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.”


Fire breaks out at industrial zone in Riyadh

Fire breaks out at industrial zone in Riyadh
Updated 13 sec ago

Fire breaks out at industrial zone in Riyadh

Fire breaks out at industrial zone in Riyadh

RIYADH: A fire has broken out in warehouses at an industrial zone in Riyadh, Saudi Civil Defense said on Thursday.

Firefighters are working to extinguish the flames, it added in a tweet.


Saudi Arabia announces 'Founding Day' as official holiday on Feb. 22

Saudi Arabia announces 'Founding Day' as official holiday on Feb. 22
Updated 27 January 2022

Saudi Arabia announces 'Founding Day' as official holiday on Feb. 22

Saudi Arabia announces 'Founding Day' as official holiday on Feb. 22
  • According to the royal decree, this will enable the public to celebrate Muhammad bin Saud’s successors.

DUBAI: February 22 is to become an annual national holiday in Saudi Arabia under the name of ‘Founding Day,’ commemorating the reign of Imam Muhammad bin Saud, who founded the first Saudi state in 1727, it was revealed on Thursday. 

According to the royal decree, this will enable the public to celebrate Muhammad bin Saud’s successors.

‘Founding Day’ will also mark Imam Turki bin Abdullah bin Muhammad bin Saud who was the successor in 1824 and helped restore the nation by establishing the second Saudi state, which lasted until 1891. 

Ten years later, King Abdulaziz bin Abdulrahman Al Faisal Al Saud then succeeded in 1902 in establishing the third Saudi state by uniting it under the name of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. 

The new order will be communicated to relevant entities, who will be required to adopt and implement ‘Founding Day’, which will be celebrated annually.


Saudi Arabia reports 4,738 new COVID-19 cases, 2 deaths

Saudi Arabia reports 4,738 new COVID-19 cases, 2 deaths
Updated 27 January 2022

Saudi Arabia reports 4,738 new COVID-19 cases, 2 deaths

Saudi Arabia reports 4,738 new COVID-19 cases, 2 deaths
  • The total number of recoveries in the Kingdom has increased to 622,087
  • A total of 8,929 people have succumbed to the virus in the Kingdom so far

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia announced two deaths from COVID-19 and 4,738 new infections on Thursday.

Of the new cases, 1,559 were recorded in Riyadh, 573 in Jeddah, 189 in Dammam, 172 in Hofuf, 156 in Makkah, and 114 in Jazan. Several other cities recorded less than one hundred new cases each.

The total number of recoveries in the Kingdom increased to 622,087 after 4,973 more patients recovered from the virus.

A total of 8,929 people have succumbed to the virus in the Kingdom so far.

Over 56.2 million doses of a coronavirus vaccine have been administered in the Kingdom to date.


Adventurous family of expats share their voyages of discovery in Saudi Arabia

Adventurous family of expats share their voyages of discovery in Saudi Arabia
Updated 27 January 2022

Adventurous family of expats share their voyages of discovery in Saudi Arabia

Adventurous family of expats share their voyages of discovery in Saudi Arabia
  • Dale Shannon, his wife Jenny and son Noah have been exploring remote parts of the Kingdom for two years and now have 25,000 fans on YouTube who follow their exploits

JEDDAH: Intrepid expats Dale Shannon, his wife Jenny and their son Noah are on a mission to explore Saudi Arabia and reveal to the world the country’s natural beauty, incredible landscape and authentic culture.

They have been going on epic adventures that take them off the beaten track across the Kingdom for almost two years, sometimes alone and sometimes in the company of friends they describe as “a united team.”

They film their trips and experiences, and Jenny edits the footage to create entertaining travelogues that are uploaded to the couple’s YouTube channel, called Epic Everyday Adventures. Launched in August 2020, it now has more than 25,000 subscribers and has become particularly popular with Saudi viewers.

“We are so humbled to know how viewers have been inspired by our travels through some of the most remote parts of Saudi Arabia,” Dale told Arab News. “With more than 45 videos of adventures, we have seen families and individuals alike find inspiration and education through sharing our story and experiences.”

Dale, a US national who works in the aerospace industry as an aircraft mechanic and advisor, said he came to the Kingdom in 2015 to experience life in another country and grow as a person. Jenny, a nurse from the Philippines, came to work in Saudi Arabia in 2009. The couple married in 2016 and Noah, was born in Tabuk in 2017. They said they fell in love not only with each other but also their adopted country.

Dale said he comes from a small town in the US and grew up camping and hiking. Jenny, on the other hand, who grew up in a city and wanted to experience the great outdoors.

“Being outdoors and exploring nature really creates some positive character traits and memories, and we wanted to share and create our own experiences with Noah and give him an opportunity to grow up with those amazing outdoor adventures,” said Dale.

Along the way, he added, they have made some great friends.

“One of the things that makes Saudi Arabia really pull on our hearts is how easy it is to meet new people and become real friends,” said Dale. “People here really seem to genuinely care about each other and are some of the most welcoming people we have been fortunate enough to experience.

“One of the things we enjoy the most about our YouTube channel is how many awesome people we have been able to meet here in Saudi Arabia and establish personal relationships with.

“People here really seem to genuinely care about each other and are some of the most welcoming people we have been fortunate enough to experience.”

The idea for exploring the length and breadth of Saudi Arabia came to the couple about two years ago, after s trip to AlUla.

