Riyadh prepares for opening of 14 top international restaurant brands
The new fine-dining establishments, which include five with Michelin-starred restaurants in other countries, are due to open in December
Updated 04 October 2022
RIYADH: More than a dozen renowned international restaurant brands are set to open in Riyadh by the end of the year, including several with establishments in other countries that have earned a coveted Michelin star.
As the tastes of Saudis develop, the Kingdom is increasingly becoming a focus for major dining brands, which are contributing to the development of the tourism and entertainment sectors in the country as well as the national economy. During Riyadh Season celebrations, for example, residents and visitors to the capital have spent more than SR6 billion ($1.6 billion), according to the General Entertainment Authority.
Prince Saud bin Abdulaziz bin Farhan, who chairs the board of directors at Yakoon, a leading company in the hospitality industry, said that 14 international restaurant brands are due open in the capital in December. Five of them have establishments elsewhere in the world that have been awarded a Michelin star, an honor considered by many to represent the pinnacle of fine dining.
The new restaurants in Riyadh will include L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon, La Cantine du Faubourg, Sass Cafe and MusicHall. Renowned in Europe and elsewhere, they are considered to be among the most luxurious and distinguished in the world. In the Kingdom, they will be located in areas such as The Boulevard, Al-Bujairi in Diriyah, and King Abdullah Financial District.
“Bringing these restaurants to the Kingdom is in line with the development we are witnessing in the tourism and entertainment sectors,” Prince Saud told Arab News.
“We expect this category of restaurants in the food and nutrition sector to contribute positively to the tourist’s journey and the entertainment experience of the citizen and resident.”
He said his team’s investment aims reflect the objectives of the Kingdom’s Vision 2030, including the development of the Kingdom as a global tourism destination. Part of this involves the comprehensive development of the entertainment sector and the promotion of a luxurious lifestyle, he added, and as part of its efforts to establish itself as a global destination, Riyadh will continue to enhance its image by embracing fine-dining brands.
“We aim to create an exceptional experience in the tourist’s journey or the experience of the citizen and resident in the food sector in the Kingdom, and bringing international restaurants to Riyadh and other cities of the Kingdom will contribute to enhancing the region’s touristic position,” Prince Saud said.
Saudi Arabia’s largest e-sports festival kick starts in Riyadh
The RUSH festival allows video-game aficionados to experience latest technology
Over five days, gamers will be provided best-known games, real-life experiences
Updated 28 November 2022
RIYADH: The RUSH festival, the largest event for virtual sports and games, opened at the Riyadh Front on Saturday as part of the Riyadh Season of activities.
Over five days, it will provide gamers with the best-known games and real-life experiences.
They will get the chance to play real games such as “Fortnite,” “FIFA,” and “Valorant.” The event will also bring together the best international teams so that the biggest tournaments and direct qualifiers can be held on the e-sports stage.
Representatives of the 25 E-Sport organization greeted fans at the event’s meet-and-greet booth.
Aoun, the organization’s director of operations, told Arab News: “We have content makers and professional players in all games, and we came to meet the audience here.”
The festival aims to provide fun video games, competitions, and challenges through direct tournaments with prizes, and includes live entertainment shows, DJ performances, an augmented reality experience, and a cosplay competition.
The Valar Club booth was promoting e-sports for women.
Malak Al-Qahtani, founder of Valar Club, told Arab News: “Valar Club is the first licensed women’s club from the federation’s electronic sports, and our goal is to help female Saudi players, as they aspire to the world, and help with their training.”
Saudi YouTuber Pika Loli travelled from Jeddah to attend the event.
“This event brings together most of the YouTubers and gamers, and it is a good opportunity to get to know each other, and it will increase our followers and grow the channel on YouTube.”
Some of the cosplayers were dressed as video game characters.
Abdulelah Al-Qahtani said: “Today we are dressed as characters from the ‘Genshin Impact’ game, and I think this is so good that Saudi Arabia brought up a hidden community, like cosplayers and gamers.”
With a focus on the whole of the gaming industry, from console and PC gaming to mobile and e-sports, the RUSH festival aims to give gaming aficionados the opportunity to access and experience the latest tech and the chance to interact with each other in real life, and online.
Tickets for the event are available via https://riyadhseason.sa/event-details-en.html?id=599/en_RUSH.
