Saudi Arabia Through Dahlia’s Lens
Saudi Arabia has had an enormous facelift in the past 6 years. The effects of modernization are fundamental and have benefited the economy and society a great deal in its process of development. Will the opportunities be used wisely by a society that has experienced...
Destination Saudi Arabia (Part 2) Targeting foreign tourists to Saudi Arabia faces some obstacles that must be taken into consideration by the authorities. On top of obvious geopolitical risks and the occasionally negative press surrounding Saudi Arabia, more specific...
Once considered one of the most difficult countries to visit, boosting tourism in Saudi Arabia is in full flight. By launching new cultural festivals, sporting events like the Dakar Rallye, easing visa restrictions, opening new tourist sites Saudi Arabia is clearly...
Much has been written on tribes in Saudi Arabia. Non-Saudis, even expatriates living in Saudi Arabia, tend to have misconceptions about tribes and their role in Saudi society, and most English language authors who write about the country appear to know little about the subject.
Due to the COVID-19 crisis, this year Ramadan in the Saudi Arabia and the entire Muslim world will not be the same.
On 10 April, the government in Saudi Arabia announced it what it considers the last in a series of restrictions which it has imposed on the nation to combat COVID-19, even before the first case was reported in the country. The holy cities of Makkah and Madinah will shut down completely. In addition, no prayers will take place in the holy mosques of Makkah or Madinah, or any other mosques in the country. People may only move within their district, from 8 AM to 3 PM, and only to shop for food or medicines.
At first, I could not grasp the depression that overcame me with the gradual lockdown. I tried to reason with myself, but still continued feeling trapped.
Like many other cities in the world, Dubai went into lockdown. The closure happened gradually, making it easier for citizens to adjust overtime in anticipation of the upcoming situation, thus avoiding the shock of an instant shutdown.
In the siege of Makkah in 1979, many of Juhayman’s followers were theology students at the Islamic University of Medinah. There, Juhayman had joined a fundamentalist Salafi group that was headed by the renowned Sheikh bin Baz. The group’s followers preached for a return to Islam in its original form in mosques in Saudi Arabia fearing no arrests; the government was reluctant to confront religious extremists underestimating the danger of this group. When Juhayman, al-Qahtani and other group members were locked up as troublemakers in 1978 for the first time, the religious authorities investigated them for heresy, but decided that they were traditionalists and should be released and no serious allegations to keep them jailed.
On 20 November 1979, about 300 heavily armed men assaulted the Grand Mosque of Makkah, the Masjid Al Haram. Within minutes, they had transformed the holiest place in Islam into a fortress and taken thousands of worshippers hostage. The siege shocked Saudi Arabia to its core throwing it into decades of extremism. It is less known and understood than it should be because it had a deep influence on the thinking of religious extremists for years to come.
JAC (Jeddah Autism Center) celebrated its 25 years anniversary on April, 2nd 2019. At that time there was little awareness and acceptance of autism in society. Today, it is a different picture.
In 2009 I visited the JAC at its first location. The center was located in a small villa with less than 20 staff members. There, I met with a handful of employees from the JAC and administration staff from the Al-Faisaliya Welfare Society. The atmosphere was full of enthusiasm for the new project, as it was the first of its kind in Saudi Arabia with huge demand. But the plan seemed to be incomplete at that time; it was not fully organized and many questions such as resources, educational system etc. seemed to hang in the air.
This month, I came across a book on my shelf that I had bought many years ago but never read. It is called “Saudi Arabia: Biography and Nation”, written by Abdulaziz AlKhedir. The book is only available in Arabic, no English version. I found this book very informative on Saudi society and would like to share it with my readers.
My colleague blogger and fellow journalist Sabena Saddiqi wrote this post exclusively for Saudi Times on the occasion of the visit of Crown Prince Muhammad Bin Salman to Pakistan this week. She comments and analyses the visit from a Pakistani perspective.
