Exclusive interview with leading local folklore band Al Rayah

Khaleeji Folklore Unveiled.

You’ve been to a concert, right? When the stage is set up to showcase the band members’ larger-than-life personality, the dazzling kaleidoscope of twirling lights is synchronized with the special effects, and the speakers are set up so you can hear every single note.

Have you got the picture in your mind? Good. Now, throw it all away, because that is the exact opposite of what I’m going to tell you about today.

Instead, imagine a dark-skinned man in his 50s, wearing a cream-colored thobe with a sleek black vest and wizar wrapped around his waist, swaying to a rhythm set by the drums held by some members of the 10-man group he obviously leads.khaleeji-folklore-unveiled1

His shemagh, rarely seen in Sharqiya’s streets today, accentuates the authenticity of the verses he sings with a huge smile on his face. His words draw you into tales of adventure, longing, and, occasionally, sacrifice: the everyday life of a fisherman. His melodic voice rises with the music produced by an eclectic collection of instruments, melding in perfectly till his voice, and that of the rest of his troupe, make you feel, for a brief beautiful moment, that the adventure is yours.

This, my friends, is Abu Daham, and he, and his Khaleeji musical troupe, Al Rayah, are a sight to behold. khaleeji-folklore-unveiled2

To put this in context, let’s take a step back into a time when fishing and pearling were the lifeblood of Sharqiya. Back then, men would embark on voyages to hunt for their livelihood, leaving their wives, children, and loved ones behind for months at a time.

These trips could last four to five months, and would offer no guarantees to the sailors or their families. Sometimes these men would return with a trove of pearls and secure their families’ futures for a year. khaleeji-folklore-unveiled3

On these occasions the returning boats would sail their flags high, and the fishermen’s voices would carry across the waters to their eagerly waiting families on the shores, whose own voices would rise in song, welcoming their men back home. Other times, these brave men would lose a friend to the dangers of the sea, and they would return home with their flags at half-mast, their somber silence foreboding the sad news that some wife, mother, or sister would be dreading.

To ease the pain of separation, and to keep their spirits up, these brave fishermen and pearl hunters would sing. They would use whatever musical instruments they had available, or improvise if they didn’t have any, to set those songs to a rhythm. Often, they would sing as they worked, drawing fishing nets from the Gulf, hoping for a good catch for the day, or to inspire the pearl divers before they disappeared beneath the suface to the depths, seeking the elusive Danah, the largest and most valuable of all pearls. These songs were more than a form of entertainment for the sailors; they were an integral part of their identity, their self-expression, their lives, their struggles, and their sacrifices. khaleeji-folklore-unveiled4

Today, the world is different. Yes, fishing and pearling is still part of Sharqiya, but it is waning in an age where more people work for corporations and the difficult lives of fishermen and pearl hunters are no longer a necessity. Yet, in progress, there is loss. It is for this reason that Johar Daham Al Dossary, or Abu Daham as you know him, has dedicated his life to preserving the culture of his ancestors since time immemorial. A man with a constant smile on his face who can always make you laugh, Abu Daham exudes energy. He has inspired others, the rest of Al Rayah, to dedicate their lives to sharing their culture and history through musical performances that feel more like a play than a concert. There are characters, settings, and plots that are implied more than articulated, but that doesn’t make them any less compelling. The group members draw you into their collective story via the instruments, the melodic chorus, or the beautiful engaging voice of Al Nahham, the main poet.

As wonderful as it is to be part of Al Rayah’s rendering of traditional Khaleeji folklore, you are still in for a pleasant surprise. The musical troupe has not only dedicated themselves to preserving the Gulf’s musical heritage, but they have expanded their knowledge to incorporate traditional folklore dances and songs from all parts of Saudi Arabia. Al Rayah is truly nothing less than a group of men who have taken their love of culture and music and made it their mission to share their love with the world. Their passion and energy has seen them perform in every corner of Saudi Arabia, include Al Janadriyah, and even internationally in the United States, China, the United Kingdom, and France, to name a few.khaleeji-folklore-unveiled5

Abu Daham summarizes it best: “Art is fun, art is beautiful.” And while he constantly draws you into his troupe’s performances, if you look carefully, you’ll see moments where he gets lost in the music, moments where he isn’t singing for you anymore. In fact, he isn’t even aware that you’re there. He’s lost in a past that is long gone, a past that exists in his mind, but is just as real to him as it was to his ancestors. It is those moments that are most beautiful; it is those moments that drew me in and made me feel what it must have been like to live in a simpler time when music was who we were, not something we listened to.

Mob: +966-502559399


A Modern-day Philosopher

Entrepreneurship, Bob Marley, and the wisdom of Jamal Al Akkad.

We often feature business owners of either young startups or multi-generational family dynasties in Destination. We often talk about their personal journeys, their struggles, and of course, their successes. However, for every successful business owner, there are hundreds struggling to make it.

