Why Yanbu on the Red Sea is fast becoming one of Saudi Arabia’s must-visit destinations

Special Why Yanbu on the Red Sea is fast becoming one of Saudi Arabia’s must-visit destinations
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Besides magnificent annual flower, bird and butterfly shows, the western Saudi town of Yanbu is attracting tourists with its rich biodiversity. (Shutterstock)
Special Why Yanbu on the Red Sea is fast becoming one of Saudi Arabia’s must-visit destinations
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Besides magnificent annual flower, bird and butterfly shows, the western Saudi town of Yanbu is attracting tourists with its rich biodiversity. (Shutterstock)
Special Why Yanbu on the Red Sea is fast becoming one of Saudi Arabia’s must-visit destinations
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Besides magnificent annual flower, bird and butterfly shows, the western Saudi town of Yanbu is attracting tourists with its rich biodiversity. (Shutterstock)
Special Why Yanbu on the Red Sea is fast becoming one of Saudi Arabia’s must-visit destinations
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Besides magnificent annual flower, bird and butterfly shows, the western Saudi town of Yanbu is attracting tourists with its rich biodiversity. (Shutterstock)
Special Why Yanbu on the Red Sea is fast becoming one of Saudi Arabia’s must-visit destinations
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Besides magnificent annual flower, bird and butterfly shows, the western Saudi town of Yanbu is attracting tourists with its rich biodiversity. (Shutterstock)
Special Why Yanbu on the Red Sea is fast becoming one of Saudi Arabia’s must-visit destinations
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Updated 13 May 2022

Why Yanbu on the Red Sea is fast becoming one of Saudi Arabia’s must-visit destinations

Why Yanbu on the Red Sea is fast becoming one of Saudi Arabia’s must-visit destinations
  • Beyond its scenic charm, favorable climate and natural beauty, Yanbu has a particular appeal for history buffs
  • own’s historic architecture, including a house where T. E. Lawrence once lived, have been faithfully restored

DUBAI: Just a few hours’ drive west of Madinah is the historic port town of Yanbu, the second largest settlement on Saudi Arabia’s western Red Sea coast. With its curious heritage and growing wealth of attractions, this unassuming coastal gem is fast becoming a must-visit destination in its own right.

Visitors to Yanbu can traipse along the town’s historic harbor, enjoy Red Sea-caught fish prepared in the local style, and explore the recently restored Souq Al-Lail, or night market, where they can buy local dates, green mulukhiyah leaves, as well as other sweets and delicacies.

At night, the old harbor area comes alive with locals flocking to outdoor eateries overlooking the tranquil waters, protected from the waves by unspoilt coral reefs that have long lured divers to the coastline.




Yanbu's iconic lighthouse overlooking the town's coastal area by the Red Sea. (Shutterstock)

As one of the oldest ports on the Red Sea, Yanbu has a history reaching back at least 2,500 years, when it served as a crucial staging post on the ancient spice and incense route from Yemen to Egypt and onward to the wider Mediterranean.

Its strategic importance in the world of commerce continues to this day. Further south along the coast from the idyllic old town is an important petroleum shipping terminal that is home to three oil refineries, a plastics factory, and several other petrochemical plants.

While Yanbu has long enjoyed a reputation as a place of commerce, it is now developing into something of a tourism hotspot.




The market in the heritage village of Yanbu Al-Nakhl. (Shutterstock)

“In the past, most tourists were from Saudi Arabia, but now we are getting more foreigners, from France, Germany, and the UK,” Ghazi Al-Enezi, who runs the Riyadh-based operator Ghazi Tours, told Arab News.

“Yanbu has been receiving many visitors via cruises from Jeddah, cities in Egypt and Jordan.”

In 2014, Al-Enezi was named the Best Tour Guide in the Kingdom by the Saudi government. Since then, his fledgling operation has grown into a successful enterprise, with 12 members of staff operating tours across the country and a wealth of local and international clients.

The Kingdom’s growing tourism market has offered a boost to Yanbu’s hospitality industry, with the recent opening of a Novotel, a Holiday Inn, and the Al-Ahlam Tourism Resort. This in turn has drummed up new business for local cafes and restaurants.




