Cosmopolitan Riyadh is beloved second home to diverse expatriate community

Cosmopolitan Riyadh is beloved second home to diverse expatriate community
Saudi National Day Celebration (Huda Bashatah/ AN File)
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Updated 03 October 2023
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Cosmopolitan Riyadh is beloved second home to diverse expatriate community

Cosmopolitan Riyadh is beloved second home to diverse expatriate community
  • People from Africa, Asia, Middle East and beyond relish melange of cultures, faiths and traditions
  • Feelings on finally leaving the city can be a combination of happiness and heartbreak

RIYADH: Riyadh hosts hundreds of thousands of expatriates, some who have been in the Saudi capital for decades, and who despite yearning to return to the countries of their birth, have come to view the city as very much a beloved second home.

Sharing food, culture and lifestyles, many foreign residents also join citizens in celebrating significant national events. And they are effusive about the sense of safety, security and economic well-being they experience in Saudi Arabia’s capital — which often results in mixed feelings of happiness and heartbreak when leaving on a final exit to their home nations.




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Mohammad Zaigham Khan, an Indian working in Riyadh for decades, told Arab News: “The biggest allure moving to Riyadh from New Delhi was (a) handsome salary, high standard of living, safety and bright future prospects. I moved to Riyadh in 1988. However, over the last five years one can see the change each day in the ever-growing and flourishing city of Riyadh. The pace of change is incredible, and we know that when such change is generated at the macro level, it creates opportunities for everybody.

“The transformation that is happening in line with Vision 2030 is probably one of the biggest reform programs in the world right now,” Khan continued.

“The cultural setting here is basically Arab and Islamic culture. The society is deeply religious, values traditions, and is family oriented. Lately there are changes which can be seen on the ground as women started driving and (the) abaya is no longer mandatory. As Saudi society has evolved over the years, the values and traditions from customs, hospitality to the style of dressing, are adapting with modernity and moderation,” he said.

“The warm hospitality seen in the capital has been a crucial part of (its) culture. Arabic coffee with dates is a traditional Arabic greeting — the pot’s first cup of coffee is poured to the guests as a sign of respect. (The) traditional sword dance is unique, which is staged to greet the guests,” he added.

“The best thing in Riyadh is the variety of food outlets from each part of the world. The local Riyadh restaurants will tempt you with their authentic flavors and economical prices. The variety of food available is incredible, which is not easy to find in many cities in the world. We love this place for all it has given to us and are thankful to the Saudi leadership for the opportunity to work here and be a part of the development of Riyadh, which has evolved into a world class city with (the) best facilities, second to none.”

Mamdouh Yousef, a Palestinian, told Arab News: “My father moved to the Kingdom more than 50 years ago and settled in Jeddah, and I have been living here moving between Riyadh and Jeddah. I remember well what the city was like when I was a child, generosity and kindness were the characteristics of the people.

“The capital city has developed amazingly to become an important city in the Middle East. I remember how families, both citizens and residents, used to celebrate Eid in the neighborhood and the folk bands used to decorate the atmosphere with their heritage.

“Although I am not a Saudi, a strong affiliation and love for this beautiful city has grown in me, starting with the education for free and the encouragement I received … I still remember well how kind the Saudis were by extending a helping hand to us in crises. What makes me most excited about returning to this Saudi capital is the blessing of security and safety that was, is, and will remain the beautiful garment that adorns this country,” said Yousef.

Egyptian expatriate Ayman Hassan said: “Since we moved to Riyadh about a decade ago, we have witnessed transformation everywhere. From cultural events, mega projects, international conferences, exhibitions, entertainment events to daily lifestyle.

“The Royal Commission for Riyadh City has an interesting series of year-long programs. Diriyah and Bujairi Terrace have become … top destinations that everyone seeks to visit from different parts of the world. We have also seen the activation of the public transportation project. All these and many more projects have reshaped Riyadh’s international image and made it one of the top world destinations, a much-deserving city to host the World Expo in 2030,” he added.

Syed Faiz Ahmad, a Pakistani expatriate told Arab News: “I arrived in Riyadh in 1997 to work with a construction firm as a civil engineer, and over about three decades I have had a wonderful experience of sharing culture and values with my Saudi friends.

“It was like falling in love with Riyadh with a sweet journey of discovering the heart of Saudi Arabia. I tell this to my friends back home if you are looking for a city that offers a unique blend of history, culture, and modern sophistication, a city that boasts stunning natural beauty, vibrant energy, and friendly locals, look no further than Riyadh, the capital of Saudi Arabia,” he said.

“I am very impressed with the simplicity of lifestyle here, which is evident from the food culture and clothing,” he said. “I feel I am home away from home. We join our Saudi brothers and sisters to celebrate every significant occasion, and they join us when it is our happy moments,” he added.


Saudi cultural center to launch reading, anti-desertification project

Saudi cultural center to launch reading, anti-desertification project
Updated 28 February 2024
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Saudi cultural center to launch reading, anti-desertification project

Saudi cultural center to launch reading, anti-desertification project
  • Ithra in Dhahran hosts event which includes Alexandria and Rabat
  • Goal is to read 500,000 pages and plant 5,000 trees in 3 Arab cities

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s King Abdulaziz Center for World Culture launches Thursday a three-day reading marathon and anti-desertification project, that will take place in three Arab cities.

Also known as Ithra, the center will host the event in cooperation with the Library of Alexandria and the Moroccan National Library. It will be held simultaneously in the Kingdom’s city of Dhahran, Alexandria in Egypt and Rabat in Morocco, the Saudi Press Agency reported on Tuesday.

The center is promoting reading, especially in public libraries, and all three cities will ensure a tree is planted for every 100 pages read.

