Hottest tourist destination in the Kingdom described as the Saudi Maldives

Hottest tourist destination in the Kingdom described as the Saudi Maldives
The hidden gem of Umluj gained wide recognition as a tourist destination when domestic travel became highly recommended due to the continued suspension of international flights. (Photo courtesy: Social media)
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Updated 07 August 2020

Hottest tourist destination in the Kingdom described as the Saudi Maldives

Hottest tourist destination in the Kingdom described as the Saudi Maldives
  • Variety of coral reefs and serene white sands make Umluj a must-see Red Sea coast destination for divers

JEDDAH: With serene white sands, deep blue waters and hidden coral reefs, one Saudi Arabian governorate on the Red Sea coast has become this summer’s hottest destination.

The hidden gem of Umluj gained wide recognition as a tourist destination when domestic travel became highly recommended due to the continued suspension of international flights. Visitors never imagined the Kingdom was home to such a unique destination, boasting both beaches and mountains.

Khalid Khayat, owner of the Royal Tours camp at Umluj, said that the area had actually been known for a long time as one of the best beaches in Saudi Arabia, but it was only when Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman visited and announced the Red Sea Project that it gained global recognition.

“There are 99 islands with beautiful sandy beaches. People call it the Saudi Maldives,” Khayat told Arab News.




Captivating sunset at Umluj. (Social media photo)

“When the crown prince announced the initiation of the Red Sea Project in 2017 and developed the construction plan in Umluj, the world discovered the name and the site,” he said.

What distinguishes Umluj from other beaches in the Kingdom is its variety of coral reefs, which make it a must-see for divers.

“You rarely find reefs in such a variety of colors, shapes and sizes like those at Umluj. Honestly, it’s like diving into paradise,” said Khayat.

Umluj is also an ideal destination for hikers and mountain climbers.

“Less than an hour’s drive outside of the city, you have mountains, where you can go hiking or sightseeing. With volcanos to the east and beaches to the west, Umluj boasts a combination of natural features that is rarely found elsewhere,” Khayat added.

Umluj is like a mesmerizing painting. Its over 100, picturesque islands, with their palm trees, soft white sand, crystal clear waters, and abundant, diverse marine life, are a photographer’s dream — and it’s right in our backyard. The islands have kindled my enthusiasm as a photographer and a nature lover and moved me to pack my bags and head to the heart of this enchanting place to discover its beauty for myself. I also want to have a hand in promoting local tourism through beautiful images.

Huda Bashatah, Arab News photographer

Aalia Fathima, 29, who is currently visiting Umluj with her husband, said: “We have been looking for different places in Saudi Arabia to visit on the Eid holiday, and we came across Umluj. I could hardly hide how excited I was to see the location! The sand is as soft as cotton, and the water is crystal clear.”

She added: “There are so many species of crab and beautiful shells that dot the beaches. We enjoyed it greatly.”

In addition to being enchanted by the site’s natural beauty, Fathima was impressed by the kindness of the local people.

“Being here, away from the sounds of the big city, was lovely,” she said.

Khayat said that ever since the announcement of the Red Sea Project, the number of visitors to Ulmuj has increased from hundreds to a thousand per week. Royal Tours receive 40 to 45 guests a day. 




Umluj boasts of a variety of coral reefs, which make it a must-see for divers. (Social media photo)

He said the number of international visitors sometimes exceeds the number of Saudi visitors, with some traveling from the other end of the world only to visit the volcano sites at Umluj.

“I received people about nine months ago who had come all the way from New York to Jeddah airport. They waited a few hours and took a flight to Yanbu, then drove all the way to Umluj just to see the volcanos. One was a lady from the US who had never been to Saudi Arabia before. She got a tourist visa just to come to Umluj,” Khayat said.

Paris Verra, 25 and from the US, has been a resident in Saudi Arabia for almost two years and has been to Umluj twice.

“I kept seeing photos of Umluj and hearing people say it looked like the Maldives. I was so curious to see what it looked like in person. I knew a few friends who were going there, so at the last minute I decided to go, and I couldn’t believe that this water was in Saudi Arabia,” she said.

“I am surprised at how untouched this place is. I have traveled the world, and it is very difficult to find somewhere that is so pristine and that has not been damaged. Umluj had the most beautiful reefs I had ever seen,” she added, joking that if she could live in Umluj, she would.


