Saudi residents unperturbed by ‘expected’ flight ban reinstatement

Saudi residents unperturbed by ‘expected’ flight ban reinstatement
The Kingdom has suspended all international flights and passengers arriving or passing through countries where the new variant of the coronavirus appeared in the past three months must isolate at home for two weeks and take a PCR test every five days while in isolation. (AFP/File)
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Updated 22 December 2020

Saudi residents unperturbed by ‘expected’ flight ban reinstatement

Saudi residents unperturbed by ‘expected’ flight ban reinstatement
  • The minister affirmed that there is no evidence to suggest that the new variant is more dangerous or would neutralize the effectiveness of the vaccines

JEDDAH: As the news broke, just before midnight on Sunday about the reinitiating of a weeklong ban on international flights to and from the Kingdom, residents and expatriates expressed full confidence in government’s measures taken to protect them from any harm.

“What do we have to lose,” Maysa Ahmed, a private sector worker in the Eastern Province told Arab News, “we’re not going anywhere and it’s better to be safe than sorry.”

News of a new variant of COVID-19 found in the UK has caused major concern for health officials around the world, prompting Saudi officials along with over 30 countries to close their borders for inbound and outbound flights from Britain. The Kingdom has shut its land and sea borders and suspended commercial flights for a week. Foreign flights already in the country are allowed to leave, according to the Interior Ministry.

According to an official source at the ministry, until medical information about the nature of this virus becomes clear, the Kingdom has suspended all international flights and passengers arriving or passing through countries where the strain appeared in the past three months must isolate at home for two weeks and take a PCR test every five days while in isolation.

“We’re closely monitoring and studying the new COVID-19 variant and the leadership has taken all precautionary measures to ban international flights to assess the situation and understand more about this new variant,” said Saudi minister of health Dr. Tawfiq Al-Rabiah.

The minister also affirmed that there is no evidence to suggest that the new variant is more dangerous or would neutralize the effectiveness of the vaccines.

Health Ministry spokesman Dr. Mohammed Al-Abd Al-Aly has also refuted claims that a case of the COVID-19 variant has been reported in the Kingdom. There have not been any cases of the new virus (mutant strain), he said adding that studies are still being conducted to monitor and examine the genetic sequencing of the virus.

Dr. Abdullah Asiri, assistant deputy minister for preventive medicine, also ruled out imposition of any curfew or lockdown in the wake of the virus’ mutation.

Our government is undoubtedly doing everything it can to protect its people and the country.

Raneem Ghurab

In a tweet, the Saudi Arabian Cultural Mission in the US has called on all Saudi scholarship students who had flights to return home to remain in their residences until the suspension has been lifted and to reschedule their flights accordingly while abiding by the precautionary measures from their local authorities.

Saudi citizens who were set to fly home on Sunday evening from London were removed from their scheduled flights as soon as the news broke and were provided free accommodation in a hotel, with several students praising members of the Saudi Embassy who took care of them from the minute they left the plane until reaching their rooms.

The news of the suspension did not surprise or shock many, with a heightened awareness of the pandemic still common among citizens.

Saudi 27-year-old dentist Raneem Ghurab expected the flight ban. She told Arab News that she understood the reasons behind the move, adding: “I found the news to be expected because the COVID-19 pandemic does not have a specific time frame, we are still trying out the vaccine, we remain to see new cases being reported every day with a second wave in some countries in the world.”

She added: “Our government is undoubtedly doing everything it can to protect its people and the country.”

Sharing the same sentiment, 28-year-old computer programmer Saif Miswadeh from Jordan had planned on traveling to his home country over the new year to visit his family but halted all plans with the closing of the borders.

Assessment of how quickly the variant mutant strain of the COVID-19 spreads is still under study.

Dr. Tawfiq Al-Rabiah, Saudi health minister

“I understand this precautionary measure is for the safety of our loved ones,” Miswadeh told Arab News, applauding the Saudi government for its quick efforts to contain the spread of the virus.

