French envoy salutes AlUla partnership with Saudi Arabia

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Updated 10 February 2022

French envoy salutes AlUla partnership with Saudi Arabia

Ludovic Pouille, French ambassador to Saudi Arabia. (Supplied)
  • Ludovic Pouille shares his vision to develop tourism and promote rapprochement between both countries
  • It is very stimulating for an ambassador to be in a country that is young, dynamic and has ambition

RIYADH: French Ambassador to Saudi Arabia Ludovic Pouille has shared his 18-month experience living in the Kingdom and his vision to strengthen relations, enhance economic opportunities, share cultures, develop tourism and promote rapprochement between both countries.

Pouille is keen to show France the rich cultural heritage, tradition and picturesque natural landscapes of the Kingdom. He hopes that “the French can also discover the treasures and beauties of Saudi Arabia.”
And, likewise, he wants Saudis to experience French tourism and hospitality.
Pouille believes that Saudi Arabia has three distinct characteristics: Hospitality, 70 percent of the population being younger than 35, and its status as an ambitious country. “It is very stimulating for an ambassador to be in a country that is young, dynamic and has ambition,” he told Arab News en Francais.
The French envoy shed light on AlUla becoming a phenomenal tourist destination and the Saudi-French partnership signed in 2018 for the sustainable tourism development of the region.
“A few days ago, we celebrated the first three years of the implementation of this partnership, and above all we have drawn, with Saudi Minister of Culture Prince Badr, the French minister of foreign affairs, the French minister of culture and Saudi Investment Minister Khaled Al-Faleh, very promising prospects for this partnership in the coming years,” he said, adding: “I have no doubt that AlUla will become a global tourist destination.”
Pouille said that archaeological cooperation between the two countries goes back 20 years, when in 2002, a mission by Laila Nehme explored the Nabataean civilization in AlUla. Since then, and after many successful endeavors, Pouille said: “We currently have five missions unearthing in the AlUla region — the secrets of the pre-Nabataean kingdoms of Dadam and Lihyan, the Khaybar region, the old city of AlUla and its oasis.”
The tourism development of AlUla aims to attract 2 million visitors per year by 2030.
Beyond archaeological discoveries, a further strategy is to develop sustainable agriculture and urbanism, and renewable energies, thus creating a complete ecosystem.
Pouille revealed that several interested French companies have signed contracts with the Royal Commission for AlUla.
He also lauded an agreement signed last year with the Cordon Bleu Institute to open a Riyadh institute, and praised the establishment of the Ferrandi School — one of the world’s greatest gastronomic schools — in AlUla.
In addition to AlUla, similar development in other regions like Taif and Asir will also draw tourists in the near future.
“I discovered a country of great wealth. It has ancient cities and modern megacities. For all these reasons, I believe that Saudi Arabia has a very important touristic potential,” he said.
“Saudi Arabia also harbors mountains of a 3,000 meter altitude with vegetation and rain for a good part of the year, without forgetting the 1,400 kilometers of coasts along the Red Sea, full of corals and an extraordinary fauna. The Farasan Islands are fantastic and NEOM has an extraordinary ecological heritage.
“These destinations are the value that tourists will look for,” Pouille said.
“France, the world’s leading tourist country, needed decades to get there. Saudi Arabia, with its dynamism, will reach there in a few years,” he added.
The French ambassador said that Vision 2030 is a very broad agenda that concerns the economy, culture, heritage and digital transformation, and that France sees itself as a partner in this process.
The French Vision 2030 was launched a few months ago and shares many of the same ambitions of the Kingdom’s Vision 2030, which was launched by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in 2016.
“It wants to respond to the same challenges, such as the energy transition that can lead to preserving the environment and biodiversity, and the digital transition that must be able to be accompanied by economic growth and not massive unemployment,” he said.
According to Pouille, France can play a role in the development of new projects under Saudi Vision 2030.
French President Emmanuel Macron, during his visit to Jeddah in December, where he met with the crown prince, said that he wanted to establish a global partnership with the Kingdom, but one that was not only limited to the political, military and economic fields.
“The president’s visit has opened up great prospects through agreements signed in the fields of tourism, culture, digital and space,” he said, adding that the two countries will embark hand in hand toward 2030.
For mutual beneficial interests, a Franco-Saudi business forum was also held parallel to the visit.
Cultural rapprochement is a theme very dear to the heart of the ambassador, who tries to be a “cultural transmitter,” as he considers diplomacy beyond governments and economic interests, and believes in creating bridges between peoples.
After the world came to a halt due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Pouille hopes that in 2022, things will be promising as many Saudis have found their way back to France, and vice versa.  “The month of the Francophonie (marked in March around the world) is a very important month for our cultural activities in the Kingdom,” said Pouille.
“It is true that Saudi Arabia is not a French-speaking country, but it has 200,000 French-speaking residents. We are working with our partners to build, in March, a program of cultural, educational and musical events. Conferences and exhibitions will be organized to celebrate, not only in the French language, but also diversity and multiculturalism through the preservation of languages and cultural identities,” he said.
He added: “I remain hopeful that the French language will be reintroduced in Saudi public schools as it was in the 70s and 80s, because French is a global language: The second most learned language on the planet and the third language of business. We hope to establish more branches and more language centers to generalize the learning of the French language in the Kingdom.”
At the end of the interview, Pouille showed three calligraphy works by Saudi artists in his garden at La Residence de France in Riyadh.


