From romantic getaways to last-minute gifts, Saudi Arabia has Valentine’s Day covered

Special Heritage Village on Farasan Island in Saudi Arabia's southwestern province of Jazan. (Shutterstock)
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Heritage Village on Farasan Island in Saudi Arabia's southwestern province of Jazan. (Shutterstock)
Special Farasan Island in Saudi Arabia's southwestern province of Jazan. (Shutterstock)
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Farasan Island in Saudi Arabia's southwestern province of Jazan. (Shutterstock)
Special Farasan Island in Saudi Arabia's southwestern province of Jazan. (Shutterstock)
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Farasan Island in Saudi Arabia's southwestern province of Jazan. (Shutterstock)
Special Al-Refae'e house gateway, decorated with stucco, on Farasan island. (Shutterstock)
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Al-Refae'e house gateway, decorated with stucco, on Farasan island. (Shutterstock)
Special Historic building on Farasan Island. (Shutterstock)
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Historic building on Farasan Island. (Shutterstock)
Special Farasan Island in Saudi Arabia's southwestern province of Jazan. (Shutterstock)
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Farasan Island in Saudi Arabia's southwestern province of Jazan. (Shutterstock)
Special Pelicans are a common sight in Farasan Island. (Shutterstock)
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Pelicans are a common sight in Farasan Island. (Shutterstock)
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Updated 11 March 2022

From romantic getaways to last-minute gifts, Saudi Arabia has Valentine’s Day covered

From romantic getaways to last-minute gifts, Saudi Arabia has Valentine’s Day covered
  • Could Saudi Arabia’s secluded Farasan Islands or mysterious AlUla sweep you off your feet this Valentine’s Day?
  • For those who left it too late to book a romantic retreat, there are plenty of Saudi apps offering last-minute gift ideas

JEDDAH: Valentine’s Day, the annual celebration of romance and love, is upon us once more, bringing with it the usual flurry of greetings cards, dinner reservations, whopping great boxes of chocolates and lavish bouquets of roses.

Once firmly off-limits in Saudi Arabia and regarded as out of sync with Gulf Arab values, the holiday is nowadays celebrated in the Kingdom with romantic gestures, an abundance of gift options, and commercial travel offerings designed to make the occasion memorable.

From fine-dining experiences at world-class restaurants to staycations and scenic getaways in the Arabian wilderness, the Kingdom now offers courting couples a huge selection of romantic adventures, right on their doorstep.




Farasan Island in Saudi Arabia's southwestern province of Jazan. (Shutterstock)

While many might consider Paris, the original “city of love,” to be the obvious destination for a last-minute Valentine’s excursion, Saudi Arabia offers its own romantic retreats, where couples can escape the hustle and bustle of the big cities and focus entirely on one another.

Take the Farasan Islands for instance. With more than 170 islands spread across the southwestern Red Sea, it is a playground for nature lovers looking for a long weekend away without having to leave the region.




An ancient mosque stands in an old village in Farasan islands. (Shutterstock)

The bright blue waters are complemented by pristine, virgin beaches, mangrove forests, spectacular coral reefs, and an abundance of wildlife. Described as “habitat hot spots,” the islands were the first place in the Kingdom to be listed as a protected biosphere reserve.

Visitors who take advantage of the opportunity to go diving in the crystal-clear waters can find dolphins playing in the surf, spot flocks of pink flamingos paddling in sparkling shallows, and perhaps even catch a glimpse of giant yet serene dugongs drifting between the mangroves.

The islands are not entirely untouched by humans. The ruins of an old Ottoman fortress, stone remnants resembling Roman columns, and old, white-washed houses built in the unique local style have, like all good relationships, stood the test of time.

However, the islands remain largely unscathed by modern development and so hotel options are limited. But what better way to truly enjoy the natural beauty of the region, and the company of your loved one, than by camping out on an unspoiled beach under a blanket of stars.