“They acted quickly to the emergency, and I feel at ease thanks to the government’s and health care workers’ efforts. Numbers have significantly reduced and everyone in the Kingdom knows they are in good hands.”


King Salman directs SR 1.9 billion to be paid to social security beneficiaries

King Salman directs SR 1.9 billion to be paid to social security beneficiaries
Updated 20 April 2021

King Salman directs SR 1.9 billion to be paid to social security beneficiaries

King Salman directs SR 1.9 billion to be paid to social security beneficiaries

RIYADH: King Salman has authorized SR 1.9 billion to be paid to Saudis who receive social security benefits, Al Ekhbariya reported early Tuesday.
Ahmed Suleiman Al-Rajhi, the minister of human resources and social development, welcomed the king’s generous support to citizens during the holy month of Ramadan. 
The announcement came as Saudis prepare to fast for the eight day.


Saudi deputy defense minister receives British PM's envoy

Saudi deputy defense minister receives British PM's envoy
Updated 20 April 2021

Saudi deputy defense minister receives British PM's envoy

Saudi deputy defense minister receives British PM's envoy

Saudi Arabia's deputy defense minister Prince Khalid bin Salman recieved special envoy to UK’s PM for the Arabian Gulf, Edward Lister.
They reviewed the “strong cooperation between our two friendly countries, especially in the defense,” Prince Khalid tweeted early on Tuesday.
“We reemphasized the importance of our partnership in preserving regional stability&security,” he added.


Saudi authorities intensify efforts to curb virus

Saudi authorities intensify efforts to curb virus
The Presidency of the Two Holy Mosques has launched a new initiative to transport the elderly and people with disabilities using golf carts within the Grand Mosque in Makkah. (SPA)
Updated 20 April 2021

Saudi authorities intensify efforts to curb virus

Saudi authorities intensify efforts to curb virus
  • 970 new cases reported amid crackdown on violators

RIYADH: Amid a rise in the daily tally of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) cases in the Kingdom, authorities have expedited their efforts to ensure compliance with health precautions.

The Ministry of Health on Monday announced 970 new cases in the Kingdom with the Riyadh region on top with 438 infections.
The Makkah region followed with 227, the Eastern Province reported 131, and the Madinah region reported 37 new cases. The regions with the lowest number of cases are Najran (8), Al-Jouf (4), and Al-Baha (3).
The total number of cases in the Kingdom has gone up to 405,940 now. With 896 new recoveries, the number of people who recovered from the disease has risen to 389,598 since the beginning of the outbreak.
The ministry also reported 11 new deaths due to COVID-19.
The number of active cases in the Kingdom currently stands at 9,508 with 1,087 of those cases in critical condition. According to Health Ministry spokesman Dr. Mohammad Al-Abd Al-Aly, over half of those cases are people above the age of 60.
The Kingdom is vaccinating its population against COVID-19 at a rate of approximately 1.44/second, or 124,661 each day. Currently, over 7 million vaccines have been administered, with the number standing at 7,280,904.

HIGHLIGHTS

• The number of active cases in the Kingdom currently stands at 9,50 8.

• The ministry also reported 11 new deaths due to COVID-19.

• The Riyadh region reported the highest number of cases on Monday.

The Ministry of Islamic Affairs on Monday said that in the last 11 weeks, its special teams carried out more than 230,000 inspection tours to various mosques in the Kingdom to ensure that safety measures are followed.
It said a total of 143 violations were detected and necessary actions were taken to address the issue and penalize the violators.
Taif municipality also reportedly carried out over 2,600 inspection tours of commercial establishments during Ramadan. The municipality’s field teams targeted locations projected to see high activity during Ramadan, such as restaurants, bakeries, buffets, and Arabic sweets shops.
Meanwhile, field teams in Jeddah also cracked down on violators, closing 36 locations for failing to adhere to anti-COVID guidelines. Jeddah municipality announced that its teams had carried out 4,049 field trips in 19 sub-municipalities and 15 governorate municipalities. Similarly, in Tabuk, 58 commercial establishments were closed for not implementing anti-virus measures.


