From US heartland to KSA deserts, how a camel’s beauty attracted one American to an age of tradition

From US heartland to KSA deserts, how a camel’s beauty attracted one American to an age of tradition
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Joseph, known as Hasan Yousef, is an American from Missouri who discovered the depths of the Saudi experience, the camel’s relationship with the desert and the Bedouins’ profound traditions. (Supplied)
From US heartland to KSA deserts, how a camel’s beauty attracted one American to an age of tradition
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From US heartland to KSA deserts, how a camel’s beauty attracted one American to an age of tradition
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From US heartland to KSA deserts, how a camel’s beauty attracted one American to an age of tradition
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Updated 26 December 2020

From US heartland to KSA deserts, how a camel’s beauty attracted one American to an age of tradition

From US heartland to KSA deserts, how a camel’s beauty attracted one American to an age of tradition
  • A Missouri native’s experience reveals how investors fall in love with Saudi culture

MAKKAH: From an investor-in-training to a competitor on the camel festival’s track, one American learned to appreciate one of Saudi Arabia’s oldest heritages.

It did not occur to 32-year-old Joseph, known as Hasan Yousef, an American from Missouri, when he moved to the Kingdom five years ago that he’d be introduced to the inside world of camels.
He developed his interest in camels from the most basic level to appreciating the fervor of camel beauty pageants.
His interest grew so much that he reached the summit of one of Saudi Arabia’s most reputable heritage events, competing for top prizes at the King Abdul Aziz Camel Festival.

HIGHLIGHTS

• Yousef developed his interest in camels from the most basic level to appreciating the fervor of camel beauty pageants.

• His interest grew so much that he reached the summit of one of Saudi Arabia’s most reputable heritage events, competing for top prizes at the King Abdul Aziz Camel Festival.

• He discovered the depths of the Saudi experience, their relationship with the desert and their profound traditions. That defining moment led him to the singles race in the fifth season of the Camel Festival.

• He found himself heading to the desert, traveling for days to discover new camping sites, sitting next to a bonfire, wearing the traditional Saudi thob and drinking camel milk. 

• Yousef was ready to invest $133,000 to find a camel that suited his abilities and aesthetic standards.

• What Yousef achieved ‘represents the deep transfer of Saudi heritage to investors.’

“I moved to Saudi Arabia five years ago and when I later moved to Riyadh, I met up with Faisal Al-Qahtani and a close friend of his Sultan. Faisal being the genuine friend that he is, took the initiative to show me around the Kingdom,” Yousef told Arab News.
“I’m an outgoing person and have visited 40 countries in the past 15 years and when I made up my mind to move to Saudi Arabia, I committed to being active, engaging with the people and learning about the culture, the traditions, cultural values, and norms,” he added.
Visiting Al-Qahtani’s family in the desert, he was introduced to the Bedouin lifestyle, their customs, food and the simplicity of their lives.
“I received a red carpet-style welcome,” he noted.
Yousef was able to familiarize himself with camels for the first time. He discovered the depths of the Saudi experience, their relationship with the desert and their profound traditions. That defining moment led him to the singles race in the fifth season of the Camel Festival.

New hobby
While working in the education sector in the Kingdom, he acquired a new hobby that would occupy his weekends. As a self-described “city guy,” he found himself heading to the desert, traveling for days to discover new camping sites, sitting next to a bonfire, wearing the traditional Saudi thobe and drinking camel milk.
With time, his passion grew to learning more about the beauty of camels. He began to search for a way to adopt that experience in full, and looked for a way to own his own camel and a caravan for it.
“With 2020 being a very challenging year because of the COVID-19 pandemic, I took time to think during the lockdown ‘what should I do once the Kingdom opens up?’ So I started taking online courses at Harvard University and thought I should later apply to get a postgraduate degree in English or international relations.”
But with the prolonged closure, he consulted with his friend Faisal and decided to venture into the world of business in the Kingdom.
Yousef said Faisal suggested participating in the camel federation’s beauty pageant and described it as a “riveting and new experience,” noting that as a foreigner, he’d be welcomed into this new venture as the Kingdom’s leadership has been opening up to the international community.
With the help of his friend, Yousef was ready to invest SR500,000 ($133,000) to find a camel that suited his abilities and aesthetic standards. Faisal took him to Eid Al-Otaibi’s farm to select a camel from the “Tamamiyat” breed. In a field of camels where some can cost millions of riyals, Yousef found his perfect investment.
In his first experience, Faisal said that he should not pay big sums, because he is not totally captivated with the hobby like native Arabs, but that he expected his interest to grow as he explored the field. Al-Qahtani said that what Yousef achieved represents the deep transfer of Saudi heritage to investors.
Their desire goes beyond the principle of buying and selling, he said, adding that foreigners learn to develop a genuine appreciation for Saudi culture.

