Nestled in the heart of dunes, Riyadh Oasis proves to be a huge hit

Nestled in the heart of dunes, Riyadh Oasis proves to be a huge hit
1 / 4
Located about an hour outside of Riyadh, the oasis is like a glittering jewel with soft lamplight and music welcoming guests to its luxurious charms. (Photos by Mohammed Al-Baijan)
Nestled in the heart of dunes, Riyadh Oasis proves to be a huge hit
2 / 4
Photo/Mohammed Al Baijan
Nestled in the heart of dunes, Riyadh Oasis proves to be a huge hit
3 / 4
Photo/Mohammed Al Baijan
Nestled in the heart of dunes, Riyadh Oasis proves to be a huge hit
4 / 4
Photo/Mohammed Al Baijan
Short Url
Updated 02 February 2021

Nestled in the heart of dunes, Riyadh Oasis proves to be a huge hit

Nestled in the heart of dunes, Riyadh Oasis proves to be a huge hit
  • Organizers say reservation numbers have ‘exceeded expectations’ since opening on Jan. 17

RIYADH: Riyadh’s glitzy, upscale desert retreat, Riyadh Oasis, has generated plenty of buzz since opening to the public on Jan. 17. Located about an hour outside of Riyadh, the oasis is nestled in the heart of the dunes like a glittering jewel, with soft lamplight and music welcoming guests to its luxurious charms.

Visitors have given rave reviews to the four restaurants in the oasis.
Latin-American restaurant Amazonico, masquerading as a piece of the rainforest in stark contrast to the surrounding desert; bright white and blue Nammos, the younger but equally fabulous sibling of the original seafood restaurant in sunny Mykonos; Zuma, the exotic Japanese fusion cuisine restaurant in regal blacks and reds, and Emirati cuisine hub Ninive, designed as a replica of a traditional Bedouin tent with its subtle beige and sadu weaving. And right in the middle of the oasis is Saddle, Dubai-based purveyors of the finest coffee and crepes outside of Paris, which offers a cheaper bill and a more relaxed atmosphere.
And according to Adel Al-Rajab, CEO of Seven Entertainment, one of the organizers of Riyadh Oasis and first winner of the General Entertainment Authority’s (GEA) “Ideas of Entertainment” initiative, the retreat has had no trouble drawing in crowds, despite the challenges of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.
Al-Rajab told Arab News that the idea had been in the works since December when it was first presented to GEA Chairman Turki Al-Sheikh as part of the “Ideas of Entertainment” initiative.


Al-Sheikh’s initiative was launched to boost the Kingdom’s entertainment sector as it recovers from the pandemic. Riyadh Oasis is the first of 20 ideas that the chairman has promised to support.
“We wanted to take the experience of the Saudi desert to another level. Initially, we thought of making it just one restaurant, along with a weekend experience, like a concert. But his excellency ended up loving the idea so much, he wanted to make it ten times bigger,” he said.

HIGHLIGHTS

• The retreat is part of the General Entertainment Authority’s ‘Ideas of Entertainment’ initiative.

• The initiative was launched to boost the Kingdom’s entertainment sector as it recovers from the pandemic.

• Riyadh Oasis is the first of 20 ideas that the GEA chairman has promised to support.

“The Oasis today is a destination for people to enjoy the desert, the fine dining at the four world-class restaurants, the cafe, and the concerts on the weekends.”
Al-Rajab revealed that initial plans were to invite between seven to 10 restaurants, which was reduced to four due to the limitations imposed by COVID-19.
“We wanted to stay within the regulations of the Ministry of Health, and that is why we are limiting visitors to such a small number, though the oasis could normally accommodate up to 5,000 easily,” he said.
Al-Rajab said the retreat hopes to accommodate up to 1,500 guests per day, a target that they have been successfully reaching since doors opened.
“To be honest, we are overwhelmed with the numbers, although we thought it might be a bit too far from Riyadh, or a bit too pricey, but we were surprised to find ourselves overbooked, especially during the weekends,” he said.
“We have a lot of repeat clients who are coming back, twice, sometimes three or four times, which shows us how much they love the experience,” he added.
However, considering the 80 km distance between the oasis and Riyadh coupled with the dining prices, Al-Rajab said he realizes that many will find a visit to the retreat well out of their budget.
Restaurant reservations cost up to SR800 ($213) per person. A reservation at the glamps costs SR13,800 on weekdays and SR20,700 on weekends.
“We are planning to work on other experiences that can accommodate more segments of the population. In any industry, whether it is entertainment or tourism, you plan your experience for specific segments, and we are not targeting everyone.
“We cannot offer the retreat to more people because of COVID-19 and the limitations in place. But once things are back to normal, I’m sure a lot of experiences will be open for everyone,” he said.
Al-Rajab added that while the oasis is scheduled to run until March, he would not rule out the possibility of extending the festivities further.
“We will try our best. The weather is a major factor that we can’t play with, but we are considering it and if we get the approval from the GEA, we will go ahead with it,” he said.
He also highlighted the way that the venture’s leadership was supporting the Kingdom’s youth, giving them the ability to think creatively.
“Today we have a world-class experience that has been executed 100 percent by Saudi companies. This is something that makes us proud, and I think it’s an opportunity for any Saudi to think out of the box and be creative, and can do something that makes the Kingdom different,” he said.


