How forest conservation is helping Saudi Arabia achieve its green objectives

Special How forest conservation is helping Saudi Arabia achieve its green objectives
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A view of "Tahlal” mountains in Rijal Almaa governorate, in the southwestern province of Asir. (SPA)
Special How forest conservation is helping Saudi Arabia achieve its green objectives
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Mountain forests are predominantly located in the region spanning the Hijaz Mountains in Taif to Jazan in the south. (SPA)
Special How forest conservation is helping Saudi Arabia achieve its green objectives
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Mountain forests are predominantly located in the region spanning the Hijaz Mountains in Taif to Jazan in the south. (SPA)
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Updated 18 May 2024
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How forest conservation is helping Saudi Arabia achieve its green objectives

How forest conservation is helping Saudi Arabia achieve its green objectives
  • By planting trees and protecting forests, the Kingdom promotes biodiversity and sustainable development
  • Forests provide habitats for hundreds of animal species and play a pivotal role in combating climate change 

JEDDAH: With its low annual rainfall, much of Saudi Arabia’s vast landscape is covered by desert, broken by occasional oases. In its mountainous regions, valleys, and along its coastline, however, the Kingdom is home to multiple forest ecosystems.

Forests play a pivotal role in combating climate change by acting as carbon sinks — storing carbon both above and below ground, thereby extracting it from the atmosphere, where it would otherwise contribute to the greenhouse effect.

Their significance in climate change adaptation and mitigation is also underscored by their role in creating local microclimates, providing habitats for a wealth of biodiversity, locking in freshwater resources, and preventing flash floods, landslides, and soil degradation.




Riyadh residents take part in a tree-planting project as part of the Greener Home initiative. (@Riyadh_Green/File)

Saudi Arabia’s National Center for Vegetation Cover Development and Combating Desertification is at the forefront of implementing the Kingdom’s strategic goals outlined in Vision 2030.

“Forests play a crucial role in mitigating climate change,” Samir Malaika, assistant director-general of the general administration of forests at NCVC told Arab News. “Saudi Arabia’s dry climate and geography hinder its efforts to conserve forests and promote plant growth.

“With most areas receiving minimal rainfall, forests struggle to thrive. The escalating impact of climate change exacerbates environmental stressors, hampering forest growth and regeneration efforts.”

The NCVC aims to elevate living standards by reducing pollution and facilitating the restoration of degraded environments. It is also committed to building resilience against natural hazards and defenses against harmful pests that could pose risks to vegetation.

Simultaneously, it prioritizes the sustainable development of the Kingdom’s natural resources. With seven ongoing initiatives, it aims to ensure the responsible and lasting utilization of resources in line with the nation’s sustainability objectives.

Among the center’s key initiatives under the Saudi Green Initiative is a scheme to plant some 10 billion trees — representing a significant step in the Kingdom’s reforestation effort.

The initiative for forest management and sustainable development by 2030 underscores a long-term commitment to nurturing and preserving woodland environments.

The phased approach to preserving and restoring vegetation in pasture areas reflects a strategic focus on addressing the specific ecological challenges faced by different ecosystems.

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Furthermore, the initiative for developing vegetation and infrastructure for 50 national parks highlights the importance of creating protected natural spaces while promoting biodiversity and ecotourism.

Moreover, the initiative to plant 7 million wild trees in royal reserves demonstrates a targeted effort to enhance the natural habitats within these pristine areas.

Engagement by the public and private sectors in vegetation development and combating desertification underscores the collaborative approach needed in order to achieve sustainable environmental goals.




One initiative of the National Center for Vegetation Cover Development and Combating Desertification with the aim of achieving sustainable forest management is to tap local community participation in agroforestry projects and by promotingecotourism. (Photo Courtesy: NCVC)

By harnessing the collective resources and expertise of various stakeholders, these initiatives aim to create a resilient and thriving ecosystem that benefits both present and future generations.

According to Malaika, Saudi Arabia boasts a forest coverage spanning approximately 2,768,050 hectares, primarily concentrated in the southern and southwestern regions, along riverbeds, and on the coastlines of the Red Sea and the Arabian Gulf.

These forest ecosystems are categorized into three primary types: mountain, valley, and mangrove.

Mountain forests

Mountain forests are predominantly located in the region spanning the Hijaz Mountains in Taif to Jazan in the south. These areas have neutral soil acidity and receive the highest rainfall and humidity levels, particularly evident in the southwest with denser forest cover.




