Community, Explore KSA

In Photos: Sandstorm Madar From All Around Saudi Arabia

Photo Credit: i.ytimg.com

It is over and we have survived it. We just went through three days of what was one of the biggest sandstorms in the recent Saudi Arabian history.


From flight cancellations to school closures, it definitely had an impact. What many living in the major cities of the country have not seen is the magnanimity of the sandstorm. From places that were the worst affected, we’re hearing stories of how the sandstorm came in rising from the deserts.

The sandstorm, named Madar, started off in Libya and passed through Egypt before arriving in Saudi Arabia. In some places, it came in apocalyptic sizes.

Here are some photos of the sandstorm that will definitely not be forgotten anytime soon.

 

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Offbeat, Sports

The Saudi Connection Of The Nike Pro Hijab

Photo Credit: dezeen.com

With more and more Muslim women embracing sports, Nike has planned to launch a line of headgear that caters to the market. It is expected to be officially launched by the spring of 2018.


Twitter has since gone berserk as the first batch of photos of the product came in. The Nike Pro Hijab has been almost over a year in the making, in fact, the first seeds are believed to have been planted way back. And, it all somehow has its connections to Saudi Arabia.

London 2012

In 2012’s London Olympics Saudi Arabia for the first time ever fielded female athletes to the Olympics. Runner, Sarah Al Attar, took to the field sporting a Hijab. She received an ovation upon completing her run and her photos splashed on many international newspapers.

Photo Credit: execreview.com

Photo Credit: execreview.com/Sarah Al Attar

Nike has even officially announced that they were inspired by Sarah Al Attar and Emirati weightlifter Amna Al Haddad.

Photo Credit: nisaanetwork.net/

Photo Credit: nisaanetwork.net/Amna Al Haddad

Rio 2016

Sarah again participated in the Olympics in Rio. This time around she was accompanied by a fellow hijab-clad runner, Kariman Abuljadayel, who took part in the women’s 100 meters event who was wearing a full black body suit.

Photo Credit: dailymail.co.uk/Kariman Abuljadayel

Photo Credit: dailymail.co.uk/Kariman Abuljadayel

It was not only like these 2 were wearing Hijab, there were athletes from other countries that donned the Hijab, but not many, barring America’s Ibtihaj Muhammad managed to gain enough limelight.

Photo Credit: themuslimvibe.com/Ibtihaj Muhammad

Photo Credit: themuslimvibe.com/Ibtihaj Muhammad

With the stage all set it was only a short wait before brands started showing interest to the needs of this growing market. It just so happens that the biggest sporting brand, Nike, which itself wields a great deal of influence in the sporting world has developed this product at a time when not all sports allow women to compete in hijabs.

Perhaps, it will be products like these and broader acceptance of cultural and religious norms that will pave way for more Saudi women to take on sports professionally.

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Explore KSA

The 8 Coldest Cities In Saudi Arabia (In Winter)

Photo Credit: sada-tabuk.com

Yes, there are many cities in Saudi Arabia where the mercury dips below zero.


If you are the type who just can’t tolerate hot weather, then these are the places that you may want to resettle to (only in winter) as most of these experience blistering hot summers.

Turaif

Photo Credit: @rashed_700

Photo Credit: @rashed_700

The city on the northern border of the country holds the record for recording the coldest temperature ever in Saudi Arabia, that being when the mercury dipped to -12°C. This made it one of the coldest temperatures to be ever recorded in the Arabian Peninsula as well.

Sakaka

Photo Credit: hiveminer.com

Photo Credit: hiveminer.com

Even though the south is where the tallest mountains in the country are, it is the northern part of the country that sees the lowest temperatures.  Sakaka is no different with temperatures hovering at sub-zero levels.

Abha

Photo Credit: zawaayaaa.blogspot.com

Photo Credit: zawaayaaa.blogspot.com

Sitting at an elevation of around a whopping 2,270m, Abha is one of the highest inhabited cities in the country. Nestled in the midst of the Sarawat mountains, the city has some of the most pleasant climates to be found anywhere in the Kingdom. As opposed to popular belief, it is not the coldest place in the country.

