RIYADH: A Saudi shopping mall was on Friday engulfed in smoke after a blaze broke out in the early hours of the morning.
Plumes of smoke could be seen billowing from the Mall of Dhahran in Alkhobar — the largest commercial market in the Eastern Province — as emergency crews battled to contain the fire.
Officials said no one was hurt in the blaze, although a number of animals were rescued from a pet store.
Lt. Col. Mohammed Al-Hammadi, spokesman for the Civil Defense, told Arab News that a Civil Defense team from Dhahran, supported by other firefighters and airborne assistance, had by midday managed to extinguish the fire.
In a statement issued on Friday, the Civil Defense said that initial investigations pointed to the blaze starting in the mall’s roof insulators before flames spread to other areas of the 220,000-square-meter shopping center.
An eyewitness said that members of a Civil Defense team plucked several pets to safety from an animal care store in the mall.
Saudi journalist Hussein Al-Falih, who lives close to the mall, said: “I hadn’t got out of the neighborhood before I saw flames and fumes coming from the mall’s building.”
He added that smoke began to gradually envelop the mall — managed by the Arabian Centers Co. — reducing visibility in the immediate area. “I saw many vehicles from the Civil Defense, and there were helicopters flying over the mall.”
Saudi deputy defense minister, Blinken affirm countries’ ‘common vision to confront Iran’s destabilizing policies’
They also discussed the latest developments in Yemen
Updated 22 May 2022
WASHINGTON: Prince Khalid bin Salman bin Abdulaziz, Saudi Arabia’s deputy defense minister, has met here with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and the two sides affirmed their countries’ common vision to confront Iran’s destabilizing policies in the region, the Saudi Press Agency reported on Sunday.
They also discussed the latest developments in Yemen, with Prince Khalid reaffirming Saudi Arabia’s aspirations for the Yemenis “to reach a comprehensive political solution that would move Yemen to peace and development.”
“During the meeting, they reviewed the strategic and historical relations between the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the United States of America and ways to strengthen them,” SPA said.
The deputy defense minister and his delegation began a series of meetings with key US officials last Tuesday, under the US-Saudi Strategic Joint Planning Committee, to review the Saudi-US partnership, and ongoing and future strategic military and defense cooperation between the two countries.
Prince Khalid had earlier met with White House National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, Under Secretary of Defense for Policy Colin Kahl, Deputy Secretary of State Wendy R. Sherman, among others.
He also met with US Special Envoy for Yemen Timothy Lenderking latest developments in Yemen.
“I affirmed to him the Saudi-led Coalition’s backing of the Yemeni Presidential Leadership Council and its supporting entities, and our aspirations for reaching a comprehensive political resolution to the crisis that will lead Yemen into peace and prosperity,” the deputy defense minister said in a tweet.
I affirmed to him the Saudi led Coalition’s backing of the Yemeni Presidential Leadership Council and its supporting entities, and our aspirations for reaching a comprehensive political resolution to the crisis that will lead Yemen into peace and prosperity.
In his meeting with Blinken, Prince Khalid noted that while the announced truce between the Coalition to Restore Legitimacy in Yemen and the Iran-backed Houthi militia remained positive to a “to a large extent”, there is an important role for the United Nations and the international community to play.
He said the UN and world organizations need “to put pressure on Houthi militias to open Taiz roads, deposit the revenues of Hodeida port and engage seriously in peace efforts to move Yemen to security, stability, construction and prosperity.”
Regarding Iran’s destabilizing activities, Prince Khalid and Blinken talked about security and diplomatic coordination “to confront Iranian threats, including dealing with Iran’s nuclear file and its program to develop ballistic missiles as well as its sponsorship of terrorism.”
The two sides also discussed various topics of common interest, mutual coordination and continuous cooperation on efforts in maintaining security, peace and stability in the region and the world.
SPA said the two sides further “reviewed developments the Kingdom is witnessing within the framework of its Vision 2030, commending the cooperation and dialogue between the two countries on the basis of mutual respect and non-interference in internal affairs.”
Prince Khalid welcomed US affirmation of the Kingdom’s support in developing its military capabilities and meeting its defense needs.
The meeting was attended by the Saudi Ambassador to the US, Princess Rima bint Bandar bin Sultan bin Abdulaziz, Saudi Ambassador to Yemen Mohammed bin Saeed Al Jaber, and a number of senior Saudi and US officials.
Return of the leopard is at the heart of plans to conserve and regenerate Saudi Arabia’s landscapes and wildlife
First for Saudi as domestic flight takes off with all-female crew
Saudi women have proved themselves in many careers that men dominated for a long time including aviation-related positions
Updated 22 May 2022
JEDDAH: Saudi low-cost airline flyadeal have announced the first domestic flight in the Kingdom with a fully female crew, most of them Saudis.