At this year’s Arab Media Forum I met Muteib Alhadeif, the photographer. At the age of 6, he got the title “Youngest Photographer in the Middle East”.
He famously started after he met with Prince Muteib bin Abdullah at a horse riding event who admired this talent and gave him camera equipment as a gift. Today, he is 10 years old and dreams to pursue a career as a cameraman and a photographer.
The many royal Saudi decrees announced last week made some wonder if this is still Saudi Arabia. The latest is that the Kingdom is to host the first Arab Fashion Week in Riyadh this month and females between the age of 25-35 can apply for soldiers in the army. All announcements reflect the government’s efforts to reach economic prosperity through implementing proper social freedom. Not only to gain economic growth but also to give the stolen rights back to the society.
On many fronts, Saudi Arabia could be described as one of the most interesting places in the world. With a young visionary transforming the country, and 70% of the people below the age of 30, many from around the world find themselves intrigued to pay this country a visit.
The many royal Saudi decrees announced last week made some wonder if this is still Saudi Arabia. The latest is that the Kingdom is to host the first Arab Fashion Week in Riyadh this month. All announcements reflect the government’s efforts to reach economic prosperity through implementing proper social freedom. Not only to gain economic growth but also to give the stolen rights back to the society.
The ban on Saudi women driving has tormented the ladies for decades. The ban on female driving has become a cliché for the Kingdom, along with oil, camels, and deserts.
The Royal Decree (link: https://nyti.ms/2yqK5k4) issued on 25th September 2017 lifted the ban on women driving. The change will however take effect June 2018, subject to availability of driving instructors for women.
The Saudi austerity plan is well underway. On January 1st, 2018, Saudi Arabia and the UAE introduced 5% VAT on services and goods.
Five percent is not a big amount, but energy, water, and electricity prices went up because subsidies were cut. Saudi Arabia has been experiencing a price hike since 2005. Over the years, many new Saudi taxes were introduced on electricity, water, labor, and some government and private services. Prices have gone up further in the past 2 years. This puts more burdens on Saudi households with monthly income lower than SAR 4,400/US$1200. But there were protections as well.
Understanding the Saudi society requires a lot of patience and research. The society is weaved with intricate patterns of religion, culture, rules and a desire to break free. On the last day of this year’s Dubai Film Festival, I watched the documentary “The Poetess”.
It is an international co-production. The story and characters are Saudi. However, the two film directors were German, so was the funding. The film had German and UAE production as well.
Saudi Arrests: Monday marked the first month since the Saudi arrests of princes. Along with many corrupt politicians and businessmen in Saudi Arabia.
These Saudi arrests shook the whole world. At first, Saudi citizens did not know how to comprehend and react to these happenings. The Saudi arrests raised piles of questions concerning Crown Prince Muhammed bin Salman’s behavior since becoming deputy crown prince in 2015. When he first appeared on the political scene, the political and socio-economic lifestyle in the country was ambiguous. On one hand was authoritarianism, on the other, an unusual transparency. The aim of the Saudi arrests was to collect unlawfully gained money. The accused had made these deals through their positions of influence in government and business sectors.
For decades, Saudi corruption has had deep roots in Saudi Arabia. The public has been cheated-off of its rights to a safe and healthy living environment. Every major scandal has a top-rated official attached to it, an untouchable.
I started working as a journalist with Arab News in the early 1990s. That’s when a friend alerted me about a lot of raw sewage being dumped in the desert round Jeddah. Sensing a good story, I approached an editor for the green light for the story. I was told that this was too hot a topic to touch. Apparently, the people responsible for the mess were too important to be criticized in public.
It is not unusual for Saudi Arabia to be criticized in the international media. Favorite recurring topics in the past have been lack of women’s rights, religious intolerance, old and indecisive leadership, and corruption. Fair enough, all those criticisms were justified and based on fact. But the Saudi leadership has taken steps to change this in the form of Saudi Vision 2030.
