Inspirational Saudi women offer sage advice to recent graduates entering the workforce

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Hajar Alnaim. (Supplied)
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Reema Juffali is the first Saudi female professional racing driver to win an international motor race. (Instagram/reemajuffali)
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Reema Juffali is the first Saudi female professional racing driver to win an international motor race. (Instagram/reemajuffali)
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Updated 17 July 2023
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Inspirational Saudi women offer sage advice to recent graduates entering the workforce

  • ‘Vision 2030 has turned everything around,’ says Saudi motor sports pioneer Reema Juffali

RIYADH: Saudi women have time and again defied all odds with tenacity, carving niches for themselves across different fields since the country’s establishment.

From Princess Noura bint Abdulrahman, adviser to her brother King Abdulaziz, to Rayyanah Barnawi, the first Saudi woman to go to space, to Mishaal Ashemimry, the first female aerospace engineer in the Gulf Cooperation Council — the list is impressive and growing.

Some inspiring and resilient Saudi women spoke to Arab News to share their thoughts and offer sage advice to young Saudi graduates who are all set to enter the workforce.




Nouf Alosaimi. (Supplied)

“Take a chance and believe in yourself,” said Reema Juffali, the first Saudi female professional racing driver to win an international motor race.

With the driving ban in the Kingdom lifted in 2018, a realm of possibilities for women was unveiled, but with change came great uncertainty.

HIGHLIGHTS

• Hajar Al-Naim’s Studio Production Training is backed by the Saudi Cultural Fund.

• Hawazen Al-Hassoun, PwC’s Middle East COO, oversees all internal services for more than 2,000 employees in six offices around the Kingdom.

• Professional racing driver Reema Juffali was on BBC’s 100 Women list of inspiring and influential women around the world in 2022.

Juffali, who earned a spot on BBC’s 100 Women list of inspiring and influential women around the world last year, said: “The challenges have been more to do with self-belief, especially when things seemed to be not going my way. I’ve had to remind myself to be patient and trust the process to achieve my long-term goals.”




Nouf Al-Osaimi dived 105 meters in Jeddah’s Red Sea. (Supplied)

Women across the country are entering male-dominated fields and “intimidation is there when you’re around people who’ve been doing this for so many years.”

Women were first allowed into government spaces in 2011 following a royal decree by King Abdullah, who appointed 30 women to the Shoura Council.

“Vision 2030 has turned everything around. It’s not just opened new doors, but new horizons. Women in particular have now taken up jobs that they hadn’t had the opportunity to explore in the past,” Juffali said.




Hawazen Al-Hassoun, PwC’s Middle East COO

In the corporate world, PwC’s Middle East Chief Operating Officer Hawazen Al-Hassoun has made it her mission to create a work environment pillared by inclusion and diversity.

“This means creating an environment where employees have equal opportunities for career development and even equal pay in a culture that fosters respect to all,” Al-Hassoun told Arab News.

As the first woman to take up the position, she oversees all internal services for more than 2,000 employees in six offices around the Kingdom and focuses on implementing operational excellence, driving business process efficiency, and executing on strategic goals.




Inspiring the next generation of saudi women, Rayyanah Barnawi is the first saudi woman to go to space.

Bringing Vision 2030 to life, this year the regional headquarters welcomed 190 new graduates, all Saudi nationals — 50 percent of whom were women. They have also launched an on-the-job training program in AlUla that leverages the global consultancy’s collective industry expertise and aims to provide hands-on professional experience to fresh Saudi graduates.

Al-Hassoun, who grew up in a family that values equal opportunities, feels that “gender bias is still an issue. However, by speaking up and seeking out support, women can overcome these challenges and achieve success in their careers.”

The world needs more female leaders who contribute their skills and vision to the table. Ultimately, the path to success is never a straight line. Each one of us has their own unique journey. But always remember, don’t give up on your dreams.

Hawazen Al-Hassoun, PwC’s Middle East COO

According to a report published by the firm, 40 percent of working-age women within Saudi Arabia and GCC countries are employed, and fewer than 20 percent of all senior managers are females.