 


Saudi crown prince undergoes successful appendicitis surgery

Saudi crown prince undergoes successful appendicitis surgery
Updated 6 min 38 sec ago

Saudi crown prince undergoes successful appendicitis surgery

Saudi crown prince undergoes successful appendicitis surgery

LONDON: Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman underwent a successful surgical procedure on Wednesday morning to treat appendicitis at King Faisal Specialist Hospital & Research Centre, Saudi Press Agency (SPA) reported.

The crown prince left the hospital later on Wednesday. 


Forget the cost, Saudi love affair with oud makes perfect scents

Forget the cost, Saudi love affair with oud makes perfect scents
Updated 50 min 21 sec ago

Forget the cost, Saudi love affair with oud makes perfect scents

Forget the cost, Saudi love affair with oud makes perfect scents
  • Fans of traditional fragrance stay loyal despite fast-rising prices

RIYADH: The traditional scent of oud enjoys an enduring popularity among Saudis, but high prices and uncertainty about quality are making many think twice before buying it.

Oud is extracted during winter from trees aged between 70 and 150 years and growing up to 20 meters in height.

These trees generally grow in tropical areas in Asia, especially on mountains and hillsides in India, Cambodia, Vietnam, Indonesia and Malaysia.

Gulf countries are the major importers of oud.

Wood oud emits an enjoyable fragrance when burned. Made of aromatic plants, wood oud has been increasingly mixed with aromatic oils in recent years. In Saudi Arabia, people often put wood oud in an electronic incense burner to deliver the desired fragrance.

Bader Al-Mansuri, a Saudi consumer, said that oud is an important tradition in Saudi society and is used for special social occasions as well as religious events, such as the Friday prayer.

Cambodian oud is the go-to option for most Saudis when shopping for the traditional fragrance, followed by the Morki and Kalamantan.

“My favorite is Cambodian oud, which I have been using for a long time,” Al-Mansuri told Arab News. “It’s part of our family tradition and culture, and my grandparents used it and passed it down to us. Oud has a positive moral impact, and is a sign of generosity and respect when you have visitors.”

Al-Mansuri that he only buys oud from well-known brands and companies.

Hammad Al-Shouraihi, another consumer, is a regular user of oud and buys 2 kg every year at a cost ranging from SR4,500 ($1,200) to SR6,000.

“When the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) emerged, I bought oud off websites instead of going to incense shops,” he said, adding that it is difficult to judge the quality of oud bought online since the buyer cannot test the fragrance.

In addition to Cambodian oud, Al-Shouraihi also enjoys the Morki variety as well as other types with mixed substances.

“Vintage Cambodian oud, which is stored for longer periods, is the best. It is an ideal gift for friends or family members,” he said. “I love all perfumes that have oud fragrance or scent. The pandemic has affected oud purchases due to the way it is used and fears that it can transmit the virus.”

However, Ahmed Al-Mutairi believes the pandemic has had little impact on the oud industry.

He buys 100 gm of liquid oud and quarter a kilo of wood oud, paying about SR5,000 for his purchases every year.

“Some oud vendors on streets demand a high price, but they reduce the price to half after one bargains with them,” Al-Mutair told Arab News.

Hassan Al-Rashdi, a sales officer at Nada Oud Store, said that sales reach 5 kg  some days and 10 kg other days.

“Some people prefer different types of oud qualities,” he added, noting that a kilogram of oud can range between SR500-SR5,000, based on its quality and origin.

Al-Rashdi told Arab News that some Saudis prefer the Kalamantan variety. However, he believes Morki oud is the most popular incense for parties, official events and use in mosques.

Khalid Al-Johani, the owner of an online oud store, agrees that Morki oud is the most popular variety among his clients, followed by Kalamantan and Indian in terms of quality.

According to Al-Johani, Indian liquid oud is preferred by the elderly, though Thai oud is fast gaining in popularity.

“To judge the quality of oud, one should check the scent, weight, color and size,” he said.

“Most people buy oud based on the recommendations of others. But experts always check the quality of oud products inside out and ask about the substances inside and the structure.”

Women often prefer liquid mixtures, while men prefer wood oud, Al-Johani said.

Some people are superstitious and believe that oud can cast out devils and genies, he said. However, people say they feel “relieved” and “in good mood” after they smell incense.

Most sales take place before and during Ramadan as well as Eid Al-Adha holidays, he added.

Zaid Al-Qaoud, chairman of Oud Albaraka, said that sales of oud have plummeted in the past year due to the absence of parties and weddings.

“Sales have fallen by 80 percent compared with the previous years,” he told Arab News. “Demand has also decreased because of coronavirus and many people have turned to social media websites to buy oud.”

Most oud stores can be found in central Riyadh, which has about 400 outlets, he added.

“Indonesian oud is very popular in the Gulf region and is the main source of many types of oud in the market that come with different scents.”

He added that old oud gives a better and more beautiful smell than newer products.

It can be difficult for regular consumers to distinguish a high-quality oud from an inferior product. “People have different tastes for oud, but most of them cannot tell original oud from a false one.”

