Growing strong: Taif rose farmers gear up for pre-production season

The Taif rose market is estimated to be worth SR52 million, with a growth potential of up to SR700 million if new opportunities are adequately exploited. (Shutterstock)
The Taif rose market is estimated to be worth SR52 million, with a growth potential of up to SR700 million if new opportunities are adequately exploited. (Shutterstock)
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Updated 22 November 2021

Growing strong: Taif rose farmers gear up for pre-production season

The Taif rose market is estimated to be worth SR52 million, with a growth potential of up to SR700 million if new opportunities are adequately exploited. (Shutterstock)
  • Attempts to transfer and cultivate Taif roses in Europe and Arab countries have been unsuccessful, say specialists

MAKKAH: Farmers are readying their gear as the Taif Rose, a proud Saudi symbol, prepares for next year’s harvest amid fears of an early winter frost.

With its blush to bright pink hue, the beautiful flower is believed to be the sister of the Damascus rose. Legend has it that the seedlings were brought to the Kingdom five centuries ago after an Ottoman sultan offered Levantine rose seedlings to a nobleman in Makkah, who ordered that they were sent to Al-Hada Mountain in Taif for planting,  with the area known for its mild and cool weather, similar to the climate of the Levant.

Taif is home to 2,000 rose farms. It is situated 1,900 meters above sea level, giving it an ideal atmosphere for roses to grow. The roses are planted every year at the beginning of the “Al-Tarf” season — one of the agricultural seasons that encourage the branches to bear the rose fruit.

This year, cultivation specialists warned that the upcoming winter would be a critical threat to crops, and that some farm owners are considering finding warm spray pipes to combat frost.

According to a 2018 Small and Medium Enterprises General Authority report, the Taif rose market is estimated to be worth SR52 million ($13.8 million), with a growth potential of up to SR700 million if new opportunities are adequately exploited.


They noted that some attempts to cultivate Taif roses in Europe and Arab countries did not succeed. European countries received experience and guidance from cultivation experts, but the roses failed to match the Kingdom’s quality due to the different atmosphere and soil.

FASTFACTS

• Taif is home to 2,000 rose farms. It is situated 1,900 meters above sea level, giving it an ideal atmosphere for roses to grow.

• The roses are planted every year at the beginning of the ‘Al-Tarf season’ one of the agricultural seasons that encourage the branches to bear the rose fruit.

Awad Al-Talhi, who owns a rose farm in Al-Shafa in Taif, told Arab News that the high areas of Taif are the best places for planting the roses, but this also leaves them highly exposed to frost, the first major threat to the success of the farms.

Al-Talhi added that the best method for dealing with frost waves is to use specialized tanks connected to warm spray pipes to remove frozen bushes. The warm water spray is effective at keeping first at pay, but it comes with high cost.

“Rose farmers begin the process of pruning trees at the beginning of every year, which takes about two-and-a-half months, depending on the size of the farm. There is no watering of the trees in this period. By mid-March, the harvest season of Taif roses begins,” said Al-Talhi.

Al-Talhi added that regular watering begins every five days until April with the end of pruning of rose bushes.

Roses are susceptible to several diseases and insect pests. They may survive without a basic pest control program, but they may not be very attractive. A pest control program starts with proper site selection, soil preparation, drainage, proper spacing, cultivar selection, and plant maintenance. These factors foster healthy roses that are better able to withstand the pressure of disease and insects.

Taif roses were first documented by Swiss traveler Johann Ludwig Burckhardt, who visited Taif in 1814. Maurice Tamiser, the French chief medical officer in the French armies, mentioned them in 1834 when he was sent to the Hejaz by Mohammed Ali. Other early Taif rose observers include French diplomat Leon Roches in 1841, and Swiss writer Charles Didier in 1854, and other travelers.

Al-Talhi said that exporting the roses abroad was unsuccessful, either as flowers or oils, due to the soil and weather in Taif that produces its unique atmosphere throughout the year.

“Foreign delegations visit Taif from time to time and carry out agricultural studies and take with them agricultural seedlings to their countries, but they have not succeeded in obtaining the same quality. They may achieve success in the first year, but the quality of the crop is not as good as the quality in Taif,” he said.

“Historically, there were many attempts to plant this type of rose in other regions and countries through pilgrims who were fascinated by the scent of this rose. It was cultivated in other areas, but it was not as good as the smell of the Taif rose,” said Khaled Al-Omari, a member of the Cooperative Committee for the Taif Rose.

“With time, and after attempts to study the quality of the Taif rose planted in the Taif heights, it was proven that the Taif soil over the centuries was the appropriate environment for cultivating it,” he added.

Al-Omari told Arab News that the Taif rose cannot be exported due to its sensitivity. But its perfume can be shipped abroad due to the ancient distillation method that preserves the quality of its fragrance.

