Taste of history as Saudi turns old police station into heritage eatery

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The Abha castle heritage restaurant has become a landmark attraction, serving up traditional southern flavors to tourists visiting the historic southwest Saudi city. (AN photo by Huda Bashatah)
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The Abha castle heritage restaurant has become a landmark attraction, serving up traditional southern flavors to tourists visiting the historic southwest Saudi city. (AN photo by Huda Bashatah)
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The Abha castle heritage restaurant has become a landmark attraction, serving up traditional southern flavors to tourists visiting the historic southwest Saudi city. (AN photo by Huda Bashatah)
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The Abha castle heritage restaurant has become a landmark attraction, serving up traditional southern flavors to tourists visiting the historic southwest Saudi city. (AN photo by Huda Bashatah)
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The Abha castle heritage restaurant has become a landmark attraction, serving up traditional southern flavors to tourists visiting the historic southwest Saudi city. (AN photo by Huda Bashatah)
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The Abha castle heritage restaurant has become a landmark attraction, serving up traditional southern flavors to tourists visiting the historic southwest Saudi city. (AN photo by Huda Bashatah)
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The Abha castle heritage restaurant has become a landmark attraction, serving up traditional southern flavors to tourists visiting the historic southwest Saudi city. (AN photo by Huda Bashatah)
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Updated 26 September 2021

Taste of history as Saudi turns old police station into heritage eatery

  • Abha restaurant draws visitors from around the Gulf with traditional southern flavors

ABHA: A young Saudi “jack of all trades” has used his creative talent and love of cooking to transform a former police station in Abha into a traditional restaurant.

Now Ibrahim bin Mansour Bashashah Al-Asiri’s Al-Hosn Al-Turathi — or Abha castle heritage restaurant — has become a landmark attraction, serving up traditional southern flavors to tourists visiting the historic southwest Saudi city.

Diners from around the Kingdom and Gulf states regularly visit the eatery for a taste of southern hospitality.

Al-Asiri, a plastic artist, and gift and flower designer, told Arab News that the restaurant was previously a coffeeshop owned by his brother.

“The building was originally the Asir police station. I did not favor strong additions and alterations that would erase the designs that characterize the building,” he said.

“My main objective was for the visitor to be able to sense the history of a place that is 40 or 50 years old.”

Being a jack of all trades, Al-Asiri decided to invest his talents and help preserve the city’s heritage by turning the coffeeshop into a restaurant.

He used his talent with lighting and art to transform the site into a heritage icon that takes diners back in time.

Initially, the restaurant served only breakfast, but the menu quickly expanded until meals became available throughout the day. 




Ibrahim bin Mansour Bashashah Al-Asiri, owner of Al-Hosn Al-Turathi. (Supplied)

One form of art found in the restaurant is Al-Qatt Al-Asiri, a traditionally female interior wall decoration and ancient art form considered a key element in Asir’s history.

Al-Hosn Al-Turathi restaurant relies on the work of two people — Al-Asiri, who cooks and oversees artistic tasks, and his brother, who handles management.

“There aren’t many restaurants that offer popular southern meals, especially in Abha, while there are many popular restaurants in Khamis Mushayt,” he said.

Menu favorites offered at Al-Hosn Al-Turathi include al-arika, a traditional dessert in the southern region made with brown flour mixed with warm water, oil and ghee to form a dough, and flavored with a drizzle of honey and cardamom.

The restaurant is the first to serve “miva” or southern “tannour” bread, Al-Asiri said, adding that he is the first Saudi in the Kingdom to cook while wearing a traditional Saudi outfit.

Al-Asiri also launched the Asiri bouquet, a collection of local plants with aromatic scents, gifting them to a number of princes and other high-profile personalities.

Al-Hosn Al-Turathi heritage restaurant supports local productive families. A coffee and hot beverages corner is managed by one of the sisters, Umm Joud, who holds a master’s in business management, and supervises the preparation of hot drinks using traditional ingredients.

Al-Asiri urged Saudi youth to work hard, saying Saudi Arabia offers many opportunities to realize the objectives of the Kingdom’s Vision 2030. “We need to be patient and active, and try to reach the top with the capabilities that we have. So we need to be persistent and work hard,” he said.


