Parents battle dearth of domestic drivers as Saudi schools prepare to open

 With a dearth of domestic drivers, companies such as the TTC and other MoE transportation initiatives are helping teachers and students get to schools and back home safely. (SPA)
With a dearth of domestic drivers, companies such as the TTC and other MoE transportation initiatives are helping teachers and students get to schools and back home safely. (SPA)
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Updated 21 August 2021

Parents battle dearth of domestic drivers as Saudi schools prepare to open

 With a dearth of domestic drivers, companies such as the TTC and other MoE transportation initiatives are helping teachers and students get to schools and back home safely. (SPA)
  • Parents share mixed views on transport issues, with some fearing a lack of precautionary measures on buses

RIYADH: With just nine days before schools start, the Ministry of Education’s most prominent transport provider has sought to ease parents’ concerns over domestic drivers being stuck abroad.

After 18 months of online learning, vaccinated students older than 12 are heading back to school on Aug. 29 for the new academic year. But many expats remain stuck abroad due to a ban on travel from several countries, with many of them working as family drivers, an integral part of a household for many Saudi families.
Last September, Saudi Arabia suspended flights arriving from India due to a surge in coronavirus disease (COVID-19) cases. Other countries were later added to the suspension list, including Pakistan, Indonesia, and Afghanistan.
With schools reopening, Tatweer Educational Transportation Services Company, the MoE’s school transport provider, has completed preparations for the new academic year, ready to provide services with the highest precautionary standards to serve 1.2 million students across the Kingdom.
With a dearth of domestic drivers, companies such as the TTC and other MoE transportation initiatives are helping teachers and students get to schools and back home safely.
The TTC has taken measures to increase efficiency and ensure the optimal use of seats. Amid the increasing demand on services, the company is preventing seats being reserved by groups that do not use them and instead providing spaces for the neediest.
Khalida Al-Khaldi, a private school teacher in Jeddah who recently moved her twin daughters to a public school, will be using TTC this year as both she, her husband, and their daughters will be heading in opposite directions.

BACKGROUND

The TTC has taken measures to increase efficiency and ensure the optimal use of seats. Amid the increasing demand on services, the company is preventing seats being reserved by groups that do not use them and instead providing spaces for the neediest.

“The service came recommended by several colleagues who have used it before. Given our situation, this will be our best option, and the girls are old enough to know by now how to keep safe, clean, and take their precautionary measures while on the bus.”
But some parents are wary and are opting not to use buses to transport their kids to school.
Maha Salama Albalawi from Riyadh told Arab News: “We chose the school carefully; our kids need to be social and have a chance to experience a stable school environment. Each classroom has a specific number of kids, and they make sure to sanitize. As moms, we need a break from our kids, and it is healthier for them because they have a full productive day. They’ll even eat better now and sleep earlier, just like how it was before.”
Given that her family driver is also unable to return to the Kingdom, she said that she would prefer to transport her children herself as “buses do not seem like a healthy option for us at the moment. I need to make them wash their hands all the time and are careful,” she added.
Sharing his experience, Akhtarul Islam Siddiqui, an Indian expat whose four children are studying at Indian schools in Riyadh, said: “Most parents had been using school transport before the pandemic as they cannot drop and pick up their wards due to their job schedules, so they will continue with precautions assured by the transport providers.”
Siddiqui has had to rely on school transportation at one of Riyadh’s more expensive Indian international schools given his commute to work and Riyadh traffic. He told Arab News that some corrupt activities and mishandling of funds have put parents in a difficult financial position, questioning the ethics of the school’s transport system.
He said that the situation is out of his hands and that he is going to use a private bus company instead of the one the school is using.
With the growing demand for drivers, recruitment agencies are prepared to cover the high cost because the hiring group bears the travel ban.
Saquib Hamza, manager at Dynamic Staffing Services for Saudi Arabia, told Arab News: “During these difficult times, many people who went from Saudi Arabia to India and Pakistan are willing to come back to resume their employment.
“Currently, we have flight options to Saudi Arabia following the guidelines by the General Authority of Civil Aviation, which requires a 14-day quarantine from the Maldives, Armenia and Tanzania.
“The bookings are very popular, and the package comes between SR8,000 to 10,000 ($2,133 to 2,666) depending on the quarantine package and flight availability.”
He added: “If recruiters are willing to recover drivers from countries facing travel bans, we are ready to provide our service if they take responsibility for high travel costs.
“As a recruitment company, we are getting regular calls and follow-ups from thousands of job seekers, including drivers working in Saudi Arabia. People are desperate to return to Saudi Arabia as their families depend on them for livelihood.”
Hamza said: “I still believe Saudi Arabia can partially start direct flights from India, Pakistan for fully vaccinated people with mandatory quarantine periods in the Kingdom.”


