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.


Misk Tour discusses youth empowerment in Madinah

Misk Tour discusses youth empowerment in Madinah
Updated 15 sec ago

Misk Tour discusses youth empowerment in Madinah

Misk Tour discusses youth empowerment in Madinah
  • Chief of Programs at Misk Foundation Omar Al-Najjar said that Misk had played its part in the past decade in creating exceptional people qualified to help in the transformation of the Kingdom
  • Omar Al-Najjar added that Misk created opportunities for young people, invested in their latent energies, and supported young entrepreneurs and their startups

RIYADH: The Prince Mohammed bin Salman Foundation, which is also known as the Misk Foundation, held an activities event on Wednesday at the King Salman International Convention Center in Madinah.

The Misk Tour takes place over two days under the patronage of Madinah Gov. Prince Faisal bin Salman, and his deputy Prince Saud bin Khaled Al-Faisal.

Omar Al-Najjar, chief of programs at the foundation, said that Misk had played its part in the past decade in creating exceptional people qualified to help in the transformation of the Kingdom.

He added that 180 leaders out of more than 20,000 applicants had graduated from the foundation.

He added that Misk created opportunities for young people, invested in their latent energies, and supported young entrepreneurs and their startups.

The Misk Tour saw the registration of more than 2,000 participants. It includes five dialogue sessions covering a number of topics, most notably the impact of empowering youth, and the concept of identity between individuals and institutions. 

The event also offers workshops in a number of diverse fields, including the art of smartphone photography and personal branding, an introduction to the art of decoupage, and professional work in the non-profit sector.

Prince Saud was present at the closing debate of the Youth Voice Program, which discussed motivating and developing young people to become proficient in the skills of speaking, debating and critical thinking.

The deputy governor also honored members of the winning team in the debate.


Saudi foreign ministry announces new link to obtain personal visit visa

Saudi foreign ministry announces new link to obtain personal visit visa
Updated 4 min 8 sec ago

Saudi foreign ministry announces new link to obtain personal visit visa

Saudi foreign ministry announces new link to obtain personal visit visa

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s foreign ministry announced on Wednesday a new link through which people wishing to enter the Kingdom to visit their friends or acquaintances who are Saudi citizens can obtain a personal visit visa.

Developing 


Riyadh’s Arabian Horse Festival kicks off with top breeders

Riyadh’s Arabian Horse Festival kicks off with top breeders
Updated 30 November 2022

Riyadh’s Arabian Horse Festival kicks off with top breeders

Riyadh’s Arabian Horse Festival kicks off with top breeders
  • Hundreds of purebreds to be showcased
  • Leading equestrians competitors and animals participating

RIYADH: The Riyadh Purebred Arabian Horse Festival, Jawadi, kicked off Tuesday at the Al-Duhami Equestrian Center in Diriyah governorate, showcasing 347 breeds of the animals.

The five-day festival has SR1 million ($266,000) in prizes on offer. The competitions over the course of the event include the first Saudi Breeders Cup and the Saudi Production Champions Cup. They have both been organized by the Arabian Horse Organization and supervised by the King Abdulaziz Center for Purebred Arabian Horses.

The festival area reflects traditional Najdi architecture and brings together riders, artists and enthusiasts for competitions, folk dances, workshops, lectures, arts and crafts, local and international food, perfumes and sandals.

Azaam Al-Qasim, an equestrian and horse trainer taking part in the festival, told Arab News that the beauty competition would showcase the pedigree of the animals brought by local and international participants.

He said Arabian equestrians, and their horses, are differentiated by their capability and determination, which has served to attract many to the sport in the Kingdom.

Rana Mohammed, an artist who has her paintings of horses on display at the festival, told Arab News: “Horses are my passion, and the more I paint artwork of horses the more I discover more details about them, and I spend more time mastering these details.”

Faisal Al-Shamsan, a visitor, said the horse competitions in a traditional village setting with food and music was “all great.” He also enjoyed watching traditional dancing with his family.

