GCC chief emphasizes nations’ shared vision for integration

GCC chief emphasizes nations’ shared vision for integration
1 / 3
The Governor of Riyadh Province, Prince Faisal bin Bandar bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud, was among the dignitaries who graced the event. (Abdulrahman Bin Shalhoub/AN)
GCC chief emphasizes nations’ shared vision for integration
2 / 3
Bandar bin Mohammed Al-Attiyah, Qatar’s ambassador to Saudi Arabia, delivers a speech during the event. (Abdulrahman Bin Shalhoub/AN)
GCC chief emphasizes nations’ shared vision for integration
3 / 3
The GCC was formed on May 25, 1981, at a conference in Abu Dhabi, bringing together the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Oman, Qatar and Kuwait. (Abdulrahman Bin Shalhoub/AN)
Short Url
Updated 27 May 2024
Follow

GCC chief emphasizes nations’ shared vision for integration

GCC chief emphasizes nations’ shared vision for integration
  • Riyadh event celebrates 43 years of unity, calls for regional stability

RIYADH: The Gulf Cooperation Council marked its 43rd anniversary in Riyadh on Sunday with a ceremony attended by its members, ambassadors, and various guests including Riyadh Gov. Prince Faisal bin Bandar.

In his speech, GCC Secretary-General Jasem Al-Budaiwi said the council was an “icon and embodiment of the shared religious, historical, social, and cultural values that are reinforced by the geographical extension of the GCC countries.”

Al-Budaiwi said the council has had a clear vision for integration since its inception.

The GCC was formed on May 25, 1981, at a conference in Abu Dhabi, bringing together the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Oman, Qatar and Kuwait. A charter was signed creating the council for the Arab states.

The six-member bloc was initially formed as an economic group but then grew with the wider mission to provide stability and security for the region. The cooperation grew further to include other areas including energy, agriculture, telecommunications and education.

Al-Budaiwi said the region was facing difficult and unprecedented challenges, citing the killings, forced displacements, and other violations committed by Israel against the Palestinian people.

“We underscore the firm position of the GCC regarding the Israeli aggression. Therefore, we call for an immediate and sustainable ceasefire and an end to the Israeli military operations in all parts of Gaza, including the city of Rafah, and ensuring the provision of all humanitarian aid, relief, and essential needs to its population,” Al-Budaiwi said.

He urged the international community to adopt policies that would end the violence against the Palestinians in the West Bank, Jerusalem, and Islam’s holy sites.

Al-Budaiwi said the GCC supported the establishment of an independent Palestinian state within the 1967 borders, with East Jerusalem as its capital — in line with the Arab Peace Initiative and UN resolutions.

He also highlighted the achievements of the GCC in recent years.

“Our commitment to enhancing economic relations and opening new markets for the GCC countries is not only aimed at diversifying our economic activities but also at positioning the council’s countries as a strategic player on the global trade stage.

“Faced with these achievements and joint GCC projects, we now have a great responsibility to continue and preserve the gains that have been achieved during this blessed journey,” Al-Budaiwi said.

He added: “We have confidence in the capabilities and energy of our youth, whom we see as our strongest bet to achieve success and further strengthen the role and position of the cooperation council regionally and internationally.”

There was also a speech delivered by the ambassador of Qatar to Saudi Arabia, Bandar bin Mohammed Al-Attiyah, before the closing ceremony.

The event ended with traditional songs and dances of each member nation, including Saudi Arabia’s Ardah dance.


Tourism companies encouraged pilgrims to violate Hajj regulations says Saudi Interior Ministry official

1,301 people died during Hajj including 1,079 pilgrims who did not have Hajj permits. (@SaudiMOH)
1,301 people died during Hajj including 1,079 pilgrims who did not have Hajj permits. (@SaudiMOH)
Updated 25 June 2024
Follow

Tourism companies encouraged pilgrims to violate Hajj regulations says Saudi Interior Ministry official

1,301 people died during Hajj including 1,079 pilgrims who did not have Hajj permits. (@SaudiMOH)
  • Official highlighted the media and awareness campaigns that warned against performing Hajj without permits and the strict penalties faced by violators

RIYADH: Tourism companies around the world deceived foreign visitors to Saudi Arabia by issuing visas not intended for Hajj, while encouraging them to violate regulations by staying in Makkah two months before the pilgrimage, a Ministry of Interior spokesman said on Monday.

