2013 / issue 13
Discover! Saudi Arabia
Whether you prefer sea or sand,
Saudi has something for everyone
Events / Guides / Reviews / Destinations / Tours / tr avel / culture / INDUSTRY
Welcome to the summer issue of Saudi Voyager. This edition marks quite a
milestone for us – up to now the magazine has been quarterly, but from this
issue onwards, we will be producing six editions a year, enabling us to introduce
more destinations, tips and features on Saudi culture, lifestyle and heritage.
With summer here, in this issue we’d like to offer you a mix of indoor and
outdoor activities from the traditional to the modern. On pages 38 - 40 we visit
the beautiful province of Asir, which with its green forests and cooler mountain
temperatures is the perfect location for a relaxing summer trip, while on pages
44-7 we detail the range of adventure holidays available, on both sand and sea.
If modern art is more your thing, our report on the recent Jeddah Art Week
illustrates what’s happening in the contemporary art scene. This was Saudi
Arabia’s first international art festival – and so successful was it that there are
high hopes it will become an annual event.
A more time-honored art form is showcased in our feature on dance on page
36, where you can learn about the rich symbolism and history of traditional
dance, especially the Ardha.
Exploring another element of the country’s rich heritage is our feature on page
29 which details the fascinating discoveries made at Dosariyah in the Eastern
province. A Saudi-German archeology team has been excavating there for five
years and have recovered a rich collection of artefacts that throw light on what
life was like in the region 7,000 years ago.
And if you’re stuck for something to do at the weekend, you might like to
consider Hofuf. There’s plenty to do both in town and in the surrounding area,
as our new "Weekend in…" feature describes.
As usual, we also include a round-up of travel and tourism news, and some
pointers on where you might like to eat and sleep on your travels throughout
the Kingdom.
Whether you prefer the great outdoors or indoor activities, land or sea, old or new,
Saudi Voyager highlights all sorts of opportunities for your leisure time in the Kingdom.
Published by
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PO Box 301292, Riyadh 11372
Kingdom of Saudi Arabia
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Majed A. Al–Sheddi
Nick Cash
T: +966 (53) 759 8683
[email protected]
Editorial supervision - SCTA
Najla Al-Khalifah
T: (+966) 1 880 8910
[email protected]
Alex Malouf
Amber Shahid
Jo Malcolm
Leanne Mills
Ramon Mohamed
Guy Wilkinson
Frank Stebbing
Hussain Mohammed Al-Bakri
Thamer Al-Hassan
Alex Malouf
Tom Garabrant
Ramon Mohamed
Alan Morrissey
Jihan Bagader
[email protected]
Make the most of them – and enjoy!
Client Servicing
Majed Fares
[email protected]
Majed A Al–Sheddi
Consultant Editor
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T: +971 50 653 8859
[email protected]
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T: +966 1 462 3632
[email protected]
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All rights are reserved and no part of the publication or its contents may be reproduced, stored in
a retrieval system or transmitted in any form by any means, electrical, mechanical, photocopying,
recording or otherwise without the prior written approval of the publishers. While every effort is made
to ensure the accuracy of the information reported in Saudi Voyager, neither the publishers nor Saudi
Commission for Tourism & Antiquities will accept responsibility for any errors or omissions and rejects
any claims arising out of any action which a company or individual may take as a consequence of
the content contained herein.
contents / issue 13 / 2013
The Ardha – Dance of
the Sword / 36
Of all the arts, none remain
as rooted in ritual as dance.
Rima Hindo is entranced.
Dosariyah yields its 7,000
year-old secrets / 29
A Saudi-German archeology
team led by the SCTA has been
unearthing some fascinating finds
at the Eastern Province dig-site.
JAW spells a week of
fun for Jeddah / 23
Cultural and artistic treats served up
at Jeddah Art Week, the inaugural
international arts celebration in the city.
Saudi adventures / 44
Whether you prefer sea or sand,
Saudi has something for everyone.
Save the date / 69
From arts and crafts to fun
and frolic, there is something
for everyone in the family.
A weekend in Hofuf / 31
Whether you’re a history buff
or a nature-lover, Hofuf and its
surroundings offer bags to see and do.
Asir / 38
It's a region of lush green forests,
cool mountain breezes and
unique traditional villages. The
perfect summer destination.
Opening the door on
Saudi hospitality / 48
A day experiencing Saudi hospitality,
heritage and generosity first-hand
on a visit to Awdat Sudair.
In the Lens / 41
Saudi Voyager talks to Riyadh
photographer Thamer Al-Hassan
about one of his favorite images.
Flavours of a Sicilian summer / 52
Modern interpretations with the imprint
of Sicilian culture now being served
at Rosso. Leanne Mills investigates.
News / 06
Travel and tourism news from
the Kingdom and beyond.
AHIC 2013 / 15
Investment in Saudi Arabia
remains buoyant says the Arabian
Hotel Investment Conference.
SCTA Interview / 17
Saudi Voyager talks to Dr Salah
Al Bukhyyet about growing the
Saudi tourism sector, his role as
both facilitator and regulator of the
industry, and the challenges ahead.
Interview / 21
Dan Cross of online travel review
website, TripAdvisor, explains why
Saudi hoteliers should be making
the most of what is, in effect, a
free market research tool.
MICE Review / 64
More than 20,000 people attended
this year’s Riyadh Travel Fair at the
Four Seasons Hotel to learn more
about and travel tourism both
outside and within the Kingdom.
Day in the Life / 70
Ali Alagnam began his career
at InterContinental Al Jubail
as a telephone operator – now
he’s the hotel’s sales director
with a Saudi Excellence in
Tourism Award to his name.
Hotel Reviews / 56
Accommodation choices in Saudi
Arabia are extensive and range from
magnificent five-star properties
to local hotels and self-catering
apartments. Saudi Voyager reports
on some that will meet the needs
of the most discerning of travelers
in key areas of the Kingdom.
Hotel Listing / 59
Places to stay in Saudi Arabia.
Worked… Endeavored
Contributed… Honored
Worked... with clear steps and vision towards a real and
effective contribution to our country.
to work and develop our projects with
modern business processes.
to create and train Saudi skills in the
hospitality sector.
Honored... for our outstanding contribution to tourism in
the Kingdom.
Winner of the 2013 Saudi Excellence in Tourism
Award for outstanding contribution to tourism
HRH Prince Sultan bin Salman bin Abdul Aziz
handing the award to the Vice-Chairman Mr Majed Al Hokair.
industry news
National, regional and worldwide travel and tourism industry news
Infrastructure development at the
heart of domestic tourism growth
Major developments of Saudi Arabia’s
infrastructure are going to have a
profound impact on the Kingdom’s
domestic tourism sector, with the aviation playing a very important role.
This was the message of HRH Prince
Sultan bin Salman bin Abdulaziz, President the SCTA, at the United Nations
World Tourism (UNWTO) conference,
Tourism & Aviation: Building a common
agenda for growth, which was staged
at the recent Arabian Travel Market
expo in Dubai.
“The Arabian Peninsula has always
been a crossroads for different civilizations. These days those roads are in
the sky rather than on the ground, and
the same role that Arabia has played
in the past is now similarly happening
with airline networks.
“The alliance between tourism and air
transportation is very much a non-separable alliance, and it is very important
focus on aligning these two sectors
to make places more accessible and
affordable,” said Prince Sultan.
Growth of the country’s air transport
infrastructure will increase Saudi Arabia
airport capacity to 82 million passengers by 2016, with 35 of the Kingdom’s
airports being developed, expanded or
upgraded. Capacity stood at 54 million in
2011, according to the General Authority
for Civil Aviation.
UNWTO Secretary-General Taleb
Rifai said: “Tourism and aviation are
industry news
The World Tourism Organization
(UNWTO) is the United Nations
agency responsible for the
promotion of responsible,
sustainable and universally
accessible tourism.
As the leading international
organization in the field of
tourism, UNWTO promotes
tourism as a driver of economic
growth, inclusive development and
environmental sustainability and
offers leadership and support to
the sector in advancing knowledge
and tourism policies worldwide. siblings, and have been working together
in parallel lines. We cannot see them
separate from one another; with 52%
of world travelers reaching their destination by air, their growth is intrinsically linked.”
Similarly, the Kingdom’s hotel industry
is also experiencing strong growth
and hotel operators are ramping up
the number of their rooms to cater for
demand. According to MAS, the SCTA’s
tourism information and research center,
over 178,000 hotel rooms are expected
to be added to Saudi Arabia’s existing
supply by 2017, and occupancy rates are
forecast to rise to 63 per cent, according
to consultancy firm Business Monitor
International. Saudi Arabia is expected
to host 15.8 million tourists in 2014.
MAS statistics show tourism expenditure by Saudi nationals amounted to
some SR61 billion in 2011 (excluding
international transport costs), but of this,
just SR36 billion was spent on domestic
tourism. Although this was a significant
increase on the SR28 billion spent in
2009, it still represents a significant
outflow from the country. The development of the domestic tourism sector is
planned to secure a greater percentage
of the overall tourism spending, with a
direct benefit to the Kingdom’s balance
of payments.
Roads of Arabia lead to Pittsburgh
HRH Prince Sultan bin Salman bin
Abdul Aziz, President of SCTA, opened
the ‘Roads of Arabia’ exhibition at the
Carnegie Museum of Natural History in
Pittsburgh, USA, in June, marking the
second leg of its US tour.
The opening ceremony was attended
by the Saudi Ambassador to the United
States of America, HE Adel Al-Jobair,
and Tom Corbett, the Governor of Pennsylvania State as well as several other
VIP guests.
Speaking at the opening, Prince Sultan
said: “What we are doing today is highlighting the cultural dimension and
historic depth of the Kingdom which
would never have been possible without
King Abdullah's vision and determination as he had changed forever the way
industry news
we see our country and made us creative and a brave people.
"The exhibition tells the story of the
Kingdom emphasizing that we are
a nation of deep rooted history and
culture, and that the Kingdom is based
on the shoulders of a great history and
ancient civilizations.
"We are the home of Islam. Islam
means faith, peace and enjoying all
human values. Islam's message is great
and humanitarian. We are the custodians of this message and we are proud
to present it to the whole world in the
interest of the human civilization."
Now in its third year, the landmark
exhibition features some 350 exhibits
depicting the history and culture of Saudi
Arabia from as far back as 6,000 BCE.
Artefacts in the exhibition represent the
lifestyle and art of the Arabian Peninsula
from Paleolithic times, through the birth of
Islam to the founding of the modern state
of Saudi Arabia in the early 20th century.
Before arriving in Pennsylvania, the
exhibition visited the Smithsonian Institute in Washington DC, where more than
90,000 people visited. This takes the
total number of visitors to the traveling show and accompanying website
to more than 2,200,000 since it opened
in Paris in July 2010.
Roads of Arabia is at the Carnegie
until November 2013, after which it is
scheduled to visit the Museum of Fine
Arts in Houston (Dec 2013 – Mar 2014)
and the Asian Arts Museum in San Francisco (Oct 2014 – Jan 2015).
in brief
New Madinah hotel
SCTA tech expertise
InterContinental Hotels Group has recently opened
a 506-room Crown Plaza hotel in the center of
Madinah just steps away from Masjid Nabawi, one of
the largest mosques in the world. General manager
of the new hotel, Mostafa Blanco, said: “With the one
of the best locations in the Holy City we are confident
that Crown Plaza Madinah is the perfect destination,
not only for Haj and Umrah visitors, but also for
business and leisure guests.”
right SCTA'S
Career boost
The InterContinental Al Khobar and the Institute of
Public Administration are collaborating on a training
program to support Saudi youth’s career aspirations.
The I-Grad initiative is an 18-month training course in
hotel management.
HRH Prince Sultan bin Salman bin Abdul
Aziz, the President of SCTA has been
presented with the Saudi e-Government
Achievement Award in recognition of the
SCTA’s successful adoption of e-commerce-based systems and processes.
SCTA obtained this award in recognition of its shift to technological solutions in the shape of the e-Transaction Program (Yesser) in collaboration
with King Fahad University for Petro-
Helping hand
Employees from Jeddah’s luxury Rosewood Corniche
hotel helped renovate the Jeddah Autism Center as
part of the hotel’s community involvement initiative
to support autistic children and their families. A group
of 87 staff including the MD gave a makeover to an
entire floor of the building.
Keeping Mum
leum and Minerals in Dhahran.
The Saudi e-Government Achievement Award is granted to government
bodies for successfully migrating to
e-solutions. The measurement focuses
on the efforts in the area of e-transactions, developing procedures and
working methods, developing technical
infrastructure and an effective information environment, and moving towards
a paperless environment. Riyadh online
The Riyadh Tourism Development Council has a new
The website provides detailed information about
the various tourism and heritage events which are
held throughout the year together with tourism
services available throughout Riyadh. It also hosts an
events calendar, accommodation offers and virtual
tours of selected Riyadh landmarks.
Hotels, restaurants, tour operators and other
service providers are able to join the site to advertise
their details.
industry news
right Prince Sultan
and Prince Faisal open
the new venture
The Crown Plaza Jeddah staff helped spruce up their
neighborhood to mark the UN’s International Mother
Earth Day on 22 April, cleaning. Lead by general
manager Rafique Izhiman, they cleaned up Ma’adi
Street and replanted its gardens the in Jeddah as
part of the hotel’s corporate social responsibility
Roadside attraction
Madinah province has its first ever motel – the Al Manar Al Alie motel on the
Madinah-Al Qaseem highway in Al Suwaidra area.
The new tourist accommodation was given its licence by HRH Prince Faisal
bin Salman bin Abdul Aziz, Governor of Al Madina Province and Chairman of the
province’s Tourism Development Authority and HRH Prince Sultan bin Salman
bin Abdul Aziz, President of SCTA.
It is only the second such facility in the Kingdom, following the licensing of a
roadside motel on the Al Ahsa-Qatar highway.
World heritage Day celebrated
bin Salman bin Abdul Aziz, President
During the events, HRH Prince
Salman bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud, Crown
Prince, Deputy Premier and Minister
of Defense was awarded a lifetime
achievement award for his efforts in
championing urban heritage.
The event also saw the signing of
an agreement of cooperation between
the National Urban Heritage Center of
the SCTA, and the Saudi Society for
Urban Science. The agreement aims
to promote cooperation between the
two in scientific research in the preservation and rehabilitation of urban
heritage, and participation in conferences and forums to discuss issues
related to the urban heritage and its
development. It also aims to encourage
cooperation into developing and using
urban heritage buildings in a suitable
way that preserves their features,
identity and the architectural style.
Saudi Arabia joined in the celebrations
for World Heritage Day this spring, the
first time the event has been marked
in the Kingdom.
The international celebration is
aimed at communicating the importance of preserving urban heritage as
way of celebrating and learning about
human productivity and creativity
through the ages. It was marked by
a three-day program at Dar Al Uloom
University led by HRH Prince Sultan
SCTA intranet portal is a winner
The SCTA’s ‘Tawasul’ internal electronic newsletter has won the Nielsen Norman Group’s 2013
Intranet Design Award, which was presented
to HRH Prince Sultan bin Salman bin Abdul
Aziz, President of SCTA at a ceremony at SCTA
Majed Al Sheddi, director general of
industry news
mation and public relations and editor-inchief of both Tawasul and Saudi Voyager,
said: “Tawasul allows the participation of SCTA
employees by encouraging them to post their
articles, cartoons, videos and photos, besides
it allowing some of the electronic applications
for employees, such as vacation system, dele-
gation system, training directory, incoming and
outgoing, work follow-up system and project
flow and management."
Winning this award puts the SCTA in prestigious company, including HSBC, IKEA, Wal-Mart,
Microsoft, National Geographic, Amadeus Travel
System, IBM, Vodafone, and British Airways. PAGE
HRH Prince Khalid bin Bandar bin Abdul Aziz, Governor
of Riyadh province and chairman of Riyadh Tourism
Development Council inspected the conservation work
being undertaken at Souk Al Majlis recently, during a
whistlestop visit to Shagra.
During his tour of the historic center of the municipality, he also paid visits to the Shagra Museum, which
is housed in Al Sebai Palace, and to Al Jumaih, the
former home of Sheikh Abdullah bin Abdul Rahman
Al Babtain who was the Mufti of Najd.
Prince Khalid
tours Shagra
KSA tourism driving
job opportunities
The Kingdom’s tourism sector is capable
of creating a quantum leap in job opportunities – provided it is given the necessary support from education and government bodies.
Colleges specializing in travel and
tourism have an important role to play
in creating a new “hospitality generation” according to HRH Prince Sultan
bin Salman bin Abdul Aziz, who was
addressing the First Forum of Tourism
and Antiquities Colleges at King Saud
University in early May.
Prince Sultan, who is chairman of the
advisory board of the Faculty of Tourism
and Antiquities at the university, pointed
out that travel and tourism are the most
capable sectors in terms of job creation
and a major factor of development in
most parts of the world, according to
the World Tourism Organization.
