Looking after the environment in 18th-century Najd

Wadi Hanifa is a wadi in the Najd region, Riyadh Province in central Saudi Arabia. (Shutterstock)
Wadi Hanifa is a wadi in the Najd region, Riyadh Province in central Saudi Arabia. (Shutterstock)
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Updated 22 September 2021

Looking after the environment in 18th-century Najd

Wadi Hanifa is a wadi in the Najd region, Riyadh Province in central Saudi Arabia. (Shutterstock)
  • ESG — environmental, social and governance factors — have been adopted across the Vision 2030 range of projects

DUBAI: Environmental sustainability has been hot-wired into the structure of the Diriyah Gate Development Authority (DGDA) from the very beginning, making it a true blend of historic tradition, high technology and modern investment theory.

The mission statement of the $50.6 billion project is: “To create a world-class destination for visitors and locals alike within the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia that is renowned for being resilient to climate change, promotes cultural heritage, ensures thriving vibrant and healthy communities, provides a high quality of life, and promotes equity.”

ESG — environmental, social and governance factors — have been adopted across the Vision 2030 range of projects, of which Diriyah is one of the most prominent. 

But the task of accommodating millions of visitors wanting modern comfort and convenience in a setting as faithful as possible to its roots in 18th-century Najd was a challenge the architects and designers of Diriyah took into account from the outset.

“Drawing on the Kingdom’s rich past, the masterplan will reflect the Najdi architecture of 300 years past, newly adapted for 21st-century living. With its mud brick walls, locally sourced materials, historic palm groves and farms coupled with an array of world-class cultural, entertainment, retail, hospitality, educational, office and residential areas — this is the perfect amalgamation and a powerhouse of Saudi culture and commerce,” DGDA told Arab News.

Among the measures incorporated into designs are the extensive use of native plant species, “drip irrigation” techniques to reduce water consumption, and the use of recycled waste water for all Diriyah projects at build-out.

There is also a state-of-the-art sewage plant and stormwater infrastructure to avoid flooding during extreme weather.

There will be an abundance of greenery in the project on completion, with parks and open areas set among the environmentally sound buildings and community facilities, giving what the experts call “improved outdoor thermal comfort,” even at the height of the Riyadh summer.

“Through the application of the vernacular architectural style across the development, the community will embody a contextualized approach to both social and environmental sustainability, resonating with the anthropological history of the site while passively responding to the local climatic conditions,” DGDA said.

The site and plans for the development were inspected and approved in 2020 by the National Center for Environmental Compliance, the Kingdom’s environmental watchdog. “The environmental authority recognized and praised DGDA on the efforts for environmental compliance and applying best standards to all our projects,” the center said.

In addition, environmental impact assessments have been conducted on the projects and on the associated Wadi Safar master plans, and have been approved as complying with the highest environmental standards.

An environmental monitoring consultant was appointed to ensure the project adheres to the environmental rules, and that on-site contractors also observe best practice.

The whole project has been designed with environmental standards at the top of the agenda, while seeking to preserve the best of traditional design.

“Through the inward-looking design, tending toward building around central courtyards, the extreme climate experienced in the region is tempered by a cooler, shaded and enclosed internal environment,” DGDA said.

DGDA’s environmental and sustainability initiatives surpass environmental compliance, by embedding international best practices, innovative technologies, and sustainability certification targets in all our projects. We aim to enhance our environmental performance and sustainability credentials at the community and building levels,” it said.

Diriyah, past, present and future
On Saudi Arabia’s 91st National Day, the birthplace of the Kingdom continues to make history

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Saudi Arabia announces 2 more COVID-19 deaths

Saudi Arabia announces 2 more COVID-19 deaths
Updated 16 October 2021

Saudi Arabia announces 2 more COVID-19 deaths

Saudi Arabia announces 2 more COVID-19 deaths
  • The total number of recoveries in the Kingdom has increased to 536,900
  • A total of 8,760 people have succumbed to the virus in the Kingdom so far

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia announced two deaths from COVID-19 and 45 new infections on Saturday.

Of the new cases, 20 were recorded in Riyadh, five in Jeddah, two in Tabuk, two in Makkah, two in Al-Khobar, and two in Yanbu. Several other cities recorded one new case each.

