Saudi Arabia’s gym owners urge everyone to keep fit at home 

Instructors advise everyone to do their best to get some exercise at home, as it strengthens the immune system. (Supplied)
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Updated 19 March 2020

Saudi Arabia’s gym owners urge everyone to keep fit at home 

  • ‘There’s no pill to cure (coronavirus). So eat healthy and exercise to stay healthy’

JEDDAH: In keeping with the Kingdom’s efforts to slow down the spread of COVID-19, the General Sports Authority announced on Saturday that gyms in Saudi Arabia are now temporarily closed. 

Lamia Binsaddig, founder of BeWellCrossFit said many gym owners were worried about their finances but support the decision for everyone’s safety. 

“I know trainers and gym owners — including myself — are worried about their business, but I think in such a situation, we shouldn’t think ‘I’, we should always think ‘We.’ And we should all support this decision,” she told Arab News. 

“Without a sense of caring, there can be no sense of community,” she continued quoting American educator and author Anthony J. D’Angelo, “When you care enough to make a difference in others’ lives, trust me, they can feel it. And you will keep them on track.” 

Like many other trainers in the Kingdom, Binsaddig is currently providing online classes for her clients. 

“I will keep my commitment and show my commitment to each individual in a profound way.” She advises everyone to do their best to get some exercise at home, as it strengthens the immune system. 

“The key to getting those immune-boosting benefits is to train correctly,” she said. “Moderate amounts of exercise can support immunity.” 

The founder and owner of RK Fit, Reham Kamal, is sending her clients daily workout plans to keep them active and fit while away. 

“Prohibiting crowding for the benefit and well-being of people is a good decision because there is a high risk of catching COVID-19 at gyms. 

Some people are not conscious about their bad habits — such as not washing their hands, especially at big gyms with so much equipment,” she said. 

“It would be very easy to spread the virus this way. This decision is definitely for our well-being.” She added that, as well as strengthening the immune system, exercise also helps to relieve stress. 

“There is so much negative talk and fear going around during this time,” she said. “Exercising releases stress.” 

Malek Batterjee, the owner of Gracie Jiu-Jitsu, said the decision is a great idea for the health and welfare of all people. 

“We need to stick together to get through this,” he told Arab News. 

He also urged people to help gyms survive the financial impact that coronavirus will undoubtedly have on their business. 

“It’s the responsibility of the members to help their gyms to stay alive by not abandoning them in this difficult time,” he said. 

“If everyone freezes their accounts or stops paying the gyms, the smaller businesses might close down. So if you can keep your subscriptions active and pay your gyms that would be great, and if the financial burden is too much, or you can’t justify it, then that’s also fair.” 

He also encouraged gyms to allow members to claim back any time in which they are unable to use their memberships. 

Currently, Gracie Jiu-Jitsu’s clients are able to continue their training at home, with tailored classes, as long as they have an exercise partner and internet access. 

“All of our students have access to all their classes online. They can watch the lessons and practice the techniques,” Batterjee said, stressing that it’s important to keep active at this time. 

“There’s no pill to cure (coronavirus). So eat healthy and exercise to stay healthy,” he said. 

“This is self-defense and therefore this is Jiu-Jitsu. The first line of self-defense is your health.”


‘American Sharqawia’: US Consul General Rachna Korhonen bids Saudi Arabia farewell

Updated 09 July 2020

‘American Sharqawia’: US Consul General Rachna Korhonen bids Saudi Arabia farewell

  • "There’s some magic in the water of the desert," says Korhonen

JEDDAH: As she reaches the end of her second mission in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, US Consul General Rachna Korhonen will soon be heading home, taking memories to last a lifetime.
Known for her love for culture and the Arabic language and for her vast knowledge of the region, Korhonen became well known as a constant supporter of Saudi women and youth in the region, participating in numerous cultural and social events in the Eastern Province and across the Kingdom.
After two more weeks in the Kingdom, Korhonen will return to the US capital to serve as the executive director of the Bureau of Near East Affairs (NEA) and the Bureau of South Central Asian Affairs (SCA) at the US State Department which supports the posts in the region, including Saudi Arabia, thus continuing her connection with the Kingdom.
With 14 years of experience as a US diplomat, she served 3 years in Riyadh in 2010, and then came back to serve as the consul general in Dhahran in August 2017. “I would say Riyadh was the start of my relationship with Saudi Arabia, and Dhahran and the Eastern Province is the culmination of the relationship,” said Korhonen told Arab News on a video call. She almost feels herself Sharqawia, a resident of the Eastern Province, Sharqia.
“Ana Sharqawia (‘I am a Sharqawia). The measure of any place is the people, it’s not about the place, it’s really about the people.”
As consul general, her role was to build relations and promote the interests of her home in the country where she was posted. Korhonen went the extra mile, she joined in the region’s celebrations and understood its traditions and culture.