Rafha

Photo Credit: bani-issa-edu.com

Photo Credit: bani-issa-edu.com

Rafha lies close to the Iraq border. In some instances the city even witnessed deep snowfalls.

Riyadh

Photo Credit: alriyadh.com

Photo Credit: alriyadh.com

The Kingdom’s capital has seen a decent share of chilly nights over the years. The temperature dips below zero for a night or two during the winter. This winter, however, Riyadh didn’t witness sub-zero temperatures. Global warming maybe?

Tabuk

Photo Credit: sada-tabuk.com

Photo Credit: sada-tabuk.com

When news of it snowing in Saudi Arabia comes on the news, this is the place where you should be heading to. As it is near Tabuk, where thin layers of snow carpet the sand. Temperatures here can reach up to -4C.

Arar

Photo Credit: sa.arabiaweather.com

Photo Credit: sa.arabiaweather.com

The city is relatively new with its foundations dating back to 1951. Arar sits amidst the heart of a vast rocky limestone plain and has a decent climate, with temperatures not even crossing the psychological zero mark. And like other places in the northern part of the country it occasionally snows as well though mildly.

Hail

hailSitting at an elevation of over 950m, Hail enjoys pleasant weather throughout much of the year largely due to its location on high ground.  The historic city is largely agricultural and has witnessed temperatures of a bone-chilling -10C.

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Offbeat

King Salman In A Rare Video Selfie With Joko Widodo The Indonesian President

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King Salman’s Asian tour has been much talked about.


He earlier took a selfie with Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razzak, which was much shared on social media and now King Salman appears in a Facebook video shot by Indonesia’s President Joko Widodo. The video has garnered thousands of views within a few hours of posting.

King Salman conveyed his pride on visiting the country. He also had a message for the people of Indonesia referring to them as “our brothers who are very dear to us”.

Catch the video here:

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Correction: The previous version of the article misstated the Indonesian President as “Indonesian Prime Minister”, thank you Kamiliyah Basith for correcting it in the facebook comments.

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Explore KSA

The 6 Most Popular Trekking Spots In Saudi Arabia

Photo Credit: mohsenaldajani.com

Trekking is a way to experience the country like you’ve never before. You can’t experience places by just driving by them or hovering over and catching glimpses from the sky; the on foot experience is hands down one of the best places to explore the country’s raw beauty.


Unique geological formations, soaring mountain ranges and diverse geographical terrains make Saudi Arabia one of the finest places for trekking in the region.  Don’t picture yourself walking in a jungle here, the trekking scene mostly revolves around escarpments, valleys, mountain peaks and the endless desert accessible through the entire kingdom.

Jabal Abyad and Jabal Bayda

Sitting in the heart of a vast jagged lava field of Harrat Khaybar in the north of Madinah, the barren’s beauty lures trekking lovers. The white colored Jabal Abyad is the tallest volcano in the country and Jabal Bayda is a white ash cone that is a stone’s throw away from it. The two white volcanoes sit next to a third volcano that is stark black and is named the black widow. The sight is a true natural wonder that is best explored on foot.

Edge of the World

Photo Credit: mohsenaldajani.com

Photo Credit: mohsenaldajani.com

Popular amongst Riyadhis, the towering sight lies 96 kilometers to the northwest of Riyadh. The place is located right at the edge of a steep cliff on the Tuwaif Escarpment.  There is no way downwards. Upon reaching the edge, your only reasonable solution is to find a flat surface to rest on, a safe distance away from the cliff face. A 4X4 is required for this one as you have to traverse through rough terrain to reach it.

Rijal Alma

Though it may not fall under the conventional definition of trekking as it is more of a walk, the historic village is a magnet for those who love heritage walks in the Kingdom.  Situated at the foot of a valley with a hilly milieu in the background, the structures in Rijal Alma are much in the same form as they were a century ago – well at least a good portion still is.

