Meet the Saudi tour guides bringing Diriyah’s past to life

Tour guide Manal Al-Qahtani. (Supplied)
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Tour guide Manal Al-Qahtani. (Supplied)
Mohammed Ahmed Al-Salem, a senior tour guide originally from Diriyah. (Supplied)
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Mohammed Ahmed Al-Salem, a senior tour guide originally from Diriyah. (Supplied)
Diriyah tour guide Najla Aldrees. (Supplied)
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Diriyah tour guide Najla Aldrees. (Supplied)
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Updated 22 September 2021

Meet the Saudi tour guides bringing Diriyah’s past to life

Meet the Saudi tour guides bringing Diriyah’s past to life
  • ‘Diriyah means history, the beginning of the Kingdom. But it is also about the future, learning and Vision 2030,’ says Manal Al-Qahtani

RIYADH: Lined up in front of the historic Salwa palace, 28 young Saudi tour guides stand ready to tell the story of their ancestors’ courageous fight against the Ottoman invaders, a valiant struggle that laid the groundwork for today’s Kingdom.

“I would like to showcase the determination and persistence of the people of Diriyah,” Mohammed Ahmed Al-Salem said, pointing to the ancient walls of the palace with pride.

The Diriyah guides say they are not only offering tours of the historic site, but are also keeping the stories of their ancestors alive.

“I don’t feel that I am only a tour guide or senior tourist guide, I am actually representing my country and its history,” senior tour guide Manal Al-Qahtani told Arab News.

“I am an ambassador here in Diriyah, serving my country.”

Surprisingly, Al-Qahtani never saw herself working as a tour guide, but during training she quickly fell in love with the role and the sector. After spending more than two years completing courses in hospitality, history and tourism, she is now one of Diriyah’s most experienced tour guides and is proud to represent her country.

The tour guides of Turaif explain the Kingdom’s history, ranging from the early Al-Saud settlement in 1446 to the dramatic siege and destruction of Diriyah in 1818.

The past speaks through these young and passionate guides, who not only provide tours of the historic site, but also tell the stories of their ancestors. These include tales of bravery and integrity such as the six-month resistance led by Imam Abdullah, the last ruler of the first Saudi state from 1814 to 1818.

Mohammed Ahmed Al-Salem, a senior tour guide originally from Diriyah, said that he is proud to be working in the place of his ancestors.

“I feel like I have a huge role here. Working in our hometown is something that makes you feel proud.”

The tour guides embody the Kingdom’s history and heritage, preserving the stories of Saudi Arabia and ensuring the country’s history will never die.

“It’s amazing to be able to explain your own history to your people and also to tourists. I think there is a lot to tell about Saudi Arabia,” Al-Salem said.

The guides complete an intensive training program on the Kingdom’s history, archaeology and hospitality to prepare for their role.

FASTFACT

Diriyah tours are conducted in Arabic, English, French, Spanish, Korean, Urdu and sign language

Training can last months or even years, but every tour guide is eager to learn even after they finish courses supplied by the Diriyah Gate ‍Development Authority.

Tour guides fill notebooks with information from training sessions as they are taught about the Kingdom's origins. Facts and figures are also memorized to be recited as they highlight key events in the nation's past.

The guides aim to make access to the Kingdom's history as inclusive as possible, with many learning languages to ensure they can convey the history to multiple nationalities.

Tours are conducted in English, Arabic, Korean, Spanish, Urdu and Italian.

“We have even started a course in sign language so we can help the different kinds of people here,” tour guide Najla Aldrees said.

Women make up 21 of the 28 tour guides, a visible example of Vision 2030 initiatives. Visitors and tourists can see the large number of women not only leading tours but also serving at the highest level of hospitality in the Kingdom.

“I’m deeply proud to be one of the women who work here in Diriyah,” said Al-Qahtani, commenting on the vast changes that have taken place in Saudi Arabia under the Vision 2030 reform program.

“It’s a representation of the Kingdom's support.” 

Tour guides play a crucial role in teaching Saudis and international visitors the history and culture that paved the way for today's Saudi Arabia. 

Visitors to Diriyah can see the passion behind the work that goes into these tours. It is not a  “clock in and out” job for these guides but an ambassadorship filled with responsibility that empowers them to share the history of the Kingdom with Saudis and visiting tourists.

“We are showing our history, especially Najd history. We are presenting our country, our authentic origins and our culture,” Al-Qahtani said.

The UNESCO World Heritage site in Diriyah is known for its eye-catching mud-brick palaces that are home to more than 300 years of the Kingdom’s rich history.

But the past comes to life as the tour guides create a sense of adventure at each location, with anecdotes that transform the birthplace of the Kingdom into an unrivalled experience. 

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 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.