The juniper tree has proudly stood as a symbol of picturesque beauty in Al-Baha region, adorning its slopes and mountain peaks with vibrant green hues. (SPA)

Forests are made up of several Juniperus plant species, typically found at altitudes of 2,000 meters and above. Additionally, Olea chrysophylla forests, characterized by wild olive trees with golden leaves, thrive at altitudes of 1,500 to 2,000 meters.

At lower altitudes, between 1,000 to 1,500 meters, Acacia plant species dominate the landscape.

Notably, terraced agriculture is a common feature of mountainous regions, facilitating crop fruit tree cultivation while aiding in water retention and soil protection. However, improper management can lead to land degradation, adversely affecting the surrounding forests.

DID YOUKNOW?

• Saudi Arabia is home to more than 63 unique ecosystems, ranging from mountainous regions to coastal lowlands.

• The Kingdom boasts a diverse array of wildlife, including 78 terrestrial mammal species and 499 species of bird.

• Coral reefs in Saudi Arabian waters host an impressive 266 species, contributing to marine biodiversity.

• With more than 6,500 species, Saudi Arabia’s invertebrate population testifies to the richness of its ecosystems.

• Saudi Arabia boasts three distinct forest ecosystems: mountain forest, valley forest, and mangrove forest.

Valley forests

Saudi Arabia’s topography features 179 valleys distributed across the country. Valley forests, mainly situated in semi-arid regions, are characterized by species such as Acacia ehrenbergiana, Acacia tortilis, Maerua crassifolia, several species of Commiphora, and Salvadora persica.

Additionally, oases and valleys are abundant with various Acacia species, Ziziphus spina-christi, Salvadora persica, Haloxylon persicum, trees, shrubs, and Hyphaene thebaica. 




Saudi Arabia’s topography features 179 valleys distributed across the country. (AN file photo)

Mangrove forests

Mangroves and coastal ecosystems tolerant to saltwater are predominantly located along the Red Sea coast, with other stretches found along the Arabian Gulf coast.

Despite the lack of comprehensive forest data, studies indicate significant degradation of the mangrove ecosystem.

Avicennia marina is the most prevalent species in mangrove forests, with Rhizophora mucronata being less common.

Besides these natural forests, the Kingdom is also host to many urban and cultivated woodlands in its parks and residential neighborhoods, planted to provide shade, reduce temperatures, and beautify city streets.

Despite the Kingdom’s diverse ecosystems, it faces significant challenges in preserving and expanding its forests, including limited resources, poor local management, insufficient nursery production to meet seedling demand, a lack of awareness about dumping and unauthorized grazing, and other irresponsible human activities.

The Saudi National Center for Wildlife is working to protect, develop, and restore ecosystems and biodiversity around the Kingdom, in addition to addressing risks related to plant and animal life.




Red Sea Global implemented a nursery project with the goal to have 50 million trees of Mangroves by 2030. (Red Sea Global photo/File)

According to Abdulmanea Al-Qahtani, invertebrates department director at the NCW, the Kingdom has 63 distinct ecosystems, encompassing a diverse range of landscapes, including mountains, plains, deserts, valleys, forests, seas, wetlands, plateaus, coastal areas, and marshes, all teeming with biodiversity.

The Kingdom is home to 78 species of terrestrial mammal, 499 species of bird, 136 species of reptile, seven species of amphibian, and more than 6,500 species of invertebrate.

In its waters, the Kingdom also offers habitats to 19 species of marine mammal, eight species of freshwater fish, 1,248 species of saltwater fish, and 266 species of coral




Unknown to many, Saudi Arabia is home to 78 species of terrestrial mammal, 499 species of bird, 136 species of reptile, seven species of amphibian, and more than 6,500 species of invertebrate. (NCW collage image)

The Saudi Green Initiative, launched by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in 2021 under the Vision 2030 framework, aims to tackle threats to this rich biodiversity and foster sustainable development.

Key goals include transitioning to a sustainable economy by reducing carbon emissions, boosting renewable energy production, and bolstering conservation efforts.

Additionally, the initiative aims to enhance environmental protection, promote green technologies, and create green jobs to drive economic diversification and growth.
 

 


Saudi Arabia’s Mashaer Train transports more than 2.2m Hajj pilgrims 

Saudi Arabia’s Mashaer Train transports more than 2.2m Hajj pilgrims 
Updated 52 min 49 sec ago
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Saudi Arabia’s Mashaer Train transports more than 2.2m Hajj pilgrims 

Saudi Arabia’s Mashaer Train transports more than 2.2m Hajj pilgrims 

RIYADH: Saudi Railways on Wednesday hailed the success of the Mashaer Train operation at this year’s Hajj season, saying the metro service had transported more than 2.2 million passengers between the nine stations in Arafat, Muzdalifah and Mina, operating 2,206 trips.

