Adel Bakheet Al-Zahrani was appointed as the deputy minister for urban planning and lands, and strategic adviser of urban design and livable cities, in March 2022. He has played a pivotal role in shaping national policies related to urban development.
His responsibilities encompass policy formulation, monitoring policy implementation across urban development sub-sectors, and fostering coordination between multilateral agencies and urban development stakeholders.
One of his key initiatives has been the formulation of a vision for the quality of life within the real estate sector and national housing projects. Al-Zahrani has been instrumental in setting and monitoring national standards and policies for urban and regional planning and development, aligning them with the ambitious goals of Saudi Arabia’s national transformation plan, Vision 2030.
Before taking on his current role, Al-Zahrani held influential positions in academia, serving as the vice dean for quality and development at the Faculty of Architecture and Planning at King Abdulaziz University, followed by his appointment as the department’s dean. These positions not only showcased his leadership capabilities but also laid the foundation for his subsequent impactful roles in urban development.
From 2020 to 2022, Al-Zahrani served as the strategic adviser of urban transformation and initiator of the National Urban Design Studio, a testament to his commitment to advancing urban planning in Saudi Arabia. During this time he was entrusted with the deputyship of city planning at the Ministry of Municipal and Rural Affairs and Housing.
He embarked on his global career in 2007, working as a senior architect and urban designer at renowned firms in the US. His expertise extended to North Africa and the Middle East, where he contributed to notable projects such as the Shams Central Park and Public Landscape in Abu Dhabi. His portfolio includes diverse projects, from co-housing neighborhoods to town master planning and institutional buildings.
Al-Zahrani has been a delegate both internationally and regionally, advocating for urban planning and development. He has represented Saudi Arabia in various capacities, including in the Saudi-Bahraini Coordination Council, Senior Municipal Leaders Committee for GCC, and Joint Municipal Action in Kuwait. Notably, he addressed the UN in New York in 2022, underlining his commitment to global urban sustainability.
Al-Zahrani’s extensive participation in international summits and conferences, including the World Urban Forum in Poland, reflects his dedication to promoting sustainable urban development and combating climate change.
His experiences and contributions have not only advanced his career but also positively impacted communities, aligning with the transformative goals of Vision 2030 and exemplifying his mission to enhance livability and improve people’s quality of life through urban architecture, planning, and design.
Al-Zahrani holds a bachelor’s degree in architecture from King Abdulaziz University, a master’s degree in city planning from Boston University, and a Ph.D. in architecture and urban design research from Virginia Tech.
Saudi artist expresses faith, culture at Kosovo exhibition
Ghadeer Hafez has hints of blue on black and white paintings, which portrays ‘hope’ when turning humbly to God
Updated 57 min 26 sec ago
Jeddah: Saudi Arabia’s Ghadeer Hafez says her recent exhibition in Kosovo showcases her belief that faith can restore balance, meaning and purity in one’s life.
Her work was displayed at the Euro Kosovo International Art Festival from Sept. 22 to 29, which was held under the title “My Creative World in Kosovo,” and featured the output of 30 renowned artists from 20 countries.
Hafez was the only artist from Saudi Arabia invited to participate in the festival by Kosovo’s Ministry of Culture.
In an interview with Arab News recently, she said: “I am very keen to represent my country in international artistic forums around the world, and I consider this an integral part of my duty toward my country as a Saudi citizen and visual artist.”
In her latest work, Hafez departed from her previous style — characterized by vibrant colors depicting the hustle and bustle of life — with hints of blue on largely stark black and white paintings.
“We may get confused sometimes, but we find ourselves when we return to God. The works were dressed in two colors, black and white, as it distinguishes between the psychological state that a person experiences when he elevates his heart with God and a little ... the blue color is an expression of hope in life.”
“The goal of my artistic works is the human being and how God takes care of him.”
Hafez also believes that her work expresses Saudi Arabia culture, which she says speaks to all areas of life.
Saudia reveals bold rebranding for a tech-infused future
Top official says new look represents airline’s commitment to digital advancement
Saudia introduces option for female passengers to request seating next to other females
Updated 02 October 2023
REINA TAKLA & NOUR EL-SHAERI
RIYADH: The unveiling of a new brand identity for Saudi Arabian Airlines is more than a change in its appearance, as according to a top official it is but a part of a huge transformation in the company’s approach in line with the ongoing digital transformation.
Khaled Tash, group chief marketing officer at Saudia, told Arab News on Sunday the new look represented the airline’s commitment to digital advancement and an array of new services and products in the pipeline.
He said the rebranding signifies the company’s embrace of the developing tech industry, reflecting the Kingdom’s broader ambitions.
The official said: “This is not about changing our logo or changing our colors.” It is, he added, more about improving our services and introducing new products.
