2030 Expo bid puts the making of a green Riyadh in the limelight

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Updated 23 September 2023
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2030 Expo bid puts the making of a green Riyadh in the limelight

  • Green Riyadh Project was launched in 2019 to transform the Saudi capital into a more sustainable and livable metropolis
  • From planting native species of trees to boosting water conservation, urban planners are using every tool in their kit

JEDDAH: For decades, traditional urban planning approaches were applied in major cities across the world, resulting in sprawling forests of concrete devoid of adequate greenery. Riyadh, the Saudi capital, was no exception.

That is why the Green Riyadh Project was launched in 2019 to transform the city into a more sustainable and livable metropolis, by increasing total green space from 1.5 percent to 9 percent and planting some 7.5 million trees, irrigated with recycled water.

By 2030, project developers plan to have greenified some 120 neighborhoods, covered more than 1,000 km of main roads in greenery, and to have developed more than 40 city parks.

Already, one cannot visit Riyadh without noticing the abundance of greenery, with millions of trees having been planted and new parks and green spaces sprouting up all over the city.

The project is having a positive impact on the environment in a city where summer temperatures can rise as high as 55 C.

Extra green spaces are helping to reduce air pollution and mitigate the effects of climate change by reducing average air temperatures in urban areas by 2 C and surface temperatures by up to 15 C.

In addition to its environmental benefits, the urban greening project is also improving the quality of life for Riyadh’s residents, providing much-needed areas for recreation and relaxation, while also helping to reduce noise pollution and heat-island effects.

“With a city that has rapidly grown horizontally for years, it is becoming costly — physically, financially and environmentally — to move around,” Shahad Manea, an urban designer based in Riyadh, told Arab News.

“Green spaces are engines to encourage vertical expansion, making cities more efficient, dense and convenient. This in turn establishes and increases public reliance on the cheapest and healthiest mode of transit — walking.

“Walkable cities are not only healthier but also more human, as the pace becomes slower, interactions become more frequent, encouraging dialogue, strengthening communities and improving quality of life.”

As with other cities around the globe, Riyadh has not escaped the twin pressures of population growth, expected to reach 15 to 20 million by 2030, and hotter summers.

Rising temperatures lead to greater demand for air conditioning, which in turn pushes up energy consumption, jacking up the burning of fossil fuels, increasing pollutants in the air, and contributing to even higher temperatures.

“Looking at the long-term gains, green spaces contribute to the reduction of greenhouse gas effects,” said Manea.

“This does not only reduce environmental pollution and ozone threats but also causes temperatures to decline, strong winds to break down, helps minimize sun exposure and dryness, reduces the impact of sandstorms, and regulates CO2 levels.

“This in turn will reduce cooling and irrigation costs, the over-reliance on private transit and its gas consumption.”

One innovative way to maximize green spaces in urban areas is to transform rooftops and other exterior structures like bus shelters into gardens, which can help reduce interior temperatures and collect rainwater — particularly during heavy downpours.

“These roofs and other green areas are great spaces for rainwater collection while minimizing runoff overflowing the streets, which causes costly damage annually,” Manea added.

Indeed, in order for a greening project of this scale to remain sustainable in Saudi Arabia’s desert climate, planners have made water conservation and reuse a top priority.

The city intends to improve its current usage of treated water for irrigation purposes from 11 percent to 100 percent, increase the amount of treated water used for irrigation from 90,000 cubic meters to a million by 2030, and to plant native species that can withstand the dry climate.

About 72 native shade-plant species compatible with Riyadh’s environment will be used for the project.

These include trees and shrubs such as the Acacia nilotica, also known as the gum arabic tree, and other species from the same family, Ziziphus spina-christi, known locally as Al-Sidr, wattle, hollyhock, queen’s wreath, and neem tree.

“Green spaces are always relevant, useful, timeless, and never fall out of style,” said Manea.

“However, to future-proof these spaces, the sole use of native plants should be implemented to make sure these places remain in good condition as these species self-sustain, prevent local ecosystems from going extinct and require minimal irrigation and maintenance.

“The use of native species reduces the chances of infrastructure complications when functions of the green space shift. Additionally, large green spaces should be constructed with differentiation in mind.

“Adaptable spaces are differentiated, meaning they are not rigid and defined enough, which makes them flexible to have room for future functions, public interpretations, and technological advances.”