Saudi medical team saves life of Iranian Hajj pilgrim in Makkah

Iranian pilgrim Hussain Qasmi Jalmrazy is shown recovering at the emergency room of Makkah's King Abdullah Medical City.
Iranian pilgrim Hussain Qasmi Jalmrazy is shown recovering at the emergency room of Makkah's King Abdullah Medical City.
Updated 03 July 2022

Saudi medical team saves life of Iranian Hajj pilgrim in Makkah

Iranian pilgrim Hussain Qasmi Jalmrazy is shown recovering at the emergency room of Makkah's King Abdullah Medical City.
  • The medical team offered to perform an open heart operation, but the patient refused this medical procedure

MAKKAH: A specialized team from Makkah’s King Abdullah Medical City has successfully performed an emergency cardiac catheterization procedure to save the life of an Iranian pilgrim on Saturday, the Saudi Ministry of Health said.

In a statement carried by the Saudi Press Agency early Sunday, the ministry said that the Hajj pilgrim was taken to the hospital's emergency department when he complained of severe chest pain while he was on his way to the Grand Mosque in Makkah to perform prayers.

A digital copy of the Iranian pilgrim's Hajj tag, shared on social media by Ekhbariyah TV.

The patient was identified in his Hajj tag as Hussain Qasmi Jalmrazy, from Isfahan in central Iran.

Specialists performed an urgent diagnostic catheterization after examination results "showed the presence of blockage of more than two arteries in the heart," according to the Health Ministry.

The medical team offered to perform an open heart operation, but the patient refused this medical procedure. It was then decided to insert stents instead in the damaged arteries, enabling the patient to recover and continue his pilgrimage, the statement said.

King Abdullah Medical City, with full the support from the Saudi government, offers specialized health care for all Hajj and Umrah pilgrims.

A million Muslims from around the world will perform the Hajj this year, up from only 60,000 vaccinated pilgrims in 2021 and a symbolic 1,000 pilgrims in 2020 at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. 


Thai citizens share their joy performing Hajj

The second group of Thai pilgrims arrived at Prince Mohammed bin Abdulaziz International Airport in Madinah on June 11.
The second group of Thai pilgrims arrived at Prince Mohammed bin Abdulaziz International Airport in Madinah on June 11.
Updated 03 July 2022

Thai citizens share their joy performing Hajj

The second group of Thai pilgrims arrived at Prince Mohammed bin Abdulaziz International Airport in Madinah on June 11.
  • Arabic teacher Mamu Kayah and businessman Arong Samae praise Saudi and Thai officials for smooth journey

RIYADH: Two Thai pilgrims performing Hajj for the first time have expressed their joy at arriving in Saudi Arabia after not being able to do so because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Hajj is the opportunity of a lifetime for me. I could not hold back the tears when I saw the Kaaba for the first time. If I am able to perform Hajj after this time, I intend to perform Umrah every year, God willing. Hajj means everything to me,” Arong Samae told Arab News.