Saudi women’s sport grows by leaps and bounds

Saudi women’s sport grows by leaps and bounds
Saudi cyclist Maya Jambi rides her bicycle past the Corniche Mosque in Jeddah on Saturday. The event was held to observe International Women’s Day. (AP)
Updated 8 min 9 sec ago

Saudi women’s sport grows by leaps and bounds

Saudi women’s sport grows by leaps and bounds
  • Our programs today are all about diversity and inclusion, says sports minister

DUBAI: With every passing week, more and more Saudi women are taking major strides across sporting arenas in the Kingdom.
Their progress, slow at first, has become a deluge.
It was only in 2017 that women were allowed inside stadiums to watch football. But November of last year saw the launch of the 24-team Women’s Football League, which was won by Challenge Riyadh.
The first Saudi female referee, Sham Al-Ghamdi, is rising through the ranks. There are Saudi fencers and show jumpers stepping up to compete at levels previously reserved only for men. Boxing is starting to attract Saudi women into the ring. In motorsports there are the likes of rally driver Dania Akeel pushing boundaries. And only last week, during the Formula E season opener at Diriyah, the first Saudi motorsports woman driver, Reema Juffali, announced that she had signed for Douglas Motorsport in the BRDC British F3 Championship.
These are not cosmetic, or isolated, changes, but ones opening doors for the next generation of Saudi female athletes. It is encouraging, as we celebrate International Women’s Day, that genuine progress is being made at grass-roots level upward, and will only increase in the coming weeks, months and years.
Just as important is what is taking place at the highest levels of sporting institutions in Saudi Arabia. Female representation at sporting federations and inside boardrooms has blossomed in line with Vision 2030, slowly banishing outdated notions of women’s place in sports.
“Any change will face some resistance, whether it’s women participating in sports or others,” Saudi Sports Minister Prince Abdul Aziz Turki Al-Faisal said in a recent interview with Arab News. “Our programs today with the Ministry of Sports are all about diversity and inclusion and we had to make sure that everyone is involved in all of our programs. To shed light about certain things and how this has evolved toward positive things, in 2015 we had zero national female teams. Today, we have 23 national teams that are participating in the name of the country.”
“We had 32 federations in 2017, today we have 64 federations; 38 of them have female board members that represent female sports within these federations,” he said. “There’s a lot of changes that have happened within the ecosystem of sports.”
The minister drew attention to the period of time that has seen these changes and said that this had to go hand-in-hand with societal and cultural awakening.

HIGHLIGHTS

• It was only in 2017 that women were allowed inside stadiums to watch football.

• November of last year saw the launch of the 24-team Women’s Football League, which was won by Challenge Riyadh.

• The first Saudi female referee, Sham Al-Ghamdi, is rising through the ranks.