Jabal Dakha

4farmlandLocated in the Ash Shafa village, it is supposedly the highest peak near the city of Taif. To climb this peak you don’t need karabiners, harnesses and all those other fancy climbing gears – a good pair of sneakers would do just fine. There is a road that goes right to the peak, well not exactly to the peak, but still very high up. You can just walk by the road upwards and this in itself is a very arduous task as the road lies at a precipitous angle.  And since you’ll be on high altitudes near Taif, you’ll be enjoying the good weather that Taif is famous for.

Wahba Crater

Photo Credit: en.wikipedia.org

Photo Credit: en.wikipedia.org

The geological formation makes up for a great trek and takes around two hours to trek through. You don’t have to walk around the edge here, there’s a pathway that leads downwards towards the shiny white bed of the crater. Just bear in mind that the trek back up isn’t that easy. You also don’t need a 4X4 for this one, as there is a paved road right till the edge of the crater.

Jabal Baloum

Photo Credit: Mohammed Nawfal

Photo Credit: Mohammed Nawfal

The highest peak in the Tuwaiq range, Jabal Baloum rises around a stark desert landscape.  The trekking path is filled with loose gravel and rocks, so you’d want to be extra careful here. Once atop the peak, you can catch beautiful vistas of the valley surrounding the peak. You also might want to take a detour to a large rock nearby that is dotted with ancient rock art.

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Explore KSA, Explore Your City, Online Magazine

A Time to Chill – Yanbu Waterfront

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Even man-made beaches can be good.


The soft sand disperses as we take baby steps in the cold sea. Calm waves lap the shoreline that is dotted with tire tracks all over, which we later found out to be of the coastguards that patrol the area.

Yanbu’s Industrial Waterfront is so well laid out, that it serves as a benchmark for other beach development projects around the country. Designated areas for swimming, landscaped gardens, ample parking and various other amenities, need you ask more? It easily ranks in the top for being one of the best man-made beaches the Kingdom has to offer.

Yanbu being a medium-sized city and within it, the Royal Commission which houses the waterfront being an even more secluded area, the beach provides ample privacy and makes for a textbook picnic spot for families and ‘singles’ alike.

After a spontaneous decision, taken only a few hours before, we found ourselves passing refinery after refinery on route to Yanbu from Jeddah. On one side were the refineries that were lit brightly and on the other, there was the plain darkness of the empty desert.

_dsc0248-nefSome refineries even had a fire burning from the top of the boilers, burning byproducts of crude oil that was being refined there. Our car set on cruise control raced past the occasional small villages and within a few hours, we ended up in Yanbu’s Royal Commission.

After an overnight stay, we headed to Yanbu’s famed waterfront. The crowds here were in lesser numbers, the atmosphere more relaxed, as opposed to Jeddah’s beaches.

Whatever shade there was, was already occupied by families – the trees, the secluded tent-like structures and even the shade that came by the kiosks. By a garden next to the beach we ate food we bought from Al Baik. We actually were hoping for seafood but didn’t come across any seafood restaurants in the Royal Commission area, so we ended up relying on the time-tested Al Baik. We were told the seafood restaurants were in the Balad area of Yanbu.

After lunch, we crossed the landscaped area of the waterfront and made our way across the coarse sand. Perhaps the landscaped area is to expand further closer to the beach as this sand seems to have been sourced for developmental purposes and is not regular sea sand.

_dsc0252-nefWe walked on the coarse sand for a long distance before finally reaching the shoreline. It was soothing to see the unruffled sea. We walked through the shallow waters barefoot, there were hardly any pebbles inside leave alone rocks or stones. Without any visible vegetation growing in the water, we can safely say that the water was pretty much lifeless, making it ideal for swimming. Even the little ones can enter the water without the fear of getting bitten by crustaceans or getting their feet entangled in seaweed.