Future Women Society seeks to empower Saudi women in the sciences

Future Women Society seeks to empower Saudi women in the sciences
The society aims to raise awareness about women’s role in society, and strengthen their capabilities in all fields. (SPA)
Updated 20 April 2021

Future Women Society seeks to empower Saudi women in the sciences

Future Women Society seeks to empower Saudi women in the sciences
  • The FWS is working on building its own financial model to achieve financial sustainability that relies on inventing knowledge-based products generating a capital for investment

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s Future Women Society (FWS) has launched a research, innovation and development unit to further empower women in various scientific disciplines.
Despite female advances in business, technology and the arts, the role of women in science still remains low. Many educational institutions, societies and organizations in the Kingdom are pushing for greater female inclusion in STEM, as one of Vision 2030’s strategic and fundamental goals.
Dr. Gareebah Al-Twaiher, chairperson of the FWS, stressed the importance of raising awareness of the key role women play in research and the need to help them continue to progress.
“It is an established fact around the world that scientific research is (a) long-term investment and the cornerstone of developing any economy that is built on innovation,” she said.
“It is the basis of creating new sciences and achieving sustainable economic growth, as well as enhancing international competition and creating new industries.

FASTFACTS

• The FWS was founded in October 2020 under the supervision of the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Development.

• The society aims to raise awareness about women’s role in society, and strengthen their capabilities in all fields.

“We have focused on the optimal investment of knowledge, human and financial resources to achieve a holistic and sustainable economic value and growth. The FWS is working on building its own financial model to achieve financial sustainability that relies on inventing knowledge-based products generating a capital for investment.”
Scientific research in Saudi Arabia has taken great strides over the past few years, and helped the Kingdom move to the forefront in many areas regionally and globally, she pointed out.
The FWS was founded in October 2020 under the supervision of the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Development. The society aims to raise awareness about women’s role in society, and strengthen their capabilities in all fields.


Exploring the traditional flavors of Ramadan in Saudi Arabia

Exploring the traditional flavors of Ramadan in Saudi Arabia
Ramadan is not only a month of prayers, as Muslims make special arrangements to celebrate the holy month by preparing special foods and decorating their surroundings. (Shutterstock/SPA)
Updated 20 April 2021

Exploring the traditional flavors of Ramadan in Saudi Arabia

Exploring the traditional flavors of Ramadan in Saudi Arabia
  • Decorations are also becoming an integral part of preparations for the holy month in Saudi Arabia

JEDDAH: Ramadan is a special time for Muslims to get together with family and loved ones. These gatherings in Saudi culture result in a diverse menu of delicious dishes, with many being made exclusively during the holy month.

Muslims worldwide fast from dawn to sunset. Therefore, among all the aspects of local culture, food-related traditions are the most significant, distinguished and diverse. However, there are also shared meals and components of the Saudi iftar table featured in the holy month across the Kingdom.
Dates are an essential dish that Muslims use to break their fasts, following in the tradition of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). For Saudis, an assortment of dates is normally consumed, along with Arabic coffee, soup, and fried or baked stuffed pastry (samboosa and other dishes). For sugar-hungry people, the soft drink Vimto is often the go-to liquid to quench thirst.
To top it off, Arabian deserts most commonly found on Saudi tables include kunafa (a sugar-soaked pastry stuffed with cheese or cream) and logaimat (small round balls of fried dough covered in sweet syrup), while qatayef, pancakes filled with cream or nuts, are the cherry on top.
Despite these common foods, each region in the Kingdom favors specific dishes. In the central region, hanini is what many Najdis place on their tables when breaking their fasts. The porridge-like dish is made of dates, wheat flour, ghee and sugar. You will also find jarish, another famous savory dish made from ground wheat, lamb stew and vegetables, with a side of whole-wheat mini pancake-like discs known as matazeez and margoog.
In the western region of the Kingdom, there is the signature dish of foul and tamees, which is a combination of fava bean stew and tamees bread, a soft, tender creation baked in traditional open ovens believed to have originated in Afghanistan. The region’s signature drink is sobia, a thirst-quenching Ramadan brew made from wheat and malt flours.
In the Eastern Province, you will most likely break your fast with a meat and vegetable stew known as saloona. It is served with a side of balaleet, made either sweet or savory from flavored vermicelli noodles and topped with a layer of eggs. The province’s desert of choice is sago, which is made from a form of starch taken from the pith of the sago palm.

