Photographer Anna Aiko captures beauty of Arabian Peninsula on camelback
Photographer Anna Aiko captures beauty of Arabian Peninsula on camelback/node/1970261/saudi-arabia
Photographer Anna Aiko captures beauty of Arabian Peninsula on camelback
Anna Aiko was invited to the celebration of the 91st National Day of Saudi Arabia. She was chosen to experience 91 km of the ancient trail of Darb Zubaydah on camelback. (Supplied by Abdullatif Al-Obaida)
RIYADH: Crossing the Empty Quarter in Saudi Arabia is a feat in and of itself but crossing it by camelback in the 21st century is extraordinary, and photographer Anna Aiko is in for the whole experience as she travels across the Kingdom, the UAE, Yemen, and the Silk Road this way.
“My dream was to explore the region on camelback, but the question was how?” Aiko said.
When asked how she would describe herself, Aiko told Arab News: “An iPhone photographer with a passion for traveling on camelback.”
Aiko was born and raised between two cultures.
“I was born in Tokyo and raised between Japan and France. I later moved to Paris for 20 years as an art director in the fashion and luxury industries.”
In the mid-1970s, Aiko’s parents lived in Saudi Arabia. Throughout her childhood, she listened to their stories about the region and came to love it.
“The Arab world became like a fairy tale,” she said. “With this mix of cultures, I could see the world with a vision.”
Aiko has had a lifelong passion for traveling, and one of the major trips she took saw her follow the ancient path of the Silk Road in 2015. During the trip, she captured photos with her iPhone, which led her to win, among other awards, the iPhone Photography Awards.
The year 2019, when she crossed the Empty Quarter, known as Rub Al-Khali in Arabic, was a turning point in her life.
“A friend told me that he was looking for a man who wanted to cross the Empty Quarter on camelback,” she said. “Although I didn’t know how to ride a camel, I told him that I wanted to be the one to do it, and 72 hours later, I was flying to Saudi Arabia to join the Rakayib Camel Caravan to cross the vast desert.”
Even though her trip started with a sandstorm, she was thrilled, and it was in that moment that her love story with the Arabian Peninsula began.
“I cried tears of joy because something impossible was becoming a reality. I was living my dream.”
Her passion for traveling on camelback only grew, and today Aiko owns two beautiful camels.
“Exploring the beauty of the Arabian Peninsula this way never ceases to amaze me,” she said.
The trip covered a total of 2,400 km. In the UAE, she traveled with the Hamdan bin Mohammed Heritage Center, while to the island of Socotra, in Yemen, she traveled with the support of the Khalifa bin Zayed Al-Nahyan Foundation.
Recently, Aiko was invited to the celebration of the 91st National Day of Saudi Arabia. She was chosen to experience 91 km of the ancient trail of Darb Zubaydah on camelback.
Darb Zubaydah, or the Zubaydah Trail, is one of the Islamic civilization’s most significant humanitarian and social projects. It stretches from Kufa in Iraq to Makkah, covering 420 km inside the Kingdom alone, and was once known as a route for pilgrims and traders.
The trail was named after Zubaydah bin Jafar, wife of Caliph Harun Al-Rashid, who contributed to its construction and revival for convoys and passersby.
“The region of Hail, since ancient times, was the heart of travelers, and the generosity of its people was renowned. Discovering this new part of Saudi, I had tears in my eyes. The area’s landscapes, sand dunes, desert, mountains, and rock art are remarkable.”
She mentioned that she is planning for a few trips in the future. “I’m trusting how life will guide me to the next step, to create a new link between its histories, like a puzzle.”
One of Aiko’s goals is to transmit the beauty of the Arabian Peninsula through her trips.
“I’ve been passionate about the beauty of the Arab world for as long as I can remember. I love to travel by camel while capturing the authentic life along the ancient caravan trails.”
She remarked how surprised she was by the “hidden beauty” of the countries within the region.
“As a woman traveling by camel, I’ve always been welcomed like a family member. That allowed me to participate in the culture, which deserves to be better known. I hope that my experience as an art director will allow me to translate the stories through my photography and to preserve the region’s beauty as the 21st century continues to unfold.”
Saudi and British ministers discuss developing cooperation
Updated 28 January 2022
LONDON: Saudi Arabia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Waleed Al-Khuraiji held talks with British Minister of State for the Middle East and North Africa James Cleverly, via video conference.
During the meeting, they reviewed aspects of cooperation between the two kingdoms and ways to enhance and develop them in all fields, in addition to discussing regional and international developments and the importance of strengthening joint coordination.
Cleverly also held a phone call with the Saudi ambassador to Yemen, Mohammed Al-Jaber, to discuss developments in the Yemeni crisis and the efforts made to establish security and peace in Yemen, and the region in general.
The call comes a day after Cleverly and Al-Jaber met in person on the sidelines of a UK-hosted conference on Yemen, with senior representatives from the UAE, Oman, the US and the UN.
