How the Red Sea Project aims to showcase Saudi Arabia’s culinary heritage

How the Red Sea Project aims to showcase Saudi Arabia’s culinary heritage
As part of Vision 2030, Saudi Arabia is attempting to revitalize the Kingdom’s hospitality sector. (Supplied/ZADK)
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Updated 08 May 2022

How the Red Sea Project aims to showcase Saudi Arabia’s culinary heritage

How the Red Sea Project aims to showcase Saudi Arabia’s culinary heritage
  • Saudi chefs and the hospitality sector are using food to build bridges between nations and cultures
  • The Red Sea Development Company aims to open up the Kingdom’s culinary treasures to the world

DUBAI: The national cuisines of few countries can boast the variety of influences found in Saudi Arabian dishes, thanks to the remarkable assortment of flavors and ingredients introduced to the Kingdom over centuries by pilgrims, merchants and travelers.

The variety of traditional dishes that can be found across the country reflect these diverse cultural influences — from the likes of India, North and East Africa, South and Central Asia and the Levant — that enriched and seasoned the Kingdom’s traditions.

Now, Saudi chefs and the hospitality sector are once again using food to help build bridges between nations and cultures. One of the organizations that is embracing this art of “culinary diplomacy” is The Red Sea Development Company, which is managing the new tourism megaproject taking shape along the Kingdom’s Red Sea coast.




TRSDC CEO John Pagano with a group of Saudi hospitality students. (Supplied)

In line with the aims of Saudi Vision 2030, the nation’s strategy for economic diversification, TRSDC is working to stimulate new industries, create jobs, encourage entrepreneurism, and drive growth in the tourism, leisure and hospitality sectors.

“At the moment our focus is to bring young Saudis into the hospitality industry,” Lars Eltvik, the company’s senior education adviser, told Arab News.

“This is a new industry to the Kingdom and there has been a very limited offering of hospitality and culinary education in the country before. It is not dissimilar to what used to be the case in Dubai, 20 years ago.”

The Red Sea Project is a plan for a sustainable tourism resort covering about 28,000 square kilometers along Saudi Arabia’s western coast, including more than 90 unspoiled islands. The 50 hotels and 1,300 residential properties that will be built there will be served by some of the Kingdom’s top restaurants, according to Eltvik.

“We want to be able to attract, document and develop food from all the regions of Saudi Arabia so that it can then be presented in luxury hotels across the Red Sea Project,” he said.




TRSDC is building partnerships with institutions across the Kingdom that were founded to preserve and promote Saudi cuisine. (Supplied/TRSDC)

Eltvik has worked in the hospitality sector and hospitality education for three decades. Between 2001 and 2009 he was based in Dubai, where he worked at the Emirates Academy of Hospitality Management.

He hopes that the success the sector has enjoyed in the UAE’s commercial capital can be replicated in Saudi Arabia on a shorter timescale and in a way that is more faithful to the nation’s cultural sensitivities.

“In Saudi Arabia, everything is on the fast track now,” said Eltvik. “We are working to achieve the same (as we achieved in Dubai), and more, but in a very compressed time frame. At TRSDC, we are looking to get on board tens of thousands of staff, with a strong focus on hospitality and, within the hospitality sector, a focus on the culinary arts.”




Saudi chefs and the hospitality sector are once again using food to help build bridges between nations and cultures. (Supplied/ZADK)

The company is working to promote the hospitality industry as a desirable career option for young Saudis, he said, in keeping with the government’s Saudization drive. To that end, education authorities in the Kingdom have implemented a number of programs in which TRSDC will sponsor trainees that will eventually fill essential roles in the sector, he added.

“We are focusing on the authenticity of enhancing tourism and hospitality through food in the Kingdom, and through the projection and education of young Saudis to proudly present their history and their past through the culinary experience,” Eltvik said.

There is a consensus that simply replicating the type of restaurants and cuisines that can be found in cities around the globe will not help to transform Saudi Arabia into the distinctive culinary destination that is envisioned. A focus on promoting the culinary arts and distinctly Saudi flavors are therefore clear priorities.

FASTFACTS

• The Red Sea Project is a 28,000 sq km sustainable-tourism resort due for completion by 2030.

• The Red Sea Development Company is expected to contribute $5.3 billion to national gross domestic product

While many traditional local dishes are common across the country — such as kabsa, which is made from rice, meat, vegetables and spices, and harees, an Arabian favorite comprised of ground wheat, meat and spices — the flavors, ingredients and cooking techniques can vary widely from one region to another.

