Online Magazine, Travel News, Travel Trends

Crème de la Crème

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Destination goes on indulgent odyssey in Singapore to discover the wonders of European cream.


Every pastry chef is different. Each one has a unique style of his or her own—ideas, techniques, and whatnot are as varied as they come. However, when it comes to using the ingredients, there is a consensus. Culinary masters agree that the use of fresh high quality dairy products is essential to making the finest desserts.singapore-creamofeurope-september-2017-courtesy4

To help us understand the delicate beauty of European cream, Destination was whisked away to Singapore. There, renowned pastry chefs from different countries convened at the At-Sunrice Global Chef Academy for the La Crème de la Crème pastry event.

The three-day gastronomic adventure successfully showcased the superiority of European cream. Ten International chefs, including Chef Mayada Badr from Saudi Arabia, were challenged to present their interpretation of this year’s theme: Blanc de Blanc (white on white). More than just a classic, white is, more than ever, in the spirit of time. It offers its own culinary range and proposes new gastronomic sensations – an invitation to the Chefs to use their pure imagination. The Chefs are given complete free reign to create absolute masterpieces using a combination of new and classic recipes, and traditional and contemporary baking techniques. The cream, which is the hero ingredient, remains as the integral element in each cake – discreet, glossy, unctuous, and reassuring.singapore-creamofeurope-september-2017-jp3

We witnessed in awe as the pastry chefs defined, reimagined, and ultimately created dreamy interpretations of the theme. They hustled and bustled in a kitchen that felt like an episode from Iron Chef.

Another highlight of this edition was a special workshop with one of Paris’ top pastry, Nicolas Bacheyre.  We were able to see how European cream is able to elevate every creation. Our senses were titillated – surrounded by the scent of fresh vanilla and visually captivated as Chef Nicolas showed us how he has mastered the use of cream.

More than just a classic, white is, more than ever, in the spirit of time.

More than just a classic, white is, more than ever, in the spirit of time.

European cream is instantly recognizable by its texture and highly developed aromas, characterized by its roundness, smoothness and a bright, fresh taste. Due to its high standards, authenticity and quality, European cream carries strong values that reflect the professionalism of the top pastry chefs, who are assured of the best quality. Through the workshop, we indeed saw the difference the choice of ingredient makes especially in a delicate culinary art such us pastries.

After two days of preparations  and for us, a journey of discovery, the international chefs presented their masterpieces during at Forlino. Their final recipes will published in an illustrated recipe book, which will be a training tool for students annual workshops.singapore-creamofeurope-september-2017-jp13

Needless to say, as much as we revelled in the stunning aesthetics of each dessert, we looked forward to indulging our palettes. Indeed, we were not disappointed. The complex techniques achieved flavors that take you through a process, others were surprises folded under cream that renders it simple yet elegant all at the same time.

The dessert of Chef Sarah Ni from China wowed us with its intricate concept behind her work. The five elements were aptly represented through varying layers and flavors — all coming together nonetheless with the finesse use of the cream. When it comes to gorgeous sweetness, Michelin star chef Nicolas Lambert created a pavlova that was insta-ready.

As always, we were impressed and left with a better understanding of fine ingredients and what Europe has to offer. But equally important perhaps is the gastronomic diplomacy that takes place through these events. The way European cream was adapted and honed by our star chefs to complement and in ways, infuse with their respective countries’ culture and palette is quintessential.

European cream and at that, the use of quality ingredients is not a practice or preference limited by geography. Rather, it is a universally accepted fact – top pastry chefs only use the best products to create the most wonderful desserts.

Chef Mayada’s “Huda”

We would have to say though that in terms of flavor, taste, and clever use of cultural elements (this always is a thumbs up in our books), Chef Mayada’s Huda is unforgettable, with its ice cream infused with hints of rosewater, a gahwa and halawa core that to this day, we’re still craving. It was a showstopper.

THE CHEFS singapore-creamofeurope-september-2017-courtesy2

  1. Mayada Badr (Saudi Arabia)
  2. Nicolas Lambert (Hong Kong)
  3. Nicolas Bacheyre (France)
  4. Julien Perrinet (Taiwan)
  5. Sarah Ni (China)
  6. Waddah Bou Saad (UAE)
  7. Cheryl Koh (Singapore)
  8. Talita Setyadi (Indonesia)
  9. Jewook Ko (South Korea)
  10. Paul Gardin (Malaysia)

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Food, Food News, Foodie Corner, Online Magazine

Awesome Eats Under 10

Photo Credits: hellofreshblog.wordpress.com

Riyadh can be one fancy schmancy dining scene— but what we love about it is that it can go on the exact opposite direction! We are a city that can serve up some good hearty meals and snacking options on the cheap.