HIGHLIGHTS

• Dates are an essential dish that Muslims use to break their fasts.

• Arabian deserts most commonly found on Saudi tables include kunafa and logaimat, while qatayef, pancakes filled with cream or nuts, are the cherry on top.

• Despite these common foods, each region in the Kingdom favors specific dishes.

Though it might seem that food is the focus of Ramadan, many special traditions significant to the holy month are also celebrated across the Kingdom.
“Although we have a very diverse cuisine, I think the components of our Ramadan table are similar, as most popular dishes in this month are rich in carbs, protein, and fat, but they’re also easy to eat with little effort,” traditional food enthusiast Lujain Ahmad told Arab News.
She added: “Our Ramadan table also welcomes new dishes and drinks every year thanks to the influence of social media, which always brings us trends with new meals and dessert recipes, as well as presentation ideas”
Ramadan fashion and decorations are also another way to celebrate the holy month, and are becoming an integral part of preparations for families in Saudi Arabia.
Popular Ramadan lanterns and accessories painted with colorful traditional red-themed patterns also provide an oriental theme to celebrations in the Kingdom.
Ramadan attire is traditionally modest. It is a month in which many women opt for long dresses, such as the jallabiya, which has evolved in recent years through designs inspired by patterns from across the Arab and Muslim worlds.

Old and new traditions are beautiful, and give a special taste to the holy month.

Manal Saleh

The growing popularity of these dresses has created a lucrative market for local fashion designers, markets and social media platforms.
“Although I’m not that old, I can say for sure that these are newly adopted Ramadan traditions, which were not as popular 10 years ago,” Manal Saleh from Jeddah told Arab News.
She added that social media has had a major influence on people’s behaviors and Saudi culture, even in relation to religious events and practices. “New practices adopted through social media trends are increasingly becoming more important and even powerful enough to replace inherited traditions.”
However, she said that both old and new traditions are “beautiful, and give a special taste to the holy month.”
Modern life means that regional differences are in decline, while people increasingly live similar lives and become more interested in following trends and imitating one another.
“We are acting alike, and we like it. There is no problem with that. It gives a beautiful sense of unity on the national and regional level,” Lama Sharif told Arab News.
This year’s Ramadan will not include many popular traditions due to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.
Saudi mosques used to hold daily iftar gatherings for expat workers and the poor, usually paid for by local residents or wealthy donors. The same used to happen at the Two Holy Mosques. But this tradition stopped in 2020 and has not returned this year due to the ongoing pandemic.
Other charitable activities have also been halted. Some Saudis used to prepare small iftar meals and cold water for free distribution around sunset, when people stop at traffic lights and may miss out on breaking their fast on time. These activities were carried out by young men and women, families, or volunteering groups on the main roads of the Kingdom’s cities, but have since stopped.
Saudi families also used to exchange and share dishes with neighbors, a well-known practice across Saudi Arabia. No dishes ever returned empty, but the pandemic has halted this tradition, too.
“As young kids, we used to prepare iftar meals as a family and distribute them among pilgrims in the mosque yards. That was a beautiful experience I’ll always cherish,” said Sharif.
“The pandemic has deprived us of many beautiful social traditions, not to mention prayers and warm gatherings at mosques. I’m glad we are having a real Ramadan this year, but we miss so many things, and I’m afraid they may never come back,” she added.