AlUla Dates Festival spreads sweetness in ancient Saudi city

AlUla Dates Festival spreads sweetness in ancient Saudi city
The AlUla dates market has recently seen an increase in demand, and the festival facilitates growth for local harvests into the international market by connecting local farmers to international visitors and investors. (AN photo by Abdullah Aljaber)
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Updated 23 October 2021

AlUla Dates Festival spreads sweetness in ancient Saudi city

AlUla Dates Festival spreads sweetness in ancient Saudi city
  • The festival kicked off with the first date auction of the season early Friday morning

ALULA: The second edition of the AlUla Dates Festival is underway at the Kingdom’s famous ancient city. 

The three-week date festival takes place in the Al-Fusan area directly opposing the famous Elephant Rock, and is split into two segments: The dates auction and the dates souq, both only open during the weekends of Oct.15-Nov. 1. 

Many know AlUla to be a maze of history and breathtaking desert terrain, but not many people know that hidden between the curves of the desert terrains are over 2.3 million palm trees that produce 90,000 tons of dates annually. 

The AlUla dates market has recently seen an increase in demand, and the festival facilitates growth for local harvests into the international market by connecting local farmers to international visitors and investors.

Felix Riess, a strategy consultant visiting AlUla from Germany, said: “It’s a beautiful and historic place, it’s great to see the ambitions for AlUla. It’s currently at the crossroads of something very historical, towards something that keeps the history in mind while building for the future, it’s a great mix.” 

The festival kicked off with the first date auction of the season early Friday morning. As the sun rose, farmers unloaded their harvests off their trucks and onto the auction site. 

Crowds gathered around to take part in the dates auction, that happens three times during the festival. The bids differ from harvest to harvest depending on quality and size of crop. 

Not too long after the first announcement, the bids began rolling in. Chants of numbers and outbuildings were shouted through the air as boxes of dates were shifted around. 

The early dates auction is definitely a great place for buyers and sellers to connect, but it is also an exciting experience for families and tourists to witness. 

“What we saw today was a really authentic experience of how local wholesalers get the dates from this well known place in AlUla. It was very cool and I have never seen anything like this before and we enjoyed it,” Riess told Arab News.

Christian Keller, another German strategy consultant, added: “It’s always nice to see the combination of the old world and the new world and keeping up with it. Culture is about the people coming to AlUla and viewing it and the residents still valuing and carrying on what they have done years before, and now that you bring in new people like the tourist and visitors, they can experience it. Its culture was brought to life.” 

Following the dates auction, in the early hours of the morning, is the souq, which consists of separate booths of local farmers and bakers selling their wares. There are also sections dedicated to investment and international collaboration for information. 

The souq offers many family activities for locals to enjoy including the traditional Saudi Ardah dance to ring in the celebrations, as well as a children’s theater performances. 

These two events only take place once in the evening of the souq, but throughout the shopping experience guests will be able to listen to a live oud player in the center of the souq. 

The festival also serves another purpose alongside sharing culture. His Highness Prince Badr bin Abdullah bin Farhan, governor of the Royal Commission for AlUla Governorate, aims to promote the important role agriculture plays in economic development of the region in line with the Vision 2030 goals. 

The event not only highlights the work of the AlUla’s farmers but also promotes and inspires commercial opportunities for farmers and buyers alike. 

Behind the festivities are dozens of hardworking AlUla natives who have spent generations harvesting dates. 

The festival creates a hub for exchanging expertise, and growing collaborations that will in part diversify the economy and create more job opportunities for young people in tourism, hospitality and the cultural sectors. 

AlUla is undiscovered history in its purest form. Visitors have the opportunity to experience the beauty and tradition of the area, from the festival to the desert to the nearby Old Town. 

The Old Town is a treasure trove filled with all things AlUla from historical and handmade crafts to souvenirs to take back to loved ones. 

One of the more infamous stores located in the Old Town is Desert Designs.  