 Next time you’re on a budget, here’s some awesome eats for ten Riyals or less:

Felafel (1-3 SR)

Photo Credits: The Spruce

Photo Credits: The Spruce

Falafel is one of the most popular Middle Eastern snacks. Each patty is made from fava beans, shaped and deep-fried to golden perfection. They’re either wrapped in a pita with some veggies and drizzled with tahini as a sandwich for 6 SR or bought on its own at 1-3 riyals for about five pieces. This will keep you full for hours.

Foul and Tamees (2 SR for the foul, 1 SR for the tamees)

 

Traditionally for breakfast or dinner, foul is definitely as filling and cheap as it gets.

Although its preparation varies from region to region, whether wholly soaked in lemon and garlic, or mashed with tomatoes, onions and spices, one thing about this fava bean dish remains the same– it is the food of the people. Foul does all enjoy a budget friendly food.

Kebdah Sandwich (3 – 6 SR)

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Also for beef lovers who are on a budget, we recommend a kebdah sandwich. Kebdah is tender beef liver seasoned and served on a fresh bakery roll that’s available at most local fast food joints. So while cruising in the car feeling hungry we suggest you stop and try one of Riyadh’s favorite sandwiches.

Masoub (5 – 8 SR) – Mo

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Masoub is a Saudi traditional food from the Hijaz region that most people usually eat for breakfast. It’s a sweet dish made with bananas, honey and sugar. This dish will leave you feeling full and it’s easy on the wallet. Masoub can be found in most foul and tamees places.

Manageesh (4 – 6 SR)

 

This is a lovely Lebanese tradition made out of bread that comes in different toppings like zaatar spice mix, cheese or labneh. It can be eaten any time of the day or night. You can easily find it in most bakeries.

Motabag (4 – 6 SR)_dsc0336

For a more traditionally Saudi and very tasty meal, we recommend Motabag. It’s dough filled with different ingredients like cheese, beef, bananas or even veggies. It comes in small square pieces and can be found all over the city at any foul and tamees joints and most of our local fast food places.

Shawarma (4 SR)

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Gone are the days when you used to find 2 SR shawarmas on the street but okay, 4 SR as an average isn’t so bad. This is a weekly staple for some and simply the quickest fix for a hungry Riyadhi any time of the day. While we’ve seen a lot of mutations but nothing beats the good ol’ classic chicken, pickles and fries with a wallop of garlic sauce.

DR Tip: Our favorite shawarmas are from Mama Noura, Luluoa, bayt shawarma. They also have jumbo size ones at 7 SR a pop, match that with the 3 SR juice and you’ll be satisfied.

A Box of Hummus and Bread (8 SR)

Photo credit: Bon Appetit

Photo credit: Bon Appetit

Hummus is awesome and while this chickpeas concoction blended with tahini, olive oil and lemon juice is originally intended to be a dip or appetizer, it has evolved to be a dish on its own for a lot of folks. All you really need is some bread and you’re good to go. Oh and it has a lot of health benefits especially for those who are watching their weight.

DR Tip: The House of Hummus lives up to its name by being a home to any kind of Hummus you’re looking for in the city. Another, less healthy but irresistible option is the buttered hummus at Assaraya topped with pine nuts. It’s sinfully good.

Hamburgini’s Hamburger (9 SR)

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We first met Hamburgini during the burger wars last year and it emerged victorious as the Burger to beat. It’s tasty, it’s filling and it’s the stuff of cravings. Its long lines resemble the queues for the release of the iPhone, only this one happens everyday and worth it for 9 riyals of instant tummy gratification.

Siopao and Empanada (3 SR)

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If you want heavy snacks and are within the Batha area or little Manila, you should grab some Chinese Siopao and Spanish Empanada from a local Filipino bakeshop. Actually, everything you’ll find in one of these Asian bakeries is almost always below 10 SR and they are filling. Siopao is made chicken meat and egg inside a white soft bun and an Empanada is a pastry with meat and veggie fillings.

DR Tip: The Blue Ribbon near the Military hospital is a favorite among locals.

