Adventurous family of expats share their voyages of discovery in Saudi Arabia

Adventurous family of expats share their voyages of discovery in Saudi Arabia
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Dale Shannon, his wife Jenny and son Noah have been exploring remote parts of the Kingdom for two years and now have 25,000 fans on YouTube who follow their exploits. (Supplied)
Adventurous family of expats share their voyages of discovery in Saudi Arabia
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Dale Shannon, his wife Jenny and son Noah have been exploring remote parts of the Kingdom for two years and now have 25,000 fans on YouTube who follow their exploits. (Supplied)
Adventurous family of expats share their voyages of discovery in Saudi Arabia
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Dale Shannon, his wife Jenny and son Noah have been exploring remote parts of the Kingdom for two years and now have 25,000 fans on YouTube who follow their exploits. (Supplied)
Adventurous family of expats share their voyages of discovery in Saudi Arabia
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(Supplied)
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Updated 27 January 2022

Adventurous family of expats share their voyages of discovery in Saudi Arabia

Adventurous family of expats share their voyages of discovery in Saudi Arabia
  • Dale Shannon, his wife Jenny and son Noah have been exploring remote parts of the Kingdom for two years and now have 25,000 fans on YouTube who follow their exploits

JEDDAH: Intrepid expats Dale Shannon, his wife Jenny and their son Noah are on a mission to explore Saudi Arabia and reveal to the world the country’s natural beauty, incredible landscape and authentic culture.

They have been going on epic adventures that take them off the beaten track across the Kingdom for almost two years, sometimes alone and sometimes in the company of friends they describe as “a united team.”

They film their trips and experiences, and Jenny edits the footage to create entertaining travelogues that are uploaded to the couple’s YouTube channel, called Epic Everyday Adventures. Launched in August 2020, it now has more than 25,000 subscribers and has become particularly popular with Saudi viewers.

“We are so humbled to know how viewers have been inspired by our travels through some of the most remote parts of Saudi Arabia,” Dale told Arab News. “With more than 45 videos of adventures, we have seen families and individuals alike find inspiration and education through sharing our story and experiences.”

Dale, a US national who works in the aerospace industry as an aircraft mechanic and advisor, said he came to the Kingdom in 2015 to experience life in another country and grow as a person. Jenny, a nurse from the Philippines, came to work in Saudi Arabia in 2009. The couple married in 2016 and Noah, was born in Tabuk in 2017. They said they fell in love not only with each other but also their adopted country.

Dale said he comes from a small town in the US and grew up camping and hiking. Jenny, on the other hand, who grew up in a city and wanted to experience the great outdoors.

“Being outdoors and exploring nature really creates some positive character traits and memories, and we wanted to share and create our own experiences with Noah and give him an opportunity to grow up with those amazing outdoor adventures,” said Dale.

Along the way, he added, they have made some great friends.

“One of the things that makes Saudi Arabia really pull on our hearts is how easy it is to meet new people and become real friends,” said Dale. “People here really seem to genuinely care about each other and are some of the most welcoming people we have been fortunate enough to experience.

“One of the things we enjoy the most about our YouTube channel is how many awesome people we have been able to meet here in Saudi Arabia and establish personal relationships with.

“People here really seem to genuinely care about each other and are some of the most welcoming people we have been fortunate enough to experience.”

The idea for exploring the length and breadth of Saudi Arabia came to the couple about two years ago, after s trip to AlUla.

“We had gone on a tour to AlUla in early 2020, around February,” said Dale. “We enjoyed the scenery and the places and the desert so much that after that trip we knew that we wanted to continue and explore more. So, definitely our AlUla experience was the turning point that motivated and inspired us to explore more.”

Shannon had some vacation time saved up and Jenny, who was by then a stay-at-home mom, learned how to become a videographer and editor to produce their YouTube videos. They also invested in proper equipment and a new vehicle suitable for off-road exploring and began their adventure of a lifetime.

“After our AlUla trip, we bought some gear and changed our vehicle to a proper off-road exploring vehicle, a Nissan Patrol Super Safari, and we slowly started exploring the Kingdom.

“We fell in love with the landscapes, the open-air museum of history you find here and the hospitality and friendliness of the people of all areas … and then we started exploring. We just became naturally curious to see and know more.”

