Sustainability, gender equality firing Saudi Arabia’s tourism ambitions: Norwegian environmentalist

Sustainability, gender equality firing Saudi Arabia’s tourism ambitions: Norwegian environmentalist
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Brigit M. Liodden, owner of the world's first floating lab for entrepreneurs, crossed Europe in a hydrogen-powered car and made several stops in Middle Eastern countries. Saudi Arabia left a lasting impression on her. (Supplied/Brigit M. Liodden)
Sustainability, gender equality firing Saudi Arabia’s tourism ambitions: Norwegian environmentalist
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Brigit M. Liodden, owner of the world's first floating lab for entrepreneurs, crossed Europe in a hydrogen-powered car and made several stops in Middle Eastern countries. Saudi Arabia left a lasting impression on her. (Supplied/Brigit M. Liodden)
Sustainability, gender equality firing Saudi Arabia’s tourism ambitions: Norwegian environmentalist
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Brigit M. Liodden, owner of the world's first floating lab for entrepreneurs, crossed Europe in a hydrogen-powered car and made several stops in Middle Eastern countries. Saudi Arabia left a lasting impression on her. (Supplied/Brigit M. Liodden)
Sustainability, gender equality firing Saudi Arabia’s tourism ambitions: Norwegian environmentalist
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Brigit M. Liodden, owner of the world's first floating lab for entrepreneurs, crossed Europe in a hydrogen-powered car and made several stops in Middle Eastern countries. Saudi Arabia left a lasting impression on her. (Supplied/Brigit M. Liodden)
Sustainability, gender equality firing Saudi Arabia’s tourism ambitions: Norwegian environmentalist
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Brigit M. Liodden, owner of the world's first floating lab for entrepreneurs, crossed Europe in a hydrogen-powered car and made several stops in Middle Eastern countries. Saudi Arabia left a lasting impression on her. (Supplied/Brigit M. Liodden)
Sustainability, gender equality firing Saudi Arabia’s tourism ambitions: Norwegian environmentalist
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Brigit M. Liodden, owner of the world's first floating lab for entrepreneurs, crossed Europe in a hydrogen-powered car and made several stops in Middle Eastern countries. Saudi Arabia left a lasting impression on her. (Supplied/Brigit M. Liodden)
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Updated 19 March 2020

Sustainability, gender equality firing Saudi Arabia’s tourism ambitions: Norwegian environmentalist

Sustainability, gender equality firing Saudi Arabia’s tourism ambitions: Norwegian environmentalist

DUBAI: For Brigit M. Liodden, owner of the world's first floating lab for entrepreneurs, it has been a lifelong mission to help the new generation drive change in the maritime sector and promote gender equality in one of the world's oldest industries.

On her latest endeavor, the Norwegian national and founder of the Ocean Opportunity Lab set off on a month-long trip on Feb. 14, aiming to solely use eco-friendly modes of transportation.

After crossing Europe in a hydrogen-powered car, she made several stops in Middle Eastern countries. Saudi Arabia left a lasting impression on her.

“My aim is to work toward an emission and waste-free ocean industry,” Liodden said in an exclusive interview with Arab News in Dubai. “Given our current situation with climate change, we have no choice but to make all transportation zero emission, and we can only achieve this sort of sustainability through diversity and collaboration across genders, borders, cultures and religions.”

Her trip, which was supported by Toyota Saudi Arabia as part of its global Environmental Challenge 2050, began when she left her home city of Oslo in Norway, driving through Europe and traveling by ship to Israel in late February.

Liodden drove to Jordan, followed by Saudi Arabia in a hybrid car. She then took a bus to the UAE.

She intended for her final destination to be Mumbai, where she was expected to chair the country's first industry conference on gender equality, the “Maritime CEO conference,” on March 20.

Her plan to complete the trip ‘plane-free’, however, came to an end in Dubai when travel restrictions due to the worldwide coronavirus outbreaks forced her to take a flight home on March 12.

Recalling her arrival in Saudi Arabia on March 3, Liodden said she was pleasantly surprised to witness the strides made in the sustainability sector and was supportive of the push toward gender equality in the Kingdom. 

From Neom to AlUla, she toured some of the country’s latest projects while interacting with a diverse group of experts, officials and Saudi citizens from different walks of life.

Liodden's first stop was at the mega Neom project located in Tabuk, in northwestern Saudi Arabia, where she was taken on a thorough tour around the site.

