How Saudi events company Midwam lifted tourism and leisure experiences to a whole new level

Tourists visiting AlUla, which has been transformed into a living museum that is home to the remains of ancient civilizations, important historical sites and archaeological wonders dating back as far as 200,000 years. (Supplied)
Tourists visiting AlUla, which has been transformed into a living museum that is home to the remains of ancient civilizations, important historical sites and archaeological wonders dating back as far as 200,000 years. (Supplied)
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Updated 27 January 2022

How Saudi events company Midwam lifted tourism and leisure experiences to a whole new level

Tourists visiting AlUla, which has been transformed into a living museum that is home to the remains of ancient civilizations, important historical sites and archaeological wonders dating back as far as 200,000 years. (Supplied)
  • Jeddah-based firm celebrates Saudi culture by leveraging augmented, virtual and mixed reality as well as AI
  • For the 2021 AlUla Dates Festival, Midwam transported visitors through time with a living, breathing souq

DUBAI: A Saudi firm that specializes in curating entertainment and cultural events is taking tourism and leisure experiences in the Kingdom to a whole new level, as demonstrated during the recently held AlUla Dates Festival.

Events company Midwam has managed a host of sporting, cultural and musical extravaganzas. Its forte is delivering immersive experiences, in locations such as London, Paris, New York and Russia, that use the latest technologies to engage the senses.

Midwam says it leverages augmented, virtual and mixed reality as well as artificial intelligence to offer “innovative, flexible and smart solutions on multiple platforms.”

The company has worked on transformational events, including the first MDLBEAST Soundstorm music festival in Riyadh in December 2019, creating what it describes as “emotional and inspirational connections between the human and the brand.”




Events such as the MDLBEAST concerts offer visitors the chance to experience the richness of Saudi heritage and culture. (Supplied)

It counts leading Saudi public and private-sector organizations among its clients, including the Ministry of Culture, the Saudi Art Council and Misk Innovation.

“We are in the business of creating ‘big impact’ — that’s the most important thing for me,” Khalid Al-Muawad, the CEO and co-founder of Midwam, told Arab News. “If I don’t see ‘impact’ in the project, we don’t take it. We’re very selective with our projects in terms of impact.”

Over four weekends in October and November, the firm partnered with the Royal Commission for AlUla and the AlUla Dates Festival to give thousands of local and international visitors the chance to experience the richness of Saudi heritage and culture firsthand.




Jeddah-based events company Midwam celebrates Saudi culture and heritage through hi-tech, immersive offerings. (Supplied)

Once considered a lost city of the dead, AlUla has been transformed in recent years into a living museum that is home to the remains of ancient civilizations, important historical sites and archaeological wonders dating back as far as 200,000 years.

Located in northwestern Saudi Arabia and covering an area of more than 22,000 square kilometers, it is known for its dramatic sandstone mountains and fertile oases. Thanks to its location in the Arabian Peninsula, at a crossroads of civilizations, AlUla was once the ideal resting place for traveling merchants who covered great distances in trade caravans.

Midwam used its events expertise to bring the area’s unique heritage to life through an authentic souq, traditional music and even a date auction.

“We’re a company in Saudi Arabia that’s trying to explain to people that an experience should have its impact across different sectors,” Al-Muawad said. “We go across the market to showcase to people how experiences can really reflect on them, how it can impact them and be a very interesting tool for people to engage.”




The Qasr Al-Farid tomb (The Lonely Castle) carved into rose-coloured sandstone in Madain Saleh, a UNESCO World Heritage site, near Saudi Arabia's AlUla. (AFP)

Launched in 2012 and based in Jeddah, Midwam has a pool of diverse talents, including designers, developers, engineers, architects, storytellers and interior designers. With about 30 employees, of which 70 percent are Saudi and half are women, Midwam is in the business of hiring “the best of the best” when it comes to local talent, Al-Muawad explained.

“We’ve been surprised by the number of people who are capable of various things when they’re given an opportunity,” he said. “And I’m very thankful and grateful that we do have such talent under our umbrella, who are able to deliver.”

Thanks perhaps to his background in banking, Al-Muawad has a nose for investment opportunities. He identified such an opportunity when he spotted a massive unmet demand for innovative cultural and entertainment environments with which people can engage.

“The game is all about engagement,” he said. “How can you engage people with your product or your story? Given the latest solutions, technologies and methods that are being rolled out in the world right now, the ordinary way of engaging with stuff has become boring, less appealing and less engaging.




Khalid Al-Muawad, the CEO and co-founder of Midwam, spoke to Arab News. (Photo by Mokhtar Chahine)

“If you go to a bookstore, people want to use their hands, interact with content, flip pages, double click on a story and see a visual of it, go to its audio and listen to it rather than read. These are all engaging tools and solutions that are there.”

Such signs of changing behaviors across the market motivated the Midwam team to create experiences that target different aspects of culture, heritage, tourism, sports and entertainment through partnerships with firms in Saudi Arabia, the US, Europe and the Far East.

