ABHA: Asir Gov. Prince Turki bin Talal bin Abdulaziz, who also heads the region’s development authority, sponsored the launch of the Aseer Investment Forum at King Khalid University in Al-Qaraa on Saturday.
The ceremony saw the participation of Investment Minister Khalid Al-Falih and Tourism Minister Ahmed Al-Khateeb, along with Secretary-General of the World Tourism Organization Zurab Pololikashvili.
In his opening speech, Prince Turki said: “The Asir region is of great interest to the wise leadership and benefits from its continuous support to promote all of the developmental projects and underline its strong points and uniqueness in all its fields. The forum was held after the region’s infrastructural development was completed and the economic studies, which will provide accurate information regarding the investment opportunities, were conducted.
“The forum seeks to achieve the national strategic investment goals by attracting investments to the promising sectors, namely tourism, agriculture and sports. These sectors would, in their turn, contribute to the achievement of the objectives of Asir’s development strategy, stimulate local and foreign direct investments and turn the region into a global tourist destination all year round, while also expanding the investment radius to cover all of the region’s provinces, characterized by the diversity of their environments,” he added.
Al-Khateeb stressed the leadership’s keenness to develop the Kingdom’s tourism sector, utilize the attraction elements and benefit from available opportunities by raising the sector’s contribution to the Kingdom’s gross domestic product from 3 to 10 percent. “The launch of Asir’s strategy has helped the ministry implement several of its initiatives and projects, which are aimed at developing the tourism sector as well as locally and internationally promoting the region’s tourism sector,” he said.
“The Kingdom has allocated SR450 million ($119.7 million) to train 100,000 young Saudi men and women with the aim of providing tourism facilities with trained employees. More than 70,000 young men and women have received the necessary training, including 7,000 who were sent abroad to be trained according to international standards,” he added.
Al-Falih said that “the ministry is working to support economic projects in Asir and encourage businessmen to establish services and tourism projects in order to develop the region and stimulate investments through the privatization and partnership system in place between the private and public sectors.
“The ministry is also keen to receive suggestions, listen to the investors and work on resolving all the difficulties they might face,” he added, lauding Asir’s strategy for “what it has achieved in terms of establishing an investor-attracting environment, inviting the investors and providing them with all the information and data that would help them set the region’s investment compass.”
Pololikashvili commended the Kingdom for “the qualitative leaps it has achieved when it comes to tourism, developing tourist destinations and facilitating the required procedures to visit the country,” recognizing how rich Saudi Arabia’s various regions are “in terms of natural elements and environmental diversity, which support its aim of becoming a global tourist destination.”
Harsh climates make the kindest people, says Heart of Arabia expedition leader from UK
Evans has lived in the region for over 25 years, and is head of Outward Bound Oman, an experiential learning organization dedicated to developing outdoor skills, the first of its kind in the Arab region
Updated 38 min 32 sec ago
RIYADH: At first thought the freezing Arctic and scorching Arabian desert would seem to have little in common, but according to British explorer Mark Evans, their similarities lie in the people who live there.
It has been only a few days since Evans completed the Heart of Arabia expedition across the Empty Quarter of Saudi Arabia, a journey taken by the great explorer and writer Harry St. John Philby in 1917. Philby greatly contributed to the documentation of the region and felt so at home that he converted to Islam and named himself Abdullah.
The team of four, including Philby’s granddaughter Reem Philby, photographer Ana-Maria Pavalache, and regional expert Alan Morrissey, was led by Evans from the Eastern Province of Saudi Arabia to the west in a 1,300 km journey that ended on Jan. 30.
Every day, Evans and Reem would set off at sunrise, walking or sometimes mounted on camels, leaving the vehicles to catch up later in the day as they followed Philby’s route. Through Philby’s photographic documentation and detailed journals in the early 1900s, the group was able to pinpoint the exact locations almost 105 years later.
Evans has lived in the region for over 25 years, and is head of Outward Bound Oman, an experiential learning organization dedicated to developing outdoor skills, the first of its kind in the Arab region.
Before traveling around the Middle East, he lived a neo-nomadic lifestyle, honoring the beauty of uninhabited places through his travels, which included crossing Greenland’s ice sheet, and hunting for evidence of William Edward Parry’s 1820 Artic expedition on Melville Island.
Most journeys are spent in isolation, far away from the chaos and daily demands of the world, giving explorers a great opportunity for reflection and a chance to focus on the research at hand. These meaningful expeditions have allowed Evans to reframe the notion of isolation.
“I really like the word serenity because I find great peace and contentment in the desert. One of the best parts of the day is the first half an hour when I get into my sleeping bag and I just put my head on my pillow and look at the stars above that are just unbelievable,” he said. He said that he prefers to sleep on the sand rather than in a tent.
Having spent a whole year in the Arctic, including four months of total darkness with temperatures as low as minus 37 C, two weeks in the Saudi desert are relatively straightforward for Evans.
Growing up in the British countryside, Evans’ exploring instincts were honed at an early age.
