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

Special 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


Jeddah Season 2022 achieves unprecedented numbers since launch

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Updated 1 min 37 sec ago

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JEDDAH: Jeddah Season has achieved unprecedented visitor numbers over the past 55 days since its launch, Saudi Press Agency (SPA) reported.

The number of visitors exceeded five million who arrived from more than 129 countries to attend 2,800 events.

The season drew the attention of numerous local and international media outlets, with over 11,000 news articles published in 26 languages.

The media coverage on Jeddah Season reached 68 countries and has received over 250 million views.

Not only did the Jeddah Season surpass its entertainment and events objectives, but also had a substantive impact on the Kingdom's economic development, SPA reported.

The season stimulated activity in several sectors, creating more than 74,000 job opportunities for citizens.

As it wraps up its program in 5 days, Jeddah Season has proven to be a regional success story, SPA said.


Saudi FM meets Italian counterpart in Riyadh

Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan meets with Italian Minister of Foreign Affairs Luigi Di Maio. (SPA)
Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan meets with Italian Minister of Foreign Affairs Luigi Di Maio. (SPA)
Updated 15 sec ago

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Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan meets with Italian Minister of Foreign Affairs Luigi Di Maio. (SPA)
  • The prince and Di Maio reviewed the outcomes of the 12th session of the Saudi-Italian Joint Commission

RIYADH: Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan on Monday received Italian Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Luigi Di Maio at the ministry’s headquarters in Riyadh.

Marking the 90th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between the two countries, the ministers hailed the historic links that both nations aimed to further strengthen.

The prince and Di Maio reviewed the outcomes of the 12th session of the Saudi-Italian Joint Commission, held in Riyadh on Monday to promote bilateral cooperation in a number of areas. They also discussed regional and international issues of mutual concern.


Saudi ministry launches UN mentoring program for Taif farmers

Saudi agricultural ministry in cooperation with the Chamber of Commerce, launched a mentoring program for farmers in Taif.
Saudi agricultural ministry in cooperation with the Chamber of Commerce, launched a mentoring program for farmers in Taif.
Updated 4 min 20 sec ago

Saudi ministry launches UN mentoring program for Taif farmers

Saudi agricultural ministry in cooperation with the Chamber of Commerce, launched a mentoring program for farmers in Taif.
  • The FAO has prepared 100 demonstration farms to promote modern practices and technologies, which are expected to positively impact farmers and encourage agricultural sustainability in rural areas

RIYADH: Saudi agriculture officials on Monday launched a UN mentoring program for farmers in Taif aimed at encouraging sustainable development.

Initiated by the Ministry of Environment, Water, and Agriculture in cooperation with the Chamber of Commerce, and presented by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN, the scheme aims to help introduce more efficient farming practices through the sharing of information on proven techniques and by providing access to industry experts.

The ministry’s director for Taif, Hani Al-Kadi, said: “Taif is no less significant than other cities in the Kingdom, due to its agricultural diversity and yearly abundance in crops.”

FASTFACT

The FAO has prepared 100 demonstration farms to promote modern practices and technologies, which are expected to positively impact farmers and encourage agricultural sustainability in rural areas.

He noted that introducing farmers to effective agricultural concepts and objectives would greatly contribute toward, “producing safe and sustainable food, maintaining consumer confidence, ensuring mindfulness toward the exploitation of natural resources, and reducing environmental harm.”

Kakoli Ghosh, the FAO’s chief technical adviser to the program, said global advances in farming methods and agricultural practices had helped to increase production, job opportunities, and standards of living for small farmers, while also preserving natural resources for future generations.

She pointed out that the program would include visits to Taif farms at Al-Hada, Al-Shafa, Wadi Mahram, and Al-Dayha.

The FAO has prepared 100 demonstration farms to promote modern practices and technologies, which are expected to positively impact farmers and encourage agricultural sustainability in rural areas.

The Saudi ministry first launched the Sustainable Agricultural Rural Development Program in cooperation with the FAO in 2019. It has been designed to boost the production, processing, and marketing of fruit, fish, livestock, and Arabic coffee, and the cultivation of rain-fed crops.

