Al-Ahsa steals the spotlight with creation of new authority

Al-Ahsa steals the spotlight with creation of new authority
Investment opportunities in the city increased by 53 percent in 2021, with 362 available options on the ministry’s online portal. (Supplied)
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Updated 07 August 2022

Al-Ahsa steals the spotlight with creation of new authority

Al-Ahsa steals the spotlight with creation of new authority
  • The world’s largest date palm oasis is generating a new era of prosperity

RIYADH: Al-Ahsa, the world’s largest date palm oasis, is generating a new era of prosperity following the launch of a new development authority.

On May 12, the Kingdom formed the board of directors for the Al-Ahsa Development Authority, headed by Prince Ahmed bin Fahd bin Salman, deputy governor of the Eastern Province.

The move aims to enhance the governorate’s potential while helping develop the tourism, heritage and cultural aspects of Al-Ahsa.

The authority will create a balanced and sustainable development environment that supports the governorate’s economy and promotes development, modernization and diversity, according to the state press agency.

“The decision reflects the leadership’s keenness to invest in the comparative advantage of Al-Ahsa and to utilize it in economic projects that will align with Vision 2030,” Ibraheem Alshekmubarak, secretary-general at Al-Ahsa Chamber of Commerce, said in an exclusive interview with Arab News.




Ibraheem Alshekmubarak

The city of 1.3 million people was included in the UNESCO Creative Cities Network in 2018.

UNESCO said: “The city has an ancient tradition of handicrafts, considered cultural and social practices passed on from generation to generation.

“Around 50 expressions of crafts and folk art have remained throughout the city’s history and bear witness to Al-Ahsa’s scenic wealth, including textiles from palm trees, pottery, weaving and joinery.”

Boosting tourism

The governorate hosts 36 weekly open markets and stages several festivals a year.

“When we talk about tourism in Al-Ahsa, we are talking about agricultural, heritage and natural tourism,” Alshekmubarak said.

In February 2022, the Ministry of Tourism launched a high-profile investment conference in the city called Destination Tomorrow.
The conference showcased Saudi destinations to local investors and international operators.

“Post pandemic, people are a little bit more conservative internationally regarding cross-border investment. But we are proving to be a destination attracting quite a decent amount of interest,” Mahmoud Abdulhadi, Saudi Arabia’s deputy minister for investment attraction, told Arab News.

The Kingdom seeks to generate 10 percent of the gross domestic product from the tourism sector and to attract over 100 million visitors by the end of this decade, creating an additional 1 million jobs in the sector.

“We want to make the sector stand on its own two feet. So we are keen on large private sector investment to come in, even as we are mindful that the whole sector is built on small and medium enterprises,” added Abdulhadi.

The city’s chamber of commerce led several initiatives to support SMEs, monitoring the sectors most affected by the pandemic to keep them formulating plans and drawing strategies that help them overcome the damage.

“Al-Ahsa Chamber organized a set of development initiatives and advisory services provided to entrepreneurs through the Prince Ahmed bin Fahd bin Salman Center for Business Development,” Alshekmubarak added.

Airport expansion

Al-Ahsa airport’s capacity will more than double the expectations of fast regional growth, Fahad Alharbi, the CEO of Dammam Airports Co., said in an earlier interview with Arab News.

The city’s airport has a capacity of around 400,000 passengers but aspires to reach 1 million, Alharbi added.

Saudi Aramco mainly uses the facility, but before the pandemic struck, there was commercial activity from two or three local destinations and another two or three international sites.

“With the economic and tourism boom expected in Al-Ahsa, the development of Al-Ahsa International Airport is the most in need of projects at present,” said Alshekmubarak.

Business destination




Essam Al-Mulla

The city is already growing in businesses as the Ministry of Municipal Rural Affairs and Housing announced in June that the investment opportunities in the city increased by 53 percent in 2021, with 362 available options on its online portal.

The total value of these investments exceeded SR275 million, Essam Al-Mulla, the mayor of Al-Ahsa, told Arab News.

The available opportunities in the portal in 2022 already reached 112 investments, said the Saudi Minister of Municipal Rural Affairs and Housing Majid Al-Hogail, according to the Saudi Press Agency.