The announcement was made on the airline’s official Twitter account @flyadeal on Friday: “For the first time in Saudi aviation history! #flyadeal operated the first flight with an all-female crew, the majority of which are Saudis by the newest A320 aircraft. Flight 117, flew from #Riyadh to #Jeddah”
Saudi women have proved themselves in many careers that men dominated for a long time including aviation-related positions.
Flight 117, with a crew of seven, was co-piloted by Yara Jan, 23, who is also the youngest Saudi female pilot.
Jan told Arab News that she was extremely proud to be taking part in such a historic moment in aviation for Saudi women.
“As a Saudi woman trying to lead my country with a proud step it was a moment of pride and joy.”
Jan graduated from flight school in Florida, US, in 2019, and joined Flyadeal a year ago.
She said that being the co-pilot means assisting the pilot in many key role tasks such as navigation and completing many checklists.
Jan is aware of how important this is for young Saudi women.
“Although being a Saudi woman pilot is new, it is not impossible for our generation, especially with the backing that we are receiving from our beloved country and our respected leaders, who have supported me a lot to become the youngest female pilot in a Saudi airline. I will always be pleased to have the chance to make a positive change.”
The number of Saudi female pilots has grown recently. Three names stand out: Hanadi Zakaria Al-Hindi, the first female pilot to fly with a Saudi commercial pilot license; Rawia Al-Rifi the first to fly an Airbus A320 internationally as a civil aircraft from the UAE; and co-pilot Yasmin Al-Maimani, who was the first woman to co-pilot a commercial plane in the Kingdom.
City Walk zone a big hit among Jeddah Season visitors
The Fashion Village carries international and local brands, as well as a live graffiti station where artists can paint on the wall together
Updated 22 May 2022
JEDDAH: Jeddah Season visitors are excited for the City Walk zone, which is open with nine villages to suit all tastes and age groups: The Entry Village, Food Hall, Fashion Village, Splash, Horror Village, Jeddah Live, Adventure, Waterfall and the Anime Village.
The Entry Village and most of the City Walk are steampunk-themed.
The Food Hall offers international fare from Los Angeles-based Top Round and Italy-themed Prince of Venice Pasta and Pizza to Hong Kong cake shop Butter.
The Fashion Village carries international and local brands, as well as a live graffiti station where artists can paint on the wall together. It also features a DJ station with famous DJs playing music on a top-quality sound system for an unforgettable experience.
World-renowned artist Sara Shakeel’s work “Majlistic,” exhibiting historical Saudi culture and traditions, will also be featured at the Fashion Village.
Saudi visitor Abdullah Al-Thumani, 22, said that the zone was a completely new experience for the people of Jeddah.
“It’s a very special experience. I attended Riyadh Season, and this is really matching up to what I experienced in Riyadh,” he told Arab News.
“I liked the Fashion Village the most because they feature items you can’t find in regular stores,” he added.
Russian performer Uliana Averina said: “I came with a group from Russia, and we perform here at this festival in Jeddah. We are happy to be here and to participate in such a great event because everything here is really well done and gorgeous
“I see how happy people are here, and we like to interact with them,” she added.
The performer said she enjoyed the Saudi audience’s warm interaction.
“People here are very open, and they approach you first to interact with you. Even the kids come up to us and want to give us a high five. It’s so nice,” she said.
Splash is an aquatic village that has everything from water guns and a water drum show to rides and river rafting.
The Horror Village is for lovers of all things spooky. Brave visitors can enjoy abandoned houses, escape rooms, interactive ghost-themed exhibitions and more.
Jeddah Live takes visitors into the world of performances, with international and Arab theater shows such as “Bikhosoos Ba’ad Al-Nas” (“About Some People”), starring some of the Kingdom’s biggest television names, such as Nasser Al-Qassabi.
It also features a karaoke cube, the car and motorcycle show “Hot Wheels,” and Slime Planet for kids to enjoy.
Adventure is for adrenaline junkies, featuring a 150-meter-high hot air balloon ride, bungee jumping, a Ferris wheel and more, while the Anime Village is hosting more than 300 events, including concerts featuring Japanese bands.
The annual Jeddah Season festival aims to highlight the city’s rich heritage and culture through a total of 2,800 activities in nine zones over the event period.
Held under the slogan “Our Lovely Days,” the second Jeddah Season follows on from the success of Riyadh Season, which recorded more than 15 million visits over five months.
The festival season offers 70 interactive experiences, more than 60 recreational activities, seven Arab and two international plays, marine events, a circus, four international exhibitions and a host of other services for families.
