Not even COVID-19 can dampen Saudis’ passion for Valentine’s Day

Saudis in major cities are buying extravagant gifts, flowers, cheesy balloons and even the cliched teddy bears for that special person. (AN photo by Hameed Al-Harbi)
Saudis in major cities are buying extravagant gifts, flowers, cheesy balloons and even the cliched teddy bears for that special person. (AN photo by Hameed Al-Harbi)
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Updated 16 February 2021

Not even COVID-19 can dampen Saudis’ passion for Valentine’s Day

Not even COVID-19 can dampen Saudis’ passion for Valentine’s Day
  • Love is in the air … as well as the flower shops, chocolate stores and restaurants

RIYADH: There may have been less romance and more coronavirus in the air for the past year, but Saudi couples are undeterred — it’s Valentine’s Day, and they’re going for it big time.

Flower shops, chocolate stores and restaurants, even with food available only for delivery, report booming business as love conquers all.

Khalid Omar, 28, who set up Dream Flowers in Jubail Industrial City in 2017, has doubled his sales in the past four days. And not a moment too soon, after the damage caused by the coronavirus lockdown, with the shop closed for three months in 2020.

“The COVID-19 pandemic hindered all local business projects for everyone,” he told Arab News. “With the lockdown, we did not receive so many customers. Production stopped during the lockdown because we could not import fresh flowers twice a week. This affected us greatly.

“Days such as Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Teacher’s Day and so forth have a positive impact on sales. We increased our profit in just four days. This is our season.”

With in-restaurant dining strictly forbidden, the time-honored tradition of eating out with your partner on Valentine’s Day is off the menu this year — but enterprising restaurants are offering special deliveries of a romantic meal for two.

The popular Japanese hotspot Kampai has a Valentine’s Day box of sushi rolls and salmon sashimi, complete with a red rose and a bottle of non-alcoholic Merlot to share with your significant other, while Casper and Gambini’s will supply a heart-shaped cake in chocolate or red velvet.

Meanwhile, Saudis have been telling Arab News what their ideal Valentine’s gift would look like. “There is nothing I would love more than a cake and a card from my children so my wife and I can celebrate with them,” said Mohammed Al-Qahtani.

Hafsa Ayub said: “A box of chocolates. I don’t care if it’s a cliché, because I still like receiving them.”

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How Saudi Arabia acted swiftly and coordinated a global response to fight the coronavirus, preventing a far worse crisis at home and around the world

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US mission to Saudi Arabia to reopen routine visa services

US mission to Saudi Arabia to reopen routine visa services
Updated 01 March 2021

US mission to Saudi Arabia to reopen routine visa services

US mission to Saudi Arabia to reopen routine visa services

DUBAI: The US mission to Saudi Arabia announced on Monday the reopening of routine nonimmigrant visa services in limited numbers at its embassy in Riyadh and consulates general in Jeddah and Dhahran.

“We continue to implement safeguards to keep staff and customers safe. Due to these measures, visa appointments are extremely limited and subject to change,” a statement from the embassy said.

The consular sections advised applicants to schedule appointments “only when they have made tentative travel plans but prior to final purchase of travel.”

Mission consular sections said they will continue to prioritize US citizen services, immigrant visas, students, and emergency non-immigrant visas.


Picture perfect: Saudi Arabia’s ancient beauty finds a new audience

Picture perfect: Saudi Arabia’s ancient beauty finds a new audience
Photographers now use drones to reach places that once were too dangerous or remote, and the resulting images shed new light on the power of photography and the beauty of landscapes. (Photos: Instgram/ @mysloppyadventures)
Updated 01 March 2021

Picture perfect: Saudi Arabia’s ancient beauty finds a new audience

Picture perfect: Saudi Arabia’s ancient beauty finds a new audience
  • Online platforms have become a melting pot of images taken by photographers who travel the country

JEDDAH: A new generation of Saudi photographers is relying on the power of social media to showcase the Kingdom’s vast beauty.

Online platforms have become a melting pot of images taken by photographers who travel the country — from the sandy beaches of the east and west, to the mountains of the north and south, and the green oases of the deserts — discovering the beauty of each region one picture at a time.

Fahad Al-Mutairi, 22, started @thesaudigate on Twitter to promote Saudi Arabia’s “hidden wonders” to a growing tourist market.

“I wanted to be part of the future somehow — that’s why I started Saudi Gate and this is what has motivated me to go on,” he told Arab News.

