Saudi, Kuwaiti women embark on quest of a lifetime

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Haya Al- Samari and Fai Al-Omran are making their way through the Pacific Crest Trail, a journey they hope will establish Arab women as a powerhouse in the world. (Photo/Instagram/ mykindofridays)
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They are aiming to finish the PCT by the end of September or in the beginning of October by averaging 32 km per day. (Supplied)
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Updated 13 July 2023
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Saudi, Kuwaiti women embark on quest of a lifetime

  • The 2 friends are hiking the Pacific Crest Trail, which spans 4,265 km of the US

JEDDAH: Saudi Haya Al-Samari and Kuwaiti Fai Al-Omran are longtime friends who believe their once-in-a-lifetime adventure hiking the Pacific Crest Trail will inspire others and play a critical role in establishing Arab women as a leading powerhouse in the world of adventure.

Well known in the Gulf region for their enthusiasm for activities like running, freediving, surfing, skydiving, hiking and camping, the two women are now taking on the PCT, one of the world’s longest thru-hikes spanning the west coast of the US from the Mexican to Canadian borders.

The hike will take five to six months to complete and will cover 4,265 km, 26 national forests, seven national parks, five state parks and 33 federally mandated wildernesses. They are aiming to finish the PCT by the end of September or in the beginning of October by averaging 32 km per day.




Haya Al- Samari and Fai Al-Omran are making their way through the Pacific Crest Trail, a journey they hope will establish Arab women as a powerhouse
in the world. (Photo/Instagram/ mykindofridays)

Going from Mexico to Canada through the states of California, Oregon and Washington, the Pacific Crest Trail is regarded as the second-longest of the Triple Crown long trails. In search of a challenge, adventurous hikers travel the high route via the Sierra Nevada and Cascade ranges, passing through some of the most picturesque and diverse landscapes in the US, from scorching deserts to snowy mountains.

Like many others, Al-Samari and Al-Omran began their adventure at the Campo Trail near the US-Mexico border, on the first of April.

Sports and nature are my life, my passion and my form of stress relief ... I’ve been through some rough situations that required extreme mental and physical grit to get through. But what really sets the Pacific Crest Trail apart is that it’s a long-term project that requires a complete mindset shift.

Haya Al-Samari, Saudi adventurer

The duo are documenting their hike on their social media platforms including Instagram, where Al-Samari, @mykindoffridays, has more than 63,000 followers and Al-Omran, @laughwithfai, has over 11,000. They share details of their life on the trail, creating content about everything, from how they sleep to what they eat, and the surprises and beautiful scenes of nature along the way.




Haya Al-Samari, Saudi adventurer

The female hikers said that they had received “loads of encouragement” from friends and family before they set off.

While the two are on the adventure of a lifetime, it is not their first trip together as they have undertaken various long journeys over the past seven years.

Speaking about the origins of their PCT quest, Al-Samari said: “Fai is a great travel partner; she’s always up for an adventure. I was dreaming of doing the Pacific Crest Trail for almost 10 years now, but never had a timeline for it. One day Fai and I talked about it and realized we both share this crazy dream.




Haya Al- Samari and Fai Al-Omran are making their way through the Pacific Crest Trail, a journey they hope will establish Arab women as a powerhouse in the world. (Photo/Instagram/ mykindofridays)

“So when things got serious from my end, I threw the idea and Fai was more than ready to receive it … travel, for me, means adventure.”

Al-Samari and Al-Omran told Arab News that when they reached Mount Shasta and Mount Etna in California they wanted to go on the next adventure.

Al-Samari, who loves extreme adventures said: “I’ve been hiking for more than 10 years now. I love hiking and trail running. I love challenging my physical body surrounded by nature, feeling the freedom on my skin. Sports and nature are my life, my passion and my form of stress relief.”




Haya Al- Samari and Fai Al-Omran are making their way through the Pacific Crest Trail, a journey they hope will establish Arab women as a powerhouse in the world. (Photo/Instagram/ mykindofridays)

Speaking about the trail, she added: “I’ve been through some rough situations that required extreme mental and physical grit to get through. But what really sets the Pacific Crest Trail apart is that it’s a long-term project that requires a complete mindset shift.

“It’s not a quick adventure that lasts a day or two. It’s a journey that lasts weeks and weeks on end. Nothing even comes close to the extreme nature of this adventure.”

