Saudi boutique gym offers fitness-focused adventures geared toward women

The gym has proved a massive hit in the Saudi capital, where the fitness market is otherwise dominated by big fitness chains. (Supplied)
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The gym has proved a massive hit in the Saudi capital, where the fitness market is otherwise dominated by big fitness chains. (Supplied)
Saudi boutique gym offers fitness-focused adventures geared toward women
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The gym has proved a massive hit in the Saudi capital, where the fitness market is otherwise dominated by big fitness chains. (Supplied)
SANDS Studio aims to break down these barriers to fitness in any enjoyable way. (Supplied)
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SANDS Studio aims to break down these barriers to fitness in any enjoyable way. (Supplied)
Balancing on a surfboard propped up on inflated air pockets stretches the muscles gently, eases pressure on the joints and strengthens the core. (Supplied)
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Balancing on a surfboard propped up on inflated air pockets stretches the muscles gently, eases pressure on the joints and strengthens the core. (Supplied)
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Updated 26 June 2021

Saudi boutique gym offers fitness-focused adventures geared toward women

Saudi boutique gym offers fitness-focused adventures geared toward women
  • The unique format allows participants to get active while also exploring Saudi Arabia’s natural wonders

DUBAI: From hiking over its rugged mountains to biking through its scenic valleys, two young Saudi women have made it their mission to take their peers on a national tour of the Kingdom — while helping them keep in shape.

Nouf Al-Nasser and Maram Al-Nemer, founders of SANDS Studio in Riyadh, launched their adventure fitness program, specifically geared toward women, shortly before the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Now, as the Kingdom reopens and the domestic tourism industry rallies, the program has seen an explosion in popularity. The unique format allows participants to get active while also exploring Saudi Arabia’s natural wonders.

“It is not common to have gyms do this here,” Al-Nemer, 26, told Arab News. “But from the first time, it was fully booked within three days. It’s always something new, a new location and a different concept.”

In 2018, Al-Nasser and Al-Nemer joined forces to create SANDS Studio, a boutique gym targeting women, which offers fun workouts centered around sand and surfboards, known as surf fitness.

For people with joint pain, chronic injuries or back problems, traditional gym training can be difficult and intimidating. With its intuitive format, SANDS Studio aims to break down these barriers to fitness in any enjoyable way




Balancing on a surfboard propped up on inflated air pockets stretches the muscles gently, eases pressure on the joints and strengthens the core. (Supplied)

When balancing on a surfboard propped up on inflated air pockets, participants are able to mimic the movement of the sea, gently rocking and stretching their muscles, easing pressure on the joints while strengthening their core. 

Al-Nasser, 32, who gave up her job in real estate to devote herself entirely to the business, says the idea stemmed from a stint of surfing lessons in Bali, Indonesia.

“I was a CrossFitter and a coach, but it was not my full-time job,” Al-Nasser told Arab News. “I was training with cases that interested me, like people who struggled with their fitness. 

“We wanted to learn more about the problems people faced so we could create our own program based on what we saw.

“I realized that it was a great idea because it has balls of air at the bottom, which helps me with clients with scoliosis or spinal issues, so that’s when we created the Sand Room.”

Working out on a sandy surface can help strengthen the foot and ankle muscles and burn more calories, while also stabilizing other joints. The gym has proved a massive hit in the Saudi capital, where the fitness market is otherwise dominated by big fitness chains. SANDS is the first gym in the Kingdom, and the second in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) area after Kuwait, to offer surf fitness classes.




SANDS Studio aims to break down these barriers to fitness in any enjoyable way. (Supplied)

At the height of the pandemic, when businesses were forced to close their doors, SANDS was able to move many of its classes online and continue supporting its clientele remotely. It was also an opportunity to focus on its clothing line.

“We had loyal clients, we promoted our clothing brand, and then we started our adventures,” Al-Nemer said. 

Indeed, after so many months stuck indoors under COVID-19 lockdown measures, customers were desperate to sign up for the adventure program, dubbed “Walk with SANDS,” which offered something that is often missing from personal fitness — a sense of community.

“At SANDS we want to promote fitness as a lifestyle rather than just purchasing a membership,” said Al-Nemer. “We are trying to build a community where you can have your own friends at the studio or wherever we go out on hikes. Now we are doing trips around Saudi Arabia.”