Visitors swarm Saudi Arabia’s Jazan Honey Festival

Around 3,500 kilograms of honey were sold at last year’s festival with a total value of more than SR2 million. The event aims to support local beekeepers. (SPA)
Around 3,500 kilograms of honey were sold at last year’s festival with a total value of more than SR2 million. The event aims to support local beekeepers. (SPA)
Updated 7 min 4 sec ago

Visitors swarm Saudi Arabia’s Jazan Honey Festival

Around 3,500 kilograms of honey were sold at last year’s festival with a total value of more than SR2 million. The event aims to support local beekeepers. (SPA)
  • Event showcases the region’s tourism, economic, and investment components

JEDDAH: The seventh Jazan Honey Festival is attracting more fans in the region’s Edabi governorate, where the event is held annually.

The festival was recently launched by Jazan Gov. Prince Mohammed bin Nasser bin Abdulaziz. He was briefed upon his arrival about the festival’s activities and the accompanying events.
Local resident Dr. Mohammed Al-Ghazwani said the festival sought to introduce and showcase the region’s various agricultural, tourism, economic, and investment components, including honey.
He added that the festival, where 50 beekeepers were displaying various types of first-class natural honey, also aimed to support local beekeepers and that it had helped apiarists to invest in the region’s fertile environment to produce commercial quantities.
“The festival also helps Jazan’s honey farmers to develop packaging methods for their honey products, in light of the support and care given by the wise leadership aiming to develop the country and serve citizens and improve their well-being,” Al-Ghazwani said in a speech on behalf of locals. “Over 700 kilograms of honey have so far been sold over the last three days of the festival, worth more than SR250,000 (around $67,000).”
Around 3,500 kilograms of honey were sold at last year’s festival with a total value of more than SR2 million.

HIGHLIGHT

The festival was recently launched by Jazan Gov. Prince Mohammed bin Nasser bin Abdulaziz. He was briefed upon his arrival about the festival’s activities and the accompanying events.

A local visitor to the festival, Mohammed Hassan Hakami, told Arab News that the region could produce different types of honey including sidr, which was a well-liked and popular variety in the Kingdom.
“In the region, we also have other honey types, such as Al-Qatad, Al-Majra, Al-Samrah, and Al-Shawkah. We also have different types of fine beeswax,” Hakami said.
He bought 2 kilograms of sidr tree honey and expressed his confidence that the festival’s organizers would not allow low-quality honey to be put on sale.
Honeybee expert Faiz Al-Quthami said that Salam honey could not be produced anywhere else but Jazan.
“Jazan is the best region for producing bees, honey, and beeswax. The region also has mangrove honey, which is higher in medicinal and nutritional value than any other type of honey. However, many beekeepers pay less attention to this type of honey,” he said.
Al-Quthami said that some types of honey were more expensive than others simply because of the shortage of the produced quantities.
He said that Majra honey, for example, was produced in small batches due to its short season but that this factor justified its high prices when compared to those of sidr tree honey.
“Sidr honey is very popular in Saudi Arabia for its fine quality, availability, and reasonable price. Based on scientific research and studies, however, Al-Samar honey is the second-best honey after that of the mangrove shrubs.”


Saudi law of elderly is based on country’s customs and traditions

Saad Al-Hammad, the spokesperson for the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Development. (Supplied)
Saad Al-Hammad, the spokesperson for the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Development. (Supplied)
Updated 9 min 7 sec ago

Saudi law of elderly is based on country’s customs and traditions

Saad Al-Hammad, the spokesperson for the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Development. (Supplied)
  • Legislation will give the elderly ‘priority in services and investing their skills in a variety of fields’

RIYADH: It is important to ensure social protection for elderly people — be it quality of life, providing assistance, or investing their skills in various fields. Society, however, must know that these rights are part of Saudi Arabia’s social norms and traditions.

