When Saudi Arabia takes the lead on Palestine, the ‘impact is powerful,’ Malaysia PM tells Arab News

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Updated 22 October 2023
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When Saudi Arabia takes the lead on Palestine, the ‘impact is powerful,’ Malaysia PM tells Arab News

  • Anwar Ibrahim thanks Saudi crown prince for “passionate and timely” remarks on Gaza, decries ‘hypocrisy’ in international politics

RIYADH: Malaysia’s Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim has decried as “insanity” the situation unfolding in Gaza, warning that the world is not blind to the “hypocrisy” of Western leadership as it has repeatedly failed to condemn Israeli aggression, and drawing marked parallels with Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Speaking to Arab News on Friday on the sidelines of the inaugural GCC-ASEAN Summit in Riyadh, Anwar said the conflict in the Middle East had exposed what he saw as a proclivity for “contradiction and hypocrisy” in international politics, noting that there is “talk about human rights on one end,” but the denial of those same rights to others.




Anwar Ibrahim, prime minister of Malaysia. (AN photo by Abdulrahman bin Shulhub)

“A good student of history and geopolitics wouldn’t be necessarily surprised that there is so much contradiction and hypocrisy in the arena of international politics,” he said.  

“For example, it condemns Russia for the aggression because of the Russian decision to take a Russian enclave in Ukraine. Fair. That is condemned. But with Israeli aggression taking over the legitimate lands of the Palestinians, that is condoned.

“Not only that (the aggression) is supported and defended. We must wake up and see the stark hypocrisy that cannot continue.”

In his opening address at the summit, Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman said: “As we gather, we are saddened by the escalating violence that Gaza is witnessing today, the price of which is being paid by innocent civilians.”

The crown prince underscored the need to “stop military operations against civilians ... and to create conditions for the return of stability and the achievement of lasting peace that ensures reaching a just solution to establish a Palestinian state according to the 1967 borders.”




Malaysian PM Anwar Ibrahim with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman at the inaugural GCC-ASEAN Riyadh Summit on Oct. 20, 2023. (SPA)

Anwar said it was “no exaggeration” to describe the Saudi crown prince’s remarks as “passionate and timely,” adding that it was vital for an Arab leader to take not only a “firm” position on the crisis in Gaza but also one based on “humanitarian grounds.”

He described his immediate response as a desire to thank the crown prince, and to say that “we are with you and the GCC because of what you see, and when you take the lead, it will have a powerful impact.”

Anwar said Malaysia was fully behind the efforts of Saudi Arabia and the GCC to bring the fighting to a close and prevent the outbreak of a wider war.

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s remarks formed part of a wider collective plea from the summit leaders, who issued a statement calling on all the parties involved in the conflict to implement a permanent ceasefire and condemn the attacks against Gaza’s civilian population.

It further emphasized the need to adhere to international humanitarian law, especially principles and provisions of the Geneva Convention regarding Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War, while also urging the much-needed delivery of humanitarian aid, relief supplies and other essential necessities and services to Gaza.




Saudi Prime Minister and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman with Malaysian Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim at the official reception on Saturday in Riyadh. (SPA)

Furthermore, it urged the immediate and unconditional release of hostages and civilian detainees, especially women, children, the sick and the elderly.

Addressing the summit in his role as its country coordinator, Anwar reiterated the Saudi crown prince’s desire to see a two-state solution based on historic borders within the 1967 boundaries.

He called on all nations to come together to find a long-lasting and just solution to prevent the situation from becoming “an unprecedented humanitarian crisis” that could widen into a regional and even into a global conflict.

“The Palestinians must be returned their land, homes and properties,” Anwar said. “They must be allowed to live in peace and dignity in their own sovereign state in internationally recognized borders, based on the pre-1967 borders, with East Jerusalem as its capital.”

While the Israel-Hamas conflict overshadowed the summit, the leaders of the two blocs also adopted a roadmap, the Framework of Cooperation 2024-2028, covering agriculture and food security, banking and financial services, connectivity, counterterrorism, energy, tourism, trade and investment, as well as culture, education, and information. They also agreed to explore joint strategies on micro, small and medium enterprise development policies.