“In a nutshell, an experience is a space that contains people with an offering and a journey, and this is what we do,” Al-Muawad said. “We take spaces and transform them into a journey for people where they can engage with a story, a product, a scene, content, and they get to go through stops in this journey and interact with whatever program or offering that is designed for this space.”

When Midwam takes on a project, its team of architects, designers, engineers, developers, coders and content providers combine their talents to turn ideas for human-centric experiential journeys into reality.

In AlUla, for instance, the exceptional landscape provided a unique canvas that, in Al-Muawad’s words, could be transformed into a “magnificent magnet” for tourism by making the most of its outstanding natural beauty and ancient heritage.




The Journey Through Time Masterplan was launched in April last year to develop AlUla into a major global tourist attraction. (Supplied)

The Royal Commission for AlUla has developed a number of successful projects in the area in the past couple of years, but Al-Muawad believes there is still potential for growth.

Such growth is already underway; following the framework established by Saudi Vision 2030, the Journey Through Time Masterplan was launched in April last year to develop AlUla into a major global tourist attraction.

Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who is chairman of the RCU, described the plan as “a leap forward to sustainably and responsibly develop AlUla and share our cultural legacy with the world.”

The RCU had a similar vision in mind when it hired Midwam to transform the AlUla Dates Festival. Al-Muawad’s team created a traditional souq for the event, staffed by local families selling their own produce, along with an auction area for those selling dates in bulk. Entertainment was also laid on, including a parade, a storyteller, musicians and a children’s area.

“We had very positive feedback from the public,” Al-Muawad said. “It was a great opportunity for us, based in Jeddah and Riyadh, to interact with locals in AlUla.




The Royal Commission for AlUla has developed a number of successful projects in the area in the past couple of years, but Al-Muawad believes there is still potential for growth. (AFP)

“We got to meet the farmers, and we got to understand the stories behind the generations who have been inheriting this business of growing and selling dates. So, it was a very interesting journey for us as well.”

Al-Muawad believes cultural engagement of this kind is a powerful tool for enabling people from diverse backgrounds to build a better understanding of one another. Saudi Arabia and its people have always been pioneers of hospitality, he said, with a true love of welcoming visitors.

“This is something not only within Saudi Arabia,” he added. “It has been a feature within Arabs for quite a long time. When we used to be in the middle of the desert, on camels and in tents, we always had visitors and it was a big thing — and it still is.

“So, it’s important that, within AlUla, when we give the opportunity for people to engage with citizens and locals, they get to understand how kind they are and how interested they are in the field of agriculture and how they have been inheriting it for generations.

“Once you learn about that, you learn more about this culture and understand the importance and significance within Saudi Arabia itself.”

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Twitter: @CalineMalek


Japanese delegation completes training program in Saudi Arabia

Japanese delegation completes training program in Saudi Arabia
Updated 24 May 2022

Japanese delegation completes training program in Saudi Arabia

Japanese delegation completes training program in Saudi Arabia

RIYADH: A number of young Japanese diplomats completed a training program organized by Prince Saud Al-Faisal Institute for Diplomatic Studies and Jouf University.

The program was part of an initiative aimed at strengthening bilateral relations between Saudi Arabia and Japan and included field visits, educational lectures, and tours in Riyadh and Jouf.

The Japanese diplomats visited a large number of public and private agencies including the Foreign Affairs Committee at the Shoura Council, King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Center (KSRelief), the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Economy and Planning, the Ministry of Culture, the headquarters of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) in Riyadh, King Abdullah Petroleum Studies and Research Center, Princess Noura bint Abdul Rahman University and the headquarters of Arab News.

They also attended lectures on the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 and its most important achievements since its launching.

The diplomats learned about Saudi Arabia’s energy sector and its future prospects, as well as the Kingdom’s efforts in combatting terrorism, and combatting financing extremism.

Jouf University organized lectures on pre-Islamic Arabic literature, and organized a distinguished touristic program to present the civilizational heritage of the region.

At the end of the training program, the Japanese delegation praised the economic, social and cultural achievements of Vision 2030, which has opened new horizons for economic diversification and income diversity, and rendered the Saudi economy a role model to achieve the objectives of sustainable development.

They also praised the beauty of the Jouf region and the touristic, archeological and historical landmarks that it includes.

The program organized by Prince Saud Al-Faisal Institute for Diplomatic Studies to train Japanese diplomats was launched in 2015 based on a joint statement by Japan and Saudi Arabia on the occasion of the visit of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to Japan in 2014.

This story was originally published on Arab News Japan


Saudi deputy defense minister, US central command chief discuss defense coordination

Saudi deputy defense minister, US central command chief discuss defense coordination
Updated 24 May 2022

Saudi deputy defense minister, US central command chief discuss defense coordination

Saudi deputy defense minister, US central command chief discuss defense coordination
  • Prince Khalid visited the Central Command’s headquarters in Tampa, Florida, as part of the official visit to the US of his delegation, which began last Tuesday

RIYADH: Prince Khalid bin Salman, Saudi Arabia’s deputy minister, on Monday met the commander of the US Central Command, General Michael Kurilla, to discuss developments in the Middle East.