Saudi Arabia to fine air passengers up to SR500k for COVID-19 travel ban breaches

Saudi Arabia to fine air passengers up to SR500k for COVID-19 travel ban breaches
Updated 02 August 2021

Saudi Arabia to fine air passengers up to SR500k for COVID-19 travel ban breaches

Saudi Arabia to fine air passengers up to SR500k for COVID-19 travel ban breaches
  • Similar penalties would also apply to operators or owners of the means of transportation

RIYADH: The Saudi Public Prosecution office has warned it will impose fines of up to SR500,000 ($133,323) on passengers breaching travel ban restrictions by boarding flights to countries hit by the coronavirus disease (COVID-19).

Similar penalties would also apply to operators or owners of the means of transportation.

In a tweet on Sunday, officials added that severe punitive measures would be taken against travelers who failed to disclose they had visited any countries listed on the Kingdom’s COVID-19 travel ban list.


Saudi HR ministry launches tough measures for unvaccinated workers

A nurse speaks to a man before administering the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 coronavirus vaccine as part of a vaccination campaign by the Saudi health ministry, in Riyadh. (AFP file photo)
A nurse speaks to a man before administering the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 coronavirus vaccine as part of a vaccination campaign by the Saudi health ministry, in Riyadh. (AFP file photo)
Updated 02 August 2021

Saudi HR ministry launches tough measures for unvaccinated workers

A nurse speaks to a man before administering the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 coronavirus vaccine as part of a vaccination campaign by the Saudi health ministry, in Riyadh. (AFP file photo)
  • Authorities instruct all institutions to require proof of immunity against COVID-19 from employees

JEDDAH: Unvaccinated employees within the Saudi public, private, and nonprofit sectors will have their leave days deducted until they receive a COVID-19 jab, the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Development has warned.

The ministry issued a statement on Sunday clarifying procedures to deal with unvaccinated employees following the Ministry of Interior’s instruction for institutions to limit entry to vaccinated people after Aug 1.
The number of COVID-19 vaccines administered in Saudi Arabia has increased ahead of the deadline, with about 350,000 doses being administered per day, with a total vaccination rate of about 78 doses per 100 people in the Kingdom.
As a result, the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Development instructed all institutions in the Kingdom to require proof of immunity against COVID-19 from employees and workers, as approved by the Ministry of Health on the Tawakkalna mobile app.
The gradual plan to deal with unvaccinated employees begins with directing them to work remotely, according to the work need. In case remote work is not beneficial for the institution by Aug. 9, the employee will be granted leave deducted from their official leave balance.

HIGHLIGHT

The gradual plan to deal with unvaccinated employees begins with directing them to work remotely, according to the work need. In case remote work is not beneficial for the institution by Aug. 9, the employee will be granted leave deducted from their official leave balance.

As for the public sector, employees will consume their eligible leave days according to their legally approved conditions and requirements. However, if those requirements are not met or the employee has exhausted their leave balance, then absence days must be deducted from the balance of regular leaves or will be considered as an unpaid excused absence.
In the private and nonprofit sectors, employers will allow unvaccinated employees to go on official leave that will be calculated from their annual leave.
In case the annual leave balance is exhausted, employees will be granted unpaid leave, and their work contract will be considered suspended during the period once it exceeds 20 days, unless the two parties agree otherwise.
In case of disagreement with a worker, the employer shall deal with the consequences according to the procedures approved by law. The employee must be informed about decisions issued in this regard.
However, the ministry said that the new regulations do not apply to people who are excluded from taking the vaccine according to the Tawakkalna app.


Only fully jabbed students can return to school, says Saudi Education Ministry

Only fully jabbed students can return to school, says Saudi Education Ministry
Updated 02 August 2021

Only fully jabbed students can return to school, says Saudi Education Ministry

Only fully jabbed students can return to school, says Saudi Education Ministry
  • Primary, kindergarten pupils will return to classrooms once 70% of population has been double-jabbed or October 30

JEDDAH: Only students who have been fully jabbed against COVID-19 can go back to school once the academic year begins on Aug. 29, the Kingdom’s Ministry of Education said on Sunday.
High school and middle school students who have completed their vaccination program in Saudi Arabia are set to return to the classroom by the end of the month.
Elementary and preschool students will be exempt from returning until 70 percent herd immunity has been achieved through double dosage.
Saudi Arabia has so far administered more than 27.2 million vaccine doses and 8.25 million people have received both shots, making up 23.7 percent of the country’s 34.8 million population.
The ministry said appointments would be provided for staff and eligible students to get vaccinated in time for the start of the school year.
At Sunday’s press conference, Ministry of Health spokesman Dr. Mohammed Al-Abd Al-Aly urged pregnant women to get jabbed. He reaffirmed the vaccines’ safety and efficacy and said a large number of unvaccinated pregnant women around the world had been hospitalized with COVID-19.