Saudi Prime Minister and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman with Malaysian Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim at the official reception on Saturday in Riyadh. (SPA)

“This is historic in a sense that the GCC and ASEAN are two small regional groups that are economically very vibrant, and we are entering to this collaboration without the influence of the big powers, and to essentially benefit from the strength in the GCC, with the phenomenal growth, and the sustainability in ASEAN,” Anwar said.

“We had been discussing this for years, and then the crown prince said, ‘OK, let me host it.’ So, we were all quite excited and because of the crown prince’s support and the presence of all leaders of GCC and ASEAN, we settled on the few parameters on how to further enhance the issue of trade and mechanisms to foster investment.”

Underpinning the Malaysian leader’s confidence in this formal tie-up between the Gulf and ASEAN blocs is the “phenomenal change” he has witnessed in the former, not least in Saudi Arabia over the past decade.

Having frequently visited Riyadh as a young graduate, Anwar said he is well acquainted with the region, and has personally bore witness to the rate of change.

“The Kingdom’s focus on new technology, new energy, artificial intelligence, this is reflected across the Muslim world,” he said. “People, of course, have issues or arguments or differences, but Saudi Arabia is known for its religious role, and even here it is shifting toward a modern state with its technology, its vibrant economy, and its renewable energy.

“This is something which is so particularly attractive for our countries to see and to, for example, seize that opportunity and secure whatever it is that we have. We in Asia have a long tradition of industrial investment. Malaysia, for example, has gone from being the warehouse of industry to the front end of microchips and is leading in that area.”

Further to his personal experiences in the Kingdom, as Malaysia’s PM, Anwar is governing a country that has “huge” numbers of Saudis visiting as tourists on an annual basis. Data from Tourism Malaysia put the Kingdom as the highest per capita spender to Malaysia in terms of tourism spending, with about 121,000 visiting annually, and that number continuing to climb. The attraction seems to be equally shared, with Malaysians also looking to visit Saudi Arabia.


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“There is a lot of reference to the fact that there is a sort of special relationship between Saudi Arabia and Malaysia, one that has existed for centuries,” Anwar said. “You study any historical account, be it Islamic or Islamization or Hajj and anti-colonial activities, all have the links between the traditional scholars and Saudi Arabia, particularly those around Makkah, a center for learning.

“And then, of course, Hajj is a major factor. I am fortunate because I was a young graduate. I used to engage with universities here in Jeddah, where they had the Hajj center. And you can see the preparedness to learn and make the necessary changes.”

Despite the history of synergistic interaction between the two countries, Anwar is not content to let it rest.




Anwar Ibrahim, prime minister of Malaysia, speaks to Noor Nugali, assistant editor in chief of Arab News. (AN photo by Abdulrahman bin Shulhub)e

“Ask me, is it enough? I would say no, which means we should try to work out some mechanisms where we can not only facilitate but accelerate the process. I think that’s generally why meetings such as (the GCC-ASEAN Riyadh Summit) are important. That’s why it’s not just the foreign minister but also the international trade minister was here.

“Because they will have to follow up on the specific areas that we can explore.”

Anwar said while the link and level of trust between Saudi Arabia and Malaysia “is quite unique,” in terms of collaboration there is a lot more that can be achieved.

“So, in my bilateral meeting with the crown prince I hope to emphasize this,” he said.

“Let us, then, do more, use that historical precedent and build (ties) anew, between the new Saudi Arabia and the new Malaysia, with the changes and the new government administration.

“The collaboration should be enhanced.”

 


Saudi Arabia’s Mashaer Train transports more than 2.2m Hajj pilgrims 

Updated 19 June 2024
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Saudi Arabia’s Mashaer Train transports more than 2.2m Hajj pilgrims 

RIYADH: Saudi Railways on Wednesday hailed the success of the Mashaer Train operation at this year’s Hajj season, saying the metro service had transported more than 2.2 million passengers between the nine stations in Arafat, Muzdalifah and Mina, operating 2,206 trips.

More than 29,000 worshippers were transported on the first day of the pilgrimage, while more than 292,000 pilgrims were carried from Mina to Arafat, Saudi Press Agency reported.