He said: "The SCTA realizes the importance of the rehabilitation of workers
in the tourism industry, and for this
purpose, it works with its partners in the
public and private sectors to develop a
solid infrastructure for education and
tourism training and has set professional standards and training portfolios for various careers in the sector.”
Tourism in Saudi Arabia is one of the
most successful industries in terms of
Saudization, achieving 26 per cent of
the total workforce.
Saudia and Amadeus to collaborate
Saudi Arabian Airlines has signed a
memorandum of understanding with
airline technology company, Amadeus
to collaborate on the development of
e-commerce and mobile solutions.
The joint initiative will provide support
on both existing and new initiatives,
including cargo, airport and revenue
orientated solutions. The initiative will
also help Saudia attract young Saudi
professionals to develop niche software solutions.
A new competency center is planned
for King Abdullah Economic City due to
its cutting-edge facilities and strategic
position between east and west. Saudia
industry news
has already committed to moving 1000
staff to its technology hub there.
“Saudi Arabia needs to continue
strengthening its ability to create sustainable high-tech jobs, and Saudia is determined to do everything it can to support
this process,” said Khalid Abdullah
Almolhem, director general of Saudia.
Saudia has also become the first
airline worldwide to deploy Amadeus’s
passenger revenue accounting solution
which will enable it to increase productivity, reduce costs and accelerate
revenue identification through access
to real-time and complete revenue
Congratulations to the winners
of the 2013 staging of the Saudi Excellence in Tourism Awards
The aim of the Awards is to recognize above average performance of individuals and organizations working in the Kingdom’s growing tourism business, to improve the
experience of those entering the Awards and to upgrade service levels in tourism establishments throughout the country.
At the same time as congratulating all the winners of SETAs, we would like to encourage everyone involved in the tourism sector to participate in next year’s Awards. The
Saudi Excellence in Tourism Awards are organized by by Saudi Voyager and Terhal magazines in conjunction with the Saudi Commission for Tourism and Antiquities (SCTA).
،‫برنامج المسؤولية اإلجتماعية‬
‫ الرياض‬،‫ريتز كارلتون‬
Best 5 Star Hotel
Ritz-Carlton Hotel, Riyadh
Best 4-Star Hotel
Best 3-Star Hotel or Motel
Best Specialized
Park Inn by Radisson, Al-Khobar
Golden Tulip Al-Nasiriah Hotel,
Movenpick Beach Resort, Al-Khobar
Best Special Shopping
Best Recreation Center or
Amusement Park
Best Museum Experience
Mall of Dhahran
Best Casual Dining
Restaurant – Independent
Best Coffee Shop Experience
Khobar Heritage Village, Al-Khobar
Best Travel Agency
Best Event, Conference or
MICE Organizer
Best Tourism Promotional
Oyoon Jiwa Brochure
Reception Professional of
the Year
Best Tour Guide
Media Partner
Best Website Promoting
Best Young Chef
Manal Al-Zaidany, Herfah’s Cafe,
Media Sponsor
Best Tour Operator
Best Tourism Article
Special Report - Naeem Tameem
Al-Hakeem- 31 August 2012
The 2013 Saudi Excellenace in Tourism Award winners
Organized by
The Globe, Al Faisaliah, Riyadh
Masawife Tour Operator, Riyadh
Ali Al Agnam, InterContinental Al
HRH Prince Sultan Bin Salman Bin Abdul Aziz,
President of the SCTA with the SETA judges
Community Footprints,
Ritz-Carlton, Riyadh
Cacao Sampaka, Al-Khobar
Tourism Sales Professional
of the Year
Fahad Abdullah Al Sherif, Al Faisaliah
Hotel, Riyadh
Abdulrahman Mohamed Alsaeed,
Best Fine Dining Restaurant
Best Saudi Traditional
ROSSO, Four Seasons Hotel, Riyadh
Tech Heights, Riyadh
Best Festival
Taif Rose Festival
Piatto Restaurant, Riyadh
Elaf Travel & Tourism Company,
Best Hotel Program
Boudl Hotel, Al-Malaz
Al-Khalifah Museum, Al-Ahsa
Billy Beez Soft Play, Haifaa Mall,
Best Casual Dining
Restaurant - Hotel
Best Furnished Apartments
In association with
Excellence in Service
Yahia Nunu Al-Hesawi, Elaf AlMashaer, Makkah
Outstanding Contribution to
Abdul Mohsen Al-Hokair Group
To earn recognition at this
international level inspires us
to continue delivering the best
in all we do
Alex Pichel, General manager, Al Faisaliah Hotel
Al Faisaliah wins
triple honors
Spanish lessons
for the SCTA
A delegation from SCTA recently spent
five days in Spain to learn about that
country's conservation and development
of its urban heritage, and how that experience could be applied to Saudi Arabia.
The visit focused on how Spain
exploits its urban heritage sites to
boost tourism and help the economy. Dr
Meshari bin Abdullah Al Naeem, SCTA’s
general supervisor of the National Urban
Heritage Center, said that exploring international experiences in urban heritage
is a key activity of the SCTA which has
already helped achieve considerable
success in raising understanding of
the importance of preservation and
development of urban heritage sites
among municipal officials throughout
the Kingdom.
After the trip, municipal chiefs said
that they had learnt a great deal from
Spanish experiences, and would put
those lessons to helping transform urban
heritage sites in the Kingdom. Saleh
Ahmad Al-Ahmed, Secretary-General
of Qassim, said: “This visit highlighted
the proper ways to develop and invest
in Qassim heritage sites. We will work
with SCTA in the protection, development and investment of our sites."
is indeed an honour and recognises
the tireless efforts and dedication
to excellence that our team puts in
seven days a week. To earn recognition at this international level inspires
us to continue delivering the best in
all we do.”
Al Faisaliah Hotel, which is owned by
Al Khozama Management Company,
has earned more than 32 international
awards for excellence since it opened 13
years ago. In 2013 it won Saudi Excellence in Tourism Awards for best fine
dining restaurant for The Globe, and
best community service program.
Al Faisaliah Hotel was named the Middle
East’s leading luxury city hotel at this
year’s World Travel Awards
It is the second time the Riyadh landmark was won this prestigious award,
underlining it’s reputation as one of the
best five-star properties in the region.
At the annual travel awards which were
hosted in Dubai, the hotel also picked up
the honours as Saudi Arabia's leading
conference hotel while its Royal Penthouse Suite was named Saudi Arabia’s
leading hotel suite
General manager Alex Pichel said:
“To receive three World Travel Awards
above From left, Graham Cooke of World Travel Awards, Alex Pichel and Abdulziz Al Habib, CEO of Al Khozama
Korean tourism pact signed
Saudi Arabia and Korea have entered into a cooperation program in tourism and handicrafts, which
will enable the two countries to benefit from each
other’s experience and expertise.
HRH Prince Sultan bin Salman bin Abdul Aziz,
President of SCTA signed the memorandum
with South Korean, the Minister of Culture, Sport
and Tourism of South Korea, His Excellency Yoo
Jin-ryong at a meeting in the Korean capital
of Seoul.
Korea is particularly keen to learn from the
SCTA’s expertise in the handicraft arena, while
Saudi Arabia is focused on Korea’s experience in
developing new destinations and also its latest
technologies in the establishment and operation of museums.
industry news
Private museums will have a key role to play in achieving the
major and leading national project of the restoration of the
cultural dimension of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia
HRH Prince Sultan bin Salman bin Abdul Aziz, President of the SCTA
Boom time for Kingdom’s museums
Saudi Arabia will soon have 20 new
museums which will be inaugurated
as part of a comprehensive program
to further develop national heritage.
The museums are being developed to
help make heritage a part of people’s
daily life – as well as an important
contributor to the national economy,
said HRH Prince Sultan bin Salman bin
Abdul Aziz, in his opening remarks at the
second Private Museum Owners Forum.
Announcing the initiative, Prince
Sultan, President of the SCTA, said: “We
are proud of our partnership with the
owners of private museums in the development of this important cultural path.
We move within a number of parallel
paths to promote the cultural dimension of the Kingdom in an attempt to
make the national heritage a reality
in our life and not just the part of our
history books.”
"Private museums will have a key
role to play in achieving the major and
leading national project of the restoration of the cultural dimension of the
Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, so that we can
see a new era for the private museums
based on our beliefs of linking citizens
with their historical heritage, as well as
linking these museums to the tourist
tracks and to the tourism integrated
experience, in addition to their expected
wide participation in the Islamic historical sites program, which was approved
by SCTA, and is currently under implementation.”
The Forum also heard proposals
to establish a company to manage a
financial portfolio worth SR200 million,
in which SCTA and the group of private
museum owners will contribute, which
will invest in, develop and operate
private museums.
Explaining the idea, Dr Fahad Bin Ali
Al-Hussein, head of the Department of
Heritage Resources in the College of
Tourism and Antiquities of King Saud
University pointed out the importance
of promoting a fair share of interests
coming from the use of heritage projects
economically, This must be done without
violating the principles of conservation
of cultural property and ensure that
they are properly managed, and that
the necessary measures be taken to
preserve them. "Applying a strategy of care to the
private museums in the Kingdom of
Saudi Arabia will achieve many goals,"
he said.
The Museums Forum was held in
Madinah as the city celebrated being
named Capital of Islamic Culture for the
year 2013. The region is already rich in
heritage sites, including the Mada’in
Saleh Museum and Al- ‘Ula Museum and
a total of 17 private museums, as well
as other projects in the pipeline such as
the Al Madina Railways Museum, Dar
Al Qur'an Museum.
Heritage sites inspected
The historic center of Al Majm'a has been
undergoing intensive restoration work which
recently given a royal tour of inspection when
HRH Prince Khalid bin Bandar bin Abdul Aziz,
Governor of Riyadh and chairman of Riyadh
Tourism Development Council, inspected progress
Accompanied by HRH Prince Turki bin Abdullah
bin Abdul Aziz, Deputy Governor of Riyadh,
the Prince also visited Maneekh Mountain
Observatory and the nearby heritage site of
Al Ghat.
The restoration work has been carried out
as a collaborative project between the SCTA
and local residents, while renovations at the
observatory have been by SCTA in collaboration
with the Ministry of Municipal and Rural Affairs.
industry news
Major Saudi focus at AHIC 2013
Investment in Saudi Arabia is buoyant, says hotel consultant, Guy
Wilkinson, reporting from the Arabian Hotel Investment Conference
This year’s Arabian Hotel Investment
Conference (AHIC) in Dubai not only
reflected a much more buoyant investment outlook in the GCC, but also an
increased interest in Saudi Arabia as
an attractive destination in which to
develop new hotels.
01 A personnel matter:
from left, Catalin
Cighi, Cain Hospitality
Innovation; Christophe
Landais, Accor; Dr
Abdullah Sulaiman AlWeshail, SCTA; Hamad
Eghdani, Emaar Group;
and Ron Hilvert of the
Emirates Academy
Global trends
Among the sessions was a summary
of what had occurred at the World
Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC)
Global Summit in April. WTTC executive director Geoffrey Breeze explained
that the tourism industry now accounts
for one in 11 jobs on the planet and
nine per cent of the world’s GDP. Anita
Mendiratta, of Cachet Consulting said
total annual tourists had finally reached
the one billion mark in 2012 and were
expected to grow to two billion by
2030, while Amr Abdel Ghaffar of the
UN World Tourism Organization said
Middle East tourism had shown strong
growth over the past decade. With 16
million visitors in the year 2000 and
61 million in 2010, he expected to see
141 million by 2030.
Such increases in global tourism have
translated into improvements in both
hotel performance and investment
volumes. With 6.1 million hotel rooms
worldwide, revenues earned per available room (RevPAR) — the key hotel
performance measure – had improved
by 10.3 per cent for the Middle East
in Q1 2013, the highest increase of
any region, albeit following negative
growth in 2011. Overall RevPARs for
Q1 2013 were USD115 for the Middle
East based on an average room occupancy of 72 per cent and an Average
Daily Rate (ADR) of USD179 per room,
compared with USD41 RevPAR
in North Africa and USD84 in
Saudi Arabia - Key Cities 2013
MEA Select Markets Q1 2013
Source: STR Global
South Africa. In the same period, Riyadh
had achieved the second highest ADR
in the region, at about USD270, while
Jeddah had the second highest occupancy, at almost 80 per cent.
Arthur de Haast, of consultancy Jones
Lang LaSalle, illustrated the global flows
of investments within the hotel sector.
Total transactions reached USD32
billion in 2012, compared to a peak of
more than USD 100 billion in 2007. The
main buyers were private equity funds,
which are focused on buying existing
assets rather than building new hotels.
The Middle East was a major source of
outbound hotel spending in 2012, with
more than USD 3 billion invested. The
Middle Eastern money was mainly spent
in Europe, with the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority, for example, buying
60 Marriott hotels in the UK. Riyadh
is considered a ‘hot market’ in which
to hold investments in anticipation of
a medium-term recovery of income
values, while Jeddah is expected to
see much hotel sales activity.
is here to stay
– and the right
thing to do.
need to show
locals that travel
and tourism
is a legitimate
profession for
Alex Kyriakidis,
Marriott International
cult developing markets because they
afforded higher returns. Zok also said
that KHI was committed to seeing its
hotel chain partners grow: “These are
companies that can double their size in
a reasonable period of time,” he said.
Credit card company Visa chose
AHIC to reveal the findings of its survey
into regional travel spending patterns.
Marcello Baricordi explained that overall
travel spend in the UAE using Visa cards
in 2012 had increased by 17 per cent
to USD4.7 billion, with Saudi Arabia’s
contribution growing by almost 29 per
cent to reach $420.4 million, putting it
in third place after the UK and Russia.
The corresponding average spend by
Saudis was USD285, compared to
USD650 by the Chinese. In terms of
outbound spending by UAE Visa card
users, Saudi Arabia was the fifth top
market, receiving USD120.4 million, a
26.6 per cent increase on 2011.
Localization challenges
The conference frequently touched
on Saudi Arabia, both the attractiveness and the challenges of investing
and operating in its hotel market.
During a session entitled ‘What are the
Regional Leaders Saying?’ Rudi Jagersbacher, of Hilton Worldwide, revealed
that his company was working on 20
new hotels in Saudi Arabia, including
six in the famous Jabal Omar project
in Makkah. He said Hilton was working
with 11 schools in the Kingdom to train
staff on a fast track basis.
Alex Kyriakidis, of Marriott Interna-
Regional focus
Sarmad Zok, of Kingdom Hotel Investments (KHI) said KHI’s portfolio is
worth between USD13 and 15 billion,
and comprises 19 operational hotels in
13 countries from the Middle East and
Africa to the Far East and Europe, as
well as major shareholdings in the Four
Seasons, Fairmont-Raffles and Movenpick hotel chains that operate most of
its portfolio. Zok explained that KHI had
built mainly upper-upscale hotels in
arabia Khobar jeddah makkah medina riyadh
Occupancy & ADR in USD
Q1 2013 Occupancy % and ADR
Source: STR Global
tional, stated: “Nationalization is here to
stay – and the right thing to do. Governments need to show locals that travel
and tourism is a legitimate profession
for nationals.”
The same subject was echoed in a
later session entitled ‘Attracting and
developing local talent’, in which facilitator Catalin Cighi, of Cain Hospitality
Innovation said that to maintain current
employment levels, 110 million new
jobs would need to be created in all
sectors in the Middle East over the
next five to seven years, “This challenge is systemic. Governments cannot
be expected to deal with it alone. We
need the private sector, we need the
academics, we need all spheres of
society to be involved. How we choose
to act will determine whether this will
be a wave of opportunity or – a wave
under which we will drown.”
Dr. Abdullah Sulaiman Al-Weshail, general Director of the National
Project for the Tourism HR Development Center, SCTA, commented that
the Saudi government was paying
half the salaries of all Saudis who
wished to enter the hotel trade, and
said the SCTA had established a fund
for developing Saudi talent. However,
he said that the hotel chains were not
giving Saudis a proper career development plan of the sort available to
expatriates. The panelists concluded
that implementation of a vocational
training and apprenticeship system like
the City & Guilds program in the UK
was the best way forward.
Cultivating Saudi Tourism
Saudi Voyager talks to Dr Salah Al Bukhyyet about growing the Saudi
tourism sector, his role as both facilitator and regulator of the industry,
and the challenges ahead
With a remit that stretches from
licensing to site development, training
to investment, there’s no doubt that
Dr Salah Al Bukhyyet has an extraordinarily wide range of responsibilities.
As vice president for investment and
tourism development his role is fourfold.
The divisions reporting to him include
licensing of all tourism facilities and
operators, developing tourism sites
across the Kingdom, tourism investment,
and Takamul, the National Project for
Tourism Human Resources Development.
His department acts as both Saudi
Arabia’s chief tourism regulator, and
one of the main enablers of the sector,
by both helping secure funding for
projects, and by working in partnership with would-be tourism entrepreneurs to help bring their ideas to life.
