ThePlace: Shada mountain in Saudi Arabia’s Al-Baha region

ThePlace: Shada mountain in Saudi Arabia’s Al-Baha region
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Updated 19 December 2020

ThePlace: Shada mountain in Saudi Arabia’s Al-Baha region

ThePlace: Shada mountain in Saudi Arabia’s Al-Baha region
  • Engravings and traces of early civilizations have been found in the caves, giving archeologists and researchers important and priceless information about the past

The Shada mountain range is part of Al-Baha, which is one of the most beautiful cities in Saudi Arabia.
“Shada” means to “rise” or “soar”, so it is a meaning that fits the dense green mountains perfectly. They are the highest peaks in the Kingdom at 2,300 meters.
Jabal Shada, or the Shada mountain formation, dates beyond the Cambrian Period.
The giant granite rocks resting on the very top are what makes this place different from others. In Arabic they are given the name “Nadba,” almost appearing to touch the sky at an altitude of 200 meters.
Visitors may come across peculiar grottos and caves that are the result of erosion that has taken place over the course of centuries.
These caves were created by gases exiting igneous rocks and leaving apertures that coincidentally suited human civilizations and were used as dwellings.
Engravings and traces of early civilizations have been found in the caves, giving archeologists and researchers important and priceless information about the past.
Houses of Jabal Shada Al-Asfal are found at astounding altitudes. They are made of rocks that are extremely difficult to reach due to their location, and are a true piece of Saudi heritage and give valuable insight into the history of the land.


Causing a stir: A generational shift in Saudi relationship with coffee

Saudi barista Sara Al-Ali, a runner-up in the 2016 MENA Cezve/Ibrik coffee-making competition and a World Cezve/Ibrik championship finalist the same year, now owns and runs That coffee shop in her hometown Riyadh. (Supplied)
Saudi barista Sara Al-Ali, a runner-up in the 2016 MENA Cezve/Ibrik coffee-making competition and a World Cezve/Ibrik championship finalist the same year, now owns and runs That coffee shop in her hometown Riyadh. (Supplied)
Updated 18 September 2021

Causing a stir: A generational shift in Saudi relationship with coffee

Saudi barista Sara Al-Ali, a runner-up in the 2016 MENA Cezve/Ibrik coffee-making competition and a World Cezve/Ibrik championship finalist the same year, now owns and runs That coffee shop in her hometown Riyadh. (Supplied)
  • Specialty flavors are fueling billion-dollar cafe growth as the ancient brew gets a modern makeover

JEDDAH: Tea or Arabic coffee? For growing numbers of Saudis, the choice is more likely to be a latte, cappuccino, frappe or macchiato served in one of the many cafes that have popped up around the Kingdom in recent years.

In every region of Saudi Arabia today, coffee is replacing traditional beverages as a central part of the modern lifestyle.
Grabbing an early morning and lunchtime coffee has become a part of office workers’ daily routine, while others visit a cafe to enjoy their favorite cup while sitting and chatting.

FASTFACTS

• Amid growing demand for new cafes and restaurants, official statistics show that investment in the sector has reached SR221 billion ($58.9 billion), with growth rates of about 8 percent expected by the end of the year.

• Meanwhile, as coffee’s popularity soars in the Kingdom, the value of imports has risen to SR1.16 billion annually, or SR3.18 million per day, authorities say. Saudi Arabia imported about 80,000 tons of coffee in 2019-2020.

The global market is feeling the effects of this change in taste as well. According to Wail Olia, trainer and member of the Specialty Coffee Association, Saudi Arabia is among countries where consumers are developing a taste not only for robusta, the beans mainly used in instant coffee, but also the high-quality arabica bean.
Olia told Arab News that Saudi Arabia’s love of coffee goes back to the days of the Ottoman empire when coffee houses in Makkah were used as religious meeting places.
“Later, religious leaders thought that coffee was an intoxicating beverage, so the governor of Makkah ordered all cafes to close,” he said.
“Cafes are the fast-growing segment of the hospitality industry worldwide. Five years ago, in my city neighborhood in Jeddah, I could count the number of cafes on one hand. Now there are so many.”
Olia has studied and trained in Milan and Florence, and is now a certified instructor for the SCA, which allows him to teach young Saudis and share his insights into coffee — something he enjoys immensely.
As more Saudi women enter the private sector, some are deciding to work as baristas and waitresses in coffee shops.

