Why Yanbu on the Red Sea is fast becoming one of Saudi Arabia’s must-visit destinations

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Besides magnificent annual flower, bird and butterfly shows, the western Saudi town of Yanbu is attracting tourists with its rich biodiversity. (Shutterstock)
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Besides magnificent annual flower, bird and butterfly shows, the western Saudi town of Yanbu is attracting tourists with its rich biodiversity. (Shutterstock)
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Besides magnificent annual flower, bird and butterfly shows, the western Saudi town of Yanbu is attracting tourists with its rich biodiversity. (Shutterstock)
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Besides magnificent annual flower, bird and butterfly shows, the western Saudi town of Yanbu is attracting tourists with its rich biodiversity. (Shutterstock)
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Besides magnificent annual flower, bird and butterfly shows, the western Saudi town of Yanbu is attracting tourists with its rich biodiversity. (Shutterstock)
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Updated 13 May 2022

Why Yanbu on the Red Sea is fast becoming one of Saudi Arabia’s must-visit destinations

  • Beyond its scenic charm, favorable climate and natural beauty, Yanbu has a particular appeal for history buffs
  • own’s historic architecture, including a house where T. E. Lawrence once lived, have been faithfully restored

DUBAI: Just a few hours’ drive west of Madinah is the historic port town of Yanbu, the second largest settlement on Saudi Arabia’s western Red Sea coast. With its curious heritage and growing wealth of attractions, this unassuming coastal gem is fast becoming a must-visit destination in its own right.

Visitors to Yanbu can traipse along the town’s historic harbor, enjoy Red Sea-caught fish prepared in the local style, and explore the recently restored Souq Al-Lail, or night market, where they can buy local dates, green mulukhiyah leaves, as well as other sweets and delicacies.

At night, the old harbor area comes alive with locals flocking to outdoor eateries overlooking the tranquil waters, protected from the waves by unspoilt coral reefs that have long lured divers to the coastline.




Yanbu's iconic lighthouse overlooking the town's coastal area by the Red Sea. (Shutterstock)

As one of the oldest ports on the Red Sea, Yanbu has a history reaching back at least 2,500 years, when it served as a crucial staging post on the ancient spice and incense route from Yemen to Egypt and onward to the wider Mediterranean.

Its strategic importance in the world of commerce continues to this day. Further south along the coast from the idyllic old town is an important petroleum shipping terminal that is home to three oil refineries, a plastics factory, and several other petrochemical plants.

While Yanbu has long enjoyed a reputation as a place of commerce, it is now developing into something of a tourism hotspot.




The market in the heritage village of Yanbu Al-Nakhl. (Shutterstock)

“In the past, most tourists were from Saudi Arabia, but now we are getting more foreigners, from France, Germany, and the UK,” Ghazi Al-Enezi, who runs the Riyadh-based operator Ghazi Tours, told Arab News.

“Yanbu has been receiving many visitors via cruises from Jeddah, cities in Egypt and Jordan.”

In 2014, Al-Enezi was named the Best Tour Guide in the Kingdom by the Saudi government. Since then, his fledgling operation has grown into a successful enterprise, with 12 members of staff operating tours across the country and a wealth of local and international clients.

The Kingdom’s growing tourism market has offered a boost to Yanbu’s hospitality industry, with the recent opening of a Novotel, a Holiday Inn, and the Al-Ahlam Tourism Resort. This in turn has drummed up new business for local cafes and restaurants.




Yanbu's nice weather make the coastal town a favorite escape during the summer months. (Shutterstock)

“Many hotels and restaurants are opening now, and local people are also trying to serve visitors their own local dishes,” said Al-Enezi. “The weather is nice as well. It doesn’t get too hot in the summer, which means during the hot months people can escape to Yanbu.”

Beyond its scenic charm, favorable climate and natural beauty, Yanbu also has a particular appeal for history buffs. The British army intelligence officer T.E. Lawrence, better known as Lawrence of Arabia, lived in Yanbu for a time between 1915 and 1916 in a typical Hijazi building.

The British archaeologist, diplomat and writer became famous for his role in the Arab Revolt and the Sinai and Palestine Campaign against the Ottoman Empire during the First World War.

Lawrence was deployed to the region to help the Arabs overthrow their Ottoman rulers, who had sided with Germany against Britain and France.




Lawrence of Arabia, left, and the renovated house in Yanbu where he lived between 1915 and 1916. (Getty Images)

On Dec. 1, 1916, the Ottoman forces of Fakhri Pasha launched a daring offensive against Yanbu with the aim of reestablishing control over the strategically vital port.

After some initial Ottoman successes, the Arabs counterattacked with the support of five British Royal Navy warships anchored off the coast. By Jan. 18, 1917, the Ottomans were in full retreat.

