Saudi Arabia is all set to welcome the new year with fine food, fireworks and live music

Fireworks will light up the sky as the countdown to New Year begins at Boulevard Riyadh City. (AN Photo by Basheer Saleh)
Fireworks will light up the sky as the countdown to New Year begins at Boulevard Riyadh City. (AN Photo by Basheer Saleh)
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Updated 31 December 2022

Saudi Arabia is all set to welcome the new year with fine food, fireworks and live music

Fireworks will light up the sky as the countdown to New Year begins at Boulevard Riyadh City. (AN Photo by Basheer Saleh)
  • Saudi Arabia is all set to welcome the new year with fine food, fireworks and live music

ALULA/ ALKHOBAR/ DIRIYAH/ RIYADH/ JEDDAH: It’s time to ring in New Year 2023 with style! Cities across the Kingdom have prepared a wide variety of events for the occasion, with restaurants and hotels offering a plethora of dining options and live musical performances.

The Arab News team has highlighted a few places across the Kingdom where you can celebrate with friends and family like never before.

AlUla

The ancient city of AlUla has transformed from a historic remnant to the hottest new holiday destination in Saudi Arabia, and today, the city is buzzing with options for New Year’s celebrations.




Mamzel will be offering a luxurious New Year’s dinner in AlUla’s hidden canyons for a chance to experience Spanish culture. (Experience AlUla)

Winter at Tantoura, the Kingdom’s first annual winter music and culture festival, has returned for a fourth edition with a host of festive experiences.

Visitors can usher in New Year at the Kingdom’s first roller rink at the open-air “AlUla on Wheels,” with a dance experience curated by Swizz Beats alongside the region’s hottest performers, and explore the heart of AlJadidah, a lively cultural hub.

Another must-try for those new to the city is Habitas, a luxury resort that is one of the key hotspots of AlUla. Whether guests are staying in an eclectic caravan or in one of the villa options, they are met with a picturesque view of the mountainous terrain.

HIGHLIGHTS

• Those looking forward to celebrating New Year’s Eve in Riyadh will also have plenty of fine-dining options, music concerts and firework shows to savor.

• The ancient city of AlUla has transformed from a historic remnant to the hottest new holiday destination in Saudi Arabia, and today, the city is buzzing with options for New Year’s celebrations.

• From lavish dinners at fine restaurants, parties at beachfront hotels and rooftop soirees to stargazing in desert camps, Jeddah has it all to make New Year’s celebrations as memorable as possible.

The site offers endless leisurely activities, such as unique dining experiences, music performances and wellness activities. Art lovers can walk through the interactive Desert X artworks including artist Mohammed Ahmed Ibrahim’s vibrant “Falling Stones Garden” or Manal Al-Dowayan’s “Now You See Me, Now You Don’t” puddle installation.




(AN photo by Basheer Saleh)

Visitors can also stargaze as the clock strikes midnight at the resort. Driven to the secluded Gharameel area, groups and individuals are encouraged to connect constellations under AlUla’s night sky, free of light and air pollution.

Mamzel will be offering a luxurious New Year’s dinner in AlUla’s hidden canyons for a chance to experience Spanish culture. Straight from Marbella, the restaurant will be holding live entertainment shows for diners as they feast on a set menu for SR600 ($160) per person for extended hours on Dec. 31.

Alfa’s Lounge, the city’s newest hangout spot, is another great option to prime your palette for New Year. The hidden establishment dazzles with its desert scenery and fairy light-like ambiance under the stars.  




AlUla visitors can ring in the new year with a night of storytelling, historical lore of the Nabataean era, and carriage rides and shows at the Hegra after Dark experience. (Experience AlUla)

If an active lifestyle is on your 2023 resolutions list, AlUla’s adventure and outdoor experiences are the perfect opportunities to kickstart the journey to your fitness goals. Visitors can take an eight-hour Twisted Maze hike, trek through the Hidden Valley, cycle across the city’s sand dunes or get their hearts pumping with activities like ziplining, abseiling or rock climbing.

Winter at Tantoura’s celebrations don’t end with New Year. AlUla visitors will be tempted to walk the Incense Road in the area’s Old Town, lined with both heritage attractions and innovative activities, or indulge in a night of storytelling, historical lore of the Nabataean era, and carriage rides at Hegra after dark.