I had a good discussion with Mohammed Al-Jaber, Saudi Ambassador to Yemen, on our shared goal of peace and security in Yemen and the region. pic.twitter.com/3lckudD3Kt
137,000 Saudis benefit from tourism sector human capital development initiative
The initiative helped 2,614 Saudis to gain professional qualifications and enhance their leadership skills
The Ministry of Tourism will launch more quality training and education programs this year
Updated 28 January 2022
RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Tourism hosted an event on Wednesday to celebrate its Your Future is Tourism education and training initiative, as part of its human capital development strategy for the tourism sector.
The participants included leaders from the public and private sectors, along with some of the initiative’s beneficiaries, who shared their stories to help motivate and inspire the young people who will be the future leaders of the sector in the Kingdom.
The initiative, launched by the ministry last year, has so far benefited about 137,000 employees and job seekers, and helped 2,614 Saudis to gain professional qualifications and enhance their leadership skills. About 226,000 people have registered with the digital educational platform since launch.
“We have a strategic goal in the Ministry of Tourism, which is to attract the largest number of Saudi men and women to work in the tourism sector and qualify them in the best possible way,” said Minister of Tourism Ahmed Al-Khateeb.
“Yesterday, we celebrated the success of the Your Future is Tourism initiative in 2021, and about 137,000 Saudis benefited from it, but the future will be much better and more beautiful,” he added in a message posted on Twitter on Thursday.
With the aim of enabling national competencies in the tourism sector, get to know more about the your future is tourism. pic.twitter.com/OAMGMgPbIX
Mohammed Bushnag, the deputy minister for human capital at the Ministry of Tourism, said that the ministry is working to develop the capabilities of local human capital in the sector, and that investing in future generations contributes to the development of competency and diverse skills within the tourism industry, which is a major provider of jobs worldwide. He also stressed the importance of motivating employees and job seekers to take advantage of the quality training and education programs that the ministry will launch this year.
The Saudi cabinet recently approved plans for establishing a global tourism academy, in cooperation with the World Tourism Organization, that will provide professional academic programs that support those working in the local and international tourism sectors, and develop national competencies to compete globally.
How a culture of recycling can reduce waste generation in Saudi Arabia
Consumerism in GCC countries has created mountains of trash, most of the content of which is nonbiodegradable
“Circular economy” opens up huge opportunities for Saudis to reduce, reuse and recycle the waste they generate
Updated 28 January 2022
JEDDAH: As is the case in many other parts of the world, a combination of population growth, urbanization and economic expansion has not only increased personal consumption across the Middle East but is also generating colossal amounts of waste.
Five Gulf Cooperation Council countries — Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Qatar and Kuwait — rank in the top 10 worldwide in terms of per capita generation of solid waste.
Thanks to their oil wealth, consumer spending in these countries has grown over recent decades to become a key driver of domestic economies. But as in many advanced countries, a culture of consumerism has created mountains of trash, most of the content of which is nonbiodegradable and extremely harmful to the environment.
Saudi Arabia alone produces about 15 million tons of garbage a year, 95 percent of which ends up as landfill, polluting the soil and releasing greenhouse gases, including methane, into the atmosphere for decades.
What is not buried often ends up as litter on city streets, in the form of discarded polythene bags, fast-food containers, plastic bottles and empty soda cans.
Between the start of 2020 and the first half of 2021, Saudi Arabia recycled only 5 percent of its total waste, including plastic, metal and paper.
To reduce waste generation, protect fragile ecosystems and make the most of reusable materials, Saudi Arabia can rely on the “circular economy” concept, a closed-loop system that involves the 3-R approach: Reduce, reuse and recycle.
The leading agent of change in this effort is the Saudi Investment Recycling Company, which was established in 2017 as a wholly owned subsidiary of the Public Investment Fund.
* Plastic takes more than 400 years to degrade.
* Only 12 percent of plastic is incinerated worldwide.
SIRC seeks to divert 85 percent of hazardous industrial waste, 100 percent of solid waste, and 60 percent of construction and demolition waste away from landfills by 2035. The only types of waste not covered by its remit is that created by the military and nuclear energy, both of which are handled by specialist organizations.
The circular economy model opens up huge opportunities, whether in terms of products, energy creation or services, which can make a major contribution to the diversification of the Saudi economy away from oil and its derivatives, in line with the aims of the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 reforms strategy.
Saudi Arabia aims to invest almost SR24 billion ($6.4 billion) in the recycling of waste by 2035 as it attempts to switch to a more sustainable waste-management system. It will invest about SR1.3 billion in construction and demolition waste, and about SR900 million in industrial waste. Investments in municipal solid waste will exceed SR20 billion, while investments in other types of waste will amount to more than SR1.6 billion.
There are several ways to create value in a circular economy. One of them is “waste-to-energy,” which involves drying and incinerating garbage, raw sewage and industrial sludge to power steam turbines.