The Red Sea port city of Jeddah has long attracted travelers from the region and the world, resulting in dishes replete with Persian, Levantine, Turkish, Maghrebi, and Central and South Asian influences.

In Hijaz, for example, the influences for popular dishes such as bukhari rice, manto (dumplings filled with beef and onion), shish barak (meat dumplings cooked in a yogurt-based stew), and kabli rice can be traced to Central and East Asia, while the origins of the vegetable-based stews that are popular in the region lie in North Africa and the Levant.

In the Kingdom’s central Najd plateau, meanwhile, the local cuisine includes heavier dishes such as soups, stews and sauces that better suit the area’s cooler climate.




“I created ZADK because I saw that in Saudi Arabia we were lacking an academy to learn about our cultural cuisine,” Rania Moualla said. (Supplied/ZADK)

In March, TRSDC appointed Lawrence Assadourian its culinary director with a mandate to work with Saudi chefs to create unique food options for regional and international visitors to enjoy, while also promoting local favorites.

“One of our missions is community development,” he told Arab News. “How are we, as a group, going to ensure that the Red Sea has a sense of place? (That) it is not just an experience replica of another destination in the world?

“And one of the ways we are looking to do that is to build the necessary programs that will incubate and accelerate Saudi-based chefs. We feel this is important because, long-term, the sustainability of talent should be driven by local people, to complement foreign talent.”

Sustainability is at the heart of what TRSDC is hoping to achieve as the Kingdom’s nascent tourism, leisure and hospitality industries set out to create offerings that are sensitive to local customs and in keeping with the environment.

“We are a regenerative tourism destination,” Assadourian said. “We care deeply about the environment and the integration of the communities in which we are building our projects.

“We need to ensure that we strike a strong balance between internationally experienced cuisine in our destination and how we infuse the culinary and cultural heritage of Saudi Arabia into the entire guest-experience journey.”




While many traditional local dishes are common across the country, the flavors, ingredients and cooking techniques can vary widely from one region to another. (Supplied/ZADK)

To achieve this, TRSDC is building partnerships with institutions across the Kingdom that were founded to preserve and promote Saudi cuisine.

Among those who welcome TRSDC’s mission to serve up the Kingdom’s culinary traditions to the world is Moe Inani, executive chef and co-owner of Chifty, a stylish restaurant and cosmopolitan lounge in Riyadh.

Although he is an engineer by training, Inani said his first love was cooking, a skill he picked up at an early age while helping his mother prepare meals at the family’s home in his native Jeddah.

After concluding his studies in the US, Inani became a sous-chef at Saison, a Michelin-starred restaurant in San Francisco where he learned to prepare sushi, and later for upmarket restaurants Nobu and Morimoto.

With his background in Japanese cuisine, Inani has created some novel twists on the more conventional local takes on Red Sea fish, and Arab News has learned that discussions are under way for him to collaborate with TRSDC.




“We want to be able to attract, document and develop food from all the regions of Saudi Arabia,” Lars Eltvik, senior education adviser with the Red Sea Development Company. (Supplied)

“Food has always united us,” Rania Moualla, a Saudi philanthropist and the founder and chair of ZADK, a nonprofit culinary academy in Al-Khobar in the Eastern Province, told Arab News.

The academy was founded in 2018, three years after Moualla published her cookbook, “A Spoonful of Home.” Its mission to nurture Saudi Arabia’s rich culinary heritage by empowering local chefs is similar to that of TRSDC, with which it has formed a partnership.

“I created ZADK because I saw that in Saudi Arabia we were lacking an academy to learn about our cultural cuisine,” Moualla said. “Most of our restaurants are in the hands of expats. I launched ZADK because I wanted to do something sustainable and with a higher impact for the community.”

She said the academy is looking at ways in which it can develop its partnership with TRSDC by helping to train the next generation of Saudi chefs.

“I am looking forward to having their students study at our academy,” Moualla said.




The Red Sea Project is a 28,000 sq km sustainable-tourism resort due for completion by 2030. (Supplied/TRSDC)

In so doing, ZADK, which also has a separate partnership agreement with Culinary Arts Academy Switzerland, aims to promote the Saudi gastronomical scene and ensure it meets international standards.

“Our mission is to develop the best culinary school in Saudi Arabia, make it a platform for social change and teach our cuisine in a way that enables students to learn international cuisines as well as Saudi cuisines,” Moualla said.

