A Saudi entrepreneur creates tea blends steeped in Madinah’s heritage

A Saudi entrepreneur creates tea blends steeped in Madinah’s heritage
Lamees Madani (L), who created Naanie Tea in Jeddah in 2019, combining a blend of herbs that only grow in Madinah. (Supplied)
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Updated 09 October 2020

A Saudi entrepreneur creates tea blends steeped in Madinah’s heritage

A Saudi entrepreneur creates tea blends steeped in Madinah’s heritage
  • Lamees Madani dreams of sharing the region’s unique tea leaves with the entire Arab world 
  • Naanie Tea, available in Jeddah and Riyadh since 2019, can now be purchased online

DUBAI: Mention Saudi Arabia’s city of Madinah and few will think of the rich variety of herbs that grow in its fertile soil. But for Lamees Madani, who traces her own roots to the holy city, the two are inseparable.

Besides being the one of the three holiest cities in Islam, Madinah is the capital of Saudi Arabia’s Madinah region. While its 1.5 million residents mostly live in the urban area, the city also boasts the Hejaz mountain range, empty valleys, agricultural spaces, older dormant volcanoes and the Nafud desert.

“I wasn’t born in Madinah, but I am originally from there,” Madani told Arab News. “I grew up there in my grandfather’s and uncle’s houses and they used to add these special herbs to their tea. The idea came from this heritage.”

Madani created Naanie Tea in Jeddah in 2019, combining a blend of herbs that only grow in Madinah. “They have different aromas and names, and they’re all from the ‘naanaa’ (mint in Arabic) family,” she said. “Some of them are called etra (lemongrass), dosh and habag.”

 

Her business idea is steeped in the heritage of Madinah, where locals have long grown a variety of herbs in their farms and gardens for use in cookery, seasoning and drinks — especially tea.

“The story comes from this background and the heritage of older people who used to do this for tea time,” Madani said.

Depending on the season, Madani uses six different herbs from three organic farms, dries them and then blends them in a single teabag. Her aim is to make the unique flavors of Madinah convenient and accessible to customers far and wide.

“The idea is to make it easy for people who love Madinah and love the taste of these herbs, but can’t get them easily,” Madani said. “For people living abroad, or while traveling, it’s practical and easy to use. It’s also 100 percent natural, with no caffeine, preservatives or added sugar. It’s a blend of different natural organic herbs that form an infusion.”

FASTFACT

MADINAH

* Madinah is the second-holiest of three cities in the Islamic tradition.

* It is the main city of the Madinah region in KSA’s western reaches.

* The estimated population of Madinah in 2020 is 1,488,782.

Born in the US city of Tucson in Arizona, where her father was studying a Ph.D., Madani moved to Jeddah at the age of two. It was there she earned a bachelor’s degree in early childhood studies at the King Abdul Aziz University, and later obtained a master’s degree.

After a couple of years working at a kindergarten, Madani began her career at Effat University, which takes its name from Queen Effat, who pioneered women’s education in Saudi Arabia. There, she mainly served the university’s communications and public relations department.

Five years in communications at Jeddah Port then followed, by which time Madani felt it was time for a change. “I found I’d had enough of working for others and thought I needed to start my own business,” she said.

“The idea for Naanie Tea was in my mind from the very beginning. I took some courses in e-commerce. The idea was cooked there, and I started on a very small scale by testing the blends at home with all my friends and family.”

Right from the start, Naanie Tea caused a stir in the Kingdom. “People loved it so much,” Madani said. “It’s the first of its kind in the Saudi and Arab markets, and I’m stunned that nobody has ever thought of making use of these unique herbs. Everybody loves them, and they’ve been there for millennia.”