The aim is to have participants read 500,000 pages and plant 5,000 trees.

To plant the trees, the Ithra center is working with the National Center for Vegetation Development to Combat Desertification in Saudi Arabia, and authorities in Egypt and Morocco.

Each reader will receive a commemorative medal for participating.

Bronze medals will be awarded to those who read 100 pages, silver for 200 pages, and gold for 1,000 pages.

The first edition of the marathon was held inside the Ithra library, achieving 162,000 pages read and 1,622 trees planted. The second edition was also held in the Ithra library and two libraries in Riyadh and Tabuk, with 422,000 pages read and 4,222 trees planted.

The planting of seedlings took place in October in the Al-Ahsa National Park with the participation of several readers.


Saudi crown prince meets with Ukraine president in Riyadh

Saudi crown prince meets with Ukraine president in Riyadh
Updated 28 February 2024
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Saudi crown prince meets with Ukraine president in Riyadh

Saudi crown prince meets with Ukraine president in Riyadh
  • Saudi-Ukrainian relations, latest developments in Ukrainian-Russian war were discussed
  • Crown prince stressed Kingdom’s support for all international efforts aimed at resolving crisis

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman met with the President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelensky in Riyadh on Tuesday.

During their meeting, aspects of Saudi-Ukrainian relations were reviewed, and the latest developments in the Ukrainian-Russian war were discussed, Saudi Press Agency reported. 

The crown prince stressed the Kingdom’s support for all international endeavors and efforts aimed at resolving the crisis and achieving peace, and continuing efforts to alleviate the humanitarian repercussions of the war. 

Zelensky wrote on social media platform X that he would discuss prisoners of war and deportees with the crown prince.

“The Kingdom’s leadership has already contributed to the release of our people. I am confident that this meeting will also yield results,” he wrote. 

The crown prince was involved in securing the release of 10 foreign prisoners captured in Ukraine in September 2022 which then enabled a major prisoner swap between Russia and Ukraine.

The president added that he will discuss “promising areas of economic cooperation and Saudi Arabia’s involvement in Ukraine’s reconstruction” during his visit. 

Zelensky left Riyadh later on Tuesday evening and was seen off by deputy govenor of Riyadh Prince Mohammed bin Abdulrahman bin Abdulaziz.


Saudi, Qatari communications ministers discuss joint initiatives to support growth of digital economy

Saudi, Qatari communications ministers discuss joint initiatives to support growth of digital economy
Updated 28 February 2024
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Saudi, Qatari communications ministers discuss joint initiatives to support growth of digital economy

Saudi, Qatari communications ministers discuss joint initiatives to support growth of digital economy
  • The parties discussed ways to expand the strategic partnership between the countries in digital government

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s Minister of Communications and Information Technology Abdullah Alswaha on Tuesday met his Qatari counterpart Mohammed Al-Mannai in Doha, the Saudi Press Agency reported.

The parties discussed ways to expand the strategic partnership between the countries in digital government and the digital economy, and techniques to enhance the innovation and entrepreneurship system.

“This is in line with the aspirations of the Saudi-Qatari Coordination Council to support and strengthen the partnership between the two brotherly countries,” the SPA’s statement said.

The meeting was attended by several leaders of national technology companies in the fields of business, digital transformation, and digital health solutions, along with other representatives from both parties.


Saudi Cabinet approves new railway law

Saudi Cabinet approves new railway law
Updated 28 February 2024
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Saudi Cabinet approves new railway law

Saudi Cabinet approves new railway law

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s Cabinet approved on Tuesday new regulations that govern the railways in the Kingdom.

The decision “supports achieving the goals of the National Transport & Logistics Strategy, and contributes to the governance of the railway sector and regulates the relationship between the infrastructure owner, the operator and the beneficiary,” Minister of Transport and Logistic Services Saleh Al-Jasser said.

The new regulations will ensure that railway services providers continue to apply the highest standards and requirements for safety and quality, and will develop policies and legislation that ensure fair competitiveness, the minister added.

In 2023, the number of railways passengers exceeded 11.2 million, a 55% increase compared to 2022. Trains also transported 24.7 million tons of goods and minerals, an increase of 6% during the same year.

Al-Jasser stated that regulations will contribute to encouraging use and ensure the protection of railways, their infrastructure, and facilities in accordance with internationally approved standards. 

The new law also specified penalties to protect railway tracks from violations and damage to the network.

The minister thanked King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman for approving the new law.


Saudi Cabinet calls for an end to escalation of military operations in Gaza

Saudi Arabia’s Cabinet held a meeting in Riyadh on Tuesday. (SPA)
Saudi Arabia’s Cabinet held a meeting in Riyadh on Tuesday. (SPA)
Updated 27 February 2024
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Saudi Cabinet calls for an end to escalation of military operations in Gaza

Saudi Arabia’s Cabinet held a meeting in Riyadh on Tuesday. (SPA)

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s Cabinet called for an end to the escalation in military operations in Gaza and the dire humanitarian crisis that it is causing, Saudi Press Agency reported on Tuesday.

The Cabinet also reviewed the outcomes of the Kingdom’s participation in a two-day meeting of G20 foreign ministers in Rio de Janeiro and its vision regarding the group’s role in dealing with existing international tensions and restructuring global governance.

The Cabinet also reiterated the Kingdom’s support for regional and international efforts to ban all types of weapons of mass destruction as was expressed during its participation in the UN Conference on Disarmament in Geneva.

The Cabinet also praised the outcomes of a recent Arab Interior Ministers’ Council held in Tunisia and stressed the Kingdom’s constant keenness to support and enhance joint Arab action in all fields in a way that contributes to establishing the foundations of security, stability, and prosperity in the region.