“These things were unheard of in the past and now they are happening and they are finding support from the players and their families,” Prince Abdul Aziz said.
“Things are changing, and things are changing to the positive, and we have to make sure that they change in the right way with the right momentum to make sure that we put the right steps in and for it to be sustainable for the future. We don’t want to do one thing today and regret doing it in the next two or three years.”
To avoid such potential missteps, measures have been taken to ensure the right female representation has been put in place across the Kingdom in recent years.
One of the most prominent has been the appointment of Shaima Saleh Al-Husseini as the managing director of the Saudi Sports for All Federation (SFA) in March 2019. The work that she oversaw in 2020 has proved monumental.
During the lockdowns of 2020, as the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic spread throughout the world, the SFA played a major part in maintaining physical and mental well-being among the homebound Saudi population.
The digital national health and wellness campaign, Baytak Nadeek (Your Home, Your Gym) saw 3.8 million Saudis join in a matter of weeks, while other initiatives such as the Women’s Fitness Festival attracted thousands of participants through social media channels. The latter was staged as part of the SFA’s focus on increasing health and wellness across all segments of Saudi society through education, events, activations and public awareness campaigns.
Crowning a challenging year was the launch of the Women’s Football League (WFL) across Riyadh, Jeddah and Dammam.
“Empowering women comes through positive and proactive programs like the WFL that have been conceptualized to continue to have a lasting impact on health, fitness and wellbeing,” Al-Husseini said. “The SFA, committed to putting women at the forefront of our mission to grow Saudi Arabia’s healthy and active community, continues to engage public and private-sector stakeholders to realize this aim together.”
Such tangible achievements in the field of women’s empowerment stand in stark contrast to some of the scandals taking place elsewhere.
Recent weeks have seen calls for the resignation of Yoshiro Mori, the head of the Tokyo Olympics organizing committee, after he made derogatory remarks about women, saying that they talked too much and that meetings with female board directors would “take a lot of time.”
Such words would be unacceptable in Saudi Arabia today.
Acclaim for the fundamental work being undertaken to include women in sports from grass roots level to boardroom level may have been slow in coming from abroad.
Inside Saudi Arabia, however, the role women are playing is there for all to see and appreciate.

 


Saudi Arabia to introduce skills assessment for labor workers

Saudi Arabia to introduce skills assessment for labor workers
The program will examine all skilled workers in their home country before their arrival in Saudi Arabia. (AFP)
Updated 31 min 21 sec ago

Saudi Arabia to introduce skills assessment for labor workers

Saudi Arabia to introduce skills assessment for labor workers
  • Ministry’s Professional Verification program will start coming into force in July

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s skilled workers are to be assessed to ensure they are qualified for their jobs.

The Ministry of Human Resources and Social Development (HRSD) announced the launch of the “Professional Verification” program on Sunday, in cooperation with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Technical and Vocational Training Corporation.
The minister said on his official Twitter account: “Today (Sunday) we launched the Professional Verification program, to ensure the competence of skilled workers in the Saudi labor market.”
The program aims to verify that all skilled workers in Saudi Arabia have the required skills to perform the occupation they were recruited for, and will include practical and theoretical examinations in the workers’ specialized fields. It will target more than 1,000 professions belonging to 23 fields as per the Saudi Standard Classification of Occupations.
The program, which starts in July, seeks to improve the quality of skilled workers in the Saudi labor market, enhance their productivity, improve the services they provide and reduce the influx of unqualified workers.
The program will examine all skilled workers in their home country before their arrival in the Kingdom, in cooperation with selected international examination centers. It will also examine existing skilled workers in the Kingdom.
HRSD is urging all establishments to begin the verification process by registering on the program’s website — https://svp.qiwa.sa/ — for all their skilled workers, as the verification will gradually be enforced this summer.
Centers interested in becoming licensed to conduct the program’s examination are advised to register in the same link.
Work visas for the targeted jobs will be linked to the skilled workers passing the examination in their home country and will be enforced on a gradual basis in accordance with a roll-out plan developed with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the countries sending labor to the Kingdom. This falls under the ministry’s “Professional Accreditation” system.
The new program has been widely welcomed.

HIGHLIGHT

HRSD is urging all establishments to begin the verification process by registering on the program’s website — https://svp.qiwa.sa/ — for all their skilled workers, as the verification will gradually be enforced this summer.

Ali M. Alhazmi, a member of the Association of Financial Professional (AFP), said the professional verification decision is a long awaited one and will have a positive impact on the labor market.
The labor visa was one of the most expensive on the black market because anyone who holds this visa can work in any profession. The professional verification program will prevent unskilled workers from entering the country because they have harmed the national economy. The workers benefited from the country’s concessions or privileges but did not add anything to the national economy, he said.
Osama Alshammari, a member of the Human Resources Committee at the Riyadh Chamber, said the decision will allow only professional workers to pass the exam and meet the standards of their professions in the labor market. Only professional workers can receive a national professional license to practice their profession.
He said that the decision might create job opportunities in the private sector because some workers might not pass the professional exam.
“The initiative aims to establish a national committee to support technical professions and also to set standards and regulations for governance. The regulations will cover the requirements for issuing licenses to professional workers after they have passed the professional verification exam so that they can practice their professions. This will apply to trainers as well,” he said.
Alshammari added that the program will give Saudi technical professional workers a chance to find jobs in small and medium enterprises such as auto mechanics, electricians, plumbers and general maintenance.
Mohammed Al-Sudais, CEO of Carsdees car rentals, said that it is likely that work quality and efficiency will increase.
Al-Sudais, with more than 20 years’ experience in the private sector, encouraged young Saudis looking for appropriate job opportunities to prepare themselves by joining the professional centers. “These professional centers help in the development of the skills and endogenous capacity, in order to overcome the difficulties and challenges of work and to properly meet the needs of the labor market,” he said.
“The professional vetting process can ensure the quality of the labor market by empowering those who are experienced and specialized, as well as protecting them,” he added.


