Six Saudi comedians have Riyadh Season audiences rolling in aisles

Ibrahim Al-Hajjaj, comedian and co-founder of Saudi House of Comedy, joined by fellow comics Fayez Al-Shamrani, Hashem Al-Hawsawi, Mohammed Hilal, Nawaf Al-Shubaily, and Khaled Omar at the Mohammed Al-Ali Theater at Boulevard Riyadh City. (Supplied)
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Ibrahim Al-Hajjaj, comedian and co-founder of Saudi House of Comedy, joined by fellow comics Fayez Al-Shamrani, Hashem Al-Hawsawi, Mohammed Hilal, Nawaf Al-Shubaily, and Khaled Omar at the Mohammed Al-Ali Theater at Boulevard Riyadh City. (Supplied)
Six Saudi comedians have Riyadh Season audiences rolling in aisles
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Abdulrahman Al-Shalhoub
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Updated 15 January 2022

Six Saudi comedians have Riyadh Season audiences rolling in aisles

Ibrahim Al-Hajjaj, comedian and co-founder of Saudi House of Comedy, joined by fellow comics Fayez Al-Shamrani, Hashem Al-Hawsawi, Mohammed Hilal, Nawaf Al-Shubaily, and Khaled Omar at the Mohammed Al-Ali Theater at Boulevard Riyadh City. (Supplied)
  • The funnymen perform their shows in Arabic to help connect with audiences

RIYADH: Six of the best Saudi comedians have had audiences rolling in the aisles for a second year at the Riyadh Season festival of entertainment.

Brought together by the Saudi House of Comedy, the comics have been taking to the stage at Boulevard Riyadh City as part of the popular annual event.
Fayez Al-Shamrani, one of the performers, told Arab News: “Riyadh Season is an important initiative to be part of, and the attendance in Riyadh was amazing. I would hope to perform there again.”
The pioneering House of Comedy for standup comedians was opened in the Eastern Province in 2017 by Ibrahim Al-Hajjaj and Talal Al-Anazi.




Abdulrahman Al-Shalhoub

Co-founder and comic, Al-Hajjaj, told Arab News that making people laugh was addictive. “It is a lovely feeling when you’re doing standup, and you make people laugh, it is a different kind of heart buzz, it tickles your little heart vessels.”
In 2018, the General Entertainment Authority sponsored the comedy club, and since then, it has performed at least 56 shows, including standups and plays throughout the Kingdom.

HIGHLIGHTS

• The pioneering House of Comedy for standup comedians was opened in the Eastern Province in 2017 by Ibrahim Al-Hajjaj and Talal Al-Anazi.

• In 2018, the General Entertainment Authority sponsored the comedy club, and since then, it has performed at least 56 shows, including standups and plays throughout the Kingdom.

Veteran entertainer Al-Hajjaj has witnessed firsthand the rapid developments that have taken place in the sector in the Kingdom over recent years.
“I think it’s wonderful. Thankfully our government is supporting us 100 percent and anything we need we can ask for. The General Entertainment Authority, Ministry of Culture, and everybody is helping us, and I feel that Saudi artists need nothing,” he said.




It is a lovely feeling when you’re doing standup, and you make people laugh.
Ibrahim Al-Hajjaj

Al-Hajjaj was joined by fellow comics Al-Shamrani, Hashem Al-Hawsawi, Mohammed Hilal, Nawaf Al-Shubaily, and Khaled Omar at the Mohammed Al-Ali Theater in Boulevard Riyadh City, one of Riyadh Season’s 14 zones.
They performed game shows with scenes consisting of six comedy segments based on improvisation between two teams representing several scenarios chosen by the audience.
The funnymen have previously performed their standup routines on the MSC Bellissima cruise ship.