Yanbu served as a supply and operations base for Arab and British forces for the remainder of the war.




Yanbu industrial harbor. (Shutterstock)

In 1975, the Saudi government decided to transform Yanbu into one of the country’s two new industrial centers, the other being Jubail on the Arabian Gulf.

Since then, state and private development projects in Yanbu have boosted its economic value and prestige, attracting huge petrochemical and logistics infrastructure.

Today, as the Kingdom undergoes a fresh transformation, heralded by the Vision 2030 economic and social reform agenda, Yanbu’s fortunes are once again shifting — this time toward tourism, heritage and culture.

In 2020, the Ministry of Tourism launched a project to restore T.E. Lawrence’s Hejazi house, renovating its white stone walls and ornate wooden screens in what would become the first of the ministry’s efforts to revive the old town of Yanbu.




Heritage houses being restored in Yanbu. (Shutterstock)

Soon, other traditional Arabian homes followed, with sensitive restoration work launched to restore their coral-stone walls and wooden latticed windows to their former glory. The rebirth of Yanbu’s authentic architecture has made the city a highly desirable place to visit.

Since then, a host of tour operators have sprung up across Yanbu to cater for this recent influx of visitors.

Al-Enezi, who has run tours in Yanbu since 2008, offers a choice of two main tours — one along the coast that features a visit to Oyster Island, known for its pristine beaches and clear waters, and another into the urban heart of Yanbu that acquaints visitors with local heritage and crafts.




Ghazi Al-Enezi was named the Best Tour Guide in the Kingdom in 2014. (Supplied)

He also takes visitors to Umluj, which is situated 150 km north of Yanbu. Often referred to as the “Maldives of Saudi Arabia,” the coastal town is made up of more than 100 small islands where hotels and other attractions are now under construction.

Also outside the town, thrill-seeking visitors are drawn to Radwa Mount, with its red-hued jagged peaks towering some 2,282 meters above sea level, making it the highest point in the Al-Nakhil range.

Known for its rich biodiversity, including lynx, tigers, ibex and wolves, visitors can enjoy a safari tour along the rugged highland landscape and stop at high-altitude villages to sample the local honey.




Yanbu also boasts of attractive highland landscapes. (Shutterstock)

For Al-Enezi, the tourism industry in Yanbu is unrecognizable today from what passed for it when he began organizing tours there 14 years ago.

“It was hard for the few of us working in the business in the beginning because at that time the Saudi government wasn’t focused on tourism and not many people were coming to visit the Kingdom,” he told Arab News.

“But this is now a growing and changing business.”

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Saudi Arabia tells UN meeting on food security ‘global cooperation is vital’

Updated 4 min 8 sec ago

Saudi Arabia tells UN meeting on food security ‘global cooperation is vital’

  • Deputy Foreign Minister Waleed Al-Khuraiji said the KSA’s foreign policy attaches great importance to enhancing security and stability

RIYADH: A Saudi Ministry of Foreign Affairs official confirmed Wednesday that the Kingdom had taken crucial steps to enhance food security, put forward strategies to promote food growth and face climate change and water scarcity. 

Waleed Al-Khuraiji, Saudi deputy minister of foreign affairs, said these measures contributed to improving food security indicators in the Kingdom, the Saudi Press Agency reported.

During the Global Food Security Call to Action meeting at the United Nations on Wednesday, Al-Khuraiji said that the food security challenge proves that sustainable recovery depends on international cooperation.

He said despite progress in the development process, achieving the 2030 SDG (social development goals) had become extremely difficult, as global expectations and indicators show a deviation in the path towards achieving the second goal of the program, which includes the eradication of hunger.

“Among the global health challenges are the spread of pandemics, as the spread of the COVID-19 revealed to us the fragility of the international system in combating a virus that is not visible to the naked eye, which led to severe consequences that affected societies and economies,” Al-Khuraiji said, adding  that this affected people’s lives, their livelihood and declining economic indicators.

He said Saudi Arabia led a global response to the pandemic that accompanied the Kingdom’s G20 presidency, as it supported global efforts to confront this pandemic with $500 million, in addition to providing $300 million to help countries’ efforts to address the pandemic.

“The Kingdom’s ambitious Vision 2030 focused within sustainable development efforts on building a sustainable agricultural sector, strengthening sectors that support food systems, developing systems and improving agricultural productivity, and worked to strengthen research and innovation capabilities to ensure sustainable progress in food security,” Al-Khuraiji said.

In this regard, he said Saudi Arabia presented crucial initiatives to the region and the world, and had created a road map for facing environmental challenges. These intuitive include the Saudi Green Initiative the Middle East Green Initiative, and the circular carbon economy initiative.