Wail Olia has studied and trained in Milan and Florence, and is now a certified instructor for the SCA, which allows him to teach young Saudis and share his insights into coffee — something he enjoys immensely.

Saudi barista Sara Al-Ali, a runner-up in the 2016 MENA Cezve/Ibrik coffee-making competition and a World Cezve/Ibrik championship finalist the same year, now owns and runs That coffee shop in her hometown Riyadh and is an authorized SCA trainer.
Coffee culture in the Kingdom is changing rapidly, she told Arab News. “Specialty coffee started only recently, but it is catching up surprisingly quickly. More coffee shops are opening. It’s at a high this year and is predicted to grow even more next year,” she said.
“As for me, specialty coffee is a product that follows quality standards at every stage of production.”
Al-Ali said that in Arab societies, coffee is part of an ancient cultural heritage.
“The big demand for coffee among all segments of our society is a healthy phenomenon and a reflection of what the Kingdom is witnessing in terms of development, prosperity and openness to different cultures,” she said.
Many Saudis are looking for innovative coffee flavors and new tastes to complement traditional styles. Al-Ali studied coffee-making in Canada after falling in love with the drink, then went to France to study further.
“It began as a habit, but after I returned to Saudi Arabia I decided to focus on coffee. The moment I made my first espresso, I realized that was what I wanted to do with my life.”
Al-Ali said that she is happy to see many cafes become places for family gatherings, business deals, or to study and even surf the internet.
Meanwhile, the growing taste for coffee in the Kingdom is also highlighting a divide between the generations when it comes to their favorite brew.
According to tea-maker Saleh Al-Husaiki, 53, older people still view Saudi Arabia as a tea-drinking nation.

I can see that the new-style coffee shops have opened side by side across the town, and more young people go to specialty cafes. But lots of people still come to us and enjoy the old tea prepared on fire.

Saleh Al-Husaiki, Tea-maker

Al-Husaiki serves the famous Taifi tea (with mint) and normal dark tea on the street, all brewed on an open coal fire.
“I can see that the new-style coffee shops have opened side by side across the town, and more young people go to specialty cafes. But lots of people still come to us and enjoy the old tea prepared on fire,” he told Arab News.
The older generation is still loyal to traditional hot drinks such as tea, Turkish coffee or espresso, according to Al-Husaiki, who is also a government employee.
“I agree that Saudis’ attitudes to coffee has changed recently with a new generation, but for me and others who belong to the old school, things are still the same — we prefer the Saudi traditional coffee, the regular black tea and the Turkish coffee,” he said.
Mohammed bin Abdul Hakim Al-Saadi, a Saudi businessman and investor in restaurants and cafes, said that the sector has fully recovered from the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, thanks to various support packages provided by the government, which mounted 150 initiatives for the private sector and its workers.
Amid growing demand for new cafes and restaurants, official statistics show that investment in the sector has reached SR221 billion ($58.9 billion), with growth rates of about 8 percent expected by the end of the year.
According to recent statistics, the Ministry of Commerce has received applications for 30,000 licenses to establish cafes in the Kingdom.
Meanwhile, as coffee’s popularity soars in the Kingdom, the value of imports has risen to SR1.16 billion annually, or SR3.18 million per day, authorities say. Saudi Arabia imported about 80,000 tons of coffee in 2019-2020.


Saudi Food and Drug Authority organizes patient awareness seminars

Saudi Food and Drug Authority’s participation in marking this day reflects its eagerness to support public health programs and patient safety. (SPA)
Saudi Food and Drug Authority’s participation in marking this day reflects its eagerness to support public health programs and patient safety. (SPA)
Updated 18 September 2021

Saudi Food and Drug Authority organizes patient awareness seminars

Saudi Food and Drug Authority’s participation in marking this day reflects its eagerness to support public health programs and patient safety. (SPA)
  • The event tackled issues regarding the safe use of medical devices, pharmacological vigilance during pregnancy, preventative measures to reduce the need for medicine

RIYADH: The Kingdom joined the world in celebrating World Patient Safety Day, marked annually on Sept. 17, with the Saudi Food and Drug Authority on Friday organizing a series of seminars that aim to raise patient awareness on matters related to health and safety.
The event tackled issues regarding the safe use of medical devices, pharmacological vigilance during pregnancy, preventative measures to reduce the need for medicine, as well as regulations related to the way information on pregnancy and lactation is written and displayed on product leaflets. The SFDA’s participation in marking this day reflects its eagerness to support public health programs and patient safety. 