Abdulrahman Al-Shalhoub

Al-Shamrani, known by his stage name Goge, said: “I am very thankful to have been a part of the House of Comedy. We have had wonderful experiences together.”
And Al-Hajjaj pointed out that the use of comedy could often help resolve many issues in life. “I think just smiling before your problems will eventually make it less harmful to your body, into your mind, and soul.”
The comedians, from different regions of the Kingdom, all perform their shows in Arabic to help connect with audiences.
“I perform local comedy, I do all of my shows in Arabic, and I always encourage my fellow comedians to do their jokes in Arabic.
“I think humor comes from blood, and it’s from your environment, where you were raised, where you went to school. I think comedy comes from blood, and if your blood is Arabic, your jokes are always going to be in Arabic,” Al-Hajjaj added.
And he urged young Saudis to explore careers in the entertainment industry.
“I think any talented person that is just sitting at home will always be a talented person just sitting at home. The Ministry of Culture is always giving courses. The General Entertainment Authority is always giving opportunities for people to pursue their talents,” he said.
With the current support and resources provided to the entertainment sector in the country, Al-Hajjaj reckoned it could only continue to flourish.
“I think in the next five years, we will be experiencing a blast of comedians, a blast of new young talents and new young actors and actresses,” he added.


Investor interest in Saudi hotel sector is growing, so why are there so few rooms outside cities?

 According to Thamer Alrajeeb, the cornerstone of the development of hotel investment in Saudi Arabia’s various regions lies in facilitating the financing process for investors in the sector. (Supplied)
According to Thamer Alrajeeb, the cornerstone of the development of hotel investment in Saudi Arabia’s various regions lies in facilitating the financing process for investors in the sector. (Supplied)
Updated 27 min 30 sec ago

Investor interest in Saudi hotel sector is growing, so why are there so few rooms outside cities?

 According to Thamer Alrajeeb, the cornerstone of the development of hotel investment in Saudi Arabia’s various regions lies in facilitating the financing process for investors in the sector. (Supplied)
  • Hotel industry experts shed light on planning strategies, expansion portfolios and other challenges in the sector

RIYADH: In recent years, there has been a remarkable increase in the number of businesses whose owners are interested in investing in the hotel sector in Saudi Arabia. Yet at the same time, many observers continue to wonder why there are still so few hotels outside of the Kingdom’s major cities.

Amir Lababedi, Hilton’s managing director of development in the Middle East and North Africa, said: “Saudi Arabia represents our largest development pipeline in the Middle East, with plans to expand our presence to more than 75 hotels in the coming years.
“We plan to expand in locations across major primary and secondary cities across Saudi Arabia. We see potential for our mid-market Hampton by Hilton and Hilton Garden Inn brands, as well as for DoubleTree by Hilton and our lifestyle brand, Canopy by Hilton.”
Meanwhile, Radisson Hotel Group announced this week that it plans to expand its operations in Saudi Arabia and increase its investment portfolio in the Middle East to approximately half of its total investments by 2026.

There is a big demand for hotels classified as three or four stars. The local population, as well as visitors — pilgrims, tourists, and businessmen — prefers three- or four-star hotels as these are available all around and are very affordable for the general public. Commercially, their operating cost is lower and thus they generate more revenue than a five-star hotel.

Saleh Al-Habib, Executive director, Jiwar Real Estate Development

According to Saudi Minister of Tourism Ahmed Al-Khateeb: “Radisson Hotel Group’s commitment to developing new hotels in the Kingdom and opening a regional office in Riyadh is an effective contribution to strengthening the Kingdom’s steps to achieve its goal of receiving 100 million visitors by 2030.”
Mahmoud Al-Saeed, the general manager of Pereira Resorts in the Eastern Province, which is managed by Boudl Hotels and Resorts, said the company aims to cater to all sections of society.
“Given that a large segment of society prefers three-star hotels for their quality and reasonable prices, the company has created a chain of Aber hotels,” he said. “It launched the brand in 2018 to meet the needs of many with a group of modern hotels, in terms of design and concept, at affordable prices while ensuring high quality and professionalism in providing services.”

Dr. Saleh Al-Habib, executive director of Jiwar Real Estate Development

The three-star Aber hotels are “situated between hotel apartments and four-star hotels,” according to Al-Saeed. “The economic concept that Boudl is keen to present with this group of hotels has become an important matter for many travelers and those looking for a change in the usual lifestyle,” he added.
Boudl also owns the four-star Pereira hotels and the five-star Narcissus. Al-Saeed said the company has plans for expansion in major cities, and to increase the number of three-star hotels in a number of Saudi cities. These hotels are experiencing an influx of tourists from inside and outside the country, he added.
Al-Saeed, who has worked in the industry for nearly two decades, said that hotels currently face a number of challenges, particularly “in light of the precautions against COVID-19. These include the postponement of many events which usually take place in hotels and the cancellation of reservations for halls used for celebrations or official meetings, due to the coronavirus and its accompanying problems.”
He added that the authorities in Saudi Arabia are aware of the issues and are working to develop the hotel sector.