“I grew up in a time where you had to create your own entertainment. I was already very content in silent places and quiet places close to nature. That was my childhood. I was less comfortable going into noisy restaurants and discotheques,” he said.
I feel that my role in life is to try to inspire others and to give other people the opportunity that I had when I was a young person, to shape their own lives and make a positive difference to society.
Mark Evans, British explorer
Aged 17, he had the chance to join a six-week expedition to northern Norway through an educational charity in London. He shared a tent with two strangers in a place where the sun never set.
“I just fell in love with a life that was outside of my small rural life back in Britain,” Evans said.
That period set him off on a flurry of expeditions in the years to come. He spent 10 years in the Arctic, giving back to the youth and future generations in the same way the charity invested in him at an early age.
“It was a chance for me to step up and invest a bit of my time to support society,” he said.
• The Heart of Arabia expedition that follows in Abdullah Philby’s footsteps included his granddaughter Reem Philby, photographer Ana-Maria Pavalache, regional expert Alan Morrissey, and seasoned explorer Mark Evans who led the group from the Eastern Province of Saudi Arabia to the west in a 1,300 km journey that ended on Jan. 30.
• Since the Heart of Arabia expedition began, the expedition’s official podcast has garnered nearly 3,000 downloads in 53 countries around the world, along with steady growth in followers across social media platforms. Listeners can follow the group’s documentation of everyday life in the Kingdom’s deserts.
But while his travels and philanthropic ventures were a great way to see the world, they paid far from a livable wage, which led him to become an educator.
Although Evans claims he went into teaching “for the wrong reasons,” it brought him to the Middle East, initially to Bahrain, then for four years at the British School in Riyadh, and later Oman.
Initially, he thought he would not particularly enjoy the region, but he quickly fell in love with the culture, heritage, and hospitality of the people.
“There’s a real connection between those two places in my life. Arctic and Arabia both start with a letter ‘A,’ and the one thing they have in common is that people who live in the Arctic and who live in Arabia live on the extremes of human comfort.
“One lives in extreme cold, one lives in extreme heat. As (explorer and writer) Wilfred ‘Mubarak bin Landan’ Thesiger said: ‘The harder the life, the finer the person.’”
During winter nights, the Arctic sky would come alive with the electrifying energy of the aurora borealis. The sunlight, however, came in waves: From total darkness in early February to slivers of sunshine on the horizon, the season eventually turns to unbroken daylight.
“I hadn’t seen the sun for three months. I remember breaking down and crying because I knew that winter was coming to an end and summer was coming. And that was quite emotional,” Evans said.
Moments such as these are what keep the traveler curious for more. At the age of 61, he continues his quest to experience the glorious offerings of nature and serenity.
“Being here, I find total contentment. I wouldn’t find it working in a busy office in a noisy city,” he said.
As Evans grows older, his legacy is becoming a prime motivator. He continues to find ways to secure sustainable outcomes that influence the behavior and thinking of others, much like Abdullah Philby did.
Since the Heart of Arabia expedition began, their podcast has garnered nearly 3,000 downloads in 53 countries around the world, along with steady growth in followers across social media platforms. Listeners can follow the group’s documentation of everyday life in the Kingdom’s deserts.
The team has also launched the Philby Arabia Fund, which is dedicated to researchers looking to initiate projects in Saudi Arabia.
“Funding can be a real challenge,” Evans said. “You have an idea, but you just don’t know where to start. I feel that my role in life is to try to inspire others and to give other people the opportunity that I had when I was a young person, to shape their own lives and make a positive difference to society.”
Saudi artist exhibits an organic journey of color, emotions
Over 150 drawings, paintings produced by Sami Al-Marzoogi between 1986-2022
Updated 35 min 25 sec ago
JEDDAH: A solo exhibition called “What lies beneath color” is the first large-scale retrospective of the work of Saudi artist Sami Al-Marzoogi.
The exhibition, which is being hosted at Hafez Gallery and runs until March 3, focuses on the artist’s intuitive exploration of color, realistic and abstract-looking landscape views, deconstructed human figures, intricate geometric patterns, organic motifs, and fluid explorations rendered in ink, watercolors, acrylics, pastels, pencils, and polychromes.
Al-Marzoogi's work highlights his keen sensibility, exceptional drawing skills, and ability to create abstractions of his environment.
The exhibition brings together more than 150 drawings and paintings of the self-taught artist produced between 1986 and 2022.
He said: “I have always been interested in capturing impressions of anything that’s around me and painting on concepts that come from many hours of contemplation.
“Specifically, it’s the contrast of shapes, colors and light that had me intrigued. While I’m painting or drawing, the harmonious unity of my moods and sensations reflects in it.”
This opportunity will allow me to share the true art passion that I have built over 30 years to motivate the younger generation that are interested in art to take a leap into it and embrace it.
Sami Al-Marzoogi, Saudi artist
Al-Marzoogi, who previously pursued a successful career in medicine, added: “In the past I have exhibited my work alongside other artists but never had a solo show.