Saudi ‘smart’ census ticks all the right boxes with online option
Official warns of fines for those who ignore ‘mandatory’ survey
Updated 22 May 2022
RIYADH: Saudi citizens and residents will be able to take part in the Kingdom’s 2022 census via their computer or smartphone following the launch of an online questionnaire.
General Authority for Statistics official spokesperson Mohammed bin Saad Al-Dakhini said that the electronic option is designed to “smooth the way” and make it easier for people to respond to the survey from May 10-25.
Al-Dakhini said that participation in the census is mandatory, and those who disrupt census work or fail to give the required information will face financial penalties.
The GASTAT spokesperson said that taking part in the census is a “national duty and a responsibility shared by society,” adding that the 2022 survey will help prepare for a better future by providing reliable data for the development of public services, including education and health.
The Kingdom’s fifth national census will provide detailed information about the population of the Kingdom, including ages, nationalities and the distribution of income across regions, and the health status of people living in cities compared with those in rural areas.
General Authority for Statistics official spokesperson Mohammed bin Saad Al-Dakhini said that participation in the census is mandatory, and those who disrupt census work or fail to give the required information will face financial penalties.
Kiosks will be provided at 29 shopping centers across the Kingdom to offer help with the census questionnaire. More than 30,000 field staff are also on standby to visit people’s homes and collect the required information.
Census participants can also complete the form and have their queries answered through the unified toll-free number 9200 20081, as well as the authority’s accounts on social media channels.
Those wanting to complete the census form electronically through their smartphones or computers can visit the online portal via https://survey.saudicensus.sa/ar
The Saudi census is conducted every 10 years by GASTAT, with the 2022 survey playing an important role in the nation’s Vision 2030 development and diversification planning.
More than 25 government agencies, including the ministries of interior, health and education, and the Saudi Authority for Data and Artificial Intelligence, are involved in the census operation.
Preliminary estimates put the Saudi population in mid-2020 at more than 35 million. The previous census processes took place in 1974, 1992, 2004, and 2010.
The most recent survey showed that the country’s population had risen to more than 27 million, with almost 7 million people in the Makkah region, the most populous of the country’s 13 administrative regions.
Many countries conduct a comprehensive census every 10 years to obtain up-to-date, accurate and detailed data about the population, including its geographical distribution, and social and economic characteristics.
Accurate data allows officials, planners and politicians to allocate budgets more effectively and develop comprehensive strategies that can help keep pace with urban development. It also aids efforts to plan for future needs based on expected population growth, contribute to development plans and provide vital public services such as education, healthcare and transport.
How Saudi Arabia can become the vanguard of sustainable tourism
An agreement with Jamaica puts resilient tourism at the heart of the industry’s post-pandemic recovery
The pandemic highlighted the vulnerability of tourism not only to pandemics but also extreme weather
Updated 22 May 2022
LONDON: Saudi Arabia is stepping up its efforts to become the vanguard of a UN pledge to develop a sustainable model of tourism after the sector’s levels of resilience were pushed to breaking point by the pandemic and new dire warnings of tourism’s environmental footprint emerged.
Addressing the UN General Assembly on May 6, Saudi Arabia’s Minister of Tourism Ahmed Al-Khateeb said lessons about tourism’s vulnerability to sudden, unexpected events must be taken from the pandemic — which cost the sector 62 million jobs worldwide — and changes made.
“COVID-19 highlighted the vulnerability of the sector, not only to pandemics but also to the effects of extreme weather, so addressing climate change must be at the heart of building a more resilient tourism, and there is no resilience without sustainability,” he said.
“We must work collaboratively, putting sustainable, resilient tourism at the heart of inclusive recovery. Only by doing these things together will we ensure better and more resilient futures for the millions around the world reliant on tourism.”
The UN’s World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) welcomed the Saudi efforts, noting that the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 has already provided the blueprint for a “transformative and deeply ambitious” economic strategy, and could do the same for tourism.
A spokesperson for the UNWTO told Arab News: “This ambitious plan aims to reshape the social and cultural landscape, accelerating growth through strategic investment, new industries and leadership.
“It is an opportunity to bring Saudi Arabia’s heritage, culture and hospitality to the world; and deliver on climate and sustainability goals. Properly managed, tourism can play a key role in achieving this vision.”
Scientists have said CO2 emissions from tourism will increase by 25 percent by 2030 compared to 2016 levels, which if left unaddressed could be a bullet for the sector as visitors begin to factor in the impact, and morality, of climate change on their destination choices.
Signaling the Kingdom’s intent to become the shepherd to sustainability, Al-Khateeb and his Jamaican counterpart, Edmund Bartlett, signed earlier this month a memorandum of understanding to collaborate on developing sustainable and resilient tourism between the two countries.