The Mashaer Train then transported over 305,000 people during the pilgrimage from Arafat to Muzdalifah, and more than 383,000 worshippers from Muzdalifah to Mina.

During the days of Tashreeq, the train carried more than 1.2 million pilgrims from stations Mina 1, Mina 2, and Muzdalifah 3 to Mina 3 station (Jamarat), which offered easy access to the Jamarat Bridge.

Bashar Al-Malik, CEO of SAR, said that the success of the operating plan was built on unlimited support for the railway sector from the Saudi leadership.


Riyadh targets Expo 2030 ‘by the world, for the world’

Updated 20 June 2024
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Riyadh targets Expo 2030 ‘by the world, for the world’

  • Saudi organizers deliver their first progress report to event bureau chiefs in Paris

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia is on target to deliver an Expo 2030 “by the world, for the world,” organizers have told event chiefs in Paris in their first progress report since Riyadh was chosen as host city.

Abdulaziz Alghannam, director general of the Riyadh Expo 2030 office at the Royal Commission for Riyadh City, led the Saudi delegation at the general assembly of the Bureau International des Expositions in the French capital.

Efforts were fully underway for Expo registration and preparation for creating the legal framework to enable international participation in the event, he told the bureau.

Riyadh was chosen to host the event at the bureau’s last general assembly in November 2023. The expo will take place  from Oct. 1, 2030 to March 31, 2031, when the Saudi capital will host 197 countries and 29 international organizations.

The theme – “The Era of Change: Together for a Foresighted Tomorrow” – encapsulates Saudi Arabia’s commitment to using the Expo to accelerate progress toward the planned sustainable development goals. The event will focus on harnessing science and innovation for a better future.

Preparations are underway at the highest levels, including infrastructure development, legislative and financial measures, the master plan for the Expo site, and legacy plans.


Classic meat dish returns to Jazan tables

Mahshoosh has stood the test of time, maintaining its prominence among the various dishes that grace the Jazan table. (Supplied/
Updated 19 June 2024
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Classic meat dish returns to Jazan tables

  • In the past, locals prepared mahshoosh to preserve sacrificial meat in the absence of refrigeration

MAKKAH: The arrival of Eid Al-Adha signals the return of mahshoosh, or Al-Humais — a traditional dish beloved by Jazan locals that is deeply rooted in the region’s cultural heritage.

Mahshoosh has stood the test of time, maintaining its prominence among the various dishes that grace the Jazan table. Its preparation is seen as a revival of an age-old tradition dating back to a time when there was no refrigeration. Local people relied on this dish to preserve the meat from their Eid Al-Adha sacrifices.

Once the meat and fat are cut up, the fat is slowly melted and meat added gradually. (Supplied/Visit Saudi)

While the dish is most associated with Eid Al-Adha, it can be savored throughout the year. Its name stems from the method of preparation, which involves finely chopping meat and fat into small pieces, a process referred to as “Al-Hash” in the local dialect.

The recipe for mahshoosh has been passed down through generations, with women in Jazan taking great pride in preparing it. Once the meat and fat are cut up, the fat is slowly melted and meat added gradually. After the addition of spices, the dish is then left to simmer for several hours with occasional stirring.

HIGHLIGHTS

• While mahshoosh is most associated with Eid Al-Adha, it can be savored throughout the year.

• Its name stems from the method of preparation, which involves finely chopping meat and fat into small pieces, a process referred to as ‘Al-Hash’ in the local dialect.

Finally, the cooked mixture is transferred to a clay container, where it solidifies and can be preserved for several months without losing its flavor.

Lard and meat are chopped up and cooked together to create the rich delicacy. (SPA)

Chef Ahmed Issa Shetifi from the Sabya governorate said mahshoosh was invented out of necessity when people had no means of preserving their food. Cooking it with lard extended the shelf life of the meat.

Preparation methods varied from one household to another, with some families adding only onions while others would include spices such as cardamom and cinnamon.

According to Shetifi, proper preparation involves roasting the lard before the meat is added. The lard pieces should be large, as they dissolve faster.