“We have had a very positive response from the international public, we have had a lot of good responses from Japanese, American, Chinese, Europeans. All sorts of people seem to like our store and the items we provide,” Radi Bukhari, Desert Designs general manager, said.

“We take old silver Bedouin pieces, give them a new life and then we frame them for appreciation. We take Saudi culture and try to give it new life and appreciation not just for foreigners but for Saudis as well,” Bukhari said.


Saudi authority gives details of corruption cases in progress and rulings issued in others

Saudi authority gives details of corruption cases in progress and rulings issued in others
Updated 20 January 2022

Saudi authority gives details of corruption cases in progress and rulings issued in others

Saudi authority gives details of corruption cases in progress and rulings issued in others
  • Cases involve crooked land deals, bribery, fake documents, false COVID-19 vaccination certificates and other abuses of power and public office

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s Oversight and Anti-Corruption Authority, known as Nazaha, on Wednesday gave details of a number of criminal cases it is pursuing in which legal proceedings against the accused are underway.
In one of the cases, a notary was arrested for allegedly receiving SR4,461,500 ($1,189,331) in exchange for illegally transferring ownership of two sections of land as a “gift” to a businessman and the businessman’s sister without the knowledge of their father, who owns the land. The notary’s brother was also arrested.
In another, a retired brigadier general who served in the Border Guards is accused of receiving SR10 million to accept requests for compensation from 15 citizens, who have also been arrested, for large areas of land that were owned illegally.
An engineer working in a senior position in a municipality was arrested over claims that he received SR350,000 from a businessman in exchange for issuing fake approval certificates for his commercial enterprise. The certificates are said to have been worth SR435,000 and the related completion certificates for the disbursement of the financial dues had been signed.
A citizen allegedly received SR12,500 of an agreed SR32,000 payment in return for canceling 16 violations by a company that had been registered at the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Development.
Nine employees of the Ministry of Health and six foreign mediators of the deals were arrested over allegations that they accepted money in return for modifying the immunization status of a number of citizens to indicate that they had received a COVID-19 vaccine when they had not.
With the cooperation of the Ministry of Interior, an officer and a resident were arrested for forming a criminal gang through which they identified workers in violation of residency laws, arrested them and then demanded money to release them.
A number of cases referred by Nazaha’s Criminal Investigation and Prosecution Unit to the Criminal Court in Riyadh resulted in convictions and the issuance of preliminary court rulings against the suspects.
In one case, a notary was convicted of bribery for receiving SR15.5 million in exchange for illegally issuing a deed of land ownership. He was sentenced to seven years in prison and fined SR700,000. The person who paid the bribe was jailed for five years and fined SR500,000. A citizen convicted of delivering the bribe was given a five-year sentence and fined SR500,000.
The secretary-general of a national committee affiliated with the Ministry of Interior was convicted of embezzlement, forgery, use of forged documents and money laundering. He was sentenced to nine years in prison and fined SR1,020,000. A businessman convicted in connection with the case was jailed for seven years, fined SR500,000, ordered to pay back SR3 million that had been embezzled, and banned from traveling for three years after release from prison.
A former ambassador was convicted of bribery and abuse of office for illegally issuing Hajj and Umrah visas in exchange for payments. He was sentenced to six years in prison and fined SR300,000.
A member of the Public Prosecution was convicted of bribery and abuse of office for requesting SR30,000 from a citizen in exchange for dismissing a pending case. He was jailed for three years and fined SR30,000.
The authority said it will continue to pursue anyone suspected of exploiting public office for personal gain or harming the public interest in any way, and that guilty individuals will be held accountable whenever they are identified, even after retirement, as there is no statute of limitations on such cases and a zero-tolerance policy applies in matters involving corruption.