“We are very keen to accelerate the transition…the overall reaction from the market” has been overwhelming, Tash said.
Elaborating on how the update reinforces the airline’s digital transformation, Tash noted that Saudia stands out as one of the pioneering airlines in Europe, the Middle East, and Africa to integrate artificial intelligence into its customer experience.
“The Travel Companion is an AI-driven personal aide. When users access the Saudia app, it intuitively recognizes them without requiring manual data input and promptly aids with all travel-related queries,” elaborated Tash.
Highlighting its capabilities, he mentioned that users can ask Saudia’s travel companion bot for holiday recommendations, which will engage in an interactive dialogue to understand preferences before offering tailored suggestions.
Additionally, users can seamlessly book their flights directly within the chat interface when conversing with the travel companion, eliminating the need to navigate away from the conversation.
The AI-driven bot is slated for launch by the end of this year, coinciding with an enhanced version of the airline’s application.
“Digital transformation is not just a buzzword that we use, we aim to improve the customer experience using new innovations,” Tash stated.
He elaborated that, guided by that motto, the company has pinpointed 260 features and services for introduction or enhancement if they already exist.
The airline has also launched a VIP meet-and-greet service. Tash expects this addition to boost revenue from booking services by 10 percent.
In alignment with Arab culture, the airline has introduced an option for female passengers to request seating next to other female passengers on specific, long-duration flights.
Tash said the unprecedented growth in the Kingdom’s tourism sector is also proving to be fruitful for the airline and it is part of the ongoing transformation. He specifically mentioned the fact that Saudia is the first airline to begin operations to and from the Red Sea International Airport.
The marketing head also revealed that the airline has ambitious goals to more than triple its passenger count over the next seven years.
Clarifying the shift in Saudia’s vision, Tash mentioned that historically, the airline’s objective was to connect the Kingdom’s citizens to the world. However, the current goal emphasizes bringing the world to Saudi Arabia.
Frankly Speaking: How do US Jews feel about a Saudi-Israel deal?
Rabbi Marc Schneier says Jewish American community is “ecstatic” about the prospect of normalization of ties
Expects to see Israel, KSA, US Congress ‘on the same page’ on US arms sales to Kingdom, help with civilian nuclear progam
Explains his rationale for supporting Arab News’ “Why Riyadh?” campaign backing Saudi bid to host Expo 2030
Updated 1 min ago
DUBAI: The Jewish American community is “ecstatic” over a potential deal between Saudi Arabia and Israel, according to Marc Schneier, a well-known American rabbi and an adviser to several Arab Gulf states.
Appearing in the first episode of a new season of the Arab News current affairs show “Frankly Speaking,” he said such a deal may be a step toward resolving the Israel-Palestine conflict.
“I think we are very close. I believe we are on the cusp of seeing this rapprochement between Israel and Saudi Arabia,” he added.
Schneier praised the efforts of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who he said “represented himself in a very human, very personal way” in a recent much-talked-about interview with Fox News.
Speaking to Bret Baier of the US TV network, the crown prince revealed among other things that “every day we get closer” toward normalization of Saudi-Israel relations.
“Very few people had the opportunity to really hear from him, particularly in English. And that connected with the audience,” Schneier said.
He noted that the crown prince’s comments on the future of Saudi-Israel relations not only struck a chord with American Jews, but also with 16 million evangelical Christians in the US, many of whom had a strong positive opinion of Israel.
“I heard from some of my evangelical friends who are in the leadership of this group, how refreshing it is to hear from the great leader of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia his genuine desire and a dream to see a peace not only with Israel, but for a peaceful coexistence for the entire region,” he added.
However, Schneier felt that the purported demands from the Saudi side — removal of US restrictions on the sale of weapons, assistance with the creation of a civilian nuclear program in the Kingdom, and the creation of a written security pact — could present difficult but not insurmountable hurdles.
“Israel, Saudi Arabia, and the US — be it the administration or Congress — would be on the same page,” he told Katie Jensen, the host of “Frankly Speaking.”
During the Fox News interview, the crown prince emphasized that a solution to the Middle East conflict would be a necessary component of any Saudi-Israel deal.
“For us, the Palestinian issue is very important. We need to solve that part,” he said when asked what it would take to get a normalization agreement.
Schneier said: “That’s the only hurdle that’s left on the table — not a very easy hurdle to overcome.”
He considered Jews not only in the US but around the world, including in Israel, as “being a bit naive and not appreciative of the importance of resolving this Israel-Palestinian conflict once and for all.”
Schneier acknowledged that some within Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s increasingly right-wing government may reject any type of peace deal in favor of further expanding Jewish settlements in Palestine. But he pointed out that right-wing leaders had a record of making peace.
