ZADK Culinary Academy founder discusses its success 

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So far, 371 chefs have graduated from ZADK, earning a diploma in the field of culinary arts or other related fields. (Supplied)
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So far, 371 chefs have graduated from ZADK, earning a diploma in the field of culinary arts or other related fields. (Supplied)
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So far, 371 chefs have graduated from ZADK, earning a diploma in the field of culinary arts or other related fields. (Supplied)
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So far, 371 chefs have graduated from ZADK, earning a diploma in the field of culinary arts or other related fields. (Supplied)
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Updated 14 June 2024
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ZADK Culinary Academy founder discusses its success 

  • Aside from its culinary aims, the academy also runs several social-development initiatives
  • The academy was established in June 2018 and officially opened in December 2019 in the Eastern Province

ALKHOBAR: Since the non-profit ZADK Culinary Academy officially opened its doors in 2019, it has cooked up some hearty dishes and continues to break records, do good, and train the region’s future culinary masters.
“ZADK won the Quality Award in Education and Training from the Ministry of Tourism, and has gained the trust of the Human Resources Development Fund, which supported the delivery of diploma courses for 100 male and female chefs and helped 240 others train for a qualifying certificate in the mini cooking program,” Rania Moualla, the academy’s founder, told Arab News.




Rania Moualla, the founder of the non-profit ZADK Culinary Academy. (Supplied)


In 2023, a culinary scholarship program was created in cooperation with the HRDF. Each student went straight into work after completing the program.
“The aim is to train Saudi nationals to be qualified chefs in accordance with international standards. This contributes to supporting the labor market and preserves the cultural heritage of Saudi cuisine, while helping achieve Vision 2030’s goals of supporting and empowering youth,” Moualla said.
So far, 371 chefs have graduated from ZADK, earning a diploma in the field of culinary arts or other related fields.
“A large number of them have joined the labor market, working in international hotels, restaurants and the corporate food sector,” Moualla said.
The academy was established in June 2018 and officially opened in December 2019 in the Eastern Province. Prince Saud bin Nayef bin Abdulaziz, governor of the Eastern Province, was one of the academy’s earliest, and fiercest, supporters.
“He was the first to believe in the idea and support it when he cut the ribbon and adopted the ZADK logo, which is a camel carrying food,” Moualla said.
ZADK’s aim is to “prepare young talent to contribute to Vision 2030, supporting advancement at the economic and social levels; preserving Saudi food culture and showcasing it to the world,” she added.
The academy, she continued, also “aspires to be a platform for social change regarding food waste, healthy eating, sustainability and culture.”
Aside from its culinary aims, the academy also runs several social-development initiatives. Its students have put in numerous hours volunteering and have even earned a Guinness World Record, creating a Saudi flag made of cupcakes to mark the 91st Saudi National Day.
The academy also sources its ingredients locally, to help promote local farmers and to ensure access to healthy food, in addition to applying a zero-waste principle.
The academy has earned International Organization for Standardization certification for quality management in work and food safety, and this year the academy qualified for accreditation from the National Center for Education and Training Evaluation.
“In terms of building competencies, following the example of our Swiss partner (the Culinary Arts Academy) — which is ranked among the seven best institutes in the world — we have invested in an advanced information system to enhance administrative efficiency and create a dynamic, stimulating educational community. We will begin working on it in the coming days,” Moualla said.
Classes have already started for the 10th batch of students, who will be joined in August by the 11th batch — which includes 56 students enrolled in a higher diploma through a scholarship from NEOM.
The international diploma for chefs includes practical training, workshops, an orientation program, and field visits. Another 24 chefs graduated from the Sultanate of Oman as part of the Hospitable program, organized by the Ministry of Labor, the Oman Tourism College, and the Omran Group in cooperation with the academy.
“The graduates are building a foundation for a bright tomorrow, transforming their passion into a profession and their dreams into reality. They also revive the history of our fathers and grandfathers, and our cultural heritage, through cooking,” Moualla concluded. 


Rock inscriptions in Saudi Arabia’s Baha bookmark a historic era

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Rock inscriptions in Saudi Arabia’s Baha bookmark a historic era

  • Site epitomizes rich cultural tapestry

RIYADH: The “Book Plateau,” in the heart of Saudi Arabia’s Baha region, is drawing visitors from far and wide. Nestled in Baljurashi, the inscribed rock epitomizes the rich cultural tapestry of the area.

Located at the confluence of two streams at the foot of Wadi Khara, this archaeological wonder has been likened to the pages of an open book and earned its name from the old inscriptions adorning its surface, the Saudi Press Agency reported.

The carvings are believed to date back some 1,400 years. The site boasts early Islamic inscriptions without diacritical marks, some of which bear the names of the Prophet’s companions and their followers.

