Huge support seen in Davos for Saudi Expo 2030 bid, says Riyadh City’s Fahd Al-Rasheed

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Updated 23 January 2023

Huge support seen in Davos for Saudi Expo 2030 bid, says Riyadh City’s Fahd Al-Rasheed

Huge support seen in Davos for Saudi Expo 2030 bid, says Riyadh City’s Fahd Al-Rasheed
  • Saudi capital is “most exciting place to be” and soon-to-be released strategy will showcase how, he says
  • He tells “Frankly Speaking” he respects the competitors, but is confident of Riyadh city’s Expo 2030 bid

DAVOS: The chief executive of the body overseeing the expansion of the Saudi capital is confident that the rights to host the World Expo in 2030 will go to Riyadh, which he described as “probably the most exciting place to be in the world today.

“It’s very exciting time in the city of Riyadh,” Fahd Al-Rasheed said on “Frankly Speaking,” Arab News’ current affairs talk show that dives deep into regional headlines to speak with leading policymakers and business leaders.

Spelling out the advantages of the Saudi capital has as the Expo 2030 host over its rivals — Odessa, Rome and Busan — he said: “Riyadh is a global city, the 40th largest city economy in the world, with 8 million residents, a third of which are not Saudi. We have over 30 projects in the city. So, I think the world would really enjoy a different experience seeing Riyadh, getting to know its people, enjoying our hospitality and friendliness.”

CEO of the Royal Commission of Riyadh City Fahd Al-Rasheed. 

As CEO of the Royal Commission of Riyadh City, Al-Rasheed’s targets include doubling the city’s population by 2040 and placing the capital among the world’s biggest city economies. “We are developing and putting the final touches on the Riyadh Strategy, which will be announced in a few months after we get the right approvals from the government,” he said. “We’re very excited. We will start by basically pushing the economic engine of the city even further, improving livability and increasing the competitiveness of the city.”

Al-Rasheed spoke to “Frankly Speaking” as he returned from a series of engagements during the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting in Davos. Asked about any learnings from the summit that might help enhance Riyadh’s Expo bid, he said: “The feedback that we received was incredible. We have friends all around the world, whether at the state government level, on corporates, and on civil society and other sectors. And so, we feel that there is huge support for our bid and huge interest.”

A copy of Saudi Arabia’s “candidature dossier” to organize World Expo 2030 in Riyadh was formally handed over by RCRC CEO Fahd Al-Rasheed to Dimitri Kerkentzes, BIE secretary general, on Sept. 7. (Supplied)

With regard to the bids by Odessa, Rome and Busan, Al-Rasheed acknowledged that they “all have their own cases” and that he has “the utmost respect for their teams’ efforts and their bids.”

Nevertheless, he said: “It’s not about that. We believe Expo 2030 should be about something different. It shouldn’t be just about the site. It shouldn’t be just about experiences within the site. The Expo is moving onto a new level of engagement. We want this Expo to be a global conversation about the future — about how we can manage the challenges and opportunities that the future brings. We want to work with the world.”

Al-Rasheed added: “It’s really a global partnership. That’s why our bid has a theme of ‘Together for a foresighted tomorrow,’ and we are focused on three sub-themes. The first is a different tomorrow. We need to project 2050 and all the challenges it will bring about in terms of technology, but also how to embrace them. The second is climate action. We believe that this is a very important element of tomorrow, and we need to actually address it jointly, not at the level of the state, but at the level of the individual. And third, we believe in prosperity for all, giving everybody in the world the same opportunity.”

Should Riyadh win the Expo 2030 bid, authorities will aim to receive 30 million visitors over a period of six months. The question naturally arises as to whether the city will have enough hotel rooms, taxis and the other facilities needed to host such an event in just seven years. As per Al-Rasheed, the answer in short order is: “Riyadh is ready, ready today.”

He told “Frankly Speaking” host Katie Jensen: “The Riyadh Season, held last year, hosted 20 million people.

“So, we feel that the infrastructure we have in the city of Riyadh, again, a city for 8 million people, is significant and is adequate even for hosting the Expo. Today we have a metro and public transport network that we will open in 2023, and we have all of the facilities required for the Expo bid. On top of that, we’re building one of the largest airports in the world, so we feel quite ready with all of the elements required for the technical elements of the bid.”