The type of cultural shift that would see more women in leadership positions involves a number of considerations. It is a transitional change, Al-Hassoun says, which will also require an agenda for diversity to be pushed more broadly across the workforce.

Women face a number of barriers that vary from managing work-life commitments to accessing training and development. There is also a lack of career opportunities and advancement.




A large number of scuba diving centers can be found in Saudi Arabia. (Supplied)

“Businesses need to embed diversity strategies for the entire career lifecycle, setting diversity key performance indicators to ensure fair assessments for women and reinforcing supportive workplace cultures. It’s also a critical step for employers to effectively attract, recruit, and retain talented young women,” Al-Hassoun said.

She suggests that businesses take steps like providing top mentorship and sponsorship, peer support groups, access to female leaders and role models, flexible work hours and paid leave, and equitable compensation processes.

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105m

Nouf Al-Osaimi dived 105 meters in Jeddah’s Red Sea, the deepest depth achieved by a woman in Saudi Arabia.

Al-Hassoun said: “I want young women to understand the opportunities and career paths that are currently available to them. It is important with the consistent changes that are circling the Kingdom for young women to be aware and educated on what they are able to achieve and obtain.”

To young graduates, she emphasized the uniqueness of their individual perspectives: “The world needs more female leaders who contribute their skills and vision to the table. Ultimately, the path to success is never a straight line. Each one of us has their own unique journey. But always remember, don’t give up on your dreams.”

Many of the female change-makers were first and foremost driven by passion. For filmmaker Hajar Al-Naim, co-founder and executive producer at production house MTHEC and cofounder of Studio Production Training, her hope was to change lives.

As a student abroad at Loyola Marymount University, before the Kingdom established the Film Commission under the Ministry of Culture, it was clear that talents at home were lacking proper training.

“It wasn’t easy for a lot of guys to learn about filmmaking, so it was extra hard for me to learn about that in Saudi Arabia … That experience that I had in Los Angeles, I wanted to give it back to our talents in Saudi Arabia,” she told Arab News.

SPT, backed by the Saudi Cultural Fund, has recently launched The Studio program, which seeks to educate talent and provide fellow filmmakers with support throughout the production process.

Similarly, Saudi scuba instructor Nouf Al-Osaimi saw the discrepancy in the water sports industry.

Al-Osaimi first dived into the Red Sea in 2008 and instantly became mesmerized by its beauty and the richness of life teeming there. She began exploring the field and gained more experience, becoming an open-water diver and advancing to rescue and dive master.

In 2011, she graduated from the UK with a degree in tourism management.

“We didn’t even have tourism in Saudi Arabia at the time,” she told Arab News. “I do what I love and what makes me fulfilled. I don’t do things for the community, or society, or anyone — I do it for myself. When you do things for yourself, you go to places that you’ve never thought of.”

While she was working in Egypt after graduation, she said she was not taken seriously by her colleagues. “But I believed it was for me, which is why I pushed (for it),” Al-Osaimi said.

“The first challenge was that I wasn’t able to go on a boat without a guardian, so I was limited to small beaches. I had to be low-profile, and the community was dominated by men back then, so I had to be careful.”

From a societal aspect, the industry itself was not taken seriously. But Al-Osaimi overcame these challenges and slowly reached higher ranks, working at the diving center in a five-star hotel in Sharm El Sheikh.

After deciding it was time to come home and share her expertise locally, she became the first Saudi female technical diver, diving 105 meters in Jeddah’s Red Sea, the deepest distance achieved by a woman in the country.

She then founded the Red Sea Citizen Dive club to raise awareness about the diving field in the region, and Pink Bubbles Divers, a community-based group to empower women in the field, and held the first global PADI Women Dive Day in Saudi Arabia in 2017. She is now an AmbassaDiver for the Professional Association of Diving Instructors.

This year, she delivered the opening speech at the World Economic Forum, asking world leaders to protect the coral reefs in the Red Sea. She was also invited as a speaker at the Ocean’s Dinner event organized by the Saudi UNESCO delegation in Paris.

She said: “Finally, I can change people’s lives the same way diving changed mine … I dedicated my life to the thing I love most, even though it wasn’t something necessarily accepted in society.”