Cheap Eats for Groups

Mathbi – Roast Chicken and Rice (25 SR, good for 3 persons)

A favorite among locals wanting to have a cheap by hefty lunch, this group option would total 25 SR but is good for 3 people. So you really only end up spending 8 SR per person. The gracious serving is made of Roast Chicken with rice and you can pair it with Laban. Some of our sources insist that we try dipping the chicken in honey; sounds like an odd combination but it may just surprise you (in a good way).

DR TIP: Can be found in just about any local food joint, although the local go to place would be Romansiah and Al Sharaya Restaurant.

Bukhari Chicken (18 SR, good for 2-3 persons)

Photo Credits: Bon Appetit

Photo Credits: Bon Appetit

What list of cheap food in Riyadh can be complete without the bukhari? At 18 SR, getting a tray of rice and a half a chicken is indeed a bargain. This is a meal meant to be shared; we have witnessed people getting in a food coma for attempting to consume this on their own. 

DR TIP: When it comes to Bukhari or any local rice dish, we really don’t care about cutlery and quite frankly, there’s something about eating this traditionally with your hands that make the dish more delish. So please, for your own sake, don’t be a pansy.


 

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Community, Online Magazine

THE FIX

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By Mohammed Shamsi

Saudi app Morni is your summer road savior.


“I got a flat tire.” That’s how Salman Al Suhaibaney, founder and CEO of Morni, described his eureka moment, in August 2013, when he first thought of his now thriving app.

“I couldn’t fix the tire myself, so I drove to the closest gas station looking for a tow truck. I couldn’t find any. I thought to myself ‘Why can’t it be as easy as Uber?’ Being stuck in the middle of nowhere, I was reminded how Uber tracks your location exactly, making the process much easier. This was the problem we were trying to solve.”

Towing cars, tire repairs (on the spot), battery charging and replacement, car transportation, plus petrol pumping (for those who forget to fill their gas tanks) are the main services provided by Morni, who aim to become “the automotive hub” of the region, as Al Suhaibaney put it (Morni is now active across the GCC, along with Jordan, Lebanon and Egypt). morniapp-riyadh-2017-courtesy1

Uber was the inspiration. Morni used a similar business model. “That way, we can track the quality of the experience with our customers while ensuring that no abuses happen, pricing-wise.” Development began in April 2014, launching in July 2015.

Their biggest challenge? Ensuring their platform keeps on working. “There was no documentation,” says CTO Abdullah Al Yahya. “When I first joined, I had to learn the coding language for the platform over six months. The mobile version was another headache; it was a black box that we needed to figure out.”

Redevelopment began in July last year. “Starting from scratch; that was the biggest challenge we had. But it was worth it, because now we know our code inside out.”morniapp-riyadh-2017-courtesy2

“We jumped off a cliff, building our wings on the way down,” was how Al Suhaibaney put it. “Today, we’re better, faster, smoother and more user-friendly.” 

“Our success was from word of mouth; from customers who are using the service. Our focus was on ensuring a quality experience for individuals and corporate customers: in terms of follow up with customer care, providing more services, proposing value rides for people who need us. In terms of advertisements, we have sponsorships in motorsports.app-morni

The Saudi Champion in Drifting for 2016 was a Morni driver, along with motorsports events (The local Dodge club among them).

They’re also considered a strategic service provider for some companies, as they’re very active in the transportation and logistics for the automotive industry, with tens of trips daily going from warehouses to branches and customers, especially for the exotic car market.” 

What do you owe your success to?
Good team, with passion to drive growth of the business; that’s our biggest success factor.

What made you choose this business?
It’s a green field. There are no standards or benchmarks; we want to be the standard. We want to be the AAA of the region.

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Artist & Musicians, Arts & Music, Online Magazine

Artistry Connect: A Platform for Artists and Art Lovers

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Young duo creates digital art platform.


Who are the folks behind Artistry Connect?
Omar Abdulrahman Al Mutlaq, an accountant who recently graduated in May from Prince Sultan University. Maram Khalid Al Nemer, an emerging artist, a senior student at Prince Sultan University studying Interior Design, College of Engineering.

What’s the inspiration behind this project? What do you plan to achieve or impact with this website?
Our main inspiration is simply art. And we aim to create an elite platform for all artists. Artistry Connect focuses on connecting art collectors with their favorite artists and art pieces. The platform is also concerned with connecting people and informing them about upcoming events in all the regions. We also plan to create a close worldwide network of artists, art collectors, and art.

