Tabuk, one of KSA’s undiscovered gems, hosts valleys that are witnesses to history

Time: 19 August 2021

Tabuk has witnessed a dramatic increase in domestic tourism over the past few years. (SPA)

The archeological village of Disa, home to Nabataean tombs carved into rock formations, is thought to date back to the end of the 2nd millennium B.C.
It is also believed to be the ancient city of Madyan, mentioned in the Qu’ran as the place where the Prophet Moses fled to after leaving Egypt
JEDDAH: Rich with antiquities and archeological sites, Tabuk is one of Saudi Arabia’s undiscovered gems. The area is home to valleys, oases, streams, picturesque sandstone columns, and tall palm trees.

It is also the site of the archeological village of Disa, where one can find Nabataean tombs, the facades of which are carved into the rock formations.

These tombs can also be found at the oasis of Mugha’ir Shu’ayb, also known as Al-Bada’. This site is thought to date back to the end of the second millennium B.C. and many believe it to be the ancient city of Madyan, mentioned in the Qu’ran and held to be the place where the Prophet Moses fled to after leaving Egypt.

Houses and temples are also carved into the mountains here, often with intricate design work around their entrances. The area has become very popular with photography enthusiasts.

These are the rare historical landmarks of Tabuk, a tourist destination popular because of its historical significance, but also because of its diverse nature and its mild climate, which makes it an excellent option for a summer getaway.

Indeed, Tabuk has witnessed a dramatic increase in domestic tourism over the past few years. Speaking to Arab News, brothers Khaled and Ahmed, who operate private tours to several areas of Saudi Arabia, said that Tabuk is still a mystery to many.

“It’s a calm place and is the perfect escape from the hustle and bustle of the cities,” said Khaled. “From exploring the nooks and corners of the valleys to barbecues and star gazing at night, the place is wonderful. And, just think, (ancient) civilizations passed through here.”

This article was first published in Arab News

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ThePlace: Jabra palace, one of the oldest cities in Saudi Arabia

Time: 14 August 2021

Photo/Saudi Press Agency

The palace consists of two floors, a huge hall and an entrance decorated with beautiful ornamentations, with a fountain in the middle of its courtyard
Taif is rich in historical and heritage landmarks that highlight the status of the governorate as one of the oldest cities in the Kingdom and the region as a whole.
Jabra Palace, in the northeast of the governorate, is considered one of the oldest landmarks in the Arabian Peninsula as its construction dates back more than 1,300 years. The palace stands on top of a hill overlooking many lush farms and orchards on the slopes of Wadi Jabra, which is full of streaming torrents during rainfall and receives water from distant locations.
The palace retains the beauty of its Islamic inscriptions and rich architectural heritage. It was named after Jabra of the Makhzoum tribe, the wife of Prince Mohammed bin Hisham, one of the princes during the Umayyad era and governor of Makkah at the time.
The palace consists of two floors, a huge hall and an entrance decorated with beautiful ornamentations, with a fountain in the middle of its courtyard.
Despite its age, the palace still retains its shape and construction style, in addition to many inscriptions on its walls and ceilings, and embodies a distinguished style of architecture that combines Islamic, Roman and traditional Hijaz construction. This architecture includes stones, stucco and bricks of various shapes and sizes, while the palace lobbies tell the story of a rich history extending over many centuries.
Jabra Palace has attracted the attention of poets and writers throughout the ages due to the beauty of its construction and inscriptions and its distinguished location, and is mentioned in many old Arab poems.

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Saudi Arabia’s Red Sea coast offers fascinating fun for vacationers

Time: 14 August 2021

The warm climate in Saudi Arabia makes for beautiful diving and swimming weather year-round along the coast, tempting many across the Kingdom to visit. (SPA)

“Saudis and foreigners alike come to my family’s quaint restaurant off the road in Thuwal and become frequent visitors”
RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s Red Sea coast has emerged as a top destination for vacationers. It has marine life-filled waters, fantastic vistas, swimming and diving sites — making it an ideal summer destination.
There are several excellent diving and swimming sites along the coastline, with the northern areas offering shipwrecks. The southern regions are home to islands filled with flora and fauna, offering dramatic encounters with manta rays, sharks and other species that live off the mangroves and shallow coral reefs.
The warm climate in Saudi Arabia makes for beautiful diving and swimming weather year-round along the coast, tempting many across the Kingdom to visit.
Farzanul Haque, an Indian expat living in Jeddah who has toured different cities and towns along the Red Sea coast, told Arab News: “The reason why I enjoy swimming in the waters here is due to the amazing colors of the corals, the marine life, and the water temperatures are warm all year round,” he said.
“Since my family arrived in 2017, I started visiting seaside cities such as Umluj, Yanbu and Thuwal while spending some quality time with them; we’re used to going to the Corniche most of the time, especially on the weekend and to other coastal cities during a vacation to enjoy swimming.”
For scuba divers, the Red Sea offers an adventure in discovering rich marine environments, as well as the experience of exploring historic shipwrecks such as the more than 100-year-old Sunken British ship Iona, as well as a Greek ship and a Chinese boat wholly covered with coral and seaweed.
The Seven Sisters is a series of red sea coral reefs known for their formations and bright colors. Some adventurers are keen to take photographs, with sophisticated cameras provided by diving centers.
Not only do these destinations have great swimming and diving opportunities, local seafood restaurants offer an assortment of dishes featuring the freshest catch of the day.
“You won’t find fish like the Red Sea’s fish anywhere else but here,” said Khalid Garout, a private sector worker and fishermen who helps provide his family business with fresh fish over the weekends.
“Saudis and foreigners alike come to my family’s quaint restaurant off the road in Thuwal and become frequent visitors,” he told Arab News. “Everyone here knows their fish, they know when to fish them and the best ways of cooking them.”

