Saudi sisters unlock mindful movement

Saudi sisters Yusr and Yara Al-Otaibi are co-founders of Rolly, a brand that aims to create safe spaces and products for individuals to integrate movement into their daily lives. (Supplied)
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Updated 16 September 2023

Saudi sisters unlock mindful movement

  • Yusr and Yara Al-Otaibi’s wellness brand hopes to create joy, comfort through sustainable practices, ‘global perspective’

RIYADH: As the global fitness industry slowly gets back on its feet following the pandemic, brands are finding leverage through community engagement and mindfulness.

Rolly, a Saudi brand established in 2021, focuses on creating fitness experiences and products while platforming sustainable practices through a “global perspective,” Yusr Al-Otaibi, co-founder of the brand, told Arab News.

Her sister, co-founder Yara Al-Otaibi, said: “In Saudi Arabia it’s really important to set a standard because we no longer settle for the minimum or the normal. We really want the best in terms of our brand, or products, or initiatives.”

Rolly looks to create safe spaces and products for individuals to integrate movement into their daily lives. (Supplied)

Saudis are no strangers to sedentary lifestyles. Days are outlined by long car rides through scorching sun-stroked streets. Only in the colder months can joggers and cyclists be found roaming Riyadh’s Wadi Hanifa or Jeddah’s Corniche. While there are no recent statistics on the topic, according to the 2021 Household Sports Practice Survey by the General Authority for Statistics, 29.7 percent of people are involved in moderate physical activity.

Rolly looks to create safe spaces and products for individuals to integrate movement into their daily lives.


• Rolly, a Saudi brand established in 2021, focuses on creating fitness experiences and products.

• Rolly Experiences are curated wellness and fitness events that include mindfulness activities.

Yusr said: “We started with a question: Why weren’t there sustainable products that look fun and are also high performance? We took the challenge.”

After suffering a knee injury, cutting into her active lifestyle and gym routine, Yara found conventional yoga mats caused more pain than support. An idea resulted from the two sisters’ need for products and spaces that are comfortable, safe, and help all types of movement.

Yusr said: “We found a gap in the Saudi market, and the Middle East as a whole, and we’re hoping through this we can spread awareness of the importance of movement while taking care of the Earth.”

Rolly looks to create safe spaces and products for individuals to integrate movement into their daily lives. (Supplied)

After three years of testing alongside physiotherapists, the sisters’ first product saw the light of day. Their plastic-free and anti-humidity yoga mat is constructed using rubber and a top layer of vegan leather. The wide structure was designed by Yara to ensure that it is suitable for most body types and fitness exercises.

They have also developed a mat carrier, made of local fabrics, to promote the idea that safe spaces to practice can also be portable.

Yusr explained: “I think through the product design, perhaps Rolly opened the door for a new category of products in the Kingdom in terms of fitness that are approached by both male and female, or whether you’re a yogi, or a physiotherapist or pilates trainer, or a high school girl who loves movement.”

We found a gap in the Saudi market, and the Middle East as a whole, and we’re hoping through this we can spread awareness of the importance of movement while taking care of the Earth.

Yusr Al-Otaibi, Rolly co-founder

Their company is built under the three core values of sustainability, performance, and creativity.

Yara said: “As entrepreneurs we do really believe that businesses that don’t have a social, environmental, or an economic responsibility in Saudi Arabia will not flourish.

“We focus on these three aspects that are (components of) international sustainability … It’s not only the fact that we have products that are sustainable; socially, we are encouraging people to move, which has a sustainability aspect as well.”

Rolly looks to create safe spaces and products for individuals to integrate movement into their daily lives. (Supplied)

By working with Friends of Rolly — who are local instructors — fitness talent, investors, local businesses and studios get to boost their exposure.

The Jeddah-based brand this year began Rolly Experiences, which the sisters explained is at the “core of what Rolly does.” Their curated events captivate the senses of their clients, whether it is the weight of the mat they stand on, the music, or the environment they are placed in.

Mindfulness techniques are incorporated to engage mind as well as body.

Rolly has been able to promote mindfulness and fitness through experimental events, using lights to help encourage curiosity from onlookers.

Yusr said: “People are excited now to know what’s next because our experiences move from one location to another.

“The trainers are people who also fuse different types of sports together and these things are very exciting. It’s very heartwarming to see and know there is a demand for it.”

The sisters’ most recent event, called “Shells by the Beach,” which was run in collaboration with local studios and instructors, focused on locating and tuning into inner fluidity.

Yusr said: “We wanted it to be by the beach so the participants could feel and visualize the waves and recreate that feeling inside them. Human bodies are made up of 70 percent water so it made sense to be there.”

While they are currently based in Jeddah, they plan to expand into other parts of the region in the near future.