Saudi border patrols arrest 150 suspected drug smugglers along Yemen border

Updated 20 October 2021

Saudi border patrols arrest 150 suspected drug smugglers along Yemen border

JEDDAH: Saudi border patrols in Jazan, Najran, and Asir on Tuesday thwarted attempts to smuggle more than one ton of cannabis and 66 tons of qat into the Kingdom.

Border Guard spokesman, Col. Misfir Al-Qarni, said 150 people were arrested in connection with the smuggling bid, 47 of them Saudis, and 103 illegal immigrants of which 89 were Ethiopian, 10 Yemenis, three Somalis, and one Eritrean.

Al-Qarni said that the border guards will be not lax in carrying out their duties to confront anyone who tries to endanger the security of the Kingdom or transfer such substances through its borders illegally.

Saudi authorities, in cooperation with their UAE counterparts, recently prevented an attempt to sneak 1.5 million amphetamine pills into the Kingdom through Batha port hidden in a truck carrying grain.

A Saudi citizen, and a resident of Syria were arrested in Riyadh.

In May, Saudi authorities foiled a plot to smuggle almost 1,000 kg of hashish into the Kingdom through its southern borders. Twenty-four people — 18 Ethiopians, four Yemenis and two Saudis. were arrested. AN Jeddah


Rap star Pitbull to launch Riyadh Season with sold-out concert

Updated 20 October 2021

Rap star Pitbull to launch Riyadh Season with sold-out concert

  • Grand parade and fireworks display in opening ceremony of the Middle East’s largest entertainment festival

RIYADH: The Cuban-American rap star Pitbull will launch this year’s Riyadh Season festival with a sold-out concert on Wednesday that will be broadcast live.
The opening ceremony of the Middle East’s largest celebration of music, dining, and entertainment will also feature a parade and fireworks show.
The festival site covers 5.4 million square meters, divided into 14 zones — Boulevard Riyadh City, Al’Athriyah, Oasis, Combat Field, Riyadh Front, Qariat Zaman, Winter Wonderland, the Groves, VIA Riyadh, Riyadh Safari, Nabd Al Riyadh, Alsalam Tree, Almurabaa, and Khaloha.
There will be 16 events this month alone — WWE Crown Jewel on Oct. 21, Rush Gaming Festival from Oct. 22 to 26, the Crystal Maze live experience on Oct. 22, the Global Town Festival on Oct. 27, the Champions of Magic show on Oct. 27, and the Messi 10 Cirque Du Soleil show on Oct. 29.
And that’s just the start, with a total of 7,500 events, programs and activities for all age groups and interests. This year, children and fans of the nursery rhymes show CoComelon will be able to meet the characters while visiting their home, school, and farm in the Winter Wonderland zone.
Most events are free, and those that require tickets will be listed on the Riyadh Season 2021 website. Visitors must link their tickets to the Tawakkalna app, which has a new security feature to prevent tickets being misused or resold.
The entertainment sector will be a key contributor to the growth of the economy as part of Vision 2030. Riyadh Season will support the tourism and leisure sector and provide a unique experience for visitors. It continues until March 2022.


KSA’s Red Sea Film Festival opens in-person accreditation

Updated 20 October 2021

KSA’s Red Sea Film Festival opens in-person accreditation

JEDDAH: The 3rd annual Red Sea Film Festival has opened its doors to cinema world enthusiasts to register and receive accreditation for the inaugural in-person edition of the most anticipated cinematic event of the year.

From red carpet premieres  and concerts, an industry program, workshops, interactive community events to acclaimed festival gems and beautifully restored treasures, the festival will be held in Saudi Arabia’s most evocative historical quarter — Jeddah Old Town — from Dec. 6-15.  It is an annual festival, launched in 2019, but the past two editions were held virtually due to the pandemic.

With more than 100 films from around the world to be showcased, including the best cinematic works from the region, the festival will provide industry professionals with an exclusive opportunity to be part of a unique experience.

The festival provide a platform for Arab filmmakers and industry professionals from around the world to connect, host feature and short film competitions, and present a series of events, master classes, and workshops to support emerging talent. 


