Pandemic separates agonized expat families

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Updated 05 July 2020

Pandemic separates agonized expat families

  • This was the first time he had spent longer than three weeks without his wife and children in 20 years

RIYADH: As governments across the globe took various measures to contain the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, many expatriate families have been left agonized by separation from relatives across the world.

Expats stranded outside Saudi Arabia due to COVID-19 will only be allowed to return to the Kingdom after the health crisis is over, government officials have revealed.

Navaz Abdul Rasheed, from Kerala, India, who works in Saudi Arabia as a technical delivery manager at Reuters subsidiary Refinitiv, was separated from his family for several months.

“When I was watching the COVID-19 outbreak in China, I never thought the same situation may happen in Saudi Arabia or in India,” Rasheed, a former chairman of the India International Public School in Riyadh (IIPS), told Arab News.

“It was shocking for me, because I had planned a holiday with my family in the same week when the lockdown was announced, from March 15 onwards for two weeks, to take care of our daughter’s planned dental surgery. I wasn’t sure if traveling was a wise decision in that situation, so I decided to let my family travel, especially when the schools were suddenly closed.”

His company decided all staff would work from home immediately after the outbreak, he added. “I kept myself busy with helping our clients in the financial sector to continue their business without much impact.”

The situation forced Rasheed to start cooking food with the help of recipes from YouTube, while groceries were mostly bought online to minimize errands.

However, staying alone locked down in a villa for weeks left Rasheed depressed. “Once I even thought of flying to India through repatriation flights arranged by the Indian Embassy, as my company has agreed to work from India, with a condition of returning within few months.”

FASTFACT

Expats stranded outside KSA due to COVID-19 will only be allowed to return to the Kingdom after the health crisis is over.

This was the first time he had spent longer than three weeks without his wife and children in 20 years.

“My family was in quarantine for 28 days in India and my daughter’s surgery was postponed due to lockdown in Kerala. The children struggled initially to attend online classes with internet bandwidth issues. My daughters are worried, especially the worry is at paramount for my second daughter Asiya who is completing her 10th grade this year at the IIPS,” he added.

All these challenges and worries compounded Rasheed’s mental stress. The news of COVID-19 cases and deaths added to the pressure his family was already experiencing.

“It wasn’t easy for me to convince my family that I am doing well and there is nothing to worry (about),” said Rasheed.

He decided to minimize watching COVID-19 news, and started spending more time in work, taking online courses and engaging in voluntary educational activities.

Rasheed is hoping for a COVID-19 vaccine to be found and successfully tested on humans.

Hareez Mohamed, a Sri Lankan expat working in the Kingdom at Adma Shamran Company, has suffered similar issues. “My daughter has completed her final year of university in Malaysia and is disheartened because she is unable to come back home due to the travel restrictions,” Mohamed said.

Another Sri Lankan expat, Chandana Kulathunga, who works as a sports coordinator at the Sri Lankan International School in Riyadh, said his daughter was now stranded in Canada. “My daughter wants to be with us as she is concerned about her safety during the COVID-19 pandemic,” he told Arab News.

The two families, with children in two different continents, share the same worries of the inherent uncertainty for their children’s well-being.

They added that they barely sleep during the day and subsequently stay awake to compensate for the varied time zones to connect with their children online.

“Across the fabric of time and space, the only element that knits us together and keeps us going is hope, the hope that soon, one day, we can hug our children in our safe arms again,” said Kulathunga.

 


Guinness World Records has great expectations for Saudi titles milestone

Updated 25 September 2020

Guinness World Records has great expectations for Saudi titles milestone

  • In MENA region, KSA is second behind UAE for its record-breaking prowess, with 93 GWR titles

JEDDAH: Saudi Arabia’s penchant for breaking world records looks set to see the Kingdom smash through the 100 titles mark in the not-too-distant future, officials have predicted.
Guinness World Records (GWR), which lists incredible human achievements and extremes of nature, has great expectations for the country over the coming months.
The Kingdom has been placed second behind the UAE in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region for its record-breaking prowess, with 93 GWR titles under its belt.
GWR’s senior marketing manager in the MENA region, Shaddy Gaad, told Arab News: “We’re very impressed with Saudi record-breaking and we’re really excited — a lot of record-breaking happens on the National Day.
“Over the last few years and with the Saudi Seasons (activity festivals) we’ve seen a big rise in record-breaking in Saudi Arabia and we’re looking forward to seeing this continue.
“Saudi Arabia is on the up and it’s rising very quickly. There were a lot of records broken near the end of last year. We had Riyadh Season and we had AlUla. I think that number’s going to rise up very quickly,” he said.

Largest hot air balloon glow show: The largest hot air balloon glow show consisted of 100 hot air balloons and was achieved by the Royal Commission for AlUla on Jan. 6, 2019.