Saudi Arabia condemns Iranian attack on Kurdish region in Iraq

Saudi Arabia condemns Iranian attack on Kurdish region in Iraq
Updated 49 min 46 sec ago

Saudi Arabia condemns Iranian attack on Kurdish region in Iraq

Saudi Arabia condemns Iranian attack on Kurdish region in Iraq

DUBAI: Saudi Arabia on Thursday has strongly condemned the Iranian attacks on the Kurdish region of northern Iraq.
Iran’s Revolutionary Guards said they had fired missiles and drones at militant targets in several Kurdish sites, killing over a dozen people.
“The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has expressed the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia’s strong condemnation of the Iranian attacks on Kurdistan Region of the Republic of Iraq, killing and wounding a number of innocent people,” the Kingdom’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement.
“The Ministry of Foreign Affairs reiterated its total rejection of all attacks that threaten the security and stability of Iraq, stressing the importance of the international community standing up against all Iranian violations that contradict international laws, charters and norms,” the statement read.


The Kingdom also expressed its deepest sympathy and condolences to the government and people of Iraq.
Thirteen people were killed and 58 wounded in the attacks near Irbil and Sulaimaniya in Iraqi Kurdistan, Iraq’s state news agency said, citing its counter-terrorism service in Kurdistan.
Iran’s elite military and security force said they would continue targeting what it called terrorists in the region.


Saudi Arabia’s FM meets Philippines’ Marcos Jr. in Manila 

Saudi Arabia’s FM meets Philippines’ Marcos Jr. in Manila 
Updated 38 min 40 sec ago

Saudi Arabia’s FM meets Philippines’ Marcos Jr. in Manila 

Saudi Arabia’s FM meets Philippines’ Marcos Jr. in Manila 

DUBAI: Saudi Arabia’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Prince Faisal bin Farhan met with the Philippines’ President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. in Manila, the Saudi Press Agency (SPA) reported on Thursday. 
The two discussed bilateral ties and friendly relations between the two countries, as well as joint cooperation in various fields, according to SPA. 
Prince Faisal conveyed King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s greetings to the Philippines’ president. 
The reception was also attended by Hisham Al-Qahtani, the Kingdom’s Ambassador to the Philippines, and Abdulrahman Al-Daoud, Director-General of the Minister of Foreign Affairs office.


Westlife dazzles AlUla with sparkling performance

Westlife dazzles AlUla with sparkling performance
Updated 29 September 2022

Westlife dazzles AlUla with sparkling performance

Westlife dazzles AlUla with sparkling performance
  • Maraya’s stunning mirror hall could not contain fan joy
  • Irish band played mix of old favorites and new songs

ALULA: Maraya’s stunning mirror concert hall here was the scene of wild excitement and lump-in-the-throat nostalgia on Wednesday when Westlife performed for what appeared to be some of their most dedicated fans from Saudi Arabia and other parts of the world.

The Irish boy band had the crowd cheering even before they came on stage in AlUla for their “Wild Dreams Tour.” The audience erupted when the four singers eventually emerged to play their most recent hit “Starlight,” with the fans then singing every line in unison.

It was impossible to keep them in their seats. And when the singers shouted “jump,” they were on their feet.

The vocalists Shane Filan, Mark Feehily, Kian Egan, and Nicky Byrne have been through thick and thin. In 2012 they disbanded temporarily, only to come back bigger and stronger in 2018.

Diana Philander from Cape Town said she has been following them since a teenager. “I was 17 back then and I’m 40 now, so this is one of my favorites. I have been practicing the songs for the whole week and I loved every minute of it.”

Westlife gave fans a chance to snap pictures of them, by posing in all direction. (AN photo by Abdulrahman Binshalhoub)

“Thank you to the Saudi government for making all of this possible, there is just one word I can say and that is, it was just superb.”

The concert was a real treat for fans, with the band playing some of their biggest hits.

Before performing the very first song of their career, “Swear it Again,” Egan stepped forward and said: “Can you believe it? This song came out when we were little boys.”

Later Filan said: “We have played in a lot of places in the world, but honestly Maraya might be the coolest venue we have ever played in.”

