RIYADH: The woman behind the success of the Groves, one of the 14 zones in this year’s Riyadh Season, revealed to Arab News how she realized the project in only 45 days.
“The planning ran from January till September. We had only 45 days to put it together,” said Siham Hassanain, general manager of the Groves.
“All of the designs have been done by Saudi hands. All of the restaurants are local brands Everything you see, from lighting to construction to organizers, is Saudi. The zone was built by a local company called Zivix International Holding,” she added.
The Groves, in the Diplomatic Quarter, is set in Al-Khuzama Park, one of the famous green spaces in Riyadh at Wadi Hanifah.
“It all started in 2019, I had some work to do in the diplomatic quarter, and I entered the park and fell in love with its beauty,” she said.
Hassanain said she researched the place and found out that the park was built 38 years ago when the diplomatic quarter was established.
Turki Al-Shaikh, CEO of the General Entertainment Authority (GEA) and chairman of the Season, had tweeted that anyone with a new idea for Riyadh Season should present it to the authority.
“The first thing that came to my mind was Al-Khuzama Park. I didn’t expect at all, not even 1 percent, that this zone would become a reality. But I told myself I should put all of my energy in this place,” Hassanain said.
After Hassanain pitched her idea to the GEA, she was selected as one of the 20 winning initiatives for the Riyadh Season, and her concept won first place.
“When the announcement came out, I was happy and excited for the first five minutes, then the sense of responsibility kicked in,” she said.
Hassanain says the Groves is filled with trees and fields: “You can hear fountains, water, and birds. The place also has a special scent.”
The Groves’ logo has the four elements of life: water, air, fire, and earth, which Hassanain included in the zone as water resembles relaxation, fire action and attractions, earth food, and air resembles memories.
She faced many challenges while executing the project as everything was done by hand to make sure no plants or trees were destroyed.
She said she had a fantastic Saudi team who helped her and believed and loved the concept even more than she did. “I was anxious they were passionate, I was nervous they were enjoying it … so these feelings created a balance.”
Hassanain noted that in the past Saudi females faced some obstacles in being part of building the country. “Had it not been for the support and vision of Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman this wouldn’t exist,” she said.
“If we compare the Boulevard Riyadh City zone in 2019 to the zone in 2021, you can see the big jump. We will amaze the whole world and become the first in the entertainment sector.”
Saudi justice minister discusses cooperation with British counterpart
Al-Samaani said that the Kingdom has achieved great qualitative leaps during the past years through its transformational projects and developing and improving all sectors
Updated 26 January 2022
LONDON: Saudi Arabia’s Minister of Justice Dr. Walid Al-Samaani has met his British counterpart Dominic Raab in London to discuss ways to enhance cooperation in the judicial and justice fields between the two ministries.
Al-Samaani said that the Kingdom has achieved great qualitative leaps during the past years through its transformational projects and developing and improving all sectors.
He told Raab that “the interest and support of the Kingdom’s leadership contributed to a qualitative developmental shift in the judicial and justice sector in the Kingdom at its substantive and procedural levels,” Saudi Press Agency reported.
Al-Samaani said this included applying the concept of institutional justice, activating the specialized judiciary, supporting human rights, and digitizing judicial services in courts and notaries.
He also touched on Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s recent announcement to develop the specialized legislation system through four basic systems, including the system of evidence that was issued and will be implemented soon.
“This qualitative legislative development will achieve more justice, enhance judicial guarantees, will be consistent with international conventions, and responds to the digital and economic changes the world is witnessing by developing legal and preventive tools,” he said.
A number of British judicial leaders also attended the meeting and the visit is aimed at boosting mutual cooperation between the two countries in light of a memorandum of understanding signed between the two sides.
All the registrations and certificates you need to visit Saudi Arabia
Visitors face queues and quarantine for failing to match Saudi requirements
Updated 26 January 2022
RIYADH: There are certain travel requirements that Saudis, expats and tourists need for entering Saudi Arabia.
The main requirement is a Reverse Transcription Polymerase Chain Reaction (RT-PCR) negative test certificate, issued from a verified laboratory no more than 72 hours before departure to the Kingdom.