He cited former American President Richard Nixon’s historic visit to China, ex-US President Ronald Reagan’s summits with Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, and the late Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin’s peace treaty with Egypt as examples of diplomatic success achieved by more conservative political leaders.
“Often when it comes to these negotiations, when it comes to concessions, you need the people who are more to the right to lend credibility and legitimacy and authenticity to what would be a genuine and real peace. So, I’m not concerned about that.
“If the (Israeli) coalition agrees to the peace, I know that Prime Minister Netanyahu will be able to deliver on that peace.
“My question is, will the Palestinian leadership have that same credibility in terms of being able to deliver on that peace? Does the current Palestinian leadership have the support of the Palestinian people?” Schneier added.
For there to be “a genuine, real, authentic peace,” he said, “the question one has is whether or not the current Palestinian leadership can actually bring many of these promises and guarantees to fruition. These are some very, very difficult questions.”
Schneier suggested that Arab Gulf states could, and should, play a major role in ending the Palestine-Israel conflict.
He said: “I don’t think that the Palestinian leadership could possibly arrive at some kind of resolution with the Israelis without the participation of countries like Saudi Arabia, like the UAE, like Bahrain, Qatar, and others.
“And Israel will need the assistance, particularly of the crown prince and Saudi Arabia, to deliver on this peace.”
In mid-September, Israeli Foreign Minister Eli Cohen told Israel’s Army Radio that “there is certainly a likelihood” of details of a deal for forging Saudi-Israel relations being “finalized” in the first quarter of 2024.
While Saudis were critical to the peace process, Schneier believed that the Kingdom may adopt an approach different from those taken by Arab countries that have normalized relations with Israel.
“Maybe Saudi Arabia will take the UAE approach — an operating approach — ‘we’ll make peace now, then we’ll deal with the Palestinians later.’ I don’t believe that is the approach of the crown prince,” he added.
Saudi Arabia and Israel have never had formal diplomatic relations, though ties between Israel and several Arab countries have warmed in recent years. The signing of the Abraham Accords in 2020 saw the UAE and Bahrain normalize ties with Israel, followed by Morocco and Sudan.
The Abraham Accords have met with their own share of criticism. In an appearance on “Frankly Speaking” in May last year, former Saudi intelligence chief, Prince Turki Al-Faisal, said there was “no evidence” that normalization had led to Israel being any more lenient on Palestinians.
Violence by Israeli settlers has been on the rise this year, with the UN recording 591 attacks by setters in the first six months of this year as opposed to 358 in the whole of 2020.
Schneier said: “It takes time for things to settle in. But I know people to people in Bahrain, in the UAE, in Morocco, in Israel, that there’s a very, very genuine and heartfelt feeling in terms of reaching out to the other.”
He described the Abraham Accords as “revolutionary” and “a natural progression for Muslims and Jews to be coming back together.”
Schneier has taken on an active role in Middle Eastern diplomacy, having facilitated a rapprochement between the presidents of Turkiye and Israel, Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Izaac Herzog, respectively.
“Before March 2022, the state of relations with Israel and Turkiye was one of conflict. Today is it one of great cooperation. So, yes, I’m very, very proud of the role that I played and looking forward to playing similar roles with other countries in terms of bringing the Muslim world closer to the state of Israel,” he added.
Schneier, a native New Yorker, is the president and co-founder of the Foundation for Ethnic Understanding (FFEU), which was established in 1989 with the aim of improving Muslim-Jewish relations and Black-Jewish relations.
“My preoccupation is to find the path to narrow the gap, the chasm, the divide between 1.6 billion Muslims and 16 million Jews,” he said.
“At the end of the day, Muslims and Jews, we are family, we’re cousins. We may have had a few family disagreements, but there are no two other religions that have more in common and have that historic bond than Islam and Judaism.
“So, for me, it’s a natural progression for Muslims and Jews to be coming back together.”
And Schneier reaffirmed his support for Arab News’ campaign to back the Saudi bid to host World Expo 2030.
“I think people don’t appreciate what the Kingdom has done from an interreligious point of view.
“We know about all the changes, all the reforms, politically, economically, but you should know that Saudi Arabia was the first of the Gulf states to reach out to other states, reach out to the West from an interreligious point of view.”
In particular, he lauded the role of the King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz International Center for Interreligious and Intercultural Dialogue, founded in 2012 by the late King Abdullah.
“It was the King Abdullah Center that was the first interfaith religious center ever championed, ever founded, by a Gulf country,” he said.
Before agreeing to serve as the 2022 football World Cup’s interfaith adviser, Schneier called for direct flights between Tel Aviv and Doha and the provision of kosher food at the world’s largest sporting event to ensure “Israelis were made to feel welcome there.”
He added: “I call it my bagel diplomacy. We brought the first bagels ever to Doha, to Qatar.”