From Madinah with love - entrepreneur shares Saudi dates with the world

When Nora Blouza’s Dutch-Moroccan husband came to Germany due to his work in 2018, she followed him with their three children. (Supplied)
When Nora Blouza’s Dutch-Moroccan husband came to Germany due to his work in 2018, she followed him with their three children. (Supplied)
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Updated 15 April 2022

From Madinah with love - entrepreneur shares Saudi dates with the world

When Nora Blouza’s Dutch-Moroccan husband came to Germany due to his work in 2018, she followed him with their three children. (Supplied)
  • Arab News speaks with Moroccan entrepreneur who imports Saudi dates to Germany
  • ‘My dream is that German customers will discover the quality and diversity of Saudi dates’

EPPSTEIN, Germany: Dates have always been omnipresent in Nora Blouza’s life. The 37-year-old is from southern Morocco, where her late grandfather once owned a date plantation. “Dates would always be in the house,” she told Arab News.

When Blouza’s Dutch-Moroccan husband came to Germany due to his work in 2018, she followed him with their three children after having lived in the Netherlands for 17 years.

“Originally we planned to just stay for three years,” she said. But the coronavirus pandemic thwarted the family’s plans.

They had to stay, and due to the lockdown they spent most of their daily life at home. To Blouza it was a double-edged sword.

“The bad news was that we were staying at home. The good news was that we started to develop ideas and put them to good use.”

It was during Ramadan last year that her daughter brought up a topic that gave Blouza a new idea.

“She reminded me of the high amounts of dates people consume, especially during Ramadan, of the many different types and tastes.”

It was then that Blouza had the idea of launching her own date business in Germany and importing large amounts. Although she was raised on dates, the business itself was something new to her.

As Blouza is Moroccan, her home country and its neighbors Algeria and Tunisia were the first that came to mind as potential suppliers, but none of them met her criteria.

“The amounts there aren’t as large as I’d like,” she said. “Neither could they provide the kind of diversity that I wanted.”

Diversity and quality were her top priorities. Eventually, it was dates from Saudi Arabia that she saw as meeting her criteria.

“Saudi Arabia has many different and often unique types of dates,” she said. “Ajwa, for example, is something that only grows in the city of Madinah.”

Blouza undertook research and found a supplier that suited her ideas best: Nakheel Alya, a company in Madinah.

Although it sells its products to 30 countries, Nakheel Alya is relatively new, having been founded in 2015.

Despite that, it “met my criteria,” said Blouza, who fulfilled her dream and launched her business, Nakheel Fruits, in August 2021.

Boxes of different products such as natural dates, date cookies, and dates covered in chocolate and filled with almonds or walnuts, fill the company’s warehouse in Eppstein, a town in the state of Hesse at the edge of the Taunus mountains.

“We mostly supply supermarkets and individual clients that order our products via our website,” said Blouza

While individual clients are from all over Germany, the supermarkets are mostly from Hesse, with demand rising during Ramadan.

Despite her original plans to stay in Germany for only three years, she now wants to stay indefinitely. “I like it here. And I love my project.”

She hopes that her business will grow and expand nationwide. “My dream is that we will develop further and that German customers will discover the quality and diversity of Saudi dates and date products.”


No permit, no Hajj pilgrimage, Saudi authorities warn

No permit, no Hajj pilgrimage, Saudi authorities warn
Updated 29 June 2022

No permit, no Hajj pilgrimage, Saudi authorities warn

No permit, no Hajj pilgrimage, Saudi authorities warn
  • Hajj violators face 10,000 Saudi riyal fine

RIYADH: People attempting to perform the Hajj pilgrimage without a permit face a $2,666 fine, Saudi Arabia’s general security said in a statement on Wednesday.

The authority’s official spokesperson said pilgrims must obtain a Hajj permit from the relevant entities before attempting to perform the Muslim rituals. 

 

 

In the statement posted on Twitter, Brigadier Sami bin Mohammed Al-Shuwairkh urged pilgrims to strictly follow Hajj instructions, while stressing that security forces would “fulfill their duties” in securing routes leading to the Grand Mosque in Makkah and the rest of the holy premises to prevent any violations.

Saudi Arabia earlier said it permitted over one million pilgrims from overseas to perform Hajj this year for the first time in two years of COVID-19 restrictions, which limited the pilgrimage to residents of the Kingdom.


Makkah Health Cluster ready for Hajj with 10 hospitals and 82 health centers

Makkah Health Cluster ready for Hajj with 10 hospitals and 82 health centers
Updated 29 June 2022

Makkah Health Cluster ready for Hajj with 10 hospitals and 82 health centers

Makkah Health Cluster ready for Hajj with 10 hospitals and 82 health centers

RIYADH: The Makkah Healthcare Cluster announced its readiness for this year’s Hajj season by completing the operational plans for all hospitals and health centers affiliated to it, the Saudi Press Agency reported. 