Travelers will also need vaccination certificates from Tawakkalna, and registration on the Muqeem and Quddum platforms.
Upon arrival, all travelers will have their temperature checked and they should be registered as immune from COVID-19.
Quddum allows visitors to register and update their COVID-19-related health data at least 72 hours before arrival.
Immunity for non-Saudi citizens and non-residents as a fully vaccinated person over 12 with a booster dose from vaccines certified by the Kingdom and the World Health Organization, such as Pfizer, AstraZeneca and Moderna, or one dose of Johnson and Johnson’s inoculation.
All guests have to submit proof of their vaccination via the Quddum platform, which has been launched to facilitate entry procedures.
Quddum allows visitors to register and update their COVID-19-related health data at least 72 hours before arrival.
Immunity for Saudi citizens is defined by their status on the Tawakkalna App, whereas for expats it requires full vaccination, provided that any doses received outside the Kingdom are registered via the Ministry of Health Platform through https://eservices.moh.gov.sa/CoronaVaccineRegistration
Speaking to Arab News about his travel experience, Jennesse John, who works at the King Saud University, said: “I have returned from Kerala, India to Saudi Arabia along with my family recently. It went very smoothly since we had two doses of the vaccine in Saudi Arabia before we traveled on vacation.”
He added: “All we did was follow Saudi Arabia’s travel regulations closely.”
Hanouf Albalawi, in Riyadh, told Arab News: “My colleague made a mistake, and it was that she did not register in Muqeem before visiting the Kingdom. She said she didn’t know she had to.
“When she arrived in Saudi Arabia, she had to create a new Tawakkalna, and she only had one week to stay, so the issue she faced was that her status in the Tawakkalna app did not change for her entire stay, which was five days.
“She couldn’t visit any of the places she had in mind. We contacted Tawakkalna customer service to ask if there is anything we can do to make this process faster, but unfortunately, there was no other way.”
Faiz Al-Najdi, an engineer in Riyadh, told Arab News: “I recently returned from vacation with my wife from my home city Karachi, Pakistan. At Riyadh, airport departure processes went smoothly. I had to show them copies of PCR, vaccination details, copies of Tawakkalna and Sehaty. However, upon arrival in Karachi it was a mess.
“They demanded to see the vaccination details online on Tawakkalna, but it was not working; we failed to open it. Many people like us suffered because of this issue. I had a long argument with them as to why they were demanding to see it online when I was showing them the photocopies of the vaccination details from Tawakkalna. I told them we had traveled from Riyadh, where authorities had checked and allowed us to travel, then they were satisfied. This left them with no answer but let us proceed,” he said.
“Upon arrival at Riyadh airport, things were ok. The official at the immigration desk was polite. She checked the PCR and Tawakkalna papers. I had those ready with me, and she stamped our passports and let us go,” he added.
Ayman Hassan, an Egyptian expat working in Riyadh, told Arab News: “Many of my friends and colleagues recently returned from Egypt. The procedures at the airport, they said, went very smoothly. They didn’t take too much time since they had already taken the two vaccine doses in Saudi Arabia before traveling on their vacations. All they had to do was to carefully follow travel guidelines: Negative COVID-19 RT-PCR report, vaccination certificates from Tawakkalna, and Muqeem registration.”
Self-taught Nasser Hawsawi has proved a popular attraction at Riyadh Oasis
Updated 26 January 2022
MAKKAH: The work of sculptor Nasser Hawsawi has been a hit with visitors to Riyadh Oasis, one of the 14 Zones set up around the capital during Riyadh Season.
An engineer by training, the 30-year-old Saudi from Makkah has only been sculpting for about four years and is self-taught but his work has already earned praise and acclaim — and a few famous fans.
“Sculpting is an authentic art that simulates shapes, individuals, harmony, rhythm, balance, visual pleasure and various dimensions in order to reach a certain artistic depth, conveying a high artistic sense by representing the details of the human form,” said Hawsawi.