“The Neom project surpassed my expectations,” she said, referring to the environment-friendly approach implemented in building the cross-border city.

“The level of commitment to driving sustainability in the Neom project was the biggest surprise for me in the whole Saudi Arabia visit,” Liodden added.

The $500 billion project, which is backed by the Kingdom's Public Investment Fund, will include multiple cities, airports, a seaport, tourist areas, industrial complexes and innovation centers.

Spanning 26,500 km2, the transnational megacity will operate as an independent economic zone powered solely by regenerative energy.

On day two of her trip in Saudi Arabia, Liodden used a hybrid car to drive down to the ancient city of AlUla, where she once again was pleased to see sustainability and gender equality in practice.

During a tour with Dr. Sultan Al-Shareef, sustainability expert at the Royal Commission for AlUla, Liodden explored the site's rich history and discussed the country's targets for gender equality and the inclusion of female employees in major projects.

Advancements in women's empowerment was also reflected in the World Bank's 2020 “Women, Business and the Law” report, which highlighted Saudi Arabia's rapid progress towards gender equality since 2017, ranking it as the top reformer and the top improver among 190 countries.

The report gave the Kingdom an overall score of 70.6 out of 100, placing it first among Gulf Cooperation Council countries and second in the Arab world.

Improvements in Saudi Arabia's score were noted in six of the eight indicators, including mobility, workplace, marriage, parenthood, entrepreneurship and pension.

According to Liodden, equality and diversity are quickly becoming the “key requisites” driving innovation in some of Saudi Arabia's major projects.

“As the country opens up for international tourism, success means building the sector here in an entirely different way than we would normally see,” said Liodden.

She emphasized the importance of protecting fragile areas of the country, including heritage sites, from damage in the coming decade.

Saudi youth also have a role to play in contributing to the country's sustainable efforts, added Liodden, who interacted with youngsters volunteering at the AlUla heritage site.

She was also welcomed by a small community during her stop in Buraydah, the capital of the Al-Qassim region in northcentral Saudi Arabia.

There she visited an organic strawberry farm run on solar power and was informed of the smart features used to cut down on emissions and reuse both energy waste and water.

Liodden also attended a traditional local festival and was invited to an all-girls setting, where she engaged with young Saudi women and discussed the changes that have emerged over the last two years in the country.

On her final day in the Kingdom, Liodden visited Riyadh, where she spent the day at the Special Olympics Federation. She took part in a round-table discussion with female sports personalities, including the country's first Formula One driver, Aseel Al-Hamad, and the first certified female boxing coach, Rasha Al-Khamis.

Liodden praised the sportswomen of Saudi Arabia as “inspirational” and as “making history” in their efforts to increase female engagement in a male-dominated field.

She also commended the spirit of unity and commitment in the country in contributing to the Vision 2030.

“The ground-level commitment that I've seen in different parts of the country and across different people of all age groups is heartwarming and makes me really believe that the Vision 2030 goal is reachable,” she said.

Liodden's journey across two continents proved to be eye-opening in more ways than one.

She expressed her belief in the necessity of building bridges with the “new generation of problem-solvers” in order to achieve sustainability.

“I am absolutely certain that we will have zero emission aviation in the future,” she said. 


Saudi Arabia pledges $430m to UN's Yemen response

Saudi Arabia pledges $430m to UN's Yemen response
Updated 54 min 43 sec ago

Saudi Arabia pledges $430m to UN's Yemen response

Saudi Arabia pledges $430m to UN's Yemen response

NEW YORK: Saudi Arabia on Monday pledged $430 million towards the UN’s response to the humanitarian crisis in Yemen.

Dr. Abdullah Al-Rabeeah, supervisor general of the King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Center (KSrelief), made the announcement during a virtual pledging conference co-hosted by Sweden and Switzerland.

“Because of its keenness to alleviate the suffering of the Yemeni people, I am pleased to announce that the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has pledged $430 million to support the Yemen Humanitarian Response Plan 2021 to be implemented through UN agencies, international organizations, and local and regional NGOs,” Al-Rabeeah told the conference.

More to follow … 


US mission to Saudi Arabia to reopen routine visa services

US mission to Saudi Arabia to reopen routine visa services
Updated 01 March 2021

US mission to Saudi Arabia to reopen routine visa services

US mission to Saudi Arabia to reopen routine visa services

DUBAI: The US mission to Saudi Arabia announced on Monday the reopening of routine nonimmigrant visa services in limited numbers at its embassy in Riyadh and consulates general in Jeddah and Dhahran.