If a cooler climate is more your thing, then heading north to the majestic valley and mountains of AlUla might hold greater appeal. Indeed, this is the land of the timeless tale of the forbidden love of Jamil and Buthainah.




Extraordinary sandstone landscapes host extraordinary cultural and natural heritage, surrounded with beautiful unique rock formation where you can find only in AlUla. (Shutterstock)

Since the region opened up to the world in 2018, accommodation options have been springing up throughout AlUla, sensitively designed to blend into the natural surroundings.

From the Harrat Viewpoint, visitors can survey the wide vistas of the region’s old farming communities and watch a gorgeous sunset over the old town of AlUla. For more active and adventurous travelers, the attractions include zip-lining, scenic walks on the desert sand, and a chance to explore the ancient landmarks of the Dedan and Lihyan civilizations.

Caravan sites and designated camping grounds offer visitors the chance to experience an atmospheric night under the stars. If you prefer your home comforts, AlUla also has luxury hotel options and exceptional culinary experiences at Annabel’s, Al-Mahkar, Circolo and Myazu.

For those who have left it too late to book a weekend trip, there are plenty of Saudi gift services available at the click of a button. Flowers, chocolates and balloons, for example, are available for delivery using smartphone apps such as Floward, Joi Gifts, Little Flora, Arabian Flora, and Ferns N Petals. Meanwhile, custom-made gifts can be ordered through courier apps such as The Chefs, Marsool, and To You.




Inside Annabel's Restaurant in AlUla. (Supplied)

Then of course there is the traditional option of a romantic meal for two. One top recommendation is the Greek fare on offer at Opa, the newest restaurant to open at Riyadh Oasis in the heart of the Nafud Desert.

Meanwhile, serving locations from London to Jeddah, Novikov offers some of the region’s best Asian cuisine, prepared in an open kitchen that allows diners to watch the team of talented chefs create exquisite dishes before their very eyes.

With so many Valentine’s Day options available for smitten Saudis to make that grand romantic gesture, Cupid’s arrow surely cannot fail to hit the mark.


French-Saudi agreements signal ‘beginning of new era of cooperation,’ says French ambassador

French-Saudi agreements signal ‘beginning of new era of cooperation,’ says French ambassador
Updated 01 October 2022

French-Saudi agreements signal ‘beginning of new era of cooperation,’ says French ambassador

French-Saudi agreements signal ‘beginning of new era of cooperation,’ says French ambassador
  • Saudi Arabia hosts 150,000 French speakers and 500 teachers of the French language in various institutions
  • French presence in the Kingdom is marked by a network of schools in Riyadh, Jeddah and Alkhobar

DUBAI: On the occasion of the launch of the new French Cultural Season in Saudi Arabia, French Ambassador to the Kingdom Ludovic Pouille hosted an evening celebrating French-Saudi cultural dialogue at the French Embassy in Riyadh.

“You make French culture present in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia,” said Pouille, addressing an audience of artists, entrepreneurs and officials.

The ambassador hailed the joint effort by France and Saudi Arabia to enable the success of cultural events in the Kingdom. “I want to thank our Saudi partners and friends, artists, professors, entrepreneurs and officials from the Saudi government for their contribution in strengthening on a daily basis our cultural relationship,” he added.

Among the participants were partners from the EU, Francophone countries, the Alliance Franҫaise d’Arabie Saoudite led by Zaher Al-Munajjed and the French Embassy’s team led by Catherine le Thomas.

Saudi Arabia hosts 150,000 French speakers and 500 teachers of the French language in various institutions. The French presence in the Kingdom is marked by a network of schools in Riyadh, Jeddah and Alkhobar, making education one of the primary elements on which the two nations collaborate.

 

 

As part of its Vision 2030, the Kingdom has initiated large-scale events enabling its development as a culture, education, tourism and sports hub on an international level. These events include Riyadh Season, Jeddah Season, AlUla Season, the Red Sea International Film Festival, the Diriyah Contemporary Art Biennale and the upcoming Islamic Arts Biennale in Jeddah.