Keeping Madinah's traditions alive

Love for Madinah has prompted another female Saudi entrepreneur to invest tens of thousands of riyals in keeping the traditions of the city alive. Mashael Al-Sihli’s Madiniat Cafe looks to introduce tourists to the true culture of Madinah, as well as giving nostalgic locals a taste of the “good old days.” The decoration is meant to mirror the identity of old Madinah. “Not only the decor shows the old life of the Madinah people, but also the way we offer drinks and desserts,” Al-Sihli told Arab News in February. “The clothes on display also make one feel that they are truly living the experience of the old people of Madinah.” The idea of the cafe came to her after she worked at home making service plates, gifts and antiquities. “I had the chance to put my works at the Madinah pavilion in the Janadriyah National Heritage and Culture Festival,” Al-Sihli said. “There, a company representative approached me and offered to help me with a bank loan as part of their social responsibility program.”

She opened Madiniat Cafe last year, and customers packed the premises from the outset. Al-Sihli said she traveled to China and Egypt to buy some of the items in the cafe that were used by the people of Madinah in the past. “All my designs were inspired by the traditions of Madinah and the old daily lives of its men, and I put them on display. I then thought of gathering these products in one place,” she said. “I noticed that the people who come here yearn for the old days and enjoy sitting in such a place where every piece reminds them of their old days,” she told Arab News. “Elderly visitors, who make up the majority of visitors, also find joy in telling me stories about their life in the past.” — Mohammed Al-Kinani

So far, one blend is available across seven branches of Manuel Market in Jeddah and 11 stores in Riyadh, with plans underway for another product line. Boxes can also be ordered online and delivered anywhere in the Kingdom.

Madani said her dream is to see her brand sold across the Arab world. “Muslims love having something from Madinah. And for non-Muslims, it’s about having something organic, natural, healthy and traditional,” she told Arab News. “I’d love to see it in all capitals and hotels in the world, and restaurants, gyms and health centers.”

Priced at SR38 ($10) a box, the tea is more expensive than other commercial brands, mainly because the ingredients are organic and grown at a select few farms in Madinah. The process is also labor intensive. “It goes through a very delicate, long and handmade process,” Madani said. “Then, I send it to the factory in Jeddah where it is packaged and designed.”

 

The brand has proved a particular hit with consumers looking for a healthy detox. “People are getting healthier. They’re leading a more health-conscious lifestyle and trying to cut down on caffeine and sugar,” she said.

Madani’s business success is part of a wider trend in Saudi society, where untapped creativity is finally getting the encouragement it needs. Saudi Vision 2030, the kingdom’s plan to diversify its economy, has offered young entrepreneurs the means to develop their brands and ideas.

To know that exciting times lie ahead does not require reading tea leaves any more. “Saudi Arabia is changing dramatically — the market is full of local brands in every single sector and everything is booming now. Saudis are so enthusiastic,” Madani said.

“Across the country, there are so many local brands, amazing and creative ideas, and young people, and in a few years’ time you will see a lot more.”

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Twitter: @CalineMalek


Arab coalition intercepts, destroys Houthi drones targeting Saudi Arabia’s Jazan, Khamis Mushait

Arab coalition intercepts, destroys Houthi drones targeting Saudi Arabia’s  Jazan, Khamis Mushait
Updated 06 March 2021

Arab coalition intercepts, destroys Houthi drones targeting Saudi Arabia’s Jazan, Khamis Mushait

Arab coalition intercepts, destroys Houthi drones targeting Saudi Arabia’s  Jazan, Khamis Mushait
  • Spokesman Col. Turki Al-Maliki said the coalition destroyed eight drones in the past 24 hours
  • The recent Houthi attacks received multiple condemnations from Arab countries