Meanwhile, Al-Omran, who calls herself a lover of the sea and a child of the desert, told Arab News that she had many adventures in the past but this is her first thru-hike: “I’ve always had a love for the outdoors, from being in the sea to camping in the desert, to hiking through forests. Each adventure has its charm and connecting with nature has always been a big part of my life.




It takes the average thru-hiker five months to complete the Pacific Crest Trail. (Supplied)

“Despite all the challenges, the Pacific Crest Trail has always been an adventure that I aspired to go on one day. For me, going on a thru-hike is just taking my hobby to the next level.”

Before setting out on the trail, the two spent countless hours meticulously preparing. They agonized over what gear to bring and pored over route descriptions and reports from other hikers.

On what it took to prepare themselves, Al-Omran said: “Research. Lots of research and listening to others’ experiences. And going into the trip with a sense of surrender to mother nature. Whatever happens, on the physical side, I tried be more active and prepare my body for what is to come.”

The 33-year-old Al-Samari added: “I’m an avid runner. Having a couple of marathons and ultras under my belt gave me the confidence of knowing that my legs could carry me over long distances. Leading up to the hike, I adjusted my strength program to focus on my core and back muscles so that it would be easier for me to handle the weight of my backpack.”




It takes the average thru-hiker five months to complete the Pacific Crest Trail. (Supplied)

Unfortunately, the UC Berkeley Central Sierra Snow Lab reported that it is the second snowiest season since 1946. Many of the trail’s sections have been closed due to dangerous and hazardous conditions.

The two friends had to wait until the snow melted to continue their hike. “This year, the weather has been a number one challenge. It’s a big snow year and a big part of our journey is managing how to continue on, stay safe and enjoy our trek,” said Al-Omran.

Asked what part of the trail she was most looking forward to, Al-Samari picked the Sierra Nevada section, which spans a little over 628 km and has total elevation gain of 57,888 feet. It is one of the highlights and the most magnificent sections of the trail.

“Some people can’t handle the altitude. I hope that not the case with our bodies. It’s the most remote, the highest altitude, the most snow, the most rivers, bears, etc. I know I’ll be the happiest, most proud and breath-taken after going through the Sierras,” she added.

However, the 28-year-old Al-Omran picked another region: “Every part is exciting to get to because of how diverse the trail is. But if I had to choose, it would be the high desert right before Sierra. Because it’s a terrain that I have never seen and gone through before.”

As they are gearing up to continue their long adventure with more than 1,600 kilometers left, both Arab women believe that their journey is not just about having epic adventures, but also about inspiring others to leave their comfort zones and learn more about themselves and the world.

 

Decoder

What is the Pacific Crest Trail?

The Pacific Crest Trail is one of the world’s longest thru-hikes spanning the west coast of the US from the Mexican to Canadian borders. Best friends Haya Al-Samari of Saudi Arabia and Fai Al-Omran of Kuwait have taken on the challenge to hike the 4,265-km trail, which will take them through mountains, forests, wildernesses and parks in the states of California, Oregon and Washington.


Riyadh anticipates return of Diriyah Season

Updated 34 min 43 sec ago
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Riyadh anticipates return of Diriyah Season

  • Three-month cultural calendar is full of surprises that will take you through Kingdom’s culture and heritage

RIYADH: The 2023-2024 Diriyah Season is set to begin on Dec. 12 with a curated three-month calendar of events that combines arts and culture, and live performances and experiences that showcase nearly 600 years of history and heritage.

The season is off to a musically spectacular start with an exceptional lineup of cultural concerts. Tickets for the first cultural concept, featuring the Saudi music legends Rabeh Saqr and Ayed performing in Mayadeen theater, will go on sale on Dec. 10.

Diriyah Season cultural showcase includes immersive art installations and exhibitions, live and theatrical performances, and culinary experiences that celebrate both traditional and contemporary cuisine. (Diriyah Season)

This year’s theme honors Diriyah’s story and celebrates Al-Awja in a rallying call for all Saudis to unite and celebrate their shared culture and identity.

The season will be set in five distinct Diriyah locations: Wadi Safar, which will feature a Diriyah cultural basecamp; the iconic UNESCO World Heritage Site At-Turaif; Bujairi Terrace; the Mayadeen theater; and Diriyah district.

HIGHLIGHTS

• Diriyah Season is set to begin on Dec. 12 and will conclude in March.

• The theater will also host a theatrical equestrian show and cultural concerts.

• For the first time, Bujairi Terrace will feature a themed escape room called ‘Journey to the Future.’