What do you think of the art community in Saudi Arabia, particularly in Riyadh?
The art scene is currently expanding with a lot of new emerging artists and world renowned artists. Saudi Arabia, Riyadh in particular, is beginning to acknowledge artists and give them a chance to display their work in multiple growing galleries. Art, in our opinion, is slowly gaining the fame and acknowledgement that it deserves and we, as supporters of art, want to spread it even wider to reach all kinds of people._dsc0461

Where do you see yourselves taking this project to in the years to come?
We are aiming to connect our artistic platform with the GCC starting with Saudi Arabia, no doubt. All artists in that region will be recognized and supported. Artistry Connect will help people know about any upcoming art events happening in the country. We, hopefully, plan on expanding to include many other countries. We aspire to create one platform that houses art pieces and artists where they all can be connected worldwide.

How do you plan to sustain the initiative?
We plan on sustaining it by arranging exhibitions, workshops, art galleries, studio visits, talks, auctions, and many other events for those who enjoy art, create it, or collect it. Our platform will not only be “online based” we plan to reach out to all the talented people, their art, and the people who appreciate it, where they can be connected and reach out to one another in person as well.

What do you think are the challenges art and artists face in Saudi Arabia and what can be done to solve them?
Many people in Saudi Arabia appreciate art, but simultaneously a lot don’t. The art community is small compared to other communities. Not a lot of people understand the importance and significance of art, and so this can be challenging for many artists. Reaching out to the part of society that doesn’t care much for art isn’t easy. But we hope that this will change over time.

“Art must be recognized an appreciated, because it holds the great power of expression.” – Omar Abdulrahman Al Mutlaq

Web: artistryconnect.co
Email: info@artistryconnect.co

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Online Magazine, Things To Do, Travel Trends

Summer Bucket List

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By Naseema Shafi, Jou Pabalate, and Safa Hassan

Summer Bummer? Not when you’ve got this guide for thriving and adventuring this long, extra long, vacay.


  1. Literally Chill

snowcity-riyadh-summer-bucketlist-july-sourced-alarabiya2Snow in Riyadh and in summer at that? Yes, you read it right. Snow City, which opened last year is an experience to be had. Whether you want to build a snowman or ride a tube down some icy hills—this adventure is sure to cool you down. For a more casual day, why not try ice skating and sashay away across the rink.

Rinks in Riyadh: Hayat Mall and Fal Center (Kids and Men), Royal Mall (Women and Kids)
Snow City Location: Othaim Mall

 

  1. Schedule a Field Trip to Almarai Farm

almaraifarm-julysummer-riyadh-2017-sourcedThis is an amusing activity for the entire family. Living in a city clogs your mind with the mundane routine, so, why don’t you enjoy the country-side for a while? Touring Almarai farm would give you a glimpse of the process your bottle of milk and dairy products goes through, just to get onto your table. It’s a great field trip for groups and get this, it’s totally free and they’ll even arrange a bus pick up for you.

Location: Al Kharj
Book your visit: almarai.com

 

  1. Channel Your Inner Sherlock Holmes

escapearabia-secretrooms-riyadh-march-2017-courtesyLet’s get real, you’re in Riyadh, temperatures are going to reach the 45s and 50s on Celsius scale. Hence, we get it, the AC is your friend. So, why not get yourself locked up indoors—literally! There are plenty of escape rooms in the city. These interactive games sharpen your noodles and fun for just about everyone. Organize a battle between crews, see who can escape first. Or better yet— get into character and dress up for your next challenge.

DR Favorites: Excape X KSA, Breakout Riyadh, Escape Arabia

 

  1. Hangout at the Library

kingfahadlibrary-riyadh-summer-july-2017-sourced2We know some of our young readers are going, “ehh, no thanks” but hear us out. The King Fahad National Library is not just pretty to look at, it’s actually housing a fine collection of rare photos, hard to find manuscripts and books, both local and international. They also offer some summer programs and if you go from day to night, the surrounding area of the building comes alive! You can spot food trucks here and if you’re lucky, you might even catch a local street performer.

Location: King Fahad Rd.

 

  1. Historical Trip at Al Masmak Fort and the National Museum

masmak_fort_12753717253If you are one to cherish history and fancy the essence of Arabian tradition, then Masmak Fort is the ultimate go-to place this summer. It is the fortress on which the capital was established. For a broader blast from the past experience, head to the National Museum.

Timing: 8 a.m. – 12 p.m. (Weekdays) / 4 – 7:30 p.m. (Fridays) / 9 a.m. – 12 a.m. (Saturdays)
Location: Both places are located a mere few minutes away from each other at the King Abdulaziz Historical Center, Murabba Dist.
Tel: +966-11-4110091

 

  1. Get Creative, Take a Class

tae-in-kim-13629What’s a better way to spend summer than by learning something new? Have you been fascinated by a language recently? Craving to bake something but don’t know how? Want to be in a book club where your fictional characters come alive with passion? Then this summer, join a learning center! A book club or cooking classes; whatever it maybe, you know it’ll be super fun!

