Riyadh’s KAPSARC Is One Of The Most Beautiful Buildings In The Middle East – Here Are 8 Facts About It

Photo Credit: bimcommunity.com

Photos of the futuristic-looking King Abdullah Petroleum Studies and Research Center (KAPSARC) have been circulated far and wide on every medium possible. But many still don’t know what it does or anything else about it for that matter apart from the way it looks. That’s where we come in and clear all doubts that surround this amazing building.

  • The KAPSARC campus measures a huge 70,000m² in size.

That’s enough to fit nine football fields.

Photo Credit: archdaily.com

Photo Credit: archdaily.com

  • It actually is a non-profit institution.

And collaborates with international research centers, public policy organizations, government institutions and global industry to tackle energy challenges.

  • In simple terms, KAPSARC develops policies and economic frameworks.

Particularly those that reduce the environmental impact and overall costs of energy supply.

Photo Credit: archdaily.com

Photo Credit: archdaily.com

  • In fact, it not only makes environmentally friendly policies, its campus in itself is environmentally friendly.

And was awarded LEED Platinum certification as it minimizes energy usage by using solar power, water recycling and passive cooling systems amongst others.

Photo Credit: archdaily.com

Photo Credit: archdaily.com

  • KAPSARC was designed by celebrated architect Zaha Hadid’s company –ZHA.

The structure resembles a honeycomb.

  • The structure is designed considering the harsh desert conditions that surround it.

It blocks the sun’s harshest rays while remaining open to northern and westerly winds.

Photo Credit: archdaily.com

Photo Credit: archdaily.com

  • It has been named Saudi Arabia’s smartest building.

By the Honeywell Smart Building Awards program.

  • There is even a sizeable musallah inside it.

Like the other structures in KAPSARC, even the musallah looks futuristic.

Photo Credit: hok.com

Photo Credit: hok.com


If Your Network Changed To ‘KSA UAE TOGETHER,’ Here’s Why


People across Saudi Arabia woke up yesterday to find their STC network has switched from their regular one that reads STC to a new one that reads ‘KSA UAE TOGETHER’.

Twitter erupted with questions on why.

Well, we have the answer for you.

The UAE’s National Day is celebrated on the 2nd of December. To highlight the close friendship that Saudi Arabia and the UAE enjoy, the network shifted their name to ‘KSA UAE TOGETHER’.

In fact, networks like Etisalat and Du in the UAE changed their network names previously during the Saudi National Day celebrations to ‘UAE KSA TOGETHER’ as well.

So does this mean that we will probably see more customized network names in future? Most likely.


Off-Road Enthusiasts Help Out #JeddahRain


An off-road team called Riders, who are normally spotted driving their group of 30-40 Jeeps to the outskirts of the city towards the desert or going up the Hada road towards Taif, were spotted doing something completely different during the recent Jeddah rains.

Their lifted Jeeps, all modified and equipped to pull out vehicles in stranded situations, were deployed around the city in flood-prone areas. Operating under the Barq Rescue team (Thunder Rescue), which is a voluntary rescue team alongside Civil Defense and is run by Jeep enthusiasts. The organization is officially registered with Saudi Arabian Motor Federation (SAMF) and the Saudi Civil Defense Force (fire emergency services), they pulled out stranded cars and people from places where the water rose above knee level.

They also posted on social media to reach out to anyone needing assistance and were stranded in the waters. They even went on transporting people from one place to another as taxis and taxi-hailing services were more or less non-existent. When we reached out to them about their voluntary efforts they mentioned, “we off-roaders, adventurers feel we do have a social responsibility and a way to create awareness about us is not only by having fun in the sand dunes, but also act professionally when it comes to incidents like these.”

Aamir Farouk, 28 one of the team leaders for the Riders group, said, “Why do what everyone else is doing when you can make your mark by doing something completely different? Keep your focus on what YOU want to do – Not what anyone else wants or is doing. You lose time watching others succeed. There are so many ways to win.” #OneDayOrDayOne”  The Riders team consists of 4 team leaders and 100+ members.