“We had gone on a tour to AlUla in early 2020, around February,” said Dale. “We enjoyed the scenery and the places and the desert so much that after that trip we knew that we wanted to continue and explore more. So, definitely our AlUla experience was the turning point that motivated and inspired us to explore more.”

Shannon had some vacation time saved up and Jenny, who was by then a stay-at-home mom, learned how to become a videographer and editor to produce their YouTube videos. They also invested in proper equipment and a new vehicle suitable for off-road exploring and began their adventure of a lifetime.

“After our AlUla trip, we bought some gear and changed our vehicle to a proper off-road exploring vehicle, a Nissan Patrol Super Safari, and we slowly started exploring the Kingdom.

“We fell in love with the landscapes, the open-air museum of history you find here and the hospitality and friendliness of the people of all areas … and then we started exploring. We just became naturally curious to see and know more.”

Venturing into the desert wilderness is not easy and requires a financial investment. As their videos grew in popularity the Shannons last year joined Patreon, a platform that provides content creators with the tools to build a subscription service for fans of their work. For the Shannons, it means that people who enjoy their videos can contribute toward the costs of creating future content. They said that about 70 percent of their supporters on Patreon are Saudi.

“We are so thankful for their support and hope to grow our small Patreon family so we can continue these adventures,” said Dale.

“It is expensive to take trips as much as we do. We don’t have any sponsors or anything like that, so up until recently we financed our own adventures so that we could continue sharing our experiences here in Saudi Arabia. We are thankful for the support of our small Patreon family.”

There have been some challenging moments during the family’s adventures, including a worrying incident during a journey through Al-Nafud Al-Kabir (The Great Desert) this month, when they were accompanied by other members of their team.

“We had prepared for this trip six months in advance,” said Dale. “This was the final leg of our overlanding trip. The terrain is difficult and full of sand dunes. We entered the desert just north of Hail and drove about 230km into the desert through the sand dunes. There was no cell service.

“We camped for three nights and drove for three days. The trip through the desert consumed most of our fuel and for some, all of their fuel.

“The stress you face and the quick decisions that have to be made are really challenging but, at the end of the day, it is so rewarding. I am happy our overlanding team trusted me enough to let me lead the expedition through Al-Nafud.”

His family has done so much traveling in the Kingdom during the past two years that Shannon said it is hard to keep count of their destinations.

“I am not exactly sure on the number of places we visited, but we drive everywhere we go and we have driven from Haql in the northwest all the way down to Fayfa in the south, and everywhere in between,” he said. “We have been from Hail down to Riyadh and in between. We hope to get enough time in the future to make it to the north and the east of the Kingdom.”

Wherever they have traveled in Saudi Arabia, Shannon said he has never felt concerned for the safety of his family.

“I mention this on many occasions in our videos because in comparison to most places I have been around the world, it’s extremely safe here and this is part of the reason we feel so comfortable exploring here,” he said.

In fact the most difficult aspect of the experience in Saudi Arabia so far has been language barrier.

“It would be really great to be able to learn Arabic,” he added.

Both Shannon and his wife said they adapted easily to life in Saudi Arabia after leaving their home countries behind.

“We found it to be quite easy transitioning to living in a foreign country,” he said. “I think part of the reason is because we had set our minds that this is what we wanted to do, but also because we both really fell in love with the people and the culture here in Saudi Arabia — those two things made the transition extremely easy.”

Asked if he had any advice for newcomers to the Kingdom or people considering moving there, Shannon said: “My advice to others moving to Saudi Arabia is always to come with an open mind, embrace the culture and the people, and once you arrive and settle in, go out there and meet people and get to know the people of Saudi Arabia. It will be one of the best things you have ever done.”


Empowerment of women in Saudi museums sector in spotlight at open discussion forum

Empowerment of women in Saudi museums sector in spotlight at open discussion forum
Updated 27 January 2022

Empowerment of women in Saudi museums sector in spotlight at open discussion forum

Empowerment of women in Saudi museums sector in spotlight at open discussion forum
  • The event, hosted by the Kingdom’s Museum Commission, explored ways in which the role of women could be enhanced in the sector

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s Museum Commission hosted an open discussion on Wednesday about the empowerment women in the museums sector.

The event, at the National Museum in Riyadh, was moderated by Maha bint Amer Al-Shukhil, a faculty member at Princess Nourah Bint Abdulrahman University, and the participants included Stefano Carboni, the CEO of the commission.

The topics addressed during the discussion included the roles and work of Saudi women, creating change in the Museums Commission, and the need to develop job opportunities for women in the museums field.

Participants also discussed how to foster cooperation between universities and the Museums Commission, the role and importance of museums in society, encouraging and highlighting efforts by women in the field, providing training and volunteering opportunities in the commission, and giving women more opportunities to work in the museums sector.

Carboni said that the objectives of the commission include providing advisory services, providing specialized courses and programs on museum management, offering opportunities to learn about specialized establishments in the sector, and working to develop communication skills between museums and visitors.

On the sidelines of the session, Hind Al-Turki, the head of the history department at Princess Nourah University, spoke about the necessity of offering field-training opportunities for female students specializing in the museums sector, to improve their knowledge and provide practical experience, and to present programs and workshops.

The commission said that the session was part of its efforts to communicate with the public and promote dialogue with workers in the sector to identify their needs and aspirations, and work to achieve them, based on the authority’s responsibility for developing and enhancing the museums sector in the Kingdom, and supporting and empowering its employees.