• For more information, check diriyah.sa/season.

The season “blends the old with the new and takes us on a journey of self-discovery as we reconnect with our authentic selves. This is not just entertainment; it’s entertainment with meaning,” said Jerry Inzerillo, CEO of Diriyah Gate Development Authority.

“We want people from all over the world to see 300 years of our music, our food, our tents, our costuming, our storytelling, our poetry, our calligraphy,” Inzerillo said.

Diriyah Season cultural showcase includes immersive art installations and exhibitions, live and theatrical performances, and culinary experiences that celebrate both traditional and contemporary cuisine. (Diriyah Season)

The Diriyah E-Prix championship, immersive art installations and exhibitions, live and theatrical performances, plus culinary experiences that celebrate both traditional and contemporary cuisine, are also planned for the season.

The Culinary Arts Commission of the Ministry of Culture will present Shetana, an outdoor winter-evening Saudi culinary experience, every day for four weeks at the Mayadeen theater. There will be a theatrical equestrian show and cultural concerts at the theater as well.

Ahmad Alnuaisri, Diriyah Company assistant manager of media relations

Bujairi Terrace, the fine dining destination, will include an expanded return of Layali Diriyah, which sees one of Diriyah’s heritage farms transformed into an open-air illuminated wonderland, showcasing the best of local and international contemporary art, design, cuisine, dance, live music, poetry and theatrical performances.

For the first time, Bujairi Terrace will also feature a themed escape room called “Journey to the Future,” which will test players’ escape skills and explore the Kingdom’s historical narratives.

What is special about the Diriyah escape room is that it will carry a cultural aspect and requires reviewing your cultural and historical information to solve the puzzles at hand.

Ahmad Alnuaisri, Diriyah Company assistant manager of media relations

“The themed escape room is a unique experience. It is an activity that requires one to be a quick thinker, and quick at making decisions and solving puzzles,” said Ahmad Alnuaisri, assistant manager of media relations at Diriyah Company.

“What is special about the Diriyah escape room is that it will carry a cultural aspect and requires reviewing your cultural and historical information to solve the puzzles at hand,” he said.

Jerry Inzerillo, Diriyah Gate Development Authority CEO

This season’s events planned for the At-Turaif historic district include poetry pop-ups, workshops, a retrospective, an exhibition, Souq Al-Mawsim, and more.

The At-Turaif retrospective explores and embraces the values of At-Turaif’s continuing influence on the Kingdom while bringing Diriyah’s stories and memories together in a multimedia installation. The “Diriyah Doors” exhibition explores the significance and history of the vividly colored, intricately patterned and engraved doors in Diriyah and Najd.

We want people from all over the world to see 300 years of our music, our food, our tents, our costuming, our storytelling, our poetry, our calligraphy.

Jerry Inzerillo, Diriyah Gate Development Authority CEO

The season, which ends in March, is predicted to strengthen the Kingdom’s tourism sector by bringing in both local and international visitors and generating 178,000 jobs for young Saudis.

“Even though we’re a 2030 project, we opened assets in 2022 including our UNESCO site … we’ve already had 1 million visits,” Inzerillo said.

“And now the numbers are growing, and we’ll have a million people that will visit us … until Ramadan when this Diriyah season concludes,” he said.

The 2023-2024 Diriyah Season is presented by Diriyah Company in partnership with Diriyah Gate Development Authority.

 

 


Saudi wood sculptor creates odes to nature, wildlife, ancient history

Updated 40 min 48 sec ago
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Saudi wood sculptor creates odes to nature, wildlife, ancient history

  • Award-winning artist Sultan Al-Mrshood inspired by childhood on Buraidah farm
  • Work includes ‘snake’ cane, rosaries from coconut wood, pits of olives and dates

RIYADH: Award-winning artist Sultan Al-Mrshood — who is currently presenting his work at the Saudi Feast Food Festival — has mastered the art of sculpting hyper-realistic representations of nature from wood, inspired by his childhood living on a farm.

Al-Mrshood has a booth at the festival’s Olive Exhibition — showcasing the fruit’s use as food and cosmetics — where he says his artwork often has admirers gathering for long periods.

The sculptor has an assortment of work on display including an eagle, a wooden cane entwined by a snake, and several handcrafted rosaries made from coconut wood, and the pits of olives and dates.

