Prospects strong for halal tourism in 2022 despite pandemic

Prospects strong for halal tourism in 2022 despite pandemic
This photo taken on January 19, 2018 shows a chef preparing a Halal meal at the Gaia Hotel, which caters to tourists from Muslim-dominant countries, in the Beitou district near Taipei. (File/AFP)
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Updated 08 January 2022

Prospects strong for halal tourism in 2022 despite pandemic

Prospects strong for halal tourism in 2022 despite pandemic
  • Pent-up demand, industry-wide adaptation to COVID-19 could fuel global tourism boom
  • UN: Pandemic has cost global tourism industry an estimated $4 trillion 

LOND|ON: Despite the widespread disruption to the tourism industry caused by the coronavirus pandemic, the rapidly growing halal sector could be set for a bumper year, experts have told Arab News.

The global tourism industry was one of the sectors hit hardest by the pandemic — in November last year, the UN estimated it had lost $4 trillion in revenue over two years.

But 2022 could represent a step-change for the industry as borders reopen and vaccine rollouts kick in — particularly for destinations catering to the needs of Muslim travelers.

Ufuk Seçgin, chief marketing officer at HalalBooking, told Arab News that there is “pent up” demand for travel after two long years of pandemic-related restrictions.

His company, which directs travelers to halal-friendly accommodation, has actually experienced growth since April 2021 “despite all of the turmoil,” said Seçgin.

“We saw an excellent recovery,” he added. “We don’t have any reason to believe that this trend won’t continue.”

Fueling this growth, he said, is the adaptation that both customers and providers — such as airlines and hotels — have made to their travel arrangements.

“Customers are now getting more used to the environment. We have to live with the virus. Yes there will be some travel restrictions and some uncertainty — things can change, as we’ve seen now with omicron,” Seçgin added.

But this constant threat of disruption means that providers are now offering flexible refunds or adjustments to trips should they be required.

Because of this, “people have got confidence, they’ve got understanding that even if a trip is canceled they’ll be able to access full refunds,” said Seçgin.

“A lot of people still haven’t traveled for the last two years so they’re like, ‘OK, 2022 has to be the year’.”

Among the potential beneficiaries of this travel boom, said Seçgin, is Saudi Arabia, which has been investing heavily in its own tourism industry in recent years.

He added that during a recent visit to the Kingdom, he saw the potential in its tourism industry after managing to carry out Umrah, visit Jeddah for snorkeling and explore AlUla’s historical sites all in one trip.

Soumaya Hamdi, founder of the Halal Travel Guide, told Arab News: “One of the trends that we’re going to start seeing in 2022 is that non-conventional locations (for halal travel) are going to start to be more interested in attracting Muslim travelers.”

She said both the New York and Barbados tourist boards had already contacted her for advice on attracting more diverse tourists.

They “want to know how to speak to Muslim travelers,” she added. “That’s one of the key trends we’re going to see going forward: This recognition that halal tourism is here to stay.”

Hamdi echoed Seçgin’s thoughts on how the travel industry and its customers have adapted to the pandemic and its nuances.

“Some countries are making it a requirement that you have to have COVID-19 travel insurance,” she said.

“Jordan, for example, requires you to have travel insurance that covers you for COVID-19-related medical expenses before you enter the country.”

This, she said, “means there are lots of good offers now. At the start of the pandemic this kind of thing wasn’t available, but now they have to offer it.”

These measures have built consumer confidence and added to the wider tourism industry’s resilience to pandemic-related disruption.

Hamdi said her company, which runs halal trips to non-conventional locations, “offers a full service in terms of accommodation, activities and food. When consumers book with us, they know their payment is protected.” She added: “For travel companies, we have to be able to offer consumers that confidence.”


EgyptAir ‘Green Service Flights’ to cut single-use plastics 

A new “Green Service Flight” logo will mark all sustainable flights and EgyptAir is offering a 40 percent discount on the Cairo to Paris flight. (Reuters/File Photo)
A new “Green Service Flight” logo will mark all sustainable flights and EgyptAir is offering a 40 percent discount on the Cairo to Paris flight. (Reuters/File Photo)
Updated 19 January 2022

EgyptAir ‘Green Service Flights’ to cut single-use plastics 

A new “Green Service Flight” logo will mark all sustainable flights and EgyptAir is offering a 40 percent discount on the Cairo to Paris flight. (Reuters/File Photo)
  • Saturday’s flight, from Cairo, Egypt to Paris, France, will be the first of its kind for an African airline

CAIRO: EgyptAir will operate a new environmentally friendly service on Saturday as part ‘Green Service Flights,’ a new program to combat climate change and pollution.