Saudi Arabia calls for greater global efforts toward disaster relief

Updated 20 October 2021

Saudi Arabia calls for greater global efforts toward disaster relief

NEW YORK: Saudi Arabia has urged the need for greater international efforts toward disaster relief assistance at the UN in New York.

It came as the Kingdom addressed the UN Sixth Committee, the body’s primary forum for legal questions.

The 76th session of the UN General Assembly was held Monday to discuss agenda item 87, “the protection of persons in the event of disasters.”

In a speech, Nidaa Abu Ali, a member of the Kingdom’s permanent delegation to the UN in New York, addressed item 87 as a “fundamental principle” of humanitarianism.

Abu Ali said that the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic “demonstrated the fast-paced speed at which disasters occur,” urging the need for a global response framework and cooperation in disaster situations.

She added that the Kingdom is a leading country in implementing strong and immediate measures in response to emergency crises while also assisting at the international level by providing humanitarian relief and economic assistance to developing countries.

Abu Ali noted that since its establishment in 2015, the King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Center has contributed to meeting urgent needs in cooperation with international organizations by combating disasters and food scarcity through financial and logistical support. During the Kingdom’s 2020 G20 Presidency, Abu Ali said that the most notable effort in combating the global pandemic and salvaging the global economy was the $11 billion allocated for medical support in developing countries.

On a national level, Abu Ali stressed the Kingdom’s initiative, associated with the Sustainable Development Goals, to activate a national strategy to reduce disaster risks, integrating measures into local development activities.

The strategy will aid in the reduction of risk, especially in vulnerable groups such as women, children, the elderly and people with disabilities.

In her final comments, Abu Ali urged the need to find a common legal framework to facilitate international humanitarian aid and international cooperation.

She expressed the Kingdom’s support for preparing an international legal instrument and convention to ensure the protection of people during times of disaster in a manner that does not conflict with the sovereignty or national legislation of countries around the world.


Saudi Arabia postpones return of elementary students to classrooms

Updated 20 October 2021

Saudi Arabia postpones return of elementary students to classrooms

  • Pupils under the age of 12 will continue to be taught remotely for safety reasons pending further studies, officials said

JEDDAH: With less than two weeks to go until elementary students were due to return to classrooms in Saudi Arabia, the Ministry of Education has announced that they will continue to be taught remotely until further notice, the Saudi Press Agency reported on Tuesday.

The proposed Oct. 31 return to in-person teaching has been postponed for safety reasons, the ministry said.

It added that it requires further epidemiological data about the COVID-19 situation in the Kingdom as part of a risk assessment before a decision can be made on the resumption of in-person learning for children below the age of 12.

“The ministry will continue its efforts to offer virtual learning to the age group through ‘Madrasati’ (online platform) for the elementary level and ‘Rawdaty’ for preschool level,” it said.

The Ministries of Health and Education have been working together to ensure the successful resumption of in-person education for middle-school and high-school students.

In August, the Ministry of Education announced that, in accordance with regulations issued by the Health Ministry, fully vaccinated students over the age of 12 would return to classrooms. Those who are not fully vaccinated will continue to be taught remotely, with classwork uploaded to the ministry-approved Madrasati platform.

On Oct. 12, the Ministry of Education issued a directive urging education authorities across the Kingdom to ensure that all students are fully vaccinated, and reiterating that those who are not will have to remain at home. Students were given two weeks from the start of the semester to complete the vaccination process.

Meanwhile, the Saudi Ministry of Health on Tuesday reported 49 new COVID-19 cases in the Kingdom and two related deaths.

The latest figures put the total number of cases so far recorded in the country at 548,018 and the overall death toll at 8,767.

Health officials said there were currently 2,214 active cases, of which 90 patients were in a serious or critical condition.

Among the newly reported cases, 16 were in Riyadh, nine in Jeddah, three in Jubail, and two in both Al-Darb and Makkah.

The ministry also announced that 38 patients had recovered from COVID-19, taking the total number of recoveries in the Kingdom to 537,037.

A further 45,275 polymerase chain reaction tests had been carried out in the last 24-hour period, meaning that to date more than 29.8 million PCR checks had been conducted in the country.

Meanwhile, it was revealed that at least 44.8 million COVID-19 vaccine doses had been administered since the Kingdom’s immunization campaign started and more than 20.8 million people were now fully vaccinated.

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