Visitors queue outside the Saudi Pavilion on the last day of Expo 2020 in Dubai. (File/AFP)

The Middle East, of course, was the site of Expo 2020, held in the UAE’s commercial capital from October 2021 to March 2022. “There are lots of lessons learned,” Al-Rasheed said when asked to share his thoughts on how Dubai fared. “They set the bar very high, which is great. We’ve learned from their experience, and we’ll incorporate a lot of the learning into our bid and into our project.”

As far as Riyadh’s bid is concerned, Al-Rasheed said: “Our effort is going to be focused not just on the physical visits. Yes, we’ll have 40 million visitors on site. They will have a great curated experience between all of the different pavilions. But we really believe that more people should be engaged. That’s why we made the commitment to invest in the metaverse and bring the Expo to the world. There will be 1 billion visitors in our metaverse, and that will make it the largest participation in the Expo ever.”

Disclosing that some financial assistance would be offered for the construction of pavilions, he said: “We are committed to supporting developing countries in the development of their pavilions, whether it’s financially or even with curating their experiences. We believe that this is a very important element of the Expo, that all of the pavilions should have a minimum level of quality. Our commitment to the world is that you don’t come to the Expo just to see Saudi Arabia and explore Riyadh, but you come to Riyadh to see the world.”

Appearing on “Frankly Speaking” late last year, Simon Anholt, founder of the Good Country Index, said research had shown that events like the World Cup in Qatar do not have a significant impact on a nation’s brand. Al-Rasheed, however, disagrees with the conclusion.

“First and foremost, I want to congratulate our friends in Qatar,” he said. “They did a great job and the whole world was talking about the World Cup experience that they had, and I didn’t get to go. But the people who did said it was an amazing experience.”

Explaining why he thinks countries and cities that are building their brand benefit significantly from hosting a big event, Al-Rasheed said: “If you are already a very well-known city that has millions and millions of visitors like Paris, for example, probably it’s less of an impact on your brand. But the city of Riyadh, now with the country opening to tourism, would benefit significantly, even on a brand basis, from hosting a big event like the Expo. On top of that, there is the socioeconomic benefit of jobs and investment in the site both during and after the hosting of the Expo.”

CEO of the Royal Commission of Riyadh City Fahd Al-Rasheed speaks to “Frankly Speaking” host Katie Jensen. 

Al-Rasheed was categorical in his assertion that the investment needed to host Expo 2030 in order to enhance the image of Riyadh is worth the expected return. “In terms of the investment, the site is a premier site in the city of Riyadh. It’s on The Gateway,” he said.

“We’re going to invest about $8 billion in the development of (the Expo) site, but it is an investment that is integrated into the master plan of the city. We are thinking about that site, not in terms of a site for six months, but exactly what the role of that site will be post-bid. And most of the investment we will make in the site will be actually used later as workspace, as academic institutions, and also focused on entertainment and hospitality. So, the site itself is not just an Expo site. It’s part and parcel of the city of Riyadh.”

Explaining why he wants human engagement, not buildings, to be the main legacy, Al-Rasheed said: “Expos have been typically architectural marvels, or buildings and pavilions. That is the minimum we should offer in the Expo. (But) we would have that and more in our Expo. What we are committing to the world is that this Expo would actually maximize engagement of the citizens of Riyadh and that of the global visitor, and, beyond that, maximize impact through the metaverse.

“We believe that the 1 billion visitors to our metaverse would also be able to engage on the pertinent issues that we should all be dealing with, such as prosperity for all, climate action and a different tomorrow. We are working together for a ‘foresighted tomorrow.’”

Asked what he thought Riyadh is, or would be, most associated with in the mind of the international traveler, in the sense that New Yorkers have the Empire State Building and London has Big Ben, Al-Rashed said that the Saudi city is “a global city,” “the 40th largest city economy in the world,” and “has an 8 million population.

“First and foremost, these cities are not about their buildings. They are about their people. And these citizens and residents are probably the most hospitable people in the world. And what you see in the city of Riyadh is they are working together with our partners all around the world on reshaping the future of Riyadh,” he added.

“Frankly Speaking” host Katie Jensen.

“We have more than 30 projects as we speak today in Riyadh. We’re building the largest single-phase metro and public transport system in the world. We have just announced the largest airport in the world.

