Saudis pack their bags and prepare for bumpy takeoff

Saudis pack their bags and prepare for bumpy takeoff
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After more than 14 months of international flight bans, Saudis are ready to don their blue disposable face masks and use up their air miles on May 17. (Supplied)
Saudis pack their bags and prepare for bumpy takeoff
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After more than 14 months of international flight bans, Saudis are ready to don their blue disposable face masks and use up their air miles on May 17. (Supplied)
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Updated 16 May 2021

Saudis pack their bags and prepare for bumpy takeoff

Saudis pack their bags and prepare for bumpy takeoff
  • Coronavirus restrictions in some countries have restricted Saudi travelers’ options

JEDDAH: With summer knocking on our doors, Saudi travelers will head to the Kingdom’s airports for their first international journeys in over a year — but many face challenges ahead.

After more than 14 months of international flight bans, Saudis are ready to don their blue disposable face masks and use up their air miles on May 17.

Almost 11.5 million residents of the Kingdom have received at least one COVID-19 vaccine jab and more than 400,000 recoveries have been reported by the Saudi health ministry.

While some Saudis have restricted their holiday or business destinations to the safest areas due to COVID-19 protocols, many are undeterred by the challenges ahead and can’t wait to fasten their seatbelts.

Planning a holiday in the coming months will be far from easy — choices are limited and quarantine measures are in place in a number of destinations that are popular for summer holidays. However, many tourists are still willing to travel and face the music. 

In the wake of the global pandemic, both countries and individual travelers are wary of restrictions. But even with a massive vaccine rollout in place, and authorities easing travel abroad for those who have been vaccinated and those who have recovered from the illness, many Saudis are opting to head closer to home. 

“As soon as we heard that Bahrain is allowing Saudis in without the need to quarantine, we raced to book our hotel and tickets, but they were fully booked for the first week,” said 34-year old Maha Al-Hussain from Riyadh.

“My family and I had the good fortune to visit Jeddah every now and then, but we’d like a holiday for the children to roam free and swim all day, so everyone can just take a break.”

My family and I have been searching for a new and different place to travel to for a few days now and my father was adamant that we do so especially since we’re all vaccinated.

Kholoud Yousef

The mother of three told Arab News that although it is hard to book flights for seven people at the moment, the family decided to make the four-hour drive to Bahrain and hope for a smooth entry at the King Fahd Causeway. 

“All of the adults are vaccinated and our children know the rules by now,” she said. “We went through hardships as did everyone this year. The trip is important for us all and we’ve been extra careful through it all. We’ll continue being careful until we’re back home again.”

Earlier, Bahrain announced that all GCC visitors who are fully vaccinated or recovered are no longer required to undergo a PCR test on arrival but must show evidence of vaccination or recovery. 

For Saudis, a little more care and attention is given, with a welcome back campaign launched by the neighboring island kingdom featuring the slogan “walahna alaikom,” or “we’ve missed you.”

While the state of travel to the 20 countries on the list remains in place, airlines are ready to operate normally to many cities across the world, although a number of countries are limiting arrivals. 

Several EU member states have limited arrivals from outside the EU, while others are allowing visitors back but with restrictions. 

On Friday, Greek Ambassador to the Kingdom Alexis Konstantoloulos announced that Saudis wishing to travel to Greece will be able to do so with a negative PCR test or vaccination certification and on completion of a passenger location form.

FASTFACTS

Saudis permitted to travel abroad: • Saudis who have received two doses of the COVID-19 vaccine.

• Saudis who have received one dose of COVID-19 vaccine no less than 14 days before the flight.

• Citizens who recovered from COVID-19 at least six months before the flight.

“Welcome back to our Saudi friends, Greece is expecting you,” he tweeted.

Pre-travel PCR tests conducted no more than 72-48 hours before arrival, travel insurance, five to 10 days of quarantine on arrival at the traveler’s expense and post-arrival PCR tests are among the requirements a number EU member states are requesting, but the numbers are limited as many countries are restricting nonessential travel. 

The UK, a favorite destination for many Saudis, will require self-isolation on arrival as Saudi Arabia remains in its amber category. The list will be reviewed every three weeks, according to UK officials.

Malaysia, Singapore, Hong Kong, South Korea, Australia, Russia, Spain, Poland, Vietnam, Czech Republic and Belgium are among countries still suspending international tourist arrivals.

Citizens are urged to review travel restrictions for each destination as each country requires a different set of requirements before traveling and on arrival.

“Dubai is next,” said 32-year-old PR director Yousef A. “I’ve visited Dubai many times in the past few years and it has become something of a second home for my family and I,” he told Arab News.

“I did my homework. Saudi Arabia is on the UAE’s safe ‘green list’ and no quarantine is required. As soon as the Saudi authorities allow it, that will be my next destination.” 

The search for relaxed COVID-19 restrictions has been continuing for weeks after news was confirmed that the Kingdom’s travel ban would be lifted on May 17, but it is a struggle, as 27-year-old Kholoud Yousef explained to Arab News.

