Inside the adventure playground of Riyadh’s Wadi Hanifah

Inside the adventure playground of Riyadh’s Wadi Hanifah
Wadi Hanifah is a dry riverbed that was transformed by the Riyadh Development Authority from an unsightly and dangerous dumping ground into the meandering oasis that it is today. (Shutterstock)
Short Url
Updated 28 August 2021

Inside the adventure playground of Riyadh’s Wadi Hanifah

Inside the adventure playground of Riyadh’s Wadi Hanifah
  • What was once a rubbish heap is now a pristine beauty spot that offers a tranquil escape from the bustle of the city

RIYADH: Anyone who has spent some time in Riyadh will likely be familiar with Wadi Hanifah — the dry riverbed that was transformed by the Royal Commission for Riyadh City from an unsightly and dangerous dumping ground into the meandering oasis that it is today, with landscaped gardens, lush wetlands and thousands of trees.

But while you might have visited this beauty spot for an evening stroll or picnic, you might not be aware of all the other activities it has to offer. 

Many people probably do not know, for example, that Wadi Hanifah is listed as a global destination for runners. The website Great Runs — “the ultimate guide to the best places to run” — cites the “groomed network of trails” in the vicinity of the Diplomatic Quarter, “winding through the desert for a ‘lollipop’ loop of 8 kilometers by the waterway, with its great desert scenery.” Twenty kilometers south is the Stone Dam Park where runners can push themselves to the limit, up and down the 210-step staircase. 




Wadi Hanifah is listed as a global destination for runners. (Shutterstock)

Wadi Hanifah is also a safe, quiet and peaceful place for a bike ride — in contrast to the unforgiving highway ‘supergrid’ of Riyadh — whether you’re looking for a relaxed cycle through attractive landscape or something more challenging. Cyclists can traverse the entire western side of the city, a 25-kilometer stretch from the historical village of Diriyah in the north to the neighborhood of Badr in the south. 

“You can ride everything from gravel roads to sandy valleys and historic backstreets,” says long-distance cyclist Omar Al-Omair. “There are enough options to provide a different adventure every day of the week. It is mostly free of traffic during early mornings and at night and is full of green scenery. A lot of cycling groups use it to ride on an almost daily basis.”

The many flat, sandy areas of Wadi Hanifah offer a perfect spot to pitch a tent for the night too, as nomadic Bedouins have done for thousands of years. The whole Wadi is patrolled 24 hours a day, seven days a week, so camping out here is generally very safe. 




Wadi Hanifah is also a safe, quiet and peaceful place for a bike ride. (Shutterstock)

One may still be a little unnerved by the packs of wild dogs, but they usually keep their distance, and their bark is invariably worse than their bite. And they do — eventually — settle down to sleep. 

Lounging by your campfire under the stars, with the illuminated stone banks on either side and a cool breeze blowing through the trees, it is easy to forget that you are only minutes away from the teeming streets of the Saudi capital.

Ornithologists praise Wadi Hanifah for its abundance of bird life: grebes, cormorants, herons and egrets are among the 300-plus bird species attracted by the wetlands, the lush greenery and the adjacent farms and palm groves.




As part of the Green Riyadh project, a Sports Boulevard will soon connect Wadi Hanifah in the west of the city with Wadi Al-Sulai in the east. (Shutterstock)

Arthur Stagg, author of “Birds of the Riyadh Region,” writes that “the Saudi authorities have recognized the intrinsic value of this desert wetland and accorded it reserve status, thereby protecting species which in many other areas of the world are threatened.”

And for amateur botanists, Wadi Hanifah offers an enormous variety of trees, shrubs, reeds, cacti and flowers. Of course, there are many kinds of acacia and palm trees, but there are also desert rose, tamarisk, fluffy ‘needle bush’ and boxthorn, among countless other species. 

The ecological consultants behind the transformation of Wadi Hanifah wanted to preserve and regenerate the native plants of the Najd region, instead of importing fauna from abroad. And they were amazed at how fast the wadi’s ancient ecosystem came back to life. 