From seed to germination, root to
flowering, they’re deeply involved in
each stage of the Saudi tourism project.
Investment is the seeding, site development is the germination, while without
the licensing and human resources, no
tourism project would come to fruition.
The Investment team help germinate tourism projects by matching the
ideas and proposals with the funds
and investors.
“We work with investors, and with
government bodies to make sure that
funding is available, and help potential tourism entrepreneurs access those
funds,” he says.
This includes having signed agreements with five separate
funding bodies, as well as the
image: Tom Garabrant
establishment of the Saudi Heritage
Company which facilitates the operation of heritage hotels, and is capitalised to the tune of SR250 million.
Simplifying business processes is an
important part of their work, especially
for people seeking to begin a tourism
facility or service who might have no
previous business experience.
Small and medium sized businesses
get special attention, says Dr Salah –
the larger businesses often have ample
support without the SCTA’s help, so
they concentrate on supporting the
owner-operators, for example.
“It’s all about facilitating the process
and igniting projects,” he says – especially at grassroots level, proof of which
is the drawing-up of some 30 feasibility
studies for various small and medium
sized businesses, such as restaurants,
coffee shops and tour operators.
“Site development is both hands-on
and advisory. We started in an
sory role – surveying all the sites in the
Kingdom, identifying those that have
tourism potential, then short-listing
projects that can be developed from a
business point of view – for example, a
beautiful area in the middle of nowhere
might be delightful to see and experience, but it might not have the business
potential to make it worth developing
because of its remoteness,” he says.
“After identifying and shortlisting
potential tourism sites, we work with
stakeholders to develop their ideas
and work with them to put together
a concept and a plan. We have found
that sometimes stakeholders are more
convinced if they see us doing something on the ground – if you act and ‘walk
the talk’, it often helps the stakeholder
to grasp the opportunity, so he can go
on to mimic that way of working and
develop the concept himself.
“So as well as acting in an advisory capacity we develop concepts
02 The Al Uqair project
illustrates the work
of Dr Bukkyyet’s team
perfectly. A huge,
integrated project
it combines housing,
education and tourist
facilities that will
transform the area
around the heritage
seaport of Al Uqair in
the Eastern region.
for stakeholders who are ready and
capable, and we implement our own
small projects to showcase and ignite
interest,” explains Dr Salah.
In contrast to its role as a business
enabler, the licensing department is the
chief industry regulator.
“SCTA is a government department
and has a major role to play. We are
a regulator – we oversee standards at
time shares, hotels, tour operators and
tour guides. Before they operate they are
required to get a license from us,” he says.
Tourism licensing as practised by the
SCTA follows global best-practice, and
uses a star classification system. To be
granted a tourism licence, each accommodation facility must meet minimum
standards defined for each particular
class of establishment, whether that
be a three-, four- or five-star hotel, a
beachside apartment or a time-share
property. These are all clearly laid out
in bilingual handbooks, and regular
image: scta
With such
a wide range
of destinations
spread all over
the Kingdom, it’s
important that
we prioritise site
on those that
are more likely
to be favoured
by domestic
inspections made by the SCTA to see
that standards are adhered to.
Much of the complex licensing
procedures are now managed on-line
and much quicker and simpler as a
result. However, having a more efficient licensing system has helped draw
focus on a number of issues that need to
be addressed for the domestic tourism
sector to reach its full potential.
In particular need of improvement is
the standard of furnished apartments
– which are often the choice of accommodation for Saudi tourists – as well as
the general level of customer service
throughout the sector. If these issues
aren’t addressed, the domestic market
could lose ground to its neighbours in
the region, which generally fare better
in these areas, he warns.
However, there are robust plans in
place to address these issues. These
include new licensing classifications
with a keener focus on service, executing
random spot checks on premises and
enhanced powers of enforcing fines for
violations. In addition, Dr Salah believes
the implementation of a ‘mystery
shopper’ program, setting up a proactive quality improvement team and a
complaint hotline for visitors are all
having a significant impact.
As well as the bricks, mud and timber
that make up the facilities of the Kingdom’s tourism establishments and
attractions, though, the sector couldn’t
operate without personnel.
“Our job is firstly to make sure that
the physical infrastructure is in place,
and then ensuring that the industry has
the necessary supply of well-trained
tourism staff,” explains Dr Salah.
“This includes setting education,
training standards and so forth. Saudization does come into our work of course,
but our first consideration is the fundamental business of putting the complete
training and support structure in place.”
Firstly, each job is investigated so it
can be documented in terms of the separate competencies that are required for
that role. And once this has been done,
a training package designed to address
those necessary skills is designed.
That basic procedure is based on the
job requirements, and not the prospective employee. “We need to see that
each person is able to handle whatever the job entails before we think of
replacing an expatriate worker with a
Saudi in that role,” says Dr Sahal.
However, tourism in common with the
rest of the economy does have Saudization targets, and to date has been one
of the most successful sectors in the
economy, achieving 26 per cent of the
total workforce, largely through initiatives to expand tourism programs in
colleges and universities.
“Tourism is a fast growing industry
that provides great opportunity for our
society. The sector enjoys the perception of being potentially a very good and
attractive employer for Saudis – but at
the same time it’s important that we
ensure there are adequate education
and training facilities in place to underpin
that perception,” he says.
For such a young industry undergoing such a degree of growth, there
are of course many other challenges
to address.
“With such a wide range of destinations spread all over the Kingdom, it’s
important that we prioritise site development, concentrating on those that are
more likely to be favoured by domestic
tourists,” says Dr Salah.
To enable this, the SCTA is implementing a comprehensive consumer
survey together with further research,
which will enable them to prioritise
development in all aspects of the
tourism product, “from roads to shopping malls, petrol stations and motels,
family fun parks, public toilets and clinics,
furnished apartments to hotels – as
well as specialized awareness programs
for the local community.”
On the funding front, Dr Salah recognizes the need to further develop
private-public partnerships to enable
more flexible funding programs, and
the need to improve and support the
sales and marketing capabilities of local
tourism operators.
It is the issue of quality improvement,
however, to which he is keen to return.
“It is of great importance to make
sure that the Kingdom’s growing tourism
sector does facilitate high calibre investors and operators. This is the logical first
step of the development of a sustainable industry – to ensure that only
skilled and able operators and investors enter the market.”
If that is the case, believes Dr Salah,
prospects for the domestic tourism
sector are very rosy indeed.
Evaluating performance
in the Saudi market
Nearly 1,000 Saudi accommodations
are listed on TripAdvisor, along with two
million other businesses. And traffic to
those properties increased 135 per cent
from 2011 to 2012. Given those figures,
and the growing readership of the Saudi
pages on TripAdvisor, it’s a good time
to evaluate how Saudi accommodations are doing, and what they can do
to further capitalize on the site’s vast,
global reach. I’m going to present a
quick report card here, focus on several
tips for hoteliers to improve their standings and make the most of the site, and
spotlight one property that’s doing all
the right things.
Embracing online reviews:
the next steps for Saudi hotels
Dan Cross of online travel review website, TripAdvisor, explains why
Saudi hoteliers should be making the most of what is, in effect, a free
market research tool
Online reviews have proliferated over
the last decade. On TripAdvisor, which
is the world’s largest travel site, there
are more than 100 million reviews and
opinions, with 60 new ones coming in
every minute. However, for many hospitality businesses, especially in rapidly
expanding markets like Saudi Arabia,
the question remains: how important
are reviews, really, in the travel decision-making process?
In a late 2012 survey, we asked both
travelers and properties from around
the globe exactly that. The results
show that 93 per cent of travelers said
online reviews have an impact on their
booking decisions, and 96 per cent of
hoteliers said that reviews are influential in the booking process. The bottom
line is that reviews are unquestionably
significant for today’s hoteliers.
Use the free tools
The vast majority of what TripAdvisor
offers to hoteliers is free. In the Management Center, for example, you can
update your listing page, remind guests
to write reviews, upload photos and
videos, download TripAdvisor content
for your own website, respond to traveler reviews, and more.
Around the world, approximately a
quarter of hotels have registered and
verified with TripAdvisor, and Saudi
properties are right in line with that
number, which between 2011 and 2012
increased by 42 per cent, demonstrating
that more and more Saudi accommodations are realizing the value.
Actively manage
traveler feedback
Properties that take advantage of
the full suite of tools typically see an
improvement in traveler ratings, a rise
in their popularity ranking, and an influx
of business.
Globally, the percentage of accommodations that have an overall rating
of 3.5 or higher on our 5-point scale is
60 per cent. The number of Saudi hotels
that achieve that rating is significantly
lower. However, if we look specifically
at Saudi accommodations that have
been reviewed in the last 30
days, our number jumps dramatPAGE
If you own or manage an accommodation, online reviewing
websites are a critical social media platform. For example, more than
200 million unique visitors go to TripAdvisor sites.
is working and what needs improvement,
and adjust your operations accordingly.
If travelers consistently give you low
cleanliness scores and comment on
ill-vacuumed floors, make a plan with
your housekeeping team to address it
so that future customers are happier,
and future reviews improve.
ically: 70 per cent of those businesses
achieve the 3.5 or above. That indicates that accommodations that are
more engaged – encouraging reviews
and following other best practices –
are seeing results.
So what are those best practices, and
what can hoteliers do to improve their
online listing and influence travelers?
ison to other area properties. Traveler
reviews form the basis for your standing,
with quantity, quality, and freshness
being the primary factors. A five-star
review you received last week counts
much more in your ranking than a fivestar rating from two years ago. New,
positive reviews can move your property up in the rankings.
And thirdly, fresh and ongoing feedback is critical for your staff to understand what they’re doing right, and
where there is room for improvement.
Which brings us to our second tip.
Tip 1: encourage reviews
Fresh traveler feedback is critical for
three reasons. Firstly, travelers want
to see reviews before they commit to
booking. And they want to know how
a property has performed recently, not
six months ago. Encourage guests to
write reviews so that you’re providing
a constant stream of new feedback for
your prospective guests to consider.
Secondly, new reviews can significantly impact your place on our popularity index, which ranks you in compar-
Tip 2: evaluate your
performance and make
Years ago, hotels had to pay heavily to
find out what their customers thought
about them. Today, customers provide
that insight for free. Read your new
reviews on a regular basis, assess what
Tip 3: engage with travelers
by responding to reviews
If a customer approached you in person
with feedback would you turn your back
on them? Many hoteliers feel that not
responding to a review – especially a
negative one – is the digital equivalent. Your public response influences
the reviewer, and can impress potential
guests reading these reviews while planning travel. In a 2012 study by PhoCusWright, 78 per cent of consumer respondents said that seeing a hotel management
response made them believe that the
property cares more about its guests.
Around the world, more hoteliers are
catching on. Management responses
on TripAdvisor more than doubled yearover-year from 2011 to 2012. Now one
out of every four new reviews receives a
management response. However, Saudi
hoteliers are contributing at a significantly lower rate. Demonstrate that you
value customer feedback, and set yourself apart from competitors.
For an example of a property that’s
doing an admirable job, look at the Crowne
Plaza in Riyadh. They have a steady
stream of recent reviews, and are replying
to them with management responses.
In addition, they have uploaded dozens
of photos to their page, posted a special
offer, and included a rich description of
their amenities.
If you own or manage an accommodation, online reviewing websites are a critical social media platform. For example,
more than 200 million unique visitors
go to TripAdvisor sites in 21 languages
every month to read reviews and plan
their trips, providing enormous exposure to an international audience, and
a valuable opportunity to connect with
prospective guests.
01 By Ayman Baalbaki, ‘YA'ALLAH’
JAW spells a week
of fun for Jeddah
Amber Shahid enjoys seven days of cultural and artistic treats
served up at Jeddah Art Week, the inaugural international arts
celebration in the city, and which could become an annual event
jeddah art week
02 By Mahmoud Said,
'Port a Marsa Matrouh'
03 By Farnaz Rabiejah,
'The Golden Gun',
2012, Bronze, 26.5 x 36
x 3.5 cm
04 By Jamshid Bayrami,
'Touch the Marble'
05 By Jamil Molaeb,
'Fleurs Bleues'
With sculptures and public artworks dotting many of its
roundabouts and open spaces, it’s no wonder that Jeddah
is commonly referred to as an open-air art gallery. The
city’s reputation as a cultural hotspot is further underlined by a busy program of exhibitions and events in its
art galleries, with local and regional artists to the fore.
Despite all this activity, though, there has long been a
thirst for an international component to the local art scene.
Good to report, then, that this thirst has recently been
quenched with the inaugural Jeddah Art Week, dubbed
JAW, which was backed by Sotheby’s, the international
fine art auctioneers.
As well as being a snappy acronym, ‘JAW’ in a regional
Arabic dialect, spells fun, and this was exactly what was
on the agenda in an action packed week of exhibitions,
jeddah art week
talks, symposiums and educational activities.
As well as fun, though, JAW proved a highly visible showcase for Jeddah – not just to art lovers, but to investors
too. Good news indeed – especially since there is widespread optimism that JAW could become a fixture in the
international art calendar, particularly with its timing – the
week after the well-established Dubai Art Week.
JAW was the result of collaboration between international
fine art auctioneers Sotheby’s and Jeddah’s Athr Gallery
and new Ayyam Gallery, among others. Edward Gibbs of
Sotheby’s said: “There is great thirst for arts and cultural
activities here and the city has received this event well. If
things continue in this positive way Jeddah can become
a big thing in the Middle East [art scene].”
The week-long festival was jointly organized by Lina
voyager talk
In conversation with Saudi actress
and filmmaker, Ahd Kamel
The first Saudi to have her work
showcased at the Berlin International
Film Festival, her second movie
‘Sanctity’ was screened at last year’s
festival. Her movie, which was shot
in just a week in Jeddah, is about
a young widow trying to protect
her unborn child while fighting the
poverty, dealing with social stigma..
“I never thought about filmmaking.
Filmmaking chose me. I studied
animation at college and fell in love
with the camera by chance after
shooting a movie for my graduation
project. Freedom comes from the
inside and expression cannot be
stopped when your heart is in it.”
To aspiring filmmakers: “Just do
it. Things won’t change otherwise.
I don’t believe in advising people but
taking action.”
The first Saudi woman to study
acting and filmmaking in the
US, Ahd worked on Hollywood
movies. She won the Golden Gate
Award for Best Actress at the
San Francisco International Film
Festival for her role in Turkish film
Razn, and was also a lead actress
in Wadjda, by Saudi director Haifa
Al-Mansour, which won Best Arabic
Feature Film at the Dubai Film
Lazaar Jameel, an international contemporary art specialist
from Sotheby’s who is also well-known for ‘The Future of
a Promise’ at Venice Biennale 2011, a show which showcased Middle Eastern art and artists.
She said: “Jeddah is at the crossroads of culture and
boasts a growing community of artists as well as the
strongest primary gallery market in the Kingdom. We
felt that Jeddah, with its long cultural history, needed a
time of year where all the creative forces can collide and
therefore we created JAW, a platform to meet, gather
and share ideas.
“This landmark exhibition for the Kingdom and for Jeddah
in particular will allow members of the public to view some
spectacular artworks by among the most talented
contemporary Arab and Iranian artists of our time.”
jeddah art week
Highlights of
Jeddah Art Week
Sotheby’s exhibition of
contemporary art
JAW’s opening event at Al Furusia
Marina & Yacht Club Park Hyatt
brought together a range of
contemporary work from across
the region. Especially eye-catching
was a 78-panel mural (below)by
Egyptian artist Chant Avedissian’s
called ‘Icons of the Nile’. Other
work included acrylic, charcoal
and gesso artwork from Iraqi–
born Ahmed Alsoudani, and
‘Ya'Allah’ (Dear Lord) by Lebanese
artist, Ayman Baalbaki.
Mostly Visible, at
the Park Hyatt
Curated by Palestinian artist
Ashraf Fayadh, an exhibition
introducing 25 Saudi artists
from varied backgrounds and
regions, depicting life in the
Kingdom in a variety of media.
‘Identity’ at Dar Al-Hekma
College for Girls
A three-day design symposium
exploring the uniqueness
and multiplicity of identity,
how it defines and labels
individuals and how it is
universally viewed from different
perspectives and disciplines.
“The symposium aims to
trigger aspiring young artists’
imagination and prompt them
to explore this concept in their
designs. Identity, amongst many
other things defines our self-image,
individuality, social roles and our
understanding of others.” Suhair
Al-Qurashi, president of DAH.
“This sheds light on the
issues surrounding Saudi
identity and heritage and what
measures are being taken
to preserve and enhance it.”
Oonagh Donnell, Interior Design
Director, Dar Al-Hekma.
Pen to Paper @
the Athr Gallery
In collaboration with Al Madad
Foundation, a charity which
supports education and literacy
programs in Lebanon, a group
exhibition featuring Moataz Nasr,
Giovanni Ozzola and Ziad Antar
amongst others, exploring the
theme ‘promoting education'.
