In Philby’s footsteps: Epic journey brings a Saudi-British family together
Reem told Arab News: “Meeting the UK side of the family is all thanks to Mark Evans. Of course, we always knew about each other, but it just never happened that we met”
Updated 27 January 2023
RIYADH: Saudi explorer Reem Philby likes to spend her vacations outdoors, climbing peaks such as Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania, or trekking through Peru, South Africa or Norway.
Now the adventurous 42-year-old is trekking across the Arabian Peninsula, following in her grandfather’s footsteps on an expedition seeking to keep his legacy alive.
Reem is the granddaughter of the renowned British explorer and Arabist Harry St. John Philby, who did much to document the history of what is now known as Saudi Arabia through his travels across the region before his death in 1960.
In 1917, Philby was sent to Arabia on an assignment to forge links with Ibn Saud, the leader who later reigned as Saudi Arabia’s first king from 1932 until his death in 1953.
At the time, the British explorer was married to Dora Johnston, and had four children, Kim, Diana, Helena and Patricia.
He later took on the name Abdullah and married Saudi national Rozy Al-Abdul Aziz, with whom he had four boys, Fahad, Sultan, Faris and Khaled.
His British and Saudi descendants had never met until the official launch of a recent 1,300 km expedition — initiated by British explorer Mark Evans under the title Heart of Arabia — which loosely followed Philby’s 1917 journey.
In September, the families finally united at the launch send-off organized by the Royal Geographical Society in London.
(My grandfather) chose this place to be his home. He loved it and spent his life here, and it’s amazing that he is still remembered.
Reem Philby, Saudi explorer
They just clicked, according to his granddaughter.
Reem told Arab News: “Meeting the UK side of the family is all thanks to Mark Evans. Of course, we always knew about each other, but it just never happened that we met.”
Reem works at King Abdullah University of Science and Technology, which is supporting one of the research projects covered in the expedition.
Mike Engelbach, the son of Philby’s youngest daughter Helena, became involved with the Heart of Arabia project in 2018, when he was approached by Evans through St. Anthony’s College Oxford.
Evans had just completed a trek across the Empty Quarter in honor of Bertram Thomas, the first documented Westerner to make the journey.
Philby and Thomas had connected themselves, but not in such a joyous manner.
• In 1917, Philby was sent to Arabia on an assignment to forge links with Ibn Saud, the leader who later reigned as Saudi Arabia’s first king from 1932 until his death in 1953.
• Reem is the granddaughter of the renowned British explorer and Arabist Harry St. John Philby, who did much to document the history of what is now known as Saudi Arabia through his travels across the region before his death in 1960.
On hearing of Thomas’ triumph, Philby sent him a postcard congratulating him on the epic feat. Privately, however, Philby was disappointed and envious of an achievement he himself wished to make, his journals reveal.
Now the recent launch of the Philby Arabia Fund is encouraging future generations to conduct field research within Saudi Arabia.
When Philby’s descendants speak of his character, they remember a dignified figure with a long beard and serious demeanor. However, he was a grandfather in every sense.
“With us as children, he was very indulgent and would take us on treats,” Englebach told Arab News. “But he would also get involved with our family squabbles. He didn’t just sit aside from it. He took a keen interest in what we as young children were all doing.”
This month, Englebach and his cousin Mandy made their own journey from the UK to Riyadh to see off the expedition team on the second leg of its journey.
“I’ve never seen so many Philbys in the same room,” Reem said. “It was a great feeling. I grew up in Saudi where all the families are big, a lot of cousins, and it’s so nice to have that feeling. It was definitely one of the biggest gains of the expedition on a personal level.”
Englebach said: “Just the meeting straight away, we were very charmed, I think on both sides, by meeting each other and knowing that we had this man who we’re all descended from. We’ve been with all the family while we’ve been here (in Saudi Arabia) for the first time, and also met my uncle, aunt and the other cousins.”
The relationship between Saudi Arabia and the UK goes back decades, and the Heart of Arabia expedition has solidified the potential for collaborative cultural growth and exploration.
“(My grandfather) chose this place to be his home. He loved it and spent his life here, and it’s amazing that he is still remembered. To be in the desert in the middle of nowhere and we see a place where he stopped and remember him after 100 years is a very special feeling,” Reem said.
Saudi Arabia top of women’s health list for Arab countries, ranks ahead of UK
Saudi women are now leading in lots of fields thanks to our government which has been continuously encouraging and supporting us to go ahead at national and international levels
Updated 27 January 2023
RIYADH: Saudi Arabia has ranked as the top Arab country for women’s health, being placed ahead of the UK on a global list.