Samae from Narathiwat Province, located in the south of Thailand, is a businessman who is undertaking the pilgrimage with his wife this year.

“I seize this opportunity to express my heartfelt thanks to the government of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques for its gigantic efforts by which Muslims can visit the city of the Prophet (Madinah) and Makkah once again, and I pray to God Almighty to grant it more prosperity and progress,” said Samae.

The Narathiwat Province native took a plane from southern Thailand to Madinah Airport directly. He arrived in Saudi Arabia on June 11 and left for Makkah on June 17.

“I have never encountered any difficulties; everything is organized and easy. The Thai Hajj Company supplies everything from start to finish, and the Thai government also provides support and facilities at all stages,” Samae said.

“The trip took approximately eight hours by chartered flight, and I did not expect these facilities, because I heard that the pilgrimage journey is tiring and long, starting with car transfers to the capital, then waiting for the flight for two or three days,” he said.

Samae was surprised to see how quick and seamless the process was: “Thank God, everything (was) easy … Less than 12 hours … and I was in Saudi Arabia, I thank God for that,” he said.

“I prayed to God that one day I would arrive in Saudi Arabia. I also thank everyone who serves the pilgrims, whether they are from Thailand or from Saudi Arabia,” he said.

He said that he wanted to perform Hajj two years ago but was unable to because of COVID-19 restrictions. The pandemic had “changed everything” they wanted to do, he said.

Thai native, 58-year-old Mamu Kayah, is performing Hajj with his wife this year. He is a high school Arabic teacher from Yala, a city in the south of the country.

“I am very pleased to have this opportunity, and I thank God day and night for that. And I am absolutely certain that every Muslim who has come to this pure land shares this feeling with me,” Kayah said.

He told Arab News that this was his third time performing Hajj.

“We are very fortunate to have a direct flight from the far south of Thailand, the state of Narathiwat, which is only a hundred kilometers away from my home,” he said.

“The Thai Hajj company and the Thai Hajj mission did their duty well; everything is organized and tidy, especially with the presence of electronic platforms that contribute greatly to facilitating the procedures from the first day until we boarded the plane to Madinah,” he said.

Kayah took a direct eight-hour flight from Narathiwat to Madinah’s Prince Mohammed bin Abdulaziz International Airport. He thanked the Kingdom and Thailand for providing these routes for pilgrims.

“I heard that organizing the chartered plane was not easy, and it can only be done with the tremendous efforts of the two countries, Thailand and Saudi Arabia,” he said.

Kayah and his wife arrived in Madinah on June 12, traveled to Makkah on June 18, and will return to their home country on July 20.

“It can be said that Hajj this year is very special and completely different from my previous experience,” he said.

“For example, from when I got off the plane at Madinah Airport to my arrival at the hotel, the process took only one hour. Every step is fast and tidy, starting with the procedures in the passports, taking the luggage, riding the bus,” Kayah added.

He added that Saudi and Thai employees were available everywhere to assist. “Above all, the reception from the competent Saudi authority was very wonderful; we felt like one of the VIPs,” he said.

It was an emotional experience for him. “Indescribable pleasure, especially for a person of my age. I always cry when I stand in front of the Prophet’s Mosque and the Holy Kaaba, crying for joy, of course, and it is all thanks to God Almighty,” he said.

“The only issue that worries me and everyone is the high prices of everything; in any case, we understand very well that this thing is not in our hands, so that not only the costs of Hajj increased but in everything and all over the world. Other than that, there are no difficulties,” he said.