Instagram: BarqRescue
Instagram: SandSpyderJK


An Island Off The Umluj Coast – A Red Sea Tourism Project!


Part of the mega Red Sea tourism project.

When news of the Red Sea tourism project came, it made headlines across the globe. After all, it is one of the most ambitious tourism projects in this part of the world.

The plan is to turn a string of islands between Umluj and Al Wajh into a global tourism destination. The project will cover 50 islands, spanning an area of 34,000 square kilometers.

With all the hype surrounding it, we decided to pay a visit to these islands and get a first-hand experience of what they are like. 158862abeer-bajandouh

After checking into our hotel at Umluj, we noticed a small poster that read “island tours.” The following morning, we call the number and he tells us to come to the seaport. It took us some time to find the location, as he kept on explaining the route as if we were locals who knew the nooks and crannies of the city like the backs of our hands. Nevertheless, we did manage to find the port. No ships or ferries here, just small motor boats, most of which are probably used for fishing.

We finally meet the man on the phone who was to be our makeshift tour guide. But before we can sit in his charming boat that even had a mini majlis seating arrangement in it, we had to submit our resident permits to the port authorities. They handed over a slip to us, which we had to return once we were back from our journey to get our IDs.162242abeer-bajandouh

We step in the boat, wear our life jackets and off we go, passing the barrier of the light colored shallow waters into the deep dark waters. The boat rides fast, bumping off waves while its motor makes the sound of a jet propeller.

As we went deeper into the Red Sea, we saw two islands on the horizon. The islands were beautiful, the turquoise waters surrounding them just added to their beauty. It was like a tropical island sans trees.

Our boat couldn’t reach the island’s shore as the water was too shallow and, on top of that, we reached during low tide. Nonetheless, we anchored next to one of the islands and began exploring while taking mindless photos for our social media feeds.dsc_0001

We couldn’t swim in the waters as they were too shallow, so we tried our hands at fishing. The waters were abundant with marine life, so much so that we would just throw the bait and within a minute or two would catch a fish.

We moved around a bit in our hunt for schools of fish and we managed to find a few more, but we’d already caught more than we could in our wildest imaginations. Our guide informed us that there were islands further up ahead, but they were a good 30 minutes away. With seasickness starting to catch up with us, we decided to go back.dsc_0953

Though we only visited two of the 50 islands that are part of the project, we got a slight understanding of what these islands have to offer. The promise of a tropical gateway in the Middle East, offering coral reefs, year-round warm sun, pristine waters, virgin beaches and plentiful opportunities for island-hopping can be all too alluring. Plus, Saudi Arabia sits at what can be called the crossroads of the East and the West, so for much of the world, long flights will not be required to reach here.

So if one decides to go now to this place, there is not much that they can expect to see here, apart from isolated islands. But once the infrastructure is in place, these islands are poised to top the lists of must-visit places in the Middle East.dsc_0990


Game of Thrones Stars Descending Upon Riyadh This November


Multi-genre entertainment and comic convention Comic-Con Arabia is coming to Saudi Arabia for the first time.

To be held in Riyadh from Nov. 23-25 at the Riyadh International Convention and Exhibition Center, the event’s guest stars have been, as always, quite the talk of the town. Two stars from the upcoming event will be from the popular TV show Game of Thrones, which also enjoys huge popularity in the country.

So if you’re a GoT fan, you know where to head this weekend.

Jason Momoa

Photo Credit: thisisinsider.com

Photo Credit: thisisinsider.com

He has a huge fan base thanks to his portrayal of Khal Drogo in Game of Thrones, apart from which he has also worked on numerous films and TV shows, including the recently released Hollywood blockbuster Justice League. Momoa is all set to be one of the biggest draws for Comic-Con.

Pilou Asbaek


The Danish actor is famous for his portrayal as Euron Greyjoy aka Crow’s Eye in the Game of Thrones. Though his character is a bit of late entrant in the show with its first appearance in season 6, he has quickly developed a sizeable following. And, we couldn’t have been more excited to finally get a chance to see him in person.