Minister of Saudi National Guard inaugurates air base in Dirab

Minister of the Saudi National Guard Prince Abdullah bin Bandar inaugurates the National Guard Air Base in Dirab. (SPA)
Minister of the Saudi National Guard Prince Abdullah bin Bandar inaugurates the National Guard Air Base in Dirab. (SPA)
Updated 20 January 2022

Minister of Saudi National Guard inaugurates air base in Dirab

Minister of the Saudi National Guard Prince Abdullah bin Bandar inaugurates the National Guard Air Base in Dirab. (SPA)

RIYADH: Minister of the Saudi National Guard Prince Abdullah bin Bandar on Monday inaugurated the National Guard Air Base in Dirab, south of the capital, Riyadh, the ministry said.
He listened to a briefing about the base, and watched a video presentation of the facilities and training services it offers in support of the National Guard units.
President of the Aviation Authority Maj. Gen. Fahd bin Saedan praised the base, which he said was designed to the highest standard modern facilities.
Maj. Gen. Turki Al-Tasan, the commander of the National Guard Air Base, gave a speech on the aviation base, which he said would serve as “an impregnable shield for the country, with protective hawks in its skies, becoming a military force comparable to nations.”
The minister of National Guard also toured the base’s aviation institute and listened to a briefing about the courses it offers to hone and enhance skills in various military actions.
He then toured the aviation simulators, modern simulators and advanced technologies that are used in training National Guard aviation officers and personnel in various aviation specializations for pilots and technicians.
Prince Abdullah also watched an integrated system of National Guard aircraft and their crews, including pilots and technicians, who performed a military salute to him.


Saudi city dwellers get back to nature on Riyadh floriculture tour

Saudi city dwellers get back to nature on Riyadh floriculture tour
Updated 20 January 2022

Saudi city dwellers get back to nature on Riyadh floriculture tour

Saudi city dwellers get back to nature on Riyadh floriculture tour
  • ‘We decided to design this experience to showcase the beauty of floriculture in the desert of Najd’

RIYADH: Saudi city dwellers are being offered the chance to get back to nature by delving into the world of plants.

The opportunity to escape the hustle and bustle of life in Riyadh has been made available at a flower plantation just a 40-minute drive from the center of the capital.

Tour agency Maalim — that runs specialist trips to destinations throughout the Kingdom — has been operating trips to a farm in Al-Muzahimiyah where visitors can discover floriculture, learning how to plant and grow all kinds of flowers. 

Exotic plants are also featured among flower varieties including lilium, chrysanthemum, Casablanca, spray roses, and tulips and visitors are invited to pick and sample fresh vegetables along the way. (Photo by Saad Aldossari)

As well as offering cultural, agricultural, and tourist trips, the travel firm plans to introduce factory tours to help promote and support Saudi businesses and products.

The popular floriculture experience has been running every Friday and Saturday since August for groups of 18 to 20 people or private parties and trips will come to a seasonal close at the end of January. 

Exotic plants are also featured among flower varieties including lilium, chrysanthemum, Casablanca, spray roses, and tulips and visitors are invited to pick and sample fresh vegetables along the way. (Photo by Saad Aldossari)

Hessah Alajaji, founder of the Maalim agency, said: “Citizens and visitors of Saudi Arabia have never heard of this huge flower farm in Saudi Arabia. Yet it was established in 1991 and used to export produce internationally. But due to high demand in the Kingdom, it became locally distributed.

“We decided to design this experience to showcase the beauty of floriculture in the desert of Najd.

HIGHLIGHTS

• The tour is suitable for families, couples, friendship groups, and individuals and starts with an optional short bicycle ride passing by the farm’s glasshouses and wells.

• A guide then leads an indoor plantation walking tour through up to six glasshouses where visitors can watch farmers nurturing crops and learn about watering and growing methods.

“We seek opportunities and design experiences in different locations in the Kingdom for everyone to enjoy. We care about preserving nature and culture and we put a lot of effort into protecting the authenticity of the locations and tailor experiences accordingly.

“If you told me that there would be a place in Riyadh that has unique flower planting, I wouldn’t believe it,” she added. 