Yusr added: “The ultimate goal is to redefine the idea of fitness experiences in the country.

“People are interested in Pilates and yoga, and so on, but they also want a fresh perspective on making it something new: a very high-performance, high-quality experience.”


Mawhiba prepares 35 young innovators for global science fair

Updated 8 sec ago

Mawhiba prepares 35 young innovators for global science fair

  • Mawhiba said that the selected students will join more than 1,800 peers worldwide specializing in science and engineering
  • Mawhiba said that the selected students will join more than 1,800 peers worldwide specializing in science and engineering

JEDDAH: In collaboration with the Ministry of Education, the King Abdulaziz and His Companions Foundation for Giftedness and Creativity (Mawhiba) has inaugurated the qualifying program for the Regeneron International Science and Engineering Fair 2024.
The program, held at the Mishkat Interactive Center in King Abdullah City for Atomic and Renewable Energy in Riyadh, seeks to identify and prepare 35 outstanding individuals from a pool of 45 talented participants. The selected students are poised to represent the Kingdom at the prestigious Regeneron ISEF 2024 in Los Angeles in May.
Mawhiba said that the selected students will join more than 1,800 peers worldwide specializing in science and engineering. They will not only compete for ISEF awards, but also participate in international innovation exhibitions, such as ITEX in Malaysia and TISF in Taiwan.
As part of the program, mentors will review the students’ projects, developing work plans to strengthen and enhance each project before the final submission deadline to ISEF.
Workshops on presentation skills, project display, and understanding the judging mechanism at ISEF are also included in the agenda for participants.
Additionally, the Scientific Ethics Committee will have a crucial role in reviewing specific forms related to scientific ethics followed during experiments for each project. Statistical analysis of selected projects will be conducted to ensure accuracy, with specialists overseeing the development plans for each student.
Toward the end of the workshop, an independent judging committee will make the crucial decision of selecting candidates to join the Saudi science and engineering team. These chosen individuals will then proudly represent the Kingdom at ISEF 2024, competing for its coveted awards.
Mawhiba emphasized the success of previous efforts in fostering a culture of scientific research and innovation in education. This has led to the Kingdom achieving commendable global positions in international participation.
Earlier this month, Mawhiba hosted the National Olympiad for Scientific Creativity, Ibdaa 2024, to select students for the Regeneron ISEF 2024 event.
Mawhiba said that the number of students participated in this year’s Ibdaa 2024 has surged by 40 percent, reaching 210,000 compared to 146,000 students last year, who submitted projects in 21 scientific fields.
The foundation selected 180 projects from a pool of 210,000 submissions
The projects included 30 in the energy sector, 26 in materials science, 24 in chemistry, 17 in environmental engineering, 11 in biomedicine and health sciences, and nine in plant sciences.
The Ibdaa 2024 Olympiad aims to discover and support Saudi Arabia’s talented students, fostering their skills and advancing scientific projects.
The annual event provides an innovative environment for collaboration between educational supervisors, education departments and researchers, with a goal to support students.

Kingdom launches heritage metaverse initiative

Updated 24 February 2024

Kingdom launches heritage metaverse initiative

  • Users can discover cultural attractions in simulated environment

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Culture has launched an initiative in the Metaverse, supported by an artificial intelligence system for Generative Media Intelligence, according to the Saudi Press Agency.

The dynamic digital environment allows users to discover the Kingdom’s heritage by taking part in simulated activities.

The collaboration with droppGroup utilizes Hyperledger Fabric 2.5 blockchain technology.

The Saudi heritage Metaverse platform offers a blend of cultural shows, performances and digital innovation.

It includes cultural attractions like the History Walk, dedicated sectors for music, art, history, culinary arts and crafts, as well as mini-video games.

The platform is a fully immersive, web-based experience accessible from a range of devices. (Supplied)

Events will also be streamed on the ministry’s Metaverse platform, such as a symphony concert for Saudi Founding Day.

The platform is a fully immersive, web-based experience accessible from a range of devices, including mobile phones, VR headsets and desktop computers.

The Ministry of Culture scheme aims to encourage global audience to explore Saudi Arabia’s heritage and culture.

Millions of people within the Kingdom will be able to take part in Metaverse events remotely.

Those interested in participating in this unique virtual experience can register via the following link:

Kingdom arrests 19,431 illegals in one week

Updated 24 February 2024

Kingdom arrests 19,431 illegals in one week

RIYADH: Saudi authorities arrested 19,431 people in one week for breaching residency, work and border security regulations, the Saudi Press Agency reported on Saturday.

According to an official report, a total of 11,897 people were arrested for violations of residency laws, while 4,254 were held over illegal border crossing attempts, and a further 3,280 for labor-related issues.