Shoppers are welcome to sample the exclusive items of the Ashar Valley Fashion event, featuring distinctive luxury pop-up stores from 4 p.m. to 11 p.m., with required ticket bookings in advance.




A dish from Sakana House. (Supplied)

The city’s first-ever food festival, Flavors of AlUla, brings international cuisines to locals, as well as myriad masterclasses by the food industry’s finest, palate-testing activities and food stalls. The festival, launched on Thursday, will conclude on Jan. 14.

Legendary Saudi musician Mohammed Abdo will hold a concert at the world’s largest mirrored architectural wonder, Maraya Music Hall. The opportunity to secure another fine dining booking at the venue’s restaurant, Maraya Social, is also available.

Alkhobar

When the clock strikes midnight on Dec. 31 in Sharqiya, what’s a better way to celebrate than to fill a cup with Saudi champagne and indulge in a great meal among loved ones? Sakana House at the Grand Hyatt Khobar promises to offer a fine time.




Staying and dining at Habitas is a must-try for those new to the city. Although on the pricier side, the resort is a sanctuary oasis and one of the key hotspots of AlUla’s revival. Whether guests are staying in an eclectic Caravan or in one of the villa options, they are met with a picturesque view of the mountainous terrain. (Experience AlUla)

With a fun countdown to midnight, a “fire show” and interactive sushi stations, visitors will have a fully immersive experience to work up an appetite.

The Sakana House Asian restaurant has been an elegant eatery since it opened its doors. While it has hosted a New Year’s Eve festivity before, this year, customers will enjoy a live DJ live musical performance by flutist Anastasia and DJ Vika.

Diners will start with a special selection of tantalizing dishes, including manchow soup, creamy and spicy shrimp salad, black pepper beef, crispy fish and egg-fried rice. For dessert, sphere en chocolat with raspberry jam and mango milk is on the list. Fresh seasonal fruit planners will be available all around, and hot and cold beverages are all-inclusive.




The open-air “AlUla on Wheels” offers a chance to explore the heart of AlJadidah, a lively cultural hub. Under the stars in a skate and dance experience curated by Swizz Beats, they can discover the music of the region’s hottest performers. (Experience AlUla)

John Paulo Francisco Mendoza, the restaurant manager, told Arab News: “This Dec. 31, Sakana House invites you to a new era of superior Asian cuisine.”

The experience can be enjoyed at SR320 per person, and operating hours are between 9:00 p.m. and 1:00 a.m.

Riyadh

Those looking forward to celebrating New Year’s Eve in Riyadh will also have plenty of fine-dining options, music concerts and firework shows to savor.

Mega concert “Trio Arabic Night” will take place on Dec. 31 in Boulevard Riyadh City at the Mohammed Abdo Arena.




Billionaire Riyadh is hosting a night full of engaging entertainment and music performances. (AN photo by Basheer Saleh)

The concert features some of the biggest music artists from around the Arab world such as Nancy Ajram, Elissa, Asala Nasri, Najwa Karam, Angham, Latifa, Nawal Al-Zoghbi, Saber Rebai, Wael Kfoury, Assi El-Hallani, Bahaa Sultan and Waleed Tawfeek.

Here are some dining options to ring in New Year in the capital.

Billionaire Riyadh is hosting a night full of engaging entertainment and music performances with a taste of eclectic Asian-Italian cuisine.




Fireworks will light up the sky as the countdown to New Year begins at Boulevard Riyadh City. (AN photo by Huda Bashatah)

Coya Riyadh is offering its guests an exclusive set menu that reflects the vibrant, bold choices of Latin American fare.

Critically acclaimed contemporary Japanese restaurant Sumosan is calling its New Year’s Eve celebration “Sakura Sky,” with a set menu and live DJ music.

Italian cuisine enthusiasts can hop over to Villa Signor Sassi or to Cipriani, which is serving classic Italian dishes during its “Grand Venetian Gala.”  

Diriyah

Tucked away in the northwestern region of Riyadh is Diriyah, a UNESCO World Heritage Site that was also the first capital of the Saudi dynasty.