He is exhibiting his work at Riyadh Oasis in a studio that is open to visitors. He has also given a number of live sculpting demonstrations during which he created sculptures of famous Arab singers while they performed on stage, including Nawal Al-Zoghbi, Majid Al-Mohandis and Assala Nasri, and then presented the finished pieces to them at the end of the show.
Nasser Hawsawi is exhibiting his work at Riyadh Oasis in a studio that is open to visitors. He has also given a number of live sculpting demonstrations during which he created sculptures of famous Arab singers while they performed on stage, including Nawal Al-Zoghbi, Majid Al-Mohandis and Assala Nasri, and then presented the finished pieces to them at the end of the show.
“Drawing on sand dunes sparked an interest in sculpting four years ago, which led me to acquire more knowledge about the art and the precision required to carve a beautiful sculpture,” said Hawsawi.
Thanks to his engineering background, he said his knowledge of the characteristics of various materials and types of soil, and his familiarity with 3D design, helped him develop his craft.
“It motivated me and made me passionate about seeing things from a different perspective that simulate the different angles of artworks,” he said.
He said that his passion for art grew to the point that he decided to leave his stressful engineering career behind to pursue his art.
“I started to feel psychological pressures from my job as a civil engineer working on the roads in the city of Makkah,” said Hawsawi.
“This pushed me to unload these pressures through drawing and sculpting with sand, clay and rocks. I was able to transform this mental exhaustion in the field of road design into an artistic explosion, through which I could breathe, while also living in its details and caring for its visual outcomes.”
He said that his works range in price from $1,000 to $5,000, depending on size and detail. He sells them at exhibitions or through his Instagram account, which has more than 19,000 followers.
Sculptures of women require more work than those of men, he said, because they have more delicate features that demand more attention and precision. The materials he uses are sourced from outside the Kingdom.
“I use clay, with which I have established a strong artistic bond, while also carving on gypsum,” he said.
In addition to his participation in Riyadh Season, Hawsawi has taken part in other events, including the 90th Saudi National Day celebrations in 2020 at the King Abdulaziz Center for World Culture, under the patronage of Jeddah municipality. He also exhibited at Art Market, an exhibition at Adham Art Center in Jeddah, and Salam Ya Beirut, an exhibition at Haider Art Center, also in Jeddah.
“During Riyadh Season, I had the chance to meet the public and communicate with them,” Hawsawi said. “I also presented artworks inspired by mankind, horses and eagles.
“My philosophy is drawn from the environment and from the things I like to draw, along with the things I have witnessed and experienced.”
Around 30 local and international leaders and experts are participating in the conference in the internal audit and monitoring system fields
Updated 26 January 2022
RIYADH: The eighth conference for internal audit started on Tuesday under the title “The future of internal audit.”
During the event’s inauguration ceremony, Hussam bin Abdulmohsen Al-Angari, president of the General Court of Audit, highlighted the importance of the issues to be discussed, the Saudi Press Agency reported.
Al-Angari said the conference was considered an important gathering for professionals and those interested in internal audit in the Kingdom, with the participation of leaders and local and international experts who would discuss and suggest the best professional solutions and practices according to the latest international developments.
Abdullah Al-Shbili, CEO of the Saudi Institute for Internal Auditors, said the conference aimed to review developments in the internal audit profession and the monitoring system globally, draw the future of the profession according to international changes and developments, and enhance the features of flexible leadership in the internal audit profession in realization of Saudi Vision 2030.
Around 30 local and international leaders and experts are participating in the conference in the internal audit and monitoring system fields, as well as several representatives of global organizations and companies, including the CEO of the Institute of Internal Auditors Anthony J. Pugliese, to discuss the top challenges facing the audit profession and suggest the best solutions and practices.
A Saudi hospitality project will allow visitors to walk in the footsteps of royals, in palaces steeped in history
Three iconic palaces will soon be transformed into hotels with luxurious interiors and unparalleled architecture
Heritage experts say the Boutique Group project will open up cultural treasures of Saudi Arabia for all the world to enjoy
Updated 26 January 2022
Tareq Al-Thaqafi & Hebshi Alshammari
MAKKAH/RIYADH: Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman recently announced the launch of the Boutique Group, which plans to transform a number of palaces of historical and cultural significance in Saudi Arabia into ultra-luxury hotels.
