Diriyah through her eyes

Families enjoying their picnics in one of the liveliest places in Diriyah
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Families enjoying their picnics in one of the liveliest places in Diriyah "Wadi Hanifah", a valley that runs for a length of 120 km from northwest to southeast, cutting through the city of Riyadh. (Supplied)
Families enjoying their picnics in one of the liveliest places in Diriyah
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Families enjoying their picnics in one of the liveliest places in Diriyah "Wadi Hanifah", a valley that runs for a length of 120 km from northwest to southeast, cutting through the city of Riyadh. (Supplied)
Wadi Hanifah in Diriyah, a valley that runs for a length of 120km from northwest to southeast, cutting through the city of Riyadh, the capital of Saudi Arabia. (Supplied)
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Wadi Hanifah in Diriyah, a valley that runs for a length of 120km from northwest to southeast, cutting through the city of Riyadh. (Supplied)
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Updated 22 September 2021

Diriyah through her eyes

Diriyah through her eyes
  • A Saudi great-grandmother talks about her happy memories of driving out of Riyadh for a day in the green countryside

RIYADH: Diriyah and the UNESCO World Heritage site at its heart, At-Turaif, is on the brink of becoming a cultural destination for visitors from around the world.

However, for generations of Saudis, such as 81-year-old great-grandmother Madiha Joharji, who has lived in Riyadh for more than 60 years, Diriyah and the sea of farms that surround it will always have a special place in their hearts.

“When I think of Diriyah, I think of beauty, hospitality and good times,” she said.

“It is a beautiful place. Lush with vivid greenery and surrounded by palm trees as far as the eye can see.”

Joharji recalls the excitement of families from Riyadh packing up their cars with pots and pans and heading off for a day out in what was then the countryside, seemingly far from the city.

“It was a place of joy,” she said, “a place we would take our children at the weekends but considered very far away, a 40-minute car drive, that would turn into a road trip.

“We would pack our essential food items, as there wasn’t anything there other than a small food store, and be on our way.”




Families enjoying their picnics in one of the liveliest places in Diriyah "Wadi Hanifah",  a valley that runs for a length of 120 km from northwest to southeast, cutting through the city of Riyadh. (Supplied)

Drawn by the cooler weather of Diriyah and its lush farms, as people from the city still are today, “we would visit friends in that area, cooking on site, while the children were playing and the men drinking tea and playing card games while we set up a feast for dinner,” she said.

“The locals would see us arrive and would give us fruit from their farms.”

Joharji is amazed by how quickly Riyadh and its surrounding areas have changed.

 “We used to live in the southern part of Riyadh, Malaz, which was considered the downtown of the capital back in my days,” she said.

“The capital has now expanded to the point where Diriyah, which we considered a separate village, is now only six minutes away from where my son lives. Imagine that!”

Riyadh has expanded dramatically over the years, its growth driven by one man’s passion for the city he served for five decades. Before acceding to the throne in 2015, between 1963 and 2011 King Salman was governor of Riyadh province, and in those 48 years the city blossomed beyond all recognition.

It was King Salman who presided over Riyadh’s remarkable transformation from a small city of about 200,000 inhabitants in 1963 to more than seven million by the time he became king.

The King’s passion for Riyadh – a passion that has found further expression in the ambitious plans for Diriyah Gate – was expressed in a speech he gave in the Seventies as the city began to grow rapidly.

“I am always close to Riyadh, even when I am not physically present there,” he said. “For me, Riyadh is the homeland; it is the past and the present and the future.

“When I am away from Riyadh, I continue to think about the city; its operations and affairs, its roads and gardens, the children’s playgrounds, the schools, hospitals, and all of its affairs; every corner of the city lives with me and is in my thoughts and my heart.

“I feel as if I am present on every Riyadh street … I monitor, step by step, every project in the city, and I am filled with love for the city and its people.”