Saudi Arabia steps up inspection tours for virus violations

Saudi Arabia steps up inspection tours for virus violations
There are 505 cases in intensive care units, as reported by the Ministry of Health on Sunday, an increase of 11 in the past 24 hours. (SPA)
Updated 36 min 44 sec ago

Saudi Arabia steps up inspection tours for virus violations

Saudi Arabia steps up inspection tours for virus violations
  • The highest number of violations was in the Riyadh region with 17,321 breaches, while Jazan had the lowest number of violations with just 191

JEDDAH: Saudi authorities are intensifying their field inspection tours to check for COVID-19 violations following the reopening of commercial establishments, with people being reminded about the importance of sticking to health and safety protocols.
Interior Ministry spokesman Lt. Cl. Talal Al-Shalhoub said on Sunday that special forces from the ministry and other relevant authorities, in cooperation with the private sector, had increased their inspection campaigns across all regions to maintain order and monitor violations by establishments and individuals.
There were 41,590 violations reported in the past week by field inspectors. These varied from not adhering to social distancing measures, to overcrowding and not wearing face masks.
The highest number of violations was in the Riyadh region with 17,321 breaches, while Jazan had the lowest number of violations with just 191.
“Though the number of confirmed (COVID-19) cases has been fluctuating in the past few weeks, this could be an indicator that they might be stabilizing,” Ministry of Health spokesman Dr. Mohammed Al-Abd Al-Aly told the same press conference. “This does not mean we can be careless, these could be the result of the restrictions enforced over the last month.”

FASTFACT

More than 1.33 million COVID-19 vaccine doses have been administered to people in the Kingdom.

The number of critical care patients continues to rise. There are 505 cases in intensive care units, as reported by the Ministry of Health on Sunday, an increase of 11 in the past 24 hours.
There were also 357 new cases reported, raising the Kingdom’s total number of COVID-19 infections to 379,831.
There are currently 2,689 active COVID-19 cases in Saudi Arabia and 370,614 people who have recovered from COVID-19, following 314 new recoveries in the past 24 hours.
Saudi Arabia reported four further deaths, bringing the death toll to 6,528.
More than 1.33 million COVID-19 vaccine doses have been administered to people in the Kingdom.


Attacks on Saudi Arabia’s energy facilities spark global condemnation

Attacks on Saudi Arabia’s energy facilities spark global condemnation
Updated 46 min 32 sec ago

Attacks on Saudi Arabia’s energy facilities spark global condemnation

Attacks on Saudi Arabia’s energy facilities spark global condemnation
  • GCC chief says 'terrorist attack' targeted global energy nerve center
  • US senator blames attacks on and Iran emboldened by Biden's softer approach

RIYADH: The attacks on oil facilities in eastern Saudi Arabia drew regional and internal condemnation on Sunday.

The Kingdom said the drone attack on Ras Tanura Port and attempted missile strike on an Aramco residential area had targeted global energy supplies. Ras Tanura is one of the world’s largest oil shipping ports and the Aramco complex in Dhahran houses workers and their families from all over the world. 

GCC Secretary-General Nayef Al-Hajjraf  said: “These terrorist attacks do not only target the security and economic capabilities of the Kingdom, but also the nerve center of the global economy and oil supplies, as well as global energy security.”

He said the Gulf states stand with the Kingdom, adding that the bloc supports Saudi Arabia in all necessary measures it takes to protect its national capabilities

Bahrain also strongly condemned the attacks, saying they were a violation of international laws.

In Washington, Bill Hagerty, a Republican senator who sits on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said President Joe Biden’s approach to Iran had emboldened the regime to launch more attacks through it proxies on Saudi Arabia.

“Yet another missile strike against Saudi Arabia today with all the hallmarks of an Iranian-backed attack,” he said. “It seems (President) Biden’s desire to give Tehran sanctions relief is emboldening the mullahs to escalate their aggression against us and our allies.”