The security spokesman for Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Interior Colonel Talal bin Abdul Mohsen bin Shalhoub said 1,301 people died during Hajj including 1,079 pilgrims who did not have Hajj permits. Those who died and were unauthorized to perform Hajj made up 83 percent of the total deaths.

In an interview with Al-Arabiya, the spokesman prayed that God have mercy on the deceased and grant comfort to their families.

He also highlighted the media and awareness campaigns that warned against performing Hajj without permits and the strict penalties faced by violators. He added that some individuals have been abusing visit visas and other non-Hajj visas.

He stressed that a Hajj permit is not merely a transit card but a crucial tool that facilitates access to pilgrims and identifies their locations to provide necessary care and services promptly. The absence of a permit poses challenges related to services and healthcare.

Al-Shalhoub said the General Directorate of Public Security’s official social media accounts had been continuously updated with warnings that those who promote fake Hajj campaigns would be arrested and referred to the Public Prosecution.

The official also expressed his appreciation for the strict measures taken by some countries against these deceptive companies and the corrective actions they have implemented to prevent such violations in the future.

Al-Shalhoub confirmed the success of security plans for this year’s Hajj and said the success of the plans is evidence of the integrated efforts between security, military, and all government agencies concerned with Hajj to serve pilgrims and ensure their safety.


Saudi border guards foil plot to smuggle 73 kg of hash worth $1.8m

Saudi border guards foil plot to smuggle 73 kg of hash worth $1.8m
Updated 24 June 2024
Follow

Saudi border guards foil plot to smuggle 73 kg of hash worth $1.8m

Saudi border guards foil plot to smuggle 73 kg of hash worth $1.8m
  • Drugs were seized by authorities and preliminary legal proceedings have been completed

RIYADH: Border guards in the Asir region of Saudi Arabia thwarted an attempt to smuggle 73 kilograms of hashish, with an estimated street value of $1.8 million, into the Kingdom.

The drugs were seized by authorities and preliminary legal proceedings have been completed, the Saudi Press Agency reported on Monday.

It follows an announcement on Friday that border guards in the same region had foiled a separate plot to smuggle 52 kilograms of hashish into the country, while authorities in Jazan prevented the trafficking of 243 kilograms of qat.

Officials urged anyone with information about suspected smuggling operations or customs violations to contact them via email at [email protected], or by calling the confidential hotline number 1910 from within Saudi Arabia or the international number 00 966 114208417.
 


From Saudi Arabia to 105 countries — the incredible story of a modern nomad

From Saudi Arabia to 105 countries — the incredible story of a modern nomad
Updated 24 June 2024
Follow

From Saudi Arabia to 105 countries — the incredible story of a modern nomad

From Saudi Arabia to 105 countries — the incredible story of a modern nomad
  • From backpacking to dumpster diving, Saudi nomad embraces uncertainty, learns to live in the moment

RIYADH: As a child, Nasser Al-Sadhan would spend hours watching documentaries on countries such as New Zealand and India, fascinated by the diverse landscapes and cultures depicted on the screen.

As an adult, Al-Sadhan has been able to turn his childhood fantasies into reality by visiting these countries. Each step he takes in these unfamiliar territories brings back memories of the wonder and amazement he felt as a child.

Al-Sadhan is not your average traveler. The 35-year-old, born and raised in Riyadh, has backpacked to an astounding 105 countries, each journey leaving a mark on his soul.

Nasser Al-Sadhan is not your average traveler; the 35-year-old, born and raised in Riyadh, has backpacked to an astounding 110 countries, each journey, and its chance encounters, leaving a mark on his soul. (Supplied)

Traveling far enough, he discovered that finding yourself is not just a cliche — it is a transformative experience.

At 22, he moved to Canada and then Australia for his master’s degree and PhD in computer science specializing in AI.

“I moved back to Saudi Arabia at the end of 2019 when I became a professor of AI at King Saud University in Riyadh. Now, I am focusing on exploring the world and flow art,” Al-Sadhan told Arab News.

HIGHLIGHTS

• As a child, Nasser Al-Sadhan was intrigued by the sight of backpackers at the airport.

• Backpacking taught him how to live in the moment and seek new opportunities.

• He goes by @flowmad_ on Instagram, where he documents his travels and writes about the people he met along the way.

He goes by @flowmad_ on Instagram, an amalgamation of his love of flow arts and being a nomad.