Experts discuss ways to end global displacement crises

KSrelief was represented by community support department director, Dr. Hana Omar Salem Omar. (SPA)
KSrelief was represented by community support department director, Dr. Hana Omar Salem Omar. (SPA)
Updated 18 September 2021

Experts discuss ways to end global displacement crises

KSrelief was represented by community support department director, Dr. Hana Omar Salem Omar. (SPA)
  • Speakers from around the world addressed the session — titled “Durable Solutions: Ending Protracted Displacement in a World of Increased Complex Mobility”

RIYADH: The King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Center recently organized a virtual meeting, in partnership with the Kingdom’s permanent delegation to the UN and the International Organization for Migration, to discuss ways to resolve people displacement crises.
Speakers from around the world addressed the session — titled “Durable Solutions: Ending Protracted Displacement in a World of Increased Complex Mobility” — that was held on the sidelines of the 76th gathering of the UN General Assembly in New York.
KSrelief was represented by community support department director, Dr. Hana Omar Salem Omar.

 


Czech Republic hopes to establish ‘strategic partnership’ with Saudi Arabia, Czech FM tells Arab News

Czech Republic hopes to establish ‘strategic partnership’ with Saudi Arabia, Czech FM tells Arab News
Updated 18 September 2021

Czech Republic hopes to establish ‘strategic partnership’ with Saudi Arabia, Czech FM tells Arab News

Czech Republic hopes to establish ‘strategic partnership’ with Saudi Arabia, Czech FM tells Arab News
  • Jakub Kulhanek says his country and KSA have much to offer each other in a number of fields
  • Czech companies see “great potential in delivering knowhow and technologies to” KSA mega-projects

Last week, Jakub Kulhanek, foreign minister of the Czech Republic, paid his first official visit to Saudi Arabia to hold meetings with Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan and Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Adel Al-Jubeir.

In an exclusive interview with Arab News, Kulhanek spoke on the discussions the two sides held on bilateral relations and the means to enhance them, as well as regional and international issues, notably Afghanistan.

“My official visit to Saudi Arabia lasted just some 30 hours, and the only city I visited was Riyadh,” he told Arab News. “For me, there is an obligation to come back once again in the future and enjoy visiting Jeddah, the futuristic megacity of NEOM and other famous places of interest.”

Q. How would you describe your meetings with Saudi officials during your just concluded visit?

A. First of all, I would like to thank the Saudi government and all my counterparts whom I was privileged to meet for their generosity and time they spent on preparing our visit. They set up a wonderful program. We had insightful meetings, and I am confident that we have together managed to take relations between our countries one level higher.

During my meeting with Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan, we reassured each other that our relations are friendly and that the general standing of our countries is in many ways complementary. We have much to offer each other in areas of trade, scientific cooperation, the energy sector, mining and the security industry.

The Kingdom, together with the UAE, belong to our top five trade partners in the Middle East. That is something we can build on, something we are obligated to develop. And that is also the reason why I was accompanied by a trade mission of more than 20 distinguished business people from various industrial fields.

At the same time, our cooperation is not limited only to business. We have a long run tradition of cooperation in the health sector. Many Saudis study at Czech universities. Saudi citizens are frequent fliers when it comes to our spa resorts.

With Prince Faisal, we agreed on the need to revitalize the Czech-Saudi Joint Commission, which has not met since 2011. It is a useful platform bringing together representatives of committed ministries to discuss specific issues of mutual interest.

