Saudi crown prince visits Britain on Wednesday

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, left, with British Prime Minister Theresa May in Riyadh. (SPA/file)
Updated 05 March 2018

Saudi crown prince visits Britain on Wednesday

RIYADH: Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, deputy premier and defense minister, will embark on a landmark visit to London on Wednesday.
The visit will focus on defense, security and economic ties. The two sides will also review key bilateral and regional issues.
The crown prince “will hold wide-ranging talks with top British officials including Prime Minister Theresa May,” the UK government said in a statement.
British Ambassador Simon Collis told Arab News on Sunday: “The relationship between our two countries is historic and forward-looking, and the visit of Crown Prince Mohammed will establish the platform for this relationship to become even stronger.”
The partnership “helps make both of our countries safer through intelligence sharing, and more prosperous with substantial opportunities for two-way trade,” Collis said.
“This will be the crown prince’s first visit to the UK since his appointment in June 2017, and since the Vision 2030 program of economic and social reforms that provide opportunities for British businesses to help support delivery in areas such as education, entertainment and health care.”
Shoura Council member Mohammed Al-Khunaizi said: “The UK is a major defense partner of the Kingdom. This cooperation, especially in the fields of security and intelligence sharing, makes both countries safer.”
He added: “The visit of Crown Prince Mohammed will be an opportunity to hold consultations candidly and constructively on bilateral and regional issues.”
Al-Khunaizi said: “Britain, a member of the UN Security Council, has been a dependable supplier of arms and defense equipment to Gulf states.”
He spoke of growing relations between Saudi Arabia and the UK regarding education and parliamentary cooperation.
“A British parliamentary delegation led by Leo Docherty, a Conservative MP, visited the Kingdom in September last year and discussed ways to enhance parliamentary cooperation,” Al-Khunaizi said.
Shoura member Hoda Abdulrahman Al-Helaissi said the crown prince’s three-day trip to London “is significant as Saudi-British relations have always been cordial.”
She added: “From holidaying to seeking medical services or trade opportunities, and more importantly benefiting from a first-class education, Britain has always been one of the top destinations for Saudis.”
Dr. Maha Al-Moneef, a consultant at the Ministry of Labor and Social Development, said the visit will “promote further cooperation in numerous fields, contributing to human development, and achieving progress and prosperity for the Saudi people.”
Dr. Ibrahim Al-Qayid, a founding member of the National Society of Human Rights (NSHR), said Vision 2030 “will get a major boost” from the visit, which will add “more defense, security and commercial content to Saudi-British relations.”
Businessman Sadaka Al-Hamdan said: “The Kingdom is the largest trading partner of Britain in the Middle East.”
He added: “Saudi Arabia is a high growth market that offers plenty of opportunities for British companies in different sectors.”
The UK is Saudi Arabia’s second-largest cumulative investor, with about 200 joint ventures worth an estimated $15 billion in total.

The case for protecting Saudi Arabia’s ancient art of Khawlani coffee production

Updated 17 January 2020

The case for protecting Saudi Arabia’s ancient art of Khawlani coffee production

  • Saudi Arabia is asking UNESCO to provide protection for the tradition of Khawlani coffee cultivation
  • Six out of 16 provinces in the region of Jazan practice the cultivation of Khawlani coffee beans

JAZAN: At the southernmost tip of Saudi Arabia, just a few kilometers from the Saudi-Yemeni border, is the verdant region of Jazan, blessed with its rocky mountain tops, green wadis, deep forests, hot springs and boundless fertile land. It is also home to the local Khawlani coffee bean.

Although the Arabica coffee bean is well known, most people don’t associate it with Saudi Arabia. While the actual origin of coffee is debatable, the ancient tribes of the Khawlan, in reference to their great ancestor Khawlan bin Amir, located between Jazan and Yemen, have practiced the skills and techniques of cultivating Khawlani coffee beans for over 300 years, with the tradition passed down from one generation to the next through non-formal educational methods, including practical training and observation.