“We continue to implement safeguards to keep staff and customers safe. Due to these measures, visa appointments are extremely limited and subject to change,” a statement from the embassy said.

The consular sections advised applicants to schedule appointments “only when they have made tentative travel plans but prior to final purchase of travel.”

Mission consular sections said they will continue to prioritize US citizen services, immigrant visas, students, and emergency non-immigrant visas.


Picture perfect: Saudi Arabia’s ancient beauty finds a new audience

Picture perfect: Saudi Arabia’s ancient beauty finds a new audience
Photographers now use drones to reach places that once were too dangerous or remote, and the resulting images shed new light on the power of photography and the beauty of landscapes. (Photos: Instgram/ @mysloppyadventures)
Updated 01 March 2021

Picture perfect: Saudi Arabia’s ancient beauty finds a new audience

Picture perfect: Saudi Arabia’s ancient beauty finds a new audience
  • Online platforms have become a melting pot of images taken by photographers who travel the country

JEDDAH: A new generation of Saudi photographers is relying on the power of social media to showcase the Kingdom’s vast beauty.

Online platforms have become a melting pot of images taken by photographers who travel the country — from the sandy beaches of the east and west, to the mountains of the north and south, and the green oases of the deserts — discovering the beauty of each region one picture at a time.

Fahad Al-Mutairi, 22, started @thesaudigate on Twitter to promote Saudi Arabia’s “hidden wonders” to a growing tourist market.

“I wanted to be part of the future somehow — that’s why I started Saudi Gate and this is what has motivated me to go on,” he told Arab News.

Many other photographers who travel the country share the same outlook.

Faisal Fahad Binzarah, 41, said: “I had to work on a few projects and went to places I had never been before. I remember thinking, where has this been all my life? I never thought I would find such gems in Saudi Arabia.”

Binzarah said that he looks for dramatic landscapes and tries to “capture the overall feeling of the place.”

He said: “The pictures I take are not unique, the uniqueness comes from the places. I am just the conveyer of the beauty and nothing else.

HIGHLIGHTS

• Fahad Al-Mutairi, 22, started @thesaudigate on Twitter to promote Saudi Arabia’s ‘hidden wonders’ to a growing tourist market.

• Al-Mutairi said that about a third of @thesaudigate’s followers are international, and they are usually surprised by what they see.

“As a photographer, I try to capture the right objects at the right time, but often I feel like the beauty is not represented,” he said.

Al-Mutairi said that about a third of @thesaudigate’s followers are international, and they are usually surprised by what they see.

“Often they are amazed but also very happy because after going through the pictures they know that there is a part of the world that they must explore.”

Hadi Farah, 28, a Lebanese photographer who now lives in the Kingdom, said that he had traveled widely in Saudi Arabia and “always felt a sense of welcome and ease.”

“I think tourism is directly influenced by photographers. Whenever I upload something, I receive questions with people asking if this is really in Saudi Arabia or have I accidentally put the wrong name.

“Unfortunately, people think that it is just a desert and nothing else. So by posting pictures of these places we are educating them about possibilities and attractions they thought never existed,” he said.

Binzarah agreed, saying: “Undiscovered places are of interest for professional photographers, because they are always looking for challenges, and I think this ignites their interests to go to these places and explore.”

he added that “while the desert might be nothing new to a Saudi resident, it will be of interest to people who live in greener countries.”

Saudi Arabia, as a land of ancient civilizations, is extremely appealing for archaeologists and tourists interested in history, Binzara said.

Farah described the beauty of nature in different places, saying: “We associate beauty with life, and in our minds where there is green there is life, but we forget that there is also life in rocks and sand, and they are rich in history. So, we need to keep in mind that the beauty of AlUla is different from other areas.”

Technology is also having a major influence. Photographers now use drones to reach places that once were too dangerous or remote, and the resulting images shed new light on the power of photography and the beauty of landscapes.

“Being on social media gives us the drive to do better,” Binzarah said. “If there is no community or people to engage with, it gets dull.”

He added: “It is a personal journey and one for everyone to discover Saudi Arabia one picture at a time.”