BANGKOK: Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s visit to Bangkok last week has opened not only a new chapter in Saudi-Thai ties but also new horizons in which officials and the people see a promising future for both kingdoms.
Relations between Saudi Arabia and Thailand were officially restored in January this year, during Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-o-cha’s trip to Riyadh, when the two countries agreed to appoint ambassadors for the first time in over three decades.
The crown prince arrived in Bangkok as a guest of honor at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit hosted by Thailand on Nov. 18-19 and became the first Saudi official to make such a trip.
“It was the first visit at the level of the Kingdom’s leadership since the establishment of relations between the two countries in 1957,” Abdurrahman bin Abdulaziz Al-Suhaibani, Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to Thailand, told Arab News.
“It will move the relations of the two countries to broader horizons and a prosperous and promising future.
“It will also contribute to accelerating steps that will enhance bilateral, economic and trade relations between the two countries by exploring potential investment opportunities in light of the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 and the development priorities of Thailand.”
The crown prince’s meetings with the Thai leadership have yielded numerous memorandums on energy, investment, tourism, anticorruption efforts and the normalization of diplomatic relations.
When the crown prince arrived in Bangkok, he was officially received by the country’s top leadership and royal family and unofficially by many others, especially from the younger generation, who took to social media to welcome him and set up online fan clubs.
In welcome messages, many Thais wrote it was an “honor” for them to see the Saudi crown prince in their country.
Photos and videos from the visit went viral and made the rounds with captions such as “Warm welcome, Prince,” “This is what people in the country (Thailand) want,” “Happy: Thai-Saudi relations are very close after 32 years,” “Long live MBS.”
“The relations now seem to be on the right track and will grow stronger and more comprehensive in the coming period,” Al-Suhaibani told Arab News.
“The Saudi embassy will focus on implementing and following up on the agreements and memoranda of understanding that were signed during this historic visit.”
Tanee Sangrat, director-general of information at the Thai Ministry of Foreign Affairs and soon-to-be Thailand’s ambassador to the US, told Arab News that the visit was “closely watched and followed by the Thai people in Thailand and around the world.”
He said: “We look to Saudi Arabia as a country that has great potential. The crown prince and prime minister is very widely well respected by our people.
“I think Thai people are looking and are expecting more cooperation with Saudi Arabia.”
With the restoration of ties with Saudi Arabia, Thailand has found not only a new powerful partner in navigating volatile energy markets and energy transition, but also, as many have said, a “gateway” to the Middle East, where Thailand’s presence is not very strong.
The restored relationship would give not only Thai exporters but also investors more access to opportunities in the Gulf and beyond.
“This is a big, big issue for Thailand. Saudi Arabia is a critical partner in the Middle East,” Thitinan Pongsudhirak, director of the Bangkok-based Institute of Security and International Studies, told Arab News.
“That is a gateway for Thailand to re-engage and re-enter Middle East markets. Without the Saudi Arabia relationship, a lot of doors were closed. Now, more doors will be opened.”
Suppalerk Aramkitphotha, a business development professional, saw the crown prince’s visit as a “great opportunity.”
“We are very glad that we have this opportunity,” he said, citing the business prospects between Thailand and the Middle East that would now be facilitated.
Jirayut Srupsrisopa, the founder of the first Thai fintech startup to notch up a valuation of more than $1 billion, said he was glad that the Saudi crown prince visited Thailand and new bridges were built.
“Now we can do so much more between Thailand and Saudi Arabia. We can work with Saudis for the future of energy, the future of green hydrogen or future growth in other aspects like the digital economy,” he told Arab News, adding that there would also be opportunities such as medical tourism.
Thailand, where healthcare services are well developed, already has agreements with countries such as Kuwait and Qatar for receiving patients. A deal with Saudi Arabia is likely to be a part of the two countries’ relations going forward.
“We are famous for medical tourism,” Jirayut said. “Everyone can come here, have a nice holiday, nice beach, nice mountains, nice hotels, nice services. And they can get their teeth done. They can recover. They can have a health checkup here at a fraction of the cost elsewhere.”
But there is much more to the renewed ties than business opportunities.
Referring to the potential role that culture can play in cementing the re-established Saudi-Thai relationship, Ambassador Al-Suhaibani said: “There are many similarities between the two countries, particularly in hospitality, generosity, friendliness and, most importantly the richness of culture.