Al-Osaimi now captains her own boats, in a sign that bodes well for Saudi women as they set sail for new horizons.

 


Strawberry picking in Taif serves up a sweet summer escape

Updated 20 July 2024
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Strawberry picking in Taif serves up a sweet summer escape

  • Locations help create jobs during the summer season

TAIF: A strawberry farm in the rugged mountains of Al-Hada in Taif has emerged as a popular spot for visitors looking to escape the summer heat and appreciate the beauty of nature away from the hustle and bustle of city life.

Arab News recently visited the Al-Hada strawberry farm to see how it captures the essence of the region’s natural beauty and vibrant culture.

At Al-Hada farm in Taif, visitors can pick ripe strawberries and feed wildlife such as ducks, geese and parrots to the soothing sound of a nearby waterfall. (Supplied)

Located high in Al-Hada’s tourist area, the strawberry farm welcomes visitors all year round. The experience allows visitors to pick fresh berries and feed wildlife such as ducks, geese and parrots to the soothing sound of a nearby waterfall.

Along with a modest garden for birds and a lake for ducks and turtles, the space includes stalls selling ice cream, hot drinks and strawberry juice, among other refreshments. It also features seating areas and a cottage.

HIGHLIGHTS

• Turki Al-Ahmadi, Al-Hada farm’s founder, told Arab News that he had designed the farm in a way that draws visitors beyond harvest season from April to June.

• Entry to the farm in Al-Hada costs SR35 ($9).

Turki Al-Ahmadi, the farm’s founder, told Arab News that he had designed the farm in a way that draws visitors beyond harvest season from April to June. Various facilities to provide fun and relaxation in nature have been installed to this end.

At Al-Hada farm in Taif, visitors can pick ripe strawberries and feed wildlife such as ducks, geese and parrots to the soothing sound of a nearby waterfall. (Supplied)

His son, Bandar Al-Ahmadi, said that beside picking strawberries and enjoying the fresh fruit, the family are keen to make the farm a space where adults and children can learn about various types of trees.

The farm showcases models of trees including pomegranate, fig, tangerine, quince, apple and mulberry, with information about their habitat, method of irrigation, places of cultivation, and other key details about their lifespan.

We were told by many relatives who visited the strawberry farm in Al-Hada that their trip to Taif governorate would not be complete if they did not (go for) a strawberry-picking activity.

Hamid Al-Subhi, Visitor

“We were told by many relatives who visited the strawberry farm in Al-Hada that their trip to Taif governorate would not be complete if they did not (go for) a strawberry-picking activity,” Hamid Al- Subhi told Arab News during his visit recently.

At Al-Hada farm in Taif, visitors can pick ripe strawberries and feed wildlife such as ducks, geese and parrots to the soothing sound of a nearby waterfall. (Supplied)

Al-Subhi, who drove from Makkah with his family, was fascinated by the farm’s facilities: “Picking your own strawberries at the farm is really something … my kids really enjoyed it and being on the top of the mountain with such a cool weather really makes our visit more enjoyable.”

Abdul Mohsin Al-Qadi, a visitor from Jeddah, said that the strawberry-picking experience was hugely rewarding for him and his family.

“It is a must-visit destination and a breathtaking view,” he said. “This is our first time visiting this farm and we really enjoyed all activities, from handpicking our strawberries to other family-friendly activities at the small garden for birds and the lake of ducks and turtles,” he said. “It is a great way to enjoy the beauty of the area while also learning about local culture and heritage.”

Entry to the farm in Al-Hada costs SR35 ($9). Strawberry farms can also be found in Abha, Hail and Qatif.

 

 


Heritage meets urban arts at Asir’s Al-Asabila Palaces

The heritage palaces in Asir boost economic activity by creating job opportunities during the summer season. (SPA)
Updated 21 July 2024
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Heritage meets urban arts at Asir’s Al-Asabila Palaces

  • Locations help create jobs during the summer season

RIYADH: The famous heritage palaces in the Asir region have become tourist destinations, offering a rich blend of history and culture.

The Saudi Press Agency reported that these sites also boost economic activity by creating job opportunities during the summer season.