Czech FM Jakub Kulhanek and his delegation visiting Diriyah heritage site in Riyadh. (Supplied)

Q. Did you discuss political cooperation with Saudi Arabia on regional and development issues?

A. It goes without saying that visiting the Kingdom and meeting its leaders gave me a unique chance to discuss issues of international politics and global issues alike. We agreed, both with Foreign Minister Prince Faisal and Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Adel Al-Jubeir, my fellow Georgetown alumnus, that we want to formalize regular consultations between our foreign affairs ministries. We hope for an establishment of a strategic partnership in the near future.

We also shared with our Saudi hosts the need to intensify contacts at the highest political level. I hope that the foreign minister will come in the near future for a visit to the Czech Republic. I was also glad to hand over an invitation for Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to visit the Czech Republic.

Czech FM Jakub Kulhanek with Saudi Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Adel Al-Jubeir at Diriyah heritage site in Riyadh. (Supplied)

Q. What kind of cross-investment flows do you envisage between the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the Czech Republic?

A. Thank you very much for that question, since I truly believe there is a great potential for bigger Saudi investments. Over the last 30 years, the Czech Republic has attracted many foreign investors, from both portfolio and green foreign direct investments, from Europe, the US and Asia.

So far, the Gulf investors have been slightly lagging behind, though we are already seeing that some of them are starting to discover existing opportunities for investments in Central Europe. Therefore, we plan on organizing an investment forum for representatives of sovereign funds from the Gulf region, at which they will have the chance to meet managers of foremost Czech financial groups.

The Czech-GCC Investment Forum will be held between May 30 and June 4, 2022, shoulder to shoulder with the presidency of the Czech Republic in the Council of the EU in the second half of 2022.

I would like to invite the managers of the Public Investment Fund and other important financial groups in the Kingdom to take part in the event.

FM Jakub Kulhanek wants Saudi investment companies to participate in the Czech-GCC Investment Forum in his country next year.  (Supplied)

Q. Do you see a greater role for Czech technology companies in the Kingdom’s ongoing development projects under Vision 2030? What sectors would these mainly be and what impact would they have?

A. In my opinion, the ambitious Vision 2030, its goals and projects it leans upon, provide Czech companies with numerous opportunities, mostly on subcontracting basis. We are truly interested in facilitating the access of the Czech companies to the tenders floated by Saudi state-owned enterprises. We see a great potential in delivering Czech knowhow, technologies and high-tech products to the government's megaprojects, be it NEOM, the Red Sea Resort, or the Green Riyadh initiative.

We are confident that Saudi enterprises, such as Saudi Aramco, SABIC and many others, would also benefit from it.

Q. Before your departure for the Gulf, you said that the Czech Republic will not recognize the Taliban. Can you kindly elaborate on your statement?

A. I think we have to distinguish carefully between two separate things. The first is communication with the Taliban, who are no doubt the new rulers of the country. It is clear that the EU and NATO will not avoid interacting with them just so that we can provide the Afghan people with the humanitarian aid that they are in dire need of now.

I am not talking about high-level and official contacts, but communication at the working level will have to take place. Another thing is official recognition of the Taliban government; great caution is necessary here. I believe the Taliban are far from fulfilling their promises. The media are informing us how they are behaving in the streets of Afghan cities and what atrocities are being committed.

FM Jakub Kulhanek says Czech companies are also ready to participate in Saudi Arabia's Vision 2030 programs. (AFP file photo)

Q. You have also said your country will accept the unhappy reality “as it is” that the Taliban are “the new masters of Afghanistan.” Can you deal with the Taliban without implicitly granting it recognition?

A. The EU and NATO must be pragmatic and accept the new reality in Afghanistan. Nevertheless, that does not mean that we will resign our effort to put pressure on the Taliban to maintain at least something of what has been achieved in Afghanistan over the past 20 years.

I am talking now, in particular, about the rights of women and girls. So yes, the international community can negotiate with the Taliban over that and, depending on the outcome, maybe the question of official recognition of the Taliban government would become topical in the future.

Q. What leverage does the EU have over the Taliban in your view? Are the Czech Republic and EU positions totally convergent?

A. The position of the Czech Republic is fully in line with EU policy. As you know, just recently EU foreign ministers agreed at their informal meeting in Slovenia that any substantive engagement with the Taliban is only possible if some conditions are met: Respect for human rights, in particular women’s rights, and the establishment of a representative inclusive government, are among them.