Saudi Corruption: On Saturday 3rd November, guests at the Ritz Carlton in Riyadh received an urgent notice to vacate the hotel by 11 PM. The notice went on to state . “unfortunately, we will not be able to grant an extension request due to high-security procedures dictated by the higher authorities”.
Creating Jobs For The Needy Will Prosper The Saudi Economy Like Nothing Else!
This week, the Al Nafa Charity in Makkah announced its venture of creating jobs for empowering Saudis. It would train 100 Saudi women and men (20% females, 80% males) to cook and operate food trucks in Jeddah. The project named “Al Kasb Al Tayb – Good Earning” gives trainees the opportunity, once they successfully pass the training, to own the trucks. The idea was generated through the trucks that have already been distributing food to poor families. The charity revolves around the idea that people who come from those needy areas can own the truck, have a job and support their families.
Start Of Commercial Courts In Saudi Arabia After 10 Years Of Delay!
Arab News announced on Tuesday that Saudi Justice Minister Walid Al-Samaani has officially launched commercial courts. These courts had been operating officially since mid-September. In his speech at the inaugural ceremony, Al-Samaani said that the role of the three commercial courts in Riyadh, Jeddah, and Dammam is to enhance the business environment. Encouraging investment and boosting economic development will achieve this. All in line with Saudi Vision 2030 objectives. The new measures will uphold the rights of people and ensure healthy business environment.
Poor women’s rights are associated with Saudi Arabia. It remains a big question mark how the government will create a change – despite its so many tiny efforts.
If you were a Saudi woman, like me, I am not sure how you would feel about all the recent talk about more rights for women. Not to forget the ongoing difficult status of women in Saudi Arabia. Honestly, I don’t know. It is a roller coaster of emotions that takes me from despair to ecstatic excitement on being a Saudi woman. Though, as said, it is never a set feeling or reaction.
Significant cabinet and non-cabinet changes, and a long overdue TV interview by MbS. Still the dots of vision cannot be fully connected.
Last week, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman gave an interview to selected Saudi TV channels. There aren’t many anyway. The interview was more of a Q&A session on Vision 2030 left an impression of justification on the audience for the painful steps taken. Taking through from Aramco’s IPO, unemployment, reinserted allowances, housing, Iran but not women. They were not mentioned at all. With a fatherly protective tone combined with a fair share of simplicity reflecting openness mixed with transparency, build up the trust needed.
Saudi Arabia has been voted onto the UN women’s rights commission last week. On the same day, Majlis Al Shoura members rejected a proposal to establish sports colleges for women 76:73.
No, this is not a joke, seriously. Along with other 48 countries Saudi Arabia will promote the role of women in societies and defend their rights. Hmm, seriously, how?
Saudi Arabia has the image – rightly so – suppressing women. Last week a Saudi woman Dina, in a bold act, was caught back home by her family on her flight to seek freedom in Australia and rose outrage. Was this the only solution to seek freedom?
Dina Ali Saloom’s case drew a lot of attention on social media, human rights organization called for her immediate release condemning Saudi Arabia’s human rights records and of course a Twitter hashtag was created to save her.
Aramco: Tax reduction was one of three solutions to make the Armco IPO worth $2 trillion
After months of speculation on the Saudi Aramco IPO – which is planned for next year– the Saudi government took on Monday a serious step towards making the transaction possible. A new regulation was announced changing the income tax payable by Saudi Aramco from 85% to 50%, with the cut backdated to 1st January.
Saudi Women: Creating a girls’ council in one of the most conservative regions in Saudi is a great step and much needed. Yet there were no women seen on stage at the launch, adding more to the contradictions in people’s mind.
Through Vision 2030, the Saudi Arabian government wants everything to be better. The work and life situation of women is a major item on that list.