The new flight category aims to eliminate single-use plastics and pollution. Saturday’s flight, from Cairo, Egypt to Paris, France, will be the first of its kind for an African airline.

Mohamed Manar, Egyptian minister of civil aviation, said that the Egyptian aviation sector “attaches great importance to confronting the effects of climate change.”

Environmental sustainability will be achieved through an “integrated ecosystem” that applies international legalislation to domestic aviation standards, he added.

According to the minister, EgyptAir’s future plan aims to reduce single-use plastics on flights by 90 percent. The airline has identified 27 single-use plastic products, which have been replaced with sustainable alternatives.

A new “Green Service Flight” logo will mark all sustainable flights.

EgyptAir is offering a 40 percent discount on the Cairo to Paris flight.

International Air Transport Association data shows that a single passenger on a short or long-term flight produces about 1.43 kilograms of waste, much of it single-use plastics, which threatens human health and marine life.


Saudi Arabia protecting endangered turtles through rescue programs

Saudi Arabia is committed to preserving and restoring its marine biodiversity through initiatives. (AFP)
Saudi Arabia is committed to preserving and restoring its marine biodiversity through initiatives. (AFP)
Updated 16 January 2022

Saudi Arabia protecting endangered turtles through rescue programs

Saudi Arabia is committed to preserving and restoring its marine biodiversity through initiatives. (AFP)
  • Through rehabilitation programs and research studies, the Saudi National Center for Wildlife aims to protect nesting sites of endangered sea turtles to maintain an environment in which they can thrive

JEDDAH: The Saudi National Center for Wildlife has rescued and rehabilitated five turtles found on the coasts of Saudi Arabia.
According to the center, the world’s oceans include seven species of sea turtles, five of which have been discovered in the Kingdom’s territorial waters of the Red Sea and Arabian Gulf.
For more than 100 million years, sea turtles have crossed great distances across the world. They play a vital role in maintaining the health and balance of the marine ecosystem.
The Kingdom has recorded sightings of green, hawksbill, loggerhead, olive ridley and leatherback turtles.
According to the center, during nesting season, sea turtles lay 60 to 160 eggs at once. This can be repeated up to six times over the course of a nesting season. In some cases, turtles have been seen to return to the same areas that they were born in more than 40 years later.

FASTFACT

For more than 100 million years, sea turtles have crossed great distances across the world.

The islands of Karan and Jurayad along the Kingdom’s coasts on the Arabian Gulf are found to be primary nesting sites for both the hawksbill and green turtles.
And on the Red Sea, Ra’s Baridi, Farasan Island, Shakir Islands, Ras Al-Shaaban, Jabal Hassan and Sanafir Island are also important locations for the two species.

Sea turtles are facing many threats, including overfishing, pollution, climate change and habitat destruction, mainly due to development in coastal areas and the wildlife trade. (Shutterstock)

Sea turtles are facing many threats, including overfishing, pollution, climate change and habitat destruction, mainly due to development in coastal areas and the wildlife trade.
The World Wildlife Fund has listed the hawksbill and green turtles as “endangered,” while loggerhead, olive ridley and leatherback turtles are classified as “vulnerable.”
Through rehabilitation programs and research studies, the Saudi National Center for Wildlife aims to protect nesting sites of endangered sea turtles to maintain an environment in which they can thrive.
The Kingdom is committed to preserving and restoring its marine biodiversity through initiatives.
Among the many projects to restore and protect marine life, NEOM has launched programs to protect endangered species such as the hawksbill sea turtle and hammerhead shark.
The Red Sea Development Company also works towards implementing initiatives to protect marine life and endangered sea turtles in the Kingdom.
The company, in cooperation with King Abdullah University of Science and Technology, early last year worked on the rehabilitation of two hawksbill turtles.
The turtles were safely returned to the waters of Waqadi Island, which will remain untouched and undeveloped as a protected area overseen by the The Red Sea Development Company.
The Saudi National Center for Wildlife continues to set standards for sustainable development initiatives to lay the foundation for marine protection in all future development plans.