Afghan women's rights defenders and civil activists protest in Kabul on Sept. 3, 2021 to call on the Taliban for the preservation of their achievements and education. (REUTERS/File Photo)

I am not convinced that the Taliban would meet them sometime soon. We understand the necessity of keeping the EU’s presence in Kabul but the Czech Republic had to evacuate our diplomats and Afghan facilitators.

Communication with the Taliban is necessary, as we must try to influence the way they will rule the country, at least to prevent humanitarian and migration crises. The Taliban will seek international recognition and resources — that is our main leverage now.

Q. International organizations with offices in Afghanistan have repeatedly warned of an impending humanitarian disaster. There is rising hunger, little cash and very little health care. How can the international community help Afghans?

A. We are aware of the deteriorating humanitarian situation in Afghanistan. An international donors’ conference was held in Geneva last Monday under the auspices of the UN. The international community, including the Czech Republic, has pledged to continue humanitarian aid. The Czech Republic has declared its readiness to increase its contribution to humanitarian and development projects in Afghanistan and neighboring countries.


Saudi ministry reveals 10 million pilgrims have performed Umrah since launch of safety procedures

 Muslim pilgrims, keeping social distance and wearing face masks, perform Tawaf during the annual Hajj pilgrimage, in the holy city of Makkah, Saudi Arabia July 20, 2021. (REUTERS)
Muslim pilgrims, keeping social distance and wearing face masks, perform Tawaf during the annual Hajj pilgrimage, in the holy city of Makkah, Saudi Arabia July 20, 2021. (REUTERS)
Updated 18 September 2021

Saudi ministry reveals 10 million pilgrims have performed Umrah since launch of safety procedures

 Muslim pilgrims, keeping social distance and wearing face masks, perform Tawaf during the annual Hajj pilgrimage, in the holy city of Makkah, Saudi Arabia July 20, 2021. (REUTERS)
  • More than 12,000 visas have been issued since the Kingdom once again began to welcome pilgrims from other countries on Aug. 10 this year

JEDDAH: The Saudi Ministry of Hajj and Umrah has announced that 10 million pilgrims have successfully performed Umrah since Oct. 4 last year, following the launch of its “safe Umrah” procedures and the gradual return of pilgrims to the Two Holy Mosques.

It also revealed that more than 12,000 visas have been issued since the Kingdom once again began to welcome pilgrims from other countries on Aug. 10 this year.
The ministry said it continues to make every effort to protect the health and safety of pilgrims, worshippers and visitors to the mosques, and urged everyone to follow all instructions and adhere to the precautionary measures designed to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
Officials aim to reach a capacity of 3.5 million pilgrims, visitors and worshippers a month. Abdulfattah bin Sulaiman Mashat, the deputy minister of Hajj and Umrah, said the current capacity is 70,000 pilgrims a day.
He added that full vaccination is a prerequisite for the granting of permits to Umrah pilgrims and other worshippers who wish to visit the Grand Mosque and Prophet’s Mosque. The permits are issued through the Tawakkalna application. Health authorities in the Kingdom have approved the use of vaccines for all people over the age of 12 years old.

HIGHLIGHT

Officials aim to reach a capacity of 3.5 million pilgrims, visitors and worshippers a month. Abdulfattah bin Sulaiman Mashat, the deputy minister of Hajj and Umrah, said the current capacity is 70,000 pilgrims a day.

Mashat said that the ministry reopened Umrah for pilgrims from other countries on Aug. 10. A system of procedures, controls and requirements for their arrival, including a recognized certificate confirming immunization with an approved vaccine, was prepared in coordination with all relevant authorities to ensure the safety of all pilgrims, he added.
Saudi authorities said they are continually updating the list of countries from which pilgrims can enter the Kingdom, based on pandemic developments and health indicators, and the minister said the number arriving from other nations is steadily increasing.
International visitors are advised to register their vaccination status on the Muqeem platform 72 hours before traveling to the Kingdom. Pilgrims can also receive assistance from Ministry of Hajj and Umrah care centers.