The heritage palaces in Asir boost economic activity by creating job opportunities during the summer season. (SPA)

The Al-Asabila Palaces, which are situated in Al-Namas Governorate some 150 km south of Abha, have become a major attraction. Situated in the heart of Al-Namas, these palaces now draw hundreds of visitors daily, both tourists and locals, according to the SPA. Their popularity has surged following their inauguration by Prince Turki bin Talal bin Abdulaziz, chairman of the Asir Development Authority.

Visitors begin their tour of the palaces by shopping in areas dedicated to traditional fashions, antiques, and gifts that showcase the heritage and arts of the Asir region.

The heritage palaces in Asir boost economic activity by creating job opportunities during the summer season. (SPA)

They can then relax with coffee and hot drinks before exploring the Abs Palace, which has been restored to welcome guests.

Tourist guide Saleh Al-Shehri told the SPA: “At the beginning of the Saudi era the palaces served as the headquarters for various government agencies, including the court, and as venues for national events.”

FASTFACTS

• Al-Asabila Palaces are situated in Al-Namas governorate some 150 km south of Abha.

• These palaces now draw hundreds of visitors daily, both tourists and locals, Saudi Press Agency reports.

• The initiative to restore the palaces was taken by their owners and helped transform them into a tourist and cultural attraction, says tour guide.

He added that the initiative to restore the palaces was taken by their owners and helped transform them into a tourist and cultural attraction. This effort aligned with the Kingdom’s Vision 2030, which aims to revitalize the area and boost domestic tourism.

The heritage palaces in Asir boost economic activity by creating job opportunities during the summer season. (SPA)

Historian Amr bin Gharamah Al-Amrawi says that Al-Namas was established in 1363-1364. However, it only received the name Al-Namas about 150 years ago, being previously known as Al-Waad village.

It was later named after the trees in the surrounding areas and the adjacent valley, while the presence of a well called Al-Namasa also contributed to the village being renamed Al-Namas.

The heritage palaces in Asir boost economic activity by creating job opportunities during the summer season. (SPA)

The heritage site features several palaces, including Abs, Mishref, Turban, and Kharif. These structures, which range from two to three floors in height, are examples of the traditional construction style of the Asir region.

The palaces contain 60 rooms and span a total area of about 5,000 sq. meters. The exteriors are of white limestone, extracted from white quartz stone, while the roofs feature wood, leaves, and juniper. The interiors are finished with plaster mixed with clay.

The heritage palaces in Asir boost economic activity by creating job opportunities during the summer season. (SPA)

According to the SPA, the area is home to numerous archaeological sites from various periods, the most famous location being Al-Jahwah village, mentioned by the traveler Al-Hamdani, which is located east of the present-day Al-Namas Governorate.

Al-Amrawi added that the governorate contains Islamic inscriptions in mountains known as Al-Sijin, Al-Gharamah, Dhul-Ain, Ajama, and Qarn Al-Ghala.

 


Saudi Arabia’s Beit Hail festival attracts over 68,000 visitors

Festival highlights include a Hijazi village exhibit, alongside live demonstrations of traditional crafts. (SPA)
Updated 20 July 2024
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Saudi Arabia’s Beit Hail festival attracts over 68,000 visitors

  • The festival includes folk art performances from the Hail and Yanbu regions, a “Made in Hail” pavilion, and an array of traditional foods prepared using heritage methods

RIYADH: The third Beit Hail heritage festival, themed “Your Home Away From Home,” has attracted more than 68,000 visitors since its opening at Aja Park earlier this month, Saudi Press Agency reported.

The 30-day event has drawn visitors of all ages from the region and beyond, offering a showcase of local culture and traditions.

Festival highlights include a Hijazi village exhibit, alongside live demonstrations of traditional crafts. (SPA)

Festival highlights include a Hijazi village exhibit featuring Yanbu’s heritage, alongside live demonstrations of traditional crafts.

Visitors can also observe artisans creating prayer beads, practicing Sadu weaving, crafting leather water bottles, and demonstrating embroidery techniques.

HIGHLIGHT

The 30-day event has drawn visitors of all ages from the region and beyond, offering a showcase of local culture and traditions.