Thailand has a post-pandemic quota of 5,885 pilgrims, according to the Thai Embassy in Jeddah, with 3,738 having registered to do so. Before the COVID-19 restrictions, Thailand had a quota of 13,000. In 2018 and 2019, a total of 7,851 and 8,462 pilgrims respectively performed Hajj.

As of June 20, 1,120 pilgrims had arrived in Madinah on Thai Airways charter flights. Four flights arrived in the Kingdom from June 10 to 13. The other 2,618 pilgrims will travel on eight flights from June 29 to Jeddah, five of which are through Thai airways and three are with Saudi Airlines.

As the first groups of pilgrims arrived in Makkah and Madinah on Sunday, Basri Tatif, the deputy head of the Thai Pilgrims Affairs, praised the Kingdom for its organization, and said that his fellow citizens will be able to perform their rituals safely with all the measures in place.


Jeddah Season receives 6 million visitors

The season created numerous opportunities for partnerships with the private sector. (SPA)
The season created numerous opportunities for partnerships with the private sector. (SPA)
Updated 03 July 2022

Jeddah Season receives 6 million visitors

The season created numerous opportunities for partnerships with the private sector. (SPA)
  • Jeddah Season began in May and ended on Saturday, July 2

JEDDAH: Jeddah Season set a new attendance record over its 60 days of events this year. Organizers said 6 million people had visited the season — the highest number in its short history.

Jeddah Season began in May and ended on Saturday, July 2. The number of visitors it attracted suggests the Kingdom’s drive to boost its tourism and entertainment sectors is a success.

The season created numerous opportunities for partnerships with the private sector, as well as a wide range of employment opportunities for young Saudi men and women in stores, restaurants, cafés, markets, or other organizational or logistical services.

More than 80 percent of all employees involved in Jeddah Season were Saudis.
 

 


Restoring ecosystem for a green Hajj requires good carbon, says forum chief

Al-Mashair covers 119 square kilometers and encompasses the key Hajj sites of Arafat, Muzdalifah, and Mina. (SPA file photo)
Al-Mashair covers 119 square kilometers and encompasses the key Hajj sites of Arafat, Muzdalifah, and Mina. (SPA file photo)
Updated 03 July 2022

Restoring ecosystem for a green Hajj requires good carbon, says forum chief

Al-Mashair covers 119 square kilometers and encompasses the key Hajj sites of Arafat, Muzdalifah, and Mina. (SPA file photo)
  • “Vegetation will help reclaim its eco-capacity to revive itself and accelerate as soil carbon. This will include flora, animals, and how humans can fundamentally use it,” he told Arab News

JEDDAH: Restoring the ecosystem for a green Hajj requires good carbon, the CEO of the Saudi Green Building Forum has said.  

The SGBF, along with the UN Environment Programme, is studying the Al-Mashair area to restore land and look into its boundaries and carbon capacity.

Al-Mashair covers 119 square kilometers and encompasses the key Hajj sites of Arafat, Muzdalifah, and Mina.

SGBF CEO Faisal Al-Fadhl said that helping the environment restore itself meant increasing good carbon (soil carbon), a natural phenomenon that could be achieved through man-made initiatives.

HIGHLIGHT

The Saudi Green Building Forum, along with the UN Environment Programme, is studying the Al-Mashair area to restore land and look into its boundaries and carbon capacity. It covers 119 square kilometers and encompasses the key Hajj sites of Arafat, Muzdalifah, and Mina.

“Vegetation will help reclaim its eco-capacity to revive itself and accelerate as soil carbon. This will include flora, animals, and how humans can fundamentally use it,” he told Arab News. “Seventy million tons of soil carbon is needed to restore the area through trees.”

Areas between Al-Mashair needed restoration for a rich human experience, he explained, “not just Mina, the mountains around it too.”

Al-Fadhl said good carbon canceled out the bad carbon from heat islands, a term referring to objects, elements, and structures such as cement, buildings, and reflective glass.