Today, the King’s ambition for Riyadh is being carried into the future by his son, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who serves as Chairman of the Board of Directors of Diriyah Gate Development Authority. 




Wadi Hanifah in Diriyah, a valley that runs for a length of 120km from northwest to southeast, cutting through the city of Riyadh, the capital of Saudi Arabia. (Supplied)

“We are aiming to make Riyadh one of the 10 largest city economies in the world,” he said in January during the fourth international Future Investment Initiative, hosted in the city.

“Today it stands at number 40, the 40th largest city economy worldwide. We also aim to increase its residents from 7.5 million today to around 15-20 million in 2030.”

At the center of the Diriyah Gate development, regenerated Diriyah and historic At-Turaif will play a key part in the social and economic transformation not only of Riyadh, but also of Saudi Arabia as a whole, as envisaged in Vision 2030.

As for Joharji, while she recognises that Diriyah is changing rapidly, she is pleased that at the heart of the transformation will be found the qualities of hospitality and generosity she recalls with such affection.

“I haven’t been there in a few years, but my grandchildren tell me stories of how it has evolved, developed,” she said.

“For me, Diriyah is a gathering place to enjoy time with loved ones, and I see that is still happening, but on a wider scale.”

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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‘Close, complementary’ Saudi-UAE relations benefit wider region, UAE minister of state tells Arab News

‘Close, complementary’ Saudi-UAE relations benefit wider region, UAE minister of state tells Arab News
Updated 36 min 13 sec ago

‘Close, complementary’ Saudi-UAE relations benefit wider region, UAE minister of state tells Arab News

‘Close, complementary’ Saudi-UAE relations benefit wider region, UAE minister of state tells Arab News
  • Khalifa Shaheen Al-Marar, UAE minister of state, commends Saudi Arabia’s “remarkable” development journey
  • Similarities in economic development unite both countries and stimulate prosperity, Al-Marar tells Arab News

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia and the UAE, two Gulf Arab countries bound by strong familial, religious, cultural and commercial ties, have enjoyed a fraternal relationship for most of their modern existence. The depth of the relationship owes much to a tradition of regular official exchanges, reciprocal visits by royals and high-level summits. In an interview with Arab News, Khalifa Shaheen Al-Marar, UAE minister of state, described how the two countries have adopted policies that benefit the Arab region and contribute to better outcomes for global peace and human welfare.

Q. Saudi-UAE relations have come a long way since the start of the unification of the seven emirates into a federation 50 years ago this month. How would you describe the current state of the bilateral relationship?

A. The UAE and Saudi Arabia maintain a strategic partnership based on the same objectives and vision for regional prosperity, security and stability. The UAE believes that the developmental journey of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, led by the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud and His Royal Highness Prince Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud, Crown Prince, is remarkable and contributes to the overall progress and growth of the region.

Q. What is the significance of the visit by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to the UAE?

A. The visit comes as part of enduring efforts to deepen strategic cooperation and coordination between our two countries on local, regional and international issues, reflecting the shared visions and policies of our two countries’ leaderships.

Saudi Arabia’s vision under the leadership of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques and His Highness the Crown Prince is embodied in its efforts and tireless work for progress, especially on the economic front, as Saudi Arabia has championed many achievements to advance the entire region’s prospects for prosperity and development.
 

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman meets UAE Vice President and Ruler of Dubai Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid. (DXBMediaOffice)

Q. Saudi Arabia and the UAE have historically held similar views on economic, security and geopolitical issues. Do you foresee a similarly high degree of commonality going forward?

A. Absolutely. On all fronts, the UAE and Saudi Arabia have worked to bolster bilateral cooperation in service of our peoples and the wider region. Similarities in economic development between the UAE and Saudi Arabia have united our two nations and allowed us to stimulate prosperity.