King Salman’s tour of Asia (specially China) is significant. Not only in its size (1,500 people, among them 25 princes and ten ministers), but, more importantly, in the messages which Saudi Arabia wants to convey to its Asian friends and partners.
The majority of Saudi Arabia’s non-oil exports end up here, as do two-thirds of its oil exports. The economic path and development of Asia will have a major effect on Saudi Arabia’s trade profile, especially in the current, somehow difficult, economic situation. The trip can be divided into two parts: South East Asia (Malaysia, Indonesia and Brunei) and the Far East (China and Japan).
Last week Okaz, a semi-official newspaper, said that Saudi Aramco is considering offering shares to Saudi citizens.
Sources ‘familiar with the matter’ say that Saudi Aramco internally has discussed on how to do the IPO structure so that Saudi retail investors can get in on the deal cheaper than through international exchanges. Traditionally, Saudi Arabia offers shares in government-owned companies, such as it did with Saudi Telecom (STC), Saudi Electricity (SEC), SABIC and others. Shares are sold at a set price of about $2.67 – in an effort to redistribute wealth among the local population. An Islamic charity mentality, or don’t ask me what I am doing with the money.
Saudi Arabia And The How To Change
The Interview of Saudi Arabian Oil, Energy and Industry Minister Khalid Al Falih 2 weeks ago was part of a larger BBC interview. Both TV and online reports appeared over the last two days.
Small Boutique for Aramco’s IPO
One can hardly assume that charity is behind Saudi Aramco’s decision to hire Moelis & Co as the sole independent advisor on its huge public offering.
Off the List, Certainly US and The Oldies Are Back
Shall we start with VAT, or rather the concert of the always-will-be loved-oldies singers of Saudi Arabia? Perhaps the interview with Minister Al-Falih at the BBC, when the interviewer could no longer follow him at some point?
OPEC Agrees, Women Doing More And Freezing Temperatures
OPEC reached its first agreement since 2008 on oil output cuts after Saudi Arabia accepted “a big hit” on its production and dropped its demand to Iran to slash output, pushing up crude prices by around 10 percent. Fast-growing producer Iraq also agreed to curtail its booming output, while non-OPEC Russia will join output cuts for the first time in 15 years to help the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries prop up oil prices.
Secret to be Lifted
Saudi Energy Minister Khalid al-Falih, told the Financial Times that Saudi Arabia will reveal the size of its oil reserves. “This is going to be the most transparent national oil company listing of all time.”.
Changing of the Guard, Many Visitors and Stock Market Open for Investment This week Saudi Arabia got a new finance minister. The old one, Dr Ibrahim Al Assaf, 67, was released of his duties after 20 years in office. He was one of the last of the old guard of Saudi...
Houthi Militias Attack Makkah, Lagarde’s Visit and A Peaceful Nuclear Deal
On Friday, Houthi militias targeted the city of Makkah with a Scud ballistic missile, an act that caused fury among citizens. In another update, Saudi Arabian troops may join international troops fighting in Al Raqqa outside Mosul, in the international war against Daesh in Iraq and Syria.
Confusing Calendar and An Amazing TV-Show
Undoubtedly, the major news item on and coming from Saudi Arabia is that the government has raised $17.5 billion through its sovereign bond issue. The issue was oversubscribed 380% to about $67billion. This step is alongside Vision 2030 to pivot the country’s economy from reliance on oil. The government aims at reducing its spending by 71% from $263.7 billion to $75.8 billion. The cutting down by $133 billion has not been discussed in public by SAMA. Generally, the economic thinking in Saudi Arabia revolves around Vision 2030. Don’t forget that Saudi Aramco is also planning its initial public offering.
Saudi media reported that King Salman congratulated the US President-elect Donald Trump on his win and emphasised the strong relations between the two countries.
Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to the US also welcomed the election results, saying that he “prefers action” over speeches from a new administration in Washington. Prince Abdullah bin Faisal bin Turki said that he sees the “extensive relationship” between the two countries continuing.