Standout pieces included
‘Illuminarsi rompendo l’eterno
ritorno’ – ‘Enlighten yourself
breaking the eternal return’ –
by Italian artist Giovanni Ozzola
and Moataz Nasr’s El Thaher
wa Al Baten (the manifest
and the un-manifest).
The event opening also
included a fundraising auction
of pieces not in the exhibition
which was conducted by Lord
Poltimore, the deputy chairman
of Sotheby’s Europe.
Edge of Arabia
young artists
mentoring program
Edge of Arabia was a successful
initiative that has introduced
Middle Eastern artists to the
international stage. Its founders,
Stephen Stapleton and Abdul
Nasser Gharem held one-to-one
mentoring sessions for aspiring
young artists at the home of local
arts patron, Dr Sami Angawi.
jeddah art week
Grand opening
of Ayyam Gallery
Ayyam Gallery – which already
has branches in Damascus, Beirut,
Dubai and London – debuted in
KSA with a new gallery space
at the Bougainville Center.
The opening exhibition was a solo
show by Syrian artist Mohannad
Oraibi, ‘Profile Pictures’, inspired
by the social media website,
Facebook, which comprised Orabi’s
paintings of users’ profile pictures.
06 By Chant Avedissian,
'Icons of the Nile'
07 By Batoul Shimi,
'World Under
08 By JHayv Kahraman,
'Heads on Plates'
09 By Ahmed
Alsoudani, 'Untitled'
jeddah art week
Summer 2010 / issue one
Surprising! Saudi Arabia
Louvre Exhibition
Showcasing Saudi s
rich heritage
Edge of the World
Standing above
the rest
Tourism Investment
Al Ahsa
Discover! Saudi Arabia
Autumn 2010 / issue three
SHUAA capital
Saudi Stars
Saudi Caves
Between a rock and
a modern place
Saudi Summer Festivals
Something for everyone
E-mail today: [email protected]
Four quarterly editions
Subscription rates for postal: In KSA SR50
Rest of the World US$25
In association with:
Published by:
Dosariyah yields its
7,000 year-old secrets
A Saudi-German
archeology team
led by the SCTA has
been unearthing some
fascinating finds at
the Eastern Province
dig-site. Jo Malcolm
investigates for Saudi
01 The Saudi-German
team hard at work
Ancient seafarers, dolphins and whales, hunters and
gazelles and mysterious settlements – not the first things
that come to mind when you think of Saudi Arabia.
Add a group of passionate archeologists and a few 7,000
year-old pearls to the mix, and you’ve got a thrilling story
about recent finds at Dosariyah, 10 km from Jubail in the
Kingdom’s Eastern Province.
Thanks to the permission of Dr Ali Al-Ghabban, vice
president of Antiquities and Museums at the Saudi Commission for Tourism and Antiquities (SCTA), a Saudi-German
team of archeologists has been hard at work over the past
four years on the Dosariyah site, close to the present Arabian
Gulf shoreline.
Pieces of flint, pottery, bones, shells and even pearls
excavated in the area indicate that the people living there
7,000 years ago were not only hunters and herders, but also
fishermen and seafarers, and that Dosariyah’s connections
with prehistoric Mesopotamia were frequent and intense.
Dr Philipp Drechsler, director of the Dosariyah Archeological Research Project, is excited about the picture now
emerging of life in Dosariyah at that time.
“The people who lived there 7,000 years ago were indigenous mobile hunter-herder-fishermen who explored a variety
of environmental resources, profiting from more humid climatic
conditions. Animal bones indicate the presence of domesticated sheep, goat and cattle, as well as a broad range of
wild mammals, both terrestrial and marine. Innumerable
fish bones found at the site prove the importance of marine
resources, as do millions of marine shells,” he says.
The relics also give fascinating new insights into contact
between Dosariyah and Mesopotamia, the ancient land
between the Tigris and the Euphrates (modern day Iraq),
widely considered to be the cradle of civilization. The recent
archeological findings at Dosariyah provide new information
about the Ubaid prehistorical period of Mesopotamia too.
“In contrast to previous researchers who thought about
these contacts in terms of Mesopotamian seafarers who
travelled down the Gulf, I don’t see compelling evidence of
the actual presence of foreign people at Dosariyah.
It is equally plausible that Arabian people who had
seagoing vessels for fishing played 02 Perforated
fragment of bluean active role in establishing and green glazed Islamicperiod pottery
sustaining this contact with southern 03 Archaic needles
found at Dosariyah
Mesopotamia, as they did in much later
millennia leading caravans through the sand-seas of inner
Arabia,” says Dr Dreschler.
There are an estimated 70 archeological sites along the
southern shores of the Arabian Gulf but most of the findings on
these have been made on the surface of the land. Dosariyah
is different: thousands of fish and mammal bones have been
excavated there at a depth of down to three meters, which
means that the bones are well preserved.
Another unique aspect of the material found at Dosariyah
is the fact that more than 10,000 pieces of pottery have
been collected and documented so far. Pottery is generally
rare in Neolithic sites in Arabia, where an assemblage of
100 pieces is considered to be ‘rich’, according to experts.
“We need to explain the mass of this pottery in the future.
Some pieces were clearly produced in southern Mesopotamia,
while others may have a local, Arabian origin. The pottery of
local production is characteristic, heavily tempered pottery,
which presumably presents one of the earliest pottery traditions in Saudi Arabia.”
One of the real treasures of the excavations is the discovery
of a number of 7,000 year-old pearls in an area used for
dumping pearl oyster shells.
“These are the oldest pearls discovered so far in Saudi
Arabia. Even today, they show a perfect lustre and are
well rounded. It’s quite plausible that they were used as
personal adornment , but they might also have been the
main objects of exchange. This is just the sort of mystery
that future studies will investigate,” says Dr Drechsler.
Other findings include small bitumen receptacles and
bone tools such as needles with minute eyes, which are
completely unknown from any other site in the Central Gulf.
But just what did Dosariyah look like 7,000 years ago?
“There is no evidence of permanent, stone architecture. It
appears as if the area was inhabited by a group of mobile
people who lived in light shelters or tents and stayed at the
site for task-specific activities, maybe for part of the year
only,” he says.
Dosariyah first attracted interest back in 1970 when
Professor Abdullah Masry, author of ‘Prehistory in Northeastern Arabia’ and former Saudi Arabian Second Deputy
Minister for Antiquities and Museum Affairs, decided to
investigate what he describes as tell-tale signs of Ubaid
remains in Eastern Arabia. At that time, Dosariyah was “the
star of Ubaid”, and research was carried out to broaden the
knowledge of the Ubaid period, which until then had only
been provided by studies of Mesopotamia.
Nearly 40 years later in 2008, Dr Dreschler was given the
chance by the SCTA to visit Eastern Province sites with Mr
Abdulhamid Al- Hashash, director of Dammam Museum,
and they decided to choose Dosariyah as the location for
an exciting new joint excavation project.
Since then, the Saudi- German team has been back to the
site four times and they’re going again this autumn for extra
field work, this time with geomorphologists from Britain’s
Oxford Brookes University.
Next time you go about your business in Saudi Arabia,
don’t forget what treasures may be under your feet. It’s not
called the Magic Kingdom for nothing.
Pieces of
flint, pottery,
bones, shells
and even pearls
excavated in the
area indicate that
the people living
there 7,000 years
ago were not
only hunters and
herders, but also
fishermen and
A Weekend
in Hofuf
01 the Ottoman,
Ibrahim Castle, in
It’s often said that the Kingdom has many hidden treasures,
but few tell a story like the city of Hofuf. Located in the heart
of the Eastern Region, the city of over a million residents is
a veritable history lesson when it comes to Saudi’s distant
past and more recent economic developments.
Located around 130 south-west of Dammam it’ll take
you 80 minutes to drive to Hofuf from King Fahd International Airport or four and a half hours from Riyadh, making
it ideal for a weekend adventure. Hofuf is half-way between
Dammam and the Saudi-Qatari border; the highway to Hofuf
is a key road – but as always do take care while driving, avoid
night-time journeys and fill up on gasoline before setting off
as petrol stations are few and far between.
Pack a pair of stout shoes
and prepare to be educated
– whether you’re a history
buff or a nature-lover,
Hofuf and its surroundings
offer bags to see and do, says
Alex Malouf
Hofuf is in the heart of the Kingdom’s largest oil-fields, next
to one of the world’s largest land-based oil fields (Ghawar)
and also Saudi’s first oil strike. There’s no signs, monuments
or landmarks to the moment when the Kingdom’s black gold
was discovered back in November 1940 but you’ll drive past
Abqaiq, a small town outside of Hofuf, where the country’s
first oil field flowed at 9,720 barrels a day.
The approach to Hofuf is breathtaking; the city is ringed
by a limestone mountain range which rises vertically from
the desert vista. To the south, the city borders Saudi’s Rub
Al-Khali ( Empty Quarter), the largest sand desert in the
world that covers some 650,000 square kilometers and stretches over a 1,000km south-east
images: Alex Malouf
02 the Al Gara
Mountains in Hofuf
03 the al-Hadida
Wabar crater
to Oman. These geographic marvels contrast with Hofuf’s
lush greenery – the city is the world’s largest oasis with over
12,000 hectares of vegetation including date plantations
and a variety of farms which are smack bang alongside
Hofuf’s historic center.
One of the first thing that comes to mind when visiting
Hofuf is the city’s best-known export which you will pass
on your way into the city. Driving down Al-Dhahran Street
and into the heart of Hofuf, you’ll encounter one of the city’s
largest date factories on your left hand side. Hofuf and the
region of Al-Ahsa in which it’s located exports 60,000 tons
of dates worth over US$30 million annually thanks to the
three million date palm trees planted in and around the city.
If you’re a fan of dates, then a visit to Hofuf and the
surrounding area is a must. Hofuf is home to one of the
most famous date varieties, the khulasah or khlas, and
much of the city’s economy revolves around the fruit of the
date palm. If you’re interested in knowing more about the
Kingdom’s best known fruit then visit Hofuf at the end of
the harvest season, between the end of May and October.
Before you start to explore the city, you’ll need to arrange
your accommodation. The most convenient options for
tourists are the four-star Coral-Plaza Al-Ahsa (+966 3 531
1111) which is located on Al-Dhahran Street and easy to
find if driving from Dammam (you keep driving straight and
the hotel will be on your left after the date factory), or the
five-star InterContinental Hotel (+966 3 584 0000). While a
challenge to find to those who are new to the city, the InterContinental is next to the Al Kout district which is home to
many of Hofuf’s most interesting attractions. A one night’s
stay at the Coral will cost around SR500, while a night at
the Intercontinental will cost SR1,000.
For both first-time tourists and repeat visitors there’s two
tours that the SCTA has created in partnership with local
tour operators. The most popular – the Al Hofuf Tour – is a
comprehensive guide to historical and cultural sites in the
city itself. The second, the Oasis Tour, takes visitors outside
of the city to explore the countryside and oasis itself.
Both will take approximately one day and are the
images: Alex Malouf
The best way to experience Hofuf’s center is on foot and the
walk from Ibrahim Castle to the town’s main thoroughfare,
King Abdul Aziz Street, and its famous Al Qaisariyyah market is
only a couple of hundred meters away
05 entering the souq
07 bayt Al-Mulla
best way to enjoy all that Hofuf has to offer. The concierge
at both hotels can assist with finding an SCTA-accredited
guide, though tour costs will vary. You’re best setting off on
any tour in the early morning to beat the heat. The two tours
also include a return back to the hotel for lunch, which isn’t
included, and also dinner which is included.
An immense help to me during my stay in Hofuf was
the InterContinental’s front desk manager Nasser Aledeen.
If you’re in need of someone to advise and answer your
questions there’s no better person to talk to. Even if you
aren’t planning on spending the night in Hofuf do stop by
either the Coral or Intercontinental and pick up SCTA’s maps
and brochures of the area.
Ideally, Hofuf needs to be visited over several days; I spent
two days in the city and stayed overnight but that time still
wasn’t enough for me to take the Oasis Tour to visit the
Gara and Sho’ba Moutains, the Al-Ahsa National Park or the
numerous springs that can be found in and around Hofuf. If
you’re going to make the most of your stay then do hire a
guide and take one of the two tours on offer – tours will cost
around a SR1,000 per group, but if there’s several people
Take a heritage walkabout
As I’d arrived later than planned I decided to be intrepid and
took on the city tour myself. The city’s major tourist attractions are well sign-posted and you won’t have to travel far
if you’re staying at the InterContinental. The district of Kout
pre-dates the period when the Ottoman Turks controlled
the area in the 16th century AD. The first and most striking
monument you’ll come across is the Ibrahim Castle which
served as the Ottoman’s administrative headquarters, a
garrison base and a prison. It is currently undergoing renovations and isn’t open for walk-in visitors but call ahead on
images: scta
images: Alex Malouf
the price is worth it for the local insights and knowledge.
Hofuf’s locals are both friendly and generous but an Arabic
speaker will also help you to gain an understanding of the
area as many people don’t speak English well.
While I wasn’t able to do two tours over the weekend and
get to see all the sights that Hofuf has to offer, I know I’ll be
back soon to explore more in and about Hofuf. No matter your
interests – shopping, history, culture or nature – Hofuf has it
all. So the question is, what are you waiting for?
03 580 2639 to arrange for a tour of the site’s remarkable
interior which includes one of the city’s oldest religious sites,
the Al Kibba Mosque.
A stone’s throw-away is Bayt Al-Mulla or Al-Bay’a House,
a traditional merchant house that has been preserved and
maintained by the local municipality and SCTA. Aside from
its cultural importance, Bayt Al-Mulla hosted the Kingdom’s
founder King Abdul Aziz Al-Saud for three days after he
conquered the Al-Ahsa region in 1913.
The best way to experience Hofuf’s center is on foot
and the walk from Ibrahim Castle to the town’s main
thoroughfare, King Abdul Aziz Street, and its famous Al
Qaisariyyah market is only a couple of hundred meters. The
Al Qaisariyyah market has been Hofuf’s heart and soul for
decades and you’ll find dozens of merchants selling their
wares, from dates to spices and herbs, traditional Saudi
clothing and perfumes.
Today’s Al Qaisariyyah is a replica of the original which
burnt down in April 2004. While construction work is still
ongoing on certain parts of the souq, there’s a kilometer-long stretch of Al Qaisairiyyah market that is open
and ready for exploring. The market traders are welcoming
and will often offer tourists a seat and a cup of tea. Just
remember to haggle hard!
Keep heading south down Hofuf’s main street, cross over
the intersection and to your right you’ll come across Saudi
Arabia’s first government-supervised school. Al-Amiriyah,
which has been renamed to Beit Al-Thaqafah or House of
Culture, schooled many of the country’s royalty, ministers,
and merchants following its opening in 1949.
On the other side of the road is the entrance to Hofuf’s
famous gold souq. The covered alleyway is home to over
120 gold and jewelry shops offering a wide selection of
styles and designs. Hofuf and the Al-Ahsa region is renowned
for a specific jewelry style which embellishes 24 carat gold
images: Alex Malouf
with multi-colored gems. Many of the jewelers, all of whom
are Saudi, speak English – but be prepared to bargain on
prices if you want to take anything home with you. The
gold souq opens early and closes late evening except on
Friday when it opens after midday prayers.
Next to the gold souq is the Al Sowaij or Al Sowaiq
market where you can find textiles, gifts and other locally-made produce. Further down King Abdul Aziz Street
are the Women’s Market and the Bedouin Souq where
you can explore a range of perfumes, clothing and foods
from around the region. To try and buy something a little
different, head over to Hofuf’s camel market which is one
of the largest in the Gulf. The camel market is outside of
the city center on the road to Riyadh.
For museum buffs Hofuf doesn’t disappoint either. If
Hofuf’s heritage has you eager to see and understand more
about the region then a visit to the National Museum is a
must. It is open daily in the morning and evening except
for Thursday evenings and Friday mornings. For more information call 03 580 2639.
If that doesn’t sate your appetite here’s several more
museums and galleries dotted around and outside the city.
The Waleed Al-Najem Museum in the village of Al-Jafe,
gives a glimpse into how Saudis used to live. Tours need
to be pre-arranged and the museum can be contacted on
055 592 1616.
Another must-see glimpse into life during the 1950s
and 1960s, the Museum of Hussein Al-Khalifah is a Saudi
Excellence in Tourism award winner. The museum features
numerous replicas of life as it was half a century ago,
including a carpentry workshop, a majlis (meeting room),
and a grocery store complete with original produce. The
museum is north of the town center in the district of
Mubarraz. You can reach the museum’s owner Hussein
Al-Khalifah on 050 592 8917.