Having already convened two meetings of the Saudi-UAE Coordination Council in recent years, our two countries are keen to develop new partnerships in all sectors, including tourism, infrastructure, transport, shipping and logistics. Bilateral discussions continue to address efforts to develop the national economy in non-oil sectors, as well as ways to improve the business climate and empower the private sector in our countries.

Politically, the UAE and Saudi Arabia have upheld common objectives to ensure that the region’s peoples can achieve their aspirations for security, stability, peace and development. In Yemen in particular, the UAE remains steadfast in its calls for a political solution to end the conflict and maintains full confidence in Saudi Arabia’s leadership on this.

Furthermore, our two countries have also made great strides in providing aid and development assistance to those beyond our region, to contribute to better outcomes for global peace and human welfare. Going forward, the UAE and Saudi Arabia will continue to use our partnership to advocate for the world’s most vulnerable and join the international community in mobilizing greater support for developmental and humanitarian causes around the world.

Q. Saudi Arabia and the UAE are both diversifying their economies, offering incentives to attract capital and talent, encouraging small businesses and start-ups, and trying to give their young citizens exciting new career paths in the private sector. In what ways can this be a win-win situation for the two countries?

A. The UAE and Saudi Arabia maintain a close and complementary relationship that benefits the two countries and the wider region, which includes economic and developmental integration. We believe that healthy economic competition in the region is important, and the UAE always views it as an opportunity to generate new prospects and adopt policies that benefit the region as a whole.

Moreover, our two countries’ economic partnership is one based on open exchange and cooperation. The Saudi-Emirati Coordination Council, a high-level bilateral mechanism established to harmonize Saudi Vision 2030 and UAE Vision 2021, continues to play an important role in inking additional economic agreements and streamlining trade between our two countries.

 

Khalifa Shaheen Al-Marar, UAE minister of state. (Supplied)

Q. Where do you see the two countries moving together in the future?

A. As the UAE celebrates 50 years since its founding as a nation, we will continue working to strengthen our regional and international partnerships. Together, with Saudi Arabia, we are in pursuit of a region where prosperity and security flourish, thereby unlocking human potential and ensuring lasting peace.

We share common objectives in preventing extremism and terrorism, and our two countries agree that maintaining maritime security is a priority and strategic necessity for the stability of our neighborhood. Moving into the future, our two nations are committed to working together to address a number of contemporary global issues, including public health, counterextremism, women’s empowerment and climate change.

The UAE and Saudi Arabia, as the largest economies in the Gulf, recognize that we must play a leading role in adopting clean energy technologies and promoting a sustainable future for generations to come. Through economic diversification and green innovation, our two countries are determined to promote climate resilience and conservation, particularly in developing countries.


International philosophy experts brainstorm at historic Riyadh conclave

International philosophy experts brainstorm at historic Riyadh conclave
Updated 09 December 2021

International philosophy experts brainstorm at historic Riyadh conclave

International philosophy experts brainstorm at historic Riyadh conclave
  • 3-day event discusses latest developments in philosophy and its applications

RIYADH: Under the theme “Unpredictability,” the Riyadh International Philosophy Conference will ponder important topics related to modern reality such as ethics and morality, scientific advancement, and the rapid acceleration of technology.

The three-day event, which began on Dec. 8, is organized by the Ministry of Culture’s Saudi Literature, Publishing and Translation Commission. During his opening remarks, the commission’s CEO, Dr. Mohammed Hasan Alwan, said that he was honored to welcome delegates and guests to the first conference of its kind in the Kingdom.

They are at the event for the same reason philosophers have gathered throughout the ages, he said, which is to help develop “a world that is clearer, and when it is clearer, our power to change it is greater. And when these positive changes take their effective form, we all get out of the blame that Karl Marx once (applied) to philosophers when he said: ‘They have interpreted the world in different ways only, while the goal is to change it.’”

The attendees include experts in philosophy and its theories and those with an interest in its modern-day applications worldwide. The event targets an audience with diverse interests, experiences, and academic and professional backgrounds.