Our Picks:

  • Blends Culinary School
  • Cakedelights Baking school

Mob: +966-508656189
Facebook: Cakedelights baking School
Location: Alhamra Oasis Village Compound, Exit 8, Northern Ring Rd.

  • Bake Fresh

Mob: +966-565601806
Tel: +966-11-4646414
Email: order@bakefresh.net

  • Tavola Baking & Cake Decoration

Location: Shop # G176-177, Next to Danube Hypermarket, Hayat Mall
Tel: +966-11-2057475

Lastly, have an in-city getaway

Check out our special article on chalets and hotel options for Riyadh weekend fillers.


ROAD TRIP!

The one time we’re letting Sharqiya and Jeddah Woo You.

Okay, we get it, it’s a very long vacation this year and so it would be fun to venture out… but look no further than to your left and right. Actually, make that to your east and west. The Kingdom is vast and our siblings down at Sharqiya and Jeddah, can offer a splendid holiday that’s still pretty close to home.

JEDDAH

The West Side Story

  1. Have a Day at the Beach

dscf6102Admittedly Jeddah and the Eastern province has this one over us. Embrace the sun with a day at Ubhur, where you can book chalets and even try some watersports available all year round.

 

  1. Discover King Abdullah Economic City

This city within the city is host to a variety of workshops and regular events. It’s also your go-to place for a family day. Unlike Riyadh’s parks that tend to turn brown in the summers, KAEC’s park areas are always green.

 

  1. Seafood Experience at Dahban

0000000000000000000000a-1-2This Fish market offers a unique experience in Jeddah. You get to select from a variety of locally farmed fish and have them cooked on the spot for you! While we are legit meat lovers, we do love the fishy business the west has going.

 

  1. Get Transported to Another Time in Al Balad

nbhfHejaz is probably one of the most vibrant and colorful cultures in the country and we love that about Jeddah. They have a very unique history that makes this port city have its own “HIjazi vibe”. Take a cultural trip at Al balad, where you’ll find everything from beautifully preserved architecture, art galleries, and yes, food.

 

  1. Fakieh Aquarium

maxresdefaultDiscover sea creatures and have a magical time here. There’s something about walking through a tunnel surrounded by fishes swimming and cool blues of hues that will send you into a state of calm and fun relaxation.

SHARQIYAH

Easy Breezy East

  1. Go Corniche Hopping

half-moon-bay-saudi-arabia-0The eastern province has a variety to choose from, you can explore: Khobar, Dammam, Qatif and Saihat.

 

  1. Cross the Bridge When You Get There

bahrain-causeway-image1Whether you want to go all the way to Bahrain is your call or you can at least just take the drive to immigration island, have a meal, enjoy the view and go back.

 

  1. Visit Souq Al Hub in Dammam

Traditional crafts and middle eastern finds, Souq Al Hub is also a window into the culture of the eastern region.

 

  1. Have a Full East Coast Experience

Head to Half moon bay for a bit of kitesurfing, boating for families and areas where you can frolic. Or if your feeling lucky, go fish! At Five Fingers Al Khobar.

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Offbeat, Online Magazine, Ramadan

The Ramadan Newbie Guide for Expats

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By Safa Hassan

Experience the uniqueness of celebrating the holy month  in Saudi.


Expats and newcomers in Riyadh, you’ll experience a whole different way of living during the pious month of Ramadan. Here’s your much awaited Ramadan guide – the do’s, the don’ts and everything in between.

  1. Traffic is the worst 30-60 minutes before sunset (Maghrib prayer) during Ramadan. That is the rush hour as everyone is trying to get home or to a restaurant in order to break their fast on time. Plan your city travels appropriately!
  2. Offices reduce working hours to provide ease to employees. That means you get to spend more time with family & family. The only downside to this rule is the delay in all government related tasks due to shorter hours. In case you’re planning to travel, make sure all your paperwork is done well in advance.
  3. Speaking of travelling – book your June flights in advance because people travel a lot around Eid time!
  4. Enjoy the local Ramadan specialty at restaurants or iftar tents set up by major hotels. Your taste buds will thank you!
  5. Shopping malls, restaurants and supermarkets are open till 2-3 a.m. Once you get the taste of midnight shopping mayhem, you’ll never want to let it go! Exploit the Ramadan and Eid sales!
  6. If you’re a nocturnal or a midnight-snack kind of person, Ramadan is the time where you can feast all night till the first light! Most of the restaurants are open up to 3 a.m or Fajr time.
  7. Accept invitations and experience an iftar. This is an opportunity for you to learn more about the traditions of the country you live in.