Yanbu's nice weather make the coastal town a favorite escape during the summer months. (Shutterstock)

“Many hotels and restaurants are opening now, and local people are also trying to serve visitors their own local dishes,” said Al-Enezi. “The weather is nice as well. It doesn’t get too hot in the summer, which means during the hot months people can escape to Yanbu.”

Beyond its scenic charm, favorable climate and natural beauty, Yanbu also has a particular appeal for history buffs. The British army intelligence officer T.E. Lawrence, better known as Lawrence of Arabia, lived in Yanbu for a time between 1915 and 1916 in a typical Hijazi building.

The British archaeologist, diplomat and writer became famous for his role in the Arab Revolt and the Sinai and Palestine Campaign against the Ottoman Empire during the First World War.

Lawrence was deployed to the region to help the Arabs overthrow their Ottoman rulers, who had sided with Germany against Britain and France.




Lawrence of Arabia, left, and the renovated house in Yanbu where he lived between 1915 and 1916. (Getty Images)

On Dec. 1, 1916, the Ottoman forces of Fakhri Pasha launched a daring offensive against Yanbu with the aim of reestablishing control over the strategically vital port.

After some initial Ottoman successes, the Arabs counterattacked with the support of five British Royal Navy warships anchored off the coast. By Jan. 18, 1917, the Ottomans were in full retreat.

Yanbu served as a supply and operations base for Arab and British forces for the remainder of the war.




Yanbu industrial harbor. (Shutterstock)

In 1975, the Saudi government decided to transform Yanbu into one of the country’s two new industrial centers, the other being Jubail on the Arabian Gulf.

Since then, state and private development projects in Yanbu have boosted its economic value and prestige, attracting huge petrochemical and logistics infrastructure.

Today, as the Kingdom undergoes a fresh transformation, heralded by the Vision 2030 economic and social reform agenda, Yanbu’s fortunes are once again shifting — this time toward tourism, heritage and culture.

In 2020, the Ministry of Tourism launched a project to restore T.E. Lawrence’s Hejazi house, renovating its white stone walls and ornate wooden screens in what would become the first of the ministry’s efforts to revive the old town of Yanbu.




Heritage houses being restored in Yanbu. (Shutterstock)

Soon, other traditional Arabian homes followed, with sensitive restoration work launched to restore their coral-stone walls and wooden latticed windows to their former glory. The rebirth of Yanbu’s authentic architecture has made the city a highly desirable place to visit.

Since then, a host of tour operators have sprung up across Yanbu to cater for this recent influx of visitors.

Al-Enezi, who has run tours in Yanbu since 2008, offers a choice of two main tours — one along the coast that features a visit to Oyster Island, known for its pristine beaches and clear waters, and another into the urban heart of Yanbu that acquaints visitors with local heritage and crafts.




Ghazi Al-Enezi was named the Best Tour Guide in the Kingdom in 2014. (Supplied)

He also takes visitors to Umluj, which is situated 150 km north of Yanbu. Often referred to as the “Maldives of Saudi Arabia,” the coastal town is made up of more than 100 small islands where hotels and other attractions are now under construction.

Also outside the town, thrill-seeking visitors are drawn to Radwa Mount, with its red-hued jagged peaks towering some 2,282 meters above sea level, making it the highest point in the Al-Nakhil range.

Known for its rich biodiversity, including lynx, tigers, ibex and wolves, visitors can enjoy a safari tour along the rugged highland landscape and stop at high-altitude villages to sample the local honey.




Yanbu also boasts of attractive highland landscapes. (Shutterstock)

For Al-Enezi, the tourism industry in Yanbu is unrecognizable today from what passed for it when he began organizing tours there 14 years ago.

“It was hard for the few of us working in the business in the beginning because at that time the Saudi government wasn’t focused on tourism and not many people were coming to visit the Kingdom,” he told Arab News.

“But this is now a growing and changing business.”


Riyadh conference to focus on science and philosophy

Riyadh conference to focus on science and philosophy
Updated 58 min 1 sec ago

Riyadh conference to focus on science and philosophy

Riyadh conference to focus on science and philosophy

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia will host a conference in Riyadh that will explore the convergence of  science and philosophy.

The meeting, in its second edition, is being organized by the Kingdm’s Literature, Publishing and Translation Commission and will take place from Dec. 1-3 at King Fahd National Library in the Saudi capital.