As we swam towards the barriers that marked the limits of the area designated for swimming, the water seemed colder, becoming more and more unbearable after each stroke. From volleyball without nets to our own concocted water sports, we had a memorable time playing by the setting sun.

After sunset, the crowd shifted from the dark seaside towards the parking lot that is lit by street lights; their picnic continues.

The kiosks nearby serve tea and other food items at high prices; they were the only food options for miles. We had other items to tick off from our list of places to visit in Yanbu, but the weekend was ending and the journey back to Jeddah was in the back of our heads, so we left soon after with unchecked boxes on our places to see list.

Being just around a three-hour drive from Jeddah, for the most part, we found the waterfront to be an amazing picnic spot for those feeling a little more adventurous over the weekend. Yes, there are plentiful beaches en route to Yanbu that are somewhat similar but it is the location of this particular beach right in the heart of the lavish Royal Commission area that undeniably makes the trip worthwhile.

Coordinates: 24.025915, 38.138336

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Business, Business Talks, Offbeat

The Indian Billionaire Who Made His Fortune In Saudi Arabia

Photo Credit: fwdbusiness.com

Once a 14-year-old boy from Kerala trading coconuts to pay for his school books to becoming a construction mogul, the story of Dr. Ravi Pillai is nothing short of extraordinary.


While Dubai is the base from where many self-made Indian billionaires started, it is a different story for Dr. Pillai, his success story has its roots in Saudi Arabia.

Starting on a small scale in his native Kerala in India, he ran a construction company that did sub-contract work. It was relatively successful until the locals in the area went on a labor strike. He left the business there and came to Saudi Arabia.

Photo Credit: fwdbusiness.com

Photo Credit: fwdbusiness.com

He partnered 50% with a local businessman and established his business in 1978. He initially started with a trading company, selling goods to the US Navy. The profits from which, Pillai later used to set up his construction company, Nasser S. Al-Hajri Corporation (NSH), in Saudi Arabia, which to this day remains the flagship company of the RP Group. The group named after initials of the founder.

He recruited 150 workers, most of who were sourced from India. One of the company’s first big projects was the construction of underground aircraft parking for a French company.  He then landed a major contract outlining the construction of the Royal Terminal at the Riyadh Airport, which had a price tag of $50 million attached to it.

Photo Credit: rpgroup.ae

Photo Credit: rpgroup.ae

Saudi Arabia during that era was in the midst of a construction boom, Pillai capitalized on it and by 1985 he had 5000 employees working for him. His company then progressed to megaprojects with companies like Saudi Aramco and SABIC operating mostly in the eastern part of Saudi Arabia.

From 1990 onwards, the group went on expanding to other countries in the GCC and started focusing on constructions for oil and gas, petrochemical and steel companies.

Photo Credit: hotelscombined.com

Photo Credit: hotelscombined.com

Post-2000, he established a fabrication division in Saudi Arabia and by the end of the decade, he entered the hospitality business by acquiring a hotel in Dubai. Hospitality is a sector he expanded rapidly in by setting up multiple hotels in India and the UAE.

By 2015, he ventured into real estate and launched its flagship project, RP Heights, which is a multi-storey luxury tower in Dubai.

Today, his group operates in nine countries, employs over 85,000 people and has ventured into multiple industries including healthcare, education, IT, and retail. As per Forbes.com, his estimated wealth stands at $3.7 Billion, which makes him amongst the richest Indians in the Gulf.

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Explore KSA, Historic Saudi, Online Magazine

The Pearling Industry

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Its rise and decline.


Before oil, a large portion of Arabia was dependent on the pearling industry. In fact, the Arabian Gulf used to be the largest producer of pearls in the world.

Along with other states in the Arabian Gulf, Saudi Arabia too was involved in this trade with Qatif playing a major role. Qatif, however, was not located close to the densest clusters of pearls and pearl divers had to go long distances on boats to reach oyster hotspots.