It said 10 hospitals and 82 health centers have completed all preparations to implement operational plans prepared for the Hajj season.

Three emergency centers, as well as two more emergency hospitals will be operating inside and near the Grand mosque 24 hours a day to provide health care for pilgrims.


White House envoy for antisemitism Deborah Lipstadt conducts roundtable discussion at Arab News

White House envoy for antisemitism Deborah Lipstadt conducts roundtable discussion at Arab News
Updated 29 June 2022

White House envoy for antisemitism Deborah Lipstadt conducts roundtable discussion at Arab News

White House envoy for antisemitism Deborah Lipstadt conducts roundtable discussion at Arab News
  • Deborah Lipstadt discusses role and religious tolerance at roundtable with Saudi journalists

RIYADH: Ambassador Deborah Lipstadt, US special envoy to monitor and combat antisemitism, expressed her delight to be in the Kingdom and said that she deliberately chose Saudi Arabia as her first foreign visit to help generate dialogue and normalize the coexistence of Muslims and Jews.

Ambassador Deborah Lipstadt, US special envoy to monitor and combat antisemitism, and Arab News Editor-in-Chief Faisal J. Abbas at the roundtable discussion at Arab News headquarters in Riyadh on Tuesday. (AN photo by Basheer Saleh)

“I'm overwhelmed by the changes the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is undertaking. You have got a long road, but you are certainly working down that road,” she told Arab News.

HIGHLIGHT

Ambassador Deborah Lipstadt believed the newer generations are actively changing and shifting perspectives, which is something she admired.

Lipstadt was talking on the sidelines of a roundtable discussion held at the Arab News headquarters in Riyadh, where the history of antisemitism and her work confronting it was discussed.

She focused on acknowledging her country’s past shortcomings and hoped that this trip would help start repairing the previous hostile viewpoint of Jews in the region.

She believed the newer generations were actively changing and shifting perspectives, which is something she admired.

The roundtable was moderated by Arab News Assistant Editor-in-Chief Noor Nugali and attended by Adel Al-Harbi, a prominent Saudi media adviser, Saudi columnist Noor Abdullah, and communications consultant and founder of SMZ International Group Sarah Elzeini.

Journalists from Arab News who attended included Nada Al-Turki and Arkan Al-Adnani, as well as members of the visiting delegation from the US embassy in Riyadh.

Arab News editor-in-chief Faisal J. Abbas with Ambassador Deborah lipstadt. (AN photo by Basheer Saleh)

Lipstadt also met Arab News Editor-in-Chief Faisal Abbas and conducted a tour of the newsroom, where she met journalists and editors on staff and was briefed on the newspaper’s own efforts in combating hate speech and promoting religious tolerance.

“I've seen some of the work you've done (at Arab News), the covers, the Minority report: The Jews of Lebanon. You're putting the Hebrew greeting for the new year ‘Shana Tova’ on your front page. That's unimaginable,” she said. “My country is not perfect; your country is not perfect. We have a long way to go, but what I've seen here certainly at Arab News is a great beginning.”

For his part, Abbas welcomed Lipstadt and her accompanying delegation and lauded her remarkable career in standing up against antisemitism.

“We are delighted to receive a guest of the caliber and accomplishments of Ambassador Deborah Lipstadt visit our headquarters in Riyadh, and we are keen to have more such interactions and offer any insight she and her team might need toward this noble cause, which falls in line with the huge reforms we are witnessing in our country,” said Abbas.

Arab News editor-in-chief Faisal J. Abbas with Ambassador Deborah lipstadt. (AN photo by Basheer Saleh)

Prior to Lipstadt’s visit to the Kingdom, she met the Saudi ambassador to the US Princess Reema Bint Bandar in Washington, where they discussed “Saudi Arabia's meaningful strides in promoting peace, tolerance, and interfaith dialogue.”

This is Lipstadt’s first international trip since assuming her role in April 2022. The 11-day trip will include dialogue with senior government and civil society in Saudi Arabia, Israel, and the UAE.

Her engagements during this tour aim to emphasize the need for interfaith understanding and religious tolerance, as well as to combat distrust and anti-Jewish sentiment.

Arab News will publish an in-depth interview with her tomorrow.


Al Jouf University included in QS world university rankings 2023

Al Jouf University included in QS world university rankings 2023
Updated 28 June 2022

Al Jouf University included in QS world university rankings 2023

Al Jouf University included in QS world university rankings 2023
  • The university’s president attributed its success to the Kingdom's leadership for their unwavering support for the education sector

AL JOUF: Al Jouf University, for the second year in a row, was included in the QS world university rankings for 2023, Saudi Press Agency (SPA) reported on Tuesday.