He added: “This custom continued even after people had refrigerators to store meat and food. In fact, some families still store mahshoosh in rooms or under their beds, where it lasts for a week or ten days before being consumed.

“Later generations began storing it in pots in the refrigerator while others use designated bags, each containing one meal, and keep them in the freezer.”

Mahshoosh is very high in calories and is typically served only during Eid Al-Adha, he said: “Some families dedicate the entire Eid sacrifice to preparing mahshoosh. While it can be enjoyed in moderation, eating it in excess poses a risk of high cholesterol due to its high-calorie content.”

Mahshoosh is typically served with bread, although some people prefer to eat it with rice. It is also part of the traditional Jazan dinner.

 


Unwind and reconnect with nature at these Saudi reserves and resorts

Updated 19 June 2024
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Unwind and reconnect with nature at these Saudi reserves and resorts

  • Model and actress Maria Eduarda spoke to Arab News about her stay: “Everything was great! The food, the room service, and in-villa dining were amazing … The structure inside the villa is amazing … I loved it — one of the best stops ever”

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia boasts a plethora of novel natural reserves and resorts that champion the nourishment of the mind, body, and soul.

From lush mountain ranges to glistening blue waters, the well-preserved environments have become must-visit spots for those looking to discover the Kingdom’s hidden gems and reconnect with nature.

Situated on a pristine private island, the newly opened Nujuma, Ritz-Carlton Reserve marks the brand's debut in the Middle East, featuring coral reefs beneath the water’s surface and a clear view of the night stars, which inspired the name ‘Nujuma’. (Supplied)

Nujuma, Ritz-Carlton Reserve, The Red Sea

Situated on a private island, the newly opened Nujuma, Ritz-Carlton Reserve marks the brand’s debut in the Middle East, featuring coral reefs beneath the water’s surface and a clear view of the night stars, inspiring its name.

Model and actress Maria Eduarda spoke to Arab News about her stay: “Everything was great! The food, the room service, and in-villa dining were amazing … The structure inside the villa is amazing … I loved it — one of the best stops ever.”

Aseel Resort is a one-of-a-kind family experience that merges nature, heritage and luxury. (Supplied)

The resort features 63 one-to-four-bedroom water and beach villas, designed to blend in with the unspoiled natural environment. Guests can indulge in a lavish spa, swimming pools, a range of restaurants, and a retail area.

The Neyrah Spa offers relaxation with a touch of regional ingredients like oud and moringa peregrina tree oil. The wellness services include guided breathing techniques, meditation, yoga, and sound healing therapy.

The relaxing Nofa Riyadh features luxury villas complete with private gardens and swimming pools, surrounded by green lawns, sand dunes and mountains. (Supplied)

The on-site Conservation House is an ode to nomadic exploration, providing a space for guests to get creative, expand their knowledge, and foster a sense of community through resident sustainability, environmental, and cultural experts.

Al-Ahsa Oasis, Al-Ahsa

Boasting natural springs and lush greenery, Al-Ahsa Oasis is the perfect spot for a family getaway. Home to one of the biggest oases in the world and now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the limestone hills of Al-Qarah and Al-Ahsa National Park are just a few of the attractions.

For those looking to discover Saudi’s regional flora and fauna, Shada mountain is just an hour and a half drive fromAl-Baha city in the Jabal Shada Nature Reserve. (SPA)

The historical region in the eastern part of Saudi Arabia is filled with potential recreational activities, including water fountain light shows, a football stadium, mazes, and a theater at King Abdullah Environment Park.

Asfar Lake, or Yellow Lake, is an unforgettable site from over the sand dunes, while Souq Al-Qaisariya is one of the oldest markets in the Kingdom for memorable souvenirs.

The Sharaan Nature Reserve spans 1,500 square kilometers, showcasing stunning red-rock canyons, valleys, and desert landscapes. (AN photo by Zaid Khashogji)

Jabal Shada, Baha

For those looking to discover Saudi Arabia’s regional flora and fauna, Jabal Shada is just an hour-and-a-half drive from Baha in the Jabal Shada Nature Reserve. Marked with unusual rock formations, the area is home to unique geological cave formations, reportedly dating back 763 million years and engraved with Thamudic writings and drawings that date back 3,000 years.