“We’re building Al-Ghadeer, which is Entertainment and Theme Park 2.0 in the world. So, it is going to be the largest hub for art, sport and culture. And we are building Diriyah area, which is an example of how to protect, preserve heritage and celebrate it, and many, many, many more things. In the next few years, the city’s livability and excitement is just going to multiply. We are very excited about these times.”

Given that Expo 2030 cannot be separated from Saudi Vision 2030, could the event be an opportunity to rebut critics who have repeatedly said that some of the reform plan’s targets are unattainable or overly ambitious?

Al-Rasheed said: “Vision 2030 is equipment by the country to transform itself. And in some cases, we have actually exceeded what we expected in some of the areas and sectors within Vision 2030.”

He added: “For example, on women’s participation in the workforce, we’ve achieved 37 percent, which is higher than most OECD countries. So, on these key performance indicators that we’ve already achieved or exceeded, we will revise them for those that we have not yet achieved. What we want to achieve, we would actually work harder on them.”

Al-Rasheed said: “You have to understand that Vision 2030 is a transformation led by the whole country, not just by the government. All of us are working across the board. Every Saudi individual is working across the board. Residents who are not Saudi are partaking in this Vision 2030.

“So, we believe that it’s a transformation we should share with the world. And the idea of hosting Expo 2030, which is in the culmination of Vision 2030, is also for us to share with the world our experiences and how we aim to look at the future beyond 2030, 2040 and 2050.”


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Saudi envoy to Bangladesh visits Makkah Route airport hall in Dhaka

Saudi envoy to Bangladesh visits Makkah Route airport hall in Dhaka
Updated 14 sec ago

Saudi envoy to Bangladesh visits Makkah Route airport hall in Dhaka

Saudi envoy to Bangladesh visits Makkah Route airport hall in Dhaka
  • Al-Dahilan was briefed on the airport hall, procedures in Bangladesh and Saudi Arabia to facilitate the pilgrimage

RIYADH: Saudi Ambassador to Bangladesh Issa bin Youssef Al-Dahilan recently visited a hall dedicated to the Kingdom’s Makkah Route initiative at Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport in Dhaka, the Saudi Press Agency reported on Wednesday.

The scheme allows pilgrims to pass seamlessly through immigration facilities at airports in their respective countries.

Al-Dahilan was briefed on the progress of work at the airport hall as well procedures implemented in Bangladesh and Saudi Arabia to facilitate the pilgrimage.

The envoy said the initiative, launched by the Interior Ministry, was aimed at streamlining the whole pilgrim travel experience, enabling Hajj visitors from seven countries to complete immigration, cargo, and travel procedures prior to departing for the Kingdom.

Al-Dahilan lauded Bangladesh, Morocco, Indonesia, Malaysia, Pakistan, Turkiye, and the Ivory Coast for their participation in the initiative.

UK announces new £10 visa for GCC and Jordanian nationals

UK announces new £10 visa for GCC and Jordanian nationals
Updated 51 min 2 sec ago

UK announces new £10 visa for GCC and Jordanian nationals

UK announces new £10 visa for GCC and Jordanian nationals
  • “In February 2024, we will go one step further and introduce a new ETA scheme,” the ambassador said
  • This ETA will allow visa holders to enter the UK multiple times over a two-year period and aims to make “travel to Britain cheaper and easier for visitors from the Gulf and Jordan,”