“We are all very lucky to live in a thrilling context in which Saudi Arabia is rapidly opening up and exploring new directions for its future. The Kingdom is now witnessing what President (Emmanuel) Macron called a ‘cultural revolution’ during his visit to Jeddah,” said the ambassador.

The new French Cultural Season in Saudi Arabia is a promising one, with events starting in October with the celebration of the 20th anniversary of French-Saudi cooperation in the field of archaeology. The event is a two-day symposium that will see the participation of the 15 French archaeological missions collaborating with Saudi archaeologists across the Kingdom in the Farasan Islands, Hegra and AlUla, among other locations.

The second event in the pipeline is “Digital November,” which is aimed at bringing art and technology together. A series of tournaments, workshops and other activities centered on esports and e-games will be featured.

Other cultural cooperation projects will involve music, cinema, fashion, design and poetry, with the annual Night of Poetry to be held in December.

Franco-Saudi cooperation is also evident through the Kingdom’s giga-projects — such as the development of AlUla — that will shape the country for decades to follow.

AfAlula, the French Agency for the Development of AlUla, is collaborating with the Royal Commission for AlUla to develop the region “based on an intergovernmental agreement signed in April 2018 during Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s visit to Paris,” Pouille said.

The AlUla project is the first of a series of initiatives that aim to reinforce the ties between the two countries.

Since the French president’s visit to Jeddah in December 2021, several agreements have been signed, including one for Villa Hegra, an ambitious institution of contemporary art that will enable the Kingdom to build a creative and artistic hub, the first of its kind in the Middle East.

The agreements signal the “beginning of a new era of cooperation between France and Saudi Arabia,” according to the ambassador.

This story originally appeared on Arab News en Français.


Saudi Border Guards seize 300 kilograms of narcotic hashish in Jazan 

Saudi Border Guards seize 300 kilograms of narcotic hashish in Jazan 
Updated 01 October 2022

Saudi Border Guards seize 300 kilograms of narcotic hashish in Jazan 

Saudi Border Guards seize 300 kilograms of narcotic hashish in Jazan 

RIYADH: Border guards in Saudi Arabia’s Jazan region have thwarted an attempt to smuggle 300 kilograms of narcotic hashish. 
Initial legal procedures have been completed and the drugs were seized and handed over to the relevant authority, the Saudi Press Agency reported.
Saudi Arabia has been cracking down on attempts to smuggle drugs into and out of the Kingdom, with authorities saying they would continue to stop all attempts to put the public at harm.


Saudi ministry wins 2 communication awards in UAE

Saudi ministry wins 2 communication awards in UAE
Updated 01 October 2022

Saudi ministry wins 2 communication awards in UAE

Saudi ministry wins 2 communication awards in UAE
  • 53 candidates were shortlisted in 19 award classes

SHARJAH, UAE: Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Human Resources and Social Development won two accolades at the 9th Sharjah Government Communication Awards in the UAE.

The ministry scooped awards in the categories for best systems in government communication in the Arab world, and best government communication initiative to empower women globally.

Fifty-three candidates were shortlisted in 19 award classes, with the Saudi ministry recognized for the methodology used in the implementation of its projects, the impact and results achieved, the effective use of technology and media to reach target audiences, and its innovative and proactive visions.

The ministry’s assistant minister for shared services, Mohammed bin Nasser Al-Jasser, said the awards success was down to the hard work of employees.

He added that the ministry sought to create an effective communication media system capable of keeping pace with the rapid changes taking place in the sectors it supervised while responding to the digital transformation that had seen a transformation in government media over recent years.