Part of the agreement also included determination to not only embrace the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development but to lay out a blueprint that can be rolled out globally for a sustainable model of tourism.
Although firm details on the blueprint have yet to emerge, the UNWTO spokesperson noted that policymakers are “best placed” to play a central role so long as their policies include aims to reduce environmental impacts of consumption and production patterns.
“National tourism planning is a well-established practice among national authorities with national tourism policies covering on average a time frame of 10 years and addressing the same thematic areas across regions,” the spokesperson added.
“Aspects such as human resource development, investment, marketing and promotion, employment, product development and diversification have been factored into the policies as these are relevant aspects for the sustainable economic development of tourism.”
Jonathon Day, associate professor and Marriott School of Hospitality and Tourism Management graduate program director, applauded the Kingdom’s “ambition and commitment,” believing it could become a leader in sustainable development.
“Tourism developed sustainably has the potential to contribute substantially to sustainability challenges faced by Saudi Arabia and the world, and I’m sure that through tourism Saudi Arabia can join the destinations leading in sustainable development,” Day told Arab News.
“The Kingdom has the resources to invest in infrastructure to support sustainability goals and knows that tourism that doesn’t adopt the principles of sustainability can make sustainability issues worse. It requires commitment to achieve positive outcomes.”
Day is not alone in seeing Saudi Arabia’s financial resources as key in any effort it may make to lead the way in green tourism, with Prof. Willy Legrand of the International University of Applied Sciences believing it “would translate” in attracting talent and developing policy.
“Not only this, the resources allow the country to develop and implement state of the art (existing) solutions as well as being a pipeline for the testing of new solutions to tackle some of the greater tourism challenges,” Legrand told Arab News.
Architect and sustainable tourism consultant Amine Ahlafi said that while Saudi Arabia had only recently opened for tourism more broadly, it was important to remember it had a rich history of religious tourism, and this was something it could learn from.
Anywhere from 2.5 million to 9 million pilgrims travel to the Kingdom each year, Ahlafi told Arab News that this results in around 15 million plastic cups being used to cater to the water needs of everyone traveling.
“You can of course use technology to recycle all the disposable cups, but sustainable tourism should be about finding ways to raise awareness so that we don’t have to rely on technology,” he said.
“As for developing new tourism, I think they should promote the desert potential of tourism as they can market it as a very interesting place for sustainable tourism — which does not mean they have to reduce the quality.
“We can do luxury combined with sustainability and not in a greenwashing way with the design of luxury desert camps that optimize the natural resources, the sun and the wind for energy.”
Ahlafi said a blueprint would need to be predicated on pushing technology and the habitat you find yourself in. “Technology is the tool, not the solution, the solution is building to suit the environment, not trying to have the environment suit you.”
Legrand said the Kingdom’s capacity to achieve its aims would depend on a “declaration of transparency” in which it not only set out its goals but communicated actions undertaken and results achieved.
Day said it was also important to construct the blueprint not as a series of steps that would work for every country but rather to realize it as a list of questions that all countries could ask of themselves.
“Sustainability and sustainable tourism are ‘wicked problems,’ which means there are many things that need to be done, and it requires many organizations and parts of government to work to achieve common goals,” Day said.
“And while there are a common set of tasks, each destination will have different priorities. So, the questions may be the same — but the answers may be different. For instance, Saudi Arabia probably will focus on water conservation more than some destinations.”
Legrand agreed that the Kingdom’s ability to produce a global blueprint would depend on its ability to recognize that there would be “no one size fits all” approach, but rather a series of questions and inclusion of all stakeholders in the process.
He suggested the questions could include: What are hoteliers’ views on sustainability? Are the restaurateurs capitalizing on local agriculture? Are local communities involved? What are the challenges for these different actors? Are the destination marketers aware?
But he also noted that there were “clear, key topics” that would need to be addressed in a global, universalized manner, not least of which is the elephant in the room: Long-haul air travel.
“Long-haul travel remains a major challenge on the emission front and will remain so for the years to come, although airlines are making progress both in terms of efficiencies and fuel technologies,” he said.
“Transparency at the booking stage is critical to make the right decisions about a trip, here Travalyst and its many members are making progress in providing travelers with that information, such as the carbon footprint of specific airline routes, for example.”
Both Day and Legrand agreed that for Saudi Arabia to meet its ambitions as the vanguard in a push towards sustainable tourism, the country would need to hang its efforts around the UN’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals for industry, not least “collaboration and cooperation.”
They face many challenges, foremost of which is improving citizens’ trust in state institutions.
Return of the leopard is at the heart of plans to conserve and regenerate Saudi Arabia’s landscapes and wildlife