Saudi walking wonder completes latest trek to promote AlUla, personal fitness

Saudi walking wonder completes latest trek to promote AlUla, personal fitness
Updated 14 January 2022

Saudi walking wonder completes latest trek to promote AlUla, personal fitness

Saudi walking wonder completes latest trek to promote AlUla, personal fitness
  • In 2020, Nayef Shukri walked in the footsteps of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) following the old Hijrah road, and last year he hiked from Jeddah to NEOM on what he dubbed his Vision 2030 trip

JEDDAH: Saudi walking wonder Nayef Shukri has been putting his best foot forward in a solo mission to promote fitness and his country’s rich heritage.

In his latest marathon meander around the Kingdom, the 33-year-old adventurer recently completed a 760-kilometer trek from Jeddah to AlUla to highlight the desert tourist destination.

Battling through extreme weather conditions and the pain barrier, Shukri covered the distance in 22 days, sleeping along the way in places including gas stations and under trees, and proudly carrying the Saudi national flag.

 

 

With just a backpack and a change of clothes, his only companion was manager Abu Hatem who shadowed him by car to light the route during the night.

Shukri, from Jeddah, said his walk to AlUla had been prompted for two main reasons. “First, out of absolute love for my country and to support tourism in AlUla with the start of the AlUla Season. Another reason for the march, was fitness. I wanted to promote the idea of keeping fit and setting an example for both young and old. 

“It wasn’t just my family and friends who supported this trip. Wherever I went, people would come out in droves to wave and cheer for me. They didn’t know me, nor did I know them, but everyone who saw me walking the flag wished me luck and encouraged me. I felt the true spirit of Saudi Arabia on this trip,” he added.

He pointed out that he wanted to encourage young people to travel within the Kingdom, visit historic sites, learn more about the country’s heritage, and enjoy experiences away from the daily routines of city life.

“Everyone has to discover the abilities in their own body and challenge themselves to discover new skills,” he said. 

In 2020, Shukri walked in the footsteps of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) following the old Hijrah road, and last year he hiked from Jeddah to NEOM on what he dubbed his Vision 2030 trip.

During his walks he has visited many archaeological, historical, and cultural sites including in Makkah, Madinah, Jeddah, Taif, Yanbu, Dammam, Jubail, Al-Ahsa, Asfan, and Badr. 

“It relates to the biography of the Messenger (peace be upon him), and I completed my journey walking in the footsteps of the Messenger, and across the Hijrah Road, the old road, where I covered the distance in eight days and nine nights,” he added.

On his recent AlUla walk, Shukri said: “The hospitality was overwhelming. We knew we would be welcome but the hospitality we received along the way was amazing.”

And posting on social media, he told followers of his joy at arriving in the old city of AlUla. “Finally, we reached it, thanks to God. Thank you all for your support.”


Ancestors built long ‘funerary avenues’ in western Arabia, study finds

The passages reflect a high degree of socioeconomic interdependence among the region’s population. (SPA)
The passages reflect a high degree of socioeconomic interdependence among the region’s population. (SPA)
Updated 12 January 2022

Ancestors built long ‘funerary avenues’ in western Arabia, study finds

The passages reflect a high degree of socioeconomic interdependence among the region’s population. (SPA)
  • Graves across peninsula point to complex networks dating back millennia

RIYADH: The Royal Commission for AlUla, in partnership with the University of Western Australia, revealed that the people who lived in the ancient northwest of the Arabian Peninsula built long “funerary avenues” surrounded by thousands of burial monuments during the third millennium BC.

The publication of the findings in “The Holocene” is the culmination of a year of tremendous progress made by the UWA team, working under RCU, to shed light on the lives of the ancient inhabitants of the Arabian Peninsula.

The passages, linking oases and pastures, reflect a high degree of socio-economic interdependence among the region’s population, indicating the existence of a sophisticated social network 4,500 years ago that extended across the peninsula.

The discovery joins the steady progress of archaeologists working in partnership with RCU in understanding the mysteries of human existence and the societies that lived in the region.

FASTFACT

The discovery joins the steady progress of archaeologists in understanding the mysteries of human existence and the societies that lived in the region.

The work of the UWAs team is part of a broader effort made by 13 specialized teams with members from around the world who work in the Archeology and Conservation Project in cooperation with Saudi experts in AlUla and Khaybar.

Amr Al-Madani, CEO of the RCU, said: “The more we learn about the ancient inhabitants of northwest Arabia, the more we are inspired by the way our mission reflects their mindset.