Following its early success, the partners went on to launch SANDS Season, organizing sell-out trips to the Kingdom’s archaeological wonders like AlUla, sunrise bike rides around the region’s mountains, and half day trips near the capital. Every trip accepts a maximum of 20 women over the age of 18. 

“We were trying very hard to look for new, creative and unique places, but now we don’t have to, because new unique places now contact us to set up a trip,” Al-Nasser said.




Nouf Al-Nasser and Maram Al-Nemer, founders of SANDS Studio in Riyadh, launched their adventure fitness program, specifically geared towards women.

“There are a lot of places in Saudi Arabia that people don’t know of. I didn’t know a lot of places, to be honest, but that is when our friends really stepped up and helped us. They would tell us about a place and we would visit two or three weeks later.”

One of their most recent trips took participants to NEOM, the Kingdom’s new smart-city giga-project taking shape on the Red Sea coast, which included a camping stay and a boat trip. “It was an amazing experience,” Al-Nasser said. “We try to create new things every time.”

Much of the program’s popularity is owed to the fact the outings are geared exclusively toward women. Since the Saudi government relaxed its guardianship laws and began encouraging women to enter the labor force, demand has blossomed for this kind of tourism.

“There are a lot of trips in Saudi Arabia that are public but little to none that are for females only,” Al-Nemer said. “We found out that, with everything happening now, the options are all for families and mixed groups, so we found strength in that.”

Coming up on SANDS’ June agenda is an event called “Unleash,” which will combine art, spiritualism and fitness. “We want to keep it fun but adventurous,” Al-Nemer said. “You are always going to be walking, hiking or swimming, but you won’t notice that you are being active. 

“All this is happening while you are having fun and while you are looking around. It’s basically like a hidden workout.”


Saudi tourism body opens Japan bureau alongside the Discover the World project

Saudi tourism body opens Japan bureau alongside the Discover the World project
Updated 19 October 2021

Saudi tourism body opens Japan bureau alongside the Discover the World project

Saudi tourism body opens Japan bureau alongside the Discover the World project
  • Saudi Arabian Government Tourism Bureau has presence at 11 locations in 21 countries

TOKYO: Saudi Arabian Government Tourism Bureau (STA) set up a Japan branch in Tokyo with the travel project company Discover the World, Japanese magazine Travel Vision reported.

STA currently has tourism promotion bureaus at 11 locations in 21 countries and aims to set up additional four bureaus in the future, it said. 

“We organized a global professional team to introduce to visitors a variety of cultural experiences, world-class historical heritage, and Arab’s authentic hospitality,” STA CEO Fahad Hamiraddin said in a magazine interview.

Shigehiko Okuda will assume the post as Japan bureau chief in charge of sales and marketing activities for tourism and general consumers.

Saudi Arabia has recently lifted the ban on tourism visas against 49 countries, including Japan, but resumed providing tourist visas for only those vaccinated against COVID-19.

This story originally appeared in Arab News Japan


Who’s Who: Hamad Al-Saghir, chief marketing and customer experience officer at NeoLeap

Who’s Who: Hamad Al-Saghir, chief marketing and customer experience officer at NeoLeap
Updated 19 October 2021

Who’s Who: Hamad Al-Saghir, chief marketing and customer experience officer at NeoLeap

Who’s Who: Hamad Al-Saghir, chief marketing and customer experience officer at NeoLeap