The Ardha – Dance
of the Sword
Of all the arts, none remain as
rooted in ritual as dance. Ritual, by
definition, is a participatory activity
not designed for spectators, but
nevertheless, Rima Hindo is entranced
Stranded near Al Fau, our licensed tour guide starts tapping
his feet and singing. Within few seconds other members of
our tour start tapping along. The bus driver waiting with us
gives the tapping the name of a dance. But for a westerner
it’s a little perplexing – it might seem as the dance steps are
the same, but I’ve come to learn that they are certainly not!
Later that night at the cultural center in Najran we ended up
being entertained by a folk troupe and learning about some
of the local dance styles, including Razfa which is performed
traditional dance
during feasts and marriages, a war dance called Dance of
the Horses, and Dances of the Drums (Tabel and Al Maraf'e).
This was my introduction to the folkloric dances of Saudi
Arabia. It has been a journey of discovery that has led to me
paying much closer attention to all sorts of details such as
the costumes that are worn and the adornments on these
clothes. Each little item has a symbolic meaning far removed
from the day-to-day thobe and ghutra we see everywhere.
Men’s dancing is more open and visible to the general
public than women’s dance – which also exists and has
regional variations, but is performed behind closed doors.
HRH Saud bin Abdu Majeed Bin Saud, a board member
of the Saudi Heritage Preservation Society, explained to
me that there are over 200 different dance styles or Alwan
– which literally translates as colors. Each region and each
all images: STCA
traditional dance
02 Archive photo of
King Abdullah, center,
with, clockwise, Prince
Mutaib bin Abdulaziz,
Prince Mutaib bin
Abdullah and Prince
Sultan bin Salman bin
Abdul Aziz
04 Ardha performers
at the Janadriyah
village in the Kingdom has its own dance, performed in a
specific style and on specific occasions.
The most active provinces in the folkloric dance scene are
Jazan and Baha, and famously, the men from Jazan dance
with flowers in their hair to a slower, more rhythmic beat. In
Asir where the picturesque city of Abha is located there are
20 different known dances. The dances date back thousands
of years and evolved along the Yemen to Damsacus trade
routes. Some of the dances date back to pre-Islamic times
and have been part of the fabric of life for millennia, as
evidenced in ancient rock inscriptions found at Bir Hima in
the Najran area.
Al Ardha Al Najdiya is considered the national dance. Try
searching for videos of King Faisal, King Abdullah and other
senior members of the royal family and you will see a smile
break out with the first beat of the drums.
I am told the lyrics for the Ardha change according to the
dance leader but usually contains: “We praise God it came
as we wished for and from he on the throne many gifts.”
The dance originated in showing off a tribe’s horses but
morphed into showcasing the weapons the dancers or
warriors bore. What we see at festivals and events is the
current version of an old Arab tradition where the dance,
the sword, the banner and the beating of drums was a core
activity before a conflict.
In contrast samiri is a combination of poetry, drum
and dance, with two lines of performers usually sitting or
kneeling in facing ranks. From time to time, one of the more
exuberant of the troupe will leap to his feet and dance, and
in other dances, the entire band might be on their feet. It’s
that spirit of improvisation and informality that sets samiri
apart from ardha – and the fact that ardha was traditionally
performed by warriors preparing for war; whereas samiri is
more concerned with love.
HRH Saud bin Abdu Majeed Bin Saud also told me about
the Yanbu regional dance, or simsimiyah, (named for the
harp-like lyre which accompanies it) which I had seen previously at the King Fahd Cultural Center. The dancers are dressed
like fishermen with a multi-colored wrap around their waist,
and they dance to a rhythm much faster and lighter than
the Ardha. Two men at a time come forward and sway and
dance in step, displaying the sort of agility and endurance
I would normally associate with Russian Kalinka dancers.
While most dances are associated with getting ready for
war many are performed as part of celebrations including
the return home of relatives and friends, weddings and as
a welcoming gesture for visitors.
All the dances have some common elements: drums and
chanters. However, the costume and the adornments are
different from region to region and village to village. The words
and refrain is chosen by the dance leader and the decorations of the drums varies from plain drums in a variety of
sizes to ones decorated with multi-colored furs. How the two
separate lines of men interact varies depending on the song.
The Ardha has become the national dance and, as many
foreign dignitaries who have been invited to try, the sword
is heavy and the dance requires both stamina and coordination. It is performed wearing formal dress jacket in a variety
of colors and embroideries, identifying a dancer's tribe, his
patrimony, and his pride in his appearance.
Unique mountain
villages, craggy
peaks, lush green
forests and cool
breezes – Asir is
the ideal summer
mountains of Asir
The highest peaks, the highest rainfall, and one of the
Kingdom’s most highly-prized summer holiday destinations
– Asir is a land of extremes.
Because of the rainfall, there’s more natural vegetation
than anywhere else in Saudi Arabia, with some sheltered
valleys gloriously covered in vast coniferous forests. Yet
some mountain ridges are arid and barren.
The height of the mountains make summer temperatures here cooler than much of the rest of the country –
but Asir also has one of the most extreme daily temperature ranges of anywhere in the world. It’s not uncommon
for afternoons to reach 30oC, yet the early mornings can be
full of frost and fog, with the visibility down to zero before
the clear afternoons.
Capital of Asir is the historic Abha, high in the Asir Mountains, of which the highest peak – also the highest in Saudi
Arabia – is Jebel Sawdah, reaching a peak at 2,910 meters
above sea level.
Asir is often described as one huge park, and indeed it is
famed for its parks and gardens. Abundant in acacias, olive,
junipers, wild flowers and coniferous forests, cool in summer
and mild in winter, the province is as much celebrated for the
welcoming nature of its people as the beauty of its scenery
– making it the ideal summer vacation spot to escape the
extreme heat elsewhere in the Kingdom.
Unsurprisingly for a region so rich in natural beauty,
outdoors activities are extremely popular here, with many
visitors exploring Asir on foot, hiking, climbing and sleeping
under the stars. Asir National Park – an area of around 1,600
square kilometres was the first national park in Saudi Arabia
when it was established in 1980.
One of the great unspoiled wildernesses of the Kingdom
it is the abode of 300 species birds and has 67 campsites
and 45 picnic sites – all furnished with piped water, parking
and toilet facilities – with play areas, trails and lookout areas
clearly marked. A particularly popular and accessible part
of the National Park is the 440 hectare Delgan Forest, just
27 kilometers south west of Abha, a verdant wonderland
of acacia trees and clear waters, which draws hikers and
walkers all year long.
As well as its natural beauty, Asir is famed for its villages.
There is an extraordinary variety of architectural styles among
the famous mountain villages, which derive directly from the
interaction between man and his environment.
The geography of the Asir Mountains – which are part of
the same geological fault as the Great Rift Valley in Africa –
means that before motor vehicles, moving building supplies
was difficult, and often villages had to rely solely on materials and techniques that were at hand. The result is that
each village is often wildly different to the next.
Among them are villages composed of towering terraced
houses clinging to the cliff faces, while others resemble iced
cakes, and yet others nestle snugly in the valley bottoms in
earthy shades of brown and tan, while another village will
have every house painted in a different color. Some will be
made of patterned stones, another in the adobe style with
thatched roofing. The traditional architecture generally falls into five distinctive styles, each with a twist that is unique to Asir; mud
(adobe), tower houses such as you find in Al Khalef; stone
apron tower houses like the ones of Al Yazid, Dar Osman
and Al Khat; mud and slate houses (ragav) with horizontal
layers of stone tiles in Al Basta; and the thatched huts of
the Tihamah coastal plain. PAGE
Lovers of built heritage are spoilt for choice in Asir, as there
are so many stunning traditional villages to visit. By no means
an exhaustive list, the following warrant special mention.
One of the most extraordinary villages in Asir is Habalah
- sometimes called 'the Hanging Village' because of the
precarious way it clings to the sheer cliff face of the valley
wall. Habalah means 'rope' and its name is a reference to
the fact that everything was only accessible via rope ladders
and a pulley system. The village was settled about 300 years
ago by members of the Khatani tribe who were fleeing the
Ottomans. Despite the extreme location, the village was
self-sufficent with fruit, vegetable and livestock all being
raised on terraced plots of land. It was inhabited until as
late as 1400 Hijri (1980) and you can still see plenty of
remains of the community, including the iron buckets which
were used to haul everything, including livestock, to and
from the village. Within Abha, Al Basta is a small area at the opposite end
of the Ottoman Bridge from Adel Park. The mud and slate
buildings (ragav) are built around a square with a souq. Al
Qabil quarter is another small group of traditional buildings
overlooking the center of Abha. Some are still in use. The old
quarter of Khamis Mushayt has beautiful examples of local
buildings many of which have been restored and refurbished. Rijjal Al Ma’a is one of the most important cultural heritage
attractions in Asir, having been developed as a museum
and visitor attraction over the last 20 years by the local
community. Altogether there are around 60 buildings, made
in the traditional stone-built style of the Tihamah slopes,
and topped with snow-white crennelations.
Qasabat Al Ous is a restored watchtower some 50 km
from Haswa. Although access into the tower is not possible,
it remains an impressive sight. Al Makatha traditional village is a fine example of a defensive
settlement with few, well-guarded entrances. The mosque in Al
Makatha has recently been restored and the local community
has shown some interest in implementing a more substantive
restoration program across much of the settlement. Al Jahmah is to the south of the mountain of Sarat Abidah,
and contains around 50 buildings built predominantly from
red stone. The village overlooks a small wadi with a series
of agricultural terraces, some still used for grazing, providing
an attractive setting. Behind the village is a small lava flow
(harat). This is one of the best preserved of the abandoned
traditional villages. Al Khalaf is located several kilometers southwest of Al
Jahmah, and consists of around 50 or so buildings in the ragav
style traditional to this part of Asir. The village is located in a
small wadi and access is along a small lane. The combination of tall towers, white, crennalated rooftops and blue and
aqua window detailing is unique Al Maqar in the An Namas distric contains a museum (Qas’r
Al Maqar), residential apartments, restaurants and a small
zoo. Located close to the edge of the escarpment, al Maqar
also offers scenic views and some hanging gardens overlooking the Tihamah. The Al Asabelah Palaces are five buildings, some of which
are reputed to date back 270 years and which were the home
of the Al Asabelah family. Built in the traditional style of the
region, one of the buildings has been converted into a museum
deemed to be of considerable historical and cultural significance Ros Shari, 10 kms from An Namas contains a
number whitewashed, unrestored, stone buildings.
Where to stay
Al Buhairah: just two kilometres from Abha is Al Buhrairah
lake, created by dams on its north east and south and the
highlands to its west.
Chosen because of its geography by HRH Prince Khalid
Al Faisal, former Governor of Asir and President Emeritus of
the National Company for Tourism, Al Buhairah has been
developed into a large resort, which comprises one section
containing a 140-room luxury hotel, mosque, restaurants,
cafeterias, shopping mall and other recreation facilities;
another with extensive tourist accommodation overlooking
the lake and the city; and a third entertainment area of
70,000 square meters, away from the housing areas to
afford privacy and tranquility.
Habalah Tourist Resort: some 55 km from Abha is the
Habalah resort which stands 2,000 meters above sea level
in the cooling mountains, surrounded by steep descents of
between 170 and 300 meters. The resort proudly boasts a
cable car with 24 gondolas which travel to the ancient village
of Habalah, where visitors can enjoy the coffee shop between
exploring the forests, farms and old houses. Like much of
the mountainous region it is a popular spot for climbing.
Alvraa Tourist Resort: 30 kilometers to the south of
Abha at an altitude of 2,000 meters above sea level, is the
juniper-bedecked Alvraa resort. One of the most popular
place to stay within the National Park, it includes 100 wellequipped villas and a 15,000 square meter recreation area,
a mall, restaurant and mosque.
Sawdah Park: a beautiful mountain resort with magnificent views of the surrounding hills and valleys, is some 20km
north west of Abha and stands at 2,500 meters above sea
level. The resort includes an 883 hectare accommodation
area, and a central tourist and recreational area with all
the necessary facilities to make this a real delight. As well
as reception, mosque, and business area, there are restaurants and food service outlets, and a 10,000 square meter
leisure area. There’s also a cable car at Sawdah with 14
gondalas, and plans for the construction of an additional
60 luxury villas.
Abha City: close to the city is the area’s largest tourism
project. On a hill adjacent to Abha, the National Company
for Tourism has built a 140 room five-star hotel, a 60-room
motel, 123 villas, 114 apartments, with a nearby Luna Park,
the popular family theme park.
Alternatively, just enjoy the open air. If you like the
great outdoors cool and green, you’d be hard-pressed to find
a better camping destination than Asir National Park, which
welcomes hundreds of campers each year.
The highest peaks, the highest rainfall, and one of the
Kingdom’s most highly-prized summer holiday destinations –
Asir Province is a land of extremes
In the Lens
The image overleaf is of Al Uqair fort, in the Eastern
Province some 50 miles northeast of the fertile oasis of
Al-Hasa on the east coast of the Arabian Gulf.
It was taken by Thamer Al-Hassan on a dawn visit with
his trusty Nikon D300 on one of his periodic photographic
tours round the Kingdom. It was his second attempt to
capture Al Uqair– he had to be there before sunrise and
ready for that brief moment when the dawn colors had
illuminated the fort exactly as he wanted.
What interested him in this place is its transience
in a rapidly changing society. Today you can enjoy this
evocative old building and watch the local fishermen sell
their catch at the nearby market. But scenes like that are
fast disappearing under a tide of modernity, and Thamer
believes it is a photographer’s responsibility to document
it before they have gone.
Thamer has been interested in photography since
he was very young, and has been seriously pursuing it
since 2009, he says, when he was confident enough to
follow his own creative style. It’s certainly paid off with a
collection of awards – including first prize in this months’
Islam is Global exhibition and competition in Riyadh’s
L’Art Pur gallery.
He likes experimenting with different genres, but his
main specialism is architectural photography. Thamer
says the dynamic changes in architecture in his home
city have really inspired him – although as this image of
Al Uqair shows, his appreciation is by no means limited
to contemporary buildings.
Architectural photography, he says, has taught him to
love design, materials, structures, details and processes,
and his pictures represent him trying to capture the
dramatic feeling of space, place and graphic structure.
For more of his images, go to
in the lens
Saudi Voyager talks to Riyadh
photographer Thamer Al-Hassan
about one of his favorite images
About Al Uqair
It’s not absolutely clear who built the fort of Al Uqair, but
it consists of stone ramparts some 150 feet in length
topped with mud brick -built structure. The site was the
setting of the 1922 conference at which the Protocol
of Uqair was issued, helping establish the borders of
modern Saudi Arabia.
It is in the same location of a more ancient fort of the
same name that is associated with the ancient city of
Gerrha – a fabled place that has also been associated
with several other locations. The shifting sands of the
desert have made it difficult to be sure where exactly
this old trading emporium stood. The ‘lost city of Gerrha’
according to Danish archeologist Geoffrey Bibby, however,
"still awaits its discoverer."
Gerrha is thought to date from the legendary Sumerian-era civilization of Dilmun (4000- 2000 BCE), which
has been archeologically linked to the northern tip of
Bahrain. According to the Handbook for the Persian Gulf
States, during its height, Dilmun controlled the oceanic
trading routes to the Indies and was the trading link to
the Indus Valley and Mesopotamia.
To the Sumerians, it was the land of immortality, and
in his book 'Dilmun Discovered', Michael Rice describes
Dilmun as the 'Paradise Land' to which the Mesopotamian hero Gilgamesh travels in his epic journey.
in the lens
in the lens
image: Thamer Al-Hassan
on land
and sea
Whether you prefer sea or sand,
Saudi has something for everyone
The Kingdom has long been a destination of choice for
both Haj and Umrah and also for commercial reasons.
Now, though, Saudi is also making waves when it comes
to adventure tourism.
Blessed with some of the world’s most stunning
scenery and geography, there are an increasing number
of options for visitors who want to partake in adventure
sports, cultural exchanges or simply enjoy the country’s
natural beauty.
Some of the best known and most popular adventure
activities take advantage of the country’s coastline. Saudi
Arabia has over 2,500 kilometers of pristine coastline,
and the Hijaz coast is constantly rated as one of the best
diving spots in the world thanks to its abundance of coral
reefs and underwater wildlife. No matter your skill level,
if you’re a scuba professional or a budding water baby,
there are a host of diving schools and groups who can take
care of your needs. One online scuba diving community
which was founded last year aims to offer visitors to the
Kingdom a window into the Red Sea diving experience.
“We set up Bubblers to offer people new to the sport a
simple way to get certified and also give divers the chance
to get back into the water once they’ve completed their
certifications,” says co-founder Nawaf Al-Otaibi.
“We wanted to help people dive in an organized fashion,
and we focus on arranging group trips that range from one
to five days in length. We also offer snorkeling to people
who want to dip their toes into the water but aren’t yet
sure about taking up diving. Our aim is to show as many
people as possible what the Red Sea has to offer and
we’ve found that eight per cent of our snorkelers sign up
for a full diving course as soon as they’re out of
the water and back on the boat.”