Pearl oysters occur naturally on relatively shallow banks in the Arabian Gulf. Archaeological sites in Eastern Arabia suggest that pearls have been harvested from around 7,000 years. It was, nevertheless, only in the mid-nineteenth century that the industry grew considerably to meet the rising demand worldwide.

Pearls started being traded with the Ottoman Empire, Persia, and India and even with countries far off in the western world. Pearls became a luxury item amongst the upper-classes of society.

The pearling season would take place in the summer, with boats coming in from far afield. From these boats, pearl divers would dive depths of almost 40 meters with their scanty equipment gathering oysters from the seabed.

The coastal towns on the Arabian Gulf grew wealthier and attracted traders. The pearls were mostly dealt in the barter system in which other goods and commodities were exchanged for pearls.

However, the boom in the pearl trade was not to last long. The pearling industry began to decline in the 1920s with one of the main reasons being the development of artificially produced pearls in Japan. These pearls were produced in abundance and sold for a much cheaper price. However, Arabia was soon afterward blessed with another thriving industry, the oil industry.

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Offbeat

12 Saudi-Made Apps You Need To Download

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Saudi Arabia’s youth is eager, creative and wants change. Actually, Saudi Arabia has been embracing change so well that the country carries one of the highest densities of app users and is on the forefront of the social media scene in the Middle East.


Many Saudis have been part of some of the finest apps that the region has developed, and there are hordes of app development companies that operate in the country.

For many Saudis app development went from a hobby into an income generating machine. Many Saudi websites that have their own apps, but our focus is mostly on purpose built apps rather ones simply representing a successful business.

Dalily

dalilyA localized version of Truecaller, Dalily is considered to be amongst the best caller IDs in the Arab World. It also serves as a cross-platform messaging app. The app has been developed by the Riyadh-based software company e-Sealed.

Zahma O La

zahmaTranslated into “crowded or not”, the app initially started by focusing on one thing, that being announcing the traffic status of the King Fahd Causeway to Bahrain. It has now broadened its features, displaying movies playing in theatres in Bahrain.

Ayat

ayahOne of the most popular apps to emerge from Saudi Arabia, Ayat was developed by King Saud University. The app comes with tons of features including text translation of the meanings of the Quran in more than 20 languages and recitations of the Quran by many famous reciters amongst many other.

Karam Car

karamOne of the first fully Saudi taxi service company, Karam Car is based in Jeddah. Recently launched,  the app is picking up fast and offers similar services to Uber and Careem.

SnapJobs

snapjobsThe jobs app was developed by a group of six Saudi women. The app is an easy and fun solution to search for jobs, wherein job seekers have to post a video or audio of 30 seconds that will be accessible to employers.

Masareef

masareefThe money management app has been surprisingly successful. It manages your expenses and highlights how various expenses will affect your savings for the month.

Morni

morniEncountered a car breakdown? With this app, you can call for towing, battery service, tire change and fuel delivery across major locations in the country.

Saudi Driving Test

saudi-driving-testThe app is ideal for those planning to take the computer exam for the Saudi driving license. It gives test takers the essentials to ace the exam including a mock test, so one knows where they stand. Plus, it’s available in 9 languages.

Saudi Messenger

saudi-messengerSaudi Messenger allows users to meet new people when connected to the internet. But other than that it mostly offers similar features to other messaging apps.

Gas Delivery

gas-deliveryThe usage is pretty simple and allows users to purchase gas cylinders from the nearest distribution center, charing 10 Riyals for delivery. Payment by credit card is also acceptable.

Kashf Saher

kashf-saherThis Kashf Saher app reveals where the hidden speed cameras are located. However, Just an FYI, the app doesn’t encourage speeding, rather it encourages you to stay within the maximum speed limits.

Saudi Matches

saudi-matchesIf you’re a diehard follower of the Saudi football scene, then you definitely need this app. It covers the latest scores from the local leagues and cups, keeping you up to date with all the happenings in the local football scene.