Or you can even throw an iftar party for your Muslim friends.

Be Thoughtful & Sympathetic

  • You’re living in a country where almost everyone is fasting, so eating publicly isn’t exactly considered great. If you have to eat just avoid crowded places!
  • Since it is a holy month, turning down the volume of the songs down isn’t just a wise move; it’s the respectful thing to do.
  • As a considerate human, greet your Muslim colleagues or friends with ‘Ramadan Kareem,’ they’ll be thankful!

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Art, Artist & Musicians, Arts & Music, Online Magazine

Artist Corner: Abdullah Al Yahya (Aiden Corte)

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By Reema Al Humaid

Meet this month’s emerging artist!


Name: Abdullah Al Yahya (Aiden Corte)
Age: 18
Occupation: Filmmaker

At 18 years old, this filmmaker is changing Riyadh’s visual landscape by challenging the norm and recreating how we view art in the city.screen-shot-2017-04-18-at-2-38-51-pm

Who are you and what do you do?

My name is Abdullah Al Yahya. I created a brand called Aiden Corte on April 9. This brand focuses on the art of filmmaking. I am a senior in high school, and I am also a filmmaker.

Why filmmaking?

Ever since I was young, films and videos were very intriguing to me. I saw beauty in them. As an emotional person myself, I was looking for a platform to showcase that side of me, and film was the one I felt the most passionate about. The emotions that can be translated through a film are indescribable (in my case), hence why I decided to explore the eye-opening and diverse world of filmmaking.screen-shot-2017-04-18-at-4-47-26-pm

Where do you see yourself heading with filmmaking?

A dream of mine is to hopefully direct and produce my own film that focuses on the beauty of unity and culture, hence a film that tackles social issues we encounter on a daily basis. Basically, I see myself excelling in the film industry, as I would like to approach ideas that have never been talked about, and I believe by doing so I would help many people going through rough times regain that spark and hope in their lives.screen-shot-2017-04-18-at-2-43-31-pm

Describe your style.

My style in film is very symbolic, I like to symbolize certain aspects of my films in terms on arts and production, I also love to add music into my films because I feel like it adds to the film in terms of emotions.

How do you decide whether a film you’ve completed is a success or not?

I believe that it is impossible to know whether a film I have created is successful, in terms of the audience watching it. But, in terms of how I personally critique my films, I never rate them, and I never publish a film that I am not proud of.screen-shot-2017-04-18-at-4-48-53-pm

There is one quote I live by: “No Pain, No Gain.” Many see this quote as a set of words, but what I see is the beauty of determination. For one to succeed, he/she must fail. So the films I do not publish, are the films that fail to make the cut, and the films that are published are the films I am the most proud of.

Twitter: aiden_corte
Instagram: aidencorte

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Community, Explore KSA, Explore Your City, Online Magazine

Echoes Of A Community: Al Ghatt

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A beacon of local tourism.


Nestled 240 kilometers northwest of Riyadh and hidden behind the Qassim highway is the small town of Al Ghatt. If you’re wondering how to find this, keep an eye out for a gigantic tea and Arabic coffee pots at the exit. If you sight those, take the exit and drive through the mountains and watch the town of Al Ghatt unfold before you.

Al Ghatt derives its name from the powerful floods that envelope the town during rainfall. The sights and sounds of this seasonal marvel will leave you in awe. In the absence of floods, the town is still breaming with natural wonders, from waterfalls, springs to breath-taking cliff-views.

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Passing through new Al Ghatt, you’ll find yourself surrounded by luscious green landscaping and well-kept grounds and litter-free pavements. Children here are taught by schools to plant their own trees, creating a connection between them and their hometown.

On the horizon, date trees line up on the foreground of cliffs. This is a rural community on its way to pursuing development but not at the cost of its natural habitat’s beauty.img_8472

Just four kilometers away, the Old Al Ghatt Village can be reached. As you walk pass abandoned mud houses and through warren alleys, you’ll realize that this historical side of town is suspended in time. On it lies a 400-year-old mosque, considered to be one of the oldest in the central region.

