roads of arabia exhibit in us



roads of arabia exhibit in us
Autumn 2012 / issue ten
Roads of Arabia exhibit in US
Discover! Saudi Arabia
Al Kharj Outing
Picturesque buildings,
traditional palaces
SETA Winners
What it takes to win
Hotel sector sees
new arrivals
Events | Guides | Reviews | Destinations | Tours | travel | culture | INDUSTRY
RIYADH: North Ring Road Olaya Takhasussi Dareen Granada Mall
JEDDAH: Etoile Center Tahliah Red Sea Mall Medina
EASTERN REGION: Khobar Dammam Jubail
* Awarded by the Saudi Excellence in Tourism Awards.
Saudi Voyager
elcome to this autumn edition of Saudi Voyager. This
issue of the magazine is our first following the summer
which saw both the holy month of Ramadan and many fun
festivals around the Kingdom. The festivals were bigger
and better this year than ever before and enjoyed by an
ever greater number of visitors. We report on some of the
key festivals later in the publication (page 19).
However, our key areas of editorial focus lie elsewhere.
We cover two specific areas of interest in the country’s growing tourism business.
Firstly, we cover the important Roads of Arabia exhibition which opens to the public in
the US capital in November (page 23) and then developments in the tourism industry
itself. We speak with three of the happy winners of trophies in this year’s Saudi
Excellence in Tourism Awards which happened prior to the summer break. We speak
with Saeed Ali Assirri the winner of the Best Contribution to Tourism category (page
76) in recognition of his extensive service to the industry. We also write about the
winners of the Best Tourism Attraction (page 57) and the Best Tour Company (page
51). We hope these reports provide added insights into what made these winners
stand out from all the other nominees.
Our second area of editorial area of focus is destinations for family outings. With
the heat of the summer months receding into distant memories, now is the time to
start planning your excursions. For those readers looking for something a little out of
the ordinary and prepared for a longish trip, we report on the extensive attractions
of Dumat Al Jandal in Al Jouf province (page 42). But if you are up for something
even more exciting, our resident explorer Abdullah Sayari reports on a road trip to
the remote Jebal al Masma (page 53) where there are numerous rock carvings to be
enjoyed. Nearer to home and suitable for family picnics if you live in the capital, we
write about the recently renovated and regenerated Wadi Hanifah (page 46) while if
what you enjoy most is just chilling by the pool or seaside, with a relaxed environment
and good food, our hotel review in this issue is the lovely Movenpick Beach Resort Al
Khobar. So, we hope there is something in this edition for everyone to enjoy – just like
the Kingdom.
Majed Al-Sheddi
Editor in Chief
Autumn 2012 / Saudi Voyager / 05
Discover! Saudi Arabia
Published by
Alef International
P.O. Box 301292, Riyadh 11372
Kingdom of Saudi Arabia
T: +966 1 462 3632
F: +966 1 461 2966
Email: [email protected]
Majed A. Al–Sheddi
Saudi Commission for Tourism and Antiquities
Autumn 2012
Editorial supervision - SCTA
Najla Al-Khalifah
T: (+966) 1 880 8910
E: [email protected]
Abdullah Al Sayari
Jackie Ledger
Rima Hindo
Afifa Quraishi
Zoya Malik
Amber Shahid
Frank Stebbing
Hussain Mohammed Al-Bakri
Mark Carreon
Romel Cuison
SCTA Library
Retlaw Snellac
Jan Thompson
Lucie Debelkova
My favorite place / 56
The combination of old world traditions,
surrounded by the trappings of modern Saudi
Arabia, intrigue HE the Ambassador of Malaysia
to Saudi Arabia
News / 07
Exhibitions, surveys, festivals, museum openings:
the latest round-up on Saudi Arabia’s vibrant
tourism industry
Day in the life /76
Saudi Voyager speaks with Moayed Abdul
Rahaman Al Suwaid, Government Relations &
Personnel Supervisor at the Al Faisaliah Hotel
Jihan Bagader
Tanaya Bose Jain
Majed Fares
E: [email protected]
Client Servicing
Tanaya Bose Jain
E: [email protected]
Consultant Editor
Barry Gray
T: +971 50 653 8859
E: [email protected]
Chief Executive Officer
Rabih El Amine
T: +966 1 462 3632
E: [email protected]
© Alef International
Saudi Voyager is published on behalf of
the Saudi Commission for Tourism & Antiquities
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.
STCA Interview / 36
HE Abdullah Al Jehani, Vice President of Tourism
at the Saudi Commission for Tourism tells Saudi
Voyager about the aims and objectives of the
organisation and future plans
Investment / 22
Marriott operates 1213 rooms across the
Kingdom and has exciting plans to expand this
to more than 2300 by 2015. Alex Kyriakidis the
President and Managing Director in the region
outlines the group’s aggressive plans to Zoya Malik
Investment / 26
Hospitality in Saudi Arabia is a safe investment
says an industry insider. Amber Shahid speaks
with Greg Pirkle of Four Seasons
Haya Tours / 51
Haya in Arabic translates into English as “Let’s
go!” – an appropriate slogan for the fledgling tour
company, which won Best Tour Company in the
2012 Saudi Excellence in Tourism Awards.
MICE / 75
The inaugural Hotel Show Saudi Arabia will offer
the Kingdom’s hoteliers a one-stop shop for
hospitality products and services
Retail price: Saudi Arabia SR10.00 Rest of world US$5.00
Summer Festivals / 18
This year’s Summer Festival season took
another giant leap forward in providing fun
and entertainment. Afifa Quraishi reviews
what went on
Roads of Arabia / 21
Saudi Arabia’s rich cultural heritage is featured
in a landmark exhibition currently touring major
global cities
Hotel review / 59
Taking advantage of a break in work for a few
days’ rest and recuperation, Barry Gray visits the
winner of the Best Specialised Resort category
of this year’s Saudi Excellent in Tourism Awards
Riyadh Planetarium / 49
Riyadh has its very own planetarium that offers
children and adults alike the chance to experience
a high-tech look at the marvels of the natural
world. Saudi Voyager investigates
Herfa’s Café / 57
Herfa’s Café in Qassim serves traditional Saudi
fare with a totally contemporary twist. Jackie
Leger investigates
The big picture / 36
Al-Rahmah Mosque on the Jeddah Corniche,
represents both traditional and modern Islamic
architectural styles
Events Calendar / 74
MICE activities from arts and crafts to fun
and frolic, there is something for everyone in
the family
Dumat Al Jandal / 42
Al Jouf Province has many attractions for visitors
who take the time to journey there. Rima Hindo
tells Saudi Voyager about the many interesting
sites she experienced, on a family outing to
Dumat Al Jandal
Wadi Hanifah / 46
The greening of Wadi Hanifah has transformed
Riyadh’s urban landscape, helping the city
breathe, while joggers pant along its pathways
Out and about / 53
Jibal Al Masma displays the past through
wonderful ancient rock drawings. Abdullah A. Al
Sayari outlines the rewards of a recent visit
Hotel reviews / 65
With more locally trained staff and increasing
focus on quality services, accommodation
options across Saudi Arabia are getting better
and better. Saudi Voyager highlights some of
the favorites
Hotel listing / 63
Autumn 2012 / Saudi Voyager / 07
‫ﻓﻨﺪﻕ ﻭﺃﺟﻨﺤﺔ‬
‫ﺿﻴﺎﻓﺔ ﺍﻟﺪﺍﺭ‬
‫‪Home Hospitality‬‬
‫‪SaMa HaLL‬‬
Saudi antiquities
A specialist team from the Carnegie
Museum of Natural History in the US
has launched a website dedicated to
information concerning Saudi antiquities
and the Kingdom’s ancient rocks
carvings from across the Kingdom.
A research team from the Carnegie
Museum, supported by the Kingdom’s
Lyan Cultural Foundation, visited the
Saudi Arabia to study and document
the rock engravings and to interpret
their significance to the history of the
Al Ahsa Popular
The heritage sites in Al Ahsa Province have
received a significant number of visitors and
tourists over the past six months from both local
and national tourists, but also from the GCC and
even international countries. Since the beginning
of the summer hundreds of visitors were
received at the province's four heritage sites.
Commenting in the media recently, the
director of the Heritage Office in Al-Alhsa,
Walid Al Hussain explained that visitors were
attracted to the Ibrahim Palace Museum, Beyt
el Bi'aa, the Cultural Center of Al Ahsa School as
well as the Al Ahsa Museum for Antiquities and
traditional Heritage. The increased promotion of
the sites, in line with the objectives of the SCTA,
saw the introduction of two specific schedules
for visitors; the first from 8am till 3.30pm and
the second from 5pm till 7pm every day of the
week with the exception of weekends when the
timings were from 9am till 12pm on Thursday
and 5pm till 8pm in Friday evenings.
According to the director of Ibrahim Palace
Museum, and archeologist, Khaled Al Farida,
the visits have seen a constant stream of
visits to the sites and special events that have
been organized. Visitors are met and guided
by specialists and are provided additional
information, which includes leaflets and
brochures, which promotes other attractions
in Al Ahsa as well as tourism maps of the area.
CDs are also distributed. Al Farida also explains
that in most of the sites there are explanations
and signboards in both Arabic and English to
facilitate visitors.
Ibrahim Palace Museum recorded 900 visits
over the summer, while Beyt el Bi'aa received
around 650, the Cultural Center of Al Ahsa
School 700, and Al Ahsa Museum for Antiquities
and traditional Heritage, 600: a total of some
2800 visitors including a foreign delegation.
Arabian Peninsula over past centuries.
The Arabian Rock Art Heritage project,
began in 2010 and uses advanced imaging
techniques to record and help accurately
interpret the petro glyphs from dozens
of sites throughout the Saudi landscape.
The images able to viewed on the website
show human activity, views of hunting and
battles, horses, predatory animals and
desert plants. The gallery of high quality
images are available through the new
The research team visited a number
of regions in the Kingdom including
heritage sites in Tayma, Al Ulah, Jibbah,
Bir Hima, Al Shuayms, and Ha’il region in
cooperation with a number of experts
from the SCTA. The images provide a
historical perspective of lifestyles of the
Arabian Peninsula across the centuries.
Autumn 2012 / Saudi Voyager / 09
Hotel classification
builds investment
SCTA’s district office in Najran
has implemented an action plan
for the supervision of furnished
apartments, hotels, travel
agencies and tour operators in
association with the General
Administration for Licensing and
Quality. The executive director
of the branch office at Saleh Al
Marih explained. “The plan will
include a focused period of spot
inspections to check the various
regulations related to these
categories of business and that
the rules are being adhered to.”
He also stated that it is
important for the establishments not to increase their
prices which should be clearly
displayed, together with the
necessary trade license, in a
prominent place in the establishment. Stressing the benefits
of customers knowing the prices
and standard of services to
expect, he emphasized that there
are penalties for establishments
that breach the regulations and
serious infringements can even
result in premises being closed.
10 / Saudi Voyager / Autumn 2012
Amro Nahas, head of real estate at regional investment group, Shuaa Capital
The Saudi hospitality and
accommodation sector has
experienced significant growth
following the SCTA introduction
and supervision of a system of
classification for hotels and guest
houses. Organization of the sector
has transformed it from being
fragmented and unregulated into
a professionally managed sector
with the improvements prompting
fifteen leading hotel brands to
enter the Kingdom, contributing
attractive investment to the
growing hospitality sector.
Recently commenting on
the developments, HRH Prince
Sultan bin Salman bin Abdul
Aziz, President of SCTA stated
"We are still at the beginning of
the road in the development of
the accommodation sector and
challenges will continue, especially
in the area of funding. Financing
for hotels remains unsatisfactory.
As such, we are working with the
Ministry of Finance to create a
fund to help the growth of the
tourism accommodation sector."
The tourism sector is reportedly
to contribute about US$14.9 billion
to Saudi Arabia’s economy this
year, making up almost 3 percent
of total GDP. This can be compared
with 2009, when the contribution
was US$10.4 billion, which
amounted to 2.7 percent of GDP.
Amro Nahas, head of real
estate at regional investment
group, Shuaa Capital, said, “Hotel
revenues in Saudi Arabia are
growing steadily despite the
looming recession in Europe. There
is ample liquidity and business
in Saudi Arabia so we see Saudi
Arabia as a key attraction for
hotel investment.” In addition,
Saudi Arabia has scheduled to
spend more than SR$1.8 billion
to expand its existing airport and
US$21 billion to build a new one in
Jeddah in order to boost religious,
business, and domestic tourism.
Referring to the recent forceful
recommendation of the Shoura
Council that the Ministry of
Finance should support the
tourism sector with an initial fund
of at least SR5 billion, HRH the
President, added, “His Excellency
the Minister of Finance has agreed
support for the accommodation
sector, to include hotels and
furnished apartments and similar
facilities such as recreation areas,
resorts and others. If we are
serious about generating real
levels of tourism, then we need to
inject funding around the beaches
and to develop other facilities."
Highlighting a licensing issue,
HRH the President stated, “We
have discovered that, some
investors are using licenses for
signboards of furnished flats,
obtained from local municipalities,
for operating their premises.
This is absolutely wrong and
the matter has been resolved
with the Ministry of Municipal
and Rural Affairs. Henceforth,
no one will obtain permission
for a signboard (for a hotel or
furnished apartment) from the
municipality without first finalizing
the classification process with
SCTA. This classification process
includes involvement of the Civil
Defense as we are very concerned
with public safety.” Concluding
with a comment emphasizing the
opportunities that still remain
in the accommodation sector,
HRH the President commented,
“We look forward to national
companies becoming active
in the sector by setting up
specialized companies within the
furnished apartment sector."
Artisan award
The Souk Okaz Award for
Handicrafts has had it’s value
for the current year increased
to SR350,000 divided across
six categories. Announcing
the increase, Director General
of Programs and Products at
SCTA, Abdullah Al Murshid,
said “SCTA is keen to revive
and preserve traditional
handicrafts as an element of
great economic value and as one
of the components of promoting
Saudi’s cultural heritage."
Visitor numbers up
More than 250 visitors
were hosted at Al Musmak
Museum over August’s Eid
holiday. Commenting on
the huge influx, Nasser Al
Eraifi, Museum Director.
Referring stated that the visitors
comprised both citizens and
expatriates and arose as a result
of an increasing interest in the
educational role museum’s
play in detailing the heritage
and culture of the kingdom.
Penalties imposed
30 furnished apartments in
the Eastern Province have had
penalties imposed on them
for operating in contravention
to licensing regulations and
operating procedures. More
than 1,000 inspections were
undertaken in 2011 with the
intention of monitoring prices,
service and facilities quality and
the following up of complaints.
Tourist contact
SCTA has an established
Tourism Contact Center and
all visitors are encouraged
to provide their feedback on
their visit to the Kingdom or
experiences in accommodation.
Toll free telephone: 8007550000
Direct telephone: 01 880 8738
HRH Prince Meshari bin Saud bin Abdul Aziz, Governor of Al Baha and chair of the Al Baha Tourism Development and SCTA
President His Royal Highness Prince Sultan bin Salman bin Abdulaziz inaugurates the Al Baha Summer Festival
Families’ Souk in Al Baha
His Royal Highness Prince Meshari bin Saud
bin Abdul Aziz, Governor of Al Baha and chair
of the Al Baha Tourism Development Council
attended the opening ceremony of Al Baha
Summer Festival under the slogan Bahat Al
Kadi Maseef Beladi (Resort of my homeland)
which was held at the open air theater in
Raghdan Park, Al Baha. The opening was also
attended by His Royal Highness Prince Sultan
bin Salman bin Abdul Aziz, President of SCTA.
This year’s Al Baha festival focuses on
the work and achievements of local families
working in the production of traditional
handicrafts, household items and foodstuffs.
A souk promoting the items made was a
center piece of this year’s event with sixteen
specialized stands displaying the produce.
Dr. Hamid bin Maleh Al Shammri who headed
the organizing committee of the festival
made a welcome address to the dignitaries
and exhibitors at the event and highlighted
key events of the festival program. More
than one thousand individual activities were
planned over the forty-day festival period
in the districts of Al Baha, Balgarshi and Al
Mandag and their neighboring villages.
Digital transformation
The website of the Saudi
Commission for Tourism
and Antiquities has recently
had a substantial amount
of new information loaded
in the form of a twenty
five minute documentary
video. Produced in Englishlanguage and within
the English section of
the website, the video
highlights a number
of destinations that
will help residents and
visitors planning outings
around the kingdom.
With the theme of
Transformations, the
documentary details
the work of the SCTA,
funded by the government
and supported by local
communities, in renovating
and regenerating many
areas of traditional Saudi
lifestyles. The starts with
the renovated, heritage
village of Uishagair before
moving on to the historic
center of Jeddah, Al Ghatt,
Al Jouf, Al Ula and many
others. The extensive
work undertaken, often
by local communities
themselves, to restore the
historic sites back to an ‘as
new’ standard is detailed
as well as the valuable
economic contribution
these regenerated sites can
mean for their rural areas.
Educational as well
as entertaining, the
documentary is a must
for those planning trips
around the kingdom,
or just intrigued by the
history of Saudi Arabia.
To enjoy the documentary
go to:
Autumn 2012 / Saudi Voyager / 11
robust growth outlook
of KSA’s tourism industry
The tourism industry has accounted for 3.2
per cent of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia’s
total GDP in 2011, as well as 7.1 per cent of
non-oil GDP and 11.8 per cent of private sector
GDP, according to recent figures released by
the Saudi Tourism Information and Research
Center (MAS). The total value of the tourism
industry in 2011 was estimated to reach SAR
59.5 billion, increasing by 6.8 per cent from
SAR 55.7 billion in 2010, and is forecast to
further increase in 2012 driven mainly by an
expected 5.3 per cent increase in inbound
tourists reaching 18.42 million this year.
To support the sustained growth of the
tourism sector, more investment is expected in
the key cities of Makkah and Madina. Investment
companies such as Abdul Latif Jameel Real Estate
Investment Co. (ALJREIC) are taking the lead
in infusing fresh investments into the tourism
industry, particularly in the hospitality sector to
cater to the expanding needs of citizens, visitors
and pilgrims. One of the key development initiatives being undertaken by ALJREIC is the Jabal
Al Kaaba project, which is expected to add more
than 8,000 hotel rooms to the market over the
next few years under the “Anjum Hotels” brand.
Yousef Abdul Latif Jameel, Chairman of Abdul
Latif Jameel Real Estate Investment Co., said:
Makkah is a key target for increasing tourism investment
12 / Saudi Voyager / Autumn 2012
“We are enthusiastic about the robust growth
outlook of the tourism industry in Saudi Arabia,
which registered a 6.8 per cent increase to
reach a value of SAR 59.5 billion in 2011. With
the number of tourists in KSA rising each year,
particularly during the pilgrimage seasons, the
tourism industry is certainly on track to further
increase its contribution to the national GDP.