The report showed that among the 971 people arrested for trying to enter the Kingdom illegally, 39 percent were Yemeni, 57 percent Ethiopian, and 4 percent were of other nationalities.

A further 36 people were caught trying to cross into neighboring countries, and 15 were held for involvement in transporting and harboring violators.

The Saudi Ministry of Interior said that anyone found to be facilitating illegal entry to the Kingdom, including providing transportation and shelter, could face imprisonment for a maximum of 15 years, a fine of up to SR1 million ($260,000), as well as confiscation of vehicles and property.

Suspected violations can be reported on the toll-free number 911 in the Makkah and Riyadh regions, and 999 or 996 in other regions of the Kingdom.

Saudi pavilion showcases ancient heritage at Doha expo

Updated 24 February 2024

Saudi pavilion showcases ancient heritage at Doha expo

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s pavilion at the International Horticultural Expo in Doha participated in celebrations for the Kingdom’s Founding Day.

The pavilion showcased Saudi national heritage, and visitors could explore the Kingdom’s ancient history.

The celebrations included various events to reflect the unique Saudi identity and heritage. Among these were folk arts and traditional music performances, the Saudi ardah, traditional fashion shows, and events showcasing plastic arts.

Also displayed were handicrafts that combined nostalgia with the creativity of the present.

Many visitors were a part of the special occasion, and it was praised for highlighting the diversity and cultural richness of Saudi Arabia.

The event was part of the Kingdom’s efforts to enhance cultural communication and introduce the world to its rich heritage. It was also an opportunity to showcase Saudi history while strengthening cultural ties and communication.

The expo, which boasts the title “Green Desert, Better Environment,” began on Oct. 2 last year and continues until March 28.

The Saudi pavilion is also showcasing the Kingdom’s “natural richness,” drawing visitors from around the world.

From sand dunes to melting glaciers, Saudi Arabia’s Princess Abeer shares lessons from her Antarctic expedition

Updated 24 February 2024

From sand dunes to melting glaciers, Saudi Arabia’s Princess Abeer shares lessons from her Antarctic expedition

  • The princess joined an expedition in November to the remotest parts of Antarctica led by Australian NGO Homeward Bound
  • She joined the expedition to raise awareness about climate action, sustainability, and the need for ‘a peace pact with nature’

RIYADH: Princess Abeer bint Saud bin Farhan Al-Saud recently became the first person from Saudi Arabia and the wider Gulf region to go on a research expedition to the remotest parts of the Antarctic continent.

In November, the princess was among 80 people selected from a pool of 1,800 applicants from 45 nations who joined the expedition led by Homeward Bound, an Australian organization that promotes women’s leadership in STEMM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics, and medicine).

Princess Abeer told Arab News: “The whole purpose of me joining this expedition was to raise awareness about climate action, environmental sustainability, and making a peace pact with nature and biodiversity.”

The women on The Island Sky 2023, from 18 countries, set sail on Nov. 12, 2023, from Puerto Madryn, Argentina, for a 19-night voyage. (Photo courtesy of Homeward Bound)

Also on the expedition were astronomers, oceanographers, glaciologists, mathematicians, marine biologists, and renewable energy engineers, who collaborated on various projects some of which were part of the UN Climate Change Conference (COP28), held in Dubai in November and December.

The princess said: “As a group, a few of us collaborated on multiple projects combining science, art, and policy and advocating at the UN by drafting reports and preparing our talks and findings for our participation at COP28.”


• In November, Princess Abeer joined an expedition to the remotest parts of Antarctica, led by Homeward Bound, an Australian organization that holds leadership programs for women in STEMM, becoming the first person from the Gulf region to do so.

Princess Abeer is an international development professional with culture and heritage, peacebuilding, multilateralism, and NGO expertise, who has worked for several UN agencies.

She currently chairs the Sustainable Development Association (Talga) which aims to localize the UN Sustainable Development Goals in alignment with Vision 2030.

The princess noted that she was passionate about dedicating her life to projects that helped preserve endangered species, land, and the planet.

She is also an artist, inspired by her surroundings and what she described as her “cosmic desert” adventures in Saudi Arabia, where she produces works on canvas utilizing natural materials.

Before setting off for Antarctica, Princess Abeer pointed out that she would channel her ancestral heritage.

“I will draw on my roots as a woman from the desert and as a sailor, looking to the heavens to guide me.

“The Southern Cross has led me to many answers and many more questions, just like the North Star has led wanderers through the desert for countless generations,” she added.

The Bedouin who traversed Arabia’s vast deserts over the millennia relied on the stars.

November’s expedition was not all plain sailing. An unexpected storm struck the team’s ship as it navigated the Drake Passage, one of the world’s choppiest sea routes located between South America’s Cape Horn and the South Shetland Islands of Antarctica.