Al-Sadhan began his backpacking adventures in 2014. Even as a child, he was intrigued by the sight of backpackers at the airport. “I never had the chance to do it (backpacking) until I moved to Canada for my higher education and had more free time and income,” he said.

Nasser Al-Sadhan is not your average traveler; the 35-year-old, born and raised in Riyadh, has backpacked to an astounding 110 countries, each journey, and its chance encounters, leaving a mark on his soul. (Supplied)

He fondly recalls one late-night conversation with his roommate Francis from South Korea. Al-Sadhan said that as they browsed countries on Google Maps, he felt a sense of wanderlust stirring within him.

He knew that that moment was the catalyst for his journey into the unknown. It ignited a spark in him that would ultimately lead him to thrilling experiences across the globe.

“I backpack because normal traveling where everything is planned and everything is booked doesn’t sound exciting to me … there isn’t any room left for spontaneity, no room for unplanned experiences.”

Among Al-Sadhan’s travels to strange lands is his visit to the infamous Darvaza Gas Crater, a natural wonder in Turkmenistan. (Supplied)

He rarely if ever plans his flight and accommodation in advance. “The two biggest obstacles that I had to overcome — that later proved to be very valuable — is going with the flow … not having a plan and not booking anything in advance,” he said.

Backpacking taught him how to live in the moment and seek new opportunities.

“I would often book a flight for the same night I wanted to travel so that I could reach the city and find accommodations there. But sometimes I would not find any place to stay,” he said.

The Saudi nomad’s willingness to embrace uncertainty and new experiences has fostered meaningful connections that transcend geographical boundaries, sometimes restoring his faith in humanity.

Once he slept on the beach in Sri Lanka because he couldn’t find any accommodation. “But then I met an amazing Ukrainian group, and they offered me a place to sleep,” he recalled. “We became friends and we ended up spending the next two weeks together.”

On one trip, Al-Sadhan’s phone stopped working while he was on a train in Poland. “That is when I saw two guys from Brazil with backpacks, so I asked them if they knew of a hostel, they said ‘Yes,’ and I followed them to it.”

The trio traveled together for the next three days and became friends.

“During my trip to Japan, I did not have the local currency on me and couldn’t pay for the bus fare when a girl helped pay it for me.” He noted that the two became friends as she showed him around the country.

Al-Sadhan said that this no-plan approach has pushed him out of his comfort zone and allowed him to break free from his cocoon.

“I have been traveling the world for the past 10 years and never had a hardship that resulted in a bad experience,” he said.

These chance encounters have enriched his travels, exposing him to diverse cultures and perspectives.

Without a fixed itinerary or set plan, he allows himself to be guided by the winds of the moment, resulting in unforgettable experiences and connections.

In 2016, before moving to Australia from Canada, Al-Sadhan made a pit stop in New Zealand and that trip restored his faith in humanity.

“New Zealand is a pretty expensive country and at that time I was a student, so I decided to hitchhike the whole way across the country because I didn’t have much money,” Al-Sadhan said.

Hitchhiking was faster than taking buses and allowed him to connect with individuals from various backgrounds, including a kind-hearted mother and her child, and a scientist studying birds on a remote island inaccessible to the public.

An experience backpacker, he revealed a trial-and-error approach to packing the essentials and emphasized the importance of minimalism and focusing on functionality rather than style. On his trip to New Zealand he carried “a functional sleeping bag, tent and small air mattress.”

During this five-week trip, Al-Sadhan gained a deep appreciation for the importance of community. To keep his spending to a minimum, he resorted to couch surfing —  a form of accommodation where travelers stay at the homes of locals for free.

He stayed at a communal apartment with four rooms and a living room with 30 people staying in it. “I stayed there for about six days because I enjoyed it. People from various countries were there, creating a sense of community where everyone helped each other,” Al-Sadhan said.

There was only one rule in this apartment: “If you cook, you cook for everyone.”

“One day someone came in with a lot of fresh fruits and vegetables and when I asked where they got them, they said ‘From the dumpster behind the supermarket.’”

While dumpster diving, they found a variety of items, including fresh produce, bread, and more. “If we found something like ice cream or eclairs, it would go to the person who went dumpster diving that day.”

While dumpster diving in a foreign country, he discovered a vibrant community of people from diverse cultures coming together to share resources.

Dumpster diving saved him money, but it’s not just about finding free food, but about building relationships and experiencing a new culture.