“Everything was so beautiful, the ride here was absolutely stunning, and of course, you guys are so beautiful,” Filan said pointing toward the audience. “We have a beautiful family and we have always considered our fans as a part of this family, so thank you for being amazing.”

They also played “When you’re looking like that,” “Money, Money, Money” (originally sung by ABBA), and “Flying Without Wings.”

With fans calling for more, the band returned after briefly walking off the stage and performed “Hello My love” and several other songs.

Jessan Domingo Sanson from the Philippines said she traveled all the way from Dhahran to see the stars. “I have been a fan since I was in sixth grade, and I am now 34 years old.”

The band bid their fans a bittersweet good bye. (AN photo by Abdulrahman Binshalhoub)

Sanson was so excited she could barely form coherent sentences, instead expressing herself with shrieks and gestures. Sitting in the front row, she was over the moon because the band members repeatedly moved forward to wave and make heart signs to her and the other audience members.

“I am just glad that it was their first time here in Saudi Arabia, and I didn’t miss a chance to see them,” she said.

Having been together on the road for 23 years, the singers seemed clearly comfortable on stage, bantering and laughing while performing. They applauded each other when hitting particularly expressive and beautiful notes.

Thomas Wallace Thompson, a Scot who lives in AlUla, said: “It was amazing, a boy band from the 90s was here, all the girls were screaming. I am a man who is nearly 60 years old and still found everything extremely enjoyable. I have so many friends who are fans of Westlife and they are so jealous of me.”

Aisha Ahmed, a Saudi fan who was present at the concert with her husband, said: “The band kept saying that they are taking us through their songs, but it really felt like I went back in time, suddenly I was 13 again and I was listening to them in my bedroom, suddenly I was back with my high school friends dancing with our hairbrushes to their songs.”

Her voice wavered: “I am so emotional right now.”


KSRelief ramps up aid efforts in Pakistan, Yemen, Sudan

KSRelief ramps up aid efforts in Pakistan, Yemen, Sudan
Updated 29 September 2022

KSRelief ramps up aid efforts in Pakistan, Yemen, Sudan

KSRelief ramps up aid efforts in Pakistan, Yemen, Sudan

RIYADH: The King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Center (KSRelief) ramped up its aid efforts in Pakistan, Yemen and Sudan.
The KSRelief teams continued to distribute various relief aid to people in flood-hit Pakistan, the Saudi Press Agency (SPA) reported.
About 2,988 food baskets were distributed on Monday in Sindh and Punjab provinces, benefiting 20,916 people, according to SPA.
In Yemen, with the support of KSRelief, the Artificial Limbs Center project continued offering its medical services to Yemenis who lost their limbs.
The center offered 1,613 services to 551 Yemeni patients last month, SPA reported.
The services included manufacturing and rehabilitating artificial limbs for 250 patients, including the delivery of, measuring, and maintenance of limbs, as well as providing physical therapy sessions and specialized consultations to 301 people.
Meanwhile in Sudan, KSRelief distributed 13 tons and 500 kilograms of food baskets in the River Nile State to 1,340 people, according to SPA.


Saudi Arabia reports 132 new COVID-19 cases, 3 deaths

Saudi Arabia reports 132 new COVID-19 cases, 3 deaths
Updated 28 September 2022

Saudi Arabia reports 132 new COVID-19 cases, 3 deaths

Saudi Arabia reports 132 new COVID-19 cases, 3 deaths

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia reported 132 new cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday, according to the Ministry of Health. As a result, the total number of cases in the Kingdom over the course of the pandemic grew to 816,262.

The authorities also confirmed three new COVID-19-related deaths, raising the total number of fatalities to 9,350.

Of the new infections, 48 were recorded in Riyadh and 21 in Jeddah. Several other cities recorded fewer than 10 new cases each.

The ministry also announced that 100 patients had recovered from COVID-19, bringing the total number of recoveries in the Kingdom over the course of the pandemic to 803,452.

It said that 3,460 COVID-19 cases were still active, adding that 7,302 PCR tests were conducted in the past 24 hours, bringing the total number to more than 44.3 million.

The ministry said that of the current cases, 33 were in critical condition.

More than 68.5 million COVID-19 vaccine doses have been administered since the Kingdom’s immunization campaign began, with over 25.4 million people fully vaccinated.