Thrill seeking
Thrill seeking
03 / 04 SAUDI'S
05 unforgettable
camping experiences
Bubblers offers a host of diving courses and training,
including the basic open water diver developed by the
Professional Association of Diving Instructors (PADI), as well
as the advanced open water diver, master scuba diver and
dive master certification. Budding divers learn the basics in
the pool before heading out into the azure blue waters of
the Red Sea.
As the first scuba diving community in Saudi Arabia that bills
itself as multinational – the group has a Facebook presence
and nearly 200 members – Bubblers aims to please all.
“We have a diverse group of divers, including Saudis.
We’re finding that more and more Saudis are joining us on
our trips. Over the past two months, Bubblers has arranged
four trips, each with a maximum of 20 people. The ages have
ranged from 11 to 72 years. We take care of everything,
from A to Z, even including flights from Riyadh, food and
other transportation needs. We’re also finding that women
are taking up the sport, and we welcome then on board our
trips,” says Nawaf.
Not to be outdone, Saudi’s Eastern Region also offers
travelers a unique diving experience. Situated on the grounds
of Jubail’s Intercontinental Hotel, Continental Stars Divers
offers both guests and locals alike the opportunity to explore
the deeps of the Arabian Gulf and the nearby islands of
Juraid, Kran, Krayen and Jana.
“Our diving center has many activities, such as night
diving, wreck diving, deep diving and boat diving,” explains
Rashid Al Moqbel.
“We have the flexibility to arrange any adventure dives
upon a customer's request. Here on the east coast we have
a wonderful diversity of aquatic life. Off the coast of Jubail
Thrill seeking
City there are six beautiful islands [that we visit], year-round
sunny beaches and water currents which are not strong and
which allow anyone to dive with no problem.” Continental Stars Divers provides both diving certification
as well as pre-arranged tours off the Jubail coastline, and
Rashid and his team count among their clientele customers
from Europe, South Africa, America and Canada. As a person
who made his hobby his livelihood Rashid’s diving passion
and love for Saudi Arabia’s underwater riches is infectious.
“Diving is something different [to other sports]. You are
alone and isolated but surrounded by thousands of corals
and fish. You may spend hours underwater but you won’t
feel time passing. The feeling of weightlessness, of zero
gravity, releases stress and relaxes the muscles. There’s a
saying that divers are always happy, especially when they
dive. I’ve always loved to teach and dive, and it’s one of the
best things that could have ever happened to me,” he says.
There’s arguably even more to see for adventure seekers
who prefer dry land and a desert safari according to one
award-winning tour guide. Khalid Khafagy, who was voted
the Saudi Tourist Guide of the year in 2012, organizes trips
with his partner company Al-Shitaiwi Travel to the four
corners of the Kingdom.
Firm favourites with thrill seekers are the historic Mada’in
Saleh in the north-west, the islands of Farasan in the south
of the Kingdom and the harsh, unforgiving desert landscape
of the Empty Quarter.
“We take care of all the arrangements, including a full
program and tour guide. We recently arranged a tour group from
America and headed out to Mada’in Saleh. No matter where
in Saudi Arabia, we can take you there,” says Khalid Khafagy.
“We can provide tents, sleeping bags, the food and the
transportation especially for those areas such as the Empty
Quarter where there are no hotels.”
Once camp has been made visitors have the chance to
embark on a range of desert activities that are particular to
Saudi culture, including desert diamond hunting, kite flying,
and preparing Arabic coffee (from the beans to the finished
product). Khafagy believes that the experience is one none
of his guests will ever forget.
“Many of my visitors have had a long-held wish to come
here. When they do get here, they enjoy the experience
immensely. Our guests want to come to Saudi Arabia, they
want to know about the culture, how the country is and how
Saudi is changing.”
Much of the charm of Saudi’s up-and-coming adventure
tourism industry is down to the variety on offer within the
Kingdom’s borders; there’s something here for everyone to
have the time of their lives. But beyond that, what Saudi
Arabia and its people do best is to offer a genuine experience,
moments of joy that are yours to cherish far from the madding
crowd. So what are you waiting for?
Nawaf Al-Otaibi explains: “There’s not only the diving,
there’s the desert and the mountains. I wish we can show
visitors everything that Saudi has to offer.
“I will give you an opportunity to see in the Red Sea
something you’ll never be able to see anywhere else. We
have mountains of corals, beautiful creatures and colors.
Saudi Arabia can offer people a unique experience. All you
need to do is come.”
PHOTos: Alan Morrissey
Jeddah itself has several well-known
diving shops and equipment centers
which stock everything from snorkel
and masks to oxygen tanks and dive
computers. The most well-known are:
Blue Reef Divers (02-2212707)
off Prince Mohammed Bin
Abdulaziz (Tahlia) Road behind
SAMBA Bank and Coral Mall
Desert Sea Divers (02-6561807)
in North Obhur on Obhur Road near
to Rose Village Compound.
Bubblers – Nawaf (05-69200002) for
the latest on dive trips and training.
If you’re in the East Coast and
want to experience the adventure
of Saudi’s underwater paradise:
Continental Stars Divers – Rashid
Al Moqbel ( 0504850508) or visit
the Intercontinental Hotel Al Jubail.
Sharky Dive Center (03-8949291) –
behind the Le Meridien Hotel in Al Khobar
Scuba Master (03-8969572) – behind
the Le Meridien Hotel in Al Khobar.
Overland adventures
Al-Shitaiwi Travel – Khalid
Khafagy (02-2711770) for details
of adventure packages.
Thrill seeking
voyager tip
opening the door on
Saudi hospitality
A chance meeting at a football match leads to a delightful day experiencing
Saudi hospitality, heritage and generosity first-hand for a group of British
teachers on a visit to Awdat Sudair
Football, they say is an international language. There’s
nothing quite like it for starting conversations with total
strangers – especially today when the leading European
teams have followers all over the world.
For Ramon Mohamed and fellow teachers from the British
International School, just such a random conversation was
sparked at a recent game between Al Hilal and Al Nassr at
King Fahd National Stadium. But in their case it went much
further than football, and lead to an unforgettable visit to
the old oasis village of Awdat Sudair.
It was Liverpool FC who are to thank for Ramon and his
friends’ big adventure. One of them happened to be wearing
a Liverpool shirt, and when they bumped into a Saudi fan
wearing the same outfit, naturally a conversation began.
The difference this time was that it soon progressed beyond
Stevie Gerrard’s groin and resulted in the teachers accepting
an invitation to visit the home of Ibrahim Al Orej, the 'Saudi
Liverpudlian'. Ibrahim, together with his neighbors and with
the help of local benefactors, has been painstakingly renovating Awdat Sudair – guided by the memories of the villages
elders. Even the 170km journey northwest from Riyadh to
Awdat Sudair proved to be an adventure. They suffered a
burst tire and subsequently discovered that their spare was
flat – but once again Saudi generosity came to the fore.
“Seeing five westerners broken down on the roadside, one
passing motorist came to our rescue, took over the repair
and saw us safely on our way. What’s more, he followed us
for a further 50 miles to make sure we were OK,”
said Ramon.
IMAGE: Ramon Mohamed
IMAGE: courtesy of Awdat Sudair community
North east OF RIYADH IN
The SCTA’s strategy of partnering with local
communities to develop heritage sites is having a
profound impact up and down the Kingdom
Rebuilding the past
03 Places such as
Ushaiger illustrate
the SCTA development
model of partnering
with the local
community to develop
heritage attractions
Since 2006, the work of
developing of heritage towns
and villages has become one
of the SCTA’s most visible
and successful initiatives.
A key element of the
Tamkeen Program –
the SCTA’s initiative of
establishing partnerships with
regional and local authorities,
communities and businesses
in order to devolve heritage
projects to the local level –
this approach to built-heritage
renovation has already proved
very successful by enriching
the Kingdom’s tourism sector
and boosting local economies.
Originally targeted at
six heritage sites – Ghat in
Riyadh province, Juba in Hail,
Al- Methneb in Qassim, Al
Ulla in Medina, Thee Aye in
Al- Baha, and Rijal Almaa
village in Asir – this model
of sustainable, grassroots
development is now
making significant inroads
right across the Kingdom,
including at Awdat Sudair.
Commenting on this
approach HRH Prince Sultan
bin Salman bin Abdul Aziz,
President of SCTA, said: “The
idea of developing heritage
villages and towns came out
of a detailed study for the
available heritage resources
in all areas of the Kingdom
and a survey of Arab and
international experience of
developing architectural
heritage. These villages and
towns reflect the way of life
of previous generations and
their use of the environmental
substances in building which
in turn highlight the natural
environment and the civil
architecture properties.”
As well as the actual work
involved in developing such
villages, this approach is
also designed to encourage
small businesses locally,
directly benefiting the
economy by providing job
opportunities in, for example,
small businesses involved
in handicrafts, events, and
other tourism services.
Furthermore, it should also
reduce migration rates, help
preserve indigenous skills and
traditions, and further engage
families in the Kingdom’s
culture and heritage.
Encouraging ideas,
facilitating their execution,
and helping local businesses
and community groups
access funding is an approach
at the heart of all the
SCTA’s development and
investment activities (see
our interview with Dr Salah
Al-Bukkhyet on page 17).
It’s about creating the
right environment so local
ideas and people can prosper,
and devolving authority
and initiative down to
the grassroots. And it is
working – as the example
of Awdat Sudair illustrates.
Othman Al Issa, who
serves on the Sudair heritage
committee says that the
village is now welcoming
visitors every weekend, with
the committee organizing
tours to show their guests
around the village and explain
the renovation project. They
also give them a true taste
of village hospitality by
serving a traditional meal,
and provide them with
bilingual information packs
of CDs and books they have
produced themselves.
It has been a project
that has involved much
of the local community,
both as organizers,
artisans and tour guides,
fundraisers, benefactors
and craftspeople. Even the
elder residents have been
drafted in, their memories
and experiences providing
much of the documentary
and anecdotal information
to shape the work.
IMAGEs: Ramon Mohamed
After their protracted journey, arriving at Ibrahim’s house,
the teachers were greeted by smiling villagers.
Ramon said: “I think we were the first foreigners who had
visited their house. We spoke little Arabic and our hosts little
English but we muddled through, laughing at each other’s
mistakes and learning a few words.
“One of our hosts gave me his blue and yellow Al Nassr scarf
and prayer beads of the same color – and tried to convince
me to support his team.”
After being refreshed with Arabic coffee and dates they were
driven from the new town to the old village of Awdat Sudair.
“We felt straight away we had been taken back in time to
a cultural landscape I had not seen in my short time living in
Riyadh. We walked through a mud-built archway and on each
side of the road were spiral columns across which silver oil
lamps were hung, and where even more locals were waiting
to greet us.”
Much of the old village had once belonged to their ancestors, they explained, and now they were trying to raise funds
to help restore it to its former glory.
In the past Awdat Sudair was well-irrigated, and the villagers
had been able to grow wheat, corn, and barley, as well as dates,
for which the area is still renowned. Today though, the wells
are dry and much of the village is in disrepair.
The group was first taken to the recently restored house of
tribal leader, Sheikh Muhammad bin Ahmad Abu Hamid, and
shown into the reception room, remarking on how cool the
house was despite there being no air conditioning.
“The house was decorated with traditional artifacts from old
copper coffee pots to measuring sticks, swords and guns to
knotted ropes for tethering camels. On the walls were beautifully written calligraphic Arabic texts from the Qur’an as well
as historical documents, and the ceiling was made from logs
and reeds,” Ramon described.
“Passing through a small courtyard we
then climbed a spiral staircase to another
large room that housed hundreds of old
photographs of the village in its past days,
showing children at play, working camels and a bustling market.
“From there we went out onto a balcony to look out across
the ruins and the nearby oasis, with our hosts pointing out
an abandoned well in the distance, and the area where, long
ago, a rival clan had settled and joined the tribe.”
The tour continued through the main square, several more
refurbished houses – all brought to life with wall hangings,
red patterned hand made rugs and sitting cushions – with
a constant running commentary on the history and traditions of the village.
“Our hosts were fantastic in trying to explain the history
of the place. We might not have understood everything they
were trying to explain but we certainly witnessed and could
feel their warmth and passion about their culture and you
don’t need language for that,” said Ramon.
“It was interesting to look at the wudhu area and to see
how the old builders had designed a system that recycled
the precious water – we still can’t get that right today!”
The village mosque is still under construction – using
traditional materials and techniques – and several other
areas are still in the planning stages of refurbishment, as
fundraising continues.
Final stop was the renovated village guesthouse. “Here
we were once again offered coffee and dates. We all felt
extremely honored and humbled by the way we were treated
and only wish we could return the wonderful hospitality,”
said Ramon, who plans to organize a trip to Awdat Sudair
for his pupils.
But even this wasn’t the end of their visit.
“Back at Ibrahim’s house, to our surprise we were treated
to an amazingly delicious Saudi meal. We sat on the floor
with Ibrahim and the head of his family and again we were
treated like kings.
“My fellow teachers and I now have a lot deeper understanding of Saudi heritage and culture and the genuine
hospitality that Saudis extend to guests,” said Ramon, who is
keenly awaiting the new Saudi football season, and meeting
up with his new friends again.
When it comes to
business communications
¢UÉ````N Oó````Y
We know the
Riyadh Office
Cercon Building no.6,
PO BOX 301292,
Riyadh 11372
Kingdom of Saudi Arabia
T: +966 (11) 462 3632
Beirut Office
Saifi Village
Dabbas Bldg 1st floor
P.O. Box 113545
Beirut, Lebanon
T:+961 1 974 104
Dubai Office
PO Box 503033
Dubai, UAE
T: +971 (04) 438 0314
Alef International
Flavours of a
Sicilian summer
Modern interpretations with the imprint of Sicilian culture
now being served at Rosso. Leanne Mills investigates
The colour red is used liberally at Rosso, the stylish and
contemporary Italian restaurant on the ground floor of the
Four Seasons hotel. Red banquette seating, well-spaced
tables, red leather chairs and acres of red and purple carpet
are features of Rosso’s modern and tasteful interior. It has
a chic-saloon feel, yet provides a casual dining atmosphere
oozing with sophistication.
restaurant review
Chef di Cucina Marco Terranova, born in Sicily and trained in
Syracuse on the island’s east coast, creates delicious Italian
dishes at Rosso which are evocative of his homeland. He
insists on importing all produce from Europe as he’s accustomed to cooking with only the freshest ingredients. It’s this
attention to quality and Terranova’s Sicilian background that is the nexus of Rosso’s cuisine: modern
Riyadh has an inspiring multicultural society which helps
me to be more creative in my dishes, and the people are very
friendly and open minded to the taste of Italian cuisine
dishes with a traditional heart; sumptuous yet humble.
The extensive antipasti buffet stood
proudly in the centre of the restaurant as we entered; beyond this it was
possible to see into the open kitchen
with its distinctive wood-burning pizza oven. We were greeted
warmly and seated quickly by the attentive Rosso staff. As
we settled with the menus, we were presented with two
fruity mocktails and a basket brimful of freshly baked fluffy
breads and assorted grissini.
At first glance, the menu provides the discerning diner
with the standard fare of hot and cold starters, pasta, pizza,
fish and meats, yet, on closer inspection, the descriptions
of each dish really tantalized the tastebuds. We decided
to steer clear of the gut-busting potential of the antipasti
buffet and instead we ordered two cold starters from the
à la carte menu. Before our plates arrived, an appetizing
03 Rosso’s Chef
di Cucina, Marco
Terranova, grew
up in Sicily, living
and breathing great
Italian cuisines
restaurant review
amuse bouche was served – a giant king prawn dusted in
a coconut crumb and sat perched on a flavoursome tomato
coulis. It was finger-licking delicious.
The light starter of Tartara D' Aragosta Con Cremino di
Patate – lobster tartar with potato cream – came neatly
stacked with morsels of toasted bread. The plate was drizzled with pesto oil which provided a serious taste sensation.
The Liatina D’agnello salad of lean lamb strips with baby
spinach and Ragusano cheese was served with cubes of
“lemon chilly jelly”, the latter adding an interesting texture
to the to the dish without carrying much flavor.
The service from the kitchen was efficient, yet we still had
time to digest and critique each course. Rosso’s waiting staff
have been well trained; they kept a watchful eye on every
table and we only needed to look briefly for assistance before
a waiter was attending to our needs. We asked for recommendations and were told that Chef Marco’s speciality was
his freshly made pasta. Many Italians believe that pasta
was invented in Sicily and began its domination of the Italian
”And just remember that the simpler the dish is, the
better it tastes”.
peninsula after it was exported to Genoa on the mainland.