The Saudi Cabinet approved a new law to protect the rights of elderly citizens in the Kingdom earlier this month.
Saad Al-Hammad, the spokesperson for the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Development, said: “The new law strengthens the position of the elderly in society and is based on our customs and traditions, by giving the elderly priority in services and waiting areas and investing their skills in a variety of fields.”
This legislation, says Al-Hammad, grants the elderly special privileges and preserves their social, financial, and legal rights. It also sets harsh penalties, such as fines and imprisonment, for those who abuse the elderly, be they elderly individuals themselves or the private and government institutions that provide services to them.

HIGHLIGHT

This legislation, according to official, grants the elderly special privileges and preserves their social, financial, and legal rights.

He noted that the elderly have the right to choose to live with their families, and that sheltering in care homes depends on the situation of the elderly and what serves the public interest.

According to a UN report, those aged 65 and over made up around 3.4 percent of Saudi Arabia’s population. (Supplied)

“National centers are part of the transformation work in the elderly services, with the goal of achieving well-being and social integration for them, improving their status, and assisting families in providing care services for those who need them,” Al-Hammad explained.
According to Article 8 of the law, if a provider is unable to support the elderly financially, and no one in the elderly’s family can support them either, the ministry shall support them financially, according to what is specified by the regulation.
The ministry is obligated to enable the elderly to live in an environment that preserves their rights and dignity, and spreads awareness to clarify their rights. The ministry is also responsible for providing reliable statistical data about the elderly, which will benefit researchers in conducting studies and research.
The law also requires the ministry to organize and implement appropriate programs for the elderly, improve their skills, experiences, and hobbies, enhance their integration into society, encourage able-bodied elderly people to work, support their employers and promote volunteering activities serving the elderly.
The ministry must rehabilitate public and commercial facilities, residential neighborhoods, the surrounding environment, and mosques to ensure they are suitable for the needs of the elderly. They must also allocate places for the elderly in public facilities and at public events and urge the private sector, business owners, and civil bodies to care for them.
Government agencies should prioritize the elderly seeking basic services, particularly health and social services.
The ministry must also grant the elderly a privilege card that allows them to benefit from the public services to meet the necessities of their daily lives.
According to a UN report, those aged 65 and over made up around 3.4 percent of Saudi Arabia’s population, a figure it predicted could reach 6 percent by 2030.
Eng. Badr Al-Eyada, chairman of the board of directors of the Saudi Elderly Support Organization, stressed that it conducted a study on the situation of elderly care and launched a guide to services for the elderly. The guide presents services and facilities provided by the governmental, private, and civil sectors in 13 regions of the Kingdom.
Al-Eyada said his organization established and operated the first telephone consultation unit for the elderly in the Kingdom, which reflects its dedication to programs to facilitate telephone consultations for the medical, psychological, social, and legal needs of elderly people across the Kingdom.
He added that the approved law would provide the elderly with the care, attention, and protection they deserve, and helps ensure social security for the elderly, whilst significantly raising awareness of this group’s rights.


Amateur Saudi truck driver steals spotlight at Dakar Rally in viral video

Mishal Al-Shlowi, from Taif, left, said that he is a big fan of the Dakar Rally. (Supplied)
Mishal Al-Shlowi, from Taif, left, said that he is a big fan of the Dakar Rally. (Supplied)
Updated 11 sec ago

Amateur Saudi truck driver steals spotlight at Dakar Rally in viral video

Mishal Al-Shlowi, from Taif, left, said that he is a big fan of the Dakar Rally. (Supplied)
  • Yazeed Al-Rajhi himself commented on the viral video, and said: “The rally car that appeared in the viral video is an old classic car