Venturing into the desert wilderness is not easy and requires a financial investment. As their videos grew in popularity the Shannons last year joined Patreon, a platform that provides content creators with the tools to build a subscription service for fans of their work. For the Shannons, it means that people who enjoy their videos can contribute toward the costs of creating future content. They said that about 70 percent of their supporters on Patreon are Saudi.

“We are so thankful for their support and hope to grow our small Patreon family so we can continue these adventures,” said Dale.

“It is expensive to take trips as much as we do. We don’t have any sponsors or anything like that, so up until recently we financed our own adventures so that we could continue sharing our experiences here in Saudi Arabia. We are thankful for the support of our small Patreon family.”

There have been some challenging moments during the family’s adventures, including a worrying incident during a journey through Al-Nafud Al-Kabir (The Great Desert) this month, when they were accompanied by other members of their team.

“We had prepared for this trip six months in advance,” said Dale. “This was the final leg of our overlanding trip. The terrain is difficult and full of sand dunes. We entered the desert just north of Hail and drove about 230km into the desert through the sand dunes. There was no cell service.

“We camped for three nights and drove for three days. The trip through the desert consumed most of our fuel and for some, all of their fuel.

“The stress you face and the quick decisions that have to be made are really challenging but, at the end of the day, it is so rewarding. I am happy our overlanding team trusted me enough to let me lead the expedition through Al-Nafud.”

His family has done so much traveling in the Kingdom during the past two years that Shannon said it is hard to keep count of their destinations.

“I am not exactly sure on the number of places we visited, but we drive everywhere we go and we have driven from Haql in the northwest all the way down to Fayfa in the south, and everywhere in between,” he said. “We have been from Hail down to Riyadh and in between. We hope to get enough time in the future to make it to the north and the east of the Kingdom.”

Wherever they have traveled in Saudi Arabia, Shannon said he has never felt concerned for the safety of his family.

“I mention this on many occasions in our videos because in comparison to most places I have been around the world, it’s extremely safe here and this is part of the reason we feel so comfortable exploring here,” he said.

In fact the most difficult aspect of the experience in Saudi Arabia so far has been language barrier.

“It would be really great to be able to learn Arabic,” he added.

Both Shannon and his wife said they adapted easily to life in Saudi Arabia after leaving their home countries behind.

“We found it to be quite easy transitioning to living in a foreign country,” he said. “I think part of the reason is because we had set our minds that this is what we wanted to do, but also because we both really fell in love with the people and the culture here in Saudi Arabia — those two things made the transition extremely easy.”

Asked if he had any advice for newcomers to the Kingdom or people considering moving there, Shannon said: “My advice to others moving to Saudi Arabia is always to come with an open mind, embrace the culture and the people, and once you arrive and settle in, go out there and meet people and get to know the people of Saudi Arabia. It will be one of the best things you have ever done.”


Special fun-filled activities lined up for young Jeddah Season visitors

The Blippi- branded activity corner allows kids to learn and explore new concepts followed by a photo session. (Supplied)
The Blippi- branded activity corner allows kids to learn and explore new concepts followed by a photo session. (Supplied)
Updated 28 min 25 sec ago

Special fun-filled activities lined up for young Jeddah Season visitors

The Blippi- branded activity corner allows kids to learn and explore new concepts followed by a photo session. (Supplied)
  • Little Village zones feature favorite characters Peppa Pig, Blippi, L.O.L Surprise!

JEDDAH: A fun-filled agenda awaits children at the Jeddah Pier amusement park, one of the entertainment attractions at this year’s Jeddah Season festival of activities.

The specially created Little Village large play area offers games and events for youngsters through to June 28 in three activity zones featuring children’s characters Peppa Pig, Blippi, and L.O.L Surprise!

The Blippi-branded activity corner allows kids to learn and explore new concepts, and the iconic Blippi appeared for a soft opening of the Little Village during which visitors took part in a meet and greet, followed by a photo session.

The L.O.L Surprise! activity corner gives girls the opportunity to wear their favorite dresses, enjoy hair and makeup sessions, and try out cooking, singing, and dancing, and special fashion shows let little fashionistas take a ramp walk.

Meanwhile, the Peppa Pig activity corner has a range of activities including painting classes and the chance to play in the cartoon character’s grocery store.

Fadi Yousuf, site manager of Hwadi Events, Jeddah Pier’s organizing company, said: “Packed with wonderful and imaginative activities, we aim to create memories that will turn the Jeddah Season into a world of unforgettable stories for children.