FASTFACT

During his opening remarks, the commission’s CEO Dr. Mohammed Alwan said that he was honored to welcome delegates and guests to the first conference of its kind in the Kingdom.

The aims of the conference, which is planned to be an annual event, include discussions of the latest developments in philosophy and its contemporary applications. Organizers say it will also support multidimensional philosophical dialogue and build bridges of cooperation among institutions active in the field of philosophy globally, and help to advance scientific and academic research.

The commission described the conference as a historic moment in the ongoing transformation of the Kingdom, attracting youthful, ambitious and talented people who are keen to develop a mindset that will enable them to shape their future. It aims to help provide Saudis with the intellectual tools to embrace rapid change and an unprecedented future.

Joseph Cohen, a professor of philosophy at University College Dublin in Ireland, told the audience that he strongly believes in philosophy and the responsibilities of all philosophers to gather and meet each other despite their differences.

“I believe this is precisely what will materialize itself this evening and the next few days of the International Philosophy Conference,” he added.

“The great philosopher Jacques Derrida once told me never to settle for what is just possible, and to expect to demand, to strive for the impossible. His phrase resonates with me today. It resonates because by striving toward what is unpredictable, toward what seems impossible for us today, we can together stretch the boundaries of possibility and care for our world.”


Saudi Arabia forms new working group within UN tourism body

Saudi Arabia forms new working group within UN tourism body
Updated 09 December 2021

Saudi Arabia forms new working group within UN tourism body

Saudi Arabia forms new working group within UN tourism body
  • It was the first global tourism meeting since the virus outbreak

MADRID: A Saudi Ministry of Tourism delegation recently took part in the UN World Tourism Organization general assembly meeting held in Spain.

The UNWTO gathering, which takes place every two years, aimed to show the sector’s determination to lead tourism’s recovery from the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, through innovation, education, and investment.

The organization, a specialized UN agency responsible for promoting the development of the tourism sector globally, staged its 24th general assembly session at the UNWTO’s headquarters in Madrid.

It was the first global tourism meeting since the virus outbreak, and delegates from more than 100 countries shared their achievements over the past two years in helping the sector get through the health crisis.

Saudi Minister of Tourism Ahmed Al-Khateeb, who headed the Kingdom’s delegation, said: “Despite its relatively recent presence in the international tourism arena, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia plays a major global role in this field.”

He noted that the country had great tourism ambitions and sought to make the sector one of the largest contributors to the economic transformation taking place in Saudi Arabia, the Saudi Press Agency reported.

One of the main achievements of the Saudi delegation during the meeting was the formation of a new working group to support the agency in increasing the transparency and effectiveness of its current and future work. The group will also assist in developing initiatives to help respond to the needs of member states, revitalizing the UNTWO for a better future for tourism.

Among Saudi Arabia’s recent achievements in the tourism sector was the opening of a UNWTO regional office in Riyadh, which will serve as a hub for the agency to coordinate policy and initiatives across its 13 member states in the region.


Saudi Arabia records 2 COVID-19 deaths, 46 new infections

Saudi Arabia records 2 COVID-19 deaths, 46 new infections
Updated 08 December 2021

Saudi Arabia records 2 COVID-19 deaths, 46 new infections

Saudi Arabia records 2 COVID-19 deaths, 46 new infections
  • The health ministry says 64 patients have recovered from the virus in the last 24 hours
  • Municipalities close several businesses and issue fines to a number of others for breaching coronavirus protocols

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia confirmed two new COVID-19 related deaths on Wednesday, raising the total number of fatalities to 8,849.
The Ministry of Health confirmed 46 new cases reported in the Kingdom in the previous 24 hours, meaning 550,043 people have now contracted the disease. Of the total number of cases, 29 remain in critical condition.
According to the ministry, the highest number of cases were recorded in the capital Riyadh with 16, followed by Jeddah with 10, while Tabuk, Makkah and Dhahran confirmed two cases each.
The health ministry also announced that 64 patients had recovered from COVID-19, bringing the total number of recoveries in the Kingdom to 539,205.
Over 47.8 million COVID-19 vaccine doses have been administered since the Kingdom’s immunization campaign started. More than 22.7 million people have been fully vaccinated.