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Saudi Arabia has spent $27bn on citizen welfare program since 2017

Time: 12 August 2021

The welfare program is a national scheme aimed at protecting low-income Saudi households from the direct, indirect and expected impacts of the economic reforms taking place in the Kingdom. (Reuters)

More than SR1.9 billion was paid out in August, its 45th batch, while SR10.5 million in arrears was paid
Expenditure on social benefits rose by 51 percent as the largest rise from H1 2020, reaching SR42 billion for H1 2021
RIYADH: The Kingdom has deposited SR100 billion ($26.6 billion) into the accounts of beneficiaries of its Citizen Account Program since its establishment in 2017, the Saudi Press Agency reported.

The welfare program is a national scheme aimed at protecting low-income Saudi households from the direct, indirect and expected impacts of the economic reforms taking place in the Kingdom through monthly cash transfers into their accounts. The program was launched following the structural reforms and removal and reduction of subsidies that accompanied the Saudi Vision 2030 plan.

More than SR1.9 billion was paid out in August, its 45th batch, while SR10.5 million in arrears was paid, SPA said, citing program spokesman Sultan Al-Qahtani.

“The program is essential to the success of the transformation process in the Saudi economy to help mitigate the negative impacts on Saudi citizens, but I don’t think it’s been delivering the needed results,” Razeen Capital CEO Mohamed Alsuwayed told Arab News.

The program’s success was not possible without the king’s intervention on several occasions to provide additional allowances to the public, he said. “Also, the IMF is still emphasizing in its periodic assessments that Saudi should increase its social spending to ease the negative impact of the economic transformation on the citizens.”

Saudi expenditures in the first half of 2021 decreased by 1 percent from the first half of the previous year, according to the quarterly budget report, with total expenditure of SR465 billion in H1 2021 down from SR469 billion in H1 2020.

Expenditure on social benefits rose by 51 percent as the largest rise from H1 2020, reaching SR42 billion for H1 2021. Grants increased by 36 percent in H1 2021.

Subsidy spending for H1 2021 also decreased by 28 percent, followed by other expenditures, with a decrease of 10 percent, and finally in compensation to employees, with a decrease of 1 percent.

This article was first published in Arab News

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Saudi women appointed to top roles at Presidency of the Two Holy Mosques for the first time

Time: 09 August 2021

The new structural changes would support the success and development of the administration. (Photo/Twitter)

Abdul Hamid Al-Maliki: The first benchmark focuses on youth empowerment, as young leaders in the new organizational structure represent 90 percent of the master’s degrees and doctorates
MAKKAH: Two Saudi women have been appointed to top positions at the General Presidency for the Affairs of the Two Holy Mosques in an ambitious move to empower qualified women.
Sheikh Abdulrahman Al-Sudais, the organization’s president, appointed Dr. Al-Anoud Al-Aboud and Dr. Fatima Al-Rashoud as assistants to his office on Sunday, as part of a raft of administrative changes.
Other senior positions were given to Dr. Kamelia Al-Daadi, who was appointed assistant undersecretary for women’s administrative and service affairs, Dr. Ibtehab Al-Jeaid, who was appointed vice president of libraries and scientific research, and Dr. Norah Al-Thuwaibi, who was appointed vice president for scientific, intellectual and women’s guidance affairs.
The new positions come in conjunction with a recent decision to appoint an assistant undersecretary for women’s empowerment, and alongside the recent celebration of the awarding of 20 women with master’s degrees and doctorates.
Al-Daadi told Arab News that the new structural changes would support the success and development of the administration, calling them a true reflection of a work environment full of progress, and a continuation of the Saudi leadership’s support for the General Presidency. “The responsibility is doubled when it comes to the Two Holy Mosques because they are the destination for millions of Muslims, and serving them is a matter of great honor that everyone seeks.”
She added that the ambitious strategy that the General Presidency is working on reflects the aim to increase the capacity for pilgrims in the near future, to accommodate 60,000 worshippers a day while applying the highest health and safety standards. “Everyone at the General Presidency is working on preparing integrated work methodologies and exerting all possible efforts to become a true model of institutional work, governance, quality, supporting women and establishing creative work environments, which would contribute to … development and efficiency in a short period.”