The smiling and friendly Chef Marco escaped his busy
Chef Marco has experience of crafting signature dishes
kitchen and came to our table. He explained some of his for hotel restaurants in Europe and the Middle East, having
cooking techniques and, before departing, promised to impress spent years with the Sheraton in Edinburgh and in Doha. His
us with his lasagne. Bold words, we thought, but when the family name, Terranova, means ‘new land’ and, as a chef
piping hot dish was served as the il primo course, the cheese with Princess Cruises, he has travelled extensively searching
and nutmeg-sprinkled topping made this family favourite a for inspiration for his cooking.
“Riyadh has an inspiring multicultural society which helps
real delight.
The pezzo forto was the agnolotti pasta served as a main me to be more creative in my dishes, and the people are very
dish. Agnolotti is similar to ravioli and traditionally would be friendly and open minded to the taste of Italian cuisine,” he said.
Sicilian cuisine has a devotion to dolci or ‘sweet’ and
stuffed with leftover meats. But Rosso’s adaptation offered
pumpkin-filled pasta parcels in a rich shellfish cream sauce, Terranova’s traditional heart shone through with the desserts
liberally scattered with fat juicy king prawns. The sauce was he presented at the end of this enjoyable meal. The Cassata
the highlight; lusciously full of flavour and reminiscent of lobster Siciliana was a striking visual delight; a domed shape decobisque. Marco confirmed our hunch when he explained how rated with a colourful candied cherry, precariously balanced
lobster and prawn shells were boiled down and sieved before on a verdant green marzipan coating. This traditional dessert
was served alongside a modern interpretation of tiramisù;
heavy cream was added.
The other main course was a lighter choice of roasted Chilean a crispy crust gave way to a velvety mouthful, perfectly
sea bass with simple flavours and cooked to flaky perfection. balanced by sharp red currants.
No Italian meal is complete without an espresso and, as
Every forkful was a melt-in-the-mouth experience; the delicate lemon sauce made for a good pairing
we sat back and soaked up the ambiof ingredients; and it was all rounded off
ence of this elegant eatery, we agreed
voyager tip
beautifully with fresh spinach and a side
our meal had certainly matched our
dish of rosemary potatoes.
Rosso at the Four Seasons, Riyadh
expectations of a Four Seasons’ establishment.
“Passion and love are the main ingre- Opening hours: 19:00 – 01:00, seven days
All in all, a worthy winner of the 2013
dients in cooking, as well as using fresh a week
aliments with the right balance of spices Tel: +966 (1) 211-5000
Saudi Excellence in Tourism Award for
and herbs, ” said Chef Marco.
hotel casual dining experience.
04 Lobster tartar
05 Pumpkin agnolotti
06 roasted Chilean
Sea bass
restaurant review
Places to stay in Saudi Arabia
With more locally trained staff and increasing focus on quality
service, across Saudi Arabia accomodation options are getting
better and better. Saudi Voyager highlights some of the favorites
Hotel options in Saudi Arabia are
extensive and range from magnificent
five-star properties to charming local
and family-run hotels and self-catering apartments. In one of its regular
features, Saudi Voyager reports on a
range of options that will meet the
needs of the most discerning of travelers to the Kingdom.
Wherever you are, there is a perfect
place to sleep in Saudi Arabia. Hotels
and inns here are some of the best
in the world and standards nationwide continue to improve. On-the-job
training as well as post-graduate and
university courses are helping produce
world-class catering and hospitality
facilities that will dazzle the most
demanding traveler.
Many major hotel chains have
significant properties in the Kingdom,
including Marriott, the Four Seasons,
Hilton, Holiday Inn, and Sheraton, and
many are expanding their presence.
This all bodes well for those in Saudi
Arabia’s hospitality sector and for
visitors eyeing options in one of the
world’s most interesting destinations.
Makarim Al Bait Hotel
Areas of interest
Saudi Arabia has 13 Administrative
Provinces. All have extensive
accommodation options:
Makarim ALBait Hotel is Located in the Holy City of Makkah Al-Mukaramah situated
in king Abdul Aziz Street Shesha district Near to Jamarat . 270 Luxury furnished
rooms and suites featuring: Central air-conditioning, Electronic door locks,Electronic,
safe boxes,Hospitality tray offering complementary tea,coffee, and healthy
herbs,Iron and ironing board,International direct dialing phones.Internet connection
port, Hair dryer and magnifying mirror, 32’’ LCD T.V with major satellite channels
,Mini fridge. Handicapped rooms. Praying mats and Umrah/Hajj guide books .
Phone: +966 2 5669292
Fax: +966 2 5669393
For more information go to:
Saudi Tourism call centre: 0800 755 0000
or internationally: +966 920000 756
Le Meridien, Makkah
Abha Palace
Overlooking the Holy Mosque and just one hundred meters from the King
Abdulaziz Gate, stands Le Méridien Makkah. It has a striking lobby with a
stepped ceiling and an ambiance of traditional Arabic hospitality. The hotel’s
eye-catching exterior promises a world of elegance in its fashionable interior.
The hotel features 255 guest rooms and suites elegantly decorated and
furnished with attractive, rich fabrics. One Royal Suite, two Diplomatic
Suites, 31 Executive Suites, and 221 elegant guest rooms provide
luxurious comfort and an impressive view of the Holy Mosque nearby.
Abha Palace is the ultimate combination of hospitality and world-class
luxury ~ rarely found, but always expected and longed for by holidaymakers.
The hotel is directly linked to Jebel Zerrah and Abu Khayal by two cable
car routes. Nestled between the coastal waters of the Red Sea and the
fertile land of the Sarawat Mountains in the Aseer Region of Saudi Arabia
is an oasis of luxury and beauty. Abha Palace is a retreat for honored
guests who appreciate impeccable service and elegant surroundings.
Phone: +966 (02) 575 1111
Phone:+966 7 229 4444
Fax:+966 7 229 5555
Sheraton Jeddah
Ramada Gulf Hotel, Al Khobar
Located on Jeddah’s fashionable and exclusive North Corniche, the breathtaking
view of a tropical oasis backed by the blue waters of the Red Sea. Surrounded
by the newest shopping malls and entertainment areas along the Corniche,
and just 20 minutes from downtown and King Abdulaziz International Airport.
Sit back, relax, and take in the futuristic design, beautiful landscaping, and
majestic fountains of our hotel. The lobby is a great place to catch up with
friends and family after a full day of business, traveling, or sightseeing. One
can enjoy panoramic views of the coastline and breathtaking sunsets and at
the same time stay connected to home or the office with High Speed Internet
Access in all guest rooms and Wi-Fi Internet access in all public areas.
Ramada Gulf is located in central Al Khobar, a 3-minute drive from the Corniche and
overlooking Prince Saud Park. It features a well-equipped gym, massage services
and panoramic elevators. Rooms at the Ramada Gulf Hotel have a spacious layout
and modern facilities, including free Wi-Fi and satellite TV. Guests can enjoy
traditional Arabian specialities and international classics at Le Jasmine restaurant.
Momento Café serves light snacks and drinks. Offering direct access to Al Cornish
and Al Rashied shopping centres, the Ramada Gulf is situated a 45-minute
drive from King Fahad International Airport. Free parking is available on site.
Phone: +966 2 6992212
Phone: +966 3 834 5555
Fax: +966 3 834 9872
Red Sea Palace, Jeddah
Red Sea Palace Hotel is the only deluxe hotel located in the heart of Jeddah
downtown, Jeddah – overlooking the Red Sea, in close proximity of leading
business organizations, banks, travel agents, government offices, old souk
and within walking distance of the best shopping in town and within an
easy 25 minute-reach from the International Airport. The hotel comprises
of 277 well appointed guest rooms and suites. The guest rooms and suites
of all floors have been very recently completely refurbished. All rooms are
equipped with a complete range of guest amenities and much more.
Phone: +966 2 642 8555
Fax: +966 2 642 2395
Dar Al Iman Interctntl Hotel, Madinah
A convergence of the past and present in an historic mosque plaza. Dar Al Iman
InterContinental Madinah occupies a choice spot on the Holy Prophet’s Mosque
plaza. Surrounded by the city’s financial, commercial and shopping malls, the
hotel is also within easy reach of historic sites including Jannat-ul-Baqi cemetery,
the Badar Battlefield, Ohud Mountain, Masjid Al Qiblatain and Masjid Al Quba.
Phone: +966 4 820 6666
Fax: +966 4 820 6677
Le Meridien, Al Khobar
Ramada Gulf Hotel, Al Khobar
An oasis in lively Al Khobar, Le Méridien Al Khobar is set in the heart of the city’s
business district. Located in the Eastern Province of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia,
the surrounding area is a maze of breathtaking stone structures, architectural
remnants and semi-precious gemstones. Le Méridien Al Khobar features 15
meeting rooms that can accommodate up to 600 guests, a sun-drenched outdoor
pool, a fitness center and tennis courts. All 330 guestrooms feature beautiful sea
views. The celebrated sites of Al Khobar await guests, including the lavish Gold
Souk, Prince Mohd Bin Fahd Amusement Park and the Saudi Aramco Exhibit.
Ramada Gulf is located in central Al Khobar, a 3-minute drive from the Corniche
and overlooking Prince Saud Park. It features a well-equipped gym, massage
services and panoramic elevators. Rooms at the Ramada Gulf Hotel have a
spacious layout and modern facilities, including free Wi-Fi and 32” flat-screen TVs
with satellite channels. They all include bathrooms with a bathtub, and most have
a kitchenette. Guests can enjoy traditional Arabian specialities and international
classics at Le Jasmine restaurant. Momento Café serves light snacks and drinks.
Offering direct access to Al Cornish and Al Rashied shopping centres, the Ramada
Gulf is situated a 45-minute drive from King Fahad International Airport.
Phone: 966 3 899 1010
Fax: +966 3 889 1616
Phone: +966 3 834 5555
Fax: +966 3 834 9872
Places to stay in Saudi Arabia
Al-Faisaliah Hotel
Riyadh Inter-Continental Hotel
Makarim Riyadh Hotel
King Khalid Int’l Airport
P.O. Box 12120, Riyadh 11437
Tel: +966 1 220 4500, Fax: +966 1 220 4505
Sheraton Riyadh Hotel and Towers
P.O. Box 90807 Riyadh 11623
Tel: +966 1 454 3300
Fax: +966 1 454 1889
Email: [email protected]
King Fahd Road, Olaya
P.O. Box 4148 Riyadh 11491
Tel: +966 1 273 2000
Fax: +966 1 273 2001
Email: [email protected]
Riyadh Marriott Hotel
P.O. Box 16294 Riyadh 11464
Tel: +966 1 477 9300, Fax: +966 1 477 9089
Email: [email protected]
Hilton Garden Inn
Novotel Al–Anoud
King Fahd Road-Olaya
P.O. Box 2370 Riyadh 12214
Tel: +966 1 288 2323
Fax: +966 1 288 2424
Email: [email protected]
Four Seasons Hotel
Kingdom Center
P.O. Box 231000 Riyadh 11321
Tel: +966 1 211 5000
Fax: +966 1 211 5001
Email: [email protected]
Al-Khozama Hotel
Olaya Main Road
P.O. Box 4148 Riyadh 11491
Tel: +966 1 465 4650
Fax: +966 1 464 8576
Email: [email protected]
P.O. Box 3636, Riyadh 11481
Tel: +966 1 465 5000
Fax: +966 1 465 7833
Email: [email protected]
hotels directory
Crowne Plaza Riyadh Minhal
King Abdulaziz Road
P.O. Box 17058, 11484 Riyadh
Tel: 01-8749 200
Fax: 01-4772 819
Email: [email protected]
Radisson Blu Hotel
Al–Mubarakiah Plaza King Abdulaziz St.
Old Airport Road
P.O. Box 18006 Riyadh 11415
Tel: +966 1 479 1234
Fax: +966 1 477 5373
Email: [email protected]
Olaya Main Street Building 8951, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia 12611 Tel: 966-1-293-5533 Fax: 966-1-293-5185 Website:
Holiday Inn, Riyadh, Olaya
Olaya Street, P.O. Box 69112 Riyadh 11547
Tel: +966 1 461 2000,
Fax: +966 1 461 2595
Email: [email protected]
Jeddah Hilton Hotel
Le Meridien Jeddah
Madinah Road
P.O. Box 11633 Jeddah 21463
Tel: +966 2 663 3333
Fax: +966 2 663 2333
Email: [email protected]
Holiday Inn Jeddah
Golden Tulip Jeddah
North Corniche Road
P.O. Box 128428 Jeddah 21362
Tel: +966 2 659 0000
Fax: +966 2 659 1111
Email: [email protected]
Jeddah Al-Salam
King Khalid Street
P.O. Box 6582 Jeddah 21452
Tel: +966 2 631 4000
Fax: +966 2 631 7605
Email: [email protected]
Jeddah Marriott Hotel
King Fahd St. Old Airport Road
P.O. Box 2559 Jeddah 21461
Tel: +966 2 631 2201
Fax: +966 2 6311350
Email: [email protected]
Park Hyatt Jeddah Marina, Club & Spa
Kandara Palace Hotel
Airport Road
P.O. Box 473 Jeddah 21411
Tel: +966 2 631 5444
Fax: +966 2 631 0042
Palestine Road corner PR Fahad St.