The company is supporting tourism devlopment
through strategic development initiatives that
includes the SR10 billion Jabal Al Kaaba project.
“The launch of the ‘Anjum Hotels’ hospitality
brand is in line with our aim to create a distinctly
Saudi-flavored, spiritually-uplifting hotel experience unlike any other. The flagship hotel of the
brand, ‘Anjum Hotel’ will open in early 2013,
providing all the amenities needed by Hajj and
Ummrah visitors, especially given its close proximity to the Holy Haram,” concluded Jameel.
Abdul Aziz bin Abdullah Al Rashid expressed
his thanks to the President of SCTA for
accepting the donation and explained that
donation of the house was the request of his
father before he passed away in 2008. Abdul
Al Rashid expressed pride that in the future
the historic building would be enjoyed by
the public while contributing to knowledge
of the history and heritage of the region.
New hotels
Agreement for the Park Inn by Radisson
Riyadh Al Sahafa was inked recently.
The property scheduled to open in
2014 will have 170 rooms and will
bring the Rezidor group’s complement
to twelve hotels in the kingdom.
“Saudi Arabia is a key focus market for
our future development in the Middle
East. The country continuous to experience strong economic growth, and
the capital city Riyadh is an important
and promising market for us”, said Kurt
Ritter, President and CEO of Rezidor.
The Park Inn by Radisson Riyadh Al
Sahafa will offer 170 rooms, studios
and apartments, designed to meet the
demand for serviced apartments in
addition to traditional hotel clientele.
Both the hotel and residences will share
a restaurant, a lobby-lounge, fitness
centre and 100sqm of meeting space.
Located in Riyadh’s Al Sahafa commercial
district, the property will be three kilometers from the upcoming King Abdullah
Financial District, and less than 20km
from King Khaled International Airport.
A further recent announcement
heralded the opening of the first kingdom’s first Courtyard by Marriott property.
The 286-room Courtyard Riyadh Diplomatic Quarter is situated in the heart
of Riyadh’s Diplomatic Quarter.
“Courtyard Riyadh Diplomatic Quarter
will be our fourth hotel in the region and will
bring an unparalleled level of flexibility and
service to business travelers in the kingdom.
Ours guests want more control and options
during their stay and consciously choose
amenities that create a healthy balance
between work and relaxation.” says Janis
Milham, vice president and global brand
manager for Courtyard by Marriott.
All 286 guest rooms offer a smart design
with ample work space, multiple outlets
for easy plug in capabilities and high-speed
internet, ideal for business travelers and
LCD flat screen TVs to help guests unwind.
There is also a temperature controlled
indoor swimming pool, Jacuzzi and 24-hour
accessible fitness center, fully equipped with
modern cardio and strength equipment.
HRH Prince Sultan, President of
SCTA, thanked and expressed
his appreciation to Sheikh
Abdul Maqsood bin Mohammad
bin Khoja, prominent Jeddah
businessman, for his donation
of SR337,000 to support the
purchase of a number of Saudi
historic artifacts from citizens
to display them in the Shubrah
Palace Museum in Al Taif and
the Museum of Makkah at Al
Zaher Palace/ Sheikh Khoja also
presented a number of heritage
items for display in the museum.
Roads upgrade
An MoU has been signed between
SCTA and the Ministry of
Transport for upgrading roads
leading to key tourist sites. In
line with the strategy for the
development of tourism the
memorandum aims to list all
the roads that serve or lead
to tourism sites and to create
a digital map of tourism and
heritage sites and installation of
road signage for tourism sites.
Projects funded
So far in 2012, SCTA has signed
contracts to a total value of
SR85 million for the execution
of tourist projects in the
kingdom. Contracts awarded
to both national companies
and establishments include
restoration of several heritage
sites including Al Aznem
castle in Tabuk, the Railway
Museum of Madain Saleh and
concluding rehabilitation works
of the Al Kheraiba and Akma
visitor centers. Also included
is the obtaining of specialist
consultation and technical
services, including digital
and ecommerce projects.
Hyatt announces more
properties in Makkah
Hyatt hotels has announced plans for three new
properties in Makkah, close to several of the main
religious sites in Makkah, including the holiest
shrine of Islam – Al Masjid Al-Haram or Sacred
Mosque, Mount Arafat, Muzdalifah, and Mina.
Targeting the growing number of inbound
and domestic tourists, the group aims to
capture a greater share of the growing market
than is currently possible with its single Hyattbranded hotel in the Kingdom , the Park Hyatt
Jeddah – Marina, Club and Spa, which opened in
2009. Announcing the expansion plans, Thierry
Bertin (pictured right), Vice President of World
Wide Sales for Hyatt International – South
West Asia said, This is an ideal plac e for Hyatt
as there are a lot of new projects happening in
Saudi Arabia in terms of construction, infrastructure, new centres, and especially in Mecca
where there is a rapid expansion.” He also
commented that during the first quarter of
2012, Kuwait, Bahrain, UAE, Qatar and Egypt
made up the top five countries from where
tourists to Saudi Arabia originated. Domestic
tourists are also an important and growing
contributor to tourism receipts. With recent
instability in the region, Gulf and Arab nationals
are expected to consider longer and more
frequent holidays and visits in the Kingdom.
The recent announcement came on the back
of the announcement in February this year that
Hyatt had opened a worldwide sales office in
Saudi Arabia and entered into agreements with
Naseel Holding Company to manage three new
Hyatt-branded hotels in the Kingdom. Later,
they also unveiled plans for the Hyatt Regency
Riyadh as a result of an arrangement with
Mohammed A. Al Swailem Co for Commercial
Investment, bringing to seven the total number
of Hyatt-branded hotels under development in
Saudi Arabia across five of Hyatt’s brands.
Heritage home donated
His Royal Highness Prince Sultan bin Salman bin
Abdul Aziz, President of SCTA, recently honored
the sons of Sheikh Abdullah bin Ibrahim Al
Rashid for their donation of a heritage house of
the family located in Al Qasab town to SCTA.
Abdul Aziz Al Rashid was in attendance
at a special ceremony staged by residents
of Ragbah Administrative Center in Thadiq
Municipality aimed at establishing a fund
for the renovation of their heritage town.
Prince Sultan issued a statement expressing
his appreciation to the gracious initiative of
the sons of Sheikh Abdullah bin Ibrahim Al
Rashid, saying that this reflects a high sense
of national pride, as well as an appreciation
of the importance of urban heritage and its
role in the preservation of the history of Saudi
Arabia. The renovation of traditional towns
and villages is a key initiative in preserving
the national heritage of the Kingdom.
After receiving the house cessation documents, HRH said, "Five years ago, I photographed
this house and those photos are featured in my
book, ‘Memories of Urban Heritage’. Whenever,
I used to pass this house, I would say: “These
beautiful houses with their wonderful facades
are the most beautiful buildings I have ever seen
in my life. Two weeks ago, and for the fourth
time, I came to this very house and took many
photos and toured its different parts.” Said
the Prince, adding that rehabilitation works on
the donated house will start in a near future.
Autumn 2012 / Saudi Voyager / 13
Media hosted in
Tourism Information
Thirty two columnists and media representatives of leading
national newspapers have explored Al Qaseem tourism
sites in participation in the 16th staging of the Tourism
Information Convoy run by SCTA in collaboration with
partners from the private sector. The event, sponsored by Al
Watania Poultry Farm and Hotel Moevenpick in Al Qaseem.
Majid Al Sheddi, Director General of the Information
Center at SCTA, stated that the media plays an important
role in shaping public opinion and evaluating the
performance of services and facilities provided to the
general public, none more so than in the tourism sector.
The familiarization visit was aimed at informing journalists
of the rich cultural heritage and diversity of tourism offered
within the Kingdom as well as general developments within
tourism services and the benefits offered by tourism
programs. The tour coincided the province’s well known
Date Festival and the media delegates were also privileged
to meet His Royal Highness Prince Faisal bin Bandar bin
Abdul Aziz, Governor of Al Qaseem Province and Chairman
of the Tourism Development Council in the province.
Members of the media convoy pose next to their coach
Rocco Forte
Hotel opening
Ahead of the scheduled opening
of a luxury hotel in Jeddah,
featuring 146 rooms, 63 suites
and around 50 serviced apartments, has boosted its sales
team with the appointment
of Nader Hamarna as Regional
Director of Sales - Middle East.
The additional sales role has
been created in direct response to
growing demand for the company’s
product across the region with
the role being responsible for
managing the development of
corporate, individual, meetings
and incentives business. The role
complements that of the existing
Middle East Regional Director of
Sales, Adel Soukah, who continues
to be responsible for developing
individual personal travel and
diplomatic business. Both positions
report to Richard Bousfield, Rocco
Forte Hotels’, Regional Director of
Sales for the UK and Middle East.
Commenting on Nader’s
appointment, Bousfield said:
“With our planned expansion
over the next two years, it is
vitally important that we have
the resources and expertise in
place to service our customers
and grow our business. Nader
has a great blend of hospitality
expertise and market knowledge
which will prove invaluable in
supporting our strategic objectives in this key territory.”
Nader has over eight years dedicated Middle Eastern hotels sales
experience having previously held
senior sales roles with Marriot
and The Ritz Carlton group.
Each Rocco Forte Hotel property
has a unique style, reflecting its
location and each shares Rocco
Forte Hotels’ trademark attention
to detail, high quality and immaculate service. Located in the heart
of Jeddah’s fashionable shopping
district on Tahlia Road, close to the
Corniche, the upcoming property
will feature the company’s
signature interiors, three restaurants, a tea lounge, luxury health
club and meeting rooms.
with the aim of submitting to the
World Heritage Committee in
2014. In addition to renovation
works, the project will include
construction of a visitors center,
the provision of sign boards and
paved walkways for visitors.
The sites of the engravings
are in Hail Province, with those
of Jeba between 60km to 80
km around Nofoud while those
of the Al Showaimis site is to
the south-west of the province
some 270 km and is characterized by a wide spread of rock
paintings on the facades of
mountains scattered throughout
the area and include human
and animal images dating
back to prehistoric times.
Nader Hamarna, Regional Director of Sales Middle East, Rocco Forte Hotels
Rock art to be listed
A positive response has been
received by SCTA for funding
to help register the petroglyphs
of Jeba and Al Showaimis on
the World Heritage List (WHL)
of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural
Organization (UNESCO).
Announcing the support, HRH
Prince Sultan bin Abdul Aziz
14 / Saudi Voyager / Autumn 2012
,President of SCTA emphasized
the importance of the national
heritage as a major foundation
of the Kingdom’s history which
highlights the past civilizations
of the country. He stated that
SCTA will endeavor to develop
the site credentials file in collaboration with a team of experts
from the World Heritage Centre
Left Abdul Rahman Al Jeraisy
Chairman, Riyadh Chamber of
Commerce accompanied by
dignitaries opening the HORECA
2012 event on 15th september
below top eighty one
exhibitors participated in this
year's HOREca event
below middle food service
suppliers tempted vistors with
samples of their products
below bottom Horeca 2012
included competitions for the
kingdom's top chefs
Industry attracts
global players
It can be no surprise to anyone that the food,
beverage and hospitality industries in Saudi
Arabia generate multi-million dollar revenues or
that they are on an accelerating growth path.
But what can be a surprise with the proliferation of products available is that there
are still opportunities for new food and drink
items as well as services for these sectors.
HORECA 2012 was recently staged in Riyadh
for the second successful year with the aim
of supporting the growth and development
in the Kingdom’s hospitality sectors as well as
providing a showcase for local, regional and
international food manufacturers operating in,
or looking to enter, the Saudi hospitality market.
Staged in mid-September in Riyadh’s International Convention & Exhibition Center,
HORECA 2012 was inaugurated by
i, head
of the Ministry of Commerce. The threeday event attracted approximately 10,000
visitors who currently either work in, or
provide supplies or services, to the restaurant
and hotels sectors. They attended the exhibition in their search for improvements in
how they operate or to secure new franchises or products tpo support their business.
This year’s Riyadh show was a truly global
affair with significant numbers of exhibitors
attracted from more than twenty countries
to compete alongside national and regional
manufacturers to display their products and
services. In addition to specialized, food service
products from Saudi manufacturers, food
products were on offer from the US, Germany,
Switzerland, India, Sri Lanka and Malaysia. But
the services available to hoteliers and restaurateurs did not stop at food stuffs. There
were participants who exhibited hygiene and
food packaging solutions, storage and warehousing solutions, display and refrigeration
solutions, stoves and cooking equipment as
well as design solutions for professional kitchen
solutions. There was also a Saudi company
promoting warehousing and logistics solutions for large food suppliers and companies
who use centralized storage. It was clear to see
from the cross section that the Saudi Arabian
hospitality and food service markets hold out
significant interest from suppliers at all levels.
But HORECA 2012 was not just about
promoting new products. The exhibition hosted
a chef’s contest to identify the most talented
chef’s in the country’s restaurants and hotels.
Chefs competed for prizes which were judged
not only on the taste and presentation of the
dishes, but bearing in mind the health and
wellbeing of guests, also on their hygiene, and
the quality of the ingredients used in whipping
up the dishes. The various categories of the
competition were judged by a panel of international chefs and food specialists. What was
interesting to see was the interest of the
audience during the competition for the best
Salad Bar prize. This category emphasized much
more on the quality of the ingredients and
the colorful presentation of the fresh foods.
It was exciting to watch the dexterity of the
chefs as they turned and carved the vegetables and made one beautiful display after
another. The ‘Live Meat Cooking’ category
also attracted many intrigued onlookers as the
chef’s tossed and cooked their meat dishes.
In this, its second year, HORECA 2012 was a
successful industry platform, not only showcasing current industry best practice and
latest developments, but also providing a
basis for many long-term business relationships. All this plus the traditional spirit of Saudi
hospitality which was evident throughout the
exhibition: a not to miss event next year.
Autumn 2012 / Saudi Voyager / 15
Initiatives boost
tourism jobs
HRH Prince Sultan bin Salman bin Abdul Aziz, President of SCTA (right), and His Excellency Eng. Abdul Lateef bin Ahmed Al Othman
His Royal Highness Prince Sultan bin Salman bin Abdul Aziz, President of SCTA, on Saturday
September 29 welcomed the governor of the Saudi Arabian General Investment Authority (SAGIA)
at the offices of the Saudi Commission for Tourism and Antiquities recently.
His Excellency Eng. Abdul Lateef bin Ahmed Al Othman was hosted to discuss areas of potential
cooperation related to the prospects attracting investment in to tourism activities in line with the
aspirations of the Saudi government.
During the meeting, His Royal Highness President of SCTA, stated that the investment
opportunities in the tourism sector have a significant impact on the local economy in terms of
generating high revenue, besides the role of investment in creating more job opportunities for people
of different categories and educational levels, in addition to their national and cultural impact.
Prince Sultan, President of SCTA stated that tourism in the first place is a significant supplier of
jobs for citizens in different parts of the Kingdom. He referred to the directives of the Custodian
of the Two Holy Mosques and His Royal Highness the Crown Prince regarding focusing on the
local tourist and work on the development of this important sector in order to meet the growing
demand for internal tourism by the citizens. He also commended the cooperation between SCTA
and SAGIA, pointing out that there will be further cooperation between the two organizations as
well as exchange of information and integration of efforts for the benefit of the national economy.
"We look to SAGIA as a key partner in the national economy, which is mainly based on the
investment, we are pleased to cooperate with you to promote and support investments in various
tourism areas that will create job opportunities for the Saudis," Stated the President.
The governor of SAGIA, commended the Commission's efforts in the field of tourism and
development of the national heritage as a basis for developing tourism. He also commented on the
role tourism has to play in supporting the national economy and providing job opportunities.
Big vision lauded
His Excellency Dr. Abdul
Rahman bin Abdullah Al Barak,
the Minister of the Kingdom’s
Civil Service, commended the
vision of HRH Prince Sultan bin
Salman bin Abdul Aziz, President of SCTA during a recent
16 / Saudi Voyager / Autumn 2012
visit to the headquarters of
SCTA in the capital. He also
praised the success of SCTA,
which has been recognised as
attracting and developing a high
quality team due to the strategy
of its leader of developing an
Recent initiatives between SCTA and the
Ministry of Labor have been agreed with the
aim of accelerating the developing jobs for
Saudi nationals in the tourism sector.
His Royal Highness Prince Sultan bin
Salman bin Abdul, President of SCTA signed
an Memorandum of Cooperation on behalf
of SCTA, while His Excellency Eng. Adil Fageh
the Minister of Labor ratified the document
on behalf of the government.
In a statement, following the signing of
the MOC, the President of SCTA stated
that the Ministry of Labor is a key partner
in SCTA's strategy of providing employment
for Saudi nationals in the tourism sector.
He also stated that the initiatives had been
supported by the late Minister of Labor,
H.E. Dr. Ghazi Al-Ghosaibi. "Our cooperation
with the Ministry of Labor is ongoing, and
this memorandum crowns our joint efforts
and sets the framework to make them more
systematic.” stated the President
The initiatives encompassed with
in the MOC were developed by SCTA
in collaboration with their strategic
partners in the public and private
sectors and developed through a
number of workshops and meetings in
association with the Ministry of Labor.
H.E. the Minister of Labor, commented
that the job opportunities created by tourism
are more than those created by other sectors
that enjoyed greater financial support from
the government and more than the tourism.
"We are happy to support the tourism
sector as we think this will show immediate
results in creating jobs for citizens, more
than in other sectors.” The Minister added.
"Attractive work environment".
The Minister of the Civil
Service expressed his remarks
in a letter to the President of
SCTA, in which he also referred
to the distinguished speech
made by HRH President of SCTA
in the recent second staging
of the forum 'Best Work Environment in the Kingdom'.
The forum was organized by
the Eastern Province Chamber
of Commerce and Industry
and TeamOne and was held
under the patronage of HRH
Prince Mohammad bin Fahad
bin Abdul Aziz, Governor of
the Eastern Province. The
forum discussed the benefits
of the work environment and
its impact on the performance
and success of organizations.
photography encourages
interest in saudi heritage
Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Culture and Information is staging many cultural and artistic
events, some of which are linked with tourism
in the Kingdom. One upcoming event is aimed
at encouraging the efforts of the Kingdom’s
photographers and reflects the Ministries
recognition of the importance of recording
the development of the various communities
and unique aspects of life in the Kingdom.
A photographic competition entitled “The
Two Holy Mosques through the Eyes of Photographers” is being sponsored by the Ministry
with selected images being exhibited at
the King Fahd Cultural Center in Riyadh.