The theme of "Knowledge and Exploration: Space, Time, and Humanity" has been chosen to enable a convergence of science and philosophy, organizers said on Thursday.

Philosophers, scientists,  and artists will be in attendance to discuss the topics such as the modern spaces of existence, the status of contemporary science, and justice and ethics in exploration. Intellectuals are also expected to discuss the complexities of space diplomacy and climate change and environmental crises, assessing how these issues will shape the future of humanity.

The three-day conference will feature lectures, panel discussions, seminars and workshops. There will be a children’s philosophical space and two parallel activations at the event.

Organizers have also issued a Call for Papers encouraging academics around the world to contribute papers on these and other sub-themes.

Mohamed Hassan Alwan, CEO of the Literature, Publishing and Translation Commission said: “Last year’s ground-breaking conference succeeded in putting Saudi Arabia on the global philosophical map and established the Kingdom as a regional centre for philosophical dialogue.

I am delighted to announce the second Riyadh Philosophy Conference, which will bring together a geographically diverse range of leading philosophers, educational institutions, and others, to debate the important issues of our time, and help stimulate inter-cultural, international and inter-disciplinary dialogue.”

Speakers for the event will be announced nearer the date of the conference.


Saudi entertainment body launches discount fair for international brands

Saudi entertainment body launches discount fair for international brands
Updated 30 September 2022

Saudi entertainment body launches discount fair for international brands

Saudi entertainment body launches discount fair for international brands
  • Up to 70% off on fashion, home accessories, cosmetics
  • 3m items from 1,500 firms on display until Oct. 14

JEDDAH: The Saudi General Entertainment Authority on Wednesday announced the launch of “Outlet 2022” shopping festival, the first of its kind in the Kingdom.

According to the organizers, the two-week outdoor festival, which will kick off on Saturday, will offer exclusive discounts of up to 70 percent on fashion, home accessories, and cosmetic products designed by international experts. The event’s galleries will have a Greek-inspired design.

On his Twitter account, Turki Al-Sheikh, GEA chairman, said the event in Riyadh is a pioneering initiative.

“We’ll soon have the ‘Outlet Festival,’ the first of its kind in Saudi Arabia. The festival will bring together the most famous brands in the world to be sold at reduced prices and discounts. A different thing in Riyadh,” Al-Sheikh said in his tweet.

The festival will be held in Al-Rehab neighborhood, west of the Saudi capital, and will include places to eat and events for children.

Farah Ahmed, who lives in the neighborhood, told Arab News that she has been observing the construction of the outlet. “It’s impressive how quickly the GEA built the space. They are working day and night to make it happen.” 

Entry to the festival is free, and will include more than three million discounted items of 1,500 international brands.

“I’m so excited about the festival, especially (since) I haven’t been able to travel or shop this summer, yet I feel that two weeks is not enough. I hope the GEA extends it further,” she added. 

Doors will be open daily from 3 p.m. to 1 a.m. Tickets can be booked through the Ticket MX App and website, and VIP and VVIP tickets can be booked through the Parky App and website.


MoU signed with US institute to train Saudi judicial cadres

MoU signed with US institute to train Saudi judicial cadres
Updated 30 September 2022

MoU signed with US institute to train Saudi judicial cadres

MoU signed with US institute to train Saudi judicial cadres

RIYADH: President of the Board of Grievances, and of the Administrative Judiciary Council, Sheikh Khaled Al-Youssef, recently signed a memorandum of understanding between the board and the US Case Western Reserve University in research and training.

The terms of the memorandum included training and development of judicial and administrative cadres and exchanging experiences and research in the administrative and organizational fields, to benefit from the CWRU’s expertise as one of the most prestigious international universities in the field of law and administration.

A seminar, “Synergies between the Board of Grievances in Saudi Arabia and CWRU School of Law in the US,” was also held, during which Al-Youssef presented a working paper, highlighting the Board of Grievances’ achievements in completing the digital transformation of all litigation procedures.

The working paper focused on highlighting aspects of cooperation between the two sides under the signed MoU.

Meanwhile, the Federation of Saudi Chamber recently hosted a meeting between Saudi businesspeople and a delegation from the World Affairs Councils of America to discuss cooperation between the two sides to support Saudi-US relations.