Many other photographers who travel the country share the same outlook.

Faisal Fahad Binzarah, 41, said: “I had to work on a few projects and went to places I had never been before. I remember thinking, where has this been all my life? I never thought I would find such gems in Saudi Arabia.”

Binzarah said that he looks for dramatic landscapes and tries to “capture the overall feeling of the place.”

He said: “The pictures I take are not unique, the uniqueness comes from the places. I am just the conveyer of the beauty and nothing else.

HIGHLIGHTS

• Fahad Al-Mutairi, 22, started @thesaudigate on Twitter to promote Saudi Arabia’s ‘hidden wonders’ to a growing tourist market.

• Al-Mutairi said that about a third of @thesaudigate’s followers are international, and they are usually surprised by what they see.

“As a photographer, I try to capture the right objects at the right time, but often I feel like the beauty is not represented,” he said.

Al-Mutairi said that about a third of @thesaudigate’s followers are international, and they are usually surprised by what they see.

“Often they are amazed but also very happy because after going through the pictures they know that there is a part of the world that they must explore.”

Hadi Farah, 28, a Lebanese photographer who now lives in the Kingdom, said that he had traveled widely in Saudi Arabia and “always felt a sense of welcome and ease.”

“I think tourism is directly influenced by photographers. Whenever I upload something, I receive questions with people asking if this is really in Saudi Arabia or have I accidentally put the wrong name.

“Unfortunately, people think that it is just a desert and nothing else. So by posting pictures of these places we are educating them about possibilities and attractions they thought never existed,” he said.

Binzarah agreed, saying: “Undiscovered places are of interest for professional photographers, because they are always looking for challenges, and I think this ignites their interests to go to these places and explore.”

he added that “while the desert might be nothing new to a Saudi resident, it will be of interest to people who live in greener countries.”

Saudi Arabia, as a land of ancient civilizations, is extremely appealing for archaeologists and tourists interested in history, Binzara said.

Farah described the beauty of nature in different places, saying: “We associate beauty with life, and in our minds where there is green there is life, but we forget that there is also life in rocks and sand, and they are rich in history. So, we need to keep in mind that the beauty of AlUla is different from other areas.”

Technology is also having a major influence. Photographers now use drones to reach places that once were too dangerous or remote, and the resulting images shed new light on the power of photography and the beauty of landscapes.

“Being on social media gives us the drive to do better,” Binzarah said. “If there is no community or people to engage with, it gets dull.”

He added: “It is a personal journey and one for everyone to discover Saudi Arabia one picture at a time.”

 


Al-Rabeeah, EU envoy discuss relief efforts

Al-Rabeeah, EU envoy discuss relief efforts
Dr. Abdullah Al-Rabeeah. (SPA)
Updated 01 March 2021

Al-Rabeeah, EU envoy discuss relief efforts

Al-Rabeeah, EU envoy discuss relief efforts
  • Simonnet praised KSrelief’s professional mechanisms, its preparation and coordination of humanitarian and relief programs, and its support for the needy around the world

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s humanitarian efforts have been hailed as “professional” in a meeting between the head of KSrelief and the EU’s ambassador to the Kingdom.
Dr. Abdullah Al-Rabeeah, supervisor general of the King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Center (KSrelief), met Patrick Simonnet, head of the EU delegation to Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Oman.
During the talks in Riyadh, the two discussed issues of mutual interest related to relief and humanitarian affairs.
Simonnet praised KSrelief’s professional mechanisms, its preparation and coordination of humanitarian and relief programs, and its support for the needy around the world.
KSrelief has implemented 1,536 projects worth almost $5 billion across 59 countries.
According to a recent report, the countries and territories that have benefited the most from the projects include Yemen ($3.47 billion), Palestine ($363 million), Syria ($304 million) and Somalia ($202 million).


Family affair: Saudi siblings inherit father’s law legacy

Family affair: Saudi siblings inherit father’s law legacy
Having seen their father work while growing up, the three eldest children, Osama, Jawaher and Haya, are all now practicing lawyers. (Supplied)
Updated 01 March 2021

Family affair: Saudi siblings inherit father’s law legacy

Family affair: Saudi siblings inherit father’s law legacy
  • Veteran lawyer Musaad Al-Saleh feels ‘sense of pride’ over children’s path

MAKKAH: Law firms in Saudi Arabia are very much a dime a dozen, but one law firm in Tabuk is showing their power through family unity.