Al-Qaoud, who has been in the business for 20 years, said that many Europeans in Saudi Arabia understand the quality of oud, recalling a regular French customer who said: “I have never smelled a sweet smell like the Taif roses and oud oil.”

Ayed Al-Falih, who is interested in artefacts, said incense burners are made of a type of wood found in Hail farms, with a price ranging between SR100 and SR500.


Saudi, Somali envoys discuss OIC cooperation

Saudi, Somali envoys discuss OIC cooperation
Updated 24 February 2021

Saudi, Somali envoys discuss OIC cooperation

Saudi, Somali envoys discuss OIC cooperation
  • The envoys discussed ways to enhance their cooperation

JEDDAH: Saleh Hamad Al-Suhaibani, Saudi Arabia’s permanent representative to the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), met with his Somali counterpart Dr. Abdur Razzaq Sead Abdi on Wednesday.

The envoys discussed ways to enhance their cooperation as the OIC aims to serve Islamic causes in the midst of current challenges.

The two sides also discussed areas of joint Islamic action and how to best serve the OIC and its 35 active bodies and institutions. Al-Suhaibani said cooperation and coordination among the organization's bodies are a top priority for Saudi Arabia.

Abdi stressed the importance of lasting peace, stability and development within Somalia. He also praised the Kingdom for the humanitarian support and developmental contributions it provides to the Somali people.


World Bank highlights Saudi progress in women’s legal reforms

The Kingdom’s strong performance comes as a result of a raft of reforms implemented last year to further expand female participation in the economy. (Reuters/File Photo)
The Kingdom’s strong performance comes as a result of a raft of reforms implemented last year to further expand female participation in the economy. (Reuters/File Photo)
Updated 24 February 2021

World Bank highlights Saudi progress in women’s legal reforms

The Kingdom’s strong performance comes as a result of a raft of reforms implemented last year to further expand female participation in the economy. (Reuters/File Photo)
  • The increase in performance was notable in five indicators on which it scored at the top of the scale

JEDDAH: Saudi Arabia continues to make notable progress in women’s economic inclusion and empowerment, according to a World Bank report.

The World Bank Group’s “Women, Business and the Law (WBL)” report, released on Feb. 23, showed that the Kingdom scored higher than last year on a global measure of legal reforms to boost gender equality. 

On a scale of one to 100, Saudi Arabia scored 80 in 2021, up from 70.6 in 2020. 

The increase in performance was notable in five indicators on which it scored at the top of the scale: Mobility, workplace, pay, entrepreneurship and pension.

These scores put Saudi Arabia on a par with many advanced economies with long traditions of women’s legal reforms. 

The Kingdom’s strong performance comes as a result of a raft of reforms implemented last year to further expand female participation in the economy.

Saudi Arabia equalized women’s access to the labor market, lifted restrictions on their employment in sectors previously considered unsafe, and eliminated a ban on women’s night work. 

Last year’s report ranked Saudi Arabia as the world’s top reformer in advancing women’s economic participation for 2019, a recognition of the legislative policies the country established to boost female participation in the workforce, which it aims to increase from an average of just under 20 percent to more than 40 percent as part of Vision 2030.

Commenting on the report, Majid Al-Qasabi, commerce minister and chairman of the National Competitiveness Center, said that the Kingdom’s performance reflects King Salman’s commitment to enabling Saudi women to fully participate in the social and economic development of the country. It also reflects Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s efforts to ensure an effective whole-of-government approach to implementing women’s legal reforms.

Saudi Arabia’s reforms build on changes implemented since the launch of Vision 2030 in 2016, including lifting restrictions on women’s mobility, equalizing access to public services, guaranteeing equal benefits in the labor market, and instituting protections against harassment in the workplace and in public spaces. 

The WBL, a yearly publication by the World Bank Group, assesses women’s legal reforms in 190 countries, using an index with eight indicators: Mobility, pay, parenthood, assets, workplace, marriage, entrepreneurship and pension.


Saudi and Omani foreign ministers meet in Muscat

Saudi and Omani foreign ministers meet in Muscat
Updated 24 February 2021

Saudi and Omani foreign ministers meet in Muscat

Saudi and Omani foreign ministers meet in Muscat
  • The foreign ministers reviewed ways to support trade, investment and tourism opportunities
  • Prince Faisal arrived in Muscat earlier on Wednesday and has left the sultanate

LONDON: Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister met his Omani counterpart during a visit to the Gulf state on Wednesday.
During the meeting, Prince Faisal bin Farhan and Sayyed Badr Al-Busaidi discussed the importance of joint Gulf action within the framework of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) and following up on the results of the AlUla summit hosted by the Kingdom in January.
They also discussed bilateral relations and ways to strengthen cooperation in various fields that would lead to mutual benefits.
The foreign ministers reviewed ways to support trade, investment and tourism opportunities and developing scientific cooperation in the areas of energy, technology, transportation, cybersecurity, health and agriculture.
Prince Faisal arrived in Muscat earlier on Wednesday and has left the sultanate.