“These all generate a lot of heat so we want to reduce that through increasing soil carbon. The study is accredited by the United Nations Environment Programme, and this area requires certain care scientifically, zoologically, and botanically,” said Al-Fadhl.

He said Saudi Arabia was aiming to achieve net carbon neutrality by 2060, an announcement from Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman last October, and that this move was in line with the Kingdom’s development plans.

Al-Fadhl said the forum had begun projects to provide a green Hajj since it was established and now, with more sustainability awareness, the team was stepping up its action plans.

“It is not only a ritual place from the inside, it is a human experience and we have to restore its nature. It is the biggest international host in the world, so restoring the eco-capacity is a must for the human experience to be unique.”

Al-Fadhl said vegetation cover was very poor in Al-Mashair, with less than half of one percent having greenery or any form of vegetation. But he said that vegetation coverage had increased from 122 square meters to 878 square meters between 2000 and 2010.

“That is an 800 percent increase,” he added.

Al-Fadhl referred to US architect William McDonough’s “A New Language For Carbon” in his explanation to identify three strategies for carbon management and climate change.

The first was carbon positive, converting atmospheric carbon to forms that enhanced soil nutrition or to durable forms such as polymers and solid aggregates, also recycling carbon into nutrients from organic materials, food waste, compostable polymers, and sewers.

The second strategy, carbon neutral, referred to actions that transformed or maintained carbon in durable Earth-bound forms and cycles across generations; or renewable energy such as solar, wind, and hydropower that did not release carbon.

The third strategy, carbon negative, referred to actions that polluted the land, water, and atmosphere with various forms of carbon, for example, releasing CO2 and methane into the atmosphere or plastics into the ocean.

 


Saudi Arabia’s efforts to protect Arabian Leopard documented by Princess Reema Bint Bandar

Saudi Arabia’s efforts to protect Arabian Leopard documented by Princess Reema Bint Bandar
Updated 03 July 2022

Saudi Arabia’s efforts to protect Arabian Leopard documented by Princess Reema Bint Bandar

Saudi Arabia’s efforts to protect Arabian Leopard documented by Princess Reema Bint Bandar
  • Her book ‘The Arabian Leopard’ documents national efforts through the strategy of the Royal Commission for AlUla to preserve the endangered animal
  • The book contains over 100 works of art and photos

LONDON: Saudi Arabia’s efforts to protect the Arabian Leopard is one of the most prominent global models, said Princess Reema bint Bandar, the Kingdom’s ambassador to the United States.
Princess Reema’s remarks came in the presence of Prince Khalid bin Bandar, the Saudi ambassador to the UK, while launching a new book entitled, “The Arabian Leopard”, Saudi Press Agency reported on Friday.
The book documents national efforts through the strategy of the Royal Commission for AlUla to preserve the Arabian Leopard and protect it from extinction, within the objectives of the Kingdom’s Vision 2030.
Assouline Publishing House in London hosted the book launching ceremony, during which the ambassador emphasized the Kingdom’s efforts to protect the leopard and return it to its natural habitats.

 

 

Prepared and written by a number of experts in the fields of environment and nature conservation, the book contains over 100 works of art and photos. It also contains various reports on the history of the Arabian tiger, which has existed for more than 500,000 years in the Arabian Peninsula.
The International Union for Conservation of Nature classifies the Arabian Leopard as among the most endangered animals, with only 200 alive today, due to overhunting and other reasons within the animal’s subsistence system.
 


The RCU’s strategy to preserve the animal includes a variety of initiatives, including expanding the breeding program by opening a dedicated center in the Sharaan Nature Reserve, and establishing the Global Fund for the Arabian Leopard, for which the authority has allocated $25 million.
In line with the Saudi Green Initiative, RCU aims to convert 80 percent of AlUla’s area into nature reserves, including wild plants and animals, as initiatives to protect the Arabian leopard have also included the resettlement of wild species such as mountain ibex and gazelles.