Once its aims are achieved, the Green Riyadh Project will be a milestone that contributes to fulfilling a key goal of the Saudi Vision 2030 plan to promote the capital’s position among the world’s top 100 most livable cities.


MDLBEAST launches Beast House for music enthusiasts in Diriyah

MDLBEAST on Sunday inaugurated Beast House, a members-only club in Diriyah, Riyadh. (Supplied)
Updated 11 sec ago
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MDLBEAST launches Beast House for music enthusiasts in Diriyah

  • As part of its overarching strategy, MDLBEAST aims to venture into music venues, strengthening the Kingdom’s music ecosystem
  • Beast House, an innovative hub in Jax District, fosters talents, offering a creative space for artists and music enthusiasts

RIYADH: MDLBEAST, the leading Saudi music entertainment company, on Sunday inaugurated Beast House, a members-only club in Diriyah, Riyadh.

As part of its overarching strategy, MDLBEAST aims to venture into music venues, strengthening the Kingdom’s music ecosystem. This includes boosting production capabilities, empowering talents, and curating immersive musical experiences globally.

Beast House, an innovative hub in Jax District, fosters talents, offering a creative space for artists and music enthusiasts.

The club includes a cutting-edge recording studio, production rooms, designated spaces for workshops and music seminars, and a versatile stage for concerts and musical events.

Beast House provides four membership tiers, each with unique benefits. The studio membership, designed for creative individuals, grants access to recording studios and specialized programs to enhance musical skills, fostering engagement with the vibrant creative community.

Ramadan Al-Haratani, CEO of MDLBEAST, said: “Our aim is to establish innovative spaces and a supportive community that (empowers) musical talent and cultivates production capabilities, providing creative individuals with an inspiring environment to transform ideas into captivating music experiences.”

MDLBEAST will unveil new music venues, showcasing innovative ideas and pushing boundaries in the music scene while fostering creativity. In collaboration with NEOM, the company is creating a modern beach club on Sindalah Island, and additional venues are slated for 2024.


Saudi date industry targets East Asian markets, says official

The value of Saudi Arabia’s date exports increased by 14 percent in 2023. (NCPD)
Updated 03 March 2024
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Saudi date industry targets East Asian markets, says official

  • Kingdom’s date exports hit $390m, marking a 14% rise in 2023

RIYADH: The value of Saudi Arabia’s date exports increased by 14 percent in 2023, reaching SR 1.462 billion ($390 million), compared to SR 1.280 billion in 2022, according to a report released by the National Center for Palms and Dates.

By the end of 2023, the number of countries importing Saudi dates had reached 119. The total value of date and date by-product exports increased by 152.5 percent since 2016, from SR579 million in 2016 to SR1.462 billion in 2023, with a compound annual growth rate of 12.3 percent.

The rate of increase in 2023 compared to the previous year and the market entry of about 120 countries “mean a lot to us,” while the cumulative annual rate (12 percent annually) — compared to the base year 2016 — indicates that “we are steadily entering global markets and expanding steadily as well,” said Dr. Mohammed Al-Nuwairan, CEO of the center.

Date exports to Singapore recorded an 86 percent increase in 2023, while South Korea saw a 24 percent increase, and France experienced a 16 percent increase.

Currently, more than 20 Saudi companies are approved by Chinese customs, and this is reflected in the expansion of the Kingdom’s exports of dates to China. There is a focus on East Asian markets more clearly than other global markets, Al-Nuwairan added.

Dr. Mohammed Al-Nuwairan, CEO of the National Center for Palms and Dates. (Supplied)

He told Arab News that Saudi Arabia is not limited to exporting dates only, “but rather the export extends to include date derivatives such as molasses, pastes, and others, which enhances the presence of exports from the sector outside Saudi Arabia.

“East Asian countries are receiving attention from Saudi exports of dates, especially to Singapore, situated in the heart of countries targeted for exporting dates and their derivatives, such as Indonesia, Malaysia, and also China in particular. What supports this is the high demand for Saudi dates, which possess high nutritional values and production quality,” Al-Nuwairan added.

He expects the growth rate of date exports to increase, “or to remain stable at least,” in the next five years.

Al-Nuwairan pointed out that there is a significant trend from local and international partners to invest in the sector, especially concerning plastic wood derived from palm trees, and date products such as powder, molasses, pastes, and vinegar that can be derived from dates.

The date derivatives can be used in various products such as dairy, bakery, ice cream, and confectionery factories.

“We are currently engaged in serious discussions with large international food companies to include date derivatives in food industries,” Al-Nuwairan said.