It was recently opened to the public after a little over a decade post-redevelopment. For New Year’s Eve, visitors can spend time walking around mudbrick buildings and a restored palace that once housed the Al-Saud dynasty to learn about the country’s history and its ruling family.




A refreshing drink from Sakana House. (Supplied)

They can also experience modern-day luxury in the form of high-end eateries, hotels, shopping outlets and state-of-the-art infrastructure.

The Bujairi Terrace — featuring over 20 restaurants, including international ones like Angelina Paris, Sarabeth’s and Villa Mamas, or local brands like SUGAR, GRIND and TAKYA — offers diners a wide variety to choose from.

Just 15 minutes away from Riyadh, Diriyah is easy to access for residents of the capital.

Jeddah

From lavish dinners at fine restaurants, parties at beachfront hotels and rooftop soirees to stargazing in desert camps, Jeddah has it all to make New Year’s celebrations as memorable as possible.

If you are looking for fancy food in a posh environment, Shang Palace restaurant offers a set menu option complete with sparkling beverages to enjoy alongside live music. The experience will start at 6 p.m. and will last till midnight.  

Guests also have an a la carte option with a complimentary beverage upon arrival and will be presented with gifts as a gesture of good wishes for the coming year.

The Quarter restaurant at the Swissotel Living Jeddah also offers memorable dining in a chic atmosphere. Guests are treated to a live DJ performance and are spoiled for dining choices with a massive buffet.

The event starts at 7 p.m. and runs until 2 a.m., allowing guests ample time to enjoy everything the place has to offer.

A countdown will also be held at The Quarter restaurant and at the rooftop NEST lounge so that guests can enjoy the view of the city.  

Obo Beach house restaurant at the Yacht Club has also organized special events to entertain guests with a perfect ambiance and sea view. The menu will offer an array of appetizing dishes and plenty of main courses including seafood, chicken and meat options.

Party in Asian style at Dabao restaurant, where you can enjoy an amazing Asian fusion dinner with a live DJ performance. To top it all off, deserts are on the house!

Noug Cafe and Jazz Bar, Noun and Kabana are also among the many restaurants in the city that are offering a variety of gastronomic experiences and live music all through the night.

Jeddah is home to some of the most beautiful properties and is offering seasonal discounts for anyone wishing to wake up to 2023 in the embrace of comfort and luxury.

Bay La Sun and VIEWS residences at the King Abdullah Economic City allow guests access to the private beach and an array of food options from the buffet at the Seasons Restaurant.

Similar options include Narcissus Resort and Spa in Obhur, Rosewood Jeddah, Assila and Swissotel Living Jeddah.

 


Egyptian soprano, Bocelli-Jameel recipient Laura Mekhail charms Jeddah

Egyptian soprano, Bocelli-Jameel recipient Laura Mekhail charms Jeddah
Updated 29 January 2023

Egyptian soprano, Bocelli-Jameel recipient Laura Mekhail charms Jeddah

Egyptian soprano, Bocelli-Jameel recipient Laura Mekhail charms Jeddah
  • In an exclusive interview after the performance, Mekhail told Arab News that receiving the Bocelli-Jameel scholarship at the Royal College of Music was the most amazing experience she ever had

JEDDAH: The second recipient of the Andrea Bocelli Foundation-Community Jameel Scholarship was awarded to Egyptian talent Laura Mekhail in 2021, who enthralled a Jeddah audience with her stunning performance on the Hayy Jameel stage on Jan. 28.

Mekhail is the first Arab woman to receive the scholarship, as the inaugural recipient was French soprano Clara Barbier Serrano.

The Arab soprano performed next to Italian pianist and composer Daniele Ciminiello, who had coincidentally also performed with Serrano last year at the same venue.

Mekhail performed classics by composers such as Mozart and Puccini, and Arabic songs including ‘El Helwa Di’ by Fairuz. (AN Photo by: Abdullah Al-Faleh)

During the show, Mekhail took her audience on a spectacular journey through the history of opera, covering classics by legendary composers such as Handel, Mozart and Puccini, followed by Arabic songs such as “Ana Albi Dalili” by Laila Mourad, and “Sahar El Layali” and “El Helwa Di” by Fairuz. She completed her performance with breathtaking renditions of English songs “I Could Have Danced All Night” and “Pure Imagination.”