Hamad Al-Saghir has been the chief marketing and customer experience officer at NeoLeap since May 2021.
With the vision to be the Kingdom’s leading payment solutions service provider, NeoLeap is a licensed financial global digital solutions company, whose values revolve around inventiveness, simplicity and trust. It has recently described the Saudi market as large and promising. It has also announced that it has plans to operate beyond the borders in the near future.
With over 20 years of experience in the information and communication technology sector, strategic planning, revenue growth and organization development, Al-Saghir has successfully managed complex national ICT projects across Saudi Arabia.
As a decisive leader and member of the ICT committee at the Riyadh Chamber of Commerce and Industry, he is focused on delivering practical outcomes that impact stakeholders across the ICT ecosystem in the country.
Prior to joining NeoLeap, Al-Saghir served for more than three years as the general manager of the business unit at Zain KSA.
He was responsible for the business-to-business unit with over 300 employees and revenue of over SR1 billion. He was also part of the executive team to develop a five-year B2B strategy and won the company’s “outstanding performance” award in 2018.
For nearly a year before that, he worked as the general manager at the International Data Corporation, the premier global provider of market intelligence, advisory services, and events for the information technology, telecommunications, and consumer technology markets. 
At IDC, Al-Saghir led a team of over 50 employees and reported directly to the MEA vice president.
Previously, he was the senior service sales manager at Cisco for about 11 years, beginning in 2006. There, he managed end-to-end customer experience lifecycle processes, led the development of cross-functional Cisco services team, and built trusted relationships with key public and private sector entities within Saudi Arabia.
The company selected him for the “sales champion” and the “top service manager of the year” awards in 2010.
For around two years, beginning in 2004, he was the sales and business alliance director at STC, where he built turnkey partnerships with global service providers and IT vendors.  
From 1999 to 2005, he served as the business alliance manager at Ebttikar Technology Co.
He also worked as the national sales and marketing manager at Al-Faisaliah Group, where he succeeded to achieve a sales target of SR50 million while leading the company’s sales and marketing teams.
Al-Saghir received a bachelor’s degree in marketing in 1999 from King Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals.
He also attended a sales management program at the University of Toledo, Ohio, US.


Saudi Interior Ministry’s hi-tech feats shine at Dubai GITEX Technology Week

Saudi Interior Ministry’s hi-tech feats shine at Dubai GITEX Technology Week
Updated 19 October 2021

Saudi Interior Ministry’s hi-tech feats shine at Dubai GITEX Technology Week

Saudi Interior Ministry’s hi-tech feats shine at Dubai GITEX Technology Week

DUBAI: Prince Dr. Bandar bin Abdullah bin Mishari, assistant minister of interior for technology affairs, expressed his pride in the ministry’s successes through its presence at Dubai GITEX Technology Week for the seventh year in a row. 
Prince Bandar made the remarks as he visited the ministry’s pavilion.
The ministry is participating in this year’s event under the slogan “Technical Solutions for a Safe Homeland.”
The topics covered are: Digital enablers and their role in governance to serve customers, ministry services for pilgrims, dealing with events, crises and work procedures, the future of services and security operations, and the role of modern technology in combating crime and making cities safer.
They also include the optimal use of technology through the Absher app, which allows people in the Kingdom to use a variety of government services, to help ministry staff manage resources and digitally implement internal procedures and support services for employees and the ministry’s community.
The ministry’s role in preserving the environment and its initiatives in the field of innovation are also being highlighted at the pavilion, with the topics and issues presented in interactive ways. 
The aim is to highlight the ministry’s achievements in light of the Saudi Vision 2030.
Prince Bandar toured the pavilion and was briefed on the electronic services and apps provided by the bodies and sectors participating in the pavilion, which is next to the pavilion of the Saudi Authority for Data and Artificial Intelligence and the Ministry of Hajj and Umrah.
It comes in light of enhancing the presence of government agencies in the coming years, showing them all as an interconnected digital system in the exhibition.
This helps to highlight the level of digital maturity and harmony between all Saudi government agencies to visitors.


King Salman Center for Disability Research, Boeing to launch disability awareness program

King Salman Center for Disability Research, Boeing to launch disability awareness program
Updated 19 October 2021

King Salman Center for Disability Research, Boeing to launch disability awareness program

King Salman Center for Disability Research, Boeing to launch disability awareness program
  • Technology, education to inject affected individuals into society

RIYADH: In partnership with Boeing, the King Salman Center for Disability Research launched the Prince Sultan bin Salman Program for Education and Awareness on Thursday, which targets individuals, families, school peers, work colleagues, and spouses who live with disabilities.
The center is based on establishing the best scientific apps and programs to address disability, identify causes, allow early detection and intervention, and use research to aid prevention, care, and rehabilitation, and work to alleviate suffering and improve the conditions of individuals with disabilities.
At the outset, Prince Sultan, chairman of the board of trustees at the center, welcomed Sir Michael Arthur, president of Boeing International, and members of his delegation led by Ahmed Jazzar, president of Boeing Saudi Arabia.
Sir Arthur expressed his pleasure in seeing Boeing’s partnership with the center, which began in 2011, flourish with the launch of the program.
Prince Sultan said: “The program aims to spread awareness and educate the community, whether in educational institutions, workplaces, or public establishments, by providing specialized content on each category of disability and educating members of the community about the types of disability and its causes as well as how to deal with them and bridge the gap between individuals with disabilities and society.”