HIGHLIGHTS

• The specially created Little Village large play area offers games and events for youngsters through to June 28 in three activity zones featuring children’s characters Peppa Pig, Blippi, and L.O.L Surprise!

• Jeddah Pier, open daily from 5 p.m. to 2 a.m., offers 39 entertainment attractions, seven diverse international experiences, and a roller coaster, among a host of other events. And musical parades including acrobats, and people dressed as trees, zombies, and track-suited monkeys are an integral part of the zone’s events.

“With the help of Spacetoon, we were delighted to bring the much-loved character Blippi to Jeddah and receive an amazing response from the fans.

“Apart from enjoying the activities, kids will be able to purchase Blippi, L.O.L Surprise!, and Peppa Pig products onsite.”

Jeddah Pier, open daily from 5 p.m. to 2 a.m., offers 39 entertainment attractions, seven diverse international experiences, and a roller coaster, among a host of other events.

And musical parades including acrobats, and people dressed as trees, zombies, and track-suited monkeys are an integral part of the zone’s events.

Jeddah Season will also be hosting a toy festival running until May 23 at Jeddah Superdome, the world’s largest geodesic dome without pillars, and kids who missed meeting Blippi at Jeddah Pier will get another chance at the festival.

More than 40 international toy brands are attending the event that will include stands and exhibitions, live shows, and performances of the Smurfs, Sonic, Peppa Pig, and other character favorites.

The annual Jeddah Season festival aims to highlight the city’s rich heritage and culture through a total of 2,800 activities in nine zones over the event period.

Being held under the slogan, Our Lovely Days, the second Jeddah Season follows on from the success of Riyadh Season that recorded more than 15 million visits over five months.

The festival season offers 70 interactive experiences, more than 60 recreational activities, seven Arab and two international plays, marine events, a circus, four international exhibitions, and a host of other services for families.


Saudi artists shed light on the resurgence of analog photography

Analog photography is becoming more and more popular amongst Saudi and regional photographers. (Supplied)
Analog photography is becoming more and more popular amongst Saudi and regional photographers. (Supplied)
Updated 23 min 10 sec ago

Saudi artists shed light on the resurgence of analog photography

Analog photography is becoming more and more popular amongst Saudi and regional photographers. (Supplied)
  • While analog photography is becoming more and more popular amongst Saudi and regional photographers, there is still a shortage of labs and studios accessible to the public

RIYADH: At a time when one might view analog photography as an outdated craft, it is, in fact, becoming increasingly popular across the world, including in Saudi Arabia.

“Photos are the closest humanity has gotten to time travel,” said photographer Abdullah Al-Azzaz, whose has followed in the footsteps of his father, Saleh, who was also a photographer.

The newly established Bayt Al-Malaz — a creative space in the heart of Riyadh’s Malaz District — recently hosted an intriguing conversation about the significance and popularity of analog photography between Al-Azzaz and Princess Reem Al-Faisal, moderated by Sarah Assiri. The event was part of Bayt Al-Malaz’s “Moflmeen” discussion series.

HIGHLIGHT

While analog photography is becoming more and more popular amongst Saudi and regional photographers, there is still a shortage of labs and studios accessible to the public. In Riyadh, the number of studios where film can be developed has fallen from four to just a single space — Haitham Studios. This is largely due to the financial cost of establishing such a studio and the turnaround time for film development.

The two photographers addressed the issue of why — when digital cameras are so ubiquitous and easy to use — analog is making a comeback.

“My photography revolves around permanence, praise, eternality, and the spiritual side of us. The individual is a soul and not a body,” said Al-Faisal. “For us, film represents the soul. We are all born with natural instincts, and film, in its natural form, is untouched. It represents the soul that transforms after birth in dealing with life, accumulations, and memories — bad and good. It’s a way of expressing humanity.”

Al-Azzaz said that, for him, it was more about the technique than the philosophy of it all. “The experience of developing in a darkroom is so enriching. It separates you from the world, totally quiet and dark. It’s just you and the photo. It allows you to reflect on the photo more and gives you more freedom in reimagining it,” he said.

Photo manipulation, he explained, is not exclusive to digital photography. Before the existence of Photoshop, images could be manipulated in the darkroom using retouching techniques and tools, including cropping, brushing, dodging, burning and masking.