Burning waste produces carbon dioxide but leaving it to decompose in landfill sites results in 20 to 40 times the amount of greenhouse-gas emissions, in the form of methane, over a period of many years.
Unsurprisingly, the circular economy approach is catching on. In 2020, when Saudi Arabia held the presidency of the G20, the Kingdom proposed to allies the concept of a circular carbon economy as a means of mitigating the accumulation of carbon in the atmosphere.
But a circular economy model cannot succeed without the active involvement of big companies, small-business entrepreneurs and the general public.
Experts say that the construction of recycling facilities in the Kingdom is only part of the solution; it must go hand in hand with efforts to instill in the Saudi population a culture of household recycling and responsible consumption.
“We have to invest in the infrastructure but, equally, we have to provide education and create outreach programs,” Ziyad Al-Shiha, the CEO of SIRC, told Arab News in October. “Once we achieve 25-35 percent recycling, we can say to the public: ‘Look, this is your effort and this is the result that we’re bringing back to you.’”
TIMELINE OF SAUDI ENVIRONMENTAL PROGRESS
2016: Launch of Saudi Vision 2030.
2017: National Renewable Energy Program announced.
2018: Launch of the National Environment Strategy.
2019: Saudi Arabia joins International Solar Alliance.
2020: Launch of Environmental Fund.
March 27, 2021: Launch of Saudi Green Initiative and Middle East Green Initiative.
Sept. 16, 2021: Farasan Islands added to UNESCO World Network of Biosphere Reserves.
Oct. 23, 2021: Saudi Arabia announces goal of Net Zero greenhouse-gas emissions by 2060.
Oct. 23, 2021: Saudi Arabia joins Global Methane Pledge.
Progress has already been made in fostering environmentally conscious behavior at the community level. Saudi highways are better maintained now than before. Even in cities, drains are no longer clogged with cigarette butts, tissue paper, paper cups and discarded food packaging.
In part, such improvements are as a result of the introduction of penalties; the Ministry of Municipal and Rural Affairs and Housing can now impose fines of $133 on anyone caught littering or spitting in a public place.
But concern about the environment and public interest in recycling and reducing household waste have also increased markedly, thanks to campaigns conducted by civil society groups.
One such group, Mawakeb Alajer, has worked for 17 years to encourage community-level recycling in Jeddah by providing sorting facilities where the public can drop off a wide range of recyclables, from scrap paper and waste plastic to unwanted furniture and even old wedding dresses.
“As a second-hand shop, we encourage people to give away what they don’t need to charity, which helps protect the environment by reducing waste,” Sara Alfadl, a spokesperson for Mawakeb Alajer, told Arab News.
“We believe that everyone plays a part in the community and we’re providing a service everyone can benefit from. We sort out everything we receive. This takes a lot of time, requires a lot of manpower and is hard. Thankfully, most of the items we receive, whether clothes or recyclable waste, are in good condition.”
In cooperation with local businesses, truckloads of recyclable materials are brought to Mawakeb Alajer’s facility where they are sorted and then sold, donated, or sent to be reused, recycled or repurposed. In the process, the group is helping to gradually change public attitudes.
“Awareness is still in its infancy but spreading nonetheless,” Alfadl said.
Schools have begun to play an important part in shaping attitudes among the next generation, by adopting “environmental literacy” projects that give pupils the chance to learn by participating in school-based recycling schemes and science projects.
For their part, many Saudi businesses are adjusting to the circular economy model, in line with the Kingdom’s pursuit of sustainable-development goals.
Mona Alothman, the co-founder of Naqaa, a local provider of business-to-business environmental-sustainability solutions, said that many companies are now integrating recycling and waste reduction into their business models.
“It’s not just a phase,” she told Arab News. “Many Saudi companies are adopting ingenious ways to reduce, reuse and recycle their office supplies and better manage their waste, among other things.
“A lot has changed in recent years. Regulations have become stricter in order to adhere to international standards. Our company’s core ethos revolves around sustainability, and recycling is one part of the picture.
“Companies today are not only applying our recommended solutions to office waste but also initiating campaigns to promote and encourage people to be more conscious of how they throw away their trash.”
This multi-pronged approach, encompassing education, charity schemes, stricter rules and penalties, is encouraging the Kingdom’s business establishments to adopt eco-friendly practices and communities to think more about the effects of lifestyle on the environment.
Alfadl and her colleagues at Mawakeb Alajer believe there is a lot that Saudis can do to encourage their employers, neighbors and local authorities to implement more environmentally responsible practices in homes and workplaces.
“I believe that recycling will pick up fast here in Saudi Arabia,” Alfadl said. “With growing awareness, what was once a project or short-term initiative has become a necessity.
“Our approach was always bottom-up. When employees join the sustainability drive with their actions, it won’t be long before others do the same and create a community of people who follow the same approach.”