He affirmed the concerted efforts between Saudi date producers, exporters, and government sectors to support marketing activities in targeted countries. This includes participation in local and international exhibitions, trade missions, facilitating export procedures, and collaborating with the private sector under a joint strategy, all under ambitious and supportive leadership.

Al-Nuwairan emphasized that efforts are ongoing to enhance the presence of Saudi dates worldwide, noting that Saudi date exports have witnessed significant increases in many countries. He pointed out that date exports to China increased by 121 percent last year compared to 2022.

Through its strategy and partnership with the private sector, the National Center for Palms and Dates aims to achieve its strategic objectives, with Saudi dates being the first choice for consumers globally, according to Al-Nuwairan.

The center implements several initiatives, including increasing national exports of dates and their derivatives, improving agricultural and industrial practices to enhance production quality, providing marketing services, and necessary information about the sector, and empowering the sector, he added.


Saudi authorities seize 1.3m Captagon pills in Jeddah

Updated 03 March 2024
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Saudi authorities seize 1.3m Captagon pills in Jeddah

RIYADH: Maj. Marwan Al-Hazmi, the Saudi General Directorate of Narcotics Control’s spokesperson, has announced that the Kingdom’s authorities have seized about 1.3 million Captagon tablets in Jeddah, the Saudi Press Agency reported.

The directorate’s officials, in collaboration with the Zakat, Tax and Customs Authority, thwarted an attempt to smuggle 1,298,886 highly addictive and illegal amphetamine pills, which were concealed within a shipment of electric ovens at Jeddah Islamic Port.

Authorities apprehended the intended recipients of the shipment in Riyadh and Jeddah, a Sudanese national and a Saudi citizen.

Initial statutory procedures have been completed, and both individuals have been referred to the Public Prosecution.

The Zakat, Tax and Customs Authority also thwarted two attempts to smuggle more than 63,000 Captagon pills hidden in two vehicles coming into the Kingdom through the Al-Haditha border crossing.

One vehicle contained more than 41,000 pills and the authority, coordinating with the General Directorate of Narcotics Control, arrested five intended recipients.

The authority said that it was enhancing customs control over the Kingdom’s imports and exports, in coordination with the General Directorate of Narcotics Control, as bodies concentrate on cracking down on smuggling operations.

The authorities have called upon the public to report all information regarding drug smuggling or selling by calling 911 in Makkah, Riyadh, and the Eastern Province, and 999 in the rest of the Kingdom. Alternatively, contact by email at [email protected].

Reports of suspected cases of drug smuggling are treated with strict confidentiality. Financial rewards are offered for information leading to arrests.


New scheme to promote Saudi comedians

Updated 03 March 2024
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New scheme to promote Saudi comedians

RIYADH: A new initiative to uncover and promote emerging Saudi comedy and theater talents has been launched in the Kingdom.

Turki Al-Sheikh, chairman of the General Entertainment Authority, said the body would be backing the Comedy Factory project, the Saudi Press Agency reported.

The authority aims to create a supportive environment in which up-and-coming young comics can develop content reflecting the Saudi identity and community issues, with guidance from industry experts.

The Comedy Factory is part of a series of initiatives organized by the authority to boost the country’s entertainment sector and will include workshops, training courses, and competitive events.

To register for the chance to join the scheme visit https://sauditheaters.com/ar.


Saudi Arabia distributes 10,000 Qur’an copies at Muscat book fair

Updated 03 March 2024
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Saudi Arabia distributes 10,000 Qur’an copies at Muscat book fair

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Islamic Affairs, Dawah, and Guidance distributed 10,000 copies of the Qur’an in various sizes from the King Fahd Complex for the Printing of the Holy Qur’an at the 28th Muscat International Book Fair.

The fair, held from Feb. 21 to March 2 at the Oman Convention and Exhibition Center in Muscat, highlighted the importance of literature and knowledge exchange, showcasing a diverse array of works from both within and beyond Oman.

The ministry’s pavilion saw a significant turnout from visitors who expressed admiration for the exhibition and the ministry's efforts in serving Islam.

The visitors also praised the Kingdom’s role in promoting Islam and disseminating the values of tolerance and moderation.

On display at the ministry’s pavilion were various copies of the Qur’an, along with translations into 77 foreign languages.

This year’s fair featured works from 847 publishing houses across 34 countries for a total of 622,000 titles, including 19,000 Omani books.