There is another rock formation nearby which resembles a palm, bearing different inscriptions. Five graves can be found at the top of Mihras Mountain, two of which are noticeably elevated. While their exact history and occupants remain unknown, it is believed they belong to people who once inhabited the area.

Abdulrahman Al-Ghamdi, director general of the Heritage Authority in Baha, told the SPA that the authority had included the site in the National Antiquities Register following a survey in 2005. The inscriptions, which are etched onto granite rock faces, stand as silent witnesses to the area’s historic importance.

Baha’s summer season is attracting local and international visitors to its heritage villages and historic and archaeological sites.

These attractions have become crucial economic drivers, shaping the national tourism vision in line with the Kingdom’s ambitious goals.

They also showcase the region’s historic legacy for present and future generations.


Saudi publishing house creates heritage-led children’s works

Updated 7 min 16 sec ago
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Saudi publishing house creates heritage-led children’s works

  • Arab children deserve innovative storytelling where they see themselves as heroes, says Dar Waraqa cofounder

JEDDAH: A Saudi Arabia publishing house focused on works for children is utilizing passion and innovation to turn the page toward a “golden age of creativity” in the Kingdom.

Dar Waraqa is an award-winning company that creates aesthetically-pleasing books and products that reflect Saudi Arabia’s rich culture and heritage.

Layal Idriss, cofounder and creative director of Dar Waraqa, told Arab News during a recent interview: “Our vision revolves around continuing with the passion for creating innovative projects that will create the golden age of creativity locally and represent Saudi Arabia on the global creative publication scene.”

Idriss is a visual storyteller, entrepreneur and educator who has produced over 100 books and products over the past two decades. “I am proud to bring change and innovation to children's publishing in the MENA region by cofounding Dar Waraqa,” she said.

Idriss studied media arts and animation as an undergraduate and earned a master’s degree in fine arts from California State University, specializing in illustration.

After graduating, she taught at her alma mater from 2014 to 2021. Last year she was selected for a Women in Innovation Fellowship at Georgetown University.

Idriss is challenging the status quo of creative entrepreneurship by focusing on the importance of culturally rich products and books tailor-made for children.

“I am constantly working on evolving my storytelling skills by participating in residencies and exhibits that promote experimental and innovative storytelling methods,” she said.

Driven by her own childhood love for reading, she aims to create a library that will inspire future generations and believes that Arab children deserve high-quality art and innovative storytelling where they see themselves as heroes.

Dar Waraqa, or “House of Paper,” is based in Jeddah and offers publishing and distribution services to clients worldwide. It was founded in 2019 by Idriss and her husband Mohammed Hasanain when she had noticed that clients at her creative agency, Radish House, struggled to transform digital creations into tangible products.

Recognizing this, she created Dar Waraqa as a one-stop shop, guiding clients from the idea stage to the final product.

“The company also expanded its services to include post-production, distribution, and marketing, ensuring that books and products reach their intended audience,” she explained. “Collaborating closely with Radish House, we select artists to create magical stories.”

Dar Waraqa also provides extensive guidance and training to artists and designers, focusing on young talent from Saudi Arabia and globally, Idriss added. “We aim to lead the golden age of Saudi children’s books through a collective creative process that leverages the latest technology.”

At the company, the storytelling process begins with in-house ideation, emphasizing innovation and creativity before involving any authors. Once a solid project structure is in place, they seek the best authors, primarily working with Saudi Arabia talent but also international writers when needed.

The publishing house is not working under any government entity currently, Idriss said. “We are fortunate as Saudis that there are many initiatives and support programs available, and we try to apply to most of them. We are an independent small business working on projects with local entities to serve their needs.”

For example, “Aklana” is a collaboration between the Saudi Culinary Commission to create a series of children’s books highlighting recipes and stories from the Kingdom’s 13 provinces.

The title translates to “Our Saudi Food” and the work presents authentic recipes through characters that are meant to be filled with joy and endearing to young readers.

“It is an excellent way to … work with the commission closely on preserving recipes in a fun and innovative way,” Idriss said.

She added that the series is “a great way to innovate and build a community of creatives who collaborate and build visual narratives of our food, culture, and daily life.”

Each book in the “Aklana” series includes a short summary of the region and its natural resources.

Idriss added that the commission put in “tremendous effort” to provide their team with resources and recipes “as they spent the last few years working diligently on traveling around Saudi Arabia researching recipes and documenting them as well as talking to experts.”

The series is designed to be a part of any home or school library for Saudi Arabia children.

“In some comics and stories, we tackle traditions like dishes prepared days before a specific holiday or a wedding feast or the rituals and traditions in local households when a baby is born. With that, we successfully achieved a series that informs and entertains people from all ages and walks of life,” Idriss explained.