FASTFACT

The total number of coronavirus cases in KSA reached 526,814.

He also called on doctors to do their part in communicating the importance of COVID-19 vaccines to pregnant women. “You aren’t just protecting one life, you’re protecting two,” he added.
Exemptions, including cases of medically proven hypersensitivity to the vaccines or one of their components, are determined through reports issued by the ministry.
Ministry of Commerce spokesman Abdulrahman Al-Husain said that more than 1 million commercial establishments had followed health precautions to only admit immune customers on the first day that all residents in the Kingdom were required to have had at least one dose or have recovered from COVID-19 in order to enter commercial, government, private and public establishments.
On Sunday there were 1,084 new cases recorded in the Kingdom, bringing the total to 526,814.
There were 1,285 new recoveries, taking this total to 507,374, while 12 new deaths were reported, raising the death toll to 8,249. More than 25.12 million PCR tests have been conducted so far.


Saudi military chief meets Bahraini counterpart

Saudi military chief meets Bahraini counterpart
Updated 02 August 2021

Saudi military chief meets Bahraini counterpart

Saudi military chief meets Bahraini counterpart

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s Chief of the General Staff Gen. Fayyad bin Hamed Al-Ruwaili received Chief of Staff of Bahrain Defense Force Lt. Gen. Dhiyab bin Saqr Al-Nuaimi, and his accompanying delegation, at King Salman Air Base in Riyadh on Sunday.

During the meeting, they exchanged military views and discussed issues of common interest, stressing the strength of relations and ways to achieve the shared goals of the armed forces of the two countries.

Saudi Deputy Chief of the General Staff Lt. Gen. Mutlaq bin Salem Al-Azima, who is also the acting commander of the joint forces, then accompanied Al-Nuaimi on a visit to the Joint Forces Command and briefed him on the progress of the operations led by the Arab coalition forces to support legitimacy in Yemen.

They also discussed ways to support and enhance these to ensure regional security and stability.

Maj. Gen. Turki bin Bandar bin Abdul Aziz, commander of the Royal Saudi Air Forces, also received Al-Nuaimi in the Air Force Command. During the meeting, they discussed many issues of common interest.

 

 

 


Who’s Who: Abdullah Saud Al-Hammad, deputy minister at Saudi Ministry of Municipal, Rural Affairs and Housing 

Who’s Who: Abdullah Saud Al-Hammad, deputy minister at Saudi Ministry of Municipal, Rural Affairs and Housing 
Updated 02 August 2021

Who’s Who: Abdullah Saud Al-Hammad, deputy minister at Saudi Ministry of Municipal, Rural Affairs and Housing 

Who’s Who: Abdullah Saud Al-Hammad, deputy minister at Saudi Ministry of Municipal, Rural Affairs and Housing 

Abdullah Saud Al-Hammad has been the deputy minister for land and survey at the Ministry of Municipal, Rural Affairs and Housing since June 2021.

He has been a board member of the Real Estate General Authority, the Saudi Authority for Accredited Valuers and the Off-Plan Sales and Rent Committee (Wafi) since November 2020. He has also been a supervisor of the Idle Lands Program since September 2019.

Prior to that, Al-Hammad was assistant to the deputy minister for land at the Ministry of Municipal, Rural Affairs and Housing from September 2019 to June 2021.

He served in several positions at the ministry, working as assistant to the deputy minister for technical affairs from December 2018 to September 2019 and as director of the project management office from January 2018 to December 2018.

From January 2017 to January 2018, Al-Hammad was program manager at the ministry, serving as director of the Eastern Province projects and Alkhobar housing project and as an architectural engineer.

Al-Hammad is passionate about architecture, which is his specialty, and is currently a member of the advisory board of the department of architecture and building sciences at the College of Architecture and Planning at King Saud University.

His areas of interest include digital transformation, and he contributed to transforming the customer experience for one of the products of the Sakani Program into an integrated electronic journey that reduces the process from six months to five minutes. He aspires to transfer the experience to the municipal sector.

Al-Hammad received a bachelor’s degree in architecture and building science from King Saud University in August 2010 and completed the executive leadership development program from Harvard Business Publishing Corporate Learning in November 2020.