The competition will feature both internal
and external images of the mosques, highlighting engineering and construction elements
such as windows, stairs, minarets and domes,
the architectural designs and general motifs
incorporated. The attractive interior parts such
as walls, columns, flooring, ventilation, minbar
and mihrab can also provide inspiration for
the photographers. Scenes of various rituals
associated with pilgrimage to the mosques
as well as images of the pilgrims undertaken the rituals around the Kaaba can all be
included in submissions to the competition. .
The competition is open to all photographers,
male and female, with all participants being able
to submit a maximum of three photos that must
be taken by them and must not have not previously won any award. Cash prizes worth SR
100,000 would be given away to winners.
The Saudi Commission for Tourism and
Antiquities is also sponsoring a photographic
event in parallel with that of the Ministry of
Culture and Information entitled Saudi Arabia
Colors Forum. This comprehensive event is
being staged in the last week of September
and runs in paralleth their around the National
Day. Many artists have participated in the
Forum submitting a total of over 6000 photographs of tourist venues and activities.
The Forum includes a national photos exhibition
in addition to a photo competition, a recognition
ceremony, seminars and workshops and an exhibition for the winning photos. The Forum attracts
moreover a large category of Saudi photographers
and people interested in tourism and photography
in the Kingdom in addition to many other activities.
This Saudi Arabia Colors Forum is the first
of its kind in the Kingdom and is a key element
in promoting support for the development of
interest in local tourism and the Kingdom’s rich
culture and historic civilization. The activity
allows for both professional and creative amateur
photographers to focus on the country’s touristic sites, heritage buildings, antiquities as well
as the natural beauty of their country. SCTA
considers photography the most influential
means for the promotion and development of
tourism as well as the documentation of culture
and heritage. It is anticipated that the Forum and
competition will encourage individuals to want to
experience first hand the venues, locations and
tourism experiences documented in the images.
Recently released statistics of
tourism in the Kingdom shows
a marked and ongoing growth
in tourism related business.
In the first quarter of 2012
alone, 2.9 million foreign tourists
visited the country, spending
nearly US$1.9 billion according to
a report released by the Tourism
Information and Research Centre.
Inbound tourists represent about
77 percent of total tourists with
the balance comprised of domestic
tourism. Unexpectedly, Kuwait,
Bahrain, UAE, Qatar and Egypt
were the top five countries of
origin of tourists to Saudi Arabia
during the period. However,
with the recent instability in the
region, Saudi nationals are now
reconsidering their holidays,
to the benefit of venues and
destinations inside the Kingdom.
However, outbound tourism
is also seeing a surge, with
74 percent of Saudi nationals
planning to travel every year
taking with them their families
and hard earned spending money.
It is this revenue that domestic
tourism seeks to retain in the
country to generate jobs and
diversify the local economy.
According to a 2012 report
from Visa on spending in the
UAE, the spend of Saudi Arabian
nationals shot up nearly 74
percent over 2011, making
visitors from the Kingdom the
fourth biggest spenders behind
the UK, Russia and the US.
The majority of tourist
spending goes on shopping
and accommodation, such
as hotels or extended-stay
serviced apartments.
According to the Royal Embassy
of Saudi Arabia, more than 1.8
million foreign pilgrims travelled
to Hajj in 2011, with all evidence
pointing to continued increase
over the next few years.
Autumn 2012 / Saudi Voyager / 17
The fun of the festival
This year’s Summer Festival season took a giant leap forward in providing
fun and entertainment. Afifa Quraishi reviews what was on offer
n Saudi Arabia, summer is when every town and city stages its very
own, personalized summer festival. Every province, city or town uses
the time to promote its local specialities with a series of local activities
that involve the local population in its arrangements and the staging
entertains visitors from other regions.
This year was no exception with the Kingdom abuzz with exciting
events and innovative and educational activities in a clear indication of a
blossoming domestic tourism sector.
Audience numbers saw a healthy increase in numbers as both
citizens and expatriates took time out to visit the 27 events held
across the length and breadth of the Kingdom, with some of the events
lasting weeks, rather than days. The program included five festivals
in Qassim, four in Baha, four in Tabuk, and two in Jawf,
Ahsa and Riyadh, an extensive festival in Jeddah and
events in Najran, Jazan, Abha, Madinah, Dammam,
Hail and Taif.
The SCTA estimates the total number of visitors to
festivals to reach 8.8 million an approximate increase of
10 per cent over the 8 million of 2011 with them spending
SR7.4 billion compared to the SR6.5 billion last year, a 14 per
cent increase. As local PTOs see the various benefits arising
for their local communities in the areas of employment,
income and general commercial benefits, the numbers are
only likely to continue to grow.
Autumn 2012 / Saudi Voyager / 19
Jeddah Ghair 2012
Jeddah offered plenty of choice to those looking to have a fun and family time
despite the summer weather. The annual Jeddah festival or ‘Jeddah Ghair’ is a
key reason why the city attracted over two million tourists this summer.
The festival, the largest in the Kingdom, was inaugurated on June
6, 2012, by Makkah Governor, Prince Khaled Al-Faisal at the Jeddah
Equestrian Club. The opening ceremony featured glittering fireworks that
lit up the city’s skies for half an hour.
The 37-day festival featured over 150 exciting events at various
venues in the city and were aimed at enticing visitors to experience the
delights of this historic, red sea port town which also boasts modern
infrastructure and a relaxing, seaside environment.
Firework displays were put on at the weekends at Al-Nawras Square
and South Obhur to entertain the crowds while there was also a visting
circus, a performing dolphin show, children’s programs, recreational
sports and competitions for the younger family members.
As in previous years, the festival retained its slogan of ‘Jeddah Ghair’
which in English translates as ‘Jeddah is Different.’ The ‘difference’ refers
to a number of events that comprise the festival, which cater to visitors
from all segments of society, as well as to people of all ages – the young,
the teenage, the old, the single, the married, or both men and women. All
could find something of interest and could be seen enjoying at the festival.
Jeddah’s King Abdul Aziz International Airport (KAIA) was decorated
in keeping with the theme of the festival to welcome tourists from other
parts of the Kingdom and abroad. A number of shopping promotions were
on offer with attractive discounts, promotions on purchase, contests
and competitions as well as unique entertainment were in abundance for
visitors to the city.
It seems as if every year the festival outdoes its own record of
popularity, featuring more color, more events and more people attending
as a consequence.
Mohammed Nasser, a visitor from Taif, said: “Jeddah Ghair has
something for sections of society. I wonder why people travel abroad
for the summer holidays. My children and I were especially enjoyed the
fireworks.” His only disappointment was that such events were only on
offer during the summer festival and not the whole year round!
Folk dancing and traditional songs were also a hit with visitors, giving
Below fun for the kids at the Jeddah Ghair festival
20 / Saudi Voyager / Autumn 2012
them an insight into the traditions and history of Jeddah
and instilling a sense of pride in the culture and heritage of
the country and its people. Some Jeddawis decided to go
for the various water-sports activities that were organized
and were seen competing in water ski events and other
beach competitions held at Thuwal beach. Another aspect
was a kite flying contest involving the flying of huge kites
on the Jeddah Corniche. This was a colourful spectacle that
attracted many visitors.
Festival goers were seen hopping from one event to
another across the city with different venues being used to
host the activities in an attempt to reduced traffic congestion.
The festival organizers allocated buses to transport
tourists to archaeological sites, traditional souks and famous
commercial centers in the city.
The city’s Red Sea Mall was the hub of much activity
during the festival. An 18-meter-long and four-meter-wide
model ship, made of Styrofoam and called the “Lost Jeddah
Treasure Ship,” was a main attraction and claimed to be the
largest of model ship of its kind. Aimed at attracting children
to the mall, efforts were made by the organizing committee
to get the ship, which cost SR1.5 million to make, recognized
by the Guinness Book of World Records.
The Red Sea Mall hosted over 12 recreational and
sporting events, such as, children's face painting contests,
drawing beads, graffiti drawing, cartoon character
designing, and photography competitions. There were also
more adventurous activities, such as acrobatics, sports
competitions, acting contests, and remote controlled car
racing. Prizes worth over SR 3 million were won in various
competitions held as part of the festival.
Besides the SCTA, several authorities concerned with
tourism investment were at the forefront of arranging the
festival activities. These included Jeddah Mayors office and
the Jeddah Chamber of Commerce and Industry (JCCI).
To ensure the efficient running of the Jeddah events,
a committee was set up to supervise the activities and
to solve any issues that may have arisen. A 24-hour
toll-free number was available to visitors to answer any
queries and general questions from the public about event
arrangements. In addition, more than 10 information centers
were set up, including at King Abdulaziz International Airport
and major shopping malls in the city.
Jeddah Ghair goes a long way toward building the city’s
valued image as an attractive destination for both local visitors
and domestic tourists. It has become an important revenue
generator for the city’s tourism industry and the many publicand private-sector companies that participate in it.
The festival demonstrates how much the tourism sector
has grown in importance for Jeddah, a city that is famous for
its traditional history and mixed cultural heritage. In the recent
years, the Jeddah festival has seen good growth, thanks to the
efforts of the various organizing committees involved.
The value of the festival was highlighted by the SCTA
President, Prince Sultan bin Salman, who said on the opening
of 'Jeddah Ghair 2012' “The Jeddah festival is one of the
most important and sophisticated festivals in the Kingdom
and the festival enhances the status of the city as a unique
tourism destination due to its sophistication and popularity.”
There was an interlude in the festivities when events
at the festival were suspended for three days, during the
official period of mourning following the death of Crown
Prince Naif.
participating in the five-day festival came from Turkey, Syria, Jordan,
Yemen, Egypt, Oman, Qatar, Sudan and Ethiopia, while the Turkish
Beekeepers Federation was the guest of honor for this year’s festival.
The fifth national meet of beekeepers titled “Bee food and pastures:
Their development and safeguarding” was held on the side-lines of the
festival. Around 250 delegates from across the Kingdom, along with
more than 50 international participants, exchanged ideas on the latest
developments in the industry, in addition to discussing problems of
reducing bee pastures and poor maintenance of existing habitats.
The festival, aimed at enhancing knowledge among beekeepers about
the industry and equipping them with better marketing and packaging
techniques, was organized by the Beekeepers Cooperative Society in
cooperation with Abdullah Bughshan Chair for Bee Research at King Saud
University and the SCTA.
The Baha International Honey Festival has become a key tourist
attraction of the region, attracting increasing numbers of bee farmers and
interested members of the public, from different countries every year.
The festival helps honey farmers market their products, promote trade
exchanges, understand the needs of their business, exchange expertise
in the field and enlighten the public on the dietary benefits of using
honey. It also marks highlight the tremendous development achieved by
the Kingdom’s honey industry in the past few years with Saudi Arabia
producing 8,000 tons of honey annually while there continues to be a
growing demand.
Hail Tourism Summer Festival 33
Above A local bee keeper promotes his merchandise during this summer's
baha Honey Festival
Honey Festival
The Fifth Baha International Honey Festival opened in July in
Baljurashi amid a buzz of excitement not only from visitors
but also from the thousands of bees displayed.
Under the glitter of spectacular fireworks adorning the
sky, the Baha Governor, Prince Mishari bin Saud opened the
event, and later toured the various pavilions at the festival.
Prince Mishari said the festival coincides with the summer
season “when a large number of holidaymakers and tourists
flock to the region.” He also took part in the traditional Ardha
dance held at the end of the opening ceremony.
Fifty exhibitors from within the Kingdom and abroad
displayed their products in the five-day event. Of the
110 applications for participation received from across
the Kingdom and abroad, only the 50 were selected as
considered to have met the stringent quality conditions set
by the organizers in regard to the quality of products and the
country of their origin.
On display were different varieties of honey and byproducts, one of the most popular being Sidr, Samra, Saif
and Talha. Modern tools of apiculture, or the art of bee
keeping, were also be showcased.
Demonstrations and interactive events were staged
that provided opportunities to exchange expertise and
ideas among beekeepers and honey traders. Beekeepers
An adventure-filled, month long festival (June 15-July 15, 2012)
comprising a host of recreational activities, competitions, poetry readings
and exhibitions and popular markets was held in different venues in Hail.
The festival entitled “Our summer will be sweet by your presence” was
sponsored by Hail Governor. Prince Saud bin Abdul Mohsen. Its opening
ceremony featured Saudi folklore dance – Ardah - and a colourful
presentation of national operatic songs. The Hail local souk, the fine arts
gallery, photo exhibition, stuffed animals’ exhibition, activities of AlSalam Park and the council of poetry were also inaugurated the same day.
The events of the festival drew crowds of people from various regions
of the Hail province as well as visitors from other parts of the Kingdom
and outside. The programs included special children activities including an
Egyptian circus, child theater, acts with well-known cartoon characters.
Museums of the Hail district also staged a heritage display, there was a
traditional market; a display of produce from family artisans and poetry
recital evenings. Some of the more exciting competitions resulted in the
awarding of ten cars as prizes.
Al Makhwah amusement park, in addition to three other public parks,
hosted events and for the younger crowd there were vehicle drifting and
sidewall skiing events where drivers take their vehicles on two wheels.
Large numbers of spectators flocked to watch drivers showcase daring
skills while probably hoping to see some vehicles come to grief, which
amazingly didn’t happen
The traditional market is another major attraction of the festival and
showcases heritage pieces and antiques, and is particularly a hit for the ladies.
It is because of such events that Hail has become known as the
“Capital of Desert Heritage”. Antique items and traditional ornaments
were in huge demand. According to Adel Al-Hamzani, chairman of the
festival’s supreme organizing committee, the festival created about
500 opportunities for Saudis to work during the festival. He said: “We
offer job opportunities for people of the region, especially youths, by
giving them opportunities to use their administrative and organizational
capabilities and skills. A large number of young men and women as well as
elderly people come to the committee seeking jobs.”
Again, the municipality formed a number of sub-committees on
electricity, cleaning, lighting, maintenance, environmental health and
other aspects that helps contribute to the success of the event.
Autumn 2012 / Saudi Voyager / 21
DESTINATION / roads of arabia
22 / Saudi Voyager / Autumn 2012
on display
Saudi Arabia’s rich cultural heritage is
featured in a landmark exhibition currently
touring major global cities. Roads of Arabia
is educating and enthralling its audiences
Autumn 2012 / Saudi Voyager / 23
DESTINATION / roads of arabia
ow in its second year of international display,
the landmark Roads of Arabia exhibition is
expanding its global exposure. Featuring
nearly 350 exhibits, the exhibition depicts
the early civilization of Saudi Arabia from
as far back as 6,000 years BC, through
its early evolution into one of the most influential,
global cultural centers and as the home of Islam.
At the initial inauguration of the exhibition, HRH Prince
Sultan bin Abdul Aziz, President of the Saudi Commission
for Tourism and Antiquities said, “This important exhibition
highlights that from early times Saudi Arabia has always
played an important role in the Middle East. It has existed as
a bridge between the East and the West. The first dialogue
of civilization finds its origins in the Kingdom, which has
historically had a strong communication with the rest of the
world. Indeed, a role Saudi Arabia is playing till today.”
Until around 500 BC, the Arabian peninsular was primarily
populated by nomadic tribal societies with a few urban
trading settlements at major oases or the confluence of
rivers where farming communities took to cultivating the
fertile alluvial plains. Over time, these settlements became
regular stopping off points for trading caravans carrying
a variety of wool, cotton, tea or spices from Asia and the
Orient in the east, to the Mediterranean region.
24 / Saudi Voyager / Autumn 2012
At the sites of these early settlements, both historic artefacts
as well as petroglyphs (rock drawings) have been unearthed in
significant numbers.
The Prophet of Islam, Mohammed was born in Makkah, in what is now
Saudi Arabia, in about 571, making it one of the world’s most important
holy sites. As the Islamic religion spread throughout the seventh century
it united the early tribes in the region, helping establish communities
and develop the religion. It is artefacts from these periods and the
development of this early civilization spanning thousands of years that
the exhibition displays.
The initial inauguration of the exhibition took place in the Louvre museum,
in Paris in mid-July, 2010 and ran for more than two months in the important
Napoleon Hall of the world-renowned institution. This initial exhibition was
the result of a cultural exchange initiated by the then Custodian of the Two
Holy Mosques, His Majesty King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz who decreed that
the exhibition should reach a wide, international audience.
The importance and relevance of the artifacts within the display was
soon appreciated by experts around Europe, with the exhibition being
invited to be staged at other leading museums. From Paris, the exhibition
moved to Fundación ‘la Caixa’ in Barcelona,
Spain where it was again on public display for
BELOW HRH Prince Salman
three months from November 12, 2010. The
and visitors admire
tombstones from the Al
Caixa Foundation has an established expertise
Maala cemetery, where
important individuals were
in staging important exhibitions based on
buried from the 9th to the
16th century
ancient civilizations.
DESTINATION / roads of arabia
above A script from the Holy Quran, the most sacred book of Islam, displayed at the Napoleon Hall of the Louvre Museum, Paris
The artifacts of early Saudi Arabian heritage, cultures and
civilization are at the heart of the exhibition with the exhibits representing
the lifestyle and art of the early times of the Arabian Peninsula, from
the historic Paleolithic period to the early 20th century
left The Roads of Arabia exhibition displaysd relics and finds
that took 40 years of excavation
Centre Displayed is the man shaped sandstone statue dating
back 6000 years back and put on display at the Louvre for
the first time
Right Clay pots and utensils from the Neolithic period were
among the nearly 350 interesting items on display
Autumn 2012 / Saudi Voyager / 25
DESTINATION / roads of arabia
above HRH Prince Sultan with Klaus Wowereit, mayor of Berlin, to his right and other officials and dignitaries at the opening of the exhibition in Germany
The third staging of the exhibition was in Russia’s Hermitage Museum
commencing in May, 2011 in St. Petersburg, with the fourth in Berlin’s
Pergamon Museum, starting in January, 2012. It was the first time that
artifacts from Islam's holiest site, the Kaaba in Makkah, had been on
display in Germany and the inauguration of the exhibition was attended
by Berlin’s Mayor, Klaus Wowereit, Prince Sultan and HE the Ambassador
of Saudi Arabia to Germany Dr. Osama Bin Abdul Majid Shabkasi and Dr.
Ali Al Ghabban, Vice President of SCTA as well as Eng. Saleh Al Megaleeth,
Undersecretary of Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Culture and Information. As
in previous locations, many experts involved with the conservation and
study of heritage and antiquities also attended.
The artifacts of early Saudi Arabian heritage, cultures and civilization
are at the heart of the exhibition with the exhibits representing the
lifestyle and art of the early times of the Arabian Peninsula, from
the historic Paleolithic period to the early 20th century, when the
contemporary Kingdom of Saudi Arabia was formed. Included are early
tools from 6000 BC, captivating stone statues from the 4th century BC,
the enormous red sandstone Colossi of Dedan and various treasures of
the Islamic era. Perhaps most noteworthy is an old door of the Kaaba, the
holiest site in Islam.