Following one career path, three young lawyers are following their father’s footsteps in the legal profession.

Musaad Al-Saleh, 50, told Arab News that his children chose the profession without any pressure because they saw a career that meets their abilities, adding that they will be “a family that will be difficult to approach.”

Having seen their father work while growing up, the three eldest children, 29-year-old Osama, 25-year-old Jawaher and 23-year-old Haya, are all now practicing lawyers.

“It’s common to find families that inherit the medical, business, trade, carpentry and other professions. Women did not enter the legal profession until recently, and the first license for a woman to practice law was offered about five years ago,” said Al-Saleh.

“My children have followed my line of work. Some of them have specialized in commercial law and the others in criminal law, allowing for diversity in dealing with legal issues in the law firm.”

He said that many families follow older generations into a profession, and that now, through women’s empowerment in the Kingdom, women in the family have been able to play the societal roles assigned to them, adding that he worked in the legal field for more than 25 years until retirement.

HIGHLIGHT

Musaad Al-Saleh, 50, told Arab News that his children chose the profession without any pressure because they saw a career that meets their abilities, adding that they will be ‘a family that will be difficult to approach.’

Al-Saleh said that his two daughters graduated from the University of Tabuk’s law department, while his son graduated from Al-Jouf University. Years ago, Al-Saleh had graduated from Al-Madinah University. He stressed that he did not force any of his children to enter the field of law. Rather, it was a choice for each of them. “I only introduced them to the new opportunities awaiting Saudi female lawyers in the sector.”

Family or not, Al-Saleh said that it is business as usual, and that every member of their legal team takes their duties seriously by upholding a professional manner inside the workplace, discussing and analyzing cases, and expressing professional opinions regarding each case they receive.

Complacency, laxity or delay is unacceptable, Al-Saleh added, noting that family bonds should not interfere in the work process to ensure a healthy system.

He said that a common sentiment in the legal community is that a law firm will die with its owner. “But I wanted to change the accepted model, and I tried my best to have my children lead this law firm after me, and maintain its momentum and ensure longevity.

“Being from one family will give them the chance to learn from each other and deal with the issues more professionally.”

As a veteran lawyer, Al-Saleh said he is mostly interested in personal interviews when young men and women apply for work or training at his law firm, adding that a personal touch is important to the formation of a lawyer’s approach.

He said that female lawyers must be attentive, able to present a clear case and communicate information without ambiguity. They will face judges and members of the trial committee and disciplinary bodies — some of whom will be tough. “She must be strong, firm, voice loud and clear and make her case without hesitation.”

Al-Saleh said that he retired after 22 years of service following several positions in the Public Prosecution, and after his young children began to show interest in the legal profession.

First-generation lawyers carry a lot of weight on their shoulders, he said, adding that he “feels a sense of pride” as his children follow his path and pave their own way into the world of law.

 


Amaala, Saudi cybersecurity federation sign MoU

Amaala, Saudi cybersecurity federation sign MoU
The MoU was signed virtually in the presence of Amaala CEO John Pagano and his counterpart at SAFCSP, Muteb Alqany. (SPA)
Updated 01 March 2021

Amaala, Saudi cybersecurity federation sign MoU

Amaala, Saudi cybersecurity federation sign MoU
  • The agreement constitutes an important step toward developing the electronic services’ programs and promoting knowledge and expertise in the cybersecurity field

RIYADH: Amaala, the ultra-luxury destination on the Kingdom’s northwestern coast, has signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the Saudi Federation for Cybersecurity, Programming and Drones (SAFCSP).
The MoU will pave the way for the adoption of innovative techniques in the field of drones, programming and artificial intelligence (AI) at Amaala.
The agreement constitutes an important step toward developing the electronic services’ programs and promoting knowledge and expertise in the cybersecurity field.
The MoU was signed virtually in the presence of Amaala CEO John Pagano and his counterpart at SAFCSP, Muteb Alqany.
Pagano said: “Amaala is strongly committed to developing an exceptional luxurious destination for the most special travelers seeking unique and inspiring experiences. Therefore, using technology is essential to achieve Amaala’s aspirations and the Saudi Vision 2030, which is considered a bold reflection of the people’s ambitions, through providing new job opportunities in sectors such as technology and innovation.
“This agreement marks an important cooperation initiative between Amaala and SAFCSP that reflects our commitment to determining and adopting pioneering techniques, including AI and the Internet of Things, to ensure Amaala’s full readiness for the future.”