In his stand, the sculptor presents his collection of carved sculptures resembling an eagle, a snake crutch, carved canvases, and a variety of hand-made rosaries made of olive and date pits and coconut wood. (AN photos by Huda Bashatah)

Al-Mrshood has crafted three snake canes, with each taking about three months to complete. He sold the latest one, facilitated by the Ministry of Culture at the festival, for SR30,000 ($8,000). Seven years ago, Al-Mrshood sold a cane to Prince Sultan bin Salman who gifted it to Bahrain’s foreign minister at the time, Khalid bin Ahmad Al-Khalifa.

“Each of my pieces is mixed with an event or ancient history in Saudi civilization … the snake (cane), which embodies the story of the staff of Moses, is the secret of my fame and was sold to Prince Sultan bin Salman,” he noted.

Saudi artist sultan Al-Mrshood carves rosaries from pits of olives and dates. (AN photos by Huda Bashatah)

He has also sold one to a well-known cane collector in Al-Qassim province.

Al-Mrshood previously won third place for his wood sculptures in a Souq Okaz competition. Souq Okaz is a part of Taif Season which showcases Arab culture through food, art and goods from the UAE, Kuwait, Bahrain, Oman, Iraq, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco and Tunisia.

Al-Mrshood says that he has received positive feedback from the community on his snake canes. “It is classified as one of the rarest canes found in Saudi Arabia … The fact that there are not many sculptors in Saudi Arabia makes it very important and relevant. All the visitors’ responses are admiration and amazement.”

Sultan Al-Mrshood said ‘The snake crutch, which embodies the story of the staff of Moses, is the secret of my fame and was sold to Prince Sultan bin Salman.’ (Supplied)

He is inspired by images of a farm in Buraidah where he was raised. “I lived part of my life on a simple farm. My childhood at the farm was filled with adventures and I would always play with the wooden sticks and create shapes out of them. I would try to make masterpieces out of whatever was around me even though I didn’t know I would be an artist.”

“I have been an artist since childhood, and I was a painter before I was a sculptor. The art of sculpture is a complex process that relies on geometry, imagination, sculpting skill, and the use of many methods.”

Al-Mrshood says he is inspired when in “a mixture of calm solitude, meditation, and walking.”

He currently works at the Ministry of Culture as an instructor, passing on his knowledge to young Saudis through wood carving classes.

On challenges he faces as a wood sculptor, Al-Mrshood noted the “lack of availability to purchase manual machines to help me work accurately and quickly.”

While he caters for a niche market, which has its difficulties, there is also the appeal of its exclusivity. “If there are many wood carvers in Saudi Arabia, the price would decrease, but since the number of wood carvers in Saudi Arabia is very low, the prices of our handcrafted producers increase. This makes individuals like us very important and valued.”

 


Traditional Saudi Arabia folk dances, music showcased in Jazan

A total of 144 intermediate and high school students participated in the second National Folk Festival. (SPA)
Updated 41 min 3 sec ago
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Traditional Saudi Arabia folk dances, music showcased in Jazan

  • Jazan students took center stage with dynamic “Sword” and “Azzawi” dances, while Jeddah students enchanted with “Mezmar” and “Khobaiti” displays

RIYADH: The Kingdom’s rich music and dance heritage was recently showcased by students from across the country in Jazan, the Saudi Press Agency reported on Tuesday.

The second National Folk Festival saw 144 intermediate and high school students participate in the event organized by the local education department at the Jazan Heritage Village.

Outstanding performances were delivered by Riyadh and Al-Qassim students with the “Samri” dance, and Najran youth with drums, SPA reported.

Students from the Northern Border region engaged spectators with the rhythmic “Dahha” dance art form, and those from Makkah presented “Majrour and Rajaz” folk music.

Jazan students took center stage with dynamic “Sword” and “Azzawi” dances, while Jeddah students enchanted with “Mezmar” and “Khobaiti” displays.

Al-Baha students showcased the spirited “Mashbanani” and “Ardah” dances, and Al-Ahsa students delivered vibrant “Ashouri” and “Haydah Al-Harbiyyah” music and dance.

Beyond being a platform for showcasing creativity, the festival is aimed at connecting students with the nation’s regional and national art forms, SPA reported.

 


Saudi Arabia contributes $1.5m toward launch of new regional aviation safety body

Updated 06 December 2023
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Saudi Arabia contributes $1.5m toward launch of new regional aviation safety body

  • Al-Duailj said: “The establishment of the new organization will be a milestone for all its member states and is also a testimony to their commitment to aviation safety, quality, and efficiency

RIYADH: A new body to monitor aviation safety in the Middle East and North Africa region was on Wednesday unveiled at an international industry conference being held in Riyadh.