The total number of recoveries in the Kingdom increased to 536,900 after 41 more patients recovered from the virus.

A total of 8,760 people have succumbed to the virus in the Kingdom so far.

Over 44.4 million doses of a coronavirus vaccine have been administered in the Kingdom to date.


KSA, Egypt discuss environmental cooperation

KSA, Egypt discuss environmental cooperation
Updated 16 October 2021

KSA, Egypt discuss environmental cooperation

KSA, Egypt discuss environmental cooperation
  • The men praised their countries’ successful cooperation in the field of environmental protection

CAIRO: Egypt’s Environment Minister Yasmine Fouad and her Saudi counterpart Abdulrahman Al-Fadley discussed environmental cooperation between their two countries.

They praised their countries’ successful cooperation in the field of environmental protection, with Fouad saying the environment is a priority for Egypt’s leadership.

She also welcomed cooperation with Saudi Arabia in terms of converting waste into energy.

The two sides discussed cooperation in the fields of coastal management, marine policies, environmental monitoring, management of chemicals and hazardous waste, and integration of environmental knowledge into educational curricula.

Al-Fadley expressed his aspiration to cooperate with Egypt in the field of water desalination and reusing extracted salt.

The two sides agreed to focus on cooperating to preserve the Red Sea, with Fouad noting its richness in coral reefs and marine life.


Saudi envoy to UK details rapid modernization under crown prince

Saudi envoy to UK details rapid modernization under crown prince
Updated 16 October 2021

Saudi envoy to UK details rapid modernization under crown prince

Saudi envoy to UK details rapid modernization under crown prince
  • Prince Khalid: “We have a very young population. They want a different world”
  • “I grew up with religious police telling us what to do, but now it’s about letting people make their own choices”

LONDON: The Saudi ambassador to Britain has praised the wide-ranging modernization efforts carried out by the Kingdom’s leadership.

“In the last five years the pace has been huge — 1,000 laws have been altered or removed,” Prince Khalid bin Bandar bin Sultan told The Times.

“There is a misconception about Saudi that we never change, but going back 100 years it’s been dramatic. My grandfather went to work on horseback, my father flew fast fighter jets, and my cousin went into space.”

Prince Khalid said the way the Kingdom legislates for women is also changing. “Just before I was posted here (in the UK), I went back for two days and I called one of my sisters and said, ‘Let’s go for a coffee. Shall I come and pick you up?’ and she said, ‘No, I’ve got my car.’ It brought a real smile to my face,” he said.

“Ten years ago it would have been unthinkable for her to have a job, let alone drive. We are still a very conservative society but we have a very young population. They want a different world.”

The ambassador, who attended the prestigious Eton College before Oxford University and Sandhurst, said: “I feel very Saudi, but I was brought up in the West.” 

His links to Britain are strong, not only through being educated in the UK but also through his English wife Lucy Cuthbert, a niece of the duke of Northumberland.

Prince Khalid has seen some of the modernization he witnessed in Britain appearing in his homeland, including mobile phones, which he said have made a huge difference to Saudi society.

“We have one of the highest percentages of phones per capita in the world, nearly three phones per person,” he added.

“The young are all over Instagram. In my generation, there wasn’t much entertainment at home so we had to go abroad. Now the young want to go to shops and cinemas, and there has been an explosion of events,” he said.

“There are women-only sections but no enforced separation. I grew up with religious police telling us what to do, but now it’s about letting people make their own choices.”

He told The Times that his sister said she “discovered there wasn’t a glass ceiling — it was more of a soft tent and she could push it out.”

The ambassador said 34 percent of the Saudi workforce is made up of women, dramatically leaping from 18 percent in 2016.

“We have had our first graduation for women in the army, there are women in government, in the police, we are training female judges, we have an equal opportunities and equal pay law,” he added.

Prince Khalid also detailed the rapid expansion of the Saudi tourism industry, including the giga-projects being planned. 

“In 2019 we launched our tourist visa online. We issued 440,000 visas before the pandemic started, 60,000 to the UK,” he said.