According to the recently released Hologic Global Women’s Health Index’s 2021 report, the Kingdom and the UAE were positioned 28th and 35th, respectively, the highest rankings for nations in the Arab world.
Dr. Mona Salahuddin Al-Munajjed, a prominent sociologist at the forefront of those influencing women’s affairs in Saudi Arabia, told Arab News: “I am not surprised by these new findings. On the contrary, I am happy by the great results.
“I am proud that my country has made incredible positive developments in education, health, and other fields for both men and women.
Saudi women are now leading in lots of fields thanks to our government which has been continuously encouraging and supporting us to go ahead at national and international levels. This means we are going in the right direction in fulfilling our Saudi Vision 2030.
Dr. Mona Salahuddin Al-Munajjed, Sociologist
“Saudi women are now leading in lots of fields thanks to our government which has been continuously encouraging and supporting us to go ahead at national and international levels. This means we are going in the right direction in fulfilling our Saudi Vision 2030,” she said.
Lebanon and Turkey held some of the lowest scores, named in the bottom 10 of the 122 countries listed at 118th and 119th, respectively.
The UK was ranked two positions behind Saudi Arabia at 30th.
The medical technology company’s global report struck a chord in the UK, where the cash-strapped National Health Service is battling staff shortages and patient-treatment backlogs. Ambulance workers recently held their biggest strike and junior doctors have voted for industrial action.
The US came in 23rd in the index behind Germany, New Zealand, and Singapore but ahead of France. Taiwan and Latvia scored the highest and Afghanistan the lowest in the global index.
The health survey showed a decline in women’s ability to meet their basic needs as well as record levels of stress, worry, and anger.
The UK dropped three points in the latest index, ranking on a par with Poland, Slovenia, and Kosovo, besides Kazakhstan. It was among the fastest-declining countries for emotional health, according to the report.
The US remained an exception because higher health spending did not translate into better outcomes, said the report.
The findings were based on interviews with almost 127,000 women and men, with questions encompassing preventive care, emotional health, opinions of health and safety, and basic needs.
Hologic Inc. and partner Gallup interviewed women to rate multiple measures, from mental health to preventive care.
The purpose of the global index is to identify critical gaps in what the world understands about the health and well-being of women and girls, to eventually find solutions.
Saudi Arabia signs deals to boost fight against diabetes
Under its deal, Boehringer Ingelheim will increase the manufacture of medicine used to treat type 2 diabetes and diagnose rare diseases in Saudi Arabia
Updated 27 January 2023
RIYADH: Saudi Arabia has signed two deals to improve the treatment and prevention of diabetes.
Memorandums of understanding were agreed with German pharmaceutical firm Boehringer Ingelheim and the Danish healthcare company Novo Nordisk at the Riyadh Global Medical Biotechnology Summit earlier this week.
They aim to boost cooperation with the biotech and pharmaceutical sector, localize manufacturing, raise awareness and establish research centers in the Kingdom.
Under its deal, Boehringer Ingelheim will increase the manufacture of medicine used to treat type 2 diabetes and diagnose rare diseases in the Kingdom.
Novo Nordisk Saudi Arabia's deal with King Abdullah University of Science and Technology will help develop awareness of metabolic disorders, obesity and diabetes.
The agreements were negotiated by the Ministry of Investment, and signed in the presence of Minister of Investment Khalid bin Abdulaziz Al-Faleh. The health summit was organized by the Ministry of National Guard Health Affairs.
“Aligning with the events and activities of the organization, Saudi Design Festival has started discussions with Hicham Lahlou, special envoy and regional advisor to the Middle East and North Africa of WDO,” it said
Updated 27 January 2023
RIYADH: The second Saudi Design Festival concluded in the Kingdom’s capital on January 23 — but organizers will push their work beyond that date and the Kingdom’s borders.
SDF is now an official member of World Design Weeks, where it will work alongside international counterparts to develop cross-event collaborations.
It said it plans to participate at the World Design Summit, set to take place in Tokyo in October.
The SDF team, which started Saudi Design Week nearly a decade ago, has also announced plans to become international and team up with the French embassy in Riyadh, the CY School of Design and France Design Week.
The international counterparts were present during the SDF event in Riyadh, where initial commitments were solidified to create a long-term partnership and expand their cooperation.