HIGHLIGHT
Sheikh Abdulrahman Al-Sudais appointed Dr. Al-Anoud Al-Aboud and Dr. Fatima Al-Rashoud as assistants to his office. Other senior positions were given to Dr. Kamelia Al-Daadi, who was appointed assistant undersecretary for women’s administrative and service affairs, Dr. Ibtehab Al-Jeaid, who was appointed vice president of libraries and scientific research, and Dr. Norah Al-Thuwaibi, who was appointed vice president for scientific, intellectual and women’s guidance affairs.

Abdul Hamid Al-Maliki, the deputy president for planning and developmental affairs, and assistant undersecretary for the affairs of the Grand Mosque, told Arab News that the new organizational structure has four main pillars.
“These pillars were based on several benchmarks, in light of which the General Presidency’s new organizational structure was established,” he said. “Sheikh Abdulrahman Al-Sudais, has worked on promoting and consolidating these benchmarks during his tenure for over 10 years.”
According to Al-Maliki, the first benchmark focuses on youth empowerment, as young leaders in the new organizational structure represent 90 percent of the master’s degrees and doctorates. The second benchmark focuses on women’s empowerment; the third on development, technology, artificial intelligence, digital transformation, and translation.
“This will have an impact on the way the Two Holy Mosques’ message is conveyed, the operational system of the services provided at the Two Holy Mosques, governance, and performance measurement,” he explained.
“Lastly, investment, financial sustainability, privatization and the endowment funds, which will support the various programs and projects included in the General Presidency’s strategic and executive plans … towards the objectives of the Kingdom’s Vision 2030,” Al-Maliki added.

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NEOM aims to be world’s most competitive city

Time: 19 July 2021

The $500 billion mega-city will transform more than 26,500 sq. km in the Kingdom’s northwestern Tabuk region. (Supplied)

Giga project may need as much as 30 gigawatts or 30,000 megawatts of installed capacity by end of decade
RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s NEOM is on a mission to become the world’s most competitive free zone, said CEO Nadhmi Al-Nasr.
“NEOM is meant to be a model where this region will be a semi-independent free zone, it will have its own laws, it will have its own regulations and its own authority as a semi-government,” he told an online conference hosted by Nikkei, the Japanese media group. “The reason for this is because it is our vision to make this the most competitive free zone in the world,” he said.
The event, held in partnership with the Ministry of Investment of Saudi Arabia (MISA) and the Smart City Institute highlighted the investment appeal of the giga project which was originally revealed in October 2017 when Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman introduced it to the world at the Future Investment Initiative conference in Riyadh.
The $500 billion mega-city planned as part of the drive to diversify away from oil, is destined to transform more than 26,500 sq. km in the Kingdom’s northwestern Tabuk region.
Peter Terium, managing director of energy, water and fuel at NEOM, revealed the different types of renewable energy sources that were being developed on the project and the challenges involved.
“We are going to build a land of the future, and the future is about sustainability,” Terium said.
“Just to give you a feel for the size of what we’re talking about. We are thinking about a society in 2030 that will need 30 gigawatts or 30,000 megawatts of installed capacity to support its energy consumption; that is a lot and is comparable to the size of a country like Portugal or Austria,” he said.
Terium explained the development anticipated a high degree of electrification, “whether it is electric mobility, electric drones or using electricity as a carbon-free form of energy and applications where it is currently not done.”
In order to patch a desert the size of Belgium into a mega-city powered by renewable energy, certain technological advancements would be needed to meet the electricity consumption levels such as the use of micro grids, he said.

This article was first published in Arab News

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Saudi crown prince allocates $1 million as marriage grants

Time: 19 July 2021

Young Saudis also received a training course in financial awareness

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has directed SR3.74 million ($997,080) to be distributed as marriage grants to 200 young men and women across the Kingdom.
The money comes out of his “keenness to support orphans with special circumstances and people with disabilities, as they are among the priority groups of the ‘SNAD Mohammed bin Salman’ program,” Saudi Press Agency reported.
In 2019, the crown prince provided SR520 million to more than 26,000 people across the Kingdom under the same scheme. They also received a training course in financial awareness.

This article was first published in Arab News

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Saudi Arabia delivers medical aid to Togo to help fight the coronavirus pandemic

18/07/21

Mijayawa expressed his thanks to King Salman’s government for the valuable humanitarian efforts it was exerting to help the needy in Togo
LOMÉ: The King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Center (KSrelief) delivered medical aid to Togo to help the country in its fight against COVID-19, the Saudi Press Agency reported.

The shipment included ventilators along with medical and preventive supplies.

The Saudi nonresident ambassador to Togo, Mishaal bin Hamdan Al-Roqi, delivered the aid on behalf of KSrelief to the Togolese Health Minister Prof. Moustafa Mijayawa in the capital.

Mijayawa expressed his thanks to King Salman’s government for the valuable humanitarian efforts it was exerting to help the needy in Togo and around the world, especially when it came to fighting coronavirus and limiting its spread.

The aid is within the framework of assistance provided by the Kingdom, represented by KSrelief, to contribute to international efforts aimed at limiting the spread of the virus.

This article was first published in Arab News

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