Throughout the exhibition, the Kingdom prides itself as the cradle of
the message of Islam and the home of the Two Holy Mosques and reflects
the important contributions of the communities of the Arabian Peninsula
to human civilization. The geographic location of the Kingdom is also
emphasized as a bridge between east and west civilizations across the ages.
26 / Saudi Voyager / Autumn 2012
The exhibition comprises seven sections: the first five
present exhibits of pre-Islamic time, while the last two
are dedicated to the generation of Islam and Holy Cities
of Makkah and Medina as well as to establishment of the
Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.The theme of roads in the title
reflects the journey nomads, and pilgrims have made across
the key trade routes, and those of pilgrims, from ancient
times and up to the 20th century.
In the pre-historic period one of the dispersal routes of
the primitive man from the eastern Africa to Eurasia went
through Arabia while in more recent times, the Arabian states
were growing and prospering thanks largely to contacts
with great ancient civilizations sometimes being highly
competitive with them in the level of development. The
artifacts featured in the exhibition demonstrate the lively
connections of Arabia with Mesopotamia and Egypt, with
the region’s ancient connections from the Indus valley to the
Mediterranean which have existed for thousands of years.
Trade routes intersected the Arabian Peninsula in all
directions: south-to north and west-to east. Caravans,
carrying articles of luxury and exotic goods from Southern
Arabia to the countries of the Mediterranean and West Asia
had been using the routes for centuries with stopping off
points often arising around oases such as Tayma, Madyan,
Najran, Nabatene which gradually became large centers of
DESTINATION / roads of arabia
above The barcelona display includes remnants of
tombstones and decorated plaques from the ninth to
sixteenth centuries which offer insights into the evolution
of Arabic script from early Kufic scripts to those of the
twelfth century onwards
left HRH Prince Salman and visitors admire a tombstones
from Al Maala cemetery, where important individuals were
buried from the 9th to 16th century
middle Visitors studying the ancient art and scriptures at
the exhibition in Barcelona, Spain
right HRH Prince Salman and Prince Felipe of Spain admire
some of the artifacts that have been exhumed and preserved
with great care
Autumn 2012 / Saudi Voyager / 27
DESTINATION / roads of arabia
Above The exhibition in the Pergamon Museum in Berlin, Germany exhibited large number of artifacts outside the Kingdom for the first time reflecting the Kingdom’s impact on early
civilizations and its importance as the home to Islam’s two most sacred mosques and its economic role due to its geographical location between the east and west
international trading where wealth and power developed.
The exhibition takes the form of a series of stopovers at some of these
extensive oases, which after their growth later became Islamic holy
places after the seventh century. Stunning photography illustrates the
region’s vast and varied landscapes.
At the inaugural launch of the exhibition in Paris, Prince Sultan Bin
Salman, President of the Saudi Commission for Tourism and Antiquities
(SCTA), which has played a pivotal role in establishing the display,
commented. “With this exhibition we wanted to emphasize that Saudi
Arabia has played a significant role in the growth of human civilization.
Through this role we wish the exhibition to develop an understanding
between cultures. The exhibits are the fruits of forty years of excavation
and are archaeological masterpieces from a land that has “always acted as
a bridge between the civilizations of several continents.”
Most of the items chosen had never previously left Saudi Arabia, and
through this display provides a unique insight in to the different cultures
that have succeeded each other across the Arabian Peninsula over
thousands of years.
The man masterminding arrangements for the exhibition is Professor
Ali bin Ibrahim Al-Ghabban, Vice President of SCTA with responsibility
for Antiquities and Museums, himself an archaeologist with a doctorate
in Islamic archaeology. Working alongside experts in the international
museums, Al-Ghabban has been responsible for selecting the items to be
included. Asked about his selection, he says, “The artefacts selected are
28 / Saudi Voyager / Autumn 2012
from the prehistoric era up to the period of King Abdul Aziz
and fall in to two categories: the pre-Islamic period and the
Islamic period. They include items from the early Neolithic
period to the late Neolithic period. Putting the exhibition
together took three years and we took great care in selecting
the 350 items, researching them exhaustively so that we
could present them in a manner depicting the civilization of
Arabia in a systematic and chronological manner. Visitors
have been astonished by the objects as many do not know of
the early Saudi civilisation. By examining the many artifacts
from across the different regions of the Kingdom, they learn
of the important role the Kingdom has played throughout
world history.”
Roads of Arabia reveals in particular the little-known
past of a dynamic and prosperous Arabic world that is
only relatively recently being unearthed by archaeologists.
Neolithic funerary stelae, colossal statues of the kings of
Lihyan – restored in painstaking detail – silver tableware and
precious jewellery placed in tombs testify to the culture of
this early Arabic civilization that came many thousands of
years before. In spite of the challenging natural environment,
the inhabitants succeeded in taking advantage of their
country’s geographical situation as a crossing point for the
roads linking the shores of the Indian Ocean and the horn of
DESTINATION / roads of arabia
above Art from the Nabataean civilization dating from 168 BC to 106 AD, has been exhibited in Paris, Berlin, Barcelona and Moscow
the Kingdom prides itself as the cradle of the message of Islam and the
home of the Two Holy Mosques and reflects the important contributions
of the communities of the Arabian Peninsula to human civilization
BELOW The Holy Quran on display at all its grandeur at the
Pergamon museum, Berlin
BELOW A medallion, also used as a piece of piece of
jewellery in the Nabataean culture.
all Images: Mark Carreon
BELOW Visitors closely study the ancient relics
Autumn 2012 / Saudi Voyager / 29
DESTINATION / roads of arabia
30 / Saudi Voyager / Autumn 2012
DESTINATION / roads of arabia
Above SCTA President, His Royal Highness Prince Sultan bin Salman bin Abdulaziz and His
Excellency Ali Jaff'ar, Ambassador of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques to Russia, at
the opening ceremony of the "Saudi Archeological Masterpieces through the Ages" at the
Hermitage Museum, Moscow.
Above A visitor closely studies the ancient scriptures from the Paleolithic Age at the
Hermitage Museum, Moscow
Africa to Egypt, Mesopotamia, and the Mediterranean region.
Around 4000 years ago, trans-Arabian trade had started to flourish,
bringing prosperity to the caravan sites and infusing the local culture with
aspects of lifestyles from neighbouring empires. Major archaeological
items on display were made in the east of Saudi Arabia, such as the rich
tomb of a little girl, dating from the first century, with mask in gold,
jewelry and part of her ornate funeral bed. This section of the exhibition
also highlights the role of Arabia as the cradle of Islam.
The roads theme behind the exhibition highlights a rime when the trade
routes started to become crowded with pilgrims as well as merchants; one
group of exhibits evokes the past of Al-Rabadha, 200km east of the Holy
City of Medina, a principal stop-over point until the 10th century, when it
was abandoned following a change in the routes. It was here, during work
started in 1979, that excavations led to extraordinary finds. Archaeologists
unearthed evidence of early mosques, housing, workshops, markets,
a cemetery, water tanks and wells. Typically, the buildings, apparently
fortified, consisted of sturdy mud-brick walls;
left One of the tombstones
the interiors finished with painted plaster, rising
on display, from the Al
Maala cemetery, dating
from stone foundations.
from the 9th to 16th
centuries, offering what
The finds of Al-Rabadha are comparable
specialists on the topic have
referred to as a panorama
those at other major sites in the Middle
of the evolution and
diversity of Arabic script,
East such as Samara, Susa and Siraf, which
from the angular Kufic
scripts in early centuries to
together have established a picture of ceramic
the later development of
more fluid, cursive scripts
production during the early Islamic period.
They attest to the importation into the Arabian Peninsula
by merchants and pilgrims of a range of ceramics such as
opaque earthenware including cobalt blue and lustre painted
decoration. “Examples of these ceramics, and other items
recovered from Al Rabadha, form part of the exhibition.
From another area of excavation, on the Syrian pilgrimage
route at Al Mabiyat (now the town of Qurh), come signs
of a time of prosperity from the ninth to twelfth century
are evident, after which it too, was abandoned. This site,
which ancient Arab sources have described as having special
importance, was dominated by a citadel and mosque.
Excavation yielded objects of metalwork, glass, soapstone
and decorative tiles that are included in the exhibition.
The Tombstones from Al Maála cemetery, where many
important individuals were buried, date from the ninth to
sixteenth centuries, offering what specialists on the topic
have referred to as “panorama of the evolution and diversity
of Arabic script styles, from the so-called angular or Kufic
scripts in the early centuries to the development of more
fluids, cursive scripts from the twelfth century onwards”.
As for the content of the tombstones, visitors to the
exhibition will see a “priceless testimony to Makkah
society, during pre- and Islamic eras, the ethnic and
cultural intermixing that took place in Islam’s holiest
Autumn 2012 / Saudi Voyager / 31
DESTINATION / roads of arabia
sanctuary, and how the world of the living regarded
death”. The name, birthplace, tribe, lineage and
perhaps occupation of the deceased were recorded,
often with date of death, on rare occasions, there are
snatches of poetry or a message from a passers-by.
During this period, Muslim sovereigns vied with each
other in their generosity towards holy places, with buildings
and such ventures into embellishment as an ornate
monumental door from the Kaába, the gift of an Ottoman
sultan in the seventeenth century. The door was replaced
around 1940, but kept by the Riyadh Museum.
A final part of the exhibition is devoted to King AbdulAziz (1876-1953), known as Ibn Saud, the founder of the
Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
Saudi Arabia has been cooperating with several
international institutions for the exhibiting of historic
masterpieces and Islamic art. The items, which are of great
historic interest, are currently maintained by the National
Museum in Riyadh and the Archaeological Museum at the
University of King Saud as well as regional museums. It is
from these institutions that the exhibits have been sourced.
One of the items is a small man-shaped statue in
sandstone dating from around 6,000 years ago, it is on
below The Hermitage Museum in russia
32 / Saudi Voyager / Autumn 2012
public display in the exhibition for the first time. The head is inclined to
one side giving the impression of pain or sadness.
Prince Salman, President of SCTA enthuses that. “The exhibition is a
demonstration of the important historical dimension of the Kingdom’s
culture while showing the importance of Saudi historical values and
archaeological masterpieces.”
The historic exhibition of Arabia: Saudi Archeological Masterpieces
now moves to the world's largest museum and research complex, the
Smithsonian Institute in the US capital, Washington DC . The Smithsonian
is a US institution originally established in 1846 with the aim to "increase
and diffusion of knowledge". Located on Jefferson Drive in the US capital
the Smithsonian is the ideal latest home for this ground breaking Saudi
exhibition which is certainly going to add to the knowledge and of early
Saudi civilization, its diverse cultures and many achievements.
The Smithsonian’s Sackler Gallery, where the exhibition is to be staged,
specializes in oriental and Asian art and was established with the help
of Arthur M. Sackler who both donated approximately one thousand
pieces from his personal collection of oriental and historical art as well as
funding the building of the new gallery which was opened in 1982.
The unique insights into the development of Saudi Arabian culture
provided by the exhibition are sure to wow audiences when it
opens 17 November, and in line with true Saudi hospitality and the
early tenets of the Smithsonian, entrance is free of charge.
DESTINATION / roads of arabia
above A candle holder,
displayed at the Louvre
Museum, Paris was
unearthed near the Holy
Mosque of Madinah
Autumn 2012 / Saudi Voyager / 33
Hospitality in Saudi Arabia is a safe investment
says an industry insider. Amber Shahid speaks
with Greg Pirkle of Four Seasons
ith the Saudi economy
bucking the global trend
with a strong economy
and attracting significant
foreign investment into
the Kingdom’s commercial
sector, the future of corporate tourism and
the accommodation industry continues to look
promising, Greg Pirkle, veteran hotelier, states.
According to the Saudi Commission for
Tourism and Antiquities, during the last financial
year, the tourism sector contributed over 7
percent to the Kingdom’s GDP while the benefit
of domestic tourism has driven national airlines
to carry more than 40 million passengers in
the last financial year. All this contributes to the
hotel industry being a safe sector for investors.
Continuing the positive trend, news that the
Kingdom is soon to open up its airways to GCC
and foreign airlines is another positive boost for
the industry. It is expected that the additional
airlines will be carrying passengers to internal
destinations by the first quarter of 2013. The
Jeddah – Madinah train service, along with
an anticipated country-wide train network, is
expected to further boost business by 2015.
The World Travel and Tourism Council
predicts tourism revenues will reach
approximately $15 billion during the current
financial year and the jobs that the business
increase will generate for nationals will play a
further positive role in shaping the economy.
Every occupied hotel room also creates jobs
across a number of sectors including transport,
retail and catering as well as suppliers to
34 / Saudi Voyager / Autumn 2012
those trades. Earlier this year, analysts ranked
investment opportunities in the Kingdom’s
hotel industry second highest in the Gulf.
Pirkle, general manager of Four Seasons
Hotel Riyadh, explained that growth of the
hotel industry comes hand-in-hand with the
growth of the key cities in the Kingdom. He says
“Riyadh has three big five star hotels, the Ritz
Carlton, Four Seasons and Rosewood. Other
international five star hotel groups moving into
the city will add to the professionalism and
competition of the hotel industry.”
Corporate tourism, weekend traveling
and visitors performing Hajj and Umra have
good scope in the Kingdom, he believes.
“Tourism is important for the hotel industry.
Corporate clients and weekend visitors are a
key sector for our industry, but Saudi Arabia
is on the right track for growth in both the
tourism and corporate sectors. Compared
to other GCC states, our industry in the
Kingdom is somewhat in the middle compared
to other GCC countries.”
Pirkle, who began his career in Four Season
Hotel Boston, USA, in 1989, was appointed
general manager of Riyadh’s Four Season’s
Hotel in November 2011 and has held similar
posts with the group in different parts of the
world. He sees the opening up of the Saudi
airways to other airlines as a win-win situation
for all concerned. “It will help a lot. Any air
traffic coming into the Kingdom is positive for
hotels to grow their occupancy rates. With
tourism and business growth, the number of
investors will also increase,” he said.
Commenting on average room occupancy
rates in the Kingdom's four and five star
hotels, he states it sits between 60 to
80 percent throughout the year. “We are
positioned at the right rate of growth. Hotels
are doing well (now) and growth will increase
with the opening up of internal destinations to
other airlines”.
Commenting on increasing exposure to
international travel, he said. “It has made
our guests smart; they have developed
an appreciation and expectation for high
standards. They are getting wiser as they see
what is available in other places. This is also
good for our industry as we get the chance to
increase our products and services too.”
He cites, as an example, spas which have
become a popular additional facility over the
past decade. “At the Four Seasons, Riyadh we
are opening a women’s-only floor which will
have a ladies only lounge and gym especially
aimed at single, women travelers which will
provide them a safe and secure place to stay.
The staff on the floor providing the service will
also be females,” he added.
He praised the Kingdom for being a safe
country to invest in. “Everything you need is
here, great restaurants, shopping malls etc.
The cost of living is very reasonable and the
Kingdom is economically and politically stable.
However, due to the Arab Spring phenomena
in some Middle Eastern countries, we need to
increase the quality of our marketing to show
that Saudi Arabia is a safe place to do business
in and invest in.”
Autumn 2012 / Saudi Voyager / 35
Building the future
HE Abdullah Al Jehani, Vice President of Tourism at the Saudi
Commission for Tourism tells Saudi Voyager about the aims and
objectives of the organisation and future plans
SV: Your Excellency, you are head of
tourism at SCTA, what does this involve
and what are your key responsibilities?
AAL: SCTA is responsible for looking after the soft
elements of developing tourism ‘verticals’, this
includes things such as communications, collateral
and assisting arrangements for promotional
events and regional festivals. Recently, we have
been working on the strategic development of
the cultural and heritage aspects of the Kingdom’s
tourism offering. Also, we are working with the
36 / Saudi Voyager / Autumn 2012
Ministry of Commerce & Industry to develop
business tourism in the MICE sector – meetings,
incentives, conferences and exhibitions. This is a
key sector where we have long term plans. Also,
adventure and sports tourism is something we’re
starting to develop for the youth market. Also,
in the key centers, we’re working on developing
shopping and retail activities as an attraction.
All of these are basically our tourism “verticals”
and in each we support it technically, in regard
to marketing, and in terms of investment. For
example, Souq Aukaath held in Taif each year
is a cultural and heritage event which has been
developed over the past 6 years. Each year we
work with partners to ensure the event attracts
as many people from Saudi Arabia as possible
and in fact other GCC residents as well. We
work on many such events with partners, for
example the Hail Rally which has been happening
for quite sometime too. Likewise, we believe in
decentralization of responsibilities and work with
our partners in various regions and provinces.
SV Do you segment the Saudi tourism
market – in terms of activities,
venues or destinations? Where is all
the investment currently going?
AAJ: We look at all of our tourism as an
integrated tourism experience. Our business
verticals are mostly oriented towards culture
and heritage and a majority of our investment
is currently oriented this way. Saudi Arabia is
well-known for its religious sites, also for its
political influence in the international scene,
while economically the country is recognized
as a major oil producer and a member of G20.
But we are less well known for our heritage and
tradition. So, a focus for SCTA is on developing
awareness for our heritage sites, museums
and traditional attractions. Each province has
something to offer. For example, Hail has a
stunning desert environment which we have
helped capitalize on by supporting the annual
Hail Rally. Places like Aseer and Taif are also
fast gaining a reputations as summer resorts.
SV: How do you separate your audience who are your key target ‘holiday makers’?
AAJ: A lot of our work includes
marketing activities to encourage Saudis
and expatriates living in Saudi Arabia
to experience the attractions of the
Kingdom. After these segments, we look
to residents of GCC countries to visit and
appreciate more places in Saudi Arabia.
SV: What is the focus of the SCTA
communications strategy to attract
your key audience, what are the
key marketing activities?
AAJ: We work through several marketing
and distribution channels appropriate to our
target audiences. We have a 24 hour call center
working 7 days a week where anyone can seek
information about events and festivals and other
aspects of travelling within Saudi Arabia. The toll
free number is 800-755-0000. It works around
the clock. We also have tourism information
centers at King Khaled International Airport in
Riyadh, King Abdulaziz Airport in Jeddah, and
in Madinah and also in Dammam at King Fahd
Airport and also in Taif. Additionally, we have a
network of around 130 electronic information
machines that provide information on hotels,
events and other tourism related queries. And
of course we have our tourism websites (www. and
Our marketing activities vary during different
seasons of the year to promote different
regions of Saudi Arabia. We have a media
department and a network of correspondents
around the country and we produce regular
magazines in both English and Arabic in addition
to our monthly corporate newsletter.