“We aim to allow our students to travel the world with Saudi cuisine and heritage.”

It is precisely this kind of culinary diplomacy that TRSDC aims to serve up for visitors to Saudi Arabia to savor and enjoy by 2030, when the Red Sea Project is due for completion.


Saudi students who won ISEF 2022 awards celebrated upon return to Riyadh

Abdullah Al-Ghamdi won two prizes in energy for his project on the production and storage of hydrogen. (AN photo/Basheer Saleh)
Abdullah Al-Ghamdi won two prizes in energy for his project on the production and storage of hydrogen. (AN photo/Basheer Saleh)
Updated 16 May 2022

Saudi students who won ISEF 2022 awards celebrated upon return to Riyadh

Abdullah Al-Ghamdi won two prizes in energy for his project on the production and storage of hydrogen. (AN photo/Basheer Saleh)
  • ‘Our talented students are the true wealth of Saudi Arabia and the solid building blocks of our society’

RIYADH: Over 35 Saudi students who picked up 22 awards at the Regeneron International Science and Engineering Fair 2022 in Atlanta, Georgia, landed in Riyadh on Sunday and were greeted with a celebratory reception at King Khalid International Airport.

The ISEF 2022, held from May 7-13, saw the participation of pre-college students from over 80 countries in the biggest competition showcasing innovation in scientific research and advancement.

Student Abdullah Al-Ghamdi won two prizes in energy for his project on the production and storage of hydrogen, earning him the award for “Best Research Scientist,” in which he competed against over 1,700 submissions from students across 65 countries.

Girls received prizes in chemistry, material sciences, and embedded systems.

“The happiness I’m feeling for my son Abdullah can’t be described,” said Abdul Aziz Al-Ghamdi, the student’s father. “To see the vision of my Kingdom come true before my eyes and for my son to be a driving force behind realizing this vision is a feeling that truly can’t be described.”

Al-Ghamdi’s father told Arab News that his son would spend his time at a research center after school, where he became fascinated with the idea of how to store hydrogen efficiently. “The fruits of his hard work are seen today,” he said.

When the crown prince said that the Saudis’ strength was like that of the Tuwaiq Mountain, unbreakable, Mawhiba saw in his words a road map for its initiatives.

Dr. Saud bin Saeed Al-Mathami, Mawhiba Secretary-General

Five other first-place prizes were awarded to Dana Al-Eithan and Maria Al-Ghamdi, who won in chemistry; Tahani Adel, who won in material sciences; and Yousef Khoja, who won in embedded systems.

Al-Eithan’s uncle, Abdulmunim Al-Eithan, told Arab News that the family was sitting on the couch when they heard the news and sprung into the air in excitement, cheering. “This is a result of her dedication to this field,” he said, adding that the 14-year-old had also previously won an award with SABIC for chemistry.

Six students — three Saudis and three Americans — were also granted scholarships to participate in an international enrichment program organized by King Abdulaziz and His Companions Foundation for Giftedness and Creativity, known as Mawhiba.

Thirteen students from the US, India and China were also awarded scholarships to study bachelor’s programs at King Fahd University for Petroleum and Minerals in chemistry, embedded systems, energy, physics and astronomy, robotics and material sciences.

The Kingdom was represented by the Ministry of Education and by Mawhiba.

Saudi Minister of Education Hamad bin Mohammed Al-Sheikh tweeted on Saturday: “I proudly congratulate my sons and daughters who won the International Science and Engineering Fair 2022. The Kingdom has won an unprecedented 22 awards with the support of our wise leadership — may God support it — and the unremitting efforts of their teachers and families. I am pleased to announce the provision of scholarships to the winning students in appreciation of this national achievement.”

Mawhiba Secretary-General Dr. Saud bin Saeed Al-Mathami said that he is encouraging innovative students worldwide to create sustainable solutions to the world’s problems and preserve these resources for future generations.

He stressed that the Kingdom takes pride in its students, saying the country had harnessed its great potential to qualify them to compete effectively in international forums.

“When the crown prince said that the Saudis’ strength was like that of the Tuwaiq Mountain, unbreakable, Mawhiba saw in his words a road map for its initiatives,” he said.

“Our talented students are the true wealth of Saudi Arabia and the solid building blocks of our society. They are the real future that we are looking forward to, and their familiarity in all disciplines and specializations will push forward Saudi Vision 2030,” Al-Mathami added.