Al-Khuraiji said the  Kingdom’s foreign policy attached great importance to enhancing security and stability, supporting dialogue and peaceful solutions, and providing conditions that support development and achieve people’s aspirations for a better tomorrow, weather in the Middle East or the world.

He added Saudi Arabia had always reiterated its commitment to helping the disadvantaged and countries hit by natural disasters and humanitarian crises.

“The Kingdom is the largest donor of humanitarian and development aid at the Arab and Islamic levels, and is one of the top three donors at the international level,” he said. 


Saudi-US defense delegations review ties, discuss future cooperation

Updated 19 May 2022

Saudi-US defense delegations review ties, discuss future cooperation

  • Deputy Defense Minister Prince Khalid says the meeting was organized upon Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s directives

RIYADH: Prince Khalid bin Salman, Saudi Arabia’s deputy minister of defense, on Wednesday met the US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin in Washington, the Saudi Press Agency reported.

The pair reviewed the Saudi-US partnership, and ongoing and future strategic military and defense cooperation between the Kingdom and US.

Prince Khalid expressed Saudi Arabia’s appreciation for the close cooperation between the two countries' defense bodies to achieve the two sides’ common interests and enhance security and peace regionally and internationally.

 

 

He also said that the meeting was organized based on Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s directives.

Prince Khalid and US Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Colin Kahl, then, co-headed the Saudi-US joint strategic planning committee meeting.

The Saudi and US defense delegations join a photo session after their meeting in Washington on May 18, 2022. (SPA)

The meeting discussed regional and international developments, and a number of issues on defending common interests and global security and stability.

The meeting was attended by Gen. Fayyadh bin Hamed Al-Ruwaili, Saudi Chief of General Staff, and other Saudi and US senior officials.


Who’s Who: Majed Al-Sulami, humanitarian and development affairs chief at KSA’s UN mission in Geneva

Updated 19 May 2022

Who’s Who: Majed Al-Sulami, humanitarian and development affairs chief at KSA’s UN mission in Geneva

Majed Al-Sulami is a diplomat at the permanent mission of Saudi Arabia to the UN, where he is head of the humanitarian and development affairs department in Geneva.

His responsibilities are in the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, UN High Commissioner for Refugees, International Organization for Migration, International Committee of the Red Cross, UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction, Food and Agriculture Organization, World Food Programme, Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders) and humanitarian assistance in areas affected by conflicts, armed disputes and natural disasters.

Al-Sulami attained his bachelor’s degree in English literature from King Abdulaziz University in Jeddah. He also received a master’s degree in international relations and diplomacy affairs from the University of Ghana, and another master’s degree in business administration for executives from Cardiff Metropolitan University, UK.

Al-Sulami also served as the chargé d’affaires at the Saudi Embassy in Ghana, and the deputy head and head of the consular section between September 2011 and 2013.

He was also the deputy head of the media section at the Saudi Embassy in London between September 2013 and 2017.

Al-Sulami also served as director of the specialized meetings at the permanent mission of Saudi Arabia to the Organization of Islamic Cooperation between September 2017 and 2020.

His participation included the 47th and 48th sessions of the OIC’s permanent finance committee, the 13th and 14th sessions of the OIC Independent Permanent Human Rights Commission and the workshop held by the OIC’s commission with the UN.

Al-Sulami was a political committee member for preparatory meetings and foreign ministers’ meetings and the OIC conference held in Makkah in 2019.

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Experts from 29 nations gather in Jeddah for international sports sciences conference

Updated 18 May 2022

Experts from 29 nations gather in Jeddah for international sports sciences conference

  • ‘This conference is a novel idea, especially since Saudi Arabia has been recently bidding to be at the forefront of the developed world and sports,’ said Adnan Al-Humaidan, the university’s president
  • Delegates will discuss a number of topics, including sports governance, women’s sports, digital transformation, and ways in which sport can attract investment and support the economy

JEDDAH: Academics, researchers, specialists and lecturers from 19 countries gathered at the University of Jeddah on May 18 for the start of Sports Sciences: Economy, Health, Lifestyle, which is said to be the first international conference of its kind.

The two-day event, held under the patronage of the minister of education, began with a welcome speech by Adnan Al-Humaidan, the president of the university.

“This conference is a novel idea, especially since Saudi Arabia has been recently bidding to be at the forefront of the developed world and sports,” he said.

He said that the decision of the university to organize the conference reflects the aim of the Kingdom to be an international leader in sports sciences, to help contribute to achieving the goals of the nation’s Vision 2030 development and diversification plan.