Exotic plants are also featured among flower varieties including lilium, chrysanthemum, Casablanca, spray roses, and tulips and visitors are invited to pick and sample fresh vegetables along the way. (Photo by Saad Aldossari)

The tour is suitable for families, couples, friendship groups, and individuals and starts with an optional short bicycle ride passing by the farm’s glasshouses and wells. A guide then leads an indoor plantation walking tour through up to six glasshouses where visitors can watch farmers nurturing crops and learn about watering and growing methods.

Exotic plants are also featured among flower varieties including lilium, chrysanthemum, Casablanca, spray roses, and tulips and visitors are invited to pick and sample fresh vegetables along the way.

In addition, the chance to create a bouquet is available at a flower arranging session, run by Loverda Academy. A floral-themed brunch brings the tour to a climax.


Who’s Who: Faisal Al-Maghlooth, general director of Made in Saudi program 

Who’s Who: Faisal Al-Maghlooth, general director of Made in Saudi program 
Updated 20 January 2022

Who’s Who: Faisal Al-Maghlooth, general director of Made in Saudi program 

Who’s Who: Faisal Al-Maghlooth, general director of Made in Saudi program 

Faisal Al-Maghlooth has been the general director of the Saudi Export Development Authority’s Made in Saudi program since July.

The initiative, aimed at locally and globally promoting national products and services, was launched to support Saudi Arabia’s national high-quality products and reinforce their competitiveness.

Al-Maghlooth, an experienced digital media strategist with a background in leading company marketing campaigns, is also the spokesman for, and a member of, Riyadh Chamber of Commerce and Industry’s digital media committee.

He started his career in 2010 as a senior sales executive at the Saudi Basic Industries Corp., where he was responsible for agricultural nutrient sales, after-sales support, and drafting marketing reports. He also provided recommendations to improve clients’ services and revenue generation capabilities.

Two years later, he became a sales executive with SABIC South Africa where he closely worked with an international client base from the African continent.

Through his ownership of Meraki, a digital content service provider, and his position as its digital marketing manager, he gained experience working across digital platforms and managing marketing campaigns, including major government-to-public campaigns and initiatives.

His digital strategy skills came into focus as he monitored competitors’ activities and played a significant role in strategizing, planning, and analyzing social media campaigns.

In 2018, he began his journey with mass media campaigns at the STC Channels as manager of external communications. He utilized multiple media channels to implement print, broadcast, digital, and face-to-face communication strategies on behalf of the company. He then moved on to become a director at Mobily, where he was responsible for the telecom firm’s digital content.

Al-Maghlooth dedicated his social media presence to promoting the national product, which led to him taking up his current job with the Made in Saudi program, where he is developing a unified national industrial brand.

For four consecutive years from 2013, he was listed on Twitter among the top 50 most influential Saudis, and he has also served as head of digital communications and production at the Zakat, Tax, and Customs Authority.

He gained a bachelor’s degree in technical marketing from Weber State University, in the US, in 2007, and a master’s degree in business administration from Oklahoma City University in 2009.


Saudi Arabia signs deal with Sanofi on diabetes research

Saudi Arabia signs deal with Sanofi on diabetes research
Updated 19 January 2022

Saudi Arabia signs deal with Sanofi on diabetes research

Saudi Arabia signs deal with Sanofi on diabetes research
  • This collaboration will include research and development initiatives in the field of diabetes in the Kingdom

RIYADH: The Saudi Health Council has signed a memorandum of understanding with French healthcare company Sanofi to collaborate on research and development initiatives in the field of diabetes in the Kingdom.

Dr. Suleiman Al-Shehri, director general of Saudi Diabetes Center, which represented the council, said: “This collaboration will serve as a great impetus in offering efficient healthcare initiatives to develop the ecosystem of diabetes management in the country.

“Sanofi and SHC will collaborate on building the nucleus of scientific research and generating local data supported by a comprehensive diabetes research network.