 


Al-Rabeeah, EU envoy discuss relief efforts

Al-Rabeeah, EU envoy discuss relief efforts
Dr. Abdullah Al-Rabeeah. (SPA)
Updated 01 March 2021

Al-Rabeeah, EU envoy discuss relief efforts

Al-Rabeeah, EU envoy discuss relief efforts
  • Simonnet praised KSrelief’s professional mechanisms, its preparation and coordination of humanitarian and relief programs, and its support for the needy around the world

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s humanitarian efforts have been hailed as “professional” in a meeting between the head of KSrelief and the EU’s ambassador to the Kingdom.
Dr. Abdullah Al-Rabeeah, supervisor general of the King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Center (KSrelief), met Patrick Simonnet, head of the EU delegation to Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Oman.
During the talks in Riyadh, the two discussed issues of mutual interest related to relief and humanitarian affairs.
Simonnet praised KSrelief’s professional mechanisms, its preparation and coordination of humanitarian and relief programs, and its support for the needy around the world.
KSrelief has implemented 1,536 projects worth almost $5 billion across 59 countries.
According to a recent report, the countries and territories that have benefited the most from the projects include Yemen ($3.47 billion), Palestine ($363 million), Syria ($304 million) and Somalia ($202 million).


Family affair: Saudi siblings inherit father’s law legacy

Family affair: Saudi siblings inherit father’s law legacy
Having seen their father work while growing up, the three eldest children, Osama, Jawaher and Haya, are all now practicing lawyers. (Supplied)
Updated 01 March 2021

Family affair: Saudi siblings inherit father’s law legacy

Family affair: Saudi siblings inherit father’s law legacy
  • Veteran lawyer Musaad Al-Saleh feels ‘sense of pride’ over children’s path

MAKKAH: Law firms in Saudi Arabia are very much a dime a dozen, but one law firm in Tabuk is showing their power through family unity.

Following one career path, three young lawyers are following their father’s footsteps in the legal profession.

Musaad Al-Saleh, 50, told Arab News that his children chose the profession without any pressure because they saw a career that meets their abilities, adding that they will be “a family that will be difficult to approach.”

Having seen their father work while growing up, the three eldest children, 29-year-old Osama, 25-year-old Jawaher and 23-year-old Haya, are all now practicing lawyers.

“It’s common to find families that inherit the medical, business, trade, carpentry and other professions. Women did not enter the legal profession until recently, and the first license for a woman to practice law was offered about five years ago,” said Al-Saleh.

“My children have followed my line of work. Some of them have specialized in commercial law and the others in criminal law, allowing for diversity in dealing with legal issues in the law firm.”

He said that many families follow older generations into a profession, and that now, through women’s empowerment in the Kingdom, women in the family have been able to play the societal roles assigned to them, adding that he worked in the legal field for more than 25 years until retirement.

HIGHLIGHT

Musaad Al-Saleh, 50, told Arab News that his children chose the profession without any pressure because they saw a career that meets their abilities, adding that they will be ‘a family that will be difficult to approach.’

Al-Saleh said that his two daughters graduated from the University of Tabuk’s law department, while his son graduated from Al-Jouf University. Years ago, Al-Saleh had graduated from Al-Madinah University. He stressed that he did not force any of his children to enter the field of law. Rather, it was a choice for each of them. “I only introduced them to the new opportunities awaiting Saudi female lawyers in the sector.”

Family or not, Al-Saleh said that it is business as usual, and that every member of their legal team takes their duties seriously by upholding a professional manner inside the workplace, discussing and analyzing cases, and expressing professional opinions regarding each case they receive.

Complacency, laxity or delay is unacceptable, Al-Saleh added, noting that family bonds should not interfere in the work process to ensure a healthy system.

He said that a common sentiment in the legal community is that a law firm will die with its owner. “But I wanted to change the accepted model, and I tried my best to have my children lead this law firm after me, and maintain its momentum and ensure longevity.

“Being from one family will give them the chance to learn from each other and deal with the issues more professionally.”

As a veteran lawyer, Al-Saleh said he is mostly interested in personal interviews when young men and women apply for work or training at his law firm, adding that a personal touch is important to the formation of a lawyer’s approach.

He said that female lawyers must be attentive, able to present a clear case and communicate information without ambiguity. They will face judges and members of the trial committee and disciplinary bodies — some of whom will be tough. “She must be strong, firm, voice loud and clear and make her case without hesitation.”

Al-Saleh said that he retired after 22 years of service following several positions in the Public Prosecution, and after his young children began to show interest in the legal profession.

First-generation lawyers carry a lot of weight on their shoulders, he said, adding that he “feels a sense of pride” as his children follow his path and pave their own way into the world of law.