Djibouti President Ismail Omar Guelleh expressed solidarity with the Kingdom.

He also called on the international community to put an end to this terrorism that threatens international security and stability.


Saudi Culture Ministry achieves gender balance with women in key roles

Saudi Culture Ministry achieves gender balance with women in key roles
Updated 08 March 2021

Saudi Culture Ministry achieves gender balance with women in key roles

Saudi Culture Ministry achieves gender balance with women in key roles
  • Culture Minister Prince Badr bin Abdullah bin Farhan Al-Saud is eager to propel women forward as leaders

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Culture has reached a new gender balance of 50 percent in the workplace with many female employees holding top positions.

Dur Kattan, the general director of the deputyship of communication and media, outlined the Ministry of Culture’s mission of empowerment aligned with Vision 2030.

She said that Vision 2030 sought to “empower everyone; men and women. I am lucky to live in these supportive, inspiring and motivational circumstances, with men and women of my generation.”

Over the past two years, the ministry has been exploring new ways to empower Saudi women, not only by offering employment opportunities but also by providing skill development and professional training, and ensuring equal opportunities without gender bias.

Since the launch of Vision 2030, women’s overall presence in the workplace has increased by 35 percent in the Kingdom with a 38 percent rise in the public sector and a 32 percent increase in private-sector jobs.

The ministry’s top positions are occupied by women such as CEOs, managing directors and operational managers. The ministry has made progressive changes over the years to ensure it complies with Vision 2030 plans to empower and create leaders across the Kingdom without gender discrimination.

Some of the female leaders in the Ministry of Culture include Dr. Sumaya Al-Sulaiman, CEO of the Architecture and Design Commission; Noha Kattan, general director of the deputyship of national partnerships and development; Dina Amin, CEO of the Visual Arts Commission; Mayada Badr, CEO of the Culinary Arts Commission; Razan Al-Ayed, general manager of delivery and project management; and Felwa Al-Bazai, general manager of planning and performance.

The ministry, under the leadership of Culture Minister Prince Badr bin Abdullah bin Farhan Al-Saud, is eager to propel women forward as leaders in the cultural sector.

Dr. Sumaya Al-Sulaiman believes that women have an important role to play in spreading the cultural values of the Kingdom.

“I think that women empowerment is very important,” she said. “Women must have their space and voice and disseminate their own culture, as individuals or as members of the female community, and women have an influential presence in the Saudi cultural scene.”

The Ministry of Culture gave its leading members an opportunity to reach their full potential and embraces all skill sets and innovative ideas regardless of gender.

“A person’s capabilities and qualifications do not depend on the sex,” Razan Al-Ayed said. “They depend on competency primarily, which does not conflict with the importance of empowering women and enhancing their participation in various areas,” she said.

Aligned with Vision 2030’s initiative, the ministry believes in equal wages and equal job opportunities across all of its divisions, creating a work environment that supports and creates successful and ambitious leaders.

The ministry encourages diversity in employment and leadership positions because it develops an environment of innovative and differentiated thinking.

Dur Kattan said: “In general, intellectual people or cultural practitioners — men or women — have the responsibility to provide their personal insight, which adds a different dimension to the Saudi cultural scene.”

“In accordance with this benchmark, any leader is required to work on creating a homogeneous work system that functions automatically to achieve what is required, without being conditioned by the presence or absence of the leader,” she said.

Diversification and support toward leaders of the new generation in the cultural sector provides new ways of achieving tasks while further enriching the Kingdom in the traditional culture.

Vision 2030’s mission is not only to empower women but to create work environments where diverse thinking and backgrounds can sprout innovation and creative development.

Noha Kattan believes that the Ministry of Culture creates a work environment that gives women and men the ability to shine, and provides them with the key elements of success and empowerment.

Kattan stressed the importance of equality in leadership for both men and women.

“The male or female leader’s mission is to manage the team efficiently, in order to achieve the goals,” she said. “If we look at the level of accomplishment at the Ministry of Culture in the last two years alone (since the launching of its activity) and see how women are essential partners in all that has been achieved, it is possible to say that betting on women empowerment is very gainful and that women’s partnership with men guarantees excellence for our country in all areas.”

The Ministry of Culture has continuously improved its initiatives to further develop the Kingdom’s job market, aligned with Vision 2030 for both men and women.

Mayada Badr said: “This piece of advice is also directed at men and everyone. Trust your capabilities in achieving your dreams.”