Abdulaziz Al-Duailj, president of the Saudi General Civil Aviation Authority, inaugurated the new MENA Regional Safety Oversight Organization — which will be based in Riyadh — during a ceremony as part of the 15th International Civil Aviation Organization meeting.

A memorandum of agreement was later signed by representatives of MENA-RSOO member states including Saudi Arabia, Djibouti, Sudan, Somalia, Palestine, Libya, Mauritania, and Yemen.

‎Inauguration ceremony ‎of the Regional Safety Oversight Organization ‎for the ‎Middle East and North African States (MENA-RSOO) which is hosted by ‎Riyadh ‎‎(Wednesday, December 6, 2023) by Abdulaziz Al Duailej President of the General ‎Civil Aviation Authority inaugurated.‎ (Supplied)

The new organization will aim to help develop and implement national training and safety programs, improve the monitoring of air safety, and work with nations to meet aviation safety standards.

In a speech, Al-Duailj said: “The establishment of the new organization will be a milestone for all its member states and is also a testimony to their commitment to aviation safety, quality, and efficiency.

“This step confirms the Kingdom’s keenness and commitment to aviation safety through its continued cooperation with international partners, to ensure the highest standards of air safety are achieved,” he added.

Al-Duailj noted that the ICAO wanted to see unified safety standards and the integration of technology throughout the civil aviation industry, especially regarding the design of aircraft engines, autonomous control, remotely piloted service aircraft, personal transportation via air taxis, and the overall performance of the air traffic network.

On Saudi Arabia’s financial contribution toward the setting up of the MENA-RSOO, he said: “Through this, the Kingdom aims to activate the role of this organization and support it with an amount of $1.5 million for the first two years of its establishment, in order for the organization to carry out its tasks and responsibilities in supporting air safety programs in our region.

“It also aims to assist member states in strengthening and raising the legislative and supervisory capabilities of their national air safety systems, enabling them to achieve higher levels of compliance with international rules and recommendations,” Al-Duailj added.

Salvatore Sciacchitano, president of the ICAO Council, said that the organization’s inauguration was an important step toward enhancing safety in the civil aviation sector.

“It embodies the amount of cooperation exerted to develop civil aviation safety in the Middle East,” he added.

He pointed out that the sector was an essential driver of economic growth and connectivity between countries.

Abdenbi Manar, director general of the Arab Civil Aviation Organization, noted ‎that the transportation sector played an essential role in the progress of nations.

He said: “It contributes to creating wealth and job opportunities, whether at the ‎industrial level or the infrastructure of the transportation system, and air transport ‎is usually an integral part of this system.

“The air transport sector is distinguished from other types of transportation by its ‎speed, efficiency, regularity, and high level of safety.

“Also, it relies on international ‎standards, whether at the institutional level or at the legal, financial, and technical ‎level,” Manar added.‎

The five-day ICAO conference is being hosted by the GACA until Dec. 7, with the participation of more than 100 countries and international organizations, and at least 700 industry experts.

 


Saudi Arabia ranks first globally in AI competition

Updated 14 sec ago
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Saudi Arabia ranks first globally in AI competition

  • More than 18,000 students from 40 countries participated in the event in the Kingdom, organized by the Saudi Data and AI Authority in collaboration with KAUST

RIYADH: The Kingdom won the most medals at the World Artificial Intelligence Competition for Youth, which was held from Dec. 2 to Dec. 3 at King Abdullah University of Science and Technology.

The results were announced on Wednesday, according to WAICY on X.

The Kingdom won 11 medals, the US won 10 medals, India and Greece were awarded two medals each and Canada and Singapore won one medal each.

More than 18,000 students from 40 countries participated in the event in the Kingdom, organized by the Saudi Data and AI Authority in collaboration with KAUST.

Students from general education levels — elementary, middle and high school levels — from the Misk, Dhahran, Madac, KAUST, Aramco, AlUla and NEOM schools represented the Kingdom in the competition’s three tracks: AI showcase, AI-generated art and AI large language model.

SDAIA and KAUST received the global outstanding organization award for their efforts and commitment to developing AI education.

This is one of the world’s largest competitions, and SDAIA took the lead in adopting it to advance young Saudi citizens and provide them with the experiences to comprehend AI technology, understand its importance and recognize its impact on various aspects of life, while encouraging them to participate in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.