Other showcased skills include hand-woven carpet production, crochet, and the crafting of traditional wooden doors with intricate plaster engravings typical of old Hail residences.

Festival highlights include a Hijazi village exhibit, alongside live demonstrations of traditional crafts. (SPA)

The festival also includes folk art performances from the Hail and Yanbu regions, a “Made in Hail” pavilion, and an array of traditional foods prepared using heritage methods.

Nayef Al-Salhoub, head of the organizing committee, told SPA: “Our goal is to connect younger generations with Saudi Arabia’s rich cultural legacy.”

The event runs daily from 6 p.m. to 1 a.m., featuring a diverse program of folk activities.

Visitors to the festival value the opportunity to explore Saudi Arabia’s ancestral traditions with their children, learning about historical lifestyles and the ingenious use of natural materials in daily life, SPA added.

 


19,817 residency and labor violators arrested across KSA

Saudi police have arrested hundreds of illegals breaching country’s labor law. (SPA)
Updated 20 July 2024
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19,817 residency and labor violators arrested across KSA

  • A total of 1,389 individuals were caught attempting to enter the Kingdom, of whom 45 percent were Yemeni, 53 percent were Ethiopian and 2 percent were of other nationalities

RIYADH: In joint field campaigns across the Kingdom from July 11 to July 17, 19,817 people were arrested for violating residency, labor and border security laws.

This number included 12,436 violators of residency laws, 4,881 violators of border-security regulations and 2,500 violators of labor laws.

A total of 1,389 individuals were caught attempting to enter the Kingdom, of whom 45 percent were Yemeni, 53 percent were Ethiopian and 2 percent were of other nationalities. Additionally, 48 individuals were caught attempting to exit the Kingdom illegally.

Nine individuals were apprehended for involvement in transporting, harboring and employing violators and covering up for them.

A total of 17,067 violators — 15,394 men and 1,673 women — are currently being processed by the relevant authorities.

 

 


Who’s Who: Noel Gomes, CEO of ASCES, Al-Halloul, Al-Badila

Noel Cunha de Ornelas Gomes, Chief Executive Officer of ASCES - Al Halloul, Al-Badila
Updated 20 July 2024
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Who’s Who: Noel Gomes, CEO of ASCES, Al-Halloul, Al-Badila

Noel Gomes was appointed CEO of ASCES, Al-Halloul, Al-Badila (Alternative Solutions Company for Environmental Services) in July 2024.

He is an entrepreneur and executive with a career in the financial sector spanning more than 25 years.

The Saudi private company focuses on global management of waste and disposal solutions.

As CEO, Gomes seeks to promote a circular economy, using advanced technologies to improve operational efficiency and minimize environmental impact. Under his leadership, the company is transforming waste management into a resource-efficient and environmentally friendly process.

Gomes’ career began at PwC in Portugal, where he refined his accounting and financial management skills. This was followed by significant roles in various multinational corporations, including Asea Brown Boveri, where he became chief of the accounting and treasury department, responsible for international financial reporting and strategic financial management.

Later, he was the group finance director at Novagest, and managed financial departments across Portugal and Angola, focusing on budgeting, reporting, and strategic advisory.

Gomes was a financial director at Lyon, an Angolan project development and construction company, where he oversaw accounting, treasury, and human resources, contributing to the company’s growth in Portugal and Angola.

Later, he became CEO of the LLeon Group, where he led the group’s management strategy, represented international groups in Portugal, and played a key role in the international expansion of Ajman government projects in the UAE.

In 2022, Gomes was a business consultant at the private office of Sheikh Ahmed bin Faisal Al-Qassimi in the UAE, where he expanded the office’s international relations and partnerships, particularly in Portugal.

From October 2022 to January 2023, he was chief international officer at Heights and Jewels, managing international relations and business modeling for projects associated with the private company of a member of the Saudi royal family.

Since 2018, Gomes has also been a prominent figure in the football sector, advising investors, and helping clubs, agents, and players to expand their networks and secure the best deals.

He holds a degree in financial audit from the Lisbon Accounting and Business School and a bachelor’s degree in accounting and administration from Instituto Militar dos Pupilos do Exercito in Portugal.