“The people who are experienced and proficient in the distillation of the roses can successfully preserve the quality of the perfume, it’s a difficult and delicate process. There’s something in the water and soil: Taif roses planted in different areas come out different, they are not of the same quality and smell,” said Al-Omari.

Al-Omari added that the rare Taif rose has led to many historians offering different takes on its origin and the date of its appearance in Taif.

Women in the past used the rose as a colorful decoration and a scent that they placed between the folds of their clothes.

“Owners of rose factories used special pots that they brought from India. The first perfume produced by the owners of the old factories was sent to the pilgrims’ doctor. After that, it became famous and became the fragrance of kings, princes, and people of high positions.”

The rose shot to fame after its association with royalty and elite society. It still attracts global demand due to its rarity and quality. With distillation being conducted by just a few families who have passed down the skill over the generations, output is limited to major international companies that specialize in the perfume industry.


Diplomats in Riyadh discuss sustainability perspectives ahead of Season 8 of Formula E World Championship

Panelists discuss climate and sustainability perspectives at the Swedish ambassador’s residence in Riyadh. (Supplied)
Panelists discuss climate and sustainability perspectives at the Swedish ambassador’s residence in Riyadh. (Supplied)
Updated 29 January 2022

Diplomats in Riyadh discuss sustainability perspectives ahead of Season 8 of Formula E World Championship

Panelists discuss climate and sustainability perspectives at the Swedish ambassador’s residence in Riyadh. (Supplied)
  • Diplomats: Spreading truth about climate change is important

RIYADH: Spreading the truth about climate change and the need for sustainability is very important in relation to a changing climate, and how it impacts life on Earth, said panelists at a discussion hosted by the Swedish and Swiss embassies to the Kingdom.

Swedish Ambassador Niclas Trouvé and his Swiss counterpart André Schaller jointly organized the discussion on climate and sustainability perspectives on Thursday night, at the Swedish ambassador’s residence in Riyadh, where some of the best drivers in motorsport have gathered ahead of Season 8 of the ABB FIA Formula E World Championship.

The much anticipated first race on Friday night begins with a double-header in Diriyah, promising an exhilarating race experience using electric cars.

Ambassador of Sweden to Saudi Arabia Niclas Trouvé speaking at discussion. (AN photo by Rashid Hassan)

Run under LED lights at the UNESCO World Heritage Site on the outskirts of Riyadh, the night races, which will take place on Jan. 28 and 29, are being held in the Kingdom for the fourth consecutive year since the venue joined the calendar in 2018.

Speaking to Arab News, Trouvé said: “We had an important discussion in the panel. The occasion why we are here is the ABB-sponsored Formula E race. What is interesting now is the feel here in the Kingdom, and also of course in Sweden and Switzerland and the rest of the world, the enormous push that we feel now for sustainable green solutions.

Switzerland ambassador André Schaller speaking at discussion. (AN photo by Rashid Hassan)

“As I shared with the audience here at the discussion, almost half of the new cars that were sold in Sweden last year were non-carbon, nonfossil, i.e electric or hybrid cars. Around the world, we now see an enormous push for electric vehicles like the Formula E races, as we will see on Friday night in Diriyah.

“Sweden and Switzerland’s embassies co-hosted the panel discussion, and we are both at the forefront, we want to cooperate with the Kingdom, we want co-creation and innovation together with our Saudi friends and we are ready for business and investment to make the Vision 2030 a reality so that Saudi Arabia also can continue on this very important role towards the sustainable carbon-free future,”said the envoy.

Audience at Panel discussion on climate & sustainability perspectives at Swedish Embassy. (AN photo by Rashid Hassan)

Schaller said: “Congratulation to Saudi Arabia and also to the ABB for bringing Formula E World Championship races to Diriyah for the fourth consecutive time. It is a race to the future — for the sustainable future — and it also crosses the rich history and heritage in the Kingdom in front of the wonderful UNESCO World Heritage site.

“It’s also about the message, the message that if you can do races like this with sustainable and renewable energy-backed electric cars, you can apply the same for commercial vehicles,” said Schaller adding “these cars do not carry passengers, but it carries an important message.”

Audience at Panel discussion on climate & sustainability perspectives at Swedish Embassy. (AN photo by Rashid Hassan)

Formula E CEO Jamie Reigle said: “We are delighted to be back to Diriyah for the fourth time, Saudi Arabia is one of the features in the race series of our global calendar. For the last two years we were not able to host the fans because of the coronavirus pandemic. We are happy to host the fans this time, that’ great news.

“We will be doing the live race for the second time ever under the lights, and this is going to be carbon neutral using electric vehicles, and LED lighting. All of the energy consumed for the race is biofuel.”