More than 29,000 worshippers were transported on the first day of the pilgrimage, while more than 292,000 pilgrims were carried from Mina to Arafat, Saudi Press Agency reported.

The Mashaer Train then transported over 305,000 people during the pilgrimage from Arafat to Muzdalifah, and more than 383,000 worshippers from Muzdalifah to Mina.

During the days of Tashreeq, the train carried more than 1.2 million pilgrims from stations Mina 1, Mina 2, and Muzdalifah 3 to Mina 3 station (Jamarat), which offered easy access to the Jamarat Bridge.

Bashar Al-Malik, CEO of SAR, said that the success of the operating plan was built on unlimited support for the railway sector from the Saudi leadership.


Riyadh targets Expo 2030 ‘by the world, for the world’

Riyadh targets Expo 2030 ‘by the world, for the world’
Updated 34 min 47 sec ago
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Riyadh targets Expo 2030 ‘by the world, for the world’

Riyadh targets Expo 2030 ‘by the world, for the world’
  • Saudi organizers deliver their first progress report to event bureau chiefs in Paris

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia is on target to deliver an Expo 2030 “by the world, for the world,” organizers have told event chiefs in Paris in their first progress report since Riyadh was chosen as host city.

Abdulaziz Alghannam, director general of the Riyadh Expo 2030 office at the Royal Commission for Riyadh City, led the Saudi delegation at the general assembly of the Bureau International des Expositions in the French capital.

Efforts were fully underway for Expo registration and preparation for creating the legal framework to enable international participation in the event, he told the bureau.

Riyadh was chosen to host the event at the bureau’s last general assembly in November 2023. The expo will take place  from Oct. 1, 2030 to March 31, 2031, when the Saudi capital will host 197 countries and 29 international organizations.

The theme – “The Era of Change: Together for a Foresighted Tomorrow” – encapsulates Saudi Arabia’s commitment to using the Expo to accelerate progress toward the planned sustainable development goals. The event will focus on harnessing science and innovation for a better future.

Preparations are underway at the highest levels, including infrastructure development, legislative and financial measures, the master plan for the Expo site, and legacy plans.


Classic meat dish returns to Jazan tables

Mahshoosh has stood the test of time, maintaining its prominence among the various dishes that grace the Jazan table. (Supplied/
Mahshoosh has stood the test of time, maintaining its prominence among the various dishes that grace the Jazan table. (Supplied/
Updated 19 June 2024
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Classic meat dish returns to Jazan tables

Mahshoosh has stood the test of time, maintaining its prominence among the various dishes that grace the Jazan table. (Supplied/
  • In the past, locals prepared mahshoosh to preserve sacrificial meat in the absence of refrigeration

MAKKAH: The arrival of Eid Al-Adha signals the return of mahshoosh, or Al-Humais — a traditional dish beloved by Jazan locals that is deeply rooted in the region’s cultural heritage.

Mahshoosh has stood the test of time, maintaining its prominence among the various dishes that grace the Jazan table. Its preparation is seen as a revival of an age-old tradition dating back to a time when there was no refrigeration. Local people relied on this dish to preserve the meat from their Eid Al-Adha sacrifices.

Once the meat and fat are cut up, the fat is slowly melted and meat added gradually. (Supplied/Visit Saudi)

While the dish is most associated with Eid Al-Adha, it can be savored throughout the year. Its name stems from the method of preparation, which involves finely chopping meat and fat into small pieces, a process referred to as “Al-Hash” in the local dialect.

The recipe for mahshoosh has been passed down through generations, with women in Jazan taking great pride in preparing it. Once the meat and fat are cut up, the fat is slowly melted and meat added gradually. After the addition of spices, the dish is then left to simmer for several hours with occasional stirring.

HIGHLIGHTS

• While mahshoosh is most associated with Eid Al-Adha, it can be savored throughout the year.

• Its name stems from the method of preparation, which involves finely chopping meat and fat into small pieces, a process referred to as ‘Al-Hash’ in the local dialect.

Finally, the cooked mixture is transferred to a clay container, where it solidifies and can be preserved for several months without losing its flavor.