In an exclusive interview after the performance, Mekhail told Arab News that receiving the Bocelli-Jameel scholarship at the Royal College of Music was the most amazing experience she ever had.

FASTFACT

Laura Mekhail is the first Arab woman to be awarded the Bocelli-Jameel Scholarship in 2021, which was previously awarded to French soprano Clara Barbier Serrano. The Bocelli-Jameel scholarship was established in 2019 with the aim of supporting emerging talents to study opera at the Royal College of Music in London.

“It is truly a dream come true to study at the Royal College of Music. It is now the top school in the world, and it’s not easy to get into. I cannot believe that I am one of the very few people who get to be there and receive this amazing education that will put me on different stages all around the world.”

The same performance also took place at the Kingdom’s cultural and historic destination AlUla at the award-winning Maraya Concert Hall on Jan. 27 where Mekhail performed next to Andrea Bocelli.

She described the thrill of singing with the legendary talent.

“I felt so comfortable. I thought I would be scared or shaky, but he made me feel like it was going to be fine. He encourages and believes in young talent. So, it felt amazing to sing next to him.”

Mekhail discovered her passion for singing during her childhood when she was part of a church choir in Cairo. She has performed at the Cairo Opera House, and the influences on her singing include many Arab musicians, along with Bach and Rossini.

She studied music performance at West Virginia Wesleyan College in the US, where she was a member of the a cappella choir and worked closely with Dan Hughes, the director of Choral Activities, whom she credits for heavily influencing her vocal development.

After graduation, Mekhail taught singing at the Chesterbrook Academy for six years before deciding to pursue a career as a professional soloist.

Mekhail’s performance at the Hayy Jameel stage is the latest development in the rising star’s professional musical career.

The seating arena was fully packed, including the theater balconies. Music enthusiasts from elders to teenagers cheered “Bravo!” after every aria and song.

Mekhail said that the heartwarming response from her Saudi audience energized her to keep singing.

Menwar Azraie, 64, a Saudi educational supervisor in the field of fine arts who attended the show with his wife, told Arab News: “I am a big fan of opera and I always like to encourage young talents. I like to attend opera gigs at the Muse music club here in Jeddah.

“I was invited to attend today’s amazing show by my daughter. I am extremely thrilled as the show perfectly captured the essence of a professional Italian opera, and what doubled my joy was that the show combined Western and Middle Eastern music styles using only the human voice and a piano. It was truly a dose of happiness, and I would love to see more of it.”

His wife Wafa Mustafa said: “I love arts and classical music, and the vibes of today’s performance were absolutely magical.”

The opera scholarship is open to students from around the world. Community Jameel, which supports the scholarship, and Art Jameel, which runs Hayy Jameel, are sister organizations founded by the Jameel family of Saudi Arabia.

The Bocelli-Jameel scholarship was established in 2019 with the aim of supporting emerging talents to study opera at the Royal College of Music in London.

Mekhail shared some words of advice for young Arab sopranos and classical singers in the region.

“You have to be persistent in your dream because it is not easy to be a classical singer, especially if you live in the Middle East,” she said. “And even if you go abroad and try to achieve that dream, it is really hard and competitive as there are very, very few Arab people in the international community. Do not be frustrated. Just be persistent. Keep following your dream. I promise you are going to get there.”

 

 


Darah pavilion showcases Saudi Arabia’s history, heritage

Darah pavilion showcases Saudi Arabia’s history, heritage
Updated 29 January 2023

Darah pavilion showcases Saudi Arabia’s history, heritage

Darah pavilion showcases Saudi Arabia’s history, heritage
  • Al-Beiz added that the Darah’s history center had produced about 22 publications highlighting the Hijaz area, the Two Holy Mosques, and other places from Saudi Arabia’s history

RIYADH: The King Abdulaziz Foundation for Research and Archives is taking part in the 54th Cairo International Book Fair.

Darah pavilion boasts scientific, cultural, and intellectual publications to highlight the history, geography, and heritage of the Arabian Peninsula and Saudi Arabia.

The fair, which is being held at the Egypt International Exhibition Center, brings together more than 1,000 publishers and visitors from about 50 countries, while in excess of 500 cultural events will be held on the sidelines of the showcase, which runs until Feb. 6.

