Preservation of heritage and nature top priority for Soudah Peaks project, says head developer

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The Soudah Development company plans to rehabilitate about 200 heritage sites within the Soudah Peaks project area in Saudi Arabia. (SPA)
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The Soudah Development company plans to rehabilitate about 200 heritage sites within the Soudah Peaks project area in Saudi Arabia. (SPA)
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The Soudah Development company plans to rehabilitate about 200 heritage sites within the Soudah Peaks project area in Saudi Arabia. (SPA)
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The Soudah Development company plans to rehabilitate about 200 heritage sites within the Soudah Peaks project area in Saudi Arabia. (SPA)
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Updated 21 May 2024
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Preservation of heritage and nature top priority for Soudah Peaks project, says head developer

  • Project prioritizes sustainable environmental practices and protection of natural landscapes, cultural heritage and region’s unique architecture, says Daniel McBrearty
  • The project aims to establish a luxurious mountain tourism destination at an altitude of 3,015m above sea level in the Asir region of southwestern Saudi Arabia

RIYADH: The Soudah Development company plans to rehabilitate about 200 heritage sites within the Soudah Peaks project area in Saudi Arabia, and the work will be carried out in ways that preserve the authentic nature and natural splendor of the area, said Daniel McBrearty, the organization’s chief development officer.

The preservation of the sites and the natural landscapes around them is of paramount importance to the company as it undertakes its transformative tourism project, he added.

McBrearty told the Saudi Press Agency: “The Soudah project’s master plan places sustainable environmental practices at the forefront, ensuring the protection of natural landscapes, cultural heritage and the unique architectural style of the region.”

The Soudah Peaks project aims to establish a luxurious mountain tourism destination at an altitude of 3,015 meters above sea level in the Asir region of southwestern Saudi Arabia. In keeping with the objectives of the Saudi Green Initiative, only 1 percent of the 627-square-kilometer project area has been allocated for development.

“We will focus on safeguarding the environment and mitigating climate change impacts,” McBrearty said. “Soudah Development is committed to translating climate ambitions into tangible sustainability efforts aimed at restoring and reviving the area’s exceptional biodiversity.”

Several environmental initiatives are already underway, he said, most notably an afforestation project that aims to plant more than a million trees by 2030, in support of the Saudi Green Initiative and to help offset carbon emissions by 4 percent.

Soudah Development has already planted 165,000 indigenous trees, SPA reported, including species such as juniper, wild acacia, Dodonaea and katam (wild olive). This has taken place in collaboration with the National Center for Vegetation Cover Development and Combating Desertification, to help achieve environmental balance and climate resilience.

And in partnership with the National Center for Wildlife, the company has reintroduced 23 mountain ibexes and 10 idmi, or mountain, gazelles in the past three years, supporting efforts to protect the species from extinction.

McBrearty said that working under the auspices of the Public Investment Fund, the company is leading the development of Soudah Peaks to enhance the Kingdom’s increasingly diverse tourism offerings.

“The luxury mountain resort will feature 2,700 hospitality keys, 1,336 residential units and 80,000 square meters of commercial space across six development zones: Tahlal, Sahab, Sabrah, Jareen, Rijal and Red Rock,” he explained.

“By 2033, the project is projected to create thousands of direct and indirect job opportunities, contribute over SR29 billion ($7.7 billion) to the non-oil GDP (gross domestic product), and attract 10 million visitors annually by 2030, aligning with the nation’s tourism goals.”

Developers say Soudah Peaks will offer a wide range of attractions and activities, including mountain trails, long-distance hiking paths, paragliding, mountain biking, horseback riding and zipline adventures. Nature lovers will be able to immerse themselves in the natural splendor of its attractions, including national parks, biodiversity and agricultural terraces, and indulge in luxurious wellness experiences at eco-resorts, meditation centers and yoga retreats. There will also be an 18-hole golf course atop Soudah mountain, and mild temperatures of around 15 degrees Celsius will allow visitors and residents to enjoy the outdoor pursuits year-round.


Saudi leaders congratulate King Felipe VI on 10 years as Spain’s head of state

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Saudi leaders congratulate King Felipe VI on 10 years as Spain’s head of state

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s King Salman has sent a cable of congratulations to Spanish King Felipe VI on the 10th anniversary of his accession to the throne, the state news agency SPA reported on Wednesday.
King Salman wished his Spanish counterpart continued good health and happiness, and the government and people of Spain steady progress and prosperity.
Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman also sent a cable of congratulations to the Spanish ruler.
Felipe was sworn in on June 19, 2014, days after his father stepped down.


Saudi Arabia participates in Beijing International Book Fair

Updated 19 June 2024
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Saudi Arabia participates in Beijing International Book Fair

  • Saudi Heritage Commission aims to familiarize visitors with Kingdom’s diverse culture
  • Kingdom is the guest of honor at BIBF

BEIJING: The Saudi Heritage Commission is participating in the Beijing International Book Fair in China with the aim of providing visitors with a platform to expand their knowledge about national heritage.
The commission also aims to familiarize visitors with the Kingdom’s diverse culture, historical landmarks and historical significance through its participation in BIBF, which began on Wednesday and continues until June 23, the Saudi Press Agency reported.
Saudi Arabia is guest of honor at the exhibition, providing visitors with a distinct heritage experience through its special pavilion.
The Saudi platform includes a display of archaeological reproductions that reflect the Kingdom’s cultural and historical depth over thousands of years.
It also showcases several Saudi handicrafts, such as Arabic calligraphy, prayer bead making and Sadu weaving. Saudi artisans will provide live demonstrations of their handicrafts. The exhibition will feature display screens presenting the Kingdom’s rich and diverse heritage.
The commission’s involvement in BIBF is part of the Kingdom’s participation in various international forums.
Saudi Arabia continues its efforts to raise cultural awareness and preserve national heritage, and this participation also aims to highlight the Kingdom’s heritage to a global audience.