“This opportunity will allow me to share the true art passion that I have built over the 30 years to motivate the younger generation that are interested in art to take a leap into it and embrace it.”
He began to incorporate art into his daily routine in the 1980s, when he returned to the Kingdom after a decade-long stay in Germany. He dived deeper into his creative process each time, producing a cohesive body of paintings and drawings.
He started with watercolors mostly inspired by the sophisticated geometric arrangements present in Islamic decorative objects, such as rugs or mosaics.
He then shifted to polychromes, taking a more experimental road into sinuous shapes often constructed with creative adaptations of Arabic letters, which constitute the tradition of calligraphy.
Al-Marzoogi said that he always carries his ball pens or pencils, drawing more than one abstract each day. This refreshes his train of thought from a busy life routine and connects his artistic instincts to guide him to be more creative in his work.
He added: “I always follow and allow intuition and my perception to guide art making. Art needs a technique and a process, but I believe my instincts or emotions guide me in the way I approach things and what I am going to make next.
“When it comes to my work, I don’t like to think in terms of categories or definitions: My work stems from emotions.
“At the end of the day, you could argue that it has a deeper meaning or does not. That is up to the viewer.”
Commenting on the art scene in Saudi Arabia, Al-Marzoogi added: “The tradition of producing and understanding the different kinds of art has always been there in the Kingdom.
“The only difference now is that there are many platforms, cultural organizations, galleries, and events allowing the artists an unprecedented opportunity to showcase their artworks and get inspired by more established artists.”
Saudi Arabia launches aid project for people affected by Pakistan’s floods
Al-Malki said that the project came under the implementation of the directives of King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, and continued support provided by the Kingdom to Pakistan since the start of the flood disaster last year
Updated 19 sec ago
RIYADH: The King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Center has started a project to provide shelter materials in winter aid bags for the most vulnerable families affected by the floods in Pakistan.
The launch of the initiative was attended by Nawaf bin Said Al-Malki, the Kingdom’s ambassador to Pakistan; Lt. Gen. Inam Haider Malik, the head of Pakistan’s National Disaster Management Authority; and other officials, at Saudi Arabia’s Embassy in Islamabad.
The project will supply 15,000 bags, weighing 190 tons. These will contain basic shelter materials to be distributed in eight affected areas. Some 175,000 people, or 15,000 families, will benefit from the aid.
Al-Malki said that the project came under the implementation of the directives of King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, and continued support provided by the Kingdom to Pakistan since the start of the flood disaster last year.
He added that the aid showed the keenness of the Saudi leadership to stand with the Pakistani people in times of crisis.
Malik thanked the Kingdom’s leadership and government for the humanitarian support, indicating that the aid was timely as authorities continue the process of rehabilitation and reconstruction in Pakistan’s flood-affected areas.
MAKKAH; A Saudi program to remove growing numbers of baboons from urban and agricultural areas aims to prevent animal attacks and environmental damage.
The scheme, organized by the National Center for Wildlife in tandem with governmental authorities and experts from around the world, aims to address growing numbers of baboon attacks and the destruction of farmland in the Kingdom, particularly in the south.
Field surveys were carried out across 504 sites in Saudi Arabia to monitor local baboon numbers, the NCW said.
Solutions were then rolled out, including the installation of more than 300 safety panels, the launch of five national awareness campaigns and the creation of an e-service for reporting incidents.
The NCW has so far responded to more than 2,000 reports via its Fitri platform.
• Ghazi Al-Yousifi, the owner of an almond farm in southern Taif, said that baboons move in large packs, sometimes up to 60 in number. They pose a direct threat to crops and food products.
• A farm owner in Baha, Hafez Al-Zahrani, said that tourists often feed baboons despite the presence of warning signs. This encourages food aggression.
Maps of vegetation, water and thermal cover of affected areas were also drafted, in addition to disease examinations of baboon samples.
Authorities have so far removed a number of baboon packs from Makkah and several holy sites.
Ghazi Al-Yousifi, the owner of an almond farm in southern Taif, said that baboons move in large packs, sometimes up to 60 in number. They pose a direct threat to crops and food products, he added.
They also threaten the safety of young children who play outdoors, Al-Yousifi said.
The public plays an important role in tackling the issue by stopping the direct and indirect feeding of baboons, which attracts growing numbers of the animals to residential neighborhoods, public roads and other populated areas, the NCW said.
A farm owner in Baha, Hafez Al-Zahrani, said that tourists often feed baboons despite the presence of warning signs. This encourages food aggression, he added, noting that packs of baboons are now known to aggressively approach and enter local residences.
Baboons invade property, steal, attack, climb houses and scatter waste, he added.
In 2023, the NCW will continue its efforts to mitigate and address the problem through sustainable solutions, including studies on baboon breeding.
The efforts aim to limit the damage caused by the animals, especially in tourist destinations across the south and southwest of the Kingdom.