Wadi Hanifah offers an enormous variety of trees, shrubs, reeds, cacti and flowers. (Shutterstock)

But in terms of activities in Wadi Hanifah, the best is probably yet to come. As part of the Green Riyadh project, a Sports Boulevard will soon connect Wadi Hanifah in the west of the city with Wadi Al-Sulai in the east. The 30-kilometer route will include pedestrian pathways, children’s playgrounds, cycling routes up to 135 kilometers long and horse-riding routes up to 123 kilometers long. 

Various cultural venues are also planned in the form of outdoor movie theaters, museums, art galleries and children’s playgrounds — all contributing to one of the key goals of Vision 2030: to place Riyadh among the world’s top 100 most-livable cities.

A place of fun and adventure alongside pristine nature and diverse wildlife, Wadi Hanifah in many ways represents the intended future of Saudi Arabia as a whole.


Luxury publisher Assouline celebrates Dubai in latest tome

Luxury publisher Assouline celebrates Dubai in latest tome
Updated 20 October 2021

Luxury publisher Assouline celebrates Dubai in latest tome

Luxury publisher Assouline celebrates Dubai in latest tome

DUBAI: From Ibiza to the Amalfi Coast, Marrakech to Mykonos, luxury publisher Assouline is known for a collection of globe-trotting titles. For the latest addition to its Travel Series, the publisher is putting the spotlight on Dubai. 

Titled “Dubai Wonder,” the new 296-page coffee table book was authored by Dubai-based arts consultant and editor Myrna Ayad, the brain behind Assouline’s retrospective on the late UAE ruler, “Sheikh Zayed: An Eternal Legacy,” which came out last year. 

While it was the arts consultant who initially pitched the idea to the luxury publisher, for her latest book, Ayad shares that it was Assouline that reached out to her.

Titled “Dubai Wonder,” the new 296-page coffee table book was authored by Dubai-based arts consultant and editor Myrna Ayad. (Supplied)

“After publishing my first book with Assouline, the house asked if I’d like to author a book on Dubai as part of its iconic Travel Series,” shared Ayad to Arab News.

An avid collector of Assouline books and a Dubai resident for four decades, Ayad did not have to think twice before agreeing to take on the project.

Taking readers on an immersive journey through the UAE’s bustling metropolis, the book delves into the beauty, diversity and rich culture of Dubai through a collection of images and text that show the city has plenty more to offer beyond the world’s largest shopping mall and tallest skyscraper.

An avid collector of Assouline books and a Dubai resident for four decades, Ayad did not have to think twice before agreeing to take on the project.

“Dubai is a tourism destination, that’s for sure; however, I wanted to portray that it is also a cultural hotspot, a city that is home for so many, and a city that constantly gives,” says Ayad.

Assouline describes Dubai as “one of the most important metropolises in the Middle East.”

Indeed, it is hard to imagine that only 50 years ago, the futuristic city was but a humble desert oasis that relied on pearl diving, fishing and trade.

Luxury publisher Assouline is known for a collection of globe-trotting titles. (Supplied)

With “Dubai Wonders,” the author hopes to also capture the side of Dubai that you will not typically see in a 90-second tourism advert.

“Because I have lived in Dubai for 40 years, it is important for me to show audiences the city’s urban evolution. Part of that means showing another side to Dubai, a side which is perhaps not seen as much, but forms the city’s identity,” says Ayad. “Some of those places include the Khor Dubai, which I feel is the very pulse of the city; the ever so charming Jumeirah district; the wondrous Deira Fish Market, the timeless Gold Souk and historical Al-Shindagha.”

On a more contemporary level, spots like AlSerkal Avenue, Jumeirah Road and the Expo 2020 Dubai are also highlighted throughout the book.

Additionally, the opus features insight from international figures like English footballer David Beckham and Iraqi beauty mogul Huda Kattan who describes Dubai as “an incredible place that she is grateful to call home.”


Scream queen Kiernan Shipka sets off spooky season in Elie Saab look

Actress Kiernan Shipka is the reigning queen of all things creepy, with leading roles in several spooky shows. (Getty Images)
Actress Kiernan Shipka is the reigning queen of all things creepy, with leading roles in several spooky shows. (Getty Images)
Updated 20 October 2021

Scream queen Kiernan Shipka sets off spooky season in Elie Saab look

Actress Kiernan Shipka is the reigning queen of all things creepy, with leading roles in several spooky shows. (Getty Images)

DUBAI: US actress Kiernan Shipka took to Instagram in an all-black look by Lebanese designer Elie Saab this week — just in time for spooky season.