The move is part of the efforts to showcase the Kingdom’s rich heritage and vibrant culture to visitors from home and abroad, along with the hospitality for which the country is renowned. The first phase of the project focuses on the development of three historical destinations: Al-Hamra Palace in Jeddah, Tuwaiq Palace and Red Palace in Riyadh.
Al-Hamra Palace is one of the most historically significant palaces of the modern era, according to Saleh Al-Misnad Al-Tamimi, a researcher in contemporary Saudi history.
Inspired by Andalusian culture and style, it was built during the reign of King Saud bin Abdulaziz for Prince Faisal bin Abdulaziz but was not intended to host official receptions and conferences.
The palace, which is located to the north of the US embassy, was relatively small when it was built in the late 1950s, Al-Tamimi told Arab News. It was later expanded and turned into a place to receive royal guests and hold official meetings.
The prince had an office on the south side of the building, directly overlooking the palace mosque, according to Al-Tamimi. Palace employees would hear requests and complaints from citizens and then pass them on to the royal in his office, close to the reception area.
The palace hosted many important events, Al-Tamimi said, including the first conference of foreign ministers of Islamic countries in March 1970, which resulted in the formation of the General Secretariat of the Organization of the Islamic Conference, now known as the Organization of Islamic Cooperation.
The many foreign leaders and heads of state who met King Faisal at the palace included US President Richard Nixon, Egyptian President Anwar Sadat, Lebanese President Suleiman Frangieh and Sudanese President Jaafar Nimeiry. Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser was a rare exception, who was instead received at the Royal Court in the Khuzam Palace.
Al-Hamra Palace was built by the Arab Engineering Company, which had built many similar structures in Jeddah, including those belonging to Prince Nawaf bin Abdulaziz and politician, economist and poet Mohammed Surur Sabban.
After its development by Boutique Group, Al-Hamra Palace will have 77 rooms, including 33 luxury suites and 44 luxury villas.
Mohammed H. Al-Ruwaili, from Al-Sudairy Cultural Center in Jouf, described the launch of the Boutique Group as a civilizational, historical and cultural-investment leap that will open up the heritage and cultural treasures of Saudi Arabia for the world to see and appreciate.
He said the project aims to capitalize on the aspect of Saudi heritage represented by the luxurious palaces that are nestled in nature and formerly owned by kings and princes, by turning them into tourist attractions that visitors from around the globe can enjoy.
With their eye-catching courtyards, gardens and floors, they will be transformed into world-class luxury hotels with ornate interior decorations and unparalleled architectural designs, he told Arab News.
“I think we are on the verge of an important and qualitative change in investing and introducing historical and cultural destinations that have value in our country,” said Al-Ruwaili, referring to the first phase of the Boutique Group’s project.
“The announcement (by the crown prince) is historic as it is likely to be followed by important steps and stages that the citizens of Saudi Arabia will benefit from.”
Abdullah Almuneef, dean of the tourism and antiquities faculty at King Saud University, also welcomed the announcement, saying the project will ensure the restoration and preservation of the historic sites by turning them into elite tourist destinations.
“It is an important experience for the Kingdom, similar to that of Europe, where many famous palaces have benefited from restoration and preservation projects,” he said.
The Red Palace
King Abdulaziz ordered the construction of the Red Palace in Riyadh in 1942 to serve as a residence for his son, Saud, who was then the crown prince. It was also used to receive official guests.
After King Saud moved to his palace in Nasiriyah in 1956, the Red Palace became the seat of the Council of Ministers during the reigns of King Faisal, King Khalid and King Fahd, before becoming the headquarters of the Board of Grievances.
It was called the Red Palace on account of the distinctive color of its exterior. Notable guests hosted within its walls included Egyptian presidents Nasser and Sadat, Syrian President Shukri Al-Quwatli, Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru, and King Talal bin Abdullah of Jordan.
