JEDDAH: As the weather lets up in many parts of Saudi Arabia, preparation for winter tourism is underway. Tour groups map out hiking trips on weekends, quick get-a-ways outside city limits, and organize cross-country trips. While some opt for excursions, many prefer booking through websites that provide elaborate camping trips that will highlight the beauty of life in the Kingdom's deserts.
Yasmin Khaki, an Indian expat living in Jeddah, who explores Saudi Arabia as a hobby, told Arab News that she was looking forward to doing a bit of travel this winter with her children: “I have developed a certain kind of love for Saudi Arabia.”
The 35-year-old was living in Canada before moving to the Kingdom in 2018. “I wasn’t very happy at first. To move from a country filled with lots of greenery and forests to a desert was a little overwhelming. However, I soon realized that everything I have heard about this country and its attractions is wrong.”
“I have been to AlUla once and the place is straight out of a fairy tale. This is just my opinion. Others might disagree but I found the desert much more calming than a hike in the forest. The feeling of being cozied-up in a tent surrounded with absolute silence, and the millions of stars over your head, is unparalleled.”
Though the Kingdom’s western regions — Jeddah, Yanbu and Umluj — may not be as cool as other cities to the north and south, the cooler evenings are still appealing to many residents and visitors.
Some of the top destinations are Wadi Disah in Tabuk, AlUla, Riyadh’s Edge of the World, the Nafud deserts near the Eastern Province, Al-Ahsa Oasis and Al-Qura Mountain for hikers. The Kingdom’s southern mountains offer many options for hiking and camping in forests too.
Similarly, Texas-based Elmar Santamaria said that he has been on desert safaris previously. “The appeal of it for me is that you are out in the middle of nowhere, it is very serene, with nothing to see just the sky and the stars,” he told Arab News.
Two additional Saudi aid planes arrive in Pakistan
The aid will be delivered to 8,424 beneficiaries across Pakistan
Updated 15 sec ago
RIYADH: Two additional planes carrying 60 tons of humanitarian aid from Saudi Arabia arrived in Karachi to help those affected by Pakistan’s worst floods in decades.
The 6th and 7th flights to be dispatched by King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Centre (KSRelief) delivered tents, blankets, shelters, and food baskets for 8,424 beneficiaries, reported the Saudi Press Agency (SPA).
The batches of aid were received by the National Disaster Management Authority to be distributed in several regions across Pakistan based on the need.
KSRelief earlier established a Saudi air bridge to deliver urgent aid to Pakistan amid the floods, which drowned third of the country, killing over 1,300 people and displacing millions more. The first two batches of Saudi aid arrived earlier this month.
“The aid reflects the Kingdom’s mission to help people in need across the world in various crises,” read the SPA statement.
Health ministry transfers child to Saudi Arabia after heart attack in Kuwait
Updated 57 min 52 sec ago
RIYADH: The Ministry of Health transferred a Saudi child to the Kingdom after he suffered from a heart attack in Kuwait, the Saudi Press Agency (SPA) reported on Sunday.
In cooperation with the Saudi Embassy in Kuwait and other stakeholders, the child – who was on life support – was transferred on board a medical evacuation plane that belongs to the defense ministry, according to SPA.
He is currently being treated at the King Faisal Specialist Hospital and Research Centre in Riyadh.
Saudi podcaster amplifies voices of local, regional creatives
Hatem Alakeel partners with Harrods to build a community of likeminded individuals, bridge generational gap
Updated 26 September 2022
DHAHRAN: Hatem Alakeel is the most immaculately dressed Saudi podcaster with a heart of gold.
His podcast, Gems of Arabia, which aims to highlight “all the shimmering hidden gems of the Arab world,” recently launched its third season with a big change — he is partnering with world-famous UK-based luxury department store Harrods.
This is the first official Middle Eastern collaboration between Harrods, established in 1849, and an emerging podcast launched in 2021.
I’ve been doing this all my life, like being in a boarding school (in Europe) and being the ambassador to Saudi Arabia representing my country. I hope to continue with what I’ve been doing over the past years and change the perception-based stereotypes and elevate the Saudi culture and Arab culture.