A 3rd millennium BC pendant burial on the southern edge of the Khaybar Oasis in north-west Saudi Arabia. (Supplied)

“They lived in harmony with nature, honored their predecessors, and reached out to the wider world. The work done by our archaeological teams in 2021 demonstrates that Saudi Arabia is a home for top-flight science — and we look forward to hosting more research teams in 2022,” he added.

Director of archaeology and cultural heritage research at RCU, Dr. Rebecca Foote, said: “Projects that have been conducting fieldwork in AlUla and Khaybar for over three years, such as the UWA team, have started publishing their results, and it is terrific to see how analyses of the data are elucidating so many aspects of life from the Neolithic to the Bronze Age in northwest Arabia.

“These articles are just the beginning of the many publications that will advance our knowledge of prehistoric to modern times and have significant implications for the wider region,” she continued.

A 3rd millennium BC pendant burial on the southern edge of the Khaybar Oasis in north-west Saudi Arabia. (Supplied)

Researcher and historian Dr. Eid Al-Yahya said that the graves in Khaybar, known as Harat Al-Nar (Fiery Field), as well as others, are considered diverse urban patterns. “There are more than 100 patterns, and each has a distinctive architectural shape. All of the graves contain humans laid to rest in a squatting or ‘fetus’ position. We were able to identify more than a million graves with the help of Google and through a specialized scientific team.”

Regarding the timing of this era, Dr. Al-Yahya said: “These graves were made when the Arabian Peninsula was very fertile and looked like the savannah forests. They symbolize constructions made by people who lived in prosperity, did not live in a barren desert preventing them from building a burial with complex and precise engineering methods.”

He noted that the huge graves pointed towards the sky and became an important symbol for the Mesopotamian and Nile civilizations, stressing that they are the civilization of peoples who have an ancient visual and celestial dimension.

He explained that, according to the researches of the German Max Planck Institute, the last decades of the savannah era in the Arabian Peninsula dated back 6,500 years ago. When the Arabian Peninsula became a desert, its people moved to lands with rivers and transmitted their culture as well, including cuneiform, which can be found on most of the graves.

Al-Yahya said that a large part of these ancient graves were exposed to excavation in ancient times, unlike the Nile graves, which were famous for hiding the tombs of kings underground so that they would not be seen.

Cuneiform graves were visible and built above the mountains where furniture and weapons were buried with the deceased along with some of their belongings.

He stressed that what the RCU had achieved in collaboration with the UWA proved that the graves are some of the oldest types of architecture in the world — older than the pyramids dating back over 8,000 years.

Al-Yahya estimated that some of these graves may date back to the Middle Stone Age, and that they may find graves dating back further still.

 


Ancient rock drawings across Saudi Arabia gain increasing attention

 A drawing featuring a carved illustration of two women in the southern Saudi city of Najran — one adorned with jewelry and ornaments, and the other dancing next to a man carrying a spear on his waist — has raised many questions. (Supplied)
A drawing featuring a carved illustration of two women in the southern Saudi city of Najran — one adorned with jewelry and ornaments, and the other dancing next to a man carrying a spear on his waist — has raised many questions. (Supplied)
Updated 08 January 2022

Ancient rock drawings across Saudi Arabia gain increasing attention

 A drawing featuring a carved illustration of two women in the southern Saudi city of Najran — one adorned with jewelry and ornaments, and the other dancing next to a man carrying a spear on his waist — has raised many questions. (Supplied)
  • Southwest part of Kingdom contains evidence from various periods, starting from Paleolithic age until Islamic times
  • Striking image dating back more than 4,000 years is still a source of mystery

MAKKAH: Rock drawings in Saudi Arabia — long considered crucial sources for the study of ancient civilizations in the Arabian Peninsula — are gaining increasing attention as more are found in unlikely locations across the Kingdom.