Tours are available to book through Akam Aljazerah’s website, and modern stays nearby are equipped with kitchens, balconies, and breathtaking views.

Guests can also immerse themselves in the gastronomic arts by enrolling in a cooking school to master healthy recipes and techniques. (Supplied)

Sharaan Nature Reserve, AlUla

Sharaan Nature Reserve spans 1,500 sq. km, showcasing stunning red-rock canyons, valleys, and desert landscapes.

Safari Sharaan’s guided 4x4 adventures allow guests to explore wildlife like red-necked ostriches and Arabian ibex, and discover ancient rock carvings.

Saudi Arabia has played a crucial role by establishing specialized breeding centers and veterinary facilities for the Arabian oryx. (SPA)

Guests can relax at Habitas AlUla, featuring Thuraya Wellness’ yoga, fitness, and personalized treatment offerings with local oils and teas, or stay in wellness-focused villas like Celestial and Alcove at Habitas.

The Banyan Tree’s tented villas and spa blend Asian and Saudi traditions for unique wellness experiences. Enjoy a secluded rock pool amid mountains, ideal for a refreshing swim and memorable moments.

Nofa Riyadh, Riyadh

The relaxing Nofa Riyadh features luxury villas complete with private gardens and swimming pools, surrounded by green lawns, sand dunes and mountains.

Dareen Al-Rajeh, a senior project associate, said about her stay there: “I liked how it was clean and comfortable with a generous welcome from the staff. The villa has a unique style with your own swimming pool … Walking around the resort, you will pass by a lot of animals, which makes you feel connected to nature … The resort has a spa, a children’s playground, multiple restaurants, and a small lake and boats.”

Guests are encouraged to experience nature on a whole new level at the resort’s incredible Wildlife Park where Asian elephants, Grevy’s zebras, Arabian oryx, and giraffes can be spotted.

Nofa’s on-site 39-seat theater is the place to unwind in style and enjoy daily movie screenings at your leisure or have a family competition at the Nofa Bowling Alley. Younger children can enjoy the Kids’ Adventure Park, an exciting indoor park with action-packed games and a playground.

Aseel Resort, Diriyah

Aseel Resort is a family experience that merges nature, heritage, and luxury. Nestled in the birthplace of the Kingdom, Diriyah, the resort was created as an ode to Saudi history and Najd’s beautiful artistry.

The resort allows anywhere from six to 75 guests, with six farms to choose from. Each one is decorated with ornate art by local creatives. Whether you take a dip in the farm’s private pool or enjoy game nights with your family at the indoor majlis, it’s a space to create lifetime memories.

Six Senses Southern Dunes, The Red Sea

Set against the dramatic backdrop of desert plains and the Hijaz Mountains, Six Senses Southern Dunes pays homage to Nabataean architectural heritage and its majestic desert surroundings.

The resort offers 36 guest rooms and 40 pool villas, while the spa offers a traditional hammam experience, meditative yoga sessions, and other tailored wellness treatments and.  

From Al-Sarab to Merkaz, Bariya, and beyond, the flavors of Saudi culinary heritage are endless, crafted with ingredients sourced from the chef’s garden or local suppliers.

Guests can also immerse themselves in the gastronomic arts by enrolling in a cooking school to master healthy recipes and techniques.

 


Saudi authorities distribute gifts to departing Hajj pilgrims 

Updated 19 June 2024
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Saudi authorities distribute gifts to departing Hajj pilgrims 

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Islamic Affairs, Dawah and Guidance in the Makkah region is distributing gifts to pilgrims departing the Kingdom after completing Hajj.

The gifts, which include 646,652 copies of the Qur’an and a translation of its meanings, are being distributed at King Abdulaziz International Airport in Jeddah, the Jeddah Islamic Port and Taif International Airport, the Saudi Press Agency reported on Wednesday.

The departing pilgrims thanked the Saudi government for the facilities and services provided to them, saying that the reception and farewell ceremonies are part of the Kingdom’s generosity to pilgrims and visitors.

The annual Hajj pilgrimage, which began on Friday, concluded on Wednesday with more than 2 million Muslims taking part this year.