“We are developing resorts with a Red Sea project and NEOM, a new futuristic city. Saudi Arabia is the size of Western Europe. We also have 330 heritage sites.” These giga-projects are part of $7 trillion of investment under the Vision 2030 reform plan.

The Kingdom is expected to participate in the UN Climate Change conference, also known as Cop26, in Glasgow later this month. 

“We decided to move away from fossil fuels in 2016. We don’t want to be an oil provider but an energy provider,” said Prince Khalid. “We have committed to producing 50 percent of our energy by renewable sources by 2030.”


Who’s Who: Alaa Abdulaal, VP at the global Digital Cooperation Organization

Who’s Who: Alaa Abdulaal, VP at the global Digital Cooperation Organization
Updated 16 October 2021

Who’s Who: Alaa Abdulaal, VP at the global Digital Cooperation Organization

Who’s Who: Alaa Abdulaal, VP at the global Digital Cooperation Organization

Alaa Abdulaal has been the vice president of strategy and governance at the Digital Cooperation Organization since September 2021.

The organization, a global multilateral entity that aims at increasing social prosperity through accelerating the growth of the digital economy, was established by a group of countries that share an interest in collaborating to realize their collective digital potential. These countries are Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Jordan, Kuwait, Nigeria, Oman, and Pakistan.

Prior to joining the organization, Abdulaal had served for more than a year as the director of IT strategy and governance at the Ministry of Transport and Logistic Services. For over nine years, beginning in 2011, she worked for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs as a database unit leader, technical operation strategist, and a strategic planning and development manager.

In the latter role she established key performance metrics, designed reporting solutions, and promoted the use of structured information to drive enhanced business performance. She also led critical communication development and business reporting.

In 2015, she spent eight months as a research intern at Riva Modeling Systems in Toronto, where she demonstrated a strong interest and aptitude for user experience.

Before that, she worked for more than four years as a database administrator at the Saudi Exchange Market. There, she helped enhance the database’s performance and security. Her job responsibilities also included evaluating the proposed auditing systems and developing the availability process from scratch with the IT service management project consultants. Moreover, she created availability dashboards for Tadawul production services.

Abdulaal received a bachelor’s degree in computer science in 2006 from King Saud University, where she graduated with first class honors. In 2014, she obtained a master’s degree, majoring in applied computing, with the highest GPA result.

She is a certified strategic business planner and a professional business process manager.


Saudi air defenses destroy Houthi drone targeting Jazan

Saudi air defenses destroy Houthi drone targeting Jazan
Updated 16 October 2021

Saudi air defenses destroy Houthi drone targeting Jazan

Saudi air defenses destroy Houthi drone targeting Jazan

RIYADH: Saudi air defenses intercepted a Houthi drone aimed at Jazan, the Arab coalition said early Saturday.

The Houthis consistently target civilian infrastructure in the Kingdom using explosive drones.

The Kingdom has labeled Houthi attempts to target civilians as war crimes.

Earlier this month, attacks on Abha and Jazan airports in southern Saudi Arabia sparked widespread condemnation of the militia’s tactics of targeting civilian sites.

The Arab coalition has been fighting the Iran-backed Houthis, after the militia seized Yemen’s capital, Sanaa, in 2014.

Saudi Arabia as repeatedly said the only way to a peaceful Yemen is through dialogue, and has called on the Houthis to end the fighting. The Riyadh Initiative, which was launch by the Kingdom in March, includes a nationwide ceasefire and a plan to reopen Sanaa airport. The plan has been rejected by the Houthis.

Fighting in Marib province has claimed thousands of lives, among both government and Houthi forces. The resource-rich region has been heavily contested as the militia seek to strengthen their control of northern Yemen.

The Arab coalition said on Friday that ten military vehicles were destroyed and over 180 Houthis killed in operations it carried out in Abedia, a district in Marib that has been under siege since Sept. 23.

The Houthi action in Abedia has hindered the movement of civilians and impeded humanitarian aid flows, including medical supplies, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said earlier this week.

The war, which has now lasted for seven years, has cost thousands of Yemenis their lives and has forced many more to depend on humanitarian assistance.

Saudi relief agency, KSrelief, has poured billions of dollars worth of aid into Yemen and has hundreds of projects focusing on food and health.