Adventure-seeking Saudis ready to answer call of the wild

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Hiking in Abha’s mountains, fishing in the clear waters of Umluj in Tabuk and exploring some of its 104 islands and stargazing from the red sand dunes of the Nafud desert are just some of the trips on offer. (Photos/Masarat club)
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Hiking in Abha’s mountains, fishing in the clear waters of Umluj in Tabuk and exploring some of its 104 islands and stargazing from the red sand dunes of the Nafud desert are just some of the trips on offer. (Photos/Masarat club)
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Exploring Al-Wahba crater image courtesy of Riyadh Hiking
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Image courtesy of Khaled Zaroq/Masarat Club
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Image courtesy of Masarat Club
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Graffiti rock. Image courtesy of Masarat Club
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Exploring Al-Wahba crater image courtesy of Riyadh Hiking
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Edge of the World- Riyadh image courtesy of Riyadh Hiking
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Image courtesy of Osamah Al-Shubbar/Masarat Club
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Updated 30 June 2020

Adventure-seeking Saudis ready to answer call of the wild

  • Travel groups gear up to launch virus-safe trips to some of Kingdom’s natural wonders

JEDDAH: Adventure-seeking Saudi citizens are being lured by the Kingdom’s great outdoors after months of being cooped up under the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) lockdown.

Following the partial easing of restrictions, which forced residents to stay at home, travel and activity groups are encouraging people to get back out and about exploring the Kingdom’s natural treasures and attractions. With international flights still suspended, Saudis and expats are being urged to rediscover the country’s beauty spots through organized activities, while still observing safety measures designed to stop the spread of the virus.
Hiking in Abha’s lush green mountains, fishing in the clear waters of Umluj in Tabuk province and exploring some of its 104 islands and stargazing from the red sand dunes of the Nafud desert are just some of the trips on offer.
One organization gearing up for a return to action is the Masarat Club. Founded in 2017 by travel enthusiasts with the aim of promoting adventure and exploration to Saudis, the group’s summer tours in the Kingdom are set to get underway in mid-July.
Bader Al-Omar, the club’s co-founder, told Arab News: The whole idea behind Masarat was based on the love of adventure. We made sure our mandate was based on exploring new untouched areas, especially in the Kingdom. Given the circumstances, we are resuming our trips mid-July, but with caution.”
He said outdoor adventuring and recreation could have major psychological benefits for people after months under lockdown.
“Masarat Club is not only about venturing out and discovering new untouched destinations in Saudi, we’re also very keen on supporting locals around the Kingdom by making the most of their amenities.


“We explore our Kingdom and play our role in showcasing the beauty of our regions as well as playing a role in supporting those who help us along the way,” added Al-Omar.
Considering COVID-19 protocols set by the Saudi authorities, he said the club would be cutting tour group numbers by half, enforcing social distancing among vehicle passengers, running health checks on clients, and allocating separate rooms and tents.

HIGHLIGHTS

With international flights still suspended, Saudis and expats are being urged to rediscover the country’s beauty spots through organized activities, while still observing safety measures designed to stop the spread of the virus.

Trippers will also be required to use their own personal items for food and drink. “This is important because we want everyone coming along to feel secure and stay safe,” added Al-Omar.
The lifting of the nationwide lockdown has provided adventure enthusiasts not only with the chance to get back to nature, but also offered an opportunity for discovery.
A number of companies have come up with creative strategies to run local recreation activities or trips to destinations throughout the Kingdom.
Faisal Al-Mshari, founder of Riyadh Hiking, told Arab News that even visiting familiar places would help people to regain a sense of belonging and connection with nature.
“We chose a sunrise hike for our first activity back, to rejuvenate and kick-start our trips again, following the protocols provided by the tourism ministry and relevant authorities.
“It’s important to start exploring again, not just for tourism and recreation but to also get away from our busy lives,” he said.
The club’s main activities include group hikes, stargazing, games, and camping and next on the trip agenda was walking Abha’s mountain trails.
However, Al-Mshari pointed out that many Saudis were still cautious about leaving the safety of their homes and had signed up for trips further down the line.
“We took advantage of the time we spent under lockdown and searched for new areas to visit and cover. Whether it be trails or beaches, it will be a challenge but we are ready to go,” he added.


Saudi Arabia’s Alkhobar becomes international role model for business continuity

Sultan Al-Zaidi (L) and Fahad Al-Jubeir.
Updated 21 September 2020

Saudi Arabia’s Alkhobar becomes international role model for business continuity

  • Alkhobar has pushed for a paperless municipality and emphasized the introduction of online services for residents

JEDDAH: Alkhobar municipality, along with Europe’s largest industrial manufacturing company Siemens, has been hailed as a role model for management excellence and business continuity.
The municipality has been awarded international certification for its excellence in managing crises and risks under difficult circumstances, in recognition of its administrative achievements during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Quality Austria (QA) awarded Alkhobar Municipality and Siemens with ISO 22301 and ISO 9001 certificates, which are concerned with business continuity management, especially during the pandemic.
ISO (International Organization for Standardization) is an independent and nongovernmental body. Its standards are internationally agreed by experts and are seen as the best way of doing something.
Alkhobar has pushed for a paperless municipality and emphasized the introduction of online services for residents.
Its mayor, Sultan bin Hamid Al-Zaidi, said that the municipality’s ISO achievement was in line with achieving the goals of the Eastern Province municipality. He added that the aim was to make Alkhobar a distinguished city, like other places in the province.
The Mayor of the Eastern Province, Fahad bin Mohammed Al-Jubeir, said that municipalities were keen to implement the most advanced administrative systems and provide the best services to beneficiaries.
“This comes in line with the objectives of municipal transformation, part of the National Transformation Program 2020 of the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 reform plan which states that the Kingdom, with its outputs and services, should provide an international role model of quality and mastery, and raise the level of services provided by services and economic development agencies and enterprises,” Al-Jubeir told Arab News.

HIGHLIGHT

Business continuity was primarily done through strategic planning and taking into account the different local factors and needs of provinces and municipalities.

He added that the municipality had launched initiatives and programs seeking to make the Eastern Province and its governorates pioneers in administrative and service qualities, as well as improving public services.
According to QA’s regional manager, Dr. Mohamed Hassan, business continuity was primarily done through strategic planning and taking into account the different local factors and needs of provinces and municipalities.
“These instructions are then transformed into applicable programs and strategies at the amana (provincial government) level,” he wrote in an article. “Since the Eastern Province is, in this respect, the leading province in the Kingdom, the guidelines are finalized in consultation with the EP’s mayor, Fahad Al-Jubeir.”
The article gave examples of Alkhobar’s strategic emergency plans and said it had made arrangements with companies such as Al-Yamama for the prevention of damage from flash floods or storms.
It added that other public contractors, such as Nabatat, ensured that green spaces and parks in the city remained relaxing destinations for people, even on exceptionally hot summer days.
“A successful example of service digitization is the Balady software, which makes all municipality services available to citizens online. Moreover, the Balagat software offers a service in which complaints and suggestions from citizens can be reported and followed up online,” the article said. “If a complaint is not solved within 24 hours, it is automatically forwarded to the mayor of the Eastern Province, Al-Jubeir.”
The ministry’s foresight in initiating plans and preparations, the online software systems used and the high-quality standards in the municipality all helped in increasing the effectiveness of the business continuity management system.