Lard and meat are chopped up and cooked together to create the rich delicacy. (SPA)

Chef Ahmed Issa Shetifi from the Sabya governorate said mahshoosh was invented out of necessity when people had no means of preserving their food. Cooking it with lard extended the shelf life of the meat.

Preparation methods varied from one household to another, with some families adding only onions while others would include spices such as cardamom and cinnamon.

According to Shetifi, proper preparation involves roasting the lard before the meat is added. The lard pieces should be large, as they dissolve faster.

He added: “This custom continued even after people had refrigerators to store meat and food. In fact, some families still store mahshoosh in rooms or under their beds, where it lasts for a week or ten days before being consumed.

“Later generations began storing it in pots in the refrigerator while others use designated bags, each containing one meal, and keep them in the freezer.”

Mahshoosh is very high in calories and is typically served only during Eid Al-Adha, he said: “Some families dedicate the entire Eid sacrifice to preparing mahshoosh. While it can be enjoyed in moderation, eating it in excess poses a risk of high cholesterol due to its high-calorie content.”

Mahshoosh is typically served with bread, although some people prefer to eat it with rice. It is also part of the traditional Jazan dinner.

 


Unwind and reconnect with nature at these Saudi reserves and resorts

Unwind and reconnect with nature at these Saudi reserves and resorts
Updated 19 June 2024
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Unwind and reconnect with nature at these Saudi reserves and resorts

Unwind and reconnect with nature at these Saudi reserves and resorts
  • Model and actress Maria Eduarda spoke to Arab News about her stay: “Everything was great! The food, the room service, and in-villa dining were amazing … The structure inside the villa is amazing … I loved it — one of the best stops ever”

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia boasts a plethora of novel natural reserves and resorts that champion the nourishment of the mind, body, and soul.

From lush mountain ranges to glistening blue waters, the well-preserved environments have become must-visit spots for those looking to discover the Kingdom’s hidden gems and reconnect with nature.

Situated on a pristine private island, the newly opened Nujuma, Ritz-Carlton Reserve marks the brand's debut in the Middle East, featuring coral reefs beneath the water’s surface and a clear view of the night stars, which inspired the name ‘Nujuma’. (Supplied)

Nujuma, Ritz-Carlton Reserve, The Red Sea

Situated on a private island, the newly opened Nujuma, Ritz-Carlton Reserve marks the brand’s debut in the Middle East, featuring coral reefs beneath the water’s surface and a clear view of the night stars, inspiring its name.

Model and actress Maria Eduarda spoke to Arab News about her stay: “Everything was great! The food, the room service, and in-villa dining were amazing … The structure inside the villa is amazing … I loved it — one of the best stops ever.”

Aseel Resort is a one-of-a-kind family experience that merges nature, heritage and luxury. (Supplied)

The resort features 63 one-to-four-bedroom water and beach villas, designed to blend in with the unspoiled natural environment. Guests can indulge in a lavish spa, swimming pools, a range of restaurants, and a retail area.

The Neyrah Spa offers relaxation with a touch of regional ingredients like oud and moringa peregrina tree oil. The wellness services include guided breathing techniques, meditation, yoga, and sound healing therapy.

The relaxing Nofa Riyadh features luxury villas complete with private gardens and swimming pools, surrounded by green lawns, sand dunes and mountains. (Supplied)

The on-site Conservation House is an ode to nomadic exploration, providing a space for guests to get creative, expand their knowledge, and foster a sense of community through resident sustainability, environmental, and cultural experts.

Al-Ahsa Oasis, Al-Ahsa

Boasting natural springs and lush greenery, Al-Ahsa Oasis is the perfect spot for a family getaway. Home to one of the biggest oases in the world and now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the limestone hills of Al-Qarah and Al-Ahsa National Park are just a few of the attractions.

For those looking to discover Saudi’s regional flora and fauna, Shada mountain is just an hour and a half drive fromAl-Baha city in the Jabal Shada Nature Reserve. (SPA)

The historical region in the eastern part of Saudi Arabia is filled with potential recreational activities, including water fountain light shows, a football stadium, mazes, and a theater at King Abdullah Environment Park.

Asfar Lake, or Yellow Lake, is an unforgettable site from over the sand dunes, while Souq Al-Qaisariya is one of the oldest markets in the Kingdom for memorable souvenirs.

The Sharaan Nature Reserve spans 1,500 square kilometers, showcasing stunning red-rock canyons, valleys, and desert landscapes. (AN photo by Zaid Khashogji)

Jabal Shada, Baha

For those looking to discover Saudi Arabia’s regional flora and fauna, Jabal Shada is just an hour-and-a-half drive from Baha in the Jabal Shada Nature Reserve. Marked with unusual rock formations, the area is home to unique geological cave formations, reportedly dating back 763 million years and engraved with Thamudic writings and drawings that date back 3,000 years.