FASTFACT

Sir Michael affirmed Boeing’s commitment to Saudi Arabia’s vision and the myriad programs the country is currently developing and implementing for a sustainable and bright future ahead.

On Boeing working together with the center for the program, Prince Sultan told Arab News: “Boeing has been a partner with us for the last several years, this program is a continuation of a series of programs. This one is more about awareness, there is a lot more to come in future. Boeing is a partner that we are very proud of, and we are looking forward to further enhancing our partnership.
“It’s really important to have a partner like Boeing that can support us, help us with some of the major goals on education and awareness. So today here it’s a big privilege, because it’s an exposure that cements our relationship and moves us forward,” he added.
Sir Michael affirmed Boeing’s commitment to Saudi Arabia’s vision and the myriad programs the country is currently developing and implementing for a sustainable and bright future ahead.
“What we are witnessing today is great commitment by the Saudi leadership to raise awareness for disability research and education.” Sir Michael told Arab News, adding: “This program will prove highly beneficial for the Saudi community, and we are proud to partner with KSCDR on such influential programs.
“Boeing has been a partner with the Kingdom for over 76 years. We like to work closely with the communities where we are established. So, we are privileged to work with KSCDR because disability is such a challenge in society and if we can help with our technological contribution and on the education awareness front to help bring affected individuals into the mainstream of the society, it will be great. So we are very excited about the future of this program.”
The event concluded with Prince Sultan presenting a commemorative gift on behalf of himself and the center’s staff to Sir Michael.


Jeddah heritage jewel takes center stage for Red Sea Film Festival

Jeddah heritage jewel takes center stage for Red Sea Film Festival
Updated 19 October 2021

Jeddah heritage jewel takes center stage for Red Sea Film Festival

Jeddah heritage jewel takes center stage for Red Sea Film Festival
  • The festival aims to support and encourage the growth of the local film community

JEDDAH: Jeddah will set the world stage for the 3rd annual Red Sea Film Festival in its iconic UNESCO Heritage Site, a city with a historical thriving cultural scene.
Jeddah, the western port city, known as the “Bride of the Red Sea,” has always been a hub of diversity and inclusivity. It is a city where world cultures merge to create a unique intersection between East and West, showcasing a continuously developing identity of multiculturalism.
The Red Sea International Film Festival is an annual festival held in Saudi’s most evocative historical quarter — Jeddah Old Town — maintained to preserve the city’s rich cultural and ethnic diversity.
The film festival aims to highlight Jeddah’s cinematic presence since the 1970s and promote cross-cultural exchange while fostering the growth of the Arab film industry, positioning Saudi Arabia as a significant contributor to the international film industry.
Running from Dec. 6-15, 2021, it will support and encourage the growth of the local film community through cultivating film appreciation and enhancing industry knowledge to contribute to the development of the film industry in Saudi Arabia.
“Calling Jeddah Old Town, otherwise known as ‘Al-Balad’, our home for the Red Sea International Film Festival is really significant and means a lot to us. ‘Al-Balad’ traces back to our roots in the Kingdom, it is the jewel of Jeddah city that melds the historic with the modern in perfect harmony. It is a true honor having this UNESCO world heritage site be the hub for the region’s largest film festival that will put the Kingdom on the map of the global film stage,” said Mohammed Al-Turki, Chairman of the Festival Committee.
The festival will showcase the best films from the region and an exclusive viewing of a carefully curated selection of internationally acclaimed titles worldwide.
The festival serves as the best opportunity for Saudi youth to discover global cultures through the power of cinema and contribute to the ever-growing Saudi film industry.
As part of a community program to educate Saudi film enthusiasts on acting, directing, and producing, the Festival also launched film screenings and masterclasses.
RIFF is an opportunity to showcase the Kingdom’s attractions and offer a better understanding of the region, its culture, and its people by inviting the global community to experience the true Saudi Arabia. The Festival’s enriching cultural experience will enable guests to discover Saudi Arabia, the gracious and generous Arabian hospitality, the deep history and rich culture, the diverse and unique landscapes, and witness the positive changes happening in the country.