To really understand the true art of photography, some would argue, it is important to learn its history. Digital photography is not a replacement for film, but another medium entirely. “In any art, not just photography, we have to have a cultural, historical, and technical awareness… we are all an accumulation,” said Al-Faisal. “We are a product of our society and a product of our time. We cannot claim we aren’t affected [by these things]. Whoever claims otherwise is delusional.”

While analog photography is becoming more and more popular amongst Saudi and regional photographers, there is still a shortage of labs and studios accessible to the public. In Riyadh, the number of studios where film can be developed has fallen from four to just a single space — Haitham Studios. This is largely due to the financial cost of establishing such a studio and the turnaround time for film development.

The founder of the studio, Haitham Al-Sharif, explained the immersive nature of analog photography. “I chose film photography because I hated having no connection with my photos. With film photography, I take a max of 40 photos in a session. I can’t see them; I have to live in the moment, I have to listen and smell the streets, I have to talk to my subject if I’m taking their portraits, I have to listen to the music if I’m at a concert,” he told Arab News. “To me, that is art. That is the beauty of film.”

The lengthy process involved in analog photography can be intimidating and off-putting to amateur photographers. That’s why the development of the first digital camera in 1975 was so groundbreaking. Now, in an economy driven by content creation and visual media, content production is easier — and quicker — than ever before. But to some, the key difference lies in the creative experience itself. Some analog photographers suggest it is a way to truly connect with the moment, even if the results are not always what society deems ‘Insta-worthy.’

“When you can’t see the photo you aren’t forced to change it to make it the same as what the media thinks is good or what a magazine thinks is good. Film forces you to be patient and slow. It forces you to live in the (moment),” said Al-Sharif. “As a film photographer, you live in front of the lens as much as at the back of the lens. You become more connected to what you are photographing.”


Europe keen to advance level of partnership with Saudi Arabia: Envoy

EU Ambassador to Saudi Arabia Patrick Simonnet with delegates at the Europe Day reception in Riyadh. (Supplied)
EU Ambassador to Saudi Arabia Patrick Simonnet with delegates at the Europe Day reception in Riyadh. (Supplied)
Updated 41 min 22 sec ago

Europe keen to advance level of partnership with Saudi Arabia: Envoy

EU Ambassador to Saudi Arabia Patrick Simonnet with delegates at the Europe Day reception in Riyadh. (Supplied)
  • EU unveils first long-term strategy to shape future Gulf ties

RIYADH: The European Union’s Ambassador to Saudi Arabia Patrick Simonnet confirmed on Friday that the bloc is keen to boost its partnership with the Kingdom.

The EU unveiled its first long-term strategy to shape future Gulf ties on Wednesday, when the High Representative and the European Commission adopted a joint communication — “Strategic Partnership with the Gulf.”

EU ambassador to Saudi Arabia Patrick Simonnet cutting cake on Europe Day at Cultural Palace, in DQ Riyadh. (Supplied)

“At a time of insecurity and significant challenges to the rules-based international order, aggravated by Russia’s war on Ukraine, the European Union and Gulf countries stand to gain from a stronger and more strategic partnership stretching over a number of key areas. We need to work more closely together on stability in the Gulf and the Middle East, on global security threats, energy security, climate change and the green transition, digitalization, trade and investment. We also need to strengthen contacts between students, researchers, businesses and citizens,” Josep Borrell, the EU’s foreign policy chief, said as he unveiled the plan.

The long-term strategy — the first of its kind between the two groups — will be pivotal to EU- GCC relations. We need each other. The EU and the GCC have a lot to gain in reinforcing the partnership.

Patrick Simonnet, EU ambassador to Saudi Arabia

In an exclusive interview with Arab News, Simonnet said: “The long-term strategy — the first of its kind between the two groups — will be pivotal to EU-GCC relations. We need each other. The EU and the GCC have a lot to gain in reinforcing the partnership. That’s what we felt in different visits over the last 12 months. There was a realization that we had a common interest in stepping up our partnership. It’s about the economy, how we can better support our respective strategies, Saudi Vision 2030, and EU Green Deal.

“We have been importing fossil fuel from Saudi Arabia for a long time. We are going to continue, but we would like to switch to a more sustainable consumption of renewable energy. We know that the Gulf has enormous potential to export renewable energies, including green hydrogen. Saudi Arabia has made huge investments and is keen to be a global supplier of hydrogen, and it would be very useful for us to import this green hydrogen to achieve our own climate change targets. It would also be good for the Kingdom, for its own climate change targets. So there’s a very good match that we can have between us,” he continued.

