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 Arabia, Oman to support digital economy growth, invest in underwater cables

Saudi Arabia, Oman to support digital economy growth, invest in underwater cables
Updated 05 February 2023

Saudi Arabia, Oman to support digital economy growth, invest in underwater cables

Saudi Arabia, Oman to support digital economy growth, invest in underwater cables

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia and Oman on Saturday signed an executive program in the field of communications, information technology infrastructure and undersea cable investments.

The agreement was signed between the Kingdom’s Ministry of Communications and Information Technology and the sultanate’s Ministry of Transport, Communications and Information Technology, in the presence of Saudi Arabia’s Abdullah Al-Swaha, and Oman’s Saeed bin Hamoud Al-Ma’awali.

“The program aims to exploit the geographical location of the two countries and promote investment in the submarine and terrestrial cables that pass through them,” the Saudi press Agency reported.

It would create a common work environment to enhance cooperation in the field of infrastructure for communications and information technology services, and high-speed digital interconnection for data exchange.

The executive program also aims to develop options for implementing regional digital connectivity through investment entities and licensed companies, and to expand investment in global data centers and cloud services that target regional presence to maximize benefit for the region. 


Harsh climates make the kindest people, says Heart of Arabia expedition leader from UK

Harsh climates make the kindest people, says Heart of Arabia expedition leader from UK
Updated 04 February 2023

Harsh climates make the kindest people, says Heart of Arabia expedition leader from UK

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

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.

Mark Evans and Saudi explorer Reem Philby on the second leg of the Heart of Arabia expedition following in Abdullah Philby's footsteps from 1917. (Photo/Ana-Maria Pavalache)

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.

A resting point for the Heart of Arabia expedition team between the Saudi desert sand dunes during the second leg of the journey, which kicked off from Diriyah in January. (Photo/Ana-Maria Pavalache)

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.

Much of British explorer Mark Evans' expeditions are spent in isolation from the chaos and happenings of the world, which provide great opportunity for reflection and focus. (Photo/Ana-Maria Pavalache)

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.

HIGHLIGHTS

• 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

Saudi artist exhibits an organic journey of color, emotions
Updated 04 February 2023

Saudi artist exhibits an organic journey of color, emotions

Saudi artist exhibits an organic journey of color, emotions
  • Over 150 drawings, paintings produced by Sami Al-Marzoogi between 1986-2022

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

Saudi Arabia launches aid project for people affected by Pakistan’s floods
Updated 04 February 2023

Saudi Arabia launches aid project for people affected by Pakistan’s floods

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

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.

 

 


Saudi foreign minister arrives in Kuwait on official visit

Saudi foreign minister arrives in Kuwait on official visit
Updated 04 February 2023

Saudi foreign minister arrives in Kuwait on official visit

Saudi foreign minister arrives in Kuwait on official visit

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Prince Faisal bin Farhan arrived in Kuwait on an official visit, the Kingdom’s foreign ministry announced on Saturday.

Prince Faisal was received by his Kuwaiti counterpart Sheikh Salem Abdullah Al-Jaber Al-Sabah, upon his arrival at Kuwait International Airport,.

The Saudi minister was also greeted by Saudi Ambassador to Kuwait Prince Sultan bin Saad bin Khalid.