Abdulrahman Al-Beiz, who is in charge of the Darah section, said that the pavilion has some 85 titles on Shariah sciences, the geography of Saudi Arabia and the Arabian Peninsula, Saudi-Egyptian relations, and publications that focus on the history of the Grand Mosque in Makkah.

He added that the pavilion also houses more recent works, as well as a collection of popular and prestigious publications, including an atlas of Makkah holy sites, in Arabic and English, along with books that tell the Kingdom’s history, and accounts of travelers’ tours in the Arabian Peninsula.

HIGHLIGHT

The pavilion has some 85 titles on Shariah sciences, the geography of Saudi Arabia and the Arabian Peninsula, Saudi-Egyptian relations, and publications that focus on the history of the Grand Mosque in Makkah.

Al-Beiz also referred to the increasing demand for the Darah’s books, noting that some had been so popular they had sold out, reflecting an enthusiasm on the public’s part to learn more about the Kingdom’s history and culture.

He added that the Darah’s history center had produced about 22 publications highlighting the Hijaz area, the Two Holy Mosques, and other places from the Kingdom’s history.

Meanwhile, the pavilion of the Saudi Ministry of Islamic Affairs, Dawah and Guidance has noted the huge turnout of visitors at the fair.

The Kingdom’s pavilion, which aims to showcase Saudi Arabia’s care for Muslims around the world, has been praised by those visiting it, who have also expressed their appreciation for the country’s efforts in spreading moderate Islam and promoting a culture of tolerance and coexistence.

 

 


John Legend serenades Riyadh at Diriyah E-Prix

John Legend serenades Riyadh at Diriyah E-Prix
Updated 30 January 2023

John Legend serenades Riyadh at Diriyah E-Prix

John Legend serenades Riyadh at Diriyah E-Prix
  • “John Legend has been one of my favorite artists, especially because he’s an R&B singer and this is something that I actually follow and listen to — specifically him,” Saad Mohammed, who was present at the concert, told Arab News

RIYADH: American singer and songwriter John Legend performed at the Diriyah E-Prix on Saturday.  

The renowned artist played some of his most popular songs, including “All of Me,” which peaked on the Billboard 100 charts for three consecutive weeks, as well as “Green Light,” “Nervous” and “All Night Long.”

“John Legend has been one of my favorite artists, especially because he’s an R&B singer and this is something that I actually follow and listen to — specifically him,” Saad Mohammed, who was present at the concert, told Arab News.  

“I don’t want to brag but I want to be the best you’ve ever had, Riyadh…We’re going to have some fun, I promise,” Legend said.

With stunning visuals as his backdrop, the singer encouraged the audience to dance along with him to the pop anthem “All She Wanna Do” and to join in singing the chorus to “All of Me.”  

“You sound so beautiful,” Legend told the crowd.

HIGHLIGHTS

• John Legend played alongside others including Egyptian singer Mohammed Hamaki and French Montana.

• Starting off the night’s festivities was Saudi DJ Dani Bogari.

Mohammed said he was ecstatic that he no longer had to travel abroad to experience live entertainment shows by big acts such as Legend and French Montana.

“Part of our culture is hospitality and getting to experience this with foreigners and expats makes me happy. It’s as if you’re able to cook well but can’t share this talent that you have, and now we can finally do it,” he said, referencing Saudi’s portfolio of extraordinary events and celebrations.

Another audience member, Dalal Mohammed, said: “I came for John Legend, honestly, and he sang my favorite song, ‘All of Me!’” she told Arab News excitedly, describing the performance as a “dream.”

She too expressed her joy at being able to attend concerts and other events just five minutes away from her home, instead of having to travel abroad to do so.

“I love that international singers are coming to know our culture and hospitality and to see the new Saudi,” she said.

In her second time at Formula E, Fatima Al-Attas commended the event’s choice of music and artists.

“I am a fan of John Legend, and what’s nice is that he’s a really good performer and he seemed to enjoy the show and that had an effect on us, so we had more fun,” she told Arab News.

Legend played alongside others including Egyptian singer Mohammed Hamaki and French Montana, who took to the stage to deliver a trap setlist following Legend’s show.

“This is my first time in Saudi since 2019, so let me reintroduce myself. Let’s go!” the Moroccan American singer said onstage, kicking off the setlist with “All the Way Up.”