P.S: Even if you are not a GoT fan you will have plenty to look forward to as the list of celebrities attending the event includes Big Bang Theory star Kevin Sussman, Underworld: Awakenings Tudor and Lost Girl star Kristen Holden-Reid, Mother! Star and video game Legend of Zelda Princess Zelda’s voiceover actress Patricia Summersett and many more.

If you’re going to Comic-Con Riyadh, come find the Destination Riyadh team and say hi!

For updates check @comicconarabia



Expats in Saudi Can Now Enter Tunisia Visa-Free. Here’s Why You Should Go ASAP.


While Tunisia is visa-free for Saudis, the Tunisian government has now made the country visa-free for all GCC expats. All you need is your original residence permit and voila you are granted entry to the beautiful North African country.

1. Sun, sand, and sea – it brings the full combo.

In very few places will you get to feel Mediterranean bliss like here.

2. It used to cost SR 200 to get a Tunisian tourist visa before.

Now, it won’t cost you a dime. tunisia-342855_960_720

3. The country is an interesting combination of North African, Maghrebi and Mediterranean.

The same is reflected in its people, culture and heritage.

4. Despite being small in size, it has a large amount of natural diversity.

Forested coastlines in the north and Saharan sand in the south.tunisia-733613_1920

5. It has rich history as well.

From the remains of the ancient city of Carthage to grand cities constructed during the Islamic Golden ages – even those not into history may fall in love with its charming historical cities.

6. The laid-back capital Tunis has two distinct urban plans.

The new city is the French colonialist type created in the 19th century and then there is the old part of town that has a Maghrebi/Arabian feel to it. star-wars-2082969_960_720

7. Luxury is affordable here.

Many holiday packages offer private coastal cottages at prices that don’t burn a hole in your wallet.

8. It’s only a four-hour flight away from Saudi.

And, flight tickets are pretty reasonable too – with some fares hovering around SR 2,000.


The 2nd Tallest Building in Saudi Arabia (No, It’s Not The Kingdom Center)

Photo Credit: rightcompound.com

While Makkah’s Royal Clock Tower tops the list of being the tallest in the country with its mammoth height of 601 meters, the 2nd tallest building is not the Kingdom Center in Riyadh as many would expect.Which is natural as the Kingdom Center was the tallest building in Saudi Arabia right till the Makkah Royal Clock Tower topped it.

But 3 years ago, another skyscraper, the Burj Rafal, topped the height of the Kingdom Center. Located in the city of Riyadh, Burj Rafal has a total height of 308 meters (1,010 feet).  It is just 5 meters taller than Kingdom Center, thereby becoming the tallest building in Riyadh.

Constructed at a cost of $320m, the 70-storey tower offers 360-degree views of the surrounding area. The first 23 stories are occupied by the Kempinski Hotel. The floors above the hotel house 440 luxury residential apartments and eight penthouses.burj-rafal-kempinski

The designers behind Burj Rafal are P&T Architects, who are famous for designing some of Hong Kong’s most iconic buildings.  Built on a 20,000 square meter plot, Burj Rafal took 4 years to build and was formally opened in 2014.  The Kempinski Hotel inside the building has won numerous accolades including the 2016 award for Saudi Arabia’s Leading Hotel and Saudi Arabia’s Leading Hotel Residences by World Travel Awards.

Though it is the current tallest in Riyadh, Burj Rafal’s record is soon to be overtaken by the under construction Capital Market Authority Tower that is expected to have a final height of 385 m.


8 Goods & Services That Are Exempted From VAT


The coming new year will mark the implementation of VAT, a major financial implementation in Saudi Arabia. While the move is in line with IMF’s recommendation for Gulf countries to impose value-added taxes, there are many things about it that the masses are not fully aware of.

We came across a list of items that are exempt from VAT and we eagerly wanted to break the news to you.

1. Medicine And Medical Equipment

Only those that are specified by the Ministry of Health and the Saudi Food and Drug Authority.

2. Gold and Silver

Provided that they are at least 99% pure and tradable in the bullion markets.

3. Goods Export

However, the exemption is applicable only on foreign exports outside of the GCC.