Delegates will discuss a number of topics during the conference, including the relationships between sports, health and the quality of life program as part of Vision 2030, and the issue of governance in sport and its role in tackling corruption within sporting organizations.

The event will also explore women’s sports, the use of artificial intelligence and the digital transformation of the sports industry, and the role of sport in generating financial and human investments and supporting the national economy, and the contributions of software and technology to the development of sports.

Princess Reema bint Bandar, the Saudi ambassador to the US and a member of the International Olympic Committee, delivered a keynote speech during the first session of the opening day, which was devoted to a discussion of the experiences of Saudi, Arab and international women in sport. 

Speaking via video link, she said: “Saudi women are making tremendous strides in the world of sports, starting with individual participation and progressing to official representation in regional and international competitions. And I am proud to see them right now in every sport and holding top positions in the various local sports federations.

“Today, sport emerges as an important component of the socioeconomic development of a country. Therefore women must be part of that development, not only to be athletes but also to seek other top positions in sports.

“As women increasingly participate in sport and occupy more leadership roles within the sporting sector, they influence the meaning of sport and the place of women in it.”

Other speakers during the opening session included Maha Juffali, president of the Saudi Special Olympics Federation, and Lina Al-Maeena, a pioneer of women’s sports in Saudi Arabia who broke new ground 18 years ago when she founded the Jeddah United women’s basketball team.

Other sessions considered the role of the sports media in promoting the adoption of a more healthy lifestyle, and how best to benefit from international and Arab experiences in the field of sports sciences.

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Intense sandstorm envelops parts of Kingdom in gray haze

Updated 17 May 2022

Intense sandstorm envelops parts of Kingdom in gray haze

  • The thick blanket of sand made iconic buildings in Riyadh, such as Faisaliyah Tower, Kingdom Center, and other skyscrapers in the King Abdullah Financial District almost impossible to see
  • Cautioning motorists because of the the heavy sandstorm, the traffic department advised drivers to drive slow and exercise restraint, as well as keep their headlights on

RIYADH: An intense sandstorm engulfed several areas in Saudi Arabia on Tuesday, hampering visibility due to the widespread dust, slowing road traffic and forcing authorities to issue a weather warning.

The sandstorm battered Riyadh, enveloping the Saudi capital’s skyline with gray haze. The thick blanket of sand made iconic buildings in Riyadh, such as Faisaliyah Tower, Kingdom Center, and other skyscrapers in the King Abdullah Financial District almost impossible to see from a distance of a few hundred meters.

Electronic signs along Riyadh’s highways warned drivers to reduce their speed because of the lower visibility.

Cautioning motorists because of the the heavy sandstorm, the traffic department advised drivers to drive slow and exercise restraint, as well as keep their headlights on.

The General Directorate of Civil Defense also advised Riyadh residents to avoid going to various outskirt spots in sands to avoid accidents during the blinding sandstorm.

There have been no flight delays or cancellations in Riyadh because of the sandstorm.

Issuing the daily weather forecast for the Kingdom, the National Center of Meteorology on Tuesday said: “The surface dusty winds will be active in the Eastern Region and some parts of Riyadh Region, reducing horizontal visibility, while the dusty wind will continue to occur in some parts of Qassim, Hail, Madinah, Makkah and Najran regions, extending to eastern parts of Baha and Asir regions, reducing horizontal sight.”

The report added that partly cloudy skies will be seen in some parts of Tabuk, the Northern Borders and Jawf regions.

The NCM added that surface wind movement in the Red Sea will be northerly to north-westerly at a speed of 25-45 kilometers per hour on northern and central parts, and westerly to north-westerly on southern parts at a speed of 15-35 kilometers per hour. Surface wind movement in the Arabian Gulf will be westerly to north-westerly at a speed of 25-45 kilometers per hour.

In Riyadh, the dusty weather has made it tough for outdoor workers, and residents have struggled to keep sand out of their homes.

Abdul Qadeer, a Bangladeshi construction worker, told Arab News: “The heavy sandstorm that started late last night and engulfed the city and its outskirts in gray haze this morning has made it really tough for us to continue working outdoors due to widespread dust.”

Though not infrequent for May — the sandstorm is the third to hit the Kingdom this month — Tuesday’s storm created unfavorable conditions, with the maximum temperature in Riyadh recorded at 38 degrees Celsius and the minimum at 24 degrees Celsius. The relative humidity was recorded at 11 percent.

Parts of Saudi Arabia typically experience sandstorms at the end of winter and advent of summer between March and May, with varying intensity.

Besides the Kingdom, Tuesday’s sandstorm has affected other countries in the region, including neighboring Iraq, which recorded its eighth sandstorm since mid-April, a phenomenon fueled by soil degradation, intense droughts and low rainfall linked to climate change.