The region of Jazan contains 16 provinces, and six of them practice the cultivation of Khawlani coffee beans. For farmers here, making coffee is a highly respected vocation that gives cultural identity and status to the entire region.

Today, the Saudi Heritage Preservation Society is asking UNESCO to provide protection for the ancient art of Khawlani coffee making. The project, which began in 2019 in collaboration with farmers in Jazan, included documenting the cultivation process of Khawlani coffee beans.

“The number of farmers in Jazan is really high and they face a lot of problems and difficulties, including with water and working resources,” said Rehaf Gassas, project manager at the Saudi Heritage Preservation Society, a nongovernmental organization established in 2010. “Hopefully, by the inscription of this (cultivation process) in UNESCO, it will help promote (Khawlani coffee beans) throughout Saudi Arabia and encourage the nation to help these farmers.”

The bid process itself is time-consuming. It normally takes around 18 months to work on, from field visits to theory work.

On March 31, 2019, the society finished the application and delivered it to UNESCO. By November 2020 they hope to know the decision as to whether they were successful.

“We are very optimistic,” added Gassas. “The community itself is the biggest supporter, because they are very invested in the coffee beans they are planting, and it is really very important to them to show the world that they have this rich culture and heritage.”

Khawlani coffee beans might be one of Saudi Arabia’s best-kept secrets. They are considered one of the finest types of coffee beans in the world, and Saudis are ranked as one of the biggest consumers of the beverage.

In many ways these beans are a national treasure, crucial to the preservation of Saudi heritage and the nation’s cultural identity. “They are described as the green gold of Jazan,” said Gessas. “But there is lack of knowledge amongst Saudis that the Jazan region is one of the biggest producers of coffee in the world.”

In 2017 the Ministry of Interior cited more than 76,390 Khawlani coffee trees farmed by 724 farmers, producing 227,156 kilograms of coffee from an average production of 4 kilograms per tree. “The trees are thought to have been brought from Ethiopia to Yemen, and perhaps from Yemen to the mountains of this governorate,” says deputy governor of Al-Dair, Yahia Mohammed Al-Maliki.

“In the past, people mainly relied on planting coffee beans as one of their major products to make a living during hard times. Nowadays, the situation has changed. People have started to come to the region looking for investments.”

The cultivation process of Khawlani coffee is an arduous one. It involves planting the seeds for the trees, harvesting the fruits that start growing 2-3 years after planting, pruning the trees, collecting the fruits and transferring them to the rooftops of houses to put on dehydration beds in a cool shaded area to dry.

There the fruits must be stirred by hand until they turn black. They are then peeled, roasted and ground. The picking itself involves attention and care. The red color indicates that the fruit is ready for picking, which needs to be done using a twisting method to ensure the branch is not damaged in the process in order to ensure it can bear fruit next season. 

“We hold the fruit and with a little twist, we pick it off the tree,” said Hussein Al-Maliki, owner of Mefraz, a local coffee brand that recently won a coffee roasting competition in the UAE, and which hopes to soon distribute internationally outside the Kingdom.

The significance of Khawlani coffee goes beyond its cultivation. The process entails a celebration of familial ties and heritage as well as respect for the local land. Mohammed Salman, a 70-year-old farmer in Al-Dair, has been cultivating coffee beans since he was born. “I have learned the process of planting coffee from my father, who had inherited it from his ancestors,” he said. “He gets up each morning, performs his prayers, has his breakfast and then goes out to his farm. 

“I stay at the farm irrigating my trees, cleaning the soil, helping the two workers I have here until the sun sets and then get back home,” he continued. On the weekends, Salman’s two sons join him and the cultivation becomes a family activity. “I teach them how to care for our coffee trees and even how to pick the fruits that are ripe,” he added.

At the core of Khawlani coffee is the beauty of generosity. Offering small cups of coffee to guests is an age-old tradition in Saudi Arabia — one practiced since ancient times. For the community of Khawlan, it is of utmost importance to offer visitors coffee using beans harvested from their farms. It’s a sign of honor and respect. Now, on the verge of UNESCO protection, the Khawlani farmers will soon offer their golden cups to the world.