For improving the understanding of the value
of the Kingdom’s tourism industry, we have the
‘Ebtasem’ program aimed at encouraging tourism.
The program includes taking students out for
excursions to nearby sites such as a museum
or heritage site. This is a way of educating
students that tourism is good for the economy
and as a career opportunity. A similar program
is ‘Tourism Enriches’ which is directed towards
the community which tells them of the social
and economic benefits of tourism. We run about
40 such workshops a year, working closely with
the local community to highlight the resources
they have in terms of people, heritage and sites.
SV: Several of the countries in the
region have well established tourism and
tourism-related industries - for example
Oman and the UAE. Also with a buoyant
economy, KSA seems not to need a tourism
industry – so why all the effort?
AAJ: Well, you see tourism has existed in Saudi
Arabia for many years, more than 1400 years
actually, because of the holy cities Makkah &
Madinah which people have been travelling to
for centuries. So, there has been hotels and
accommodation, and transportation systems
for a long time. Last year, 6.8 million people
visited the Kingdom to perform Hajj and Umrah
contributing to the economy on a huge scale. In
fact, data from the World Tourism Organization,
puts Saudi Arabia in the top 25 countries for the
number of arriving tourists. Apart from Hajj and
Umrah visitors, there have also been business
visitors and GCC residents coming to visit their
friends and relatives and it during these kinds
of visits that they travel to other parts of Saudi
Arabia to experience more of the country. In fact,
a lot of people especially from GCC countries
these days travel to Taif & Abha. However, like I
said these three different categories of people
have been visiting Saudi Arabia for a very long
time. So, our efforts are now directed towards
visiting here to experience the culture and
heritage of the country. Saudi Arabia has two
UNESCO World Heritage sites, Madein Saleh and
Diriyah. Old Jeddah has also been nominated
and might soon become a heritage site also.
In the recent Regional Summit of the
World Travel and Tourism Council held in
Mexico, it was emphasized that the current
economic climate can be alleviated through
increased tourism because the sector provides
employment generates good revenues. So
yes, Saudi Arabia also wants to tread this path
of development, employment and improved
economy. That is what we are working towards.
SV: KSA is a late entrant. What is it
that KSA offers to holiday makers in
Saudi Arabia? What sets it apart from
other destinations in the region?
AAJ: The culture of Saudi Arabia is very deep
and established over many centuries. The
pre– and post-Islamic history offers immense
interest for many people as well as the trade
routes from ancient times brought a lot of
ancient civilizations and cultures to the area.
Globally, statistics show that 37 per cent of all
tourists are keen on tourism related to historic,
culture and heritage aspects. So, Saudi Arabia
Autumn 2012 / Saudi Voyager / 37
Top Row (left to Right) HRH Prince Sultan enjoying time with children at the Al Badia Festival; The President of SCTA with HRH Prince Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud at the inauguration of student
accommodation at Prince Salman University, Al Kharj; HRH Prince Sultan and Abd Al-Rahman Al- Jreissii at the first ever exhibition of furnished accommodation bottom Row Bottom Row 2 (left
to Right) The President of SCTA and HRH Prince Sattam bin Abdul-Aziz Al Saud enjoying time at the Riyadh Summer Festival; HRH Prince Sultan and Prince Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud at the Prince
Abdul Rahman Al Sudairy Festival; HRH Prince Sultan at the inauguration of the Al Baha Summer Festival
has a lot to offer in these areas. Also, like
Saudi Arabia, all GCC countries are investing in
growing their business tourism. Saudi Arabia
is also investing heavily in building a better
infrastructure to encourage this sector.
SV: There are several major projects
underway in KSA to regenerate heritage
sites and tourism venues – especially in
the rural areas. Which are currently the
most significant in your view - and why?
AAJ: As mentioned, Madein Saleh and Diriyah
are already UNESCO World Heritage Sites,
but apart from these we are also developing
renovating heritage towns. We are currently
working in the south, in Aseer, on Rijal Alma,
also in Riyadh on Al Ghat, in Al Baha and in Al
Ula near Madein Saleh as well as other sites in
small towns where we are working on developing
traditional handicrafts which are appreciated by
tourists. So, soon many of those locations will
be open to visitors. They are undergoing some
development now but will be soon open to many.
SVL Are the skills available in rural areas
once the projects are complete for their
ongoing management and provision of
services of an acceptable standard?
AAJ:The great benefit of all our efforts is that
tourism creates great employment opportunities
for local Saudis. For example, in Rijal Alma,
developing the site and opening it to visitors will
open jobs for the local communities and people
in Aseer region in general. We are establishing
partnership with companies for running
and developing these regions such that the
ownership of these companies partly rests with
38 / Saudi Voyager / Autumn 2012
locals, such that the local community collectively
owns the houses and properties which are the
heritage sites and so that these locals also get
employed when tourism begins full swing in
these places. These sort of arrangements are
already in places like Rijal Alma and Al Ghat.
We are also working with partners, such as
the Ministry of Education as well as private
companies to increase the availability of related
training schemes throughout the Kingdom.
SV:With many Saudi families choosing
to travel by road, what is being done
to improve facilities on the major
arterial roads – such as service areas
and accommodation facilities?
AAJ: This is part of our planned integrated
tourism experience. Some of the aspects
we, as a Commission have authority over
but there are other parts where do not have
direct involvement. We accept that this is
an area where there is a lot of scope for
improvement throughout Saudi Arabia and are
striving to improve the situation. We discuss
this with the Ministry of Transportation and
Ministry of Roads. There has been quite a
number of developments recently around
Riyadh in regard to rest areas, following
initiatives by local authorities. Also, several
international groups are looking to establish
accommodation options on the highways .
SCTA provides helpful information
for travellers through our websites,
information centers and call centers where
we try to assist with answering questions
on routes and accommodation.
SV: How does SCTA see the growth of
tourism over (say) the next 10 years?
AAJ: There will be a positive growth of course.
The Commission was set up 12 years ago and
if you look at the accomplishment over the
last decade, there really is much to talk about.
The key accomplishment is developing of a
common understanding of all stakeholders
working in the tourism industry, as well as
the government. This understanding is of
tourism as an economic contributor and also
as a pioneer for social development. So,
tourism can provide jobs at the local level. This
understanding is by itself a key achievement.
Today, everyone is talking about tourism
and it does not matter if some of this talk
comes as criticism because SCTA is actively
working at overcoming such shortcomings.
Another achievement is the capturing and
sharing of data by our Tourism Information
Research Center. This provides accurate
information which allows everyone to know
exactly how much investment is being spent, or
generated, on tourism and how much the sector
is contributing to the economy. Incidentally,
this is about 3 per cent of the Gross National
Product (GNP). We also know how much revenue
is coming from the various sectors, companies
and establishments working in the sector, and
this is about SR100 billion. We also know that
there are about 43,000 small and medium sized
companies working in the tourism Industry
today. We know that about 670,000 people
currently work in these companies with about
26 per cent of them being Saudis. Compiling
this information involves a tremendous amount
of work and co-ordination while having these
important statistics is essential for us to
target our future growth and objectives. We
have enjoyed a lot of success in this area.
Also, another thing we have succeeded
in doing is deepening the sense of heritage
in our people. The heritage dimension
will really bind the people together.
In addition, we have come a long way in
upgrading the services provided to tourists
especially in the accommodation sector by
de-licensing those who do not provide the right
quality of services. Our categorisation and quality
systems have encouraged leading international
groups to invest in the Kingdom such as Ritz
Carlton, Raffles and Swissotel. We welcome
them and are keen too to work with them.
Before 2008, the mandate of the SCTA did
not give the commission authority over any
sector, we were just coordinating. But the
mandate approved by the government in March
2008 gives the Commission full authority over
the accommodation sector, the heritage and
museum sectors and also Travel Agents. You
could say that all this development has really
been achieved in just 4 years, so, in the next 10
years, I definitely foresee tourism becoming a
significant contributor to the Saudi economy.
SV: Management of ‘Antiquities’ is
separated from ‘Tourism’ within the
SCTA structure. Isn’t there a chance
that conflicting areas of interest may
adversely impact the development
of the tourism offering?
AAJ: Not, at all: in tourism or maybe a museum
or a heritage site, let’s say in al Ula,Diriyah
or even a natural site like Abha – are all part
of our tourism offerings. We work closely
with our colleagues to make all our tourism
products comprehensive. When you visit
any destination, go to a museum, use a
hotel or furnished apartment, it’s all part of
our product. We work hand-in-hand with
all the relevant departments who have a
common goal and all play important roles.
the show to generate a sense of competition
between different regions because we all
know competition leads to improvements in
products and services. When we see places
like Tabuk or Madinah or Al Qaseem have
their own stands and are attracting visitors
to their booth, it is by itself a good thing
because competition improves quality.
SV: What is that SCTA has achieved about
which you are you particularly proud?
AAJ: The real success has been in putting
tourism on the table as a subject for discussion
by the governmental, private sector investor
.It’s now a hot subject that can be developed
to provide local communities good job
opportunities, to provide entertainment for
everyone, and to become a major contributor
to the country’s economy. domestic tourism
and making Saudi Arabia more attractive
to Saudis as well as to the expatriates to
spend holiday time here is a key object. We
have more than 8 million expats and we are
targeting 10 per cent of them to to travel
and experience and enjoy Saudi Arabia.
SV: How is the Saudi Excellence in Tourism
Awards helping build the tourism industry?
AAJ: Like I said, competition improves quality.
So, it’s a good thing that we introduced the
Saudi Tourism Awards. It’s been happening for
the last 2 years and of course the response this
year was quite overwhelming. There definitely
has been more interest, more awareness and
more participation. It creates a kind of stir in
the industry which is good for the quality of
service provided to the tourists. And we hope
with years to come SETA will generate more
enthusiasm in the industry. For now it’s a great
start. But with increasing acknowledgment
and appreciation it will definitely drive the
tourism industry to a whole new level.
SV: How does the annual STTIM
exhibition contribute to developing
the tourism industry?
AAJ: The Saudi Travel & Tourism Investment
Market is one of the initiatives of the
Commission. The objective is to get investors
together to discuss tourism and Saudi Arabia
as a market for tourism and issues regarding
developing tourism in Saudi Arabia. It is also a
showcase for investors to show what they have
to offer. Recently we have also started to use
SV: There have been several impressive
initiatives launched by SCTA –
redevelopment of heritage sites, STTIM,
The Saudi awards and English- and
Arab-language publications. What else is
on the horizon that you can tell us about?
AAJ: Just continuous development and new
ideas. We are continuously going to establish
partnerships with private sector investors
so that there is more and more expansion
of the country’s tourism industry.
Autumn 2012 / Saudi Voyager / 39
Image: Lucie Debelkova
40 / Saudi Voyager / Autumn 2012
Al-Rahmah Mosque
Al-Rahmah Mosque on the Jeddah Corniche,
represents both traditional and modern Islamic
architectural styles. It attracts a large number of
visitors although only relatively recently built.
Autumn 2012 / Saudi Voyager / 41
Al Jouf Province has many attractions for visitors who take the time to journey
there. Rima Hindo tells Saudi Voyager about the many interesting sites she
experienced, on a family outing to Dumat Al Jandal
Arabian inspiration
e arrived at Al Jouf airport at 7 o’clock in
the morning having taken an early flight. We
had come specifically to visit the ancient
ruined city, Dumat Al Jandal, but were
determined to explore the many other
attractions Al Jouf has to offer on the way.
We were met by a family friend, Abu Ugla, who was going
to be our guide for the day. Although it was early, he whisked
us straight to the Za’abel Fort in Skaka, the capital of Al Jouf
Province, to give us a panoramic view of the city below. The
view is so picturesque, we thought we had walked onto a
Disney film set or entered an illustration in a fairytale. Clearly
Skaka has been the inspiration for animators depicting Arabia.
Minarets and domes stand beside neat, white-washed homes
and narrow streets, which were barely visible through the day’s
early morning mist. An orchard of palm trees was a playground
42 / Saudi Voyager / Summer 2012
for birds and added to the incredible view! It was easy to imagine Aladdin
flying past on his magic carpet. Skaka is home to about 140,000 residents
today and continues to be an oasis town with many farms growing apricots
and peaches alongside date palms and olive trees.
We climbed the staircase of Za’abel Fort, which led us inside, as Abu
Ugla explained the history and early construction methods of the historic
building. The structure, irregular in shape, occupies about 5,600 square
meters in total. Abu Ugla recounted the story of a strong leader of the
Bani Khalid tribe, who was so feared that there were no thefts or indeed
any crimes during his rule. At the time, the Bani Khaled tribe spread to Al
Hassa in the south-east of Saudi Arabia. As we descended from the fort
we passed a graveyard dating back over 3000 years. The tombstone
inscriptions reflect the diversity of faiths of the inhabitants of the region
centuries ago.
ABOVE remains of the
Beside the fort, we visited an old well,
traditional town around
za'abel Fort in Skaka
Bir Saisara, which Abu Ugla explained was
built during the Nabatean period. It has a depth of about
15 meters and is 9 meters wide. It was used in irrigating
Skaka and the surrounding areas by means of underground
channels. It must have been an engineering marvel in its day.
Two hundred meters south of Bir Saisara, there is
a grotto known as Hudrah Cave. It has petroglyphs
(rock drawings or engravings) resembling those found
in Mada’ein Saleh. The engravings depict a camel, a
camel and a man, and two men in dance formation,
early evidence of the domestication of that animal.
Amongst the attractions we had planned for the day was
the annual olive tree festival. Olive trees in Saudi Arabia?
Oh yes, in their millions, so many in fact they cannot all be
harvested. On the way to the olive tree festival we visited
two working olive presses. We learned about the first
cold-press process, which produces the richest and most
highly flavored oil, and the fragility of olives: they should be
handpicked as early as possible in the morning and pressed
immediately, to secure the best quality, which commands
the higher prices. On arrival at the festival, we toured the
exhibitions and enjoyed sampling olive oil and olive tastings
provided by different farms. Noura was so delighted by the
various displays that she bought an olive tree to plant in her
garden back in Riyadh.
The Al Jouf women’s cooperative display included a range of
local handicrafts. A highlight of their display was some of the
best quality woven carpets I have seen to date. The carpets
are woven by hand with each one having a unique design.
Their display also included olive-based hand soap and locally
made, multi-colored glycerin soap. We bought a couple of nice
handmade, Sadoo picnic bags and some shirts with colorful embroidery and,
of course, some local olive oil. All wonderful souvenirs of our visit.
Mission accomplished, we headed on again to Rajijil – Saudi Arabia’s
Stonehenge. Rajijil has over fifty clusters of 3-meter-high rocks standing
in formation; each formation comprising four pillars. Rajijil translates
to English as ‘men’, so perhaps they are the Saudi version of China’s
terracotta soldiers? There are no historical records as to how they came
to be, although many local legends have arisen. Some say they are the
result of a meteorite shower long ago, others believe they were the work
of early sun worshippers in the Jahilia (pre-Islamic) period; still others
believe they are aligned with the sunrise and sunset as a very large, early
sundial; or perhaps they were simply landmarks to identify the trade
route from southern Arabia to Mesopotamia and the Levant. Some of
the pillars look as if they are about to topple over, but they have been
in this precarious leaning position for as long as anyone can remember.
Like other visitors to the site we were left to wonder and reflect on the
phenomenon. They were beautiful against the blue sky of Al Jouf.
Archeologists surveying the site thirty years ago failed to turn up
bones or any votive offerings. Aerial images confirm an east-west
alignment of the clusters. The sandstone pillars, some with Thamudic
etchings, have been dated at 4000 BC during the Copper Age. Shards of
pottery and rock carvings have been found nearby. Stone tools including
arrows scrappers were also found on the site, but today Rajijil still remains
one of history’s mysteries, yet to be deciphered.
As we had now been on the go for several hours, our guide took us
to Al Nozol Hotel – a beautiful small building with an indoor atrium. The
hotel doubles as a museum displaying historical
LEFT Rajijil has over
fifty clusters of
artifacts of Emir Abdul Rhaman Al Sudiary, a long3-meter-high rocks
top Right Qasr Ma’arid
serving former governor of Al Jouf. We relaxed for
bottom Right Hudrah
Cave's petroglyphs
a while with some refreshments and had a tour of
Summer 2012 / Saudi Voyager / 43
the hotel before continuing on to the highlight of our trip.
The ancient city of Dumat Al Jandal is around 40km from
Skaka. Once upon a time it was called Al Jouf, but now the
city is known by its traditional name reflecting its origins
as the home of Duma, one of the twelve sons of Ishmael.
The original town was an important stopping-off point on
the north-south caravan trade routes and it prospered due
to its rich agricultural oasis. It is referenced in Akkadian
writing as far back as 845 BC (as Adummatu) and was the
seat of power for a number of Arab queens who, according
to ancient scripts, were considered as powerful and high
ranking as the Egyptian Pharaohs.
The interesting walled town includes the remains of a
modest castle, a remarkable mosque, and a system of wells
and irrigation channels known as qanats. The streets and
structures of the historic town, constructed of traditional
mud and stone, can clearly be made out. The history of
the site has prompted officials to initiate a reconstruction
project and archeological research is underway, involving
Saudi and international archeologists. Dumat Al Jandal is of
particular historical significance because of the role it played
in the pre- and post-Islamic periods. Archeological evidence
points to the presence of Assyrians, Romans and Nabateans
in the region. It was conquered by Khalid Ibn Al Waleed in
the third year of the Hijra (633 AD) and remained a staging
post for armies in early Islamic times. Dumat remained an
important crossroad for pilgrims, traders and their caravans
heading to and from southern Arabia.
A tour of Dumat must include a visit to Qasr Ma’arid
(Ma’arid Castle) and Omar Bin Al Khattab Mosque.
Ma’arid Castle withstood an attack in 269 AD by Queen
Zenobia’s armies from Palmyra (modern day Lebanon).
The Queen’s forces had captured the city in a revolt
44 / Saudi Voyager / Summer 2012
against the Romans but were unable to penetrate the castle walls,
so they retreated back to Palmyra. Across from the castle there is a
mosque attributed to Omar Bin Al Khattab. My guide explained that
historically it had been a synagogue, which, as marauding foreigners
captured the area, was later converted to a church, which was finally
converted again, into a mosque, which was used by Omar Al Khattab
during a trip to Iraq. Its current outer walls were built circa 1913.
Al Dari Quarter is within walking distance of the Omar
Mosque. This neighborhood is made up of homes and lanes
built from stone. It is well preserved and a fine example of
ancient architecture. The whole site conjures up images of life
many hundreds of years ago and is well worth the visit.
Nearby, is the manmade lake of Dumat Al Jandal. About 20 years ago,
excess water from farm irrigation was diverted to form a lake. The water
is clean, but not potable, and the area has become a favorite picnic spot
for families to enjoy the late afternoon sunsets, which take on a beautiful
orange hue from the surrounding desert sand. There are ducks swimming
on the lake and many indigenous and migrating birds can be seen around it.