“The talented students excelled in all disciplines related to energy, climate change, medicine, biosciences, space, medical and environmental engineering, organic materials, technology, innovation, information engineering and artificial intelligence.

“They underwent extensive training for long hours and rigorous testing under the supervision of competent committees to honor Saudi Arabia in international forums.”


British experts to qualify Saudis in railway sector

The agreement was signed in presence of Dr. Majed Al-Qasabi, Saleh Al-Jasser, Wendy Morton, and other officials. (SPA)
The agreement was signed in presence of Dr. Majed Al-Qasabi, Saleh Al-Jasser, Wendy Morton, and other officials. (SPA)
Updated 17 May 2022

British experts to qualify Saudis in railway sector

The agreement was signed in presence of Dr. Majed Al-Qasabi, Saleh Al-Jasser, Wendy Morton, and other officials. (SPA)
  • More than 400 graduates will be able to work in various disciplines in the rail transport business

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia aspires to strengthen its position as a global logistics hub connecting three continents, improve services and increase integration between logistics systems and modern modes of transportation.

Eng. Abdulaziz Al-Sugair, the director general of the Saudi Railway Polytechnic Institute, and Munir Jolamyehiya, the director general of the British X-Rail Group, signed a training agreement to train Saudis in the railway industry in the Kingdom.

The agreement was signed in presence of the chairman of the Saudi-British Joint Economic Committee, Dr. Majed Al-Qasabi, the Saudi Minister of Transport Saleh Al-Jasser, the UK Minister of Railways Wendy Morton, Dr. Rumaih Al-Rumaih, the chairman of the Public Transport Authority and the Saudi Railway Polytechnic Institute, and Saudi Deputy Minister of Transport and Logistics Services Eng. Badr Abdullah Al-Dalami.

FASTFACT

The agreement was signed in presence of the chairman of the Saudi-British Joint Economic Committee, Dr. Majed Al-Qasabi, Saudi Minister of Transport Saleh Al-Jasser, UK Minister of Railways Wendy Morton, Dr. Rumaih Al-Rumaih, the chairman of the Public Transport Authority and the Saudi Railway Polytechnic Institute, and Saudi Deputy Minister of Transport and Logistics Services Eng. Badr Abdullah Al-Dalami.

Al-Sugair said the collaboration with X-Rail Group is a new step towards the development of national skills in transportation, particularly rail transport services. He stated that the agreement intends to train and qualify high school graduates and equip them to work in a variety of industries. These include signaling, communication, and railway control systems, in order to assist the transportation labor market and meet the growing demand for specialist cadres in this industry.

Chairman of the Saudi-British Joint Economic Committee, Dr. Majed Abdullah Al-Qasabi pose for a group photo with Saudi and UK officials in Riyadh. (SPA)

The training term lasts 18 months, with 12 months spent at the institute and 6 months spent on the job at the company’s facilities, or on projects that it executes, operates, and maintains.

More than 400 graduates will be able to work in various disciplines in the rail transport business by 2021, according to the institute.

Among the goals of the National Strategy for Transport and Logistics Services is to increase the total lengths of future railways to 8,080 km, including the “land bridge” project with a length of more than 1,300 km, which will have a capacity of more than 3 million passengers and more than 50 million tons of freight annually.

Other goals include connecting the Kingdom’s ports on the Arabian Gulf coast with the ports on the Red Sea coast. New and exciting opportunities for this line will be created by it passing through modern logistic centers, economic activity centers, industrial cities and mining operations, enhancing the Kingdom’s logistic performance index to be among the top ten in the world.

“Training plays a big role in employing job-seekers,” believes Awwad Al-Dhafeeri, CEO of Shabakat ABAD training Institute.

Awwad Al-Dhafeeri, CEO of Shabakat ABAD training Institute.

Al-Dhafeeri told Arab News that jobs that demand specific abilities necessitate greater training to master the work, pointing to the profound changes that have occurred in professions as a result of expanding technology.

In previous decades, job acceptance was based on simple skills, and employees would acquire further necessary skills with experience, but at the moment, most jobs are concentrated in the private sector, which prefers employees to already have the required skill, with the rate of job acceptance much higher for those who have training in modern-age areas than those who do not.

Al-Dhafeeri, who has spent about 15 years in the management of training centers, advises young people not to rely entirely on educational attainment during their years of study in order to get jobs, but rather to get the appropriate training during their studies, including universities so that they can compete after graduation.