“This will encourage us to strengthen relationships and communication between our people, as well as to promote constructive dialogue in many aspects of social, cultural and religious (life).”
This kind of exchange is what Thais have waited for a long time.
Voralak Tulaphorn, a marketing professional, said a Saudi presence is something that was missing from the multicultural landscape of Thailand for a long time.
“Saudi Arabia and (Thailand) actually have rich cultures, and with rich cultures it would be nice to have exchanges in everything from food and nature to fashion and handicrafts.”
For her, what holds the greatest promise as a means of bringing Thais and Saudis together is an appreciation of each other’s cuisines. Food is a good way to win hearts and spread cultural influence.
“I think people love Thai street food,” Voralak told Arab News, adding that she hoped that soon Saudi restaurants would start emerging in Bangkok. “We would love to taste Saudi Arabian food too.”
History, mystery and magic as first Ancient Kingdoms Festival wraps up in Saudi Arabia
The festival focused entirely on sites at crossroads of culture, centers of influence and wealth
By focusing on a range of events, the festival gave these ancient landscapes a new lease of life
Updated 27 November 2022
KHAYBAR: Past, present and future came together as the inaugural Ancient Kingdoms Festival drew to a close with a series of dramatic events showcasing three historic oases of the northwest — AlUla, Khaybar and Tayma — for a modern audience.
The festival, launched on Nov. 11, was the first of its kind to focus entirely on the sites, which were at the crossroads of culture in ancient times, and also centers of influence and wealth.
By focusing on a range of events, including cultural performances, workshops and sightseeing opportunities, the festival gave these ancient landscapes a new lease of life, with many of the activities expected to continue after the festival’s close.
A spectacular show lit up the night sky as 1,450 drones formed shapes while an orchestra played music by UK composer Matt Faddy. The show will continue until Dec. 15, 2023.
Visitors to Khaybar can still explore the mysterious prehistoric stone structures on foot, or by car or a 20-minute helicopter excursion, hovering over the old and new.
“We made this festival to reflect the stories behind all the ancient civilizations that lived around or in these three places,” Abdulrazzag Alanzi, a local storyteller and tour guide, told Arab News.
Alanzi used to visit his cousins in Khaybar as a child and still recalls hearing stories about the region going back centuries.
“I used to love reading a lot of fictional stories and also a lot of old stories, and when I heard about something that happened in this area many years ago, it always fascinated me. This is what pushed me into this line of work, tourism,” he said.
“AlUla, Khaybar and Tayma have a lot of historical stories and a lot of information that we need to show the world.”
Fahad Aljuhani, a storyteller who describes the area as the “greatest living museum,” also came to the area as a child to connect with his cousins — and to discover hidden treasures.
“I’m a ‘Rawi’ and ‘Rawi’ in English means a storyteller. Now we are on an island that floats on a sea of rock which is Khaybar. I used to come to Khaybar and visit my relatives, and they would tell us a story about the tombs and the oasis, and I didn’t have the chance to visit them until now,” he told Arab News.
Aljuhani said that 5 million years ago, hundreds of volcanic eruptions occurred simultaneously in the area.
“If you feel the rocks, they seem to generate heat from within, similar to those who choose to watch over the land today and tell its many-layered stories,” he said.
Tour guide Enass Al-Sherrif told Arab News that she is excited to see people, including those from around the Kingdom, taking the time to learn about their past.
Al-Sherrif describes her job as the best she could ever have.
“I am really proud and honored. And I want to show you and make you feel the experience, how we transformed this place into an amazing destination for others to come and visit us,” she said.
The festival and its extended program aims to shed light on the legends and legacies of ancient times in the Kingdom’s northwest region, allowing visitors to explore and learn about the “largest living museum in the world.”
It is two years since AlUla began reopening heritage sites to domestic and international tourists with its pioneering Winter at Tantora program, which lasts until March.
While the Ancient Kingdoms Festival wrapped up on a chilly day on Nov. 27, many of the visitor experiences will continue well beyond the festival period, with some available year-round.
“The northwest Arabian Peninsula is the jewel in the heritage crown of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and a source of fascination for a global community of archaeologists and researchers. Their discoveries shed new light on the societies that endowed the region with such relics of the ancients, preserved in wonders of prehistoric geology, art, and historical architecture that reveal important truths,” the Royal Commission for AlUla, which hosted the event, said in a statement.