 Fadil Munakeal, manager of Jabal Omar Jumeirah in Makkah

Thamer Alrajeeb, a former member of the Riyadh Chamber of Commerce and Industry’s Tourism Accommodation Committee, said investment in the tourism sector in major cities is encouraging, particularly in Riyadh in support of the Saudi Entertainment Authority initiatives. It is not profitable in other cities, however, where operations are seasonal during a period of a few months each year, usually coinciding with school holidays or good weather.
“For the rest of the year, operation is a loss for the investor,” he said.

FASTFACT

Radisson Hotel Group announced this week that it plans to expand its operations in Saudi Arabia and increase its investment portfolio in the Middle East to approximately half of its total investments by 2026.

Alrajeeb described investing in hotels other than five-star establishments as “feasible.” He said the lower operational costs and prices are affordable to a wider range of guests but added that “many of the Ministry of Tourism’s requirements burden investors.”
He said it is possible to meet the needs of visitors with average levels of financial solvency, particularly outside the three cities of Riyadh, Jeddah, and Dammam. This can be done by investing in hotel suites in particular, which are characterized by low startup costs, “allowing for their rental prices to be more commensurate with the solvency of a wide range of travelers.”
The cornerstone of the development of hotel investment in Saudi Arabia’s various regions lies in facilitating the financing process for investors in the sector while fulfilling the Ministry of Tourism’s requirements, Alrajeeb said, adding that the focus should be on efforts that contribute to raising quality in the sector and meeting the needs of customers.
Fadil Munakeal, manager of the Jabal Omar Jumeirah hotel in Makkah, stressed the importance of providing products and services that correspond to a hotel’s star rating, which he said reflects positively on investment in the sector. He urged the Ministry of Tourism to continue its supervision and follow up efforts to achieve reliability in the sector and improve the image and perception of all types of hotels.
Munakeal, who is also a member of the Hotels Committee of the Makkah Chamber of Commerce and Industry, urged the owners of less expensive establishments, particularly in the three-star and lower categories, to invest in modern marketing techniques and direct them at particular target groups. They must also develop products and services that meet the needs of these target audiences, he added.
He said many domestic tourists, particularly families, prefer to stay in hotel apartments because they have a negative perception of some hotels with fewer than four stars.
Saleh Al-Habib, executive director of Jiwar Real Estate Development, said: “There is a big demand for hotels classified as three or four stars. The local population, as well as visitors — pilgrims, tourists, and businessmen — prefers three- or four-star hotels as these are available all around and are very affordable for the general public.
“Commercially, their operating cost is lower and thus they generate more revenue than a five-star hotel.
“This is a popular choice for almost all classes of society, especially the middle and lower-middle classes. The availability of such hotels and semi-luxurious apartments is numerous. With affordable tariffs, they meet the needs of families, business travelers, as well as those seeking leisure.”
Al-Habib, who is also a member of the Saudi Association for Tourist Accommodation Facilities, said that both locals and expatriates are interested in establishing hotels and furnished apartments in areas such as Abha, Al-Baha, Tabuk, Hafar Al-Batin, Al-Majma’ah and Al-Kharj.
“These interested entrepreneurs are working closely with the National Tourism Fund,” he added.


Saudi Arabia rolls out aid in Yemen, Afghanistan

The center distributed on Saturday 17 tons of aid. (SPA)
The center distributed on Saturday 17 tons of aid. (SPA)
Updated 28 sec ago

Saudi Arabia rolls out aid in Yemen, Afghanistan

The center distributed on Saturday 17 tons of aid. (SPA)
  • The project aims to distribute about 192,000 food baskets weighing more than 20,000 tons to impoverished families across 15 Yemeni governorates

HAJJAH: King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Center mobile medical clinics have continued providing treatment services at the Waalan camp for displaced people in Yemen’s Hajjah Governorate.

In one week, clinics received 136 people with various health conditions. They were provided with medical services.

KSrelief also distributed more than 63 tons of food baskets in the Al-Mudhaffar district of Taiz Governorate, helping 4,039 people.

The project aims to distribute about 192,000 food baskets weighing more than 20,000 tons to impoverished families across 15 Yemeni governorates.