Since “we live in an era of digital transformation and the use of technology in various areas of life where the machine has replaced the human,” and many employment opportunities have been lost, he said, young people must hone their skills through training related to technological skills, according to their competence.


Repopulation plan: Saudi Arabia’s Soudah Development welcomes newborn ibex

Soudah Development introduced 15 endangered ibex in the Soudah area. (SPA)
Soudah Development introduced 15 endangered ibex in the Soudah area. (SPA)
Updated 17 May 2022

Repopulation plan: Saudi Arabia’s Soudah Development welcomes newborn ibex

Soudah Development introduced 15 endangered ibex in the Soudah area. (SPA)
  • Located in the Asir region in the southwest of the Kingdom, the juniper-covered mountains of Soudah are home to the highest peak in Saudi Arabia, situated more than 3,000m above sea level

ABHA: Soudah Development, a company of the Public Investment Fund, announced that six newborn Nubian ibex have been welcomed after the company launched a repopulation program last December in cooperation with the National Center for Wildlife.
It is part of efforts by the company to maintain the environment and protect the endangered species.
Soudah Development introduced 15 endangered ibex in the Soudah area with the aim of relocating endangered wild animals and protecting the natural environment in the region.
The initiative contributes to supporting the Kingdom’s environmental efforts.
Soudah Development continues its efforts to preserve biodiversity, restore environmental balance and encourage sustainability in Soudah, which is home to several important species, including the ibex.
Located in the Asir region in the southwest of the Kingdom, the juniper-covered mountains of Soudah are home to the highest peak in Saudi Arabia, situated more than 3,000m above sea level.

 


Saudi academic research ranking 17th globally

Saudi academic research ranking 17th globally. (SPA)
Saudi academic research ranking 17th globally. (SPA)
Updated 17 May 2022

Saudi academic research ranking 17th globally

Saudi academic research ranking 17th globally. (SPA)
  • SCImago Rankings have been a leading international annual classification system for research outcomes since 1996

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s universities and research-related institutions have been ranked 17th in the world for their pioneering project work.
The country’s position in the SCImago Rankings 2021 league table has now jumped up on two occasions, from 21st last year, and 26th in 2018.
Ongoing support from the Saudi leadership and Ministry of Education has been credited for helping the Kingdom’s academics enhance the quality of scientific research, and initiatives and projects being conducted with universities under the ministry’s supervision.
SCImago Rankings have been a leading international annual classification system for research outcomes since 1996.
It is a publicly available portal that includes the journals and country scientific indicators developed from the information contained in the Scopus database. These indicators can be used to assess and analyze scientific domains.
Journals can be compared or analysed separately, and country rankings may also be compared or analysed separately.
 


Who’s Who: Talal Al-Tuwaijri, deputy minister at Saudi Ministry of Health

Talal bin Abdul-Rahman Al-Tuwaijri
Talal bin Abdul-Rahman Al-Tuwaijri
Updated 16 May 2022

Who’s Who: Talal Al-Tuwaijri, deputy minister at Saudi Ministry of Health

Talal bin Abdul-Rahman Al-Tuwaijri

Talal bin Abdul-Rahman Al-Tuwaijri was appointed deputy minister for planning and transformation at the Ministry of Health in 2020.
He holds four other medicine-related positions, including head of vision realization at the Ministry of Health.
The Vision Realization Office aims to achieve the objectives of both the 2020 National Transformation Program and Saudi Vision 2030, monitoring transformational initiatives, tracking implementation progress, and continuously assessing performance and quality.
The office also seeks to create a motivational, productive work environment to attract talented people, and work within the Vision 2030 governance framework to ensure disciplined internal operations and alignment with other government agencies.
Al-Tuwaijri  is also the secretary-general of the board of directors of the Medical Cities and Specialized Centers, which aims to provide the best medical services at the highest levels, specialized medical care, and contribute to the establishment of high-level rules and standards for the practice of professionals in medical cities and specialized hospitals.
He is also associate professor and consultant of vascular surgery at King Saud University in Riyadh, and a vascular surgery consultant at King Khaled University Hospital.
Al-Tuwaijri served as CEO of Prince Mohammed bin Abdulaziz General Hospital in Riyadh. Through his previous experience at the Ministry of Health, he has increased productivity and efficiency in various medical fields.
He has a bachelor’s degree in medicine and surgery from King Saud University, which he received in 2000, and in 2007 received a fellowship in vascular surgery. In 2019, he also undertook a vascular surgery fellowship from the University of Calgary.