RIYADH: The UK has announced a new Electronic Travel Authorization scheme that will cost £10 ($12.44) for nationals of Jordan and Gulf Cooperation Council states.
“In June 2022, the UK introduced an Electronic Visa Waiver scheme, which allowed any Saudi citizen to apply for authorization to travel to Britain online,” British Ambassador to Saudi Arabia Neil Crompton told Arab News.
“This reflected the desire of both governments to strengthen people-to-people links between the two countries,” he added.
Also in June of 2022, the UK announced that under its new ETA scheme, rolling out in 2023, nationals from Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE will join Americans and Canadians in benefiting from visa-free travel through an electronic visa waiver.
“In February 2024, we will go one step further and introduce a new ETA scheme,” the ambassador said.
“Under this, applicants will be able to apply for a visa online that covers multiple visits over a two-year period. The cost will be just £10 per applicant. This will make it much easier and cheaper to travel.”
This ETA will allow visa holders to enter the UK multiple times over a two-year period and aims to make “travel to Britain cheaper and easier for visitors from the Gulf and Jordan,” as stated on
Previously under the EVW scheme, Gulf nationals had to pay £30 per visit to the UK and Jordanian nationals £100 for a visit visa.
The newly announced ETA aims to strengthen relations between the countries and contribute to Britain’s economy.
The scheme will be implemented for Qatari nationals later this year in October 2023 and for the rest of the GCC and Jordan in February 2024.
According to, Gulf visitors are highly valuable to the UK economy, with over 790,000 of them spending £2 billion during their stays in the UK last year.
The process to apply is all-digital and requires applicants to upload a photograph of themselves and answer a set of suitability questions.
Earlier in 2023, the UK government announced plans to introduce a new ETA scheme as part of a digitization initiative for the UK border to further enhance security and customer experience.
In a statement, the UK Minister of State for the Middle East, North Africa, and South Asia Lord Tariq Ahmad said: “I’m delighted that our partners across the Gulf and Jordan will be the first to benefit from the UK’s new Electronic Travel Authorization scheme. This scheme is further proof of the strong partnership between the UK and countries across the region.
“By cutting costs and visa requirements, the ETA scheme will ensure visitors from the Gulf states and Jordan can enjoy traveling with ease to the UK, boosting business and tourism links between our countries,” he added.

Construction work gets underway on ambitious AlUla mountain resort

Construction work gets underway on ambitious AlUla mountain resort
Updated 07 June 2023

Construction work gets underway on ambitious AlUla mountain resort

Construction work gets underway on ambitious AlUla mountain resort
  • Sharaan hotel concept and International Summit Center aims to meet sustainability goals

RIYADH: Construction work on an ambitious Saudi mountain resort has got underway in AlUla.

Making the announcement, Royal Commission for AlUla officials said the Sharaan hotel concept and International Summit Center, designed by French architect Jean Nouvel, would aim to meet sustainability goals for the building phase and resort operations.

The development will be built directly into the rock formations of Sharaan Nature Reserve and has been inspired by AlUla’s ancient Nabataean architecture and dramatic desertscape.

During a ceremony at the reserve, an agreement was inked between officials from the RCU and Bouygues Construction, a French engineering group which will manage construction of the resort through a joint venture with Almabani, a leading Saudi engineering firm.

The commission’s development and construction sector is spearheading the project with consultation from Canadian firm WSP and program management support from Saudi company Jasara.

Together they will deliver a destination designed to immerse guests in the natural and cultural heritage of the Sharaan reserve.

Just as the Nabataean civilization carved structures into nearby sandstone more than 2,000 years ago, project chiefs hope the Sharaan resort will carve a new chapter in stone for AlUla’s living museum while preserving the natural scenery and native flora and fauna at the heart of the RCU’s vision.

The new resort will offer 38 suites, a spa and wellness center, kids club, sports complex, an all-day dining restaurant, and business center.

In addition, a signature fine-dining restaurant will sit atop the mountain with panoramic views of Sharaan. A glass elevator will connect the resort with a geologic and artistic experience, offering views of ancient sedimentary layers and niches filled with art and engravings.

Inside an adjacent mountain, the Sharaan International Summit Center will host events and leaders from around the world.

With a completely secure and private environment, its design will enable chance encounters and private interaction for guests with shared leisure activities in an informal setting.

Facilities will include an auditorium, meeting rooms, majlis (sitting room), library, and a sports and leisure area.

Mohammed Altheeb, RCU chief development and construction officer, said: “Sharaan resort is our most ambitious project currently under construction.

“The resort was designed with complete reverence for the human and natural history of AlUla, and we are committed to sustainable building practices in line with this same philosophy.

“The RCU and its partners are excited to unveil a new chapter in the story of these ancient mountains, where guests will experience the wonders of Sharaan Nature Reserve,” he added.

First pilgrims from Kashmir depart for this year’s Hajj 

First pilgrims from Kashmir depart for this year’s Hajj 
A pilgrim is embraced by his relative before leaving for the annual Hajj pilgrimage, in Srinagar on June 7, 2023. (AFP)
Updated 07 June 2023

First pilgrims from Kashmir depart for this year’s Hajj 

First pilgrims from Kashmir depart for this year’s Hajj 
  • 12,000 Kashmiris are going to perform the pilgrimage this year 
  • The group is the region’s largest-ever Hajj contingent 

NEW DELHI: The first batch of pilgrims from Indian-administered Jammu and Kashmir left for Saudi Arabia on Wednesday to perform this year’s Hajj. 