“I came for French Montana, of course. My favorite song is ‘Unforgettable,’ and I’m excited to hear that,” Dubai-based Rana Baeshen told Arab News.

Baeshen initially came to experience the Riyadh Season and visit family, taking the opportunity to also see Montana live.

“This country is developing so rapidly. I’m happy with what I saw here tonight,” she said.

Starting off the night’s festivities was Saudi DJ Dani Bogari following racer Pascal Wehrlein’s win.

Bogari told Arab News: “I’m absolutely immersed in joy. It’s my first time playing on such a large stage, so it feels incredible.

“It feels like there are lots of opportunities for local talent, so today being part of this experience, being alongside John Legend and French Montana — I don’t think there’s anything that I can say to describe it.”

While his performance diverged from his typical Afrohouse sound, his beats complemented the headlining R&B performances, as he mixed more lyrical and dance music into his set.

“When there’s a culture of music, it really means that this country is growing in the right direction. It’s creating positive energy within the people,” Bogari said.

 

 


KSrelief chief meets with UNRWA commissioner-general

KSrelief chief Dr. Abdullah Al-Rabeeah meets with UNRWA Commissioner-General Philippe Lazzarini in Riyadh on Sunday. (SPA)
KSrelief chief Dr. Abdullah Al-Rabeeah meets with UNRWA Commissioner-General Philippe Lazzarini in Riyadh on Sunday. (SPA)
Updated 29 January 2023

KSrelief chief meets with UNRWA commissioner-general

KSrelief chief Dr. Abdullah Al-Rabeeah meets with UNRWA Commissioner-General Philippe Lazzarini in Riyadh on Sunday. (SPA)
  • Dr. Abdullah Al-Rabeeah and Philippe Lazzarini discussed issues of common interest related to relief and humanitarian efforts

RIYADH: The supervisor general of King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Center met with the commissioner-general of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East in Riyadh on Sunday.

Dr. Abdullah Al-Rabeeah and Philippe Lazzarini discussed issues of common interest related to relief and humanitarian efforts and ways to enhance cooperation between KSrelief and UNRWA.

They also discussed UNRWA’s participation in the third Riyadh International Humanitarian Forum which will take place in February.

On Tuesday, UNRWA appealed for $1.6 billion in funding for schools, healthcare and aid in Gaza, the West Bank, Jordan, Syria and Lebanon, where most Palestinian refugees or their descendants from various Arab-Israeli conflicts live.


Saudi Arabia, Turkiye discuss financial audit cooperation

Saudi Arabia’s General Auditing Bureau president meets Turkish delegation in Riyadh. (SPA)
Saudi Arabia’s General Auditing Bureau president meets Turkish delegation in Riyadh. (SPA)
Updated 30 January 2023

Saudi Arabia, Turkiye discuss financial audit cooperation

Saudi Arabia’s General Auditing Bureau president meets Turkish delegation in Riyadh. (SPA)
  • Yener stressed the importance of cooperation between the two agencies, and both parties also discussed other topics of common interest and ways to enhance them

RIYADH: The president of Saudi Arabia’s General Court of Audit, Hussam Al-Anqari, met the president of the Turkish Court of Accounts, Metin Yener, and his accompanying delegation, in Riyadh on Sunday, for a meeting also attended by the Turkish ambassador to the Kingdom, Fatih Ulusoy.
Al-Anqari noted the importance of this visit, which comes in the framework of promoting cooperation and joint work between the General Court of Audit in the Kingdom and the Court of Accounts in Turkiye.
The visit seeks to exchange expertise, improve performance efficiency and develop human resources in both agencies.
Yener stressed the importance of cooperation between the two agencies, and both parties also discussed other topics of common interest and ways to enhance them.
The accompanying delegation was briefed on the General Court of Audit’s experience in the areas of financial auditing and performance control.
Last week, Al-Anqari received Auditor General of Pakistan Mohammed Ajmal Gondal and his accompanying delegation in Riyadh.
Al-Anqari emphasized the importance of the visit in terms of promoting collaboration between the two countries, enhancing efficiency and developing human resources in both supreme audit institutions.
For his part, Gondal affirmed his keenness to build upon the existing cooperation between the two agencies.