The drawings represent the first pillars of writing. Their study reflects the changes and developments in the Arabian Peninsula’s history and cultures, and how ancient humans dealt with the environment.
A drawing featuring a carved illustration of two women in the southern Saudi city of Najran — one adorned with jewelry and ornaments, and the other dancing next to a man carrying a spear on his waist — has raised many questions about the location, significance and period of its creation.
Salma Hawsawi, a professor of ancient history at King Saud University, told Arab News that the most ancient rock drawings in the Arabian Peninsula date back 7,000 years and are found mostly on ancient trade routes. “The rock drawing includes inscriptions written in the Thamudic script used firstly in the eighth century B.C. and the Ancient South Arabian script used firstly in writings in the middle of the second millennium B.C. In some archaeological studies in the ninth and eighth centuries B.C. and, most recently, in the sixth century A.D.,” she said.
Hawsawi said that “the use of two types of scripts on the drawing has several meanings, one of which suggests that ancient humans’ knowledge of several scripts reflects the interaction between communities since it has been known that the Thamudic script originated in the north of the Arabian Peninsula and expanded afterward to most of its regions, noting that the diversity of literature in the region is a testimony of the civilizational progression.”
The region was one of the most important stops for trade convoys heading from the south of the Arabian Peninsula to the north and vice versa, she added.
The drawing also features a man holding three spears, two in his right hand and one in his left, a dagger on his waist, and a pendant for ornamentation purposes or with other religious significances. The spears and dagger symbolize power, or preparations to fight a battle and confront an enemy.
According to Hawsawi, the human form in the rock drawing looks like the god “Kahl” of Al-Faw village, located in the center of the Arabian Peninsula, on a trade route from the south.

HIGHLIGHTS

• Salma Hawsawi, a professor of ancient history at King Saud University, said that the picture features a drawing of two characters who seem to be two women: The first one on the left is seated next to a spear or a musical instrument that looks like the rebab, with writings carved in all directions.

• The second woman is adorned with ornaments and jewels and has her hands raised, indicating dancing and body swaying. A hairstyle is also apparent in the drawing, suggesting the woman’s role in wars.

• The drawing also features a man holding three spears, two in his right hand and one in his left, a dagger on his waist, and a pendant for ornamentation purposes or with other religious significances. The spears and dagger symbolize power, or preparations to fight a battle and confront an enemy.

“Kahl,” referred to as the “moon,” is considered the first god in the ancient religious Arab ideology. It was linked to the commercial convoys for economic purposes, with offerings, vows and votive inscriptions. Al-Faw village was a transit city for many, with an intermingling of peoples. “A religious, social, economic, and cultural exchange resulted from this intermix,” she said.
Hawsawi said that the resemblance between both forms might indicate a type of sacred ritual. The repetition of the scene in terms of details of the weapons, music instruments, and general form of the character in many rock drawings gives the impression that it is a war dance. She explained that the picture features a drawing of two characters who seem to be two women: The first one on the left is seated next to a spear or a musical instrument that looks like the rebab, with writings carved in all directions.
The second woman is adorned with ornaments and jewels and has her hands raised, indicating dancing and body swaying. A hairstyle is also apparent in the drawing, suggesting the woman’s role in wars. Overall, the artistic drawing shows the social, religious and cultural state of an ancient civilization in Saudi Arabia, with evidence of different scripts throughout the image, she added.
“Despite their different interpretations, they represent the history and civilization of human beings who lived in the southwest of the Arabian Peninsula.”
Hawsawi said that the southwest region of the Kingdom is considered one of the most ancient human settlements, with archaeological evidence from various historical periods, starting from the Paleolithic age until Islamic times.
Inscriptions and rock drawings in the region offer information on clothing, ornamentation tools, weapons, stone fireplaces, rectangular and conical constructions, and basins. Drawings also show camels, cows, ibex, geese and wild animals, such as lions and wolves. Images also feature battles with knights using spears and hunting scenes. Larger-than-life drawings of humans show some wearing headscarves, with images of men with beards and pendants around their necks.
Saleh Al-Mureeh, a historical researcher, told Arab News that Najran is rich in archaeological and historic sites, making it a unique touristic model locally, regionally and globally.
“The ruins date back 4,000 years and, therefore, it is qualified to be a touristic and archaeological shrine by excellence.”
He said that the “two women drawing” is located in Sadr Al-Nakha in the governorate of Yadma in Najran, adding that the archaeological image has been subject to study, research and controversy for years.
“Some say they are reaching for the sky, while others say that these are a celebration and war dances. It gained a lot of attention from researchers, and it is located on the highest mountain. The Antiquities and Museum Commission discovered it and was shot by a professional Mexican photographer affiliated with the antiquities commission. The picture was publicly published in around 1997,” he said.
Al-Mureeh said that Najran is the home of civilizations and cultures stretching back thousands of years.
Archaeological sites were protected and fenced to avoid damage, while media campaigns have helped to raise residents’ awareness of the importance of these treasures and the need to preserve them as part of the historical identity of the region.