JEDDAH: A video shot at the Dakar Rally has gone viral after appearing to show a pickup truck outperforming other vehicles in the race.
The video features a Nissan Datsun 2015 model, whose driver outperforms a Belgium racer.
But the video was a practical joke played by 24-year-old Saudi driver Mishal Al-Schlowi, who through cunning camera angles and ingenuity, staged the whole thing.
Al-Shlowi was driving parallel to the Belgian, but off the track, giving him an advantage.
The video received a large number of reactions on social media after it went viral on Twitter.
It was shot by one of the helicopter videographers who usually follow the rally racers.
Al-Shlowi, from Taif, told Arab News that he is a big fan of the rally.
“On Friday morning, I was driving at an approximate speed of 110 to 120 kilometers per hour. Once we saw the Belgium racer on the road, me and my friend next to me became super excited,” he said.
“The videographer in the helicopter gave us some signs to go ahead once we started to drive in a parallel track, and his signs gave me the courage to go faster and outperform the racer.”
The adventurous driver said that he was cautious and aware of what he was doing. “I was driving on the other side of the main rally track to avoid any sudden accidents.”
Al-Shlowi added that before he completed the stunt, he was on his way to check on nearby livestock. He praised the efforts of the organizers in informing local farmers of the race, so as to avoid accidents.
“I drive in off-road areas, about 50 kilometers per day, to reach my college in Taif city. I know how to deal with difficult landforms very well,” he said.
One of Al-Shlowi’s dreams is to take part in the Dakar Rally, but he said that it is very costly. “My biggest role model in the race is our amazing champion Yazeed Al-Rajhi. I wish to be part of upcoming Dakar rallies,” he added.
Yazeed Al-Rajhi himself commented on the viral video, and said: “The rally car that appeared in the viral video is an old classic car. It has a different route than the main one. Usually, it is for amateur first-time participants.”
Another well-known Saudi car enthusiast, Hasan Kutbi, shared the video in a tweet with a funny comment: “The Datsun driver announces winning the race, and he demands an award as well.”
Dakar Rally 2022 marked its third edition in Saudi Arabia and the 44th in history on Jan. 1. The race ended on Jan 14.
Qatari racer Nasser Al-Attiyah won first place, while Saudi driver Yazeed Al-Rajhi placed third for his first Dakar podium finish in his eighth attempt.
The event is considered one of the most prestigious and challenging in the world of motor sports. This year’s edition was the largest in terms of participation, drawing 650 racers from more than 70 countries around the world.
It included 430 vehicles across all race categories. The Dakar Classic category included 148 vehicles designed before 2000, as well as vintage cars and trucks.


Saudi FM discusses Africa’s security with US officials

Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan meets US Assistant Secretary of State for Horn of Africa Affairs Molly Phee and envoy for the Horn of Africa David Satterfield. (SPA)
Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan meets US Assistant Secretary of State for Horn of Africa Affairs Molly Phee and envoy for the Horn of Africa David Satterfield. (SPA)
Updated 17 January 2022

Saudi FM discusses Africa’s security with US officials

Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan meets US Assistant Secretary of State for Horn of Africa Affairs Molly Phee and envoy for the Horn of Africa David Satterfield. (SPA)

RIYADH: Saudi Arabian Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan on Monday received US Assistant Secretary of State for Horn of Africa Affairs Molly Phee and the newly appointed envoy for the Horn of Africa, David Satterfield, in the capital Riyadh.
During the meeting, they discussed both countries’ efforts to enhance security and stability in the African continent, and support everything that contributes to the development and prosperity of the African peoples and countries, the Kingdom’s foreign ministry said.
They also “reviewed the strategic relations between the Kingdom and the US and ways to enhance them in all areas of cooperation and joint coordination” and discussed the latest regional and international developments of common interest.
Martina Strong, charge d’affaires of the US Embassy in Riyadh, also attended the meeting. 


Saudi Arabia’s Jabal Al-Lawz blanketed in snow

People in the Kingdom can enjoy a rare snowy escape at Jabal Al-Lawz. (SPA)
People in the Kingdom can enjoy a rare snowy escape at Jabal Al-Lawz. (SPA)
Updated 17 January 2022

Saudi Arabia’s Jabal Al-Lawz blanketed in snow

People in the Kingdom can enjoy a rare snowy escape at Jabal Al-Lawz. (SPA)
  • The snow-capped mountain makes for a perfect winter destination, especially for adventure and nature lovers

TABUK: People in the Kingdom can enjoy a rare snowy escape at Jabal Al-Lawz, or the Almond Mountain, which takes its name from the large number of almond trees growing on its slopes.

Rising to more than 2,600 meters above sea level, the snow-capped mountain makes for a perfect winter destination, especially for adventure and nature lovers.

Jabal Al-Lawz is located near Saudi Arabia's border with Jordan, above the Gulf of Aqaba.