My Prayer

my-prayerDeveloped by the King Abdulaziz City for Science & Technology, the app gives you location-based prayer timings. It comes loaded with other features to help you with your prayers such as determining Qibla directions, Hijri conversion dates, and azan alarms.

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Offbeat

7 Saudi Loyalty Cards You Need In Your Wallet

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While loyalty and membership programs/cards have been extremely successful in the West, countries in the Middle East are catching up to the trend fast. Saudi Arabia too has seen a slew of memberships being offered by companies.


In Saudi Arabia the most successful amongst these loyalty or membership programs have largely been limited to the airline industry with popular frequent flier programs. With more and more businesses realizing the importance of loyal customers, they are churning out new incentives to hold onto their loyal base.

Loyalty and membership cards may seem like a way to keep you addicted but if used wisely, they can actually help you save money in the long run. Just an FYI before we begin, the benefits listed for each are just the prominent value-added services one can expect from these loyalty cards/programs. We have filtered out most of the loyalty cards out there and kept only the most useful ones on this list.

Tawfeer

czzu8mzxaaalvsfPanda has been advertising their Tawfeer cards left, right and center. They are definitely one of the most valuable loyalty programs, as the card allows you to buy many products at discounted prices. In Panda, some items will carry two price tags one for regular customers and one for tawfeer card holders.On top of that, Panda is almost everywhere across the Kingdom, so you can be assured that you are definitely saving on your weekly grocery shopping.

Register here.

Shukran

Photo Credit: almrsal.com

Photo Credit: almrsal.com

The Shukran loyalty program is one of the largest of its kind in the Gulf. The card covers so many stores and brands that you’d definitely want to have in your wallet or on your phone through the Shukran app. Part of the Landmark group that comprises of Centrepoint, Max and Home Centre amongst others; accumulating points in the Shukran card allows you to redeem them for cash discounts off your purchases.

Register here.

Nuhdeek

bkedzjkcyaa0lxrNahdi pharmacy is second to none when it comes to overall reach of pharmacies across Saudi Arabia. So holding its membership card likewise makes sense, especially as points on the Nahdeek card allows for cash discounts. What’s more is that the Nuhdeek program is not limited to Nahdi pharmacy, it also covers Daan, Saudi, and Sudais pharmacies as well.

Register here.

NaSmiles

Photo Credit: 148apps.com

Photo Credit: 148apps.com

The loyalty program of Fly Nas is pretty simple – earn a Smile point for every riyal spent. Every 100 Smile points can be redeemed for 4 riyals. With Fly Nas being the only alternative to Saudia airlines, holding its loyalty card can sure come handy.

Register here.

Alfursan

Photo Credit: saudiairlines.com

Photo Credit: saudiairlines.com

Perhaps the most popular of all loyalty cards/programs, Alfursan leads the lot by a margin. With the Alfursan card, you’ll be earning miles for each time you travel with Saudia. These miles can then be redeemed for free flights and/or upgrades. Oh yes, and the card will also entitle you for extra baggage allowance as well.

Register here.

Budget Loyalty Card

392770_461133410633060_1068538598_nHaving one of the largest numbers of car rental outlets in the Gulf, the loyalty card allows you for discount within Saudi Arabia and abroad. Points are earned for each time a car is rented from Budget. For every SAR 100 spent one reward point is earned and the points accumulated are valid for life. Plus, the card allows you for discounts when you rent a car through Budget.

Register here.

Prism

cdmnprkw0aav_fdThe rewards program of Magrabi Opticals allows you to gain points on purchases and redeem them later once you accumulate 1000 points. For the basic Blue Prism card, 100 points are awarded for 100 SAR of purchases. 1000 points entitle you to a 50 SAR discount. The Prism card can be used across the Middle East.

To enroll visit your nearest Magrabi Opticals outlet.

One more thing, regardless of which mobile network you use, all major network providers have loyalty programs, which you can enroll in and expect tons of rewards. Some more rewarding than others. So be sure to enroll in them.

 

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