The Saudi side acquainted the US delegation with the top programs and initiatives of the Saudi Vision 2030, in addition to the mega projects that are being developed in Qiddiya and the Red Sea, among others, and the developments witnessed in the educational, tourism, technological, digital, artificial intelligence, women, youth and SMEs sectors.


Saudi Arabia participates in UNESCO cultural conference

Saudi Arabia participates in UNESCO cultural conference
Updated 30 September 2022

Saudi Arabia participates in UNESCO cultural conference

Saudi Arabia participates in UNESCO cultural conference

MEXICO: Unequal access to new technologies, illicit trafficking and threats to cultural heritage were among the issues on the agenda for international culture ministers who met Wednesday in Mexico City for the World Conference on Cultural Policies and Sustainable Development, or MONDIACULT.

Representatives of around 160 UNESCO member states are participating in the three-day conference, which seeks to reaffirm the global commitment to contemporary challenges facing multicultural societies and to formulate a forward-looking vision for cultural policies.

Saudi Arabia’s Minister of Culture Prince Badr bin Abdullah bin Farhan headed the Kingdom’s delegation to MONDIACULT 2022.

The Saudi minister also headed the regional consultations for the Arab region, representing Saudi Arabia.

The consultations focused on four main objectives: identifying national and regional trends of cultural policies in countries, identifying and analyzing challenges and opportunities for cultural policies throughout the region, supporting the listing of culture in the regional trends agenda, and identifying priorities that can contribute to the final statement of MONDIACULT 2022.

The goals of the final declaration to be adopted on Friday include guaranteeing artists’ rights and regulating distribution platforms, UNESCO Director-General Audrey Azoulay said.

Another objective is to ensure culture is included in international discussions on climate change, notably through traditional and Indigenous knowledge systems.

“Our cultural heritage is threatened very directly by global warming,” Azoulay said.

The COVID-19 pandemic has shown that culture is vital for public health, according to conference coordinator Pablo Raphael.

“No one would have been able to survive the confinement and stress…without books, music and cinema,” he said.

The health crisis also laid bare technological inequalities between different communities, Mexican Culture Minister Alejandra Frausto said.

One of the meeting’s objectives is to find ways to guarantee that artists have access to technologies to share their work.

The final declaration is expected to include a call to recognize culture as a “global public good” that benefits all of the world’s citizens.


Saudi Arabia offers new educational visas serving students from 160 countries

Saudi Arabia offers new educational visas serving students from 160 countries
Updated 30 September 2022

Saudi Arabia offers new educational visas serving students from 160 countries

Saudi Arabia offers new educational visas serving students from 160 countries

MAKKAH: Saudi Arabia announced it had recently relaxed rules for foreign students, introducing long and short-term educational visas.

The educational visas target male and female students, researchers, and academics for higher education to attract distinguished talents and raise the quality of the education and sector, presenting the Kingdom as an attractive educational destination.

The Ministry of Education pointed out that this scheme is divided into short-term visas for educational programs of up to a year and long-term visas for programs of more than a year.

It also noted that the advantages of the visa scheme are to serve students from 160 countries, register data in nine languages, link applications with the relevant authorities, and facilitate the procedures for enrolling in universities in the Kingdom.

The holders of long and short-term educational visas are exempt from the statutory requirement related to providing a sponsor in the Kingdom.

Shoura Council member Dr. Sultana Al-Badawi told Arab News that the educational visa is one of the myriads of achievements of the Kingdom.

“It achieves one of the goals of the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 … to be an open country for everyone, whether for work, tourism or performing religious rituals,” said Al-Badawi.

She noted that any student in the world meeting the conditions for an educational visa can now apply for an one to benefit from the Kingdom’s numerous advantages.

“We will have short and long-term visas for educational purposes, dealing with various academic and research aspects, innovation, training, teaching, study, and others, enabling students to benefit from studying in universities and advanced Saudi educational institutions,” she added.

“I am certain that the coming period will witness large (numbers of) applications for educational visas from different countries given the Kingdom’s great global stature, reflected in its economy and the flexibility of its systems to achieve the requirements of a good life, on top of which are security and safety.”