The six published “Aklana” books have recently been translated into Mandarin Chinese and Korean, debuting at the 2024 Beijing and Seoul international book fairs, respectively. Currently, only the Madinah edition has been translated into English.

“Once the series is complete, we plan to apply to the Tarjem initiative to have the books translated into various languages,” Idriss said. This would help entertain and inform people worldwide about the diversity of Saudi Arabia’s culture and life, she added.

In 2023, Dar Waraqa collaborated with Ithra at the Eastern Region Book Fair to create an interactive storytelling experience for children and families, which attracted over 10,000 guests.

During Ramadan 2024, Dar Waraqa worked with Hayy Explorers at Hayy Jameel in Jeddah and participated in a panel discussion at the Abu Dhabi Book Fair, to present the publisher’s perspective on the creative process.


Ministry of Justice provides 43M e-services through Najiz

Updated 14 min 27 sec ago
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Ministry of Justice provides 43M e-services through Najiz

RIYADH: The Saudi Ministry of Justice provided more than 43 million services through the Najiz platform during the first half of 2024.

This allowed people to perform legal transactions without the need to show up in person while maintaining the same quality and level of efficiency, the Saudi Press Agency reported.

The platform (Najiz.sa) has four portals: individuals; businesses; lawyers; and government bodies.

It also classifies many services according to specialism, making it easier for people to access judiciary services, including enforcement, authorization, documentation, acknowledgment, social cases and licensing services.

The platform provides more than 160 judicial services that beneficiaries can use by following simple and easy steps, saving them time and effort.

They can also access these services through the Najiz application, available on all smartphones.


Al-Baha festival provides economic benefits to farmers

Updated 19 min 22 sec ago
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Al-Baha festival provides economic benefits to farmers

  • Influx of visitors results in increased sales 

AL-BAHA: More than 45 farmers, beekeepers, and small business owners participated in the fourth Khayrat Al-Baha Festival. 

Organized by the region’s Ministry of Environment, Water and Agriculture, the seasonal festival provided a valuable opportunity for all farmers in the region to showcase their agricultural products, including various types of fruits, olives, honey, and their derivatives.

Several of the participating farmers said that the event provided them with considerable marketing and selling opportunities.

Farmers said their sales had increased each year due to the influx of visitors for the festival, which first hit the calendar in 2021.

One of them, Saleh Al-Ghamdi, pointed out that the festival was one of the most important economic and tourism events in the region.

Ali bin Aoun, another farmer, said that the Khayrat Al-Baha Festival had contributed to the development of the agricultural sector, especially olive production and derivatives in the region, and had encouraged producers to expand their projects. 

He noted that it provided opportunities to market, promote, and introduce products, in addition to exchanging experiences with other farmers and connecting with companies to stay updated on the latest developments in agricultural technologies.

The agricultural sector in the Al-Baha region, including Sarat and Tihama, provides an essential part of the region’s tourism identity.


Saudi Endowment Authority tops government employee engagement rankings

Updated 36 min 3 sec ago
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Saudi Endowment Authority tops government employee engagement rankings

  • Ceremony highlights positive competition

RIYADH: The Saudi General Authority for Awqaf has claimed top spot in the 2023 Government Sector Employee Engagement Awards.

The authority’s impressive 89.20 percent engagement rate was top of all government institutions, councils, and public bodies in the Kingdom, the Saudi Press Agency reported on Wednesday.

In a ceremony which highlighted positive competition and human resource development in the endowment sector, Minister of Human Resources and Social Development Ahmad bin Sulaiman Al-Rajhi presented the award to Imad bin Saleh Al-Kharashi, governor of the General Authority for Awqaf.

The award aims to foster positive competition among government entities, while emphasizing the importance of organizational goals to employees, encouraging innovative solutions, developing staff skills, and improving productivity.

These factors contribute to enhancing and developing the work environment.

The award’s evaluation considered several key indicators: practical purpose with a positive sector impact; leadership alignment with the authority’s strategy and goals; innovation encouragement; effective team collaboration; continuous professional development contributing to the endowment sector’s growth; high performance directed toward impactful programs; and a stable work environment focused on quality and excellence.

The authority’s climb from second place in 2022 to first in 2023 reflected a notable increase in employee engagement, which rose from 86 percent to 89.20 percent.

This improvement was driven by various initiatives, including strengthening institutional culture; enhancing the work environment through events that promoted employee integration; fostering a culture of cooperation and transparency; recognition programs; stimulating creative ideas; and empowerment.

This recognition not only highlights the authority’s internal success but also reinforces its strategic direction in talent acquisition.

The General Authority for Awqaf is dedicated to enhancing, governing, and preserving the endowment sector.

It aims to develop and raise awareness through innovative endowment products and services, positioning the sector as a leader in sustainable development both locally and globally.

The authority focuses on implementing best practices and establishing regulations to advance and empower endowment work.