Recalling her time in the Eastern Province, she said: “I’ve been getting to know Sharqawis, the people who live and work here, who have made this their home in the years since Aramco started or were born in Al-Ahsa. I think anyone who comes to the Eastern Province falls in love,” she said.
“The biggest reason I’ve gotten to enjoy myself here is (because) it has quite a bit of America here. I think it’s difficult to realize how much America exists in Saudi Arabia until you come to the Eastern Province,” she added.
As the drilling for oil began in 1935 with the help of the California Arabian Standard Oil Company (CASOC), which later became Saudi Aramco, Saudi Arabia’s oil capital has been home to thousands of Americans over the past 85 years, who have had a major influence on the region.
“Aramco is definitely a reminder of home, and you put that in with the people, the hospitality, the normal way of being Saudi which is to welcome your guests no matter who they are. You put those things together, you get the best of the United States and you get the best of Saudi Arabia.”
A native of New Jersey and big baseball fan, her love for the game didn’t stop her from supporting the Al-Ettifaq Football Club in Dammam, attending matches and singing their anthem.
Her trips to Al-Ahsa, a place she calls the most beautiful place in the Kingdom, allowed her to discover the region’s vast experiences.
Her appreciation of Al-Ahsa goes deep. Both the scenery and the hospitality of the people make it her favorite city — she even took Ambassador John Abizaid on a trip there in February.
“As you drive towards Al-Ahsa, you can see the sand changing color, from a bright yellow to a reddish color,” she said. “You start seeing the desert turning green, which is amazing to me. I’m a mountain and forest type of person and I can tell you that I now like the desert too, it’s beautiful.”
The uniqueness of Al-Ahsa called out to Korhonen and she recalls her first visit to the region in 2017. “The history, the people, the food, the culture, is very different from any place I’ve been to in Saudi Arabia, Hasawis (people of Al-Ahsa) are lovely. I think there’s some magic in the water of the desert,” she said.
Korhonen developed an interest in regional cultural events, visiting local markets picking out sheep for Eid, learning about the Saudi love for falconry and participating in the traditional celebratory dance of Al-Arda. She even has a Diwaniya, a parlor where guests are received, at her home.

When she returned to the Kingdom in 2017, Korhonen noticed the transformation of the Kingdom, noting that Vision 2030 has been the instigator for this noticeable change.
“The changes have been tremendous, I think Vision2030 is really going to really bring Saudi Arabia onto the world stage. I think some parts are already there. In the energy sector, Saudi Arabia has always been a leader,” she said. “I’m betting you right now that you’re going to see Saudi women, you’re going to see Saudi men, you’re going to see Saudi kids, Saudi art, culture and music, the traditional Saudi things, all starting to show up on the world stage.”
As the Kingdom heads towards diversifying its economy, Korhonen anticipates that the world will begin seeing more Saudi entrepreneurs with innovative ventures, as education is key. She noted that with the continuous flow of Saudi students on scholarships in the US, their return to the Kingdom will help bring forth a new business-like mindset with partnerships between the two countries that will help the Kingdom’s economy to flourish.
“It’s coming,” she noted. “I’ve seen some of the (US) businesses here, but I haven’t seen enough yet and I’d like to see more of that in the next 2-5 years, because Vision 2030 will be a success if we can get entrepreneurs to start businesses and hire more Saudis,” she added. “That to me is the key and that is what you should be bringing back from the US.”
As the end of her mission draws near, it's safe to say that we'll be seeing Korhonen back in the Kingdom in the near future.
“I’ll honestly come back because of the people, because of the friendships I’ve made here.”