DUBAI: The Arab coalition on Saturday intercepted and destroyed two Houthi drones targeting Saudi Arabia’s Jazan and Khamis Mushait, state news agency SPA reported.
Spokesman Col. Turki Al-Maliki said the coalition destroyed eight drones in the past 24 hours.
He added that the Iranian-backed militia’s attempts to attack civilians in a deliberate and systematic manner constituted war crimes.
Al-Maliki said the coalition had put in place measures to protect civilians in accordance with international humanitarian law.
Earlier on Friday, the coalition intercepted and destroyed six Houthi drones targeting the southwestern Saudi city of Khamis Mushayt.
The recent Houthi attacks received multiple condemnations from countries including the UAE, Egypt, Bahrain and Jordan where they stated their full support for the Kingdom in its fight against the militia.
Kuwait’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs has also said that the continuation of these crimes confirms the militia’s dangerous escalations and its intent to harm the security of Saudi Arabia and undermine the stability of the region.


Ministry campaign checks COVID-19 measures in Riyadh mosques

Ministry campaign checks COVID-19 measures in Riyadh mosques
Updated 06 March 2021

Ministry campaign checks COVID-19 measures in Riyadh mosques

Ministry campaign checks COVID-19 measures in Riyadh mosques

RIYADH: The Riyadh branch of the Ministry of Islamic Affairs, Dawah and Guidance on Friday organized an awareness and monitoring campaign to ensure mosques were implementing COVID-19 precautionary and preventive measures, the Saudi Press Agency reported.
The campaign was carried out in cooperation with the General Directorate of Health Affairs in Riyadh and a number of volunteer associations.
Healthcare volunteers and mosque supervisors took part in the campaign. Participants told worshippers to comply with social distancing measures, use their own prayer mats, and wear a face mask at all times.
They also organized the entry and exit of worshippers, in addition to distributing masks and prayer mats among them.
The director general of the ministry’s branch in Riyadh, Ahmed Al-Fares, said the campaign aimed to help raise awareness about COVID-19 prevention methods.
He added that the campaign was in line with the efforts of various state agencies to fight the pandemic and also promote a culture of volunteering among government bodies.

The Kingdom vs. COVID-19
How Saudi Arabia acted swiftly and coordinated a global response to fight the coronavirus, preventing a far worse crisis at home and around the world
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Saudis behind ‘The Journey’ anime trained in Japan

Saudis behind ‘The Journey’ anime trained in Japan
‘The Journey’ tells a historical story from the Arabian Peninsula where a potter with a mysterious past, Aws, takes part in an epic battle to defend his city. (Supplied)
Updated 06 March 2021

Saudis behind ‘The Journey’ anime trained in Japan

Saudis behind ‘The Journey’ anime trained in Japan
  • The film’s promotional video has already received support from Saudi entertainment officials, ministries and young people

JEDDAH: The 300 young Saudis who went to Japan to receive training in the art of manga will be able to see their new anime film on the cinematic big screen this summer.
The term manga is used in Japan to refer to both comics and cartooning, as the famous art form has been gaining popularity in the Kingdom for years.
That is why the Manga Productions Company recruited hundreds of young Saudis to come to the Toei Animation Studios to work on the first Saudi-Japanese anime film “The Journey.”
The company’s CEO Essam Bukhary, who is also the executive producer for the film, described the project as “the result of Saudi creative content production in cooperation with high-level international partners.”
Directed by the renowned Shizuno Kobun, the anime film took two-and-a-half years to make as the Saudi and Japanese staff succeeded in creating a blend of each country’s culture.
“Those young men and women worked along with the Japanese team on all the phases of the work, starting from writing the story, designing the characters, backgrounds, storyboard, editing, reviewing and others,” Bukhary told the YaHala TV show on Rotana Khalijia.
He said “The Journey” tells a historical story from the Arabian Peninsula where a potter with a mysterious past, Aws, takes part in an epic battle to defend his city.
Bukhary said the film will be displayed in both Arabic and Japanese.

HIGHLIGHT

Directed by the renowned Shizuno Kobun, the anime film took two-and-a-half years to make as the Saudi and Japanese staff succeeded in creating a blend of each country’s culture.

