falls under property insurance.

“This type of insurance can be found in European countries and some Asian countries but it is not applicable in Saudi Arabia,” he told Arab News. “The insurance against projects does not exist because when the project stops, insurance stops.”

Regarding the rise in prices of commodities, or the increase in prices because of pandemics and suspension of imports, a condition must be added stating that the value of property or project must increase by 10-25 percent, he added.

“Now most reinsurance companies around the world stopped offering insurance related to pandemics and contagious diseases in most countries, including COVID-19, because their impact was huge and the companies sustained huge losses,” he said.

Saudi lawyer Reem Alajmi said the resolution aims to treat and remedy the losses incurred by parties to the contract in terms of obligations.

“The parties could not fulfil their obligations because of a lack of sufficient resources or suspension of working hours during the pandemic. Fulfilling the obligation fully or partially was difficult because COVID-19 pandemic was a force majeure,” she told Arab News.

According to Alajmi, the effects or damage caused by the pandemic must not be covered by other laws. “Proving the occurrence of damage is the responsibility of the plaintiff and the defendant based on evidence submitted to the court,” she added. “The contracts and obligations are amended accordingly.”