Another place worth visiting if time allows and while in the area, is Al
Shoihaiti village, approximately 45km to the north of Skaka. Al Shoihaiti
is said to be the oldest archeological site in the Kingdom, perhaps with a
civilization dating from the Stone Age, a million years ago. survey team
found some sixteen settlements, in which over two thousand pieces of
stone tool were found, including knives, hammers, and arrow heads. The
area is fenced and permission to visit it needs to be obtained from the SCTA.
We wished we had more time to visit the southern border of Al Jouf,
which is part of the great Nafud and Qurayat deserts. But, it was time to
get back to the airport and our flight home. As we drove past the desert,
we saw a small camp of Bedouins with their camel hair tents, living and
preserving the ancient nomadic lifestyle. No obesity problems there. We’d
had a full and interesting day and were taking with us some wonderful
memories and a new insight into the history of Saudi Arabia: and of
course, some lovely Saudi olive oil.
all Images: Retlaw Snellac
Clockwise al jandal umar mosque; The Qasr Zabal stands on a high hill in Sakaka; Qasr Ma’arid – a walled fortress which overlooks the ancient town
46 / Saudi Voyager / Autumn 2012
Changing places
The greening of Wadi Hanifah has transformed Riyadh’s urban
landscape, helping the city breathe, while joggers pant along its pathways
he fertile Wadi Hanifah valley, running through
parts of Riyadh, was for years a garbage
dump representing a public health hazard, but
thanks to a major restoration project, it's been
transformed into a vast park, with lakes and
greenery that attract cool breezes and birdlife,
making it a serene destination for an outing. Indeed, it has
been developed into a peaceful oasis so large that Riyadh
residents who enjoy the environment have taken up jogging,
hiking, cycling, and family picnicking in its environs.
Down by the lake, I found Hussein Al-Thamer, a Saudi
resident of Riyadh; he is beaming. "Before the regeneration,
there were no services here, no trails, no routes. Now look
how pleasant this is." An athletic-looking 30-something in
sunglasses, shorts, and T-shirt, Al-Thamer stretches his
arms wide to show me the landscape of trees and open
water that today forms Wadi Hanifah. The shimmering lake is
incongruous in the unlikely setting of the suburbs of Riyadh.
For years, the area along the valley of the long-sincedried-up wadi was a garbage dumping ground. Now, after
a major 10-year restoration project, the valley has become
the star of a world-leading restoration project. With its
greenery and man-made lakes, it has garnered plenty of fans in the
hitherto hot, dry Saudi capital. "I come here all the time," says Hussein
Al-Thamer. "It’s great to be able to get out of the city and enjoy this
green environment."
Located in the highlands of central Arabia, Wadi Hanifah runs southeast from
Riyadh for 120km before losing itself in the sands of the Empty Quarter desert.
The watercourse is dry for most of the year but remains fertile thanks
to aquifers close to the surface, and people have been farming and
trading up and down the valley for millennia. Construction firms even
mined Wadi Hanifah for minerals, and the valley became blocked by
encroaching farmland. Even seasonal flooding brought with it damage, as
floodwater swept pollutants into the surrounding areas, leaving stagnant
water and jeopardizing public health. Now, Wadi Hanifah shows few signs
of its polluted past. At Al Elb, on Riyadh's outskirts, I walked beside Wadi
Hanifah on high desert bluffs, enjoying the sense of freedom and space
the place engenders.
The improvements to Wadi Hanifah have provided a new place for
children to play and to enjoy the great outdoors, for sportspeople to
walk or jog, and for families to enjoy recreational time together. Palm
trees provide shade along a line of carefully designed picnic areas, each
comprising a horseshoe of roughly finished limestone slabs, offering
secluded valley views.
Autumn 2012 / Saudi Voyager / 47
More slabs, laid horizontally, create steps down to the valley
floor, where children scamper along nature trails and families
lounge under the acacias.
"Riyadh has very little open space," says Hussein AlThamer. "Wadi Hanifah has given us a place to breathe."
For more than ten years, since 2001, the ArRiyadh
Development Authority has been restoring and redeveloping
the valley, grading the banks and paths, and landscaping and
replanting native flora.
Due to its elevated location, Wadi Hanifah acts like a flue,
drawing cool breezes over the city, helping disperse traffic
pollution and temper summer temperatures. It is a very long,
very thin oasis along which Canadian landscape architects,
working with British engineers, have created a linked series
of wetland habitats. Within three large ponds, algae form
the basis of a food chain that will sustain fish, insects,
and mollusks. Aided by natural oxygenation through the
movement of water, it effectively removes harmful bacteria
and other pollutants from the water flowing through.
It is a surprising process where dirty water enters the
system and clean water exits, without human intervention
in between. It has never before been attempted on this
scale, and it is managing to transform urban run-off into
water clean enough for irrigation and fishing. Indeed, now
that bioremediation has been proved to work in Riyadh,
scientists are studying how to utilize the technology in
other cities. The Wadi Hanifah plan has benefited not
only the environment, but also the economy, bringing
gentrification to previously unfashionable neighborhoods
alongside the valley, but it has also reconnected the
Saudi capital with a key aspect of its self-identity.
Wadi Hanifah is where Riyadh originated, yet in recent
years, it had become a bit of an embarrassment. The cleanup has restored pride as well as provided a place for the
Saudi community to enjoy. Almost SR5.5bn was sunk into
the plan emphasizing the level of commitment both the
local and national government
voyager tip have in enhancing and upgrading
the environment for its citizens.
Latitude: N24.68415
The creation of this
Longitude: E46.61040
green corridor of parkland,
Leave the city
lakeside pathways, and picnic
traveling south on Al
areas has brought with it
Orubah Street towards
unexpected social benefits.
Diplomatic Quarter
As a leisure venue, the cool,
At the end of Al
shaded Hanifah valley, with its
Urouba Street, turn
flowing water and lakes, is an
north on to King
attractive outdoor play area
Khalid Road
for peoples of all ages and
Turn south again
nationalities. Saudis and expatriates
at the first exit on Al
are starting to interact together in
Amir Mashal Ibn Abdul
their enjoyment of Wadi Hanifah,
Aziz street
in ways that would previously
Wadi Hanifah will be
have been unlikely. It seems that
found to the left at the
environmental conservation holds
first roundabout
potential benefits for more than
only the birds and wildlife.
48 / Saudi Voyager / Autumn 2012
Out of this world
Riyadh has its very own planetarium that offers children and
adults alike the chance to experience a high-tech look at the
marvels of the natural world. Saudi Voyager investigates
ocated seven kilometers west of the city center,
Riyadh Planetarium at the King Fahd Cultural
Center (KFCC) offers a great opportunity to get
out of the city and enjoy an out-of-this-world
experience. Located adjacent to the lush Wadi
Hanifa, the KFCC’s pleasing location also offers an
oasis of education that is both entertaining and affordable.
KFCC opened in 1991 with the planetarium arriving
some years later, in 2000; since then, the planetarium
has been renovated to accommodate new technology
designed to upgrade the viewing experience. The
planetarium’s location on the first floor of the KFCC
building with its displays of Saudi artifacts and cool white
marble interior makes it immediately obvious that a visit
to Riyadh Planetarium is going to be a transcendental
experience. The building oozes serenity, setting a tone of
anticipation for what the planetarium will offer.
As they make their way to the first floor, visitors
are encouraged to linger over an interesting display
of astronomical images and celestial bodies. The small
exhibition also includes the Japanese projector that the
planetarium had been using until its recent replacement.
This early projector helped visitors experience around
6000 stars across various galaxies and constellations.
However, since the installation of a new, state-of-theart projector in early 2012, there has been a paradigm
shift in the planetarium’s viewing experience. The new
hardware incorporates the latest “fish-eye” technology,
which allows visitors to experience not only planets, stars,
and constellations, but also complex atomic and molecular
structures. The planetarium is also capable of playing 3D
films in a 360-degree theater, putting it on par with the
most technologically advanced facilities in the world. The
display is in a semispherical dome manufactured from
Autumn 2012 / Saudi Voyager / 49
CLOCKWISE Entrance to the planetarium is by appointment; recent renovations have provided a pristine facility; a small display of early astronomical equipment
aluminum sheets specially treated to prevent echo. With
an 18-meter diameter and surround sound, the theater
accommodates more than 200 viewers in comfortable,
cushioned seats arranged around the circular theater.
The planetarium is in the process of upgrading
its stock of videos, but there is already a variety of
interesting and educational presentations available,
varying in length from 5 to 25 minutes. The shows are
a treat for any age; the modern viewing technology
allows visitors to take a video trip through constellations
and planets or a natural history journey with birds and
animals in 3D. Being totally surrounded by images of the
various constellations is totally absorbing. The shows
available cover the various bodies of outer space and
can include exploration of the origins and development
of planet Earth. The 3D experience transports viewers
to a different place and period altogether. Elaborating
on the big bang theory and offering images and data
from the latest visits to Mars, these shows provide
a fun learning experience for visitors of all ages.
With its educational slant, the planetarium is mostly
visited by student groups and faculty members looking to
brush up on their knowledge of planets, constellations, and a
whole host of natural history and scientific topics. Personnel
50 / Saudi Voyager / Autumn 2012
and guests from the nearby diplomatic quarter are also regular visitors
to the facility, which is open to anyone with an interest in science, the
extraterrestrial world, and natural history. What makes it a great family
outing is that entry is free. All that is needed is to make an appointment
with the complex manager, Mr Mohamad Abdi Sabour, who also provides
visitors a knowledgeable guided tour.
The planetarium operates under the umbrella of the Ministry of
Information and Culture. In addition to educating visitors with the help of
guided tours and literature, the facility is also
voyager tip responsible for preparing brief astronomical
bulletins. At the beginning of every Gregorian
To arrange entry
month, the planetarium issues a bulletin
highlighting the most significant natural and
Mr. Abdarahman bin
astronomical phenomena in the coming month.
Mohammed Al Elig,
The bulletin is sent to the Saudi News Agency
General Manager of
and is available through the local newspapers.
King Fahd Cultural
With so much to offer, the planetarium at
KFCC is a great getaway from the bustle of city
Fax: 01 480 0864
life. The lush green location of Wadi Hanifah is
Mr Mohamad Abdi
itself enough reason to make the short drive
Sabour, Planterium
from Riyadh center, while the planetarium
offers an informative show and an educational
Fax: 01 480 0864
experience for every member of the family. A
truly out-of-this-world experience. d
Image: Romel Cuison
Above the restored town of Ushaiger is just one of haya's well attended tours
Let’s go!
Haya in Arabic translates into English as “Let’s go!” –
an appropriate slogan for the fledgling tour company,
which won Best Tour Company in the 2012 Saudi
Excellence in Tourism Awards. Saudi Voyager asks why?
A clamor of cheers and whistles rang out from
Riyadh Exhibition Center as the name Haya Tours
flashed on the enormous auditorium screen,
announcing the fledgling and independent travel
company as winner of the Best Tour Operator
category in the 2012 Saudi Excellence in Tourism
Awards. However, the celebrations were as much
for the winning company as for its owner, Salwa
Queneibit, in recognition of her achievements as
one of the first woman in the country to join the
booming tourism industry with her own company.
All the residents and visitors who have enjoyed
a tour with Haya Tours, have experienced
first-hand the reasons why the company won top
honors in what up until now has been a purely
man’s domain. Haya Tours do it differently.
The mission of the company, which aims to
develop quality tourism experiences for their
clients, is based on a simple formula – to organize
the best tours in the Kingdom that give educational
insights into the history and culture of the
Kingdom. Ms Queneibit personally ensures Haya
Tours adheres to the principles she has set, and
in so doing has established strong relationships
across the various communities of the Kingdom
by listening to their needs and interests. The tours
offered are not pre-packaged and off the shelf:
each is customized to suit the needs of a particular
group. “We want to provide fun tours,” says Salwa
“but I also want to show off our culture, heritage,
and generosity to foreigners in the short time we
have during the tour.” It soon becomes clear that
the driving force of the company comes from the
personality of Salwa herself.
Born in Taif, Salwa remembers taking trips with
her family as a child. She recalls flying on Saudi
Airlines to Riyadh often and enjoying sweets from
the big baskets of candy, which circulated around
the passengers during take-offs and landings.
This may be the reason why Salwa keeps a basket
Autumn 2012 / Saudi Voyager / 51
ABOVE Salwa Queneibit, owner of Haya and recipient of a 2012 Saudi Excellence in Tourism Awards – in recognition of her
achievements as one of the first woman in the country to join the booming tourism industry
of candy for visitors on her bus tours, along
with a corner for coffee and dates, a traditional
symbol of Arab hospitality.
A specialty of Haya Tours is a program of
regular one-day tours of Riyadh Province. These
Thursday bus tours are popular with working
professionals and their families as they get
to experience the region around the capital
accompanied by a knowledgeable commentary
from their guide. The annual Janadriyah National
Heritage Festival is a popular trip run by Haya
Tours during the festival each spring. Here,
expatriates benefit from explanations about the
architecture, food, and crafts from the rural areas
of the Kingdom. Shagra and the restored town
of Ushaiger are also well attended tours, which
provide a glimpse into a traditional Najd village
complete with an old mosque, schoolrooms,
courtyard houses, and market stalls.
At each of these villages, tour guests are greeted
by a local guide and residents of the village. A visit
to a local museum adds an educational dimension
to the trip with local maps and documents available
for viewing. One thing that makes Salwa stand out
52 / Saudi Voyager / Autumn 2012
is her focus on education. Like any well-seasoned
teacher, she makes sure her programs are well
structured and that speakers ask and answer
questions from visitors. Recently she organized
several trips for schools, aimed at encouraging
young students to learn to appreciate their heritage
and the traditional Saudi culture. These have
included traditional dance performances and Saudi
art exhibitions.
An aim of Haya Tours is to surprise clients with
unique itineraries. Last year she advertised a new
tour to the Camel Festival in Hafr at Batin. As this
was a new tour, Salwa didn’t expect it to attract
many visitors, but to her surprise the tour sold out
within a couple of days. “The tourism business is
sometimes a surprise to me too!” says Salwa, who
had to quickly arrange a second trip to the Camel
Festival where the group was greeted by local
officials as well as Bedouin camel herders.
Another unique tour, but on a more serious
note, was to the Shoura Council. The council had
never previously opened to outside visitors, but
Salwa managed to confirm the arrangements
and it was a rare opportunity for a group of
expatriates and Saudis to view first-hand the
working of the highest chamber of government.
However, in reality, the tourism business is
not all fun and games, since extensive planning
and hard work have to go into making every
tour successful. Salwa puts in a full six days a
week behind the scenes, organizing trips and
events. When asked what are the secrets of
success in tour planning, she answers with a
wry smile: “Cooperation and collaboration.”
She mentions that sometimes the airlines are
not as cooperative as they could be in building
tourism activities for the Kingdom. Also, finding
available and reliable guides takes time, while
finding appropriate hotels in the rural areas is a
challenge, since those offering reliable standards
are mainly in the big cities while Haya Tour’s
trips are usually off the beaten track. “Keeping
to the timetable is essential,” Salwa emphasizes.
“It is important that all guests arrive on time so
that the whole tour and program run as planned.
Timing is very important for long trips, especially
if flights are involved.”
One of Haya Tours most popular trips is to
Madain Saleh, a two-day trip requiring a flight
from Riyadh to Medinah and then a bus north.
Other trips requiring long bus journeys include
the Taif Rose Festival and to Abha, both of which
are on Haya’s regular agenda. A typical day on
these tours start at 6:30am, but to compensate
for the early start, a good breakfast is included.
Each tour is met by an SCTA registered guide
from the region and invariably tourists find her
trips great adventures and each has their own
story. Florence Hughes, a British PR consultant,
speaks highly of her first trip with Haya Tours.
“I was so taken by Salwa’s enthusiasm for her
country,” she says. “Before I met her, I only knew
life on our compound, but the Haya Tour to
Madain Saleh changed my impression of Saudi
Arabia. I will cherish the memory of sunset over
Al Ula for the rest of my life.” An added bonus for
some of the tours is that Saudi female academics
have taken to accompanying the groups, and
they add historical information and share
personal anecdotes with the tourists.
Haya Tours was founded in October 2009
and since then Salwa has built up a clientele
from all walks of life and of many nationalities,
professions, and ages. She offers tours for
everyone, and promotes forthcoming tours by
emailing a monthly newsletter to her registered
clients. So what does the future hold for Haya
Tours? A bright future for sure, but Salwa says she
wants to keep her company small and efficient.
She sees tourism as an important opportunity to
educate expatriates, and the national community,
about Saudi culture and heritage, as well as
introducing them to parts of the Kingdom they
would otherwise not experience. With the
extensive government plans for the development
of tourism, Haya Tours is well positioned to
contribute to the sector at many levels.
Journey to the past
Jibal Al Masma displays the past through wonderful ancient rock
drawings. Abdullah A. Al Sayari outlines the rewards of a recent trip
n mid-March, I made my first trip in the footsteps of the old caravan route
between the cities of Hail and Tema with a group of friends. The trip, over
six days, retraced the steps of a route that has attracted travelers for
hundreds of years, and more latterly, orientalists who visit the Arabian
Peninsula to study the early civilizations that lived and traded here.
It is impossible for anyone who visits these areas not to go away with
fond memories for this part of the Arabian Desert, and the desire to have the
opportunity to return again and again. The scenery is breathtaking and the
experiences along the way stretch the imagination and force you to carry
We started our journey on the Riyadh to Hail road in the early morning as
we needed to reach the city of Hail around noon. Here, we took a break and
had lunch before setting off for our next destination, Jabal Habran, which
lies to the north-west of Hail, around 160km on a paved road.
We left Hail on the road to Medina and after about 38km
turned to the north onto the road to Taima. After some 46km
on this road, we turned again, this time towards Jabal Habran,
for a further 80km, which we managed to reach before sunset.
We chose a nice site off the road to erect our camp and spent
the night in the arms of the Habran Mountain.
The next morning after a leisurely breakfast, we set off for
a nearby mountain called Furdhat As’Shamoos, which lies to
the south-west of Jabal Habran, around 30km away. It stands
alone from the rest of the mountains and in between the
terrain is rugged, alternating between sand and rocks on the
Autumn 2012 / Saudi Voyager / 53
the huge rock arch
formed by erosion, named
Ghar Ghadab, To the east
of which is a smooth
black stone wall filled
with beautiful Thamudic
voyager tip
Abdullah A. Al Sayari runs
Desert Maps in Riyadh’s
Industrial City 2. After nearly
a decade of mapping, he has
an extensive catalogue of
maps covering the Kingdom.