Shipka, who plays teenage witch Sabrina Spellman on Netflix’s hit show “Chilling Adventures of Sabrina,” opted for the chic look while on a press tour.

The actress showed off a below-the-knee cocktail dress by Saab, complete with a tulle skirt and lace detailing on the cap sleeves and high collar. The glamorous dress hails from the designer’s Fall/Winter 2021 ready-to-wear collection.

Shipka’s character is set to make an appearance on hit show “Riverdale” as part of a crossover event between the two popular series.

She will appear in five episodes of the sinister teen show, which showrunner Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa called “really fun and special.”

“We’ve been talking about having Sabrina visit ‘Riverdale’ since season 1, so it’s thrilling that this is finally happening as part of our ‘Riverdale’ special event. It’s also perfect that she shows up to help Cheryl Blossom during her hour of greatest need. Everyone on set lost their minds — I think fans will, too. It’s really fun and special,” he said in a previous statement, referring to one of the show’s lead characters.

Sabrina will arrive on “Riverdale” in season 6’s fourth episode, titled “The Witching Hour(s).”

Proving she is the queen of all things creepy, Shipka also stars in a Halloween podcast movie called “Treat,” which will debut on all major podcast platforms on Oct. 25. In it, she plays Allie West, a high school student in a seemingly perfect American town that makes a deal with a mysterious outsider possessing supernatural powers.

“I’m thrilled to be playing Allie — she’s a strong-willed, complex young girl with a true weight on her shoulders: She has to be the adult in her family, but she’s still just a teenager coming of age, and being able to play her and navigate her world is really fulfilling,” Shipka said in a previous statement reported by Variety. “‘Treat’ is a one-of-a-kind thrilling audio movie and story, and I’m so excited to be part of this experience with C13Features,” she added, referring to the studio behind the feature-length podcast.


El Gouna Film Festival screens award-winning films ‘Amira,’ ‘Feathers’ to mixed reactions

El Gouna Film Festival screens award-winning films ‘Amira,’ ‘Feathers’ to mixed reactions
Updated 20 October 2021

El Gouna Film Festival screens award-winning films ‘Amira,’ ‘Feathers’ to mixed reactions

El Gouna Film Festival screens award-winning films ‘Amira,’ ‘Feathers’ to mixed reactions

DUBAI: Egypt’s El Gouna Film Festival on Tuesday screened Egyptian director Mohamed Diab’s award-winning movie “Amira,” which made its global premiere at the 78th edition of the Venice Film Festival this year.

The film revolves around Amira, a 17-year-old Palestinian who has gone through life believing she is the biological daughter of a Palestinian prisoner serving a life sentence in an Israeli jail.

The film, which is set in Palestine’s West Bank, features a stellar pan-Arab cast, including Jordanian star Saba Mubarak, Palestinian-Israeli actor Ali Suliman and emerging Jordanian actress Tara Abboud, who landed her first leading role as Amira.

The film revolves around Amira, a 17-year-old Palestinian who has gone through life believing she is the biological daughter of a Palestinian prisoner serving a life sentence in an Israeli jail. (El Gouna Film Festival)

“Amira” won two prestigious awards at the Venice International Film Festival — the Lanterna Magica Award and the Interfilm Award.

It is competing for the Feature Narrative Award at El Gouna.

The movie was also screened at the recent Toronto Film Festival. 

On Monday, the festival screened the Egyptian film “Feathers,” directed by Omar El-Zohairy. 

However, the film — which won the Grand Prize at the Cannes Film Festival’s Critics Week — sparked controversy at the event and on social media. 

Some Egyptian filmmakers and actors, including Sherif Mounir, Ahmed Rizk and Ashraf Abdel Baqi, left the screening of the film because they thought the movie offends Egypt. 