The festival is part of the offerings of Riyadh Season, organized by the General Entertainment Authority. It is open from 3 p.m. until 12 midnight and runs until Dec. 3.


KSRelief delivers relief aid to flood-hit Pakistan 

KSRelief delivers relief aid to flood-hit Pakistan 
Updated 30 November 2022

KSRelief delivers relief aid to flood-hit Pakistan 

KSRelief delivers relief aid to flood-hit Pakistan 

RIYADH: The King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Center (KSRelief) team continued to deliver relief aid to those affected by the floods in Pakistan, the Saudi Press Agency reported.

As many as 1,426 winter bags were delivered to those affected, benefiting 9,982 people in the districts of Shahdadkot, Badin and Dadu in Sindh province.

Meanwhile, KSRelief also distributed food aid in Sudan’s Sinkat, benefiting 344 families. 

344 food packages were handed out in the districts of Al-Salam, Al-Janayin, Al-Inqad, Bir Nksoub, Al-Rakham and Sayyit in the locality of Sinkat. 

In Liberia, KSRelief has also delivered 50 tons of dates as a gift from the Saudi Arabia to the nation. 

Also this week, KSRelief signed three joint agreements together with a civil society organization to carry out a series of health and environmental projects for Yemen.


New joint venture Tahaluf to support Saudi events sector

New joint venture Tahaluf to support Saudi events sector
Updated 29 November 2022

New joint venture Tahaluf to support Saudi events sector

New joint venture Tahaluf to support Saudi events sector
  • The venture is part of the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 goals to achieve economic diversification and create employment opportunities for Saudi citizens

RIYADH: The Saudi Federation for Cybersecurity, Programming and Drones and Informa PLC recently launched the joint venture Tahaluf, which aims to train young Saudi women and men in events administration and attract international events into Saudi Arabia.

The venture is part of the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 goals to achieve economic diversification and create employment opportunities for Saudi citizens.

Faisal Al-Khamisi, chairman of the board of directors of the federation, said: “The Kingdom has hosted a wide range of global events in recent years, and now the federation is investing in increasing Saudi events and activities and the related creative and digital sectors though Tahaluf.”

Faisal Al-Kahmisi said SAFCSP is investing in increasing Saudi events and activities and the related creative and digital sectors through Tahaluf. (SPA)

He explained that the name Tahaluf (Arabic for “alliance”) reflects the strength of the partnership between the federation and Informa PLC.

“We plan to work closely together on this next phase of developing world-class events for Saudi Arabia,” Al-Khamisi said.

HIGHLIGHT

Tahaluf Academy will also be established, which will annually provide a group of young Saudi professionals with professional accreditation, practical training and experience in international events through a series of opportunities across Informa’s global business.

Tahaluf will benefit from the expertise of Informa PLC to create a world-class events sector in the Kingdom, which will diversify the Saudi economy, provide access to new opportunities for international companies, attract foreign investment and support commercial activity.

Michael Champion, regional executive vice president of Informa PLC, said: “We are honored to expand our partnership with SAFCSP to create Tahaluf, and together we aim to create sustainable events on a global level in Saudi Arabia that will be an international exhibition for the main sectors of the Saudi economy.”

Tahaluf Academy will also be established, which will annually provide a group of young Saudi professionals with professional accreditation, practical training and experience in international events through a series of opportunities across Informa’s global business.

Tahaluf will also bring to Saudi Arabia global events next year, including the DeepFest artificial intelligence conference, the food and hospitality festival Feast, the Middle East beauty festival Cosmoprof, the international real estate exhibition Cityscape, and an exhibition for the leading pharmaceutical brand CPHI in the Middle East.

“SAFCSP is a great leader in the mission of supporting skills development and job creation for Saudi youth in dynamic and professional sectors and will also contribute to the diversification and growth of key sectors in Saudi Arabia,” said Al-Khamisi.

“Informa has played a leading role in the events industry on an international level, including pioneering on-demand and data-driven digital experiences and driving sustainability initiatives across the sector. This expertise has helped launch successful events together in the past and will be invaluable...in delivering on the ambitious plans announced today,” he added.