Majid Al-Hogail, head of KSA’s newly formed Ministry of Municipal and Rural Affairs and Housing

Majid Al-Hogail
Majid Al-Hogail
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Updated 29 January 2021

Majid Al-Hogail, head of KSA’s newly formed Ministry of Municipal and Rural Affairs and Housing

Majid Al-Hogail, head of KSA’s newly formed Ministry of Municipal and Rural Affairs and Housing

Majid Al-Hogail was named minister of the newly formed Ministry of Municipal and Rural Affairs and Housing following a royal order to combine the Housing Ministry and the Ministry of Municipal and Rural Affairs. 

Al-Hogail has been housing minister since July 2015, and chairman of the Real Estate General Authority since January 2017. As housing minister, he has led the effort to implement the affordable housing initiative of Vision 2030. He has also been the acting minister of municipal and rural affairs since February 2020.

Al-Hogail received a bachelor’s degree in accounting from King Saud University in 1985.

He also obtained a master’s degree in business administration from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 1998. 

A year later, he did a US accounting fellowship in New Mexico. He completed an extended development program in management at the International Institute for Management Development in Lausanne, Switzerland, in 2007.

Additionally, he attended a number of training courses, including plans for guaranteeing the foundation’s continuity in emergency cases, financing the agents and activating and integrating the finance administration with the stock market in Saudi Arabia.

He was managing director of the RAFAL Real Estate Development Co. from August 2007, before joining Aljazira Capital in January 2014 as its chairman, leaving both in July 2015.

During the same period, he was a board member of budget airline Flynas. Earlier, he served as deputy finance director at the Saudi Central Bank (SAMA) from 1990 to 1998.

Al-Hogail, who is a member of the board of directors at Qiddiya, NEOM, Amaala, the Red Sea Development Co. and ROSHN, has also been chairman of the Real Estate Development Fund since July 2015, and chairman of the Saudi Real Estate Refinance Co. since August 2017. 


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

Forget the cost. Saudi love affair with oud makes perfect scents
Updated 6 min 32 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.


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 34 min 17 sec ago

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.


Saudi Arabia allows citizens married to foreigners to travel through border points

Saudi Arabia allows citizens married to foreigners to travel through border points
Updated 24 February 2021

Saudi Arabia allows citizens married to foreigners to travel through border points

Saudi Arabia allows citizens married to foreigners to travel through border points
  • Saudis married to non-Saudis will be able to travel with spouses or join spouses abroad

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia has authorized citizens married to foreigners to travel through border points, a measure meant to facilitate their movements while international air travel is suspended because of the pandemic, state TV reported on Wednesday.
“The General Directorate of Passports announced the issuance of the royal decree to enable Saudi women married to non-Saudis to travel, whether accompanied by their husbands or joining their husbands abroad, upon providing proof of marriage certificate to officials at the port of departure,” a statement on Saudi Press Agency said.
The same applies for Saudi men married to non-Saudi women, whether they reside outside of the Kingdom due to work or other circumstances preventing them from coming to the country, the statement added.
The passports authority said that in the event that citizens are not able to provide documents proving their spouse is outside the Kingdom and unable to return, then they can apply for a travel permit via the Absher application.

(With Reuters)


WFP thanks Saudi Arabia for $40m aid package to improve food security in Yemen

WFP thanks Saudi Arabia for $40m aid package to improve food security in Yemen
Updated 24 February 2021

WFP thanks Saudi Arabia for $40m aid package to improve food security in Yemen

WFP thanks Saudi Arabia for $40m aid package to improve food security in Yemen
  • The agreement will benefit more than 2.2 million people and ‘help avert famine In Yemen’

LONDON: The World Food Program (WFP) on Wednesday thanked Saudi Arabia for “providing effective food support” to the Yemeni people through the King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Center (KSrelief).
WFP and KSrelief signed a $40 million joint cooperation agreement on Monday to support food security to the most affected people in Yemen, who “are exposed to all kinds of suffering and deprivation,” said David Beasley, executive director of WFP.
Beasley added that the Kingdom’s donation, through KSrelief, “will undoubtedly help avert famine In Yemen, and will feed at least 2.2 million people.
In a press statement, Beasley expressed his happiness with the existing strategic partnership between the center and the WFP.
“We have a lot of work to do now and in the future, and this agreement will provide us with the tremendous support we need,” he said.
Beasley also said that the coronavirus pandemic has brought many tragedies and economic deterioration across the globe.
“This support will make a big difference because the pandemic has greatly affected vulnerable groups and exacerbated the problem of famine in the world and Yemen is one of the countries that suffers from the most difficult living conditions.”