Saudi Arabia’s Farasan Islands: From ‘habitat hotspot’ to Red Sea sanctuary

The UNESCO listing will help the Saudi Ministry of Culture achieve the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 goals as well as improve the quality of life on the islands. (SPA)
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The UNESCO listing will help the Saudi Ministry of Culture achieve the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 goals as well as improve the quality of life on the islands. (SPA)
Saudi Arabia’s Farasan Islands: From ‘habitat hotspot’ to Red Sea sanctuary
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The UNESCO listing will help the Saudi Ministry of Culture achieve the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 goals as well as improve the quality of life on the islands. (SPA)
Saudi Arabia’s Farasan Islands: From ‘habitat hotspot’ to Red Sea sanctuary
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The UNESCO listing will help the Saudi Ministry of Culture achieve the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 goals as well as improve the quality of life on the islands. (SPA)
Saudi Arabia’s Farasan Islands: From ‘habitat hotspot’ to Red Sea sanctuary
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The UNESCO listing will help the Saudi Ministry of Culture achieve the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 goals as well as improve the quality of life on the islands. (SPA)
Saudi Arabia’s Farasan Islands: From ‘habitat hotspot’ to Red Sea sanctuary
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The UNESCO listing will help the Saudi Ministry of Culture achieve the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 goals as well as improve the quality of life on the islands. (SPA)
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Updated 22 September 2021

Saudi Arabia’s Farasan Islands: From ‘habitat hotspot’ to Red Sea sanctuary

The UNESCO listing will help the Saudi Ministry of Culture achieve the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 goals as well as improve the quality of life on the islands. (SPA)
  • Farasan Islands’ listing as a UNESCO biosphere reserve adds to the wildlife haven’s enduring global appeal

JEDDAH/MAKKAH: With their spectacular coral reefs, pristine beaches and rare wildlife species, the Farasan Islands, located off the port city of Jazan in southwest Saudi Arabia, have long been a focus for investment in marine tourism as the Kingdom seeks to highlight its wealth of natural and heritage attractions.

The Farasan Islands Marine Sanctuary was established in the late 1980s and covers an area of about 350 square kilometers, its administrative supervisor, Issa Shuailan, told Arab News.
“It was established with the aim of preserving the biodiversity, especially Farasan’s antelopes, sea turtles, shura trees and mangroves, in addition to rationalizing the exploitation of its marine resources,” Shuailan added.
Now the Red Sea archipelago’s future as a key tourist destination and wildlife sanctuary has been given a major boost with its inclusion in a world network of biosphere reserves as part of UNESCO’s Man and the Biosphere program.

FASTFACTS

● Now the Red Sea archipelago’s future as a key tourist destination and wildlife sanctuary has been given a major boost with its inclusion in a world network of biosphere reserves as part of UNESCO’s Man and the Biosphere program.

● The islands — described as a “habitat hotspot” and the first site in Saudi Arabia to be listed as a biosphere reserve — were among 20 new locations in 21 countries registered to ensure biodiversity conservation, environmental education, research and sustainable development.

The islands — described as a “habitat hotspot” and the first site in Saudi Arabia to be listed as a biosphere reserve — were among 20 new locations in 21 countries registered to ensure biodiversity conservation, environmental education, research and sustainable development.
Listing of the Farasan Islands under the UNESCO program follows extensive efforts by Saudi authorities to ensure the Kingdom’s cultural and heritage sites are recognized in regional and international forums. Inclusion in the UNESCO list will also ensure the islands’ natural and archaeological treasures receive global protection.
The archipelago includes 90 of the Jazan region’s 200 islands and islets with a total area of more than 600 square kilometers.
Three of the islands are inhabited: Farasan Al-Kubra, which houses government and services departments, along with a number of hotels and apartments that welcome visitors, and the islands of Sajid and Qummah, which make up Farasan Al-Soghra, or small Farasan. The islands are up to 70 km long and 20-40 km wide.
In the past, pearl-rich fisheries were among the primary sources of livelihood for the people of Farasan, in addition to fishing, which is still the main occupation.
The archipelago’s location near international shipping routes and its proximity to the Bab Al-Mandab Strait and the Horn of Africa have given it added significance.
A wealth of natural and archaeological resources, coral reefs and fish stocks has attracted the attention of visitors, tourists, financers, businessmen and fishermen.
Archaeological tourist sites include Wadi Matar, located in the south of Farasan Al-Kubra, which has large rocks with Himyaritic inscriptions dating back to the 10th century, and Al-Qassar village, where the much older site of Al-Kedmi includes stone remnants that resemble Roman columns. Another site, Mount Luqman, holds the ruins of an old fortress.
Saudi historian and journalist Ibrahim Muftah told Arab News that some people assume Farasan was uninhabited until very recently, but the historical evidence shows otherwise.

What attracts visitors the most to Farasan is the diversity of the 262 islands, and each island has its natural splendor and something that makes it special from the other.