P.O. Box 6448 Jeddah 21442
Tel: +966 2 671 4000
Fax: +966 2 617 5990
Email: [email protected]
Intercontinental Hotel, Jeddah
Crowne Plaza Hotel
Southern Corniche Al–Hamra District
P.O. Box 5863 Jeddah 21432
Tel: +966 2 657 2737
Fax: +966 2 657 2747
Email: [email protected]
Ramada Continental Jeddah
Al Corniche Al–Hamra
P.O. Box 10924 Jeddah 21443
Tel: +966 2 661 1000
Fax: +966 2 660 6326
Email: [email protected]
Al–Hamra – Al Corniche Road
P.O. Box 41855 Jeddah 21531
Tel: +966 2 661 1800
Fax: +966 2 661 1145
Email: [email protected]
hotels directory
Makarim Annakheel Village
Address: North Abhor
P.O.Box 23526 Jeddah 21436 Saudia Arabia
Tel :– 00966-2-6562101
Fax :– 00966-2-6562510
Email : [email protected]
Palestine Street P.O. Box 7584
Jeddah 21472
Tel: +966 2 667 0777
Fax: +966 2 667 0666
Email: [email protected]
Red Sea Palace Hotel
Jeddah Trident Hotel
Mina Street, Jeddah
P.O.Box 17466, Jeddah 21494
Tel: +966-2-6474444
Fax: +966-2-6474040
Email: [email protected]
Makarim Tabuk Hotel
Address: Tabuk, Madinah Al Munawwarah Road
P.O.Box : 901 Tabuk Saudi Arabia
Tel : +966 (4) 4221212
Fax : +966 (4) 4220101
E-mail: [email protected]
Sofitel Al–Hamra Jeddah
Meridian Al-Hada (Taif)
Palestine Street, P.O. Box 7375 Jeddah 21462
Tel: +966 2 660 2000, Fax: +966 2 660 4145
Email: [email protected]
Al–Hada Ring Road, P.O. Box 999 Taif
Tel: +966 2 754 1400
Fax: +966 2 754 4831
Email: [email protected]
P.O. Box 824 Jeddah 21421
Tel: +966 2 642 8555
Fax: +966 2 642 2395
Email: [email protected]
Sheraton Jeddah Hotel
Corniche Road
P.O. Box 14315 Jeddah 21424
Tel: +966 2 699 2212
Fax: +966 2 699 2660
Email: [email protected]
Sands Hotel
Qasr Al–Sharq Waldorf
Astoria Collection
The Westin Jeddah Hotel
North Corniche P.O. Box 51991
Jeddah 21553
Tel: +966 2 658 8200
Fax: +966 2 658 8201
Email: [email protected]
Al-Bilad Movenpick
Al Corniche Highway
P.O. Box 6788 Jeddah 21452
Tel: +966 2 694 4777
Fax: +966 2 694 3737
Email: [email protected]
Al–Andalus Area, P.O. Box 7030 Jeddah 21462
Tel: +966 2 669 2020, Fax: +966 2 660 9971
Email: [email protected]
Radisson SAS
Medinah Road
P.O. Box 8483 Jeddah 21482
Tel: +966 2 652 1234
Fax: +966 2 651 6260
Email: [email protected]
Obhur Holiday Inn Resort
Al–Malik Road, Corniche
P.O. Box 50663 Jeddah 21533
Tel: +966 2 656 3030
Fax: +966 2 656 0110
Makarim Al Bait Hot
Mekkah - Street King Abdulaziz - Shesha
P.O. Box 7020 Makkah Al-Mukarramah
21955 Kingdom of Saudi Arabia
Tel: +966 (2) 5669292
Fax: +966 (2) 5669393
Email: [email protected]
hotels directory
P.O BOX 7079 Jeddah 21462
Tel: +966 2 659 9999
Fax : +966 2 659 6666
E- mail : [email protected]
Durrah Beach Resort
Red Sea Coastline
Po Box 430,Jeddah Saudi Arabia
02 618 0211
Tel: +966 2 6180211
Fax: +966 2 6180210
Sheraton Dammam Hotel & Towers
Prince Mohammed Bin Fahad Road,
P.O. Box 5397 Dammam 31422
Tel: +966 3 834 5555
Fax: +966 3 834 9872
Email: [email protected]
Ramada Gulf Hotel
P.O Box 79016 Khobar 31952
Phone : +966 3 899 1010
Fax: +966 3 889 1616
E-mail: [email protected]
Dammam Palace hotel
P.O.Box 1591 Dammam 31441
Telephone: + 966 3 805 6060
Fax: + 966 3 805 6385
Email: [email protected]
Al-Ahsa Intercontinental Hotel
King Khalid Street, Hafuf
P.O. Box 25 Al-Ahsa 31982
Tel: +966 3 584 0000
Fax: +966 3 584 0400
Email: [email protected]
Le Meridien Al-Khobar
Corniche Road
P.O.Box 1266 Al-Khobar 31952
Tel: +966 3 896 9000
Fax: +966 3 898 1651
Email: [email protected]
Al-Gosaibi Hotel
Pepsicola Road
P.O. Box 3006 Al-Khobar 31952
Tel: +966 3 882 2882
Fax: +966 3 882 2321
Email: [email protected]
Mövenpick Hotel Al Khobar|
Mövenpick Beach Resort Al Khobar
P. O. Box 4923, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia,
Al Khobar 31952
Tel: + 966 3 894 0695
Tel: + 966 3 898 4999 Ext:7076
Fax: + 966 3 895 17 79
makkah and madinah
Al–Shohada Hotel AKMC
Ajyad Street P.O. Box 10056 Makkah 21955
Tel: +966 2 574 4401, Fax: +966 2 574 9422
Email: [email protected]
Al–Harithyah Hotel
Abu Obaida bin Al–Jarrah Road
P.O.Box 7714 Madinah
Tel: +966 4 820 6164
Fax: +966 4 820 6333
Email: [email protected]
Sofitel Elaf Taiba
Saad bin Moaz Road P.O. Box 7540 Madinah
Tel: +966 4 818 0050, Fax: +966 4 818 0030
Email: [email protected]
Dar Al-Tawhid
Intercontinenetal Hotel
Ibrahim Al–Khalil Street, P.O. Box 2728 Makkah
Tel: +966 2 541 1111
Fax: +966 2 541 1112
Email: [email protected]
hotels directory
Elaf Ajyad Hotel
Ajyad Main Road
P.O. Box 3917 Makkah Al–Mukaramah
Tel: +966 2 572 2200
Fax: +966 2 572 4043
Email: [email protected]
Taif Intercontinenetal Hotel
Hawiyah Street, Taif
Tel: +966 2 750 5050,
Fax: +966 2 750 5040
Email: [email protected]
Awaliv International Hotel
Algaish Street
P.O. Box 9933 Taif 21944
Tel: +966 2 737 5555
Fax: +966 2 737 3555
Email: [email protected]
Makarim Ajyad Makkah Hotel
Ajyad Street, P. O. Box 6020
Makkah 21955 Saudia Arabia
Tel: +966 (2) 5720500 Ext: (5110) OR (5010)
Fax: +00966 (2) 5746061
Email:– [email protected]
Makarim Umm AlQura Hotel
Mekkah - Street Ajyad General is located five
minutes by bus from the Holy Mosque in Makkah
Tel:- 00966 (2) 5356100
Fax:- 00966 (2) 5356200
P.O.Box : 7020 Makkah Al-Mukarramah
21955 Kingdom of Saudi Arabia
Email: [email protected]
Mercure Grand Umm Alqura, Makkah
Al–Masjid Al–Haram Rd end Hojoun Bridge
P.O. Box 964 Makkah 21955
Tel: +966 2 570 2212, Fax: +966 2 574 4034
Email: [email protected]
Ramada Hotel & Suites
Carlton Al-Moaibed Hotel, Al-Khobar
Dammam Alkhobar Highway
P.O. Box 1235 Al-Khobar 31952
Tel: +966 3 857 5455
Fax: +966 3 857 5443
Email: [email protected]
Dhahran International Hotel
King Abdullah Airbase
P.O. Box 32428 Agrabiah 31952
Tel: +966 3 330 5000
Fax: +966 3 330 5550
Email: [email protected]
Park Inn Hotel Al-Khobar
Al-Jubail Intercontinenetal Hotel
King Faisal bin Abdulaziz Road
P.O. 2408 Al-Khobar 31952
Tel: +966 3 810 0800
Fax: +966 3 810 0600
Email: [email protected]
Jubail Industrial Area
P.O. Box 10167 Al–Jubai 31961
Tel: +966 3 341 7000
Fax: +966 3 341 2212
Email: [email protected]
Prince Majed Street
P.O. Box 780 Al-Khobar 31952
Tel: +966 3 899 6111
Fax: +966 3 899 6777
Email: [email protected]
Holiday Inn Al-Khobar
Old Airport Road
P.O. Box 31964 Al-Khobar 31952
Tel: +966 3 858 8000
Fax: +966 3 858 1266
Email: [email protected]
abha & asir region
Makkah Hilton & Towers
Ibrahim Al–Khalil Street, P.O. Box 844 Makkah
Tel: +966 2 534 0000, Fax: +966 2 536 7500
Email: [email protected]
Dar Al–Hijra Intercontinenetal Hotel
King Fahad St., Central Area
P.O. Box 20201 Madinah
Tel: +966 4 820 7777, Fax: +966 4 820 7788
Email: [email protected]
Dar Al–Iman Intercontinenetal Hotel
Off Sitteen Street, P.O. Box 20205, Madinah
Tel: +966 4 820 6666, Fax: +966 4 820 6677
Email: [email protected]
Dar Al-Taqwa, Madinah
Northern Central Area
P.O. Box 20944, Madinah
Tel: +966 4 829 1111
Tel: +966 4 829 0611
Email: [email protected]
hotels directory
Madinah Hilton Hotel
King Fahd Road
Madinah 3936
Tel: +966 4 820 1000
Fax: +966 4 820 0557
Email: [email protected]
Madinah Oberoi
P.O. Box 1880 Abizar Road
Madina Al–Munawara
Tel: +966 4 828 2222
Fax: +966 4 828 2020
Email: [email protected]
Makkah Grand Coral
Al–Hapaya – Um Ul Qura Street
P.O. Box 4384 Makkah
Tel: +966 2 530 1234
Fax: +966 2 537 4055
Email: [email protected]
Abha Intercontinental Hotel
Al–Souda P.O. Box 14447 Abha
Tel: +966 7 224 7777
Fax: +966 7 224 4113
Abha Palace Hotel
New Abha Resort
P.O. Box 1100 Abha
Tel: +966 7 229 4444
Fax: +966 7 229 5555
Email: [email protected]
Mercure Khamis Mushayt
P.O. Box 892
Khamis Mushayt
Tel: +966 7 223 3466
Fax: +966 7 222 0828
Email: [email protected]
to remember
‫صنع ذكريات التنسى‬
Heights Agency holds the Saudi Excellence in Tourism
2013, awarded as best events and conferences organizer.
‫ كافضل‬2013 ‫شركة أعالي حاصلة على جائزة التميز السياحي‬
.‫منظم مؤتمرات ومعارض في المملكه‬
Heights Agency is leader in conferences, exhibitions, and
festivals management. As we pay great attention to details, we
guarantee achieving all success criteria to exceed our clients’
expectations and produce integrated events. We proud of
our specialized team with high experience and efficiency that
allowed us to manage the most successful events in the region!
‫نتميز في أعالي بدقة عملنا ومنهجيتنا الخاصة في ادارة كافة األحداث‬
.‫والفعاليات و نضمن لعمالئنا تحقيق كل معايير النجاح في صناعة الحدث‬
‫ لما لــديه من الخبرة‬..‫فريق عمل عــــالي هو مصــــــدر فخــرها وتميــــــزها‬
‫والكفـــاءة واالبــــداع الذي مكنه من تنظيم وادارة المناسبات االكثر نجاحًا‬
‫في المنطقة‬
A new initiative to
support the meetings,
incentives, conferences
and exhibitions
sector – the Saudi
Exhibitions and
Bureau (SECB) – has
been set up to help
increase the number
of business events
Chairing the first meeting of the
program’s steering committee at the
SCTA headquarters, HRH Prince Sultan
bin Salman bin Abdul Aziz, President of
SCTA, said that the government relies on
this sector to promote economic development in the country.
By staging more business meetings in Saudi Arabia, not only is the
national economy boosted by reducing
the outflow of funds on foreign events,
but local communities are benefited by
the business opportunities that come
from hosting events locally. And thirdly,
by staging more events, the profile of
Saudi Arabia is enhanced internationally.
Prince Sultan said it was the responsibility of officials to ensure the new exhibitions and events program contributes
to the nation's growth. The government
has already provided much-needed
support for the sector, he said, but
this new bureau will help prevent the
further outflow of finance on conferences abroad. Furthermore, the income
from events held domestically would
benefit the country, while events held
within the Kingdom would showcase
Saudi developments.
This initiative by the SCTA is the logical
conclusion of a seminar that it
organized at this year’s Saudi
On e
E x tr a
The KINGDOM of Saudi Arabia weekend
just moved to Friday & Saturday
We are pleased to do
even more business with you
Establishing the Saudi
Conference and Exhibition
Bureau is a critical step in
the growth of the sector
within Saudi Arabia, and
a great deal has already
been accomplished
Talking shop
Travel & Tourism Investment Market
to discuss the impact of convention
and exhibition centers on the national
economy and domestic tourism. This
brought together interested parties
from within Saudi Arabia with conference and exhibition organizers from
abroad, to discuss best-practice models.
The meetings, incentives, exhibition and conference (MICE) industry
affords a great deal of potential for
the Kingdom. According to figures from
MAS, the SCTA’s data and research arm,
until recently Saudi Arabia was ranked
120 of 140 countries internationally in
the events industry rating.
Although the Kingdom's economy is
the largest in the region, the number
of exhibitions hosted is very low
compared compared to GCC and world
figures. Nevertheless, the volume of indirect revenue from exhibitions and conferences in Riyadh alone had increased
to SR500 million in 2012 from SR380
million in 2010, illustrating the growth
potential for this sector.
To illustrate this point, Jerad Bachar,
senior consultant on the SECB team, said
that the Dubai World Trade Center had
created 5,554 direct jobs and 4,952 indirect jobs since it was opened. In 2011
it hosted 106 international events,
attended by 1.3 million people, 32%
of them from outside the UAE, he said
– bringing a colossal amount of direct
revenue into the economy, as well as
generating a great deal of secondary
expenditure on ancillary services. This
is the scale of economic opportunity
that the SECB has been set up to target.
Establishing the Saudi Conference
and Exhibition Bureau, which will be
overseen by HE Abdullah Al Jehani, is a
critical step in the growth of the sector
within Saudi Arabia, and a great deal
has already been accomplished.
A project team, headed by Tariq
Al-Eissa has been appointed, the aims
and objectives have been defined,
processes and procedures are being
developed and a website is being developed. Furthermore a major Forum is
being planned in Jeddah later this year
to discuss how best to further develop
this industry for the benefit of the
Preparations are already underway for the 1st Saudi
Conventions and Exhibitions Forum 2013 in Jeddah
from 2-4 November, organized by the SECB. The aim of the Forum is to harness international
know-how to help further develop the sector, as well
as highlighting the importance of the industry and its
role in the economic growth of the country in general
and domestic tourism in particular. It also aims to develop the capabilities of
MICE practitioners within the Kingdom, and to
enhance communication between owners,
organizers and suppliers in addition to boosting
the volume of investment and raising awareness
of this fledgling industry. A steering committee comprising representatives
from the Ministries of Commerce and Industry, of the
Interior, of Foreign Affairs, the Saudi Arabia General
Investment Authority (SAGIA), the SCTA, and the
Council of Saudi Chambers has been formed to guide
the forum. It is expected that attendees will include
international, regional and Saudi experts as well
as MICE suppliers and organizers from within the
Kingdom. An accompanying exhibition is scheduled
to be held on the sidelines with suppliers, service
providers and facilities participating. PAGE
in the world
Welcome to Al Faisaliah Suites
106 Suites
La Cucina Italian Restaurant • 24-hour Butler Service
F O R R E S E RVAT I O N S , C A L L + 9 6 6 . 1 . 2 7 3 . 2 2 2 2
save the date
MICE activities offer tourists and residents many opportunities to enjoy
events specific to all regions of the kingdom. From arts and crafts
to fun and frolic, there is something for everyone in the family
23/07/2013 - 25/07/2013
17/07/2013 - 22/08/2013
Jeddah Grand Bazaar
Phone: 0590553355 - 0583790055
Baha Summer Festival
Al Baha
Phone: 0772773855
14/08/2013 - 21/08/2013
17/07/2013 - 22/08/2013
Tabouk Summer Festival
Phone: 044239696
Baha Summer Festival
Al Baha
Phone: 0772773855
21/08/2013 – 18/09/2013
until 15/08/2013
Date and Palm Festival
Al Ahsa’a
Phone: 035825000;
Bllsamar Summer Festival
Phone: 19988
until 25/08/2013
12/08/2013 – 01/10/2013
Sayhat Summer festival
Al Methneb Dates and Palms Festival
Al Methneb
Phone: 063824878;
until 31/08/2013
Al Hokair summer activities
(Sparkiz / Dhahran Abaqrino Mall. • Art
Studio of Darren Mall in Dammam. • Happy
Land in Dammam Corniche.• Digital Land in
Alcheraa Mall in Dammam. • Digital Land in
bin Khaldoun Plaza Dammam. • Digital Land
in Qatif City Mall. • Sparkiz of Ahsa Mall. •
Digital Land in Jubail.• Jubail Sparkiz )
17/08/2013 – 16/09/2013
Buraidah Dates and Palms Festival
Phone: 063824878;
22/08/2013 – 21/09/2013
Unaizah Dates and Palms Festival
Phone: 063824878;
Image: scta
Success loves company
Ali Alagnam began his career at InterContinental
Al Jubail as a telephone operator – now he’s the
hotel’s sales director with a Saudi Excellence in
Tourism Award to his name
01 Ali Alagnam, left, is
presented with a Saudi
Excellence in Tourism
Award by HE Abdullah
Al Jehani
No two days are ever exactly alike for
Ali Alagnam, who is director of sales at
the InterContinental Jubail.
His primary responsibility, is, of course,
to lead the sales team, but that also
requires a great deal of public relations
and travel. And since seeing the world
and meeting new people is what he really
loves, Ali couldn’t be happier in his job.
“I have always tried to do my job as
well as I’m able, to take on tasks extra
to my daily responsibilities, and to adapt
to any new developments,” he says.
As director of sales Ali’s primary goal
is to ensure the hotel achieves its sales
targets. Teamwork and building a shared
and clear understanding of the targets
and strategies among his team is paramount, he believes.
Training is also a big part of Ali’s
working life – on both a day-to-day basis
and as a guiding principle. Because of
the courses he’s been able to take, he
day in the life
has risen through the ranks to his position today – and he’s keen that his team
has similar opportunities.
“This hotel has a strong track record
hiring Saudis, and equipping them with
all the skills, knowledge and support they
need – that’s what gave me opportunity
to succeed,” he says.
It is a clear demonstration of the hotel
group’s policy of recruiting and investing
in Saudi talent, he says, singling out the
hotel’s general manager Fahad Al Sayegh,
and regional operations VP, Bandar Al
Harbi, for particular praise.
Early on in his career, when he was still
working the switchboard, Ali was offered
the chance to take a sales and marketing
course which resulted in him being offered
a job in the sales and marketing team,
and the chance to study further.
He then attended the Saudi Development Centre in Riyadh and took various
other classes and online courses, and
I have always
tried to do my
job as well as
I’m able, to take
on tasks extra
to my daily
and to adapt
to any new
had soon completed all the necessary
training to become an accredited sales
Enabling his team to make the most
of similar opportunities is very important to him.
He also is a strong believer that his
responsibilities stretch beyond the hotel
into society in general.
Helping the community and safeguarding the environment are important to everyone at the InterContinental,
says Ali, explaining that the hotel organizes all sorts of events and activities
under the corporate social responsibility
banner. They support children with disabilities in the local community and have
been running a program to clean up Al
Jubail beach.
“Hospitality and tourism have a bright
future in Saudi Arabia,” says Ali, who
would encourage all young Saudis to
consider careers in this industry. Not
only is the industry growing rapidly, but
the efforts companies such as the InterContinental are putting into recruiting
and developing Saudi workers are really
helping.The opportunities are there, says
Ali, it’s up to young Saudis to make the
most of them. It’s just a matter of desire,
drive and determination.
After all, not so long ago he was a
humble telephonist. And now he is the
proud winner of a Saudi Excellence in
Tourism Award for Tourism Sales Professional of the Year.

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