KSRelief is also distributing food and provide shelter to needy families in Afghanistan as part of the Saudi relief airlift dispatched by the center to support the Afghan people.

The center distributed on Saturday 17 tons of aid. It included 250 food baskets, 500 flour bags, 250 winter bags and 250 blankets in the Qala-e-Fathullah district of Kabul, helping 250 families.


ThePlace: Al-Arfa’a Fort, a historical landmark built in the 13th century in Taif

Photo/Saudi Press Agency
Photo/Saudi Press Agency
Updated 49 min 35 sec ago

ThePlace: Al-Arfa’a Fort, a historical landmark built in the 13th century in Taif

Photo/Saudi Press Agency
  • The interior is characterized by distinctly organized structures for rulers and their workers

Al-Arfa’a Fort, located in the northeast of Taif governorate, is a historically significant landmark that details the features of social and cultural life over many centuries.
It was built in the 13th century AH on the historical Al-Arfa’a Mountain, after which it was named.
It is one of the most famous forts in the Kingdom given its major role in trade, where it protected roads for nomads and served as a fortress for military leaders.
The first floor of the three-story fort is built out of stone, while the second and third are built with mud.
The interior is characterized by distinctly organized structures for rulers and their workers.
At the edge of Al-Arfa’a Fort, a mirqab — watchtower — is built in a circular shape and adorned with a crown of pure white quartz.
It contains openings and several wells that provide water throughout the year.

 


Saudi project clears 4,739 Houthi mines in Yemen

A total of 308,018 mines have been cleared since the start of the project. (SPA)
A total of 308,018 mines have been cleared since the start of the project. (SPA)
Updated 29 min 51 sec ago

Saudi project clears 4,739 Houthi mines in Yemen

A total of 308,018 mines have been cleared since the start of the project. (SPA)
  • The project is one of several initiatives undertaken by Saudi Arabia to help ease the suffering of the Yemeni people

RIYADH: The Saudi Project for Landmine Clearance in Yemen dismantled 4,739 Houthi mines in the second week of January.

This figure includes 26 anti-personnel mines, 2,389 anti-tank mines, 2,230 unexploded ordinances and 94 other explosive devices.

The project is one of several initiatives undertaken by Saudi Arabia to help ease the suffering of the Yemeni people.

The demining took place in Marib, Aden, Jouf, Shabwa, Taiz, Hodeidah, Lahij, Sanaa, Al-Bayda, Al-Dhale and Saada.

A total of 308,018 mines have been cleared since the start of the project. More than 1.2 million mines have been planted by the Houthis, claiming the lives of hundreds of civilians.


Who’s Who: Naif Almohaia, human capital general manager of Saudi Exports

Naif Almohaia. (Supplied)
Naif Almohaia. (Supplied)
Updated 17 min 30 sec ago

Who’s Who: Naif Almohaia, human capital general manager of Saudi Exports

Naif Almohaia. (Supplied)

Naif Almohaia is human capital general manager of Saudi Exports.
In his current role, Almohaia is leading his department’s transformation to achieve the Kingdom’s Vision 2030.
Almohaia began his career in finance, staying in the industry for 13 years. It eventually led him to begin his path in human capital development, where he grew his out-of-the-box thinking and analytical skills.
He established his career as a senior financial officer at Fawaris AlBilad Trading Establishment, where he gained the building blocks to hone his financial analytical expertise.
During his position as senior financial officer, Almohaia also took on internships at Abu Dhabi Islamic Bank and Ernst & Young to boost his knowledge base in banking functions and assurance services.
His career branched into human resources when he accepted a position at the Arabian Assessment & Development Center.
Following his time there, Almohaia built further expertise by collaborating on megaprojects as human resources effectiveness analyst at Mercer.
After that, he began his duties as organizational development officer at Elm Co., where he began to expand his awareness and knowledge about the organizational design and development of companies.
In recent years, Almohaia joined Saudi Telecom Co. where he worked in technical roles as senior organizational design analyst, and then later returned to a supervisory role in organizational development at the STC’s Center of Excellence.
Almohaia gained valuable experiences as an organizational effectiveness manager at KPMG Saudi Arabia and as a human capital-organization development manager at the Diriyah Gate Development Authority in 2020.
He holds a bachelor’s degree in business administration with a concentration in finance and general studies.