A few minutes up the road and you’ll find the Al Ghatt museum, a palace of Nasser Al Sudairy donated by his offsprings. The Saudi Commission for Tourism and Antiquities took the renovation and stocking of the museum under its wing. It provides a window into the history of the region and the way of life the local’s lived.img_8568

While its charm lies on the authentic view it provides of a traditional Najd settlement, there is no doubt that it is one that requires delicate attention to bring it back to its glory days.

The Abdulrahman Al Sudairy Foundation has been at the forefront of efforts to rehabilitate Al Ghatt hand-in-hand with its community. As Dr. Salman Al Sudairy, former deputy secretary general of the Supreme commission for Tourism and Antiquities, board member of the Al Sudairy Foundation and a true son of Al Ghatt, said:

“You need to work with the people, you need to inspire people, and you let them inspire you. We take pride in what Al Ghatt is and believe in what it can become. What it is today is because of the community that fosters it, there is shared love, a unique communal trust, and sense of ownership in this town.”img_8571

One project that was led and managed by Mr Faisal Al Sudairy is the Almulhim House. The house belongs to his mother’s family and it was completely restored as a bed and breakfast.  This project also prompted a much larger restoration program of a whole neighborhood in old Al Ghatt. The bed and breakfast is awaiting the completion of the wider project. Once it opens, Al Ghatt will be able to offer a unique experience, where tourists both local and international can find themselves transported in time while having the luxuries and convenience of a nice five-star accommodation.

A BLUEPRINT FOR TRUE LOCAL TOURISM

As Prince Sultan bin Salman, President of the Saudi Commission and Tourism and Antiquities, wrote in his foreword to the tourism strategy of Al Ghatt, “all activity is local, in so far as it takes place in a given destination area with the active involvement and support of the host community.”

This is something that the Abdulrahman Al-Sudairy Foundation knows all too well. At its current state, we already found Al Ghatt to be ripe for discovery. It is a town that we felt should be mirrored by other rural settlements.

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However, as Dr. Salman rightfully pointed out, “the potential is there, developments are underway, we do believe that Al Ghatt can become a cultural, historical, and socio-economical destination but we have to get the fundamentals in order.”

Dr. Salman co-authored the Tourism Strategy for Al Ghatt, which highlights the strategic and tactical steps that need to be undertaken for the town to succeed in its efforts. Rural villages like it need to be seen as national assets, and while the SCTA, the municipality, and the Foundation are leading progress; at the end of the day, public-private partnerships need to come into play. Investment is needed to create the facilities, attractions, and infrastructure to make a sustainable local tourism market.img_8682

The floods have also made Al Ghatt ideal for agriculture, and indeed the community has learned to harness the power of its land. The community makes Al Ghatt what is today. Here we find people who have a sense of ownership and responsibility to their city. Mutual respect is effervescent among locals and their surroundings at that.

Let the stories of Al Ghatt echo across the region and the Kingdom, this is a town other communities should aspire to be. Full of promise, it’s only a matter of time before it becomes a destination – and we say, people should get on-board the progress train, less you get left out.

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Online Magazine, Travel Tips, Travel Trends

Unlikely Weekend Getaways

Zanzibar, Tanzania

By Andrew Eddmenson

In the past year, I visited nearly a dozen countries!


Weekend excursions allow you to preserve those vacation days and still feel as though you’ve experienced the best of what each country has to offer. Let me share with you my top weekend destinations from Riyadh and how to make the most of these brief visits.

Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

With direct flights from King Khaled International Airport leaving daily, you can wake up early in Riyadh and enjoy your morning coffee in Addis Ababa. And trust me, everything you’ve heard about Ethiopian coffee is true – it’s amazing! Gather around for a traditional coffee ceremony at almost any corner shop where the beans are roasted over an open flame, ground with a mortar and pestle, and boiled in a customary jebena pot.

Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

During the day, visit any of the city’s captivating art and history museums including the National Museum of Ethiopia – home of the world famous Lucy skeleton. At night, explore Addis Ababa’s surprisingly vibrant night life by enjoying a cultural music and dance performance over a plate of injera, a national dish of spiced meat piled on top of sponge-like flatbread. Fearless travelers should seek out the Addis Merkato, Africa’s largest open air market, and try not to get lost in the bustling crowd while taking in the local flavor.

Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

Sofia, Bulgaria

Why would anyone travel to Bulgaria? For one, the capital of Sofia has the amenities and atmosphere of more popular European cities at a fraction of the cost while also feeling less crowded and more chill. It’s also home to some of the most impressive and diverse architecture I’ve ever encountered, telling the country’s rich history through its assorted cityscape.