“Harrods and Gems of Arabia are partnering on a podcast series, themed on bridging the generations through culture,” Alakeel told Arab News. “As two established institutions in their own regions, our podcast and Harrods hopes to facilitate conversations between guests who are excelling in their field, and to provide a bridge between both generations in both the UK and the Middle East.
“We are hosting these special editions of Gems of Arabia from inside Harrods, Knightsbridge,” he said.
A softly spoken and articulate host, Alakeel has found some of the most interesting UK-based Saudis and other Arabs to interview. The new season offers plenty of surprise guests from within the MENA region.
With 18 years of experience, Alakeel first started as a fashion designer with his label “Toby,” modernizing the traditional thobe, and has been elegantly sashaying into each endeavor he has embarked on ever since with his brand consultancy Authenticite.
Although Alakeel is proud of his Saudi heritage and his Jeddah roots, he is mostly based in Dubai. But no matter where he is geographically, he is always passionate about amplifying narratives in the region regardless of where they are from.
For the past four years, he has been writing an online column where he highlights change-makers in the region who are shaping the Saudi landscape in a positive way. He knew it was time to try a different platform to further amplify the voices of those individuals to build on the conversations, so he started the podcast.
• The new season offers plenty of surprise guests from within the MENA region.
• Hatem Alakeel lived a significant portion of his life abroad, his mother constantly reminded him not to stray too far away from his heritage and to never compromise on his values.
• This is the first official Middle Eastern collaboration between Harrods, established in 1849, and an emerging podcast launched in 2021.
• For Alakeel, authenticity is the keyword. He is now trying to facilitate opportunities for local creatives to showcase themselves — without excluding Saudis living abroad.
That is something Harrods was attracted to.
“For me, Harrods has been an institution that I’ve always looked up to ever since I was a kid. It really has this kind of nostalgia feeling for me. I believe that the way we have been able to connect was through my podcast during my second season, which I did on the Saudi Cup — it was about heritage,” he said.
As Alakeel become recognized online and offline, he felt a sense of responsibility to help foster a thriving ecosystem for creatives in or from the region. He wanted to create the type of community that he wished he had when he was starting his career.
An un-ironic instagram influencer, he makes sure that his posts are both in English and Arabic. He also genuinely tries to bring out the silver lining in every situation.
The person who has been his anchor is his late mother, Seham Arab, who recently passed away.
Although Alakeel lived a significant portion of his life abroad, his mother constantly reminded him not to stray too far away from his heritage and to never compromise on his values.
His beloved mother’s scent lingers in Alakeel’s life — literally. Every night, he spritzes some of her favorite perfume onto his pillow so he can fall asleep to her memory. However, the bond between mother and son goes well beyond smell, which is known to be the strongest sense tied to memory.
She was the inspiration for his life’s work and the reason he began on his journey trying to uncover hidden gems and treasures within the Arab region. Alakeel calls her his first gem. She also introduced him to Harrods.
“My recollection of my first experience with Harrods was when I was in boarding school and my mom sent me a box of riding gear — it was shoes, a hat, and it was the most immaculate riding gear that I got, because I was horseback riding. So from there, it snowballed into me always going there and appreciating them. I was over the moon to have the opportunity to actually do something with them,” he said.
She would have loved his collaboration with Harrods and how he decided to approach the partnership.
“The approach that I proposed to Harrods is generational and cultural — there’s also a generational bridge that’s being built. And we need to recognize that a lot of the younger generation, Generation Z, for example, is very much inspired more than ever with vintage. Millennials were always so brand-obsessed,” he said.
“So, this is kind of the movement that I’m creating with the podcast — what we’re going to be doing with Harrods — is to highlight the generational bridges existing between both cultures. You know, an idea of how progressive Saudi designers are becoming, how much more exposed they are and how much more we need to kind of see where it’s heading. And this is the kind of conversation we want to have,” he said.
For Alakeel, authenticity is the keyword. He is now trying to facilitate opportunities for local creatives to showcase themselves — without excluding Saudis living abroad.
He wants to try to bridge the different generations that seem somewhat disconnected. A podcast felt like a natural progression to merge all of these elements together. It is a conversational vehicle that will allow different members of communities to express themselves.
It is all about creating a community and building it up.