“We can work together on the regional crisis, there is a great deal of alignment between our views on the Middle East peace process, Yemen, Syria, Libya, Lebanon… The strategy proposes that we work even more closely together on regional stability issues. Security cooperation is also very important. We wanted to have a strategy which was more political, more security oriented. We are negotiating the JCPOA (the Iran nuclear agreement, formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action), and if we can have a positive outcome (there), we could build on that to hopefully contribute even more to stability and security in the Gulf,” said the EU envoy.

“We are the biggest provider of foreign direct investment here, and the GCC is the second-biggest trading partner for the EU, so we will look at how to re-engage on the free trade agreement (FTA),” Simonnet added.

The joint communication also aims to improve cooperation in higher education and culture. One of the goals is to attract more Saudi students to Europe and European students or teachers to the Kingdom, he explained.

Another goal, according to Simonnet, is “visa-free travel to Europe” for all countries. “We are very much aware that visa liberalization could help the exchanges between both sides,” he said.

He added: “I met Saudi travel bloggers a few days back. It was interesting to discuss all the hidden gems in Saudi Arabia in terms of tourism, the places where we could bring a lot more tourists, and the same thing in Europe — there are many more destinations in Europe that could be discovered by Saudi tourists, so visa liberalization is important.”

In future, according to the joint communication, there will be more regular meetings at ministerial levels between EU and GCC foreign ministers and ministers of energy.

“Europe is proposing to step up the game of relations,” said the envoy, adding that the EU will increase its diplomatic delegations in the region, expanding on its existing delegations in Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and Kuwait.
 


Saudi delegation visits Namibia, Rwanda, Burundi

A Saudi delegation led by Ahmed bin Abdulaziz Kattan meets Namibian President Hage Geingob in Windhoek. (SPA)
A Saudi delegation led by Ahmed bin Abdulaziz Kattan meets Namibian President Hage Geingob in Windhoek. (SPA)
Updated 14 sec ago

Saudi delegation visits Namibia, Rwanda, Burundi

A Saudi delegation led by Ahmed bin Abdulaziz Kattan meets Namibian President Hage Geingob in Windhoek. (SPA)
  • Geingob expressed Namibia’s full support for the Kingdom’s request to host Expo 2030 in Riyadh, with Kattan expressing the Saudi government’s gratitude for this backing

WINDHOEK: A Saudi delegation led by Ahmed bin Abdulaziz Kattan, adviser at the Royal Court, visited southwest and East African countries. The delegation met Namibian President Hage Geingob, Rwandan President Paul Kagame and Burundian President Evariste Ndayishimiye.
During the receptions, Kattan conveyed King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s greetings and wishes for their governments and peoples for further advancement and prosperity.
The meetings discussed bilateral relations between Saudi Arabia and their respective countries and ways to support and develop them in all areas and overviewed regional and international events of common interest.
Geingob expressed Namibia’s full support for the Kingdom’s request to host Expo 2030 in Riyadh, with Kattan expressing the Saudi government’s gratitude for this backing. He also said that the Kingdom will offer an exceptional edition to the world.
Kagame expressed his hopes of developing and broadening relations between the friendly countries, while Kattan affirmed Saudi Arabia’s desire to strengthen bilateral relations and increase the partnership between the two friendly countries.
Ndayishimiye expressed his country’s full support for the Kingdom’s bid to host the Expo 2030 in Riyadh. Kattan expressed the Saudi government’s appreciation for this support.

 


Saudi crown prince, France’s Macron discuss Ukraine war during call

Saudi crown prince, France’s Macron discuss Ukraine war during call
Updated 17 min 10 sec ago

Saudi crown prince, France’s Macron discuss Ukraine war during call

Saudi crown prince, France’s Macron discuss Ukraine war during call

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman on Friday held a phone call with French President Emmanuel Macron to discuss the repercussions of the Russia-Ukraine war.

Also during the call,  the crown prince expressed his congratulations to Macron on his re-election, Saudi Press Agency reported.

They reviewed Saudi-French relations, emphasized the strategic partnership between the two countries, and discussed the latest regional and international developments, and the efforts made in their regard to achieve security and stability.

Prince Mohammed also discussed with Macron way to calm the tension in Ukraine, the Elysee palace said.