Another panelist, Mohammed Al-Mousa, county managing director of ABB Saudi Arabia, said that technology leader ABB has played a crucial role over years in the Kingdom and is keen to continue the success story of demonstrating sustainable energy commitment, e-mobility and carbon neutrality.

 


KSrelief signs executive program to support orphans in Mali

KSrelief signs executive program to support orphans in Mali
Updated 29 January 2022

KSrelief signs executive program to support orphans in Mali

KSrelief signs executive program to support orphans in Mali

RIYADH:  The King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Center has signed an executive program to support orphans in Mali, the Saudi Press Agency reported.

It will benefit 1,317 individuals in the cities and towns of Bamako, Koulikoro, Segou, Gao, and Sikasso.

The program was signed by Ahmed bin Ali Al-Baiz, assistant general supervisor for operations and programs at KSrelief, and aims to provide a cash guarantee for orphans which will be delivered to them every three months for a year. 

It will pay fees and register orphans aged between seven and 15, economically empower their families by training women to master sewing skills and provide them with the necessary tools, as well as distributing sheep to needy families.

The program comes as part of the projects offered by the Kingdom, represented by KSrelief, to orphans in order to improve their living conditions in various needy countries.


Who’s Who: Rabab Khodary, health economics and market access manager at Janssen Pharmaceuticals

Who’s Who: Rabab Khodary, health economics and market access manager at Janssen Pharmaceuticals
Updated 29 January 2022

Who’s Who: Rabab Khodary, health economics and market access manager at Janssen Pharmaceuticals

Who’s Who: Rabab Khodary, health economics and market access manager at Janssen Pharmaceuticals

Rabab Khodary has been health economics and  market access manager for hemato-oncology at Janssen Pharmaceuticals of Johnson and Johnson since May 2021.

During her time in the role, she has helped to accelerate patients’ access to innovative products through operational processes in the public sector and by analyzing business challenges and opportunities within the Saudi healthcare sector.

She joined GlaxoSmithKline in 2015 as a future leader management trainee and held the position of associate market access and pricing manager from 2017 until 2021.

In 2017, while working for GSK, she received a bronze award in a global employee recognition program, following that up with a silver award in 2019, after heading a women’s leadership initiative and project leading the business development, communications, health, and well-being departments.

From 2013 to 2014, she was Batterjee Medical College’s head of clinical skills, a department she established with the Jeddah-based institution’s head of medicine.

Khodary gained a bachelor’s degree in medical technology from King Abdulaziz University in Jeddah in 2006, and a master’s degree in cell and molecular biology from San Francisco State University in 2012. She was also a researcher for a cell and molecular biology lab in California, and for King Fahd Medical Research Center in Jeddah.

Between 2006 and 2007, she worked on cytogenetics, molecular genetics, and tissue typing in a Saudi blood bank laboratory. She has obtained a number of professional certifications, including in health economics policy, and a negotiation program from The London School of Economics and Political Science.


Thailand’s labor, tourism sectors gear up for opportunities in Saudi Arabia

In this photo released by the Saudi Royal Palace, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, right, meets with Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha, at the Royal Palace in Riyadh Tuesday. (AP)
In this photo released by the Saudi Royal Palace, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, right, meets with Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha, at the Royal Palace in Riyadh Tuesday. (AP)
Updated 29 January 2022

Thailand’s labor, tourism sectors gear up for opportunities in Saudi Arabia

In this photo released by the Saudi Royal Palace, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, right, meets with Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha, at the Royal Palace in Riyadh Tuesday. (AP)
  • Labor cooperation deal signed during PM Prayut Chan-o-cha’s historic Jan. 25-26 visit to Riyadh
  • Thailand to welcome more tourists from Kingdom following restoration of bilateral ties

BANGKOK: Thailand’s labor and tourism sector stakeholders on Friday said they were looking forward to exploring opportunities in Saudi Arabia in the wake of a restoration of ties between the two countries following the Thai prime minister’s visit to Riyadh.

PM Prayut Chan-o-cha was in the Saudi capital on Jan. 25 and 26 on the invitation of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman for the first top leadership meeting between the nations in more than three decades.

One of the agreements signed during the trip was a labor cooperation deal, which Thai government spokesperson Thanakorn Wangboonkongchana said on Thursday was expected to take force within two months.

Saudi Arabia was at one time a popular destination for Thai expats with more than 300,000 of them living and working in the Kingdom during the 1980s. Currently, there are less than 1,350 Thai workers in Saudi Arabia, employed mainly as welders, technicians, and household staff, according to Thailand’s labor ministry data.

Aranya Sakulkosol, chairman of the Thai Overseas Manpower Association, a government-affiliated recruitment agency for overseas jobs, told Arab News that the resumption of diplomatic relations was “good news, as Saudi Arabia is also carrying on the developing plan that will provide opportunity for Thai laborers especially those with skills.”