For more information
contact Desert Maps at
54 / Saudi Voyager / Autumn 2012
engravings of a camel and horse located on a smooth rock face
road and we had to spend more than an hour to cover the short distance.
We stopped every now and then to search the folds of the mountain and
at every likely spot that seemed as if it may have offered shelter, and we
were rewarded when we found Thamudic engravings of a group of beautiful
horses that were obviously domesticated. The engravings were located on a
smooth rock face some fifteen meters from the base. We took a short break
next to the engravings to take photographs and explore the area for more of
these rock drawings by the people who lived in this place in ancient times.
Afterwards, we set off to the west towards Jabal Al Masma, a range of
mountains stretching from north to south over approximately 50km. When
seen from a distance, the mountains seem to block the road to An Nafud
Al Kabir. However, to the east of the range there are many valleys through
which you can pass and when we reached the foot we crossed through a
valley called Wadi Ghadab. As we progressed into the valley going westwards,
towards the center of the mountains, the valley narrows and the terrain
becomes increasingly rugged. We came to, and had to pass through, a huge
rocky arch formed by erosion, which is named Ghar Ghadab. To the east of
this formation there is a smooth black stone wall, which is filled with beautiful
Thamudic engravings of a herd of camels etched in all different sizes.
Beyond the stone arch, we continued toward the source of the valley
where the terrain is even more rugged and the valley gradually narrows until
it became too difficult for the cars to progress. So we abandoned them and
continued on foot. As the area looked extremely interesting, we thought
we’d split into groups to explore the valley.
It only took a few minutes of walking into the valley before loud cheers and
cries could be heard. Everyone was calling their friends to come and see what
they had discovered. There were numerous Thamudic drawings and it was
obvious we had found a large garden of engravings, perhaps as old as 7000
years, or even older. I was struck by the large number and diversity of patterns
in the valley. Within a couple of hours I had seen more Thamudic engravings
and drawings than I’ve ever seen in my life of searching in the Kingdom.
Some were etched on horizontal surfaces, others on vertical rocks and
there were engravings from different periods and generations. There are
engravings of animals, people and tools prevalent during the various periods.
I particularly liked the drawings of the saddles used for carrying goods on
a camel's back and allocated for the women when inside the tent. There is
even an engraving of a warrior carrying a spear and leading his camel.
We spent several hours in this fine, rocky park taking many photos and
sharing the experience, with no words being able to describe the splendor
and beauty of the place or the emotions it evoked.
Autumn 2012 / Saudi Voyager / 55
In praise of tradition
The combination of old world traditions, surrounded by
the trappings of modern Saudi Arabia, intrigue
HE the Ambassador of Malaysia to Saudi Arabia
His Excellency, Professor Datuk
Syed Omar Al Saggaf, Ambassador
of Malaysia to Saudi Arabia, believes
the Kingdom has a uniqueness
about it that sets it apart from
other tourist destinations. While
leisure in its various forms is
readily available in almost every
destination, what are not so
readily accessible are the history,
tradition, and culture that the
Kingdom offers in abundance.
Previously a radio broadcaster
to the Arab Peninsula for the “Voice
of Malaysia” station for ten years
and an academic for more than
twenty, the ambassador is an Arab
language specialist. Indeed, before
becoming a diplomat he headed a
language institute in Malaysia and
it was only after he left there, and
was advising academic institutions
on the setting up of Islamic study
facilities, that he was invited to
take on the political appointment
of ambassador to Saudi Arabia.
Professor Al Saggaf has now
been living in the Kingdom, with
his wife, for four years, and its
individuality continues to excite
him. The mix of rich heritage
and traditional culture living
side by side with impressive
modern architecture is something
that still fascinates him.
His typical weekend can
include a variety of activities. It
could be taking in a visit to one
of the traditional souqs or just
as easily shopping in one of the
many plush malls. Or, it may be
enjoying a dinner with friends at a
traditional restaurant, or an Asian
one, depending on what takes
his fancy. He sees no constraints
on choice in the Kingdom. He
has even been known to spend a
Friday afternoon dune bashing.
He considers Saudi Arabia
an ideal tourist destination, not
only because of its history and
culture, but also because of a
number of other benefits. These
include English being a widely
spoken common language,
accommodation available for all
levels of budget, and cuisines from
all around the world being available
everywhere, while the air and road
communications are unrivalled.
“Most importantly”, says the
ambassador, “it is a safe place for
tourists, when compared to many
other places around the world.”
If this is not enough, he mentions
the stunning variety of landscapes
in the Kingdom. He has travelled to
many places across the Kingdom,
and in addition to the well-known
business centers, such as Jeddah,
Al Khobar and Dammam, he has
also visited Taif, Abha, Madein
Saleh, and Khyber City. Apart
from the fact that these places
are beautiful, the ambassador is
intrigued by the history and early
cultures of the latter two, because
of their historical relevance to the
BELOW: HE Professor Datuk Syed Omar Al Saggaf enjoying his spare time at The Equestrian Club, Riyadh
56 / Saudi Voyager / Autumn 2012
development of the Islamic faith.
However, and somewhat
surprisingly given the amount of
travelling he has undertaken in
Saudi Arabia, the ambassador’s
favorite place is a discovery he likes
to think of as his own, just thirty
minutes outside the capital. Taking
the Makkah road out of Riyadh, the
Tuwaiq escarpment is about half
an hour’s drive to where the road
starts to twist and plunge, like a
rollercoaster. Looking back, the city
of Riyadh appears to be sitting on a
huge plateau, high above the desert.
Just a relatively short detour to the
north at around the town of Tuwaiq,
a trip to the area rewards visitors
with stunning views, unbelievably
impressive mountains, valleys, and
sandstone sculptures etched from
the cliff faces by the wind over
millennia. The ambassador believes
the combination of daunting natural
landscape seemingly tamed by
impressive, man-made roads is a
priceless sight. He calls his special
place ‘the Canyon’ and points out
that the blend of the natural and
man-made cannot be seen on such
a scale anywhere else in the world.
While ‘the Canyon’ is his
favorite place in the Kingdom, the
ambassador also likes to travel to
Taif during the summer, as that
makes access to Madinah much
easier. In winter, though, he prefers
to spend a lot of time on the eastern
coast of the Kingdom. He likes to
steer clear of the chilly weather
in Riyadh by spending time on the
beaches of Dammam and Al Khobar.
The ambassador says he is
thoroughly enjoying his tenure in
the Kingdom and is trying to take
in everything it has to offer. He
states, “It is necessary to approach
everything with and open mind
- whether it be the Kingdom’s
culture, its history, or traditions
- and enjoy the traditional world,
surrounded by a modern lifestyle.”
His Excellency, Professor Datuk
Syed Omar Al Saggaf, is full of
praise for the Kingdom’s recent
commitment and endeavors to
regenerate the heritage sites
across the Kingdom and is making a
conscious effort to visit them. His
only wish is that that more people
could experience the treasure
trove of beauty and intrigue
the Kingdom has to offer.
REcreation / REVIEW
In good taste
Herfa’s Café in Qassim serves traditional Saudi fare with
a totally contemporary twist. Jackie Leger investigates
ocated in the center of Saudi Arabia,
approximately 400km north-west
of Riyadh, Qassim Province can mean
many different things to different
people. Some will think of its
agricultural importance, with farming
the cornerstone of the region's economy and
famous for its abundant production of wheat,
dates, and myriad other fruits. Others will think
of Qassim as a center of religion and culture
while still others will relate to the many tourist
attractions the cities of Buraydah and Unaizah
have to offer. More recently, handicrafts are
also becoming established as another of its
outstanding achievements, as items from the
area start to become famous kingdom wide.
Currently, a new local business encompassing
many of the region’s attractions is becoming the
talk of the town having recently been awarded top
honors in the Best Tourism Attraction category of
the 2012 Saudi Excellence in Tourism Awards.
Located in Othaim Mall in Buraydah, a modern
shopping and entertainment complex, Herfa’s
Café is the brainchild of Herfa’s multipurpose
women’s cooperative society. The aim of the
organization, founded in 2009, is to support
the development of traditional handicrafts
and the employment of women. The co-op,
chaired by Princess Nora bint Mohammed Al
Saud, has initiated many important events
throughout the year aimed at nurturing Saudi
craftswomen from all walks of life. Last year,
Herfa’s Cooperative was awarded the European
Commission Award for Global Standards in
creative handicraft production. In this latest
initiative, their handicrafts are on display in
the sleek, modern setting of a café, which also
serves traditional Saudi fare.
The development of the café was quite an
achievement in itself. The Al Othaim family
offered space in the mall, rent free – but it
was just an empty shell. This represented a
challenge but several industrious women set
up a taskforce to raise funds and to design and
fit out the space. Luckily, Qassim has several
BELOW: The interiors of the café uphold the colors and fabrics native to the region of Al Qassim
Autumn 2012 / Saudi Voyager / 57
REcreation / REVIEW
interior design companies and contractors and
the Sultana Group was enlisted to work with
them to produce furniture in local Saudi style.
One consultant for the project, Marie Therese
Costelloe, came on board, having had previous
experience of working in the hospitality field for
Crowne Plaza Hotel and with EuroDisney in Paris.
She has become both a consultant to the project
as well as mentor to the eighteen Saudi women
hired to work in the café, as they devise interesting
items for the menu while learning about the
requirements of the hospitality industry.
The focus has been on creating a café for
ladies run by ladies, while the overall concept
stems from the style of a French bistro, offering
refreshments and light meals in a relaxed and
comfortable environment suitable for chatting,
reading, or just hanging out with friends. The café
hopes to launch lectures or events for the public
with the aim of launching a women’s forum.
Herfa’s Cooperative focuses on women and
productive families, teaching them new skills.
Qassim has already introduced 400 local girls
into hospitality-related jobs while the café
is currently training another eighteen. The
staff has a positive attitude toward their new
profession. The job is hands on and requires
teamwork and coordination. All girls are from
Qassim and range from 18 to 32.
The girls have varying aspirations: Manal, aged
30, loves food and works in the kitchen learning
new recipes and mastering production of the
range of sandwiches. Sara, the oldest at 32, is
already trained in embroidery and is very talented.
She is now trying her hand at using her intricate
embroidery skills for cake decorating as well as
making cakes and desserts for café customers.
Sara, with an outgoing personality, enjoys the
interaction with the customers in the café.
The menu provides visitors with a unique
Saudi experience, with its blend of traditional
dishes produced in the distinctive Herfa’s Café
style with a fresh new culinary twist. The kleja
cheesecake is currently the most popular dessert
by far, but its recipe is, of course, a well-kept
secret. Kleja is a traditional snack from the area
and, as such, is close to the Qassimi heart. Local
women began baking them at home to sell in
local markets and shops as well as the popular
Buraydah Food Festival. Now, Buraydah’s kleja
makers are starting to gain global recognition
for their cookie-like specialty after its popularity
began to spread, and now mail orders are being
received from across the country.
At Herfa’s Café, locals come in daily to enjoy
58 / Saudi Voyager / Autumn 2012
CLOCKWISE: a house speciality of kleja cheesecake; mouthwatering traditional cakes are on offer; Interior display boxes
exhibit handicrafts from Herfa’s Cooperative
the kleja cheesecake variant on the original
menu. This has a traditional outer crust of kleja
but to add a new and tasty twist, it is served
filled with lemon curd, which adds a tasty new
flavor to the original recipe. The café offers a
broad menu of sandwiches from shawama to
herb and spinach breads.
The atmosphere in the café is friendly as
customers and staff can intermingle while
drinking coffee, milk shakes, or a host of unique
juice drinks. When asked about the most popular
drink there’s a unanimous response of “lemon
mint,” the classic Saudi mix of lemon juice,
fresh mint, and crushed ice. Actually, it is only in
season for eight months of the year, when fresh
mint is available.
The café has seating for sixty including the
café-bar. Its stylish decoration in black and
red, with touches of traditional Shalky fabric,
combine to produce a feeling between a cozy
majlis and a stylish European café. On the walls
are a number of paintings by students from
the nearby Home Economics School’s art and
design program. Interior display boxes exhibit
handicrafts from Herfa’s Cooperative, which
are for sale with the proceeds going towards
supporting the cost of women’s workshops and
training sessions. The backlit boxes are filled
with embroidery, Sadu, and ceramics along with
the shining trophy received after winning the
recent award for the hard work and success of
an innovative new business.
The soft opening in 2011 was a significant
success for Herfa’s Cooperative. The media
covered the event, which attracted visitors from
across the country. The menu is reasonably
priced and the staff is busy working on a new
summer menu, which will use seasonal produce
purchased from local markets. So, when asked
about the summer menu … it’s top secret! But
watermelon is hinted at, as it’s a favorite in the
hot summer months, liked as much as ice cream.
The ladies of Herfa’s Café are eagerly awaiting
a new ice cream making machine to add to
the other state-of-the-art equipment that is
already there. So, the new ice cream maker will
enable Herfa’s Café to surprise us with even
more exciting new flavors – perhaps another
new product and service to be included in next
year’s nomination for the Saudi Excellence in
Tourism Awards?
Taking advantage of a break in
work for a few days’ rest and
recuperation, Barry Gray visits the
winner of the Best Specialised
Resort category of this year’s
Saudi Excellent in Tourism Awards
Autumn 2012 / Saudi Voyager / 59
n arrival at the Movenpick Beach Resort, Al Khobar, it
is impossible to miss the attention to detail. The front
security gate swings open to allow access to the small
village comprising Mediterranean-style villas and
lush gardens that have a quiet and relaxing feel about
them. The understated reception offers a pleasant and
personalized welcome for guests checking in, manned by smiling staff
whose only objective in life seems to be providing a warm welcome and
ensuring the happiness of their guests.
After the registration details are completed efficiently, guests are
transported from the reception to their accommodation along pinkcobbled streets, between pristine villas and carefully manicured gardens
on brightly colored golf buggies.
The resort, which opened in 2011, comprises thirty-six double-storey
villas, each able comfortably to accommodate six guests, and including a
separate en-suite bedroom for a domestic help. They come with a large,
well-equipped kitchen, two lounges — one downstairs and the other off
the master bedroom, and both with TVs and comfortable sofas. There is
an upstairs balcony and outside patio leading on to the central gardens or
with a sea view.
The villas are clustered around a private beach that includes a small
harbor area with jet skis for hire and berths for small power boats on
one side, and the other side of which is closed off to provide a safe
environment for swimmers. Close to the shoreline, there is a large central
pool, which is attractively landscaped and well served with sun loungers
and shades. The pool has a separate children’s area and there is a jacuzzi.
The water is refreshingly chilled and beautifully clean, and the pool is open
to guests throughout the day.
At the center of the small village is a two-storey club house that has a
well-equipped gym. Alongside is a spa and wellness center, with relaxing
treatment rooms where guests can select from an impressive range of
60 / Saudi Voyager / Autumn 2012
Summer 2012 / Saudi Voyager / 61
62 / Saudi Voyager / Summer 2012
facial and body treatments as well as specialized massages. Downstairs
is a relaxing lounge and buffet restaurant that opens during the busier
weekend periods.
The clientele of the Movenpick Beach Resort Al Khobar, is primarily
national families from the home country, swapping the desert environs of
the central region for a little beachside R&R. As such, the busiest periods
are typically over weekends, from Wednesday through Saturday as well
as Eid breaks; however, during my low season, mid-week stay, there were
enough guests in residence to generate a good level of activity while
ensuring an almost personal service. With the pleasant architecture, lovely
gardens, and beachside location, the overall ambience of the resort is
more Maldives than Mastoorah.
The main all-day restaurant, Azure, specializes in fish dishes with
a Mediterranean slant, but there are plenty of alternative options
for carnivores. Dishes err on the side of healthy and are attractively
presented, although some may consider the portions meagre. I decided on
a starter of gambas al aioli (grilled prawns with garlic), while my partner
chose the grilled haloumi salad. Both came dressed with fresh salad leaves,
with a pleasant tangy dressing and freshly baked bread rolls.
For our main course we plumped for seared Gulf fish and grilled
chicken breast with tomato sauce. It was interesting to note that both
were served without any carbohydrates. This is unusual in a part of the
world where rice, fries or, more recently, mashed potatoes are routine
accompaniments, usually served in copious quantities. It was good to finish
two courses and not end up feeling stuffed. In fact, I think the portion size
could be a cunning plot employed by the chef to encourage sales of his
delicious desserts. I went with the raspberry white chocolate cheesecake
- and it was here that the portion control seems to have evaporated. The
portion was enough for two - so big in fact that I struggled to finish it
a - definite case of eyes being bigger than stomach! It was delicious, with
a soft and moist biscuit base, firm cottage cheese and white chocolate
filling, and a garnish of stewed raspberries.
Visiting the resort mid-week means that it is quieter than at weekends.
It may not fully do justice to the place, as it is a time when
key staff members can take their off days, and there is a
definite feeling of anticipation and preparation as the resident
team work to get the premises ready for the weekend influx.
However, my wife and I found it wonderfully relaxing and
enjoyed attentive service and uncrowded facilities. The
atmosphere may change when the resort is full and the
squeals of children in the pool echo around the gardens,
accompanied by a general buzz of holidaying families. For
either a mid-week break for a few days peace and quiet or
a fun family weekend, then this is definitely a place for you.
The resort is families only, encouraged by the large spacious
villas, with up to half a dozen people in a family group having
plenty of personal space.
Besides weekends, unsurprisingly the busiest periods
are during the standard school holidays and Eid breaks,
when apparently it is essential to book your stay well in
advance. A nice service available on check-in is the facility
to indicate your preference for the time of the daily roomcleaning and bed-making service clear. This allows familes
to avoid any intrusion by hotel staff. Another indication of
the management’s commitment to a comprehensive and
thoughtful service. It is easy to appreciate why the resort has
been ranked No 1 on the Tripadvisor website among specialty
lodgings in Al Khobar, while also scoring an impressive 8.2 on
the website following great reviews from
guests for its facilities and services.
If, I had to be whisked away to a luxury seaside resort
where all I had to do was enjoy the facilities, relax, and have
my every whim catered for, then the Movenpick Beach
Resort Al Khobar, would be my choice.
Barry Gray stayed at the Movenpick Beach Resort Al
Khobar, as a guest of Movenpick Hotels.
Autumn 2012 / Saudi Voyager / 63
Places to stay in Saudi Arabia
With more locally trained staff and increasing focus on quality service,
accommodation options across Saudi Arabia 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.