Saudi municipalities have also ramped up efforts to monitor compliance with health and safety measures.
The municipality of Eastern Province carried out 3,687 inspection tours of commercial centers and facilities during the last three days. Authorities recorded 211 violations and closed three businesses for not adhering to the precautionary measures.
Jeddah Municipality carried out 6,081 tours in the past two days and field teams issued fines to 32 commercial outlets and closed 10 others for breaching protocols.
Officials have also called on the public to report any suspected health breaches by phoning the 940 call center number or contacting authorities through the Balady app.
The coronavirus pandemic has affected over 267 million people globally and the death toll has reached around 5.29 million.


Saudi hands turn Al-Khuzama Park into the paradise of the Groves

Saudi hands turn Al-Khuzama Park into the paradise of the Groves
Updated 08 December 2021

Saudi hands turn Al-Khuzama Park into the paradise of the Groves

Saudi hands turn Al-Khuzama Park into the paradise of the Groves
  • The Groves, in the Diplomatic Quarter, is set in Al-Khuzama Park, one of the famous green spaces in Riyadh at Wadi Hanifah

RIYADH: The woman behind the success of the Groves, one of the 14 zones in this year’s Riyadh Season, revealed to Arab News how she realized the project in only 45 days.

“The planning ran from January till September. We had only 45 days to put it together,” said Siham Hassanain, general manager of the Groves.

“All of the designs have been done by Saudi hands. All of the restaurants are local brands Everything you see, from lighting to construction to organizers, is Saudi. The zone was built by a local company called Zivix International Holding,” she added.

The Groves, in the Diplomatic Quarter, is set in Al-Khuzama Park, one of the famous green spaces in Riyadh at Wadi Hanifah.

“It all started in 2019, I had some work to do in the diplomatic quarter, and I entered the park and fell in love with its beauty,” she said.

Hassanain said she researched the place and found out that the park was built 38 years ago when the diplomatic quarter was established. 

The zone was built around nature so that no trees were destroyed. (Supplied)

Turki Al-Shaikh, CEO of the General Entertainment Authority (GEA) and chairman of the Season, had tweeted that anyone with a new idea for Riyadh Season should present it to the authority.

“The first thing that came to my mind was Al-Khuzama Park. I didn’t expect at all, not even 1 percent, that this zone would become a reality. But I told myself I should put all of my energy in this place,” Hassanain said.

After Hassanain pitched her idea to the GEA, she was selected as one of the 20 winning initiatives for the Riyadh Season, and her concept won first place.

“When the announcement came out, I was happy and excited for the first five minutes, then the sense of responsibility kicked in,” she said.

Hassanain says the Groves is filled with trees and fields: “You can hear fountains, water, and birds. The place also has a special scent.” 

The zone contains several open spaces, including an area surrounded by palm trees where visitors can discover various activities. (Supplied)

The Groves’ logo has the four elements of life: water, air, fire, and earth, which Hassanain included in the zone as water resembles relaxation, fire action and attractions, earth food, and air resembles memories.

She faced many challenges while executing the project as everything was done by hand to make sure no plants or trees were destroyed.

She said she had a fantastic Saudi team who helped her and believed and loved the concept even more than she did. “I was anxious they were passionate, I was nervous they were enjoying it … so these feelings created a balance.”

Hassanain noted that in the past Saudi females faced some obstacles in being part of building the country. “Had it not been for the support and vision of Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman this wouldn’t exist,” she said.

“If we compare the Boulevard Riyadh City zone in 2019 to the zone in 2021, you can see the big jump. We will amaze the whole world and become the first in the entertainment sector.”