Madinah Governor inspects health services for pilgrims around Prophet’s Mosque

Updated 19 June 2024
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Madinah Governor inspects health services for pilgrims around Prophet’s Mosque

  • Prince Salman was briefed on the preparations made to cater to meet pilgrims’ needs in the post-Hajj season

MADINA: Madinah Governor Prince Salman bin Sultan bin Abdulaziz inspected the health services available to pilgrims in the central area near the Prophet’s Mosque, the Saudi Press Agency reported on Wednesday.
During his inspection tour, the governor was briefed on the preparations made by the health cluster to cater to the needs of pilgrims in the post-Hajj season, in line with the directives of the Kingdom’s leadership to provide optimal health care and treatment to visitors to the Prophet’s Mosque.
Furthermore, Prince Salman urged medical staff and health care workers at Madinah’s health care centers and hospitals to cater to the health needs of the pilgrims and strive to achieve the highest standards of public health, thereby fulfilling the objectives of the Health Transformation Program outlined in Saudi Vision 2030.


Pilgrims hosted by the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques Guests Program leave for Madinah

Pilgrims hosted by the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques Guests Program for Hajj, Umrah and Visit leave for Madinah. (SPA)
Updated 19 June 2024
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Pilgrims hosted by the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques Guests Program leave for Madinah

  • They will visit the Prophet’s Mosque in the holy city after completing Hajj on Tuesday

RIYADH: Pilgrims hosted by the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques Guests Program for Hajj, Umrah and Visit have left for Madinah, Saudi Press Agency reported on Wednesday.

They will visit the Prophet’s Mosque in the holy city after completing Hajj on Tuesday.

The pilgrims expressed their thanks to the Saudi leadership for the generous hospitality and services provided to them during their Hajj journey, SPA reported. 

They praised the efforts made by the Ministry of Islamic Affairs, Dawah, and Guidance to provide the pilgrims with the best services and care so that they could perform their rituals comfortably. 


Fluent Makkah locals break down language barriers during Hajj

During the Hajj season, locals in Makkah are often praised for their fluency in several languages. (Supplied)
Updated 19 June 2024
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Fluent Makkah locals break down language barriers during Hajj

  • Most Makkah residents are able to communicate in several languages after years of direct contact with pilgrims

MAKKAH: During the Hajj season, locals in the holy city are often praised for their fluency in several languages, stemming from their interactions with people from around the world.

Their engagement in Hajj-related activities, both commercial and voluntary, across various sectors, enables them to secure seasonal jobs and gain valuable experience in volunteering. Most importantly, it provides them with the honor of serving pilgrims, meeting their needs, and ensuring their comfort.

Anas Al-Harithi, a Makkah resident, engages in seasonal work every year during the Hajj season with agencies that offer temporary jobs.

He describes it as a great experience that has allowed him to learn Indonesian and interact with Indonesian worshippers — the largest group of pilgrims arriving in Makkah each year.

Al-Harithi said that linguistic barriers have significantly diminished, as many people in Makkah have long been fluent in several languages.

Through his years of working during Hajj, Al-Harithi has built extensive knowledge related to the pilgrimage. His ability to share languages and actively participate makes the journey easier and smoother for pilgrims.

Most Makkah residents gain this skill not through formal education but through direct contact with pilgrims, enabling them to meet the worshippers’ needs effectively, he said.

Rania Chaudhry, a pilgrims’ guide, said that Hajj is a great opportunity for the people of Makkah to work, serve, and enjoy the honor of this noble profession.

Her ability to communicate in Urdu was developed through years of experience welcoming pilgrims, meeting their needs, and ensuring their journey is as smooth and comfortable as possible.

Chaudhry said that many of the male and female guides originally come from the same countries as the pilgrims. Therefore, learning these languages is not difficult for them.

“This advantage allows these families the honor of serving the pilgrims, hosting them, ensuring their comfort, and providing the best possible services to help them perform their rituals during the Hajj season,” she said.

Chaudhry added that guides welcome pilgrims from the moment they arrive in Makkah and accompany them throughout the Hajj journey, helping to overcome any linguistic barriers.

The relationship between guides and pilgrims forms a strong bond, not driven by economic interest but by human, spiritual, and religious ties, she said.

“It is an obligation before God, as well as to officials and society, to care for those described as guests of God who have come to answer His call. Therefore, everyone strives to understand their needs and communicate in their language if they are not fluent in Arabic. This commitment reflects the true essence of faith that the guides live by, witnessing its blessings and maximizing its rewards.”

Awad Al-Maliki, a professor specializing in linguistics at the Islamic University of Madinah, said that pilgrims coming to Makkah from all over the world have a strong desire to get to know this society, experience its culture and social life, harmonize with Saudi traditions, and engage in knowledge exchange and constructive cultural partnerships.

Pilgrims see Saudi Arabia not only as the heart of the Islamic world but also as a distinct and open cultural hub and a cultural incubator that unites the entire Islamic world, he said.

Al-Maliki said that pilgrims feel a strong cultural connection to Makkah, and many are not fluent in Arabic.

Consequently, residents often serve as their cultural and tourist guides, offering tours of heritage and cultural sites in Makkah and other Saudi cities in several languages, including English, French, Urdu, Malay, and Hausa.

Saudis are passionate about linguistic communication with all groups to enhance the pilgrims’ experience. This cultural diversity propels the city, enriching it culturally, Al-Maliki said.