4. Life Insurance

It includes reinsurance contracts as well.

5. Government Agency Services

So passport renewals, issuances of driving licenses etc. will have no VAT on them.

6. International Transportation

This includes air, sea or land travel outside the country.

7. Selected Financial Services Like Savings And Deposit Accounts

It also includes credit or credit guarantee provided by banks and other financial institutions.

8. Residential Real Estate Rent

Villa, apartment or studio flat – as long as it’s residential it will be exempted from VAT.

For more information on the list of exemptions, you can log onto Vat.gov.sa

Source: vat.gov.sa


We Bet You Don’t Know These 14 Facts About Makkah

Photo Credit: thameralhassan.com

Despite being the spiritual heart of Muslims around the world, there are many things about Makkah that many do not know – until now.

1.  Makkah is one of the oldest continually inhabited cities in the world.

The Zamzam well alone is believed to be around 4,000 years old.

2. The city was never the capital of any Islamic empire.

But Muslim rulers did regularly contribute to its upkeep.

Photo Credit: flickr

Photo Credit: flickr

3. Not all of Makkah falls within the Haram boundary.

There are many neighborhoods of the city, like Sharaya, which falls outside the Haram boundary.

4. The city used to be called Bakkah.

Nevertheless, some scholars suggest that Bakkah refers only to the Kaaba and the immediate areas surrounding it.

Photography by Norah Alamri

Photography by Norah Alamri

5. Apart from Bakkah, the Qur’an refers to the city as Umm Al Qura.

Umm Al Qura is Arabic for “Mother of All Settlements.”

6. Nowadays it is called Makkah Al Mukarramah.

This literally translates to “Makkah The Honored.”

Photography by Rayan almsaodi

Photography by Rayan almsaodi

7. While Madinah is known as the city of the Prophet (PBUH), it is Makkah where he spent much of his life.

The Prophet spent around 50 years of his life in Makkah.

8. Makkah’s population is estimated to be between 1.5-2 million.

This swells to close to 4.5 million during the Hajj season.

Photography by Khaled-M-K-Hegazy

Photography by Khaled-M-K-Hegazy

9. Saudi Arabia receives the highest number of tourists in the Middle East.

This is largely due to the millions of pilgrims that flock the cities of Makkah and Madinah.

10. In popular English usage, “Mecca” refers to any place that draws large numbers of people.

11. The city centers on the Masjid Al Haram area, which is lower than most of the city.

This made it prone to flash floods in the past.

Photography by Sajjad Al Kadhem

Photography by Sajjad Al Kadhem

12. The Black Stone hasn’t always been in Makkah.

In 930 AD, it was stolen by the Qarmatians, who took it with them to Eastern Arabia.

13. British newspaper The Telegraph listed Masjid Al Haram as the most expensive building in the world.

Its total cost of construction was at $100 billion.

14. No. 2 on the same list of the most expensive buildings was Abraj Al Bait, which is also in Makkah.

Abraj Al Bait holds other world records, including the records for having the tallest clock tower and the largest clock face.




This Belgian Thobe Designer’s Visit To Al Ula Is Making Us Want To Visit It ASAP


Sitting some 380 km north of Madinah, the dusty town of Al Ula is one of the country’s best-kept secrets.

A lot of people visit the Thamudic ruins at Madain Saleh, which is located a few kilometers further ahead, but miss out on the ancient city of Al Ula, which was once the capital of the Lihyanites over 2000 years ago.

Rebuilt a number of times the present town is from the 13th century. It was inhabited until fairly recently with the last family believed to have moved out of the old town in the 1980’s. 20171021_145723

Christophe Beaufays who is a Belgian designer visited the old town of Al Ula and his photos will show you how beautiful the city is. Travelling around the medieval town with local tour guides his photos take you on a picturesque journey.

Beaufays describes Al Ula as having “its very  own specificities like the ‘shared rooms’ that are in every house connecting all houses in the city from the first-floor whilst at the same time provide shade to the streets below.” His personal favorite view of Al Ula he states is “from the top of the fortress of the old city.”

P.S. All photos were shot on his mobile camera.