Some Egyptian filmmakers and actors, including Sherif Mounir, left the screening of the film because they thought the movie offends Egypt. (AFP)

“Feathers” tells the story of a mother who dedicates her life to her husband and children. When a magic trick goes wrong at her four-year-old son’s birthday party, an avalanche of coincidental absurdities befalls the family. The magician turns her husband, the authoritarian father, into a chicken. 

The mother is now forced to come to the fore and take care of the family while trying to bring her husband back. As she tries to survive, she goes through a rough transformation. 

In a phone interview with Egyptian host Amr Adib on his show “Al-Hekaya,” Mounir said: “When I left (the screening), I was followed by others right after me. What I saw, and the film’s picture, portrays us (Egyptians) in a negative way. It shows people suffering in an abnormal way.

“Even poor areas, that ‘were’ there, didn’t live that badly. I was disappointed to be honest. I was also disappointed that when it premiered abroad, it won awards,” he said. “I no longer see this picture (or these struggles) in our country.”

Egyptian film “Feathers” is directed by Omar El-Zohairy. (Supplied)

“I don’t know what the people who awarded the film liked in this movie,” he added.  

Egyptian news agency Al-Masry Al-Youm shared a released statement by the festival that says: “El-Gouna Film Festival values and appreciates all filmmakers in the world for their art and their outstanding cinematic experiences. The festival team selects films based on artistic and cinematic qualities, according to the standards of international film festivals.

“This year, in its fifth edition, the selection of the film ‘Feathers’ by Egyptian director Omar El-Zohairy is in line with the film selection process, based on his success in other international forums,” added the statement.  

Speaking about its Cannes award, the festival’s organizers added: “It is the first Egyptian film to receive such a prestigious award. It also won the Grand Prix of the Pingyao Festival in China yesterday. It will be screened at the next Carthage Film Festival.

“Regarding the views of many Egyptian and international critics, the film’s setting and time were not identified… the festival did not and will not show any film without obtaining official permits, to confirm that it does not bear any offense or grudge in any of its films,” read the statement. 


Six DIY resistance exercises to build muscle at home

Six DIY resistance exercises to build muscle at home
Updated 20 October 2021

Six DIY resistance exercises to build muscle at home

Six DIY resistance exercises to build muscle at home

DUBAI: Nora Hameidani, founder of Dubai’s Barre Effect fitness studio, shows you how to build and maintain strength in or out of the gym. Try these simple yet effective barre moves to help you build lean muscle in the comfort of your own home.

Pushups

Start with hands slightly wider than shoulders, fingers pointing forward. (Shutterstock)

Targets: Arms/chest/shoulders

Start with 10 reps, build up to 3 sets of 10

Start with hands slightly wider than shoulders, fingers pointing forward.  Place knees slightly behind your hips, tuck hips under.  Bend your elbows wide and slightly downwards, hips lower with chest, keeping abdominals engaged, then press arms to straight.  For a challenge, legs can lengthen.

Tricep Dips

Bend and straighten your elbows, lifting and lowering your hips, keeping your elbows pointing backwards and your chest proud. (Shutterstock)

Targets: Triceps/shoulders

Start with 15 reps, build up to 3 sets of 15

While sitting tall with your legs bent in front, place hands under shoulders, with fingers pointing towards your hips.  Bend and straighten your elbows, lifting and lowering your hips, keeping your elbows pointing backwards and your chest proud.

Forearm Plank

Keep your legs straight and a hips distance apart, keep hips in line with shoulders or slightly above shoulder height. (Shutterstock)

Targets: core/arms/shoulders

Holding still for 30 sec, build up to 3 sets of 30 sec

Lying on your front, place your elbows under shoulders, pointing your fingers forward and keeping your forearms parallel.  Keep your legs straight and a hips distance apart, keep hips in line with shoulders or slightly above shoulder height. 

Bicycle Crunches

Start lengthening one leg at a time to the high diagonal, simultaneously rotating your chest, shoulders and arms towards the opposite, bent leg. (Shutterstock)

Targets: abdominals/obliques

Alternating sides for 30 sec, build up to 3 sets of 30 sec

Lying on your back, bring your legs to a tabletop position with your knees bent 90 degrees on top of your hips.  With your hands behind your head, elbows wide, engage your abdominals to lift your head, neck, and shoulders off the floor.  Start lengthening one leg at a time to the high diagonal, simultaneously rotating your chest, shoulders and arms towards the opposite, bent leg.