The film’s promotional video has already received support from Saudi entertainment officials, ministries and young people.
Saudi Royal Court adviser Turki Al-Sheikh, who is also the General Entertainment Authority chairman, tweeted: “I am ready to help with anything I can do.”
In another tweet, the Saudi Media Ministry posted: “The Journey, which will be displayed in the Middle East and North Africa this summer, represents a big cinematic step based on the Saudi Arabian heritage.”
The Japanese Embassy in Riyadh is excited for the film’s debut this summer and also praised both countries for their cooperation on the project.
Khaled Ibrahim, a Saudi digital illustrator, said the Kingdom is full of talented young men and women who just need studios where they can make similar animations and cartoons.
“The work that Manga Production has done, in collaboration with the famous Japanese Toei Animation, is a source of pride to us all,” he told Arab News.
Ibrahim said he was thrilled to hear that the company insisted on giving Saudis the chance to take part in courses on animation making.
“This could become the cornerstone for a new local industry,” he said.


Who’s Who: Muhammad Ali Albakri, IATA senior vice president for customer, financial and digital services

Who’s Who: Muhammad Ali Albakri, IATA senior vice president for customer, financial and digital services
Updated 06 March 2021

Who’s Who: Muhammad Ali Albakri, IATA senior vice president for customer, financial and digital services

Who’s Who: Muhammad Ali Albakri, IATA senior vice president for customer, financial and digital services

Muhammad Ali Albakri has been appointed senior vice president for customer, financial and digital services at the International Air Transport Association (IATA).

Since January 2017, Albakri held the role of regional vice president for the Africa and Middle East region.

Succeeding Aleks Popovich, Albakri is now responsible for IATA’s financial settlement products and services. He will be expected to process more than $450 billion of industry every year.
His responsibilities also include strengthening IATA’s client and customer activities, along with the company’s digital transformation initiatives for the benefit of the aviation industry.
IATA’s Director General and CEO Alexandre de Juniac said Popovich left behind a great team with a clear focus on customer service that will continue to drive critical changes under Albakri’s capable leadership.
The company’s website described Albakri as “an agent of change,” who will transform the MENA team to better serve member needs and pioneer the work of IATA’s digital transformation advisory council.
“Albakri is well prepared to guide the development of IATA’s commercial offerings, settlement services and digital leadership,” de Juniac said in a statement. “In normal times, these are critical functions, even more so in the middle of an industry crisis.”
Albakri previously worked for Saudia, the Kingdom’s national flag carrier, and served as its vice president of information technology. From 2009 to 2016, he was in charge of strengthening the company’s technology infrastructure and modernizing its financial practices. Albakri earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in information sciences from the University of Pittsburgh.


Cinemas, gyms and restaurants to reopen in Saudi Arabia

Cinemas, gyms and restaurants to reopen in Saudi Arabia
Updated 06 March 2021

Cinemas, gyms and restaurants to reopen in Saudi Arabia

Cinemas, gyms and restaurants to reopen in Saudi Arabia
  • All events and parties will continue to be suspended until further notice
  • Social gatherings remain restricted to a maximum of 20 people

RIYADH: Cinemas, gyms and sports centers will be allowed to reopen in Saudi Arabia from Sunday.
Indoor dining can also resume in restaurants and cafes along with other recreational activities, the interior ministry said on Friday.
However, all events and parties will continue to be suspended until further notice. This includes weddings, corporate meetings, events in banquet halls and social events.
Social gatherings remain restricted to a maximum of 20 people.
The Kingdom suspended recreational events on Feb. 3 to halt the spread of COVID-19. The suspension was extended on Feb. 14 for 20 days.
The ministry urged people to adhere to measures to prevent the spread of the coronavirus and said there would be an increase in spot checks to ensure everyone followed the rules.

The Kingdom vs. COVID-19
How Saudi Arabia acted swiftly and coordinated a global response to fight the coronavirus, preventing a far worse crisis at home and around the world
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