“We discussed our joint defense coordination, addressing regional challenges, and stressed the need to work together on preserving regional and global stability,” Prince Khalid said on Twitter.

Prince Khalid visited the Central Command’s headquarters in Tampa, Florida, as part of the official visit to the US of his delegation, which began last Tuesday.

The CentCom’s area of responsibility covers the Middle East, including Egypt in Africa, and Central Asia and parts of South Asia.

On Sunday, Prince Khalid met with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken in Washington during which they affirmed their countries’ common vision to confront Iran’s destabilizing policies in the region.

They also discussed the latest developments in Yemen, with Prince Khalid reaffirming Saudi Arabia’s aspirations for the Yemenis “to reach a comprehensive political solution that would move Yemen to peace and development.”

He said the UN and world organizations need “to put pressure on Houthi militias to open Taiz roads, deposit the revenues of Hodeidah port and engage seriously in peace efforts to move Yemen to security, stability, construction and prosperity.”
 


Saudi leaders congratulate new Australian PM on being sworn in

Saudi leaders congratulate new Australian PM on being sworn in
Updated 24 May 2022

Saudi leaders congratulate new Australian PM on being sworn in

Saudi leaders congratulate new Australian PM on being sworn in
  • Australia’s new prime minister was sworn in Monday and flew to Tokyo for a summit with US President Joe Biden

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s King Salman congratulated Anthony Albanese on his being sworn in as the new prime minister of Australia, the Saudi Press Agency reported early Tuesday.

In a cable, the king wished the prime minister success and the Australian people further progress and prosperity.

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman also sent a similar cable to Albanese.

Australia’s new prime minister was sworn in Monday and flew to Tokyo for a summit with US President Joe Biden while vote counting continued to determine whether he will control a majority in a Parliament that is demanding tougher action on climate change.

“I want to lead a government that has the same sentiment of optimism and hope that I think defines the Australian people,” Albanese said in his hometown of Sydney before flying to the national capital Canberra to be sworn in.

Albanese and Malaysian-born Penny Wong, Australia’s first foreign minister to be born overseas, were sworn into office by Governor-General David Hurley before the pair flew to Tokyo for a security summit on Tuesday with Biden, Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

“We will return (from Japan) on Wednesday and set about implementing our agenda, our agenda that received the endorsement of the Australian people,” Albanese said, highlighting items such as climate change, affordable child care and strengthening Medicare.

(With AP)


Saudi FM visits Misk Youth Council pavilion, Saudi Cafe at Davos

Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan attends events on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum. (SPA)
Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan attends events on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum. (SPA)
Updated 24 May 2022

Saudi FM visits Misk Youth Council pavilion, Saudi Cafe at Davos

Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan attends events on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum. (SPA)

RIYADH: Saudi Arabian Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan visited the Youth Council pavilion of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s Misk Foundation, the official Saudi Press Agency reported on Monday.
Prince Faisal also the Saudi Tourism Authority booth, during his participation in the World Economic Forum (Davos), in Switzerland.
The foreign minister was briefed on the youth dialogue sessions, with the aim of developing young people and enabling them to find creative solutions that seek to address future challenges facing the world.
He also toured the “Saudi Cafe” managed by the Saudi Tourism Authority, represented by the national tourism promotion of “Spirit of Saudi Arabia,” where Saudi coffee is served.
The initiative also includes presenting integrated information about tourism in the Kingdom, to raise awareness about the Kingdom as a tourist destination, for the participants in the Davos forum.


Saudi minister receives Swedish special envoy to OIC

Saudi minister receives Swedish special envoy to the OIC. (Supplied)
Saudi minister receives Swedish special envoy to the OIC. (Supplied)
Updated 23 May 2022

Saudi minister receives Swedish special envoy to OIC

Saudi minister receives Swedish special envoy to the OIC. (Supplied)
  • The meeting was attended by the counterterrorism coordinator at the Swedish Ministry for Foreign Affairs Ambassador Erika Ferrer, the Swedish Ambassador to Saudi Arabia Niclas Trouvé and an accompanying delegation

RIYADH: Saudi Minister of Islamic Affairs, Dawah and Guidance Sheikh Abdullatif Al-Asheikh received in Riyadh Ambassador Ulrika Sandberg, special envoy of the Swedish Ministry of Foreign Affairs to the Organization of the Islamic Conference for interreligious and intercultural dialogue.

The meeting was attended by the counter-terrorism coordinator at the Swedish Ministry for Foreign Affairs Ambassador Erika Ferrer, the Swedish Ambassador to Saudi Arabia Niclas Trouvé and an accompanying delegation.

Al-Asheikh said the Kingdom endeavors to spread the principles of moderation, rejecting extremism and respect for all human beings, as stipulated in the Holy Quran and the way of the Prophet.  

Sandberg called for further cooperation in the fight against terrorism and spreading tolerance and dialogue among followers of religions.