The commission plans to host the Ancient Kingdoms Festival annually. Further details are available on its website.
Jeddah receives 179mm of rainfall, higher figure than 2009 peak
Maximum alert issued in face of weather conditions
Updated 25 November 2022
JEDDAH: The National Center of Meteorology recorded 179 mm of rainfall on Thursday, the highest amount ever received in the city.
Rain fell from 8 a.m. until 2 p.m. in the south of the province in a heavier downpour than the previous biggest, in 2009.
The Jeddah Municipality announced a maximum alert in the wake of the weather conditions, while the meteorology center warned of moderate to heavy rain in the governorates of Jeddah and Rabigh in the Makkah region, including Thuwal and coastal areas, accompanied by surface winds, hail and flooding, until 7 p.m. on Thursday.
King Abdulaziz Airport announced that some flights had been delayed due to the weather. The airport was hoping to communicate with air carriers to confirm dates and times for rearranged flights.
Makkah Municipality employs 11,800 field workers to prepare for the rainy season. It has machinery and equipment to deal with the expected conditions. Its operation and maintenance department assesses the performance of rainwater drainage network channels in main and side roads, intersections and squares.
It removes sediment which can impede water flow in drainage systems, in accordance with contingency plans.
Task forces and equipment have been deployed throughout Makkah, with some 52 water tanks, each with a capacity of 194,000 gallons, removing floodwaters. Some 146 excavating machines and 89 multipurpose trucks have been dealing with the impact of the rain and removing water from the roads and streets.
The municipality has also organized field teams to remove waste that may have built up in the wake of the downpours.
It has also increased the number of cleaning teams to work on clearing sewers to prevent any dangers that may pose a threat to residents and visitors.
The teams have been deployed along with 520 machines, including lorries, pump tanks, Bobcats, tankers and automated sweepers, as well as a large number of pumps and excavating machines. Work is being carried out around the clock to implement contingency plans.
Makkah contains huge rainwater drainage systems that reach around 540 km and cover all of the region’s neighborhoods and holy sites. The systems include closed trunk water mains and deep tunnel networks, as well as shallow and open drainage channels.
The municipality also carries out maintenance and cleaning operations throughout the year to help reduce the effects of flooding on the region.
Spanish passions of food and football combine at Riyadh festival
LaLiga and Spanish gastronomes host feast of Iberian culture at Ritz Carlton
Updated 26 November 2022
RIYADH: Food and football were flavors of the week in Riyadh as Spanish cuisine experts and LaLiga officials came together to host a feast of Iberian culture.
The Spanish Pantry festival, organized by LaLiga and food experts Provacuno, was held over three days this week in the capital’s Ritz Carlton.
Mohamad Essa, LaLiga’s delegate in Saudi Arabia, told Arab News that the festival combined two of Spain’s biggest passions, with football activities and displays from a Michelin star chef Rafael Centeno.
Essa said that Saudi Arabia had a passionate fan base for LaLiga football. “It’s my honor to be close to the local fans and to listen to their observations and understand their needs. We would like to achieve many things together.
“We are here to promote strong relations with local institutions, clubs and media,” he said, adding that his presence helps LaLiga giants such as Real Madrid and Barcelona connect with Saudi fans, clubs and sponsors.
He added that his organization planned many activities for the Kingdom, including parties for Saudi fans to travel and watch LaLiga matches.
The league already helps develop skills in the sports industry with its LaLiga business school, and it has football academies aimed at developing youth talent.
“We want to export these capabilities to the country to create the new generation of footballers,” Essa said.
“As part of this international expansion, we are engaging in the market by hosting events, activities, different sports projects and academic opportunities.”
Ohoud M. Aljabr, of the Ritz-Carlton group, said: “Our main goal of this successful partnership is to introduce the beautiful and rich culture of Spain and present a memorable experience. Hosting the Spanish Festival for the first time in the Kingdom was a pleasure.”
Provacuno is a promotion organization for Spanish beef and veal, and represents 140,000 farms and processing plants.
Spain produces more than 800,000 tonnes per year of meat to EU standards. Saudi Arabia meanwhile is a growing market for beef, with consumption rates increasing and outstripping local supply. “Spanish beef has been a supplier since 2016. Export figures have been rising in recent years, reaching 350 tonnes a year,” Provacuno said. “Most of our exports to Saudi Arabia are high-quality cuts that meet Saudi demands.”