Where ever 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 postgraduate and university courses
are helping produce worldclass 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: 00966 (2) 5669292
Fax: 00966 (2) 5669393
Province name
Northern Border
Al–Madinah Al–Munawara
Ha’il Asir
Eastern Province
Makkah Al–Mukaramah
City name
Al Bahah city
Al–Jouf city
Ha’il city
Tabuk city
Najran city
Jizan city
Autumn 2012 / Saudi Voyager / 65
Al Qamar Makarim resort
Abha Palace
Makarim Al-Qamar Resort has a distinguished location in north obhor. 20
minutes drive from King Abdul Aziz International Airport.The Resort consists
of 53 luxurious villas with 2 & 3 bedrooms.The resort is considered as one of
the best in north obhor area for its family atmosphere and privacy, offering a
top class hotel services at very reasonable rates.
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: 00966 (2) 656 2655
Fax: 00966 (2) 656 1192
Phone: 00966 7 229 4444
Fax: 00966 7 229 5555
Dammam Palace Hotel
Ritz Carlton, Riyadh
Dammam Palace Hotel is one of the leading 4 stars Hotels in the Eastern
Province, ideally located in the heart of Dammam City on a crossway
between king Fahd Road and Al-Dhahran Street, with easy access to the
surrounding commercial area, banks, corporate district and City Malls.
The hotel is just 25 minutes driving from King Fahd international airport, 15
minutes from Al-Khobar city, and 5 minutes walk to Prince Mohamed Bin
Fahd Stadium.
Enjoying a pre-eminent address in the capital Kingdom of Saudi Arabia
(KSA.) and situated within 213,500 square meters (52 acres) of luxuriantly
landscaped gardens The Ritz-Carlton, Riyadh will position itself amongst the
grand palace hotels in the world. Originally envisioned as a royal guest palace
for visiting dignitaries and heads of state, the hotel’s stately architecture is
modeled on traditional palaces and elegant Arabian residences. Native palms,
600-year old olive trees from Lebanon, and water fountains abound on the
property, providing an oasis of serenity amidst the city centre.
Phone: 00966 (3) 805 6060
Fax: 00966 (3) 805 6385
66 / Saudi Voyager / Autumn 2012
Phone: 00966 1 802 8020
Red Sea Palace, Jeddah
Coral Suliemaniah Hotel
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.
The Coral-Suliemaniah is a four star hotel in the center of Riyadh, 25 kilometers
from King Khalid international airport. The hotel offers 85 spacious rooms close
to the city business and commercial centers, banks and malls, free underground
car parking and high speed internet access. The hotel‘s 85 guest rooms and
suites are elegantly decorated and include a luxury bathroom, the Grand Suites
and deluxe rooms gives excellent choice for, honeymooners , business men’s,
with elegant touch, satellite TV channels and 24 hours room service.
Phone: 00966 2 642 8555
Fax: 00966 2 642 2395
Phone: 00966 1 288 5000
Fax: 00966 1 288 5050
[email protected]
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, Al Khobar was once a city of small shops but now features a
multitude of contemporary malls and boulevards. The surrounding area is a
maze of breathtaking stone structures, architectural remnants and semiprecious 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. Guests benefit from attentive room service. 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: 00966 3 899 1010
Autumn 2012 / Saudi Voyager / 67
Golden Tulip, Al Baha
Qasr Al-Sharq, Jeddah
Golden Tulip Resort Al Baha has a very unique location as it is built on one of
the western hills with an altitude of 2000 meters above the sea level. The
hotel has an amazing view overlooking the city of Al Baha known for its mild
beautiful weather.
Qasr Al Sharq, a Waldorf Astoria Hotel, offers luxury to all who pass through its
doors. It is like a palace with meticulously opulent details adorning every corner,
an overwhelming feeling of pure indulgence revealing a true sense of luxury. Pure
gold…handpicked crystal and porcelain china…the most intricate mosaic cultured
marble…the finest art.
Phone: 00966 7 725 2000
Fax: 00966 7 725 4724
Phone: 00966 2 659 9999
Fax: 00966 2 659 6666
Villa or apartment accommodation is available in Abha, Al-Habala, Al-Souda, Al-Qara’a and at the Abha Exhibition and
Resort Center near Abha airport. A total of 500 modern villas with one to five bedrooms are available year round.
For those traveling on a smaller budget, inexpensive rooms are available at the Syahya Airport Motel and the Al-Wadi
Motel in new Abha, where there are also 114 one-and two-bedroom apartments
68 / Saudi Voyager / Autumn 2012
places to stay
Al-Faisaliah Hotel
Riyadh Inter-Continental Hotel
Sahara Airport 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]
Four Seasons Hotel
P.O. Box 3636, Riyadh 11481
Tel: +966 1 465 5000
Fax: +966 1 465 7833
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]
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]
Hilton Garden Inn
Radisson Blu Hotel
Olaya Main Street Building 8951, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia 12611 Tel: 966-1-293-5533 Fax: 966-1-293-5185 Website:
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]
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]
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]
Autumn 2012 / Saudi Voyager / 69
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: reservations[email protected]
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
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
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–Hamra – Al Corniche Road
P.O. Box 41855 Jeddah 21531
Tel: +966 2 661 1800
Fax: +966 2 661 1145
Email: [email protected]
70 / Saudi Voyager / Autumn 2012
Al Corniche Al–Hamra
P.O. Box 10924 Jeddah 21443
Tel: +966 2 661 1000
Fax: +966 2 660 6326
Email: [email protected]
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]
Jeddah Trident Hotel
Mina Street, Jeddah
P.O.Box 17466, Jeddah 21494
Tel: +966-2-6474444
Fax: +966-2-6474040
Email: [email protected]
Sofitel Al–Hamra Jeddah
Palestine Street, P.O. Box 7375 Jeddah 21462
Tel: +966 2 660 2000, Fax: +966 2 660 4145
Email: [email protected]
Sands Hotel
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]
Radisson SAS
Al–Hada Ring Road, P.O. Box 999 Taif
Tel: +966 2 754 1400
Fax: +966 2 754 4831
Email: [email protected]
Qasr Al–Sharq Waldorf
Al–Andalus Area, P.O. Box 7030 Jeddah 21462
Tel: +966 2 669 2020, Fax: +966 2 660 9971
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- Qamar Hotel
Address: Jeddah, central city Jeddah
Post Office Box: 8429 Jeddah 21482 Saudi Arabia
Tel: +966 (2) 6562655
Fax: +00966 (2) 6561192
Email:– [email protected]
Medinah Road
P.O. Box 8483 Jeddah 21482
Tel: +966 2 652 1234
Fax: +966 2 651 6260
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]
Meridian Al-Hada (Taif)
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]
Fax: +966 (2) 5669393
Email: [email protected]
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
Astoria Collection
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
Autumn 2012 / Saudi Voyager / 71
Red Sea Palace Hotel
Sheraton Dammam Hotel & Towers
Dammam Palace hotel
Le Meridien Al-Khobar
Prince Mohammed Bin Fahad Road,
P.O. Box 5397 Dammam 31422
Tel: +966 3 834 5555
Fax: +966 3 834 9872
Email: [email protected]
P.O.Box 1591 Dammam 31441
Telephone: + 966 3 805 6060
Fax: + 966 3 805 6385
Email: [email protected]
Corniche Road
P.O.Box 1266 Al-Khobar 31952
Tel: +966 3 896 9000
Fax: +966 3 898 1651
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]
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]
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]
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]
72 / Saudi Voyager / Autumn 2012
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 Riyadh Hotel
Riyadh , Near King Khalid International Airport
Tel : +966 (1) 2204500
Fax : +966 (1) 2204505
E-mail:– [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]
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]
Ramada Hotel & Suites
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]
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]
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]
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 Intercontinenetal 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]
Autumn 2012 / Saudi Voyager / 73
MICE activities in the busy summer festival season 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
06 - 09
Health Informatics and
Leadership Saudi Arabia
Riyadh Marriott Hotel
Phone: +971 4 3642975
Fax: +971 4 3631925
14 – 17
The 2nd Annual HR
Congress Saudi
Radisson BLU, Riyadh
Phone: +971 4 3642975
Fax: +971 4 3631925
05 -08
The Big 5 Saudi Arabia
Jeddah Center for Forums & Events
Phone: 00971 4 4380355
Fax: +971 4 4380361
06 - 08
Saudi Exhibition for Hunting
and Equestrian 2012 SEHE
Center of Exhibition Grounds
Phone: +966 1 4739009
Fax: +966 1 4737072
74 / Saudi Voyager / Autumn 2011
EXCS International
Luxury Motor Show
Phone: +966 1 4617315
Fax: +966 1 4161501
9 – 11
Riyadh Cityscape 2012
Riyadh Exhibition Center
Phone: +971 4 3365161
Fax: +971 4 3352438
11 - 14
Saudi Build The PMV
Series 2012
Riyadh International
Exhibition Center
Phone: +966 1 2295604
Fax: +966 1 2295612
12 - 14
Exhibition & Conference
Hilton, Jeddah
Phone: +971 4 3365161
Fax: +971 4 3352438
17 - 19
The Hotel Show Saudi Arabia
Jeddah Center for Forums
& Exhibitions
Phone: 00971 4 4380355
Fax: +971 4 4380361
17 – 22
Riyadh Motor Show
Riyadh Exhibition Center
Phone: +966 1 2295604
Fax: +966 1 2295612
24 -27
Facade Design and
Engineering Summit
Phone: +971 4 3642975
Fax: +971 4 3631925
24 – 28
Kingdom Downstream
Technology Summit 2012
Le Meridien Hotel
Al Khobar
Phone: +971 4 3642975
Fax: +971 4 3631925
25 – 29
Decofair 2012
Phone: +966 2 6603996 ,
+966 504623152
26 – 29
NeuTech Fair 2012
Four Seasons Hotel
Phone: +9661 205 4493
Fax: +9661 205 4492
27 – 30
Womeex 2012
Intercontinental Hotel
Phone: 920000615
Fax: +966 1 2000614
02 – 04
International Conference on
Assessment & Evaluation
King Faisal Conference Hall,
Intercontinental Hotel
Phone: +966 14909090,
Fax: +966 14909077
04 - 05
2nd Annual Saudi Conference
for SMEs and Entrepreneurs
Phone: +971 4 3671376
Fax: +971 4 3672764
10 – 12
The Second National
Built Heritage Forum
Phone: +966 18808855
Fax: +966 18808844
Industry meet
The inaugural Hotel Show Saudi Arabia will offer the Kingdom’s
hoteliers a one-stop shop for hospitality products and services
The Kingdom’s travel and tourism
industries are set to generate an
impressive SR54 trillion in 2012,
and an ambitious government
program continues to drive growth
in the sector. This flourishing
business has led to a leading
international organization launching
The Hotel Show Saudi Arabia
aimed at supporting the country’s
food and hospitality industries.
The trade-only exhibition is set to
take place at the Jeddah Centre
for Forums and Events from
November 17–19, 2012 under
the patronage of HRH Prince
Sultan Bin Salman Bin Abdul Aziz,
Chairman of the Saudi Commission
for Tourism and Antiquities.
According to international
industry consultant Business
Monitor International, Saudi
Arabia can expect to welcome
nearly sixteen million tourists
by 2014, with some 381,000
new hotel rooms – a 63 percent
increase in room stock against
2010 inventories – forecast for
completion by 2015. The country’s
buoyant tourism business also
continues to generate significant
interest in foreign direct
investment in the related food,
hotel, and hospitality industries.
To support the needs of this
burgeoning hospitality business,
The Hotel Show Saudi Arabia will
provide an industry-specific focus
for buyers and sellers of quality
hospitality supplies and services.
“With the Saudi Arabian hotel
industry enjoying robust growth,
the outlook for hospitality suppliers
and service providers looks
particularly buoyant. We aim for
The Hotel Show Saudi Arabia to
be a “must-attend” trade show
for regional and global companies
wanting to establish a presence
or grow their existing businesses
as well as for existing operators
to have a professional, local
exhibition which caters for their
specific needs,” said Frederique
Maurell, Exhibition Director,
The Hotel Show Saudi Arabia.
Visitors to the show will be able
to view five key product areas at
the show, which is expected to
include exhibitors from across the
industry value chain. These include
Interiors & Design, Operating
Equipment & Supplies, Technology
& Sustainability, Outdoor &
Resort Experience, and Food &
Beverage. At present, more than
one-hundred companies from
twenty-four countries are expected
to participate, with ten country
pavilions represented, including
Italy, Greece, France, and Malaysia.
Zubair Furnishing, a global
interior contracting and contract
furnishing company with a presence
in the region spanning four decades,
has booked their participation at the
show. Pradheep Ramanathan, Vice
President of Sales and Marketing
said, “The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia
is one of the few remaining key
growth markets in the hospitality
sector, and over 40 percent of our
current turnover comes from this
important market. We are delighted
that The Hotel Show has expanded
its presence to KSA, and we are
hopeful that our participation will
increase our business relationships.”
Other key exhibitors confirmed
to participate include luxury
bed and furnishings company
Casa Shamuzzi, technology
giant Equinox Arabia, French
spices and nut company Gyma
Food Industries, and hospitality
accessories company Rikan.
Europe’s leading interiors fitout company Nowy Styl Group
and Stylis Hotel Solutions, which
together have formed a partnership
manufacturing customized modular
furniture systems for hotels, are
also exhibiting in Jeddah. Pawel
Makowski, General Manager
Middle East at Nowy Styl Group
stated, “Stylis and Nowy Styl
Group are looking forward to
participating at The Hotel Show
Saudi Arabia because it is an ideal
platform to bring together industry
professionals. With increasing
business tourism and expansion of
the hospitality industry in KSA, we
expect an increase in our project
business and hope to strengthen
our position in the region.”
Organized by UK-based dmg
events, The Hotel Show Saudi
Arabia is the sister show to
Dubai’s Hotel Show, which is now
in its thirteenth year, and will be
a trade-only exhibition aimed
at bringing the best of regional
and international manufacturers
together with qualified buyers
from the Kingdom. It will be a
unique networking and sourcing
opportunity, providing a businessto-business platform for everyone
involved in the travel, tourism,
and hospitality industries as well
as those with a need for products
and services. It will allow such
companies to establish contacts
across all aspects of the industry.
To receive information on booking
a stand or registering for The Hotel
Show Saudi Arabia, please visit
Autumn 2012 / Saudi Voyager / 75
Resourceful human
Saudi Voyager speaks with Moayed Abdul Rahaman Al Suwaid,
Government Relations & Personnel Supervisor at the Al Faisaliah Hotel
Saudi youth are exploring new
careers in the Tourism industry
and are enjoying the dynamic
work environment and attractive
rewards. Moayed Abdul Rahaman
Al Suwaid, a 24 year old native
of Riyadh, is one of the new band
of Saudis who has recently taken
up a position at the Al Faisaliah
Hotel, a Rosewood Hotel in the
capital owned by Al Khozama
Management Company. `
As a child, Moayad undertook
his education in Michigan, USA,
before completing higher studies in
Riyadh. He continues to study at the
King Saud University in the College
of Languages and Translation
(COLT) - English department,
and expects to graduate by the
end of 2012. After his first year
in COLT he decided to apply for
76 / Saudi Voyager / Autumn 2012
a part time job recommended to
him by a friend who was already
working at Al Faisaliah Hotel.
Following the interview process,
he was accepted as a part time
telephone operator under a special
arrangement by the hotel’s Human
Resource department who look
to find ways to attract young
Saudi nationals into their team.
Moayad worked hard and
showed promising potential
which has been recognized by his
superiors, allowing him to progress
through various roles and even to
secure promotion to a full time
position. This promotion shows the
potential opportunities in starting
work on a temporary basis and
applying yourself to growing into
a permanent full-time role. Along
the way, Moayad has worked as
a Telephone Operator and then
on the front desk before being
promoted to Government Relations
& Personnel Supervisor. He is
well supported by his colleagues,
learning from their vast experience.
Moayad says “I enjoy my current
role as it is all about employees’
and ensuring that the issues and
concerns that affect them are
solved in the best way possible.
I start my work day at 9am by
checking my emails to see what has
come in over night or earlier that
morning. Some of these may be
requests that can usually be solved
by an email. I also review the hotel
reports which include the status
of rooms’ and the F&B outlets so
that I know what is going on within
the property. I spend around an
hour on this before moving on to
organizing my tasks for the day
and preparing the documents
for my various meetings. I deal
with a lot of sensitive, employee
issues and documentation such as
passports, so we have to ensure
we adhere to strict procedures.
By this time – around 10:30am,
my head of department will return
from the morning executive
manager’s meeting with the
GM. So, I meet with him to get
all the information and updates
that concerns our department,
especially employee related
issues. This is a vital part to
the start my working day.
One of the activities that I enjoy
at the hotel is the summer training
program for Tourism students. I'm
proud to have taken the opportunity
to supervise the summer interns
on two occasions during my time
in the Front Office when I could
introduce them to the practical side
of Tourism and how it is managed in
the hospitality industry. I gave the
students Front Office orientation
and outlined the key responsibilities
as part of their training schedule.
At 1:00 pm I get my lunch break
along with colleagues in the staff
restaurant. We have a choice of
three staff restaurants all of which
have superb food prepared by the
hotel’s international chefs. We have
an Arabic restaurant, the Asian
and an international buffet. My
colleagues and I usually choose the
Arabic restaurant most of the time.
Following lunch, I usually allocate
time to conduct job interviews.
This is something I really enjoy;
getting to know how people think
and to discover their personality
and motivation. Although hiring
is not one of my tasks, but I am
encouraged to conduct initial
interviews, especially with
the Saudi nationals where my
recommendation as a Saudi national,
and a professional, are valued.
Al Faisaliah Hotel has a total of
around one thousand staff with
a large mix of nationalities. Our
management team had a great
idea of appointing a leader for each
ethnic group whose main duty
is to take care of the concerns
raised by his group and to help
support the HR activities. I was
appointed to be the Saudi group
leader. This has helped me a lot
to understand how to deal with
individuals, and to handle issues.
The ethnic group leader is also
responsible for helping to organize
the National Day celebration
which I have been honored to be
involved with three times so far.
Late in the afternoon, I attend
the Human Resources meeting that
is scheduled everyday at the same
time, all the department attend
this meeting which is chaired by
the department head and includes
the Training department. At the
meeting we revise our plans
for the next day and raise any
concerns and share our thoughts.
As a young Saudi working in
a major hotel, I enjoy my work
tremendously, and I encourage
other young Saudis to join the
rapidly growing hotel business
in Saudi Arabia. It is an exciting
industry and we are helping
to build an internationalstandard hotel industry.
‫ﻣﺠﻤﻮﻋﺔ ﻣﻜﺎﺭﻡ ﻟﻠﻀﻴﺎﻓﺔ‬
Guest Service at its best, Saudi Style
Hotels & Resorts
Business, Liesure, Haj and Omra
Makarim Riyadh Hotel
Makarim Annakheel Village
Makarim Ajyad Makkah Hotel
Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, Telephone +9661481666
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