Tours are available to book through Akam Aljazerah’s website, and modern stays nearby are equipped with kitchens, balconies, and breathtaking views.

Guests can also immerse themselves in the gastronomic arts by enrolling in a cooking school to master healthy recipes and techniques. (Supplied)

Sharaan Nature Reserve, AlUla

Sharaan Nature Reserve spans 1,500 sq. km, showcasing stunning red-rock canyons, valleys, and desert landscapes.

Safari Sharaan’s guided 4x4 adventures allow guests to explore wildlife like red-necked ostriches and Arabian ibex, and discover ancient rock carvings.

Saudi Arabia has played a crucial role by establishing specialized breeding centers and veterinary facilities for the Arabian oryx. (SPA)

Guests can relax at Habitas AlUla, featuring Thuraya Wellness’ yoga, fitness, and personalized treatment offerings with local oils and teas, or stay in wellness-focused villas like Celestial and Alcove at Habitas.

The Banyan Tree’s tented villas and spa blend Asian and Saudi traditions for unique wellness experiences. Enjoy a secluded rock pool amid mountains, ideal for a refreshing swim and memorable moments.

Nofa Riyadh, Riyadh

The relaxing Nofa Riyadh features luxury villas complete with private gardens and swimming pools, surrounded by green lawns, sand dunes and mountains.

Dareen Al-Rajeh, a senior project associate, said about her stay there: “I liked how it was clean and comfortable with a generous welcome from the staff. The villa has a unique style with your own swimming pool … Walking around the resort, you will pass by a lot of animals, which makes you feel connected to nature … The resort has a spa, a children’s playground, multiple restaurants, and a small lake and boats.”

Guests are encouraged to experience nature on a whole new level at the resort’s incredible Wildlife Park where Asian elephants, Grevy’s zebras, Arabian oryx, and giraffes can be spotted.

Nofa’s on-site 39-seat theater is the place to unwind in style and enjoy daily movie screenings at your leisure or have a family competition at the Nofa Bowling Alley. Younger children can enjoy the Kids’ Adventure Park, an exciting indoor park with action-packed games and a playground.

Aseel Resort, Diriyah

Aseel Resort is a family experience that merges nature, heritage, and luxury. Nestled in the birthplace of the Kingdom, Diriyah, the resort was created as an ode to Saudi history and Najd’s beautiful artistry.

The resort allows anywhere from six to 75 guests, with six farms to choose from. Each one is decorated with ornate art by local creatives. Whether you take a dip in the farm’s private pool or enjoy game nights with your family at the indoor majlis, it’s a space to create lifetime memories.

Six Senses Southern Dunes, The Red Sea

Set against the dramatic backdrop of desert plains and the Hijaz Mountains, Six Senses Southern Dunes pays homage to Nabataean architectural heritage and its majestic desert surroundings.

The resort offers 36 guest rooms and 40 pool villas, while the spa offers a traditional hammam experience, meditative yoga sessions, and other tailored wellness treatments and.  

From Al-Sarab to Merkaz, Bariya, and beyond, the flavors of Saudi culinary heritage are endless, crafted with ingredients sourced from the chef’s garden or local suppliers.

Guests can also immerse themselves in the gastronomic arts by enrolling in a cooking school to master healthy recipes and techniques.

 


Saudi authorities distribute gifts to departing Hajj pilgrims 

Saudi authorities distribute gifts to departing Hajj pilgrims 
Updated 19 June 2024
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Saudi authorities distribute gifts to departing Hajj pilgrims 

Saudi authorities distribute gifts to departing Hajj pilgrims 

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Islamic Affairs, Dawah and Guidance in the Makkah region is distributing gifts to pilgrims departing the Kingdom after completing Hajj.

The gifts, which include 646,652 copies of the Qur’an and a translation of its meanings, are being distributed at King Abdulaziz International Airport in Jeddah, the Jeddah Islamic Port and Taif International Airport, the Saudi Press Agency reported on Wednesday.

The departing pilgrims thanked the Saudi government for the facilities and services provided to them, saying that the reception and farewell ceremonies are part of the Kingdom’s generosity to pilgrims and visitors.

The annual Hajj pilgrimage, which began on Friday, concluded on Wednesday with more than 2 million Muslims taking part this year.