“We initially planned on traveling to Bali during the first week after the ban was lifted, but when we heard we’d have to quarantine for five days and take two PCR tests, we realized it would take a good chunk out of our holiday time and we don’t want to be holed up in our hotel rooms,” she told Arab News.

“My family and I have been searching for a new and different place to travel to for a few days now and my father was adamant that we do so especially since we’re all vaccinated. 

We’re putting Bali on hold for now and heading to Morocco next week, and it was an easy choice. All we needed was a confirmed hotel reservation. It feels good to know that we can travel again. Hopefully, this is going to be one great trip.”


Riyadh Season: Groves offers relaxing spa, shopping, entertainment, culinary experience

The zone contains several open spaces including an area surrounded by palm trees where visitors can discover its various activities. (AN photos by Saleh Al-Ghanim)
The zone contains several open spaces including an area surrounded by palm trees where visitors can discover its various activities. (AN photos by Saleh Al-Ghanim)
Updated 31 min 50 sec ago

Riyadh Season: Groves offers relaxing spa, shopping, entertainment, culinary experience

The zone contains several open spaces including an area surrounded by palm trees where visitors can discover its various activities. (AN photos by Saleh Al-Ghanim)
  • This place is ‘all about nature, relaxation, and quietness, so each zone has its flavor’

RIYADH: One of Riyadh Season’s 14 zones, the Groves, has opened its doors for visitors to experience its spa, restaurants, shops, and shows.

The Groves has combined work and relaxation through an area called The House, which consists of business meeting rooms in a luxurious environment.
Siham Hassanain, general manager of the Groves, told Arab News that the zone was a garden that reflected its name, meaning field of trees.
She said: “Visitors can hear the sound of fountains, water, and birds ... the place also has a special scent. The logo of the Groves contains the four elements of life which are water, air, fire, and earth.
“So, I used these four elements of life in the Groves. The water resembles the relaxation of the place, fire means action and attractions, earth means food, and air means memories.”
The zone contains several open spaces including Al-Jalsa, an area surrounded by palm trees where visitors can view the site and discover its various activities.

HIGHLIGHTS

• The Groves has combined work and relaxation through an area called The House, which consists of business meeting rooms in a luxurious environment.

• People can enjoy a number of attractions while at the Groves, including birds of Eden, an afternoon high tea experience where a selection of the finest teas are served in an aviary filled with classical live music.

People can enjoy a number of attractions while at the Groves, including birds of Eden, an afternoon high tea experience where a selection of the finest teas are served in an aviary filled with classical live music. Other restaurants such as GEM.IN.I and El Lechazo offer a range culinary delights.
Followers of fashion can buy from local designers showcasing their latest collections, and dog owners and their pets can meet in Riyadh’s first-ever canine park, Lucaland.

Dog owners and their pets can meet in Riyadh’s first- ever canine park, Lucaland.

Hassanain, founder of Siham International Trading Co., a Saudi firm operating in the hospitality, food, and beverage industry, noted that the Groves was located in the city’s Diplomatic Quarter with commanding views of Wadi Hanifah.
“Nature and trees are all around. Wadi Hanifah offers a unique experience ... a place to relax.
“Each zone in Riyadh Season has its own unique experience. If you want a vibrant area, go to Boulevard Riyadh City. Visit Al-Murabaa to try international restaurants. If you are looking for an Arabian night experience in the desert, Riyadh Oasis is the place.
“But the Groves is all about nature, relaxation, and quietness, so each zone has its flavor,” she added.


Saudi Vision 2030 gets legal boost

General view in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. (REUTERS file photo)
General view in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. (REUTERS file photo)
Updated 30 November 2021

Saudi Vision 2030 gets legal boost

General view in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. (REUTERS file photo)
  • The center aims to build long-term strategic partnerships with governmental agencies to contribute to enriching the legislative environment in Saudi Arabia

RIYADH: The Center for Legal Studies and Research signed an agreement with the Center for Quality of Life Program to empower the legal and legislative aspects of the Vision 2030 strategy.

It comes as part of the efforts by the Center for Legal Studies and Research to boost its cooperation with Vision 2030 initiatives and provide them with the necessary support.

The center aims to build long-term strategic partnerships with governmental agencies to contribute to enriching the legislative environment in the Kingdom.

It also focuses on providing legal solutions to support and empower the quality of systems and legislations, and enrich the legal environment in the Kingdom through qualified legal specialists with long-standing experience in consultancy work in Saudi Arabia.

The Quality of Life Program aims to boost the quality of life of individuals and families in the Kingdom through strengthening the involvement of citizens, residents and visitors in the cultural, entertainment, sports and tourism sectors. It aims to lift employment figures, diversify economic activity and improve the status of Saudi cities in global rankings.