 

 


Diriya Gate Development Authority launches project to encode Diriyah history in Braille

Diriya Gate Development Authority launches project to encode Diriyah history in Braille
Updated 01 October 2022

Diriya Gate Development Authority launches project to encode Diriyah history in Braille

Diriya Gate Development Authority launches project to encode Diriyah history in Braille
  • The project will help visually impaired people gain a deeper understanding of the history of Diriyah, the original home of the Saudi royal family

RIYADH:  The Diriyah Gate Development Authority has teamed up with the National Association of the Blind “Kafeef” to launch an initiative for the translation of Diriyah’s history into Braille.

The project will help visually impaired people gain a deeper understanding of Diriyah’s history.

Paper copies of the content printed in Braille will help strengthen participants’ emotional connection to their rich Saudi history and heritage.

The project reflects DGDA’s commitment to the visually impaired, and is aligned with the authority’s mandate to preserve and celebrate its culture and heritage.

The first part of the initiative runs until Oct. 15, and includes a course on Diriyah’s history for young men and women from “Kafeef.”

Supporting course materials were translated into paper and digital formats, including content on the year 850 — the year that Diriyah was established — as well as the At-Turaif district and the history of the First Saudi State.

Participants with the highest scores have since been selected to teach within the program itself, based on the level of their interest in Saudi history and their Braille skills.

DGDA is committed to working with “Kafeef” to provide support to participants, including paper and digital training materials, as well as lessons for registered participants, with an official certificate available on completion of the course.

The course is expected to foster a competitive, knowledge-based atmosphere that will help bolster the connection visually impaired individuals have to their heritage; strengthen their sense of belonging to their country’s past, present, and future; and instil a sense of community and collective investment in the country’s progress.

 

 


Saudi culture minister meets Jordanian, Iraqi counterparts at UNESCO meeting in Mexico

Saudi culture minister meets Jordanian, Iraqi counterparts at UNESCO meeting in Mexico
Updated 01 October 2022

Saudi culture minister meets Jordanian, Iraqi counterparts at UNESCO meeting in Mexico

Saudi culture minister meets Jordanian, Iraqi counterparts at UNESCO meeting in Mexico

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s Minister of Culture Prince Badr bin Abdullah bin Farhan on Friday held talks with his Jordanian counterpart, Haifa Najjar, on the sidelines of the UNESCO World Conference on Cultural Policies and Sustainable Development — Mondiacult 2022 in Mexico.
At the beginning of the meeting, Prince Badr congratulated Najjar on the Jordanian city of Irbid being chosen as the Arab Capital of Culture in 2022.
He also praised the success of the Jerash Festival for Culture and Arts, and thanked Najjar for the support in organizing the “Saudi Cultural Week” in Jordan from Spet. 12-15, stressing the depth of the relations that bind the two kingdoms, their governments and people.
During the meeting, they discussed ways to intensify and deepen cultural cooperation between their two countries in various cultural and artistic fields, exchange visits and establish cultural activities, and enhancing joint cooperation in preserving their antiquities and historical sites.
Prince Badr also met with Iraqi Minister of Culture, Tourism and Antiquities Dr. Hassan Nazim, where they praised the depth of the relations and stressed the importance of strengthening joint cultural cooperation.
The Saudi minister also praised the joint efforts between the Saudi-Iraqi work teams specialized in heritage, under the umbrella of the growing cooperation between the Kingdom’s Heritage Commission and the Iraqi State Board of Antiquities and Heritage, calling for more cooperation in all cultural fields.
During his meeting Malaysian Minister of Tourism, Arts and Culture Nancy Shukri, the two sides reviewed bilateral cultural relations and ways to develop cooperation and cultural exchange.
The Saudi minister also met Burkina Faso Minister of Communication, Culture, Arts and Tourism Valerie Kabore, where they discussed opportunities for cultural cooperation in the fields of crafts and folklore, artistic residency programs, seminars and events aimed at building capacities and introducing the cultures of the two countries.
He also held similar talks with his Chadian counterpart of the sidelines of the conference.