Sofia, Bulgaria

Sofia, Bulgaria

Nature enthusiasts should take a two-hour bus ride to the nearby Rila mountains, home to the famous Rila Monastery and the Seven Rila Lakes. One can easily access the natural beauty of these glacial lakes (found 2,500 meters above sea level) by taking a convenient lift ride followed by a short trek. However, I recommend a two-day hike across one of the range’s clearly marked paths where you’ll find lush forests and meadows, wild horses roaming the open valleys, and breathtaking panoramic views of mountains as far as the eye can see.sofia-bulgaria-rila-mountains

Zanzibar, Tanzania

Tell some people that you’re traveling to Zanzibar, and they’ll likely be scratching their head as to whether or not it’s a real place. Found off the coast of Tanzania in East Africa, Zanzibar island is a very real and very romantic retreat that’s worth the half day of travel to reach. The casual beach resorts lining its coast provide a balanced ambiance of authenticity and luxury as you begin and end each day watching the crystal blue ocean waves crash along the shoreline.

Zanzibar, Tanzania

Zanzibar, Tanzania

If you decided to spend your entire holiday lounging on the white sand beaches, no one would blame you; but there’s plenty else to do. Zanzibar is recognized for its spice industry, and touring the local spice farms will expose you to a myriad of tastes and smells that you will not soon forget. The turquoise waters around the Mnemba Atoll reef deliver exceptional visibility for snorkeling and diving. Last but not least, wandering the narrow alleys of Stone Town (a UNESCO World Heritage Site) will mesmerize you with its distinct blend of Arabic, Indian, and European influences.

national-museum-of-ethiopia

Final Tips for Weekend Travel:

  • Pack Light. Weekend trips don’t require a lot of baggage, so save time at check-in and avoid the tragedy of lost luggage by not checking a bag. Just be mindful of carry-on restrictions such as liquids.
  • Take the Red Eye. Overnight flights can be a pain, but you’ll get the most out of your trip by resting on the plane and waking up with a full day of discovery ahead of you. The excitement from being in a new place is almost always enough to compensate for a poor night’s sleep.
  • Find a Package Deal. Consider paying a third party to take care of your lodging, transportation, and itinerary. I used Escape Travels on all these trips and felt more relaxed knowing everything was handled (visit escape-travels.com for more info).

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Hair & Makeup, Online Magazine, Self Care

VOG Salons for Beauty

vog

Bringing Parisian elegance to the Kingdom.


VOG salons are a franchise from Paris, and their goal is to introduce a different type of elegance to the Middle East.

They pride themselves on using only high quality products and well trained professional stylists, who do everything they possibly can to make sure every woman gets the new fresh look she’s looking for. The salon has a refined atmosphere to ensure each customer not only has a refreshing experience, but also a relaxing one that takes them far from their everyday concerns and worries.vog-01

Their hair services include styling, coloring, L’Oreal and Kerastase treatments, X-tenso straightening, and bridal packages. They also do touch ups with eyebrow shaping, eyelashes, nails and hair extensions, and even makeup. When it comes to makeup, VOG makeup artists go from trendy to natural looks, depending on what the customer wants. vog-11

While you shampoo and style your hair, you can enjoy a nice scalp massage that stimulates hair growth and keeps it healthy and vibrant. After you’re done, if you’re considering a haircut, VOG salon hair stylists are up to date with all the latest haircuts that will bring out your beauty and glamour! VOG stylists are known for always finding the perfect shade to “color your life.” They consult customers with the utmost personal care in order to  reach the perfect looks.hair-color-chart

Sign up for Hair Spa Day and treat yourself to one of their L’Oreal and Kerastase treatments that consist of the finest products for your haircare needs. They have a complete range of products formulated to selectively treat all types of hair: curly-dry, normal-dry, dry-sensitive, and very dry. Whatever your hair type, you will finish your treatment with bright, even and long lasting radiance!vog-07

Brides love the full haircare VOG salon to get all glammed up for their wedding. They have a selection of specialized packages brides can choose from, depending on their preferred looks. Make your day extra unforgettable and worry-free at VOG.

RIYADH

  • VOG Qurtoba
    Tel: +966-11-5114343
    Mob: +966-537222873
  • VOG Ghadeer
    Tel: +966-11-5108516
    Mob: +966-505511970

SHARQIYA

  • VOG Khobar
    Tel: +966-13-8010449
    Mob: +966-552661480

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