Madinah Library offers visitors 180,000 books

Madinah Library offers visitors 180,000 books. (SPA)
Madinah Library offers visitors 180,000 books. (SPA)
Updated 49 min 26 sec ago

Madinah Library offers visitors 180,000 books

Madinah Library offers visitors 180,000 books. (SPA)
  • The library houses around 180,000 books and 71 classifications, most of which are books on the prophetic biography with 86 titles, and other specialist administrations and departments

MADINAH: The Prophet’s Mosque Library in Madinah is seeking to enrich visitor knowledge through its 180,000 books.

The library, which is affiliated with the General Presidency for the Affairs of the Two Holy Mosques, is considered one of the most important places that visitors to the Prophet’s Mosque are keen to visit.

It aims to offer people the opportunity to acquire skills and expertise, as well as enrich their knowledge, through its diverse range of books in more than 21 languages.

The library houses around 180,000 books and 71 classifications, most of which are books on the prophetic biography with 86 titles, and other specialist administrations and departments.

It also includes a smart digital library offering computers with e-books.

Authorities have allocated a location for the library on the northwestern roof of the second expansion of the mosque.

 


Saudi Arabia denounces Israeli president’s visit to West Bank holy site

Saudi Arabia denounces Israeli president’s visit to West Bank holy site
Updated 30 November 2021

Saudi Arabia denounces Israeli president’s visit to West Bank holy site

Saudi Arabia denounces Israeli president’s visit to West Bank holy site

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia denounced the visit of Israel’s president to Ibrahimi mosque in the West Bank, calling the act a flagrant violation of its sanctity.

Saudi Arabia called on the international community to assume its responsibilities to stop the Israeli government and its officials’ continuous practices towards Islamic sanctities, according to a Saudi foreign ministry statement. Saudi Arabia called on the international community to assume its responsibilities to stop the Israeli government and its officials’ continuous practices towards Islamic sanctities.

Israeli President Isaac Herzog visited the site on Sunday to celebrate the Jewish holiday of Hanukkah, sparking scuffles between Israeli security forces and protesters.

Herzog said he was visiting the Cave of the Patriarchs, known to Muslims as the Ibrahimi mosque,  in Hebron to celebrate the ancient city’s Jewish past and promote interfaith relations. But his visit to the city, known for its tiny ultranationalist Jewish settler community and difficult living conditions for Palestinians, drew widespread criticism from Palestinians and left-wing Israelis.

— With Reuters


Largest cybersecurity conference in the world kicks off in Riyadh

The conference, one of the largest in the world in the cybersecurity field, aims to enhance the advanced cyber skills of the region’s youth. (Supplied)
The conference, one of the largest in the world in the cybersecurity field, aims to enhance the advanced cyber skills of the region’s youth. (Supplied)
Updated 2 min 17 sec ago

Largest cybersecurity conference in the world kicks off in Riyadh

The conference, one of the largest in the world in the cybersecurity field, aims to enhance the advanced cyber skills of the region’s youth. (Supplied)
  • Companies from around the world are taking part in the event

RIYADH: The @Hack conference, one of the largest in the world in the cybersecurity field, kicked off in Riyadh on Nov. 28, with companies from around the world taking part.

Ahmed Abdulkhaliq, central area manager of a company related to security systems, told Arab News that the conference is significant to his work because it showcases cutting-edge developments in information and server security.
“I work in maintenance and operation of the security equipment field, and it’s very important for us to know the new technology regarding cybersecurity because most of our work is related to governmental sectors,” Abdulkhaliq said.
Usually hosted in the US and now in the Kingdom, the three-day conference specializes in connecting cybersecurity enthusiasts and companies.
@Hack showcases everything new in the field and offers activities for visitors including training, lectures and competitions. It aims to bring together major cybersecurity companies such as Kaspersky, IBM and Cisco.

Competitors trying to solve the loophole in one of @hack conference activity. (AN photo by Saad Al Enazi)

About 80 specialized training courses and workshops hosted by global cybersecurity experts are being offered at the conference.
@Hack will also hold competitions, with a total prize fund of SR1 million ($266,000) on offer. There is also an interactive space for exchanging technical opinions, networking and building professional relationships.
In the business hall, more than 170 companies displayed their services and their latest innovations, including major international companies, local government and private sector organizations and emerging technology businesses.
The conference is organized within the activities of the Riyadh Season 2021 by the Saudi Federation for Cybersecurity, Programming and Drones, in partnership with Blackhat and the General Entertainment Authority.

Competitors trying to solve the loophole in one of @hack conference activity. (AN photo by Rahaf Jambi)

Reham Ahmed, an IT student, said that she heard about @Hack from Blackhat, and is interested in cybersecurity and digital forensics.
“It is my first time attending an event related to cybersecurity, and I saw a lot of big companies here like Starlink. When I heard that @Hack is not in Los Angeles this year but in Riyadh, I knew that this event would be big, and of course, because it’s one of Riyadh Season’s activities,” Ahmed said.
One of the most important strategic objectives of the conference is to enhance the advanced cyber skills of the region’s youth, support them with technical skills in preparation for digital transformation, attract business tourism, and entice technology companies to Riyadh and the Kingdom.