Among his travels to strange lands is his visit to the infamous Darvaza Gas Crater, a natural wonder in Turkmenistan. It is also known as the “Gates of Hell,” as it is a fiery pit that has been burning continuously for more than four decades, emitting a captivating blaze that lights up the night sky.

“We reached the gas crater before sunset and there was nothing to see but sand everywhere, but after sunset is when cylinder-shaped fiery lights beam from the hole.” Al-Sadhan recalled the eerie sight of birds swirling around the flames, dancing against the darkened backdrop of the desert area.

“My tour guide explained to me that these birds are feeding on the flies attracted to the light of the flames,” he said.

He had another life-changing experience at the Kumbh Mela festival in Varanasi, India. Unlike the rest of the places Al-Sadhan has been to, which he described as somewhat similar, “Varanasi is the exact opposite of that; everything is different, and nothing is the same.”

During his five days there, he had the opportunity to witness the customs and traditions of the region, including the public funeral procession and cremation that takes place along the banks of the sacred Ganges River.

Watching the ceremonial cremation of a middle-aged man, Al-Sadhan said: “They have a different social and spiritual relationship with death.” He vividly described how the bodies were wrapped in cloth before being placed on the funeral pyre and set ablaze.

The solemnity of the ceremony, combined with the spiritual energy of the festival, made him reflect on the fragility of life and the importance of cherishing each moment.

 


Tourists drawn to Al-Mandaq’s farms, cottages renovated by locals

The renovation of farms in Baha region reflect local agricultural tradition and cultural identity. (SPA)
The renovation of farms in Baha region reflect local agricultural tradition and cultural identity. (SPA)
Updated 24 June 2024
Follow

Tourists drawn to Al-Mandaq’s farms, cottages renovated by locals

The renovation of farms in Baha region reflect local agricultural tradition and cultural identity. (SPA)
  • Initiatives reflect agricultural tradition, cultural identity

RIYADH: Several private farms in Baha have been renovated and revamped by their owners to reflect agricultural tradition and cultural identity, helping to attract tourists to the area.

Among these, Al-Mandaq Governorate’s farms and rural cottages stand out, according to a report by the Saudi Press Agency. These farms, which are located throughout the region, have a variety of trees and tastefully structured rustic houses that draw in the visitors.

The owner of one farm, Othman Hassan Al-Zahrani, explained that the idea to restore his farm originated in 2022.

Al-Zahrani rebuilt his farm’s agricultural terraces and planted various fruit-bearing trees, including pomegranate, almond, lemon, kumquat, apricot, peach, flat peach, fig, and blackberry. In addition, coffee and samples of some rare trees were also planted.

Many locals in Baha have also focused on restoring their farms and transforming them into tourist sites. Their efforts emphasize local heritage while aligning with Saudi Vision 2030 under the Saudi Green Initiative.

 


KSRelief chief launches strategic plan for global humanitarian efforts

KSRelief chief launches strategic plan for global humanitarian efforts
Updated 24 June 2024
Follow

KSRelief chief launches strategic plan for global humanitarian efforts

KSRelief chief launches strategic plan for global humanitarian efforts
  • Plan aims to enhance effect of relief activities, achieve institutional excellence, ensure financial sustainability

RIYADH: The Saudi aid agency KSrelief launched its new strategic plan in Riyadh on Monday, the Saudi Press Agency reported.

The plan, unveiled by Dr. Abdullah bin Abdulaziz Al-Rabeeah, adviser at the Royal Court and supervisor general of KSrelief, outlines how it will become a leader in global relief and humanitarian efforts, emphasizing the provision of aid in alignment with the Kingdom’s values of excellence and high quality.

The mission focuses on supervising, organizing, empowering, and overseeing international humanitarian work through distinguished institutional practices.

Three key components of the plan are to enhance the effect of relief and humanitarian activities, achieve institutional excellence, and ensure financial sustainability.

To achieve these objectives, the plan has set out seven goals, such as delivering efficient and sustainable aid, promoting Saudi Arabia’s role in international humanitarian efforts, improving the internal operational model, developing human resources, achieving technical excellence, and diversifying financial resources.

The plan will be implemented through 18 initiatives, comprising 51 projects, all measured by 26 performance indicators. The initiatives are scheduled to commence in the third quarter of 2024.

The launch ceremony was attended by Bandar bin Asaad Al-Sajjan, director general of the Institute of Public Administration, and several KSrelief leaders.

Al-Rabeeah thanked Al-Sajjan and his institute’s support for developing the strategic plan and commended the dedication and high performance of the team involved.