The Vision 2030 reform plan aims to diversify the Kingdom’s economy and boost contributions to gross domestic product by pushing sustainable development in all sectors of the economy. One of the main areas of focus has been on the conservation of natural resources, including the rationalization of water consumption in agriculture and achieving food security.


Cambodian king praises Muslim World League efforts in strengthening civilizational alliance

Al-Issa praised the Cambodian model for achieving harmony among its national diversity. (Supplied)
Al-Issa praised the Cambodian model for achieving harmony among its national diversity. (Supplied)
Updated 27 June 2022

Cambodian king praises Muslim World League efforts in strengthening civilizational alliance

Al-Issa praised the Cambodian model for achieving harmony among its national diversity. (Supplied)
  • Al-Issa expressed his appreciation for the prestigious university and praised the values of tolerance and coexistence adopted by Cambodians as they had become an inspiring role model in fighting all forms of hatred, racism, and discrimination

PHNOM PENH: King Norodom Sihamoni of Cambodia received Sheikh Dr. Mohammed bin Abdul Karim Al-Issa, secretary-general of the Muslim World League and chairman of the Muslim Scholars Association.

The king praised the tangible impact of the league’s efforts in strengthening the civilizational alliance among diverse groups around the world and awareness among Muslim societies.

Al-Issa visited the Islamic Center in Phnom Penh and met Cambodia’s Muslim leadership. He praised the Cambodian model for achieving harmony among its national diversity.

He gave the Friday sermon at the Grand Mosque of Phnom Penh upon the request of the Islamic leadership in Cambodia. Hundreds of worshippers attended the sermon, with Al-Issa addressing key issues facing the Muslim world.

Al-Issa met the Grand Buddhist Patriarch of Cambodia Tep Vong and Patriarch Bor Keri.

The Royal University of Phnom Penh hosted Al-Issa, where he gave a lecture titled: “Our Common Values and Civilizational Alliance.”

The Royal University of Phnom Penh is the biggest in Cambodia. It was founded 62 years ago and has 20,000 students in its undergraduate and graduate programs.

Al-Issa expressed his appreciation for the prestigious university and praised the values of tolerance and coexistence adopted by Cambodians as they had become an inspiring role model in fighting all forms of hatred, racism, and discrimination.

He shared his views about the common values among humans as these values had granted full rights to everyone in Cambodia, despite the differences of religion and race, and made modern Cambodia live in security and stability.

 


Who’s Who: Dr. Fahad Al-Dossari, president of the General Authority for Statistics

Dr. Fahad Al-Dossari
Dr. Fahad Al-Dossari
Updated 1 min 3 sec ago

Who’s Who: Dr. Fahad Al-Dossari, president of the General Authority for Statistics

Dr. Fahad Al-Dossari

Dr. Fahad Al-Dossari is the newly appointed president of the General Authority for Statistics.

As president, he is tasked with leading the authority through a critical period that includes the strategic transformation of data collection processes in the Kingdom.

Al-Dossari began his career in 1999 as an economics researcher at the Saudi Central Bank, and in 2009 became the head of the money and banking division in the bank’s research and statistics department.

While at the Saudi Central Bank, he became the director-general of the research and statistics department, and in 2013 its director of international affairs.

From 2013 to 2017, Al-Dossari held the position of director-general of the Institute of Finance, formerly known as the Institute of Banking. He also served as deputy governor for administrative affairs at the Saudi Central Bank from 2016 to 2019.

Before becoming president of the General Authority for Statistics, Al-Dossari served as deputy governor for research and international affairs at the Saudi Central Bank.

Al-Dossari is the chairman of the board of directors of the Arab Bank for Economic Development in Africa.

He is also a board member of multiple organizations including the Social Development Bank, Saudi Real Estate Development Fund, Agricultural Development Fund, and the Public Pension Agency.

Al-Dossari received a doctorate in economics in 2008 from the University of Leeds in the UK.