Gaad added that so far this year there had been a 15 percent increase in the number of new records set by MENA nations.
“This year we received 750 applications from the MENA region, compared to 649 in the first eight months of 2019. From Saudi Arabia, we received 79 applications and we expect it to go up to 100 by the end of the year,” he said.
One of the most notable titles achieved by Saudi Arabia was for the largest mirror building, the Maraya Concert Hall in AlUla. “If you see that building itself, it’s absolutely beautiful. It looks like something out of a movie,” added Gaad.
Jeddah can boast the world’s largest burger restaurant, with I’m Hungry covering 2,860 square meters, the equivalent of 11 tennis courts according to its marketing team.
The Red Sea port city also has the world’s tallest unsupported flagpole, while AlUla plays host to the largest hot air balloon glow show, and Saudi influencer Hussain Sallam (known as S7S) holds the record for the largest serving of sayadieh (1,334 kilograms of the seasoned fish and rice dish).

Largest human awareness ribbon: The largest human awareness ribbon consisted of 8,264 participants and was achieved by Saudi women at an event organized by 10KSA in Riyadh on Dec. 12, 2015.

Stunt driver Terry Grant completed the largest loop-the-loop in a car during Riyadh Season on Nov. 25, and the MDL Beast Festival in the Saudi capital on Dec. 21 won the tallest stage title.
However, similar to most organizations, WGR has had to adapt to working around safety restrictions put in place due to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.
“We moved a lot of things online. To view the growth in the number of applications, we launched this online record-breaking; what happened is it’s a dedicated brand and content division, focused on helping brands and businesses break records as part of their marketing campaign, and all of it is done over the internet.
“It wasn’t difficult; record-breaking and evidence provision is generally done online. It wasn’t difficult for us; the only thing was that people just had to get used to it, but it was a seamless process,” said Gaad.

Largest burger restaurant: The largest burger restaurant covers an area of 2,860 square meters and the title was achieved by I’m Hungry in Jeddah on Dec. 12, 2019.

The new division runs over content such as live-streaming, online pledges, online albums, video relays, and video chains.
One of them happened in Saudi Arabia, with the most viewers for an Iftar YouTube live stream, when 183,544 people tuned in to enjoy popular YouTubers such as “The Saudi Reporters” and comedian Omar Hussein.
“These influencers got together on YouTube, live, and for an hour they were sharing their stories about Ramadan traditions and Saudi traditions. They broke their fast and shared this moment with their fans. That video ended up trending as No. 1 in Saudi and the region.
“If anything, this pandemic has taught us to adapt to situations. I think people are now more flexible with the idea of doing online records as much as they’re doing offline records,” Gaad added.
He pointed out that the online application process for the GWR was simple and that titles were granted based on whether the record was measurable (longest, largest, heaviest, etc.), breakable, standardizable, or verifiable, and if it was made up of one variable.

SOME OF THE RECORDS BROKEN IN SAUDI ARABIA

• Tallest flagpole: The tallest unsupported flagpole measures 171 meters (561 feet) and was erected by Jeddah Municipality and Abdul Latif Jameel Community Initiatives (ALJCI) in Jeddah on Sept. 23, 2014.

• Largest drinking water storage facility: The largest drinking water storage facility is the Briman Strategic Water Reservoir, in Jeddah, with a total capacity of 2,062,500 cubic meters, verified on Nov. 17, 2014. Fun fact: The volume of this facility could fill up six skyscrapers the size of the Burj Khalifa in Dubai.

• Largest burger restaurant: The largest burger restaurant covers an area of 2,860 square meters and the title was achieved by I’m Hungry in Jeddah on Dec. 12, 2019.

• Largest hot air balloon glow show: The largest hot air balloon glow show consisted of 100 hot air balloons and was achieved by the Royal Commission for AlUla on Jan. 6, 2019.

• The Largest Serving of sayadieh: The largest serving of sayadieh was 1,334 kg achieved by Hussain Sallam in Jeddah on Sept. 14, 2019.

• Darkest man-made substance: The darkest man-made substance is a black material made of gold nanoparticles and called dark chameleon dimers, which absorbs more than 99 percent of visible light over the whole visible range. The material was made by scientists from King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST), in a joint collaboration between Prof. Yu Han and Prof. Andrea Fratalocchi.

• Largest water desalination company: The largest water desalination company is Saline Water Conversion Corp. (Saudi Arabia) which produces 4,600,000 cubic meters a day as verified on June 4, 2016. •Largest Tele-ICU command center: The largest Tele-ICU command center consisted of 796 beds and was achieved by Dr. Sulaiman Al-Habib Medical Group in Riyadh and verified on July 31, 2019.

• Tallest stage (temporary): The tallest stage (temporary) measured 38 meters in height and was achieved by MDL Beast Fest in Riyadh on Dec. 21, 2019.

• Most consecutive wins in AFC champions league: The most consecutive wins of the AFC champions league are two achieved by Al Ittihad FC (Saudi Arabia) in 2004-2005.

• Largest human awareness ribbon: The largest human awareness ribbon consisted of 8,264 participants and was achieved by Saudi women at an event organized by 10KSA in Riyadh on Dec. 12, 2015.