The university also ranked 701st globally and 8th locally, and was included in the Times World University Rankings for the second year in a row for achieving the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.

Dr. Muhammad bin Abdullah Al-Shaya, president of the university, praised the institution's international classifications team as well as the Kingdom's leadership for their unwavering support for the education sector, which contributed to the university's success.

The president was presented with a certificate for the international classification QS.The Governor of Al-Jawf region and the Minister of Education both stated that the university is continuing to expand on its current position and is working continuously to advance in all fields within the Vision 2030 goals, SPA reported.

The Dean of Scientific Research and Supervisor of the International Classification Unit at the University, Dr. Nabil Al-Ruwaili said Al Jouf’s classification is a reflection of its qualitative practices on an educational, research and scientific level.


Misk fellowship competition bootcamp underway in London

Misk fellowship competition bootcamp underway in London
Updated 28 June 2022

Misk fellowship competition bootcamp underway in London

Misk fellowship competition bootcamp underway in London
  • Both bootcamps are designed to equip young Saudis with the skills needed to become effective leaders
  • Misk Fellowship Program 2022 runs for six months and ends in December

LONDON: Saudi students are participating in a competition bootcamp in London this week as part of the Misk Fellowship Program 2022.
It started on Monday and followed the first week of the program, which saw the 60 students participate in a leadership bootcamp.
Both bootcamps, spanning a total of 10 days, are designed to equip young Saudis with the skills and behavior needed to become effective leaders.

Fellows listen to a session presented by Afnan Ababtain  during the competition kickoff bootcamp in London on Tuesday. (AN photo)


Critical thinking, problem-solving, self-motivation, self-awareness, teamwork, and leadership best practices are some of the competencies the bootcamps will focus on.
Abdulrahman Alhenaki, the project officer for the Misk Fellowship Program, told Arab News that the competition kickoff bootcamp would focus on helping fellows find sustainable development solutions to challenges faced by Saudi Arabia with assistance and guidance from Misk partners.

Fellows discuss ideas during the competition kickoff bootcamp in London on Tuesday. (AN photo)


These partners include the Saudi Ministry of Communications and Information Technology, King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology, the Kingdom’s Research, Development, and Innovation Authority, the UN Development Programme, the Small and Medium Enterprises General Authority (Monsha’at), and management consulting firms Bain & Company and Strategy&.
He said the fellows would return to the countries where they were studying once the current bootcamp was over and start the second part of the fellowship program virtually.
“They will start thinking about what kinds of solutions they will come up with to fix these challenges and also participate in other components of the program, including being coached and mentored. We also have placement opportunities to enhance their journey and to make them ready for the job market in the future.”

Fellows listen to a lecture during the competition kickoff bootcamp in London on Tuesday. (AN photo)


Fellows will work in groups of six on their solutions and present them in early September.
“There will be three winners chosen by the judges who will win internships, incentives, and opportunities to participate in other Misk programs. There will also be two other winners. The first will be selected by the audience that day for the best presentation and the other will be selected by the social media audience.”
Dr. Basem Hassan, general manager for technology transfer and commercialization at the King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology, said his organization was helping to guide the students in their challenges.
“Our role in this program is to define the Sustainable Development Goals and challenges facing Saudi Arabia. We defined 12 challenges and, on Monday, we had a session with the students. We presented the innovative ecosystem in Saudi Arabia and all the transformations happening in the ecosystem.

A fellow asks a question during the competition kickoff bootcamp in London on Tuesday. (AN photo)


“We also presented some of the latest technologies and projects in Saudi Arabia addressing global challenges and sustainable climate solutions. Then we talked about the 12 challenges that have been defined for them for the competition, and presented some of the innovative solutions from around the world that address parts of these challenges.”
The director of the women’s and social entrepreneurship department at Monsha’at, Afnan Ababtain, presented a session on Tuesday.
“We are happy to be part of the Misk fellowship. Today we are sharing with the fellows Monsha’at’s strategy in social entrepreneurship and what kinds of services we are providing for social entrepreneurs to make sure that we will have scalable businesses owned by social entrepreneurs,” she said.
Misk fellow Nawaf Bin Awshan told Arab News he was glad to be part of the program.
“It is an insightful program that provides the next generation of leaders with focused points of leadership. This program focuses on how to move students from the student stage to the leader stage. I really enjoyed the first part of the fellowship, the leadership bootcamp. This week, we have started a competition and we will deal with how to solve some of the challenges faced by Saudi Arabia.”
Another Misk fellow, Dana Almudayfi, described the program as “informative and wonderful.”
“This has been a really informative and wonderful program insofar as it has given us the tools to be leaders, which is the most important thing.”
She said she was looking forward to using the skills she had learned over the last two weeks in the workplace.
The program runs for six months and ends in December.