“I’ve been doing this all my life, like being in a boarding school (in Europe) and being the ambassador to Saudi Arabia representing my country. I hope to continue with what I’ve been doing over the past years and change the perception-based stereotypes and elevate the Saudi culture and Arab culture,” Alakeel said.
Saudis, and indeed Arabs, have shopped at Harrods in London for generations. It is a trusted place to find curated and well-crafted goods. This season’s podcast promises the same.
“Harrods is partnering with game-changers in the local market; trailblazers, designers and entrepreneurs based in the Middle East. The goal is to build a community of likeminded individuals, to provide them with a global platform and wider network of contacts, while allowing Harrods to build relationships with and support the next generation of talent. Harrods’ partnership with Gems of Arabia is a perfect alignment and a brilliant example of this work, ensuring their position in these foreign markets is meaningful and built on cooperation,” Alakeel said.
Tap into season 3 of the Gems of Arabia podcast empowered by @harrods by connecting to @authenticite_by_hatem_alakeel.
Ahmed bin Saleh Al-Wasaidi appointed vice president of Saudi survey, geospatial information authority
Al-Wasaidi has more than 25 years of experience in aerial surveying, remote sensing, and geospatial information
Updated 25 September 2022
RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s crown prince approved the appointment of Ahmed bin Saleh Al-Wasaidi as vice president of the General Authority for Survey and Geospatial Information, Saudi Press Agency reported on Sunday.
The authority oversees work in the field of surveying, map production, geographic information, and marine surveying. It also produces and markets geospatial information and services.
Al-Wasaidi holds a MSc in Geospatial and Mapping Sciences from the University of Glasgow, Scotland and another Master’s degree in aerial surveying and remote sensing from the University of Twente, the Netherlands.
He has more than 25 years of experience in aerial surveying, remote sensing, and geospatial information.
Al-Wasaidi has previously worked at the Ministry of Defense and as a general supervisor of geospatial services and surveying at the GASGI.
Saudi education minister signs MoU to support English-language teaching
The cooperation aims to advance the work between the English Language Center at the Agency of General Education and the group, conducted last year as a part of a project to implement a sample of language curricula in 50 Saudi primary schools
Updated 26 September 2022
MAKKAH: Saudi Minister of Education Hamad Al-Sheikh recently signed a memorandum with a US group specializing in providing language teaching books, materials and services.
The agreement, signed with CEO of MM American Publishing Group, Giannis Malkogiannis, is to support English-language teaching and learning, and is part of Al-Sheikh’s tour of American universities and research centers.
The meeting touched on cooperation between the Saudi Ministry of Education and the MM Group in providing English-language curricula. The group has previously provided English language curricula for the Kingdom’s schools, from the fourth grade to the twelfth grade. The group also owns a “binary logic” company that provides digital skills curricula and engineering curricula.
The two parties discussed supporting cooperation between the ministry and the MM Group in providing a vision for adding a specific course for languages or the STEM track, in line with best international practices.
The cooperation aims to advance the work between the English Language Center at the Agency of General Education and the group, conducted last year as a part of a project to implement a sample of language curricula in 50 Saudi primary schools.
“What the ministry strives to achieve in learning and teaching English is one of the successful steps in utilizing global expertise in this area,” Ahmed Asiri, an educational consultant and former director of the educational supervision department at the ministry in Taif, told Arab News.
“The US specialists in this field are familiar with and have very high experience in dealing with these age groups. They also have the needed requirements to pass their knowledge on through digital and intensive programs, creating a beautiful learning environment,” he said.
He added that the path taken by the ministry was in compliance with the Kingdom’s Vision 2030.
“Mastering English will be a helpful instrument to maintain the communication between societies. For instance, all international, cultural and economic relations in various aspects of life all share the same main tool, which is the English language,” he said.
Abdul Rahman Surti, educational supervisor at the ministry, told Arab News that the curricula by MM Publishing Group was considered one of the best educational series. “They were able to serve students, teachers and the entire educational process, and facilitated communication with parents through interactive CDs,” he said.
Surti, who is the author of “Creative Ideas for Teaching English Language,” said that more real-life examples were needed for Saudi students to boost learning.