Wide 2nd Pulses

Pulse hips at knee height, in small, controlled movements for only about an inch. (Shutterstock)

Targets: Inner and outer thighs/glutes

Pulsing for 30 seconds, build up to 3 sets of 30 sec

Place your feet out wide, bending your knees so they stack on top of your heels. Externally rotate your feet so that your knees track through the middle of your foot. Pulse hips at knee height, in small, controlled movements for only about an inch.

Lunges

Keeping front leg still and stable, pulse back knee in small, controlled movements, only about an inch, toward the floor. (Shutterstock)

Targets: Thighs/hamstring/glutes

Pulsing 1 set of 30 seconds on each leg, build up to 3 sets of 30 seconds per leg

With your feet parallel, hips distance apart, bend both knees and step right leg directly back.  Bend both knees to a 90-degree angle, front knee on top of heel, back right knee bending slightly behind the torso. Keeping front leg still and stable, pulse back knee in small, controlled movements, only about an inch, toward the floor.


From Beyonce to singer Tinashe, Arab label Marzook snaps up celebrity fans

From Beyonce to singer Tinashe, Arab label Marzook snaps up celebrity fans
Updated 19 October 2021

From Beyonce to singer Tinashe, Arab label Marzook snaps up celebrity fans

From Beyonce to singer Tinashe, Arab label Marzook snaps up celebrity fans

DUBAI: Kuwaiti label Marzook is continuing to snap up celebrity fans, with US singer Tinashe and superstar Beyonce spotted sporting its curved creations in recent days.

Tinashe, famous for her hit song “2 On,” showed off a pill-shaped bag by the brand during a photoshoot for A Book Of digital and print magazine this month.

The singer was photographed in a retro look, complete with a white hairband, larger-than-life hair and a sleek cat eye. Styled by Wilford Lenov, the ensemble featured a glittering Marzook bag called the Pill Dusty Pink.

Meanwhile, Beyonce was photographed with the Kuwaiti arm candy in Italy over the weekend.

The world-famous singer was photographed outside Alexandre Arnault’s wedding to Geraldine Guyot in Venice, Italy, on Saturday. Guyot is the founder of the French brand D’Estrëe, while Arnault is the son of one of the world’s richest men, LVMH CEO Bernard Arnault, and the executive vice president of product and communications at Tiffany & Co.

The singer showed off a bag by Marzook during a recent photoshoot for A Book Of magazine. (Instagram)

For the occasion, Beyoncé opted for a Tiffany-blue silk gown and heels with a Dolce & Gabbana double-breasted wool coat. She accessorized the look with a Marzook crystal orb purse and Lorraine Schwartz diamond jewelry.

Helmed by Kuwaiti siblings Fahad and Shouq Al-Marzooq, the Beirut-based accessories brand was established in 2014. The brother sister duo started off in the fashion industry by designing pieces for their family and friends and quickly went on to garner worldwide attention and sign celebrity collaboration deals.

In 2019, US influencer and model Sofia Richie, singer Lionel Richie’s daughter, collaborated on a new line of handbags with the label.  

 “When you’re one of social media’s most popular style stars, your style influence is extremely crucial.  Sofia’s style is very much aligned with the Marzook girl, who rather than follows trends, creates trends,” the fashion label wrote on its website at the time.

The collaboration featured Marzook’s perennial favorite, the spherical Lucid Classic bag, in a new set of neon shades — “Powerful Pink, Neon- Z Green and Traffic Cone Orange.”

And those are not the only celebrities who have shown love for the Arab brand.

Kylie Jenner showed off a crystal-covered orb bag by the label on her birthday in 2018, triggering many a newspaper headline.

The accessories house’s bags have been sported by the likes of human rights lawyer Amal Clooney, actress Lupita Nyong’o and model Cara Delevingne.

The label’s line of accessories consists of exotic leather and skins, precious metals and resins in pill or spherical shapes.