Navigating through icebergs amid stormy waters could be a truly frightening experience. (Photo by Maya Beano)

The princess said: “We had a very challenging 48 hours on the Drake Passage. My expedition mates lay on their bunks. Others used dark humor to console their anxiety by playing the ‘Titanic’ soundtrack on the old piano on board in the open area lounge.

“A few others were brave and calm, enjoying their time knowing that the storm would pass.”

While the experience was no doubt frightening, she added that she felt humbled, both by the power of nature and the skill of the ship’s crew who brought them safely through the towering waves to calmer seas.

“Witnessing and experiencing the majesty of nature’s fury is the art of humble exploration. I think it requires so much mental agility, gentle wisdom, and humor to overcome any storm, rogue waves, or any hardship in your life,” she added.

When the team arrived in Antarctica, Princess Abeer noted that it felt like she had been transported to another world, similar to “Alice in Wonderland.”

She said: “It felt like being in an immersive and multi-sensory natural museum of raw and untouched beauty. You can hear the sound of silence. Antarctica is the icebergs and glaciers gazing at you.”

Although the expedition took place during the Southern Hemisphere’s summer season, it was vital that participants wore the appropriate gear to withstand the cold, plus polarized sunglasses to protect their eyes from the sun’s harsh ultraviolet rays.

But to work in such inhospitable conditions, the princess pointed out that participants required inner strength.

Humpback whales gracefully surface in the Gerlache Strait during sunset. (Photo by Maya Beano)

“In isolated polar regions, just like hibernating animals live off their fat, as polar explorers we sought to ignite our spirits — with sea crafts like bunting,” she added.

Princess Abeer and the rest of the team slept aboard their ship, anchored off the Antarctic coast, but each day used Zodiacs — heavy-duty inflatable boats — to commute to their research stations and to conduct field research.

While studying the impact of climate change on the Antarctic’s weather, wildlife, and geography, the princess was shocked to see the massive icebergs breaking into the ocean and the record number of invasive species drawn to the continent by its warming climate.


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In particular, she was stunned to see rainfall in a part of the world where water in the atmosphere should be falling as snow.

She said: “It was raining occasionally instead of snowing. That is defying nature by all measures. It can’t and shouldn’t be raining in Antarctica at all.”

Out on the Antarctic ice, Princess Abeer was a long way from the vast sandy deserts of the Arabian Peninsula. However, she found some unexpected similarities in the contrasting environments.

“When you’re in a desert of ice, as opposed to a desert of sand, you’re living with people who are on the very edge of human tolerance. I think the upshot of that is the incredible hospitality you get,” she added.

View of Antarctica on a sunny day. (Photo by Maya Beano)

It highlighted to her how the world’s most distinct ecosystems — from polar regions and subtropical rainforests to vast interior deserts and coastal habitats — were interconnected by the global climate system.

Princess Abeer said: “Safeguarding the cryosphere is not a matter for polar regions alone but all countries alike. Glaciers and icebergs melting at faster rates will cause rising sea levels, affecting all coastlines in the world.

“The polar and MENA (Middle East and North Africa) regions — in fact the entire globe — are linked. If we want to save one, then we have to save the other.

“The importance lies in understanding these reciprocal relationships for effective climate management, ensuring global climate stability, and safeguarding ecosystems in both polar and desert regions alike, and henceforth contributing to safeguarding the global climate system,” she added.

Another major concern for polar researchers was the impact of a warming climate on seabird habitats. The breakup of sea ice has disrupted colonies, while the arrival of invasive species from further north has brought with it the spread of avian flu.

The Snowy Sheatbell, the only land bird native to the Antarctic. (Photo by Princess Abeer Al-Farhan) 

“Antarctica is like a haven paradise of wildlife. On a daily basis we had awe-inducing surprise encounters with humpback whales flashing their flukes against the water.

“There were also colonies of Weddell seals that I think can only be found in ice-free islands in Antarctica,” the princess said.

Antarctica is home to one especially iconic species — penguins. Of the world’s 18 different penguin species, seven of them are only found on the southernmost continent.

“We were so lucky to have seen them all in their natural habitat during our last expedition.

Adelie penguins colony on the iceberg Antarctica. (Shutterstock)

“The species found in Antarctica and the Subantarctic region are the emperor penguin, Adelie, chinstrap, gentoo, macaroni, rockhopper, and king penguin,” she added.

For Princess Abeer, the biggest takeaway from her time in Antarctica was the need for the world and individuals to take a cross-sectoral approach in their efforts to halt climate change and prevent global temperatures from rising any further. Failure to do so, she highlighted, would lead to further ice melt and a rise in global sea levels.

“I believe that it’s time to make a peace pact with nature. We must not let our faith for a regenerative future for this planet melt away. What happens in Antarctica doesn’t stay in Antarctica,” she said.