She said that for many years there had been interest in opportunities in Saudi Arabia, as in the past many of those who worked in the Kingdom were able to establish themselves upon return.

“The association expects to start sending the pilot group to work in Saudi Arabia within two months, following the government’s plan. We will see how Thai workers adjust to the employer in Saudi Arabia,” Sakulkosol added.

The southeast Asian nation is also gearing up for more tourist arrivals from Saudi Arabia, following an announcement by the Kingdom’s national flag carrier Saudia of its plan to resume direct flights to Thailand in May.

The Thai government has estimated that the increase in visitors from Saudi Arabia will generate an additional $150 million for its economy.

Chattan Kunjara Na Ayudhya, deputy governor of the Tourism Authority of Thailand, told Arab News that while the coronavirus pandemic situation made it difficult to predict how many Saudis would visit the country, authorities wanted to build on two outstanding areas that could attract travelers: Medical and shopping tourism.

He said: “We plan to do the proactive marketing, including making a promotion plan with airline and travel agencies. Many agencies that we have partnered with previously focused on other Middle East countries such as the UAE, or Jordan. We will now also focus on Saudi Arabia.

“TAT will also plan a roadshow to introduce services in Thailand, such as hotels, to get to know their customers in Saudi Arabia and sell their products there. This could be done soon, probably before June," he added. "We have high hopes for increasing the number of visitors.” 


Scheme launched to encourage Saudi eateries to provide Braille menus

The initiative, led by a team of Al-Ahyaa Centers Association, aims to promote the tactile writing system in restaurants and cafes throughout the Kingdom. (Supplied)
The initiative, led by a team of Al-Ahyaa Centers Association, aims to promote the tactile writing system in restaurants and cafes throughout the Kingdom. (Supplied)
Updated 28 January 2022

Scheme launched to encourage Saudi eateries to provide Braille menus

The initiative, led by a team of Al-Ahyaa Centers Association, aims to promote the tactile writing system in restaurants and cafes throughout the Kingdom. (Supplied)
  • Alaa Al-Tuairaqi, who is visually impaired, said: “For the first time in my life, I will hopefully be able to order without suffering

MAKKAH: An ambitious scheme encouraging eating establishments to provide Braille menus for visually impaired customers has been launched by a Saudi volunteer organization.
The initiative, led by a team from the volunteer administration at Al-Ahyaa Centers Association in Makkah, aims to promote the tactile writing system in restaurants and cafes throughout the Kingdom.
Instigated as part of World Braille Day celebrations, organizers expect a similar national eatery ordering project for the deaf and people with speaking difficulties to be served up in the near future.
Maha Al-Sharif, head of the Rouh Makkah volunteer team, said the idea came about after she witnessed a visually impaired person having each item on a restaurant’s food and drinks menu read out to them.

HIGHLIGHTS

• During the launch of the initiative, attended by a number of visually impaired individuals and their families, a hot and cold drinks menu written in Braille was made available for the first time at Cafe Atrab, in Makkah.

• The team’s public relations officer, Fatima Al-Otaibi, congratulated the volunteers on their work, along with visually impaired Sami Al-Zahrani, who drew up the new menu.

• Cafe Atrab owner, Manal Al-Maalawi, thanked the Rouh Makkah team for launching the scheme, adding that her establishment had been honored to officially sponsor the voluntary initiative and be the first cafe to jointly implement the idea.

Her volunteer team, established seven months ago, is looking to promote the Braille service nationally.
Alaa Al-Tuairaqi, who is visually impaired, said: “For the first time in my life, I will hopefully be able to order without suffering. It is a wonderful, outside-the-box idea that has been well-received by visually impaired individuals. The initiative will help spare them from some of the life problems they experience daily.”
He pointed out that visually impaired people often felt embarrassed having to ask for menus to be described to them, especially in busy outlets.
Associate team leader, Nourah Al-Maliki, noted that the integration of groups, such as the visually impaired, into Saudi society was an important aspect of the Vision 2030 reform plan.
During the launch of the initiative, attended by a number of visually impaired individuals and their families, a hot and cold drinks menu written in Braille was made available for the first time at Cafe Atrab, in Makkah.
The team’s public relations officer, Fatima Al-Otaibi, congratulated the volunteers on their work, along with visually impaired Sami Al-Zahrani, who drew up the new menu.
Cafe Atrab owner, Manal Al-Maalawi, thanked the Rouh Makkah team for launching the scheme, adding that her establishment had been honored to officially sponsor the voluntary initiative and be the first cafe to jointly implement the idea.
She said: “This is volunteer work and national duty. We welcome at any time our visually impaired sisters and brothers who will have a 50 percent discount on drinks for life.
“We also welcome any voluntary initiative or idea that serves the community, especially the special groups who are dear to our hearts.”