Special Hajj flights from India started in the last week of May, catering to 175,000 pilgrims. 

Among them, 12,000 are departing from the Himalayan region that is part of the larger Kashmir — a Muslim-majority territory between India and Pakistan, both of which claim it in full and rule in part.  

The number, nearly double Kashmir’s Hajj contingent in 2022, is the region’s largest-ever group embarking on the spiritual journey that is one of the five pillars of Islam. 

“We have the highest quota this year,” Safina Baig, chairperson of the Jammu and Kashmir Haj Committee, told Arab News, as the first group of 630 pilgrims departed from Kashmir’s main airport in Srinagar. 

“It was an emotional scene with many feeling overwhelmed by the opportunity to perform Hajj in their lifetime.” 

Most of the pilgrims were selected through a draw, except for the elderly and women traveling without a mahram, or male guardian. 

“Generally, the selection process happens through a draw, but as a special gesture, we are allowing single women and people above 70 to apply directly without going through the process,” Baig said. 

“For women without a mahram, the Indian government has made special arrangements. They will stay separately, and they will have separate helpers for them. We have also sent a lady to take care of them.” 

Shamima Akhter, 56, a widow from the southern Pulwama district of Kashmir, is one of the 120 Kashmiri women pilgrims traveling to Saudi Arabia alone after the Kingdom’s decision last year to lift a rule that required them to be accompanied by a mahram. 

“By Allah’s grace, I got the opportunity to travel alone to perform Hajj. This is a good decision to allow single women to travel,” she told Arab News. 

She was supported by her three daughters in collecting about $5,000 to pay for her Hajj package, as the cost of the trip was more than $1,000 higher than in other regions of India.

Baig, of the local pilgrimage authority, said she had raised the issue with the Ministry of Minority Affairs and the Haj Committee of India. 

“What I understand is that the rise in the total expenses is due to the higher prices of airfare from Kashmir,” she said, hoping that there will be some assistance for the region’s pilgrims.   

“Kashmir is a Muslim-majority region, and the government should be more considerate,” Baig added. “I feel that the government should provide some relief to the Kashmiri Hajjis. It sends a good message.” 

Riyadh forum promotes Saudi esthetic medicine sector

Riyadh forum promotes Saudi esthetic medicine sector
Updated 07 June 2023

Riyadh forum promotes Saudi esthetic medicine sector

Riyadh forum promotes Saudi esthetic medicine sector
  • The forum brings together prominent organizations and figures in the world of esthetic medicine
  • Speakers on the opening day discussed safe methods in cosmetic treatment

RIYADH: The Esthetic Medical Forum began on Tuesday in Riyadh to promote esthetic medicine pioneers in the Kingdom as well as the latest technology in the world of beauty and cosmetic treatment.
The three-day forum is being held under the patronage of Princess Adwaa bint Fahad Al-Saud, ambassador of global peace and goodwill, at the Riyadh International Exhibition and Convention Center.
The forum brings together prominent organizations and figures in the world of esthetic medicine.
Speakers on the opening day discussed safe methods in cosmetic treatment, the latest developments in plastic surgery, the importance of raising public awareness about esthetic medicine, supporting Saudization in the beauty sector, and medical insurance experiences in the cosmetic sector.
Other sessions discussed activating fitness culture, building a healthy food culture and its role in beauty and health, and establishing and equipping cosmetic centers and clinics.
The forum is being attended by health care professionals, entrepreneurs, investors and pioneers in the world of esthetic medicine, highlighting the promising future of the sector in the Kingdom, including expanding on advanced laser treatment techniques for specific skin conditions and navigating patient care with expert tips for in-person and virtual consultations.
CEPCO Medical, one of the many Saudi companies to showcase its work at the forum, provides skin analysis using cutting-edge technology to analyze age-related changes.
“The skin analysis machine uses advanced imaging techniques to capture in-depth, high-resolution images of your skin, and details information about the condition of your skin,” said Ghadi Ternati, a product specialist at CEPCO.
“The forum is a great way to see the best of esthetic medical products and services all in one place; it definitely saves me time from browsing online to find the best of the best,” said Rawan Saud, a visitor at the forum.