Adel Al-Awani, Tour guide

“Recent studies have proven that it was inhabited thousands of years ago, since the Stone Age, as Zahi Hawass (an Egyptian archaeologist and former minister of state for antiquities affairs) wrote,” he said.
The residents of the islands were civilized, he added, and the archaeological evidence reveals they were adept at sailing and traveled by sea, east and west, to several other countries.
Ancient tombs are located near Jarmal House on Qamah island, along with historical buildings designed according to the unique architectural style of the time.
Al-Najdi Mosque, built in 1928, is among several historic buildings scattered across the archipelago.
The palatial Al-Rifai houses, built in 1922 at the height of the pearl trade, are considered major attractions because of the technical and architectural skills that went into their construction.
The houses were built using the island’s rocks and limestone from the coral reefs. Raw gypsum was also used, and gypsum mines can still be found on the islands today.
However, the Farasan Islands are best known for their extensive and unique biodiversity, which distinguishes them from other reserves in the Kingdom.
The islands are home to more than 230 species of fish, numerous endangered marine species and 50 types of coral reef. Rhizophora and mangrove forests are important incubators for young fish and crustaceans.
The archipelago is also a sanctuary for the Kingdom’s largest gathering of edmi gazelles and an important bird migration corridor, with about 165 bird species. It also has the largest concentration of pink-backed pelicans on the Red Sea and the largest concentration of ospreys in the Middle East.
A wildlife reserve offers shelter to deer and numerous bird species, in addition to parrotfish, which migrate to the islands once a year.
The archipelago contains more than 180 species of plants, four of which are found nowhere else in the Kingdom.
The islands’ unique appeal also stems from its historical significance and natural attractions — all of which qualifies it to be a world heritage site.
Tourists, visitors and those seeking natural beauty, sandy beaches, sea cruises, diving and fishing have turned the archipelago into one of Jazan’s most prominent tourist destinations as investment opportunities continue to grow.
“What attracts visitors the most to Farasan is the diversity of the 262 islands, and each island has its natural splendor and something that makes it special from the other,”Adel Al-Awani, who has been a Farasan Islands tour guide for more than seven years, told Arab News.
“Most importantly, there is the calmness of the islands, clear sea, coral reefs, wonderful diving areas, fishing, and joyous beaches that are approximately 200 km long.”
But there is much more to Farasan than its beautiful beaches, he added. Among other things it was a center of the pearl trade 200 years ago, he explained, and is rich in archaeological treasures with a history dating back more than 3,000 years.
“Farasan is meant to be a tourist attraction by its very nature; it attracts visitors from all over the world,” said Al-Awani. “When the Saudi tourism visa was launched (in 2019), we hosted many international tourists. “The approximate number of tourists during one month can reach 3,000, and it reaches 30,000 to 40,000 during the year.”
During the pandemic, he said, the islands proved to be a popular destination for people from within Saudi Arabia when lockdown restrictions allowed. Even while international flights were suspended, three ferries a day, each carrying about 600 visitors, would arrive, he added.
“Despite some shortage in hotels, resorts, and transportation, the number of tourists was outstanding,” said Al-Awani.
Major developments in terms of tourism-related projects and investments, infrastructure and services are planned in coming years, as the islands become a key tourist destination.
Muftah noted that the islands require investment in terms of infrastructure, in particular a fast and convenient transportation system instead of the existing ferries that no longer fit the spirit of the modern age.
Listing of the Farasan Islands in the Man and the Biosphere program was announced this month during a meeting of the 33rd session of the program’s coordinating committee, and follows three years of work by the Saudi Heritage Preservation Society to fulfill all criteria required for registration.
The UNESCO listing will help the Saudi Ministry of Culture achieve the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 goals as well as improve the quality of life on the islands.


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 Old Town holds Red Sea Film Festival

Jeddah Old Town holds Red Sea Film Festival
Updated 19 October 2021

Jeddah Old Town holds Red Sea Film Festival

Jeddah Old Town holds 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.


Riyadh’s Winter Wonderland returns on Oct. 26

Riyadh’s Winter Wonderland returns on Oct. 26
Updated 19 October 2021

Riyadh’s Winter Wonderland returns on Oct. 26

Riyadh’s Winter Wonderland returns on Oct. 26

RIYADH: Riyadh’s “Winter Wonderland” returns on Oct. 26 with a 40 percent wider space than its first edition in 2019.
Due to high demand, the GEA announced that it has increased the venue to 376,025 sq km. More than 103 games spread across six sections will be available for visitors of all age groups. The area will hold several entertainment shows, competitions, performances, and art displays.
Visitors can visit the Dream Land Carnival, the Snow Forest with an ice-skating rink right in the heart of the desert, Disney on Ice, the Magic Box area, Horror Adventures, and a circus with acrobatic music shows.
There will be 51 adult games that include the Haunted House, Sky Loop, and several international games held for the first time in the Kingdom.