The palace consists of 16 suites and rooms equipped with air conditioning and ceiling fans, along with a system that allows sunlight to illuminate the palace interior. After the redevelopment, the palace will have 71 rooms, including 46 luxury suites and 25 luxurious guest rooms.
Tuwaiq Palace is located in Riyadh’s diplomatic quarter, occupying an area of about 24,000 square meters. Designed in 1981 and completed in 1985, it was awarded the Aga Khan International Award for Architecture in 1998.
Now the palace is a center for cultural activities, conferences, seminars, specialized exhibitions and social activities. It also hosts workshops, festivals, meetings and training events.
It includes several halls, public facilities and hospitality spaces behind a long, wavy wall covered in Riyadh stone, a beige-colored limestone quarried in Saudi Arabia.
It also has a three-story guesthouse overlooking the valley, with four suites and 25 rooms.
There are several reception rooms and lecture halls, all equipped with presentation and translation facilities, in addition to dining halls and other hospitality services.
Three distinctive white canopies extend over the main halls, the glass walls of which offer a breathtaking panorama of the surrounding valley, gardens and scenic outdoor paths. After redevelopment, the palace will include 96 rooms, including 40 luxury suites and 56 luxury villas.
Although it is not currently included in the redevelopment plan, Khuzam Palace has great potential to become a boutique hotel. Located in Al-Nazla Al-Yamaniya in the southeast of historic Jeddah, the palace was named after the Khuzam tulips that grow abundantly in its grounds. Construction began in 1928 and its was completed in 1932.
“The palace was built of stone bricks and its roof was constructed using Javanese wood,” said Al-Tamimi. “About three years later, the Egyptian National Company built annexes to it that were made of reinforced concrete, including the palace that King Abdulaziz used to receive kings, heads of state, ministers, ambassadors and senior officials.”
According to Al-Tamimi, Khuzam Palace was where the concession agreement allowing for oil exploration was signed between the Saudi government, represented by Minister of Finance Sheikh Abdullah bin Suleiman, and Standard Oil of California, represented by Lloyd Hamilton, on May 29, 1933.
The palace also hosted the signing ceremonies for a border agreement with Kuwait and a reciprocal memorandum with Egypt regarding construction projects, according to Al-Tamimi. Other notable events that took place there included the renewal of the Treaty of Jeddah with the British government in 1943, the signing of the Dhahran Airfield Agreement with the US, a commercial agreement with Syria, and a friendship treaty with Pakistan.
Such has been the significance of the palace throughout the Kingdom’s history that its iconic main gates once featured on Saudi banknotes.
Al-Saqqaf Palace, also known as the Royal Al-Bayyadiyah Palace, is situated in the holy city of Makkah. It is expected to be included in the next phase of the Boutique Group project, as it is currently undergoing restoration work.
“The palace is a lofty beacon of architectural art and one of the oldest archeological buildings,” Samir Ahmed Barqa, a researcher of the history of Makkah, told Arab News.
“It represents heritage architectural designs and bears the Islamic architectural character because it contains a lot of Islamic arts and decorations. It also witnessed many high-level occasions throughout a royal era, whose roots extend to the first Saudi state.”
The site consists of two older palaces, Al-Bayyadiyah Al-Shamali and Al-Bayyadiyah Al-Janoubi, which were combined with a newer palace built by King Abdulaziz, who lived there from 1924.
“The palace became the seat of government when the founding king came to Makkah,” said Barqa. “After that, the palace was used as a headquarters for the deputy of King Abdulaziz in Hejaz, his son Prince Faisal, and in later periods it was used as a headquarters for the Muslim World League and then as a headquarters for Makkah Police.”
King Abdulaziz ordered the construction of several halls to host visiting presidents, kings and other dignitaries, as well as the heads of Hajj missions. The palace became the headquarters of the Royal Court in 1953, and then was occupied by a number of government departments between 1960 and 1982.
It includes more than 100 rooms, including a central meeting hall. The main entrance is distinguished by its exquisite grandeur.
If included in the boutique project, it would no doubt become a significant attraction for religious tourists visiting Makkah and enthralled by the Kingdom’s heritage.