SDF said in a statement that it was “proud of its inclusion as one of the first members from the Gulf into the World Design Organization.
“Aligning with the events and activities of the organization, Saudi Design Festival has started discussions with Hicham Lahlou, special envoy and regional advisor to the Middle East and North Africa of WDO,” it said.
“We are excited to explore the opportunities for mutual collaboration and design promotion through SDF, not just in Saudi Arabia but the whole Gulf region. Now, more than ever, the design presents a common tool and ground for nations to find meaningful solutions together to address the global challenges we all face as humanity.”
The agreement between Basma Bouzo, the CEO of SDF, and Lahlou included discussions on incorporating WDO events and objectives in Riyadh and beyond.
Building on the continuous support the festival has received from the Embassy of France in Riyadh, SDF has formally entered into talks with the cultural mission and Dominique Sciamma, Dean of the CY School of Design, President of APCI-Promotion du design, and France Design Week.
The multi-partnership will focus on developing design education programs and joint-initiatives.
Lahlou and Sciamma were also part of the festival’s design forum. Lahlou gave the audience insights into the value of international organizations and creating a global community, while Sciamma spoke of design education.
For more information, visit the Saudi Design Festival website and their social media channels.
Saudi NCNP to establish social business accelerators
“We seek, in partnership with nonprofit sector organizations, to establish and activate social business incubators and accelerators in all regions of the Kingdom,” Ahmed Al-Suwailem, the center’s CEO, told Arab News
Updated 27 January 2023
RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s National Center for the Non-Profit Sector is seeking to invest in young talent by encouraging social innovation.
“We seek, in partnership with nonprofit sector organizations, to establish and activate social business incubators and accelerators in all regions of the Kingdom,” Ahmed Al-Suwailem, the center’s CEO, told Arab News.
“Investing in young national competencies has several aspects, including attracting young competencies to fund their nonprofit organizations, volunteering their time, knowledge and experience, donating their money, or joining nonprofit organizations, all of which contribute to community development and youth service,” he added.
Al-Suwailem said that the center is working to invest in youth competencies by encouraging social innovation.
Investing in young national competencies has several aspects, including attracting young competencies to fund their nonprofit organizations, volunteering their time, knowledge and experience, donating their money, or joining nonprofit organizations, all of which contribute to community development and youth service.
Ahmed Al-Suwailem, CEO of National Center for the Non-Profit Sector
The third edition of the Youth Organizations Forum will be held Riyadh on Feb. 18, 2023 under the theme “Empowering Youth Organizations ... Developing Policies and Fostering Innovation.”
Young people, who make up 70 percent of the Saudi population, “are our best bet in rooting the culture of nonprofit business in society, and they will help us achieve what we aspire to serve our Kingdom,” he said.
The Saudi government is paying special attention to youth, Al-Suwailem said.
He added that Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman also paid special attention to the nonprofit sector by including it among the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 targets.
Al-Suwailem cited the Mohammed bin Salman Foundation (Misk) as an example, which directs its work in the service of young people, assists in the rehabilitation of national leaders, and encourages them to establish nonprofit youth organizations.
In addition, the establishment of Prince Mohammed bin Salman Non-Profit City, the first development of its kind in the world, contributes to supporting the nonprofit sector as a home of creativity and incubator of young talent.
Al-Suwailem said that young national competencies have the necessary energy and skills to develop the nonprofit sector, harnessing it to achieve national targets.
He hopes to see more youth in the sector and its organizations.
“The nonprofit sector is a privileged place for the career path of young people, who make up the largest proportion of workers and beneficiaries of the sector.”
Al-Suwailem said that the nonprofit sector is a major contributor to reaching a target of 1 million volunteers by 2030.
“We look forward to having a diversity of volunteer contributions, volunteering in councils and departments, professional, skillful, or general volunteering in its multiple fields. We have seen the number of volunteers reach 658,000 with an economic return in the Kingdom in 2022 of over SR923 million ($246 million),” he said.
The nonprofit sector’s importance lies in the fact that it constitutes a system of civil activities, voluntary services, and nongovernmental organizations that are not intended for profit. The revenues remain in the establishment and increase its growth, development and quality of its services, or go to members of society, he said.
Al-Suwailem said that the sector is one of the pillars of development in partnership with the public and private sectors so that they all work in supporting the national development process.
“It gains importance from the targets planned to be achieved within Vision 2030. The nonprofit sector is responsible for contributing 5 percent to gross domestic product by 2030,” he said.