These men and women deserve a voice. Their stories are just as important as those who have been successful. In fact, their stories may even be more important to you than the business owners that have made it. It is from our failures, and the failures of others, that we can truly learn and grow.

So, who will give the silent majority their voice?
The moment the door opens, the first thing that catches my eye is his perpetual smile. He looks like a man constantly on the verge of laughter. His eyes convey a passion and drive to help the thousands of entrepreneurs he’s worked with, whose dreams he believes in as strongly as they do. He understands them and feels for them. And more than that, he is here to help them.

This, ladies and gentlemen, is Jamal Al Akkad. Al Akkad has founded several entrepreneurship-support organizations, lectured on entrepreneurship across the Kingdom, and been an entrepreneur himself. He is articulate, quick to answer, and well-read. By his own accord, he has had a string of failures in his life which he has gotten back up from and persevered to become the national icon of entrepreneurship in the Kingdom that he is today.

I asked Al Akkad to sit down with us to give us perspective on the entrepreneurship ecosystem. The first myth he debunks is that entrepreneurship means starting a business. Entrepreneurship, as Al Akkad eloquently puts it, is a way of thinking that embodies innovation and creativity; it means approaching problems in non-conventional ways with “no taboos in front of your way of thinking.” Taking a creative idea and commercializing it, is another matter entirely, one that requires the entrepreneur to “come down from 50,000 ft. and start with what is doable and practical.” It’s this step that many entrepreneurs neglect, and why many startups fail.

However, Al Akkad believes that failure is a necessary step in eventual success. In his love to help people achieve their dreams, he pushes them to learn from their failures rather than fear them. He encourages them to persevere, and asks them to reflect on their experiences, because he believes in their capacity to find the answers within.

Al Akkad admits that he often does not know the answers, but then again, neither does anyone else. He famously quotes Bob Marley: “Don’t let them fool you, or even try to school you.” This is the second myth he debunks: no one knows the formula for success, it is something you must figure out for yourself. And, more importantly, your success will be different than anyone else’s success, so don’t try to be like someone else.

Al Akkad also points out that entrepreneurs in various regions of the Kingdom have unique traits that they capitalize on. For example, Sharqiya has long been influenced by the presence of Saudi Aramco and SABIC; these influences have led to entrepreneurs that are extremely committed and disciplined.

Entrepreneurs from Najd, on the other hand, have long been adventurous, brave, and willing to take calculated risks. Consequently, the greatest economic growth in the Kingdom has come from Najd. 03-dj-dec-2017-32-47-3

Hijazi entrepreneurs have a unique ability to capitalize on and create new markets, as a consequence of a millennium-old heritage influenced by Hajj and Umrah. As such, Hijaz demonstrates the greatest economic diversity of any region in the Kingdom.

You won’t find this regional analysis of entrepreneurship in any report or textbook. This is Al Akkad’s own interpretation of a field he has spent his life working in. He has leveraged his knowledge of our history and his experiences to weave a philosophical analysis of the ecosystem. In fact, if you were to describe Jamal Al Akkad in a few words, it would be that he is a modern-day humanistic philosopher. He believes that our society would do well to reflect more often on our history; there is a lot that can be gained from knowing what we accomplished in our past, knowledge that can foster our belief in ourselves to achieve more in the future.

When I ask Al Akkad who has made him the man he is today, who influenced him personally and professionally, he starts with his greatest personal influence: his mother. With love and compassion, he professes his gratitude to her for raising him to be a fighter with the heart of a poet. He then turns to his professional influence, and says “My Grandfather,” whose name he speaks with reverence and awe. It is from his grandfather that Al Akkad learned to love life, to focus on his own growth, and not to judge others; essentially, the principles that make Al Akkad the man he is today.

When I ask him whom he idolizes, he mentions Martin Luther King, Jr., because of his “I Have a Dream” speech. Al Akkad strongly believes the world needs more dreamers.

To illustrate this point, Jamal Al Akkad references King Abdulaziz, who, to Al Akkad, was a dreamer; a dreamer who dreamed of a much better world for his people in the early 20th century. He was a visionary, an entrepreneur in his thinking, and today, we are all living the realization of King Abdulaziz’s dream.

“Dreamers are the most human of us all. Everything starts with a dream.” – Jamal Al Akkad

Email: jamal@evc3.net


Back to Basics – Taking Care of Mind, Soul and Body

Reconnecting, Mind, Body, and Soul.

We’ve come so far – from technological advancements to groundbreaking scientific discoveries, mankind has soared to staggering heights. But with these advancements and the relentless need to speed things up, we’ve forgotten the basics: how to be happy, how to be well – simply how to be.

From the entertainment we distract ourselves with to the processed food we consume, we’ve lost sight of what it means to be alive and forgotten the tools that can contribute to our well-being. To honor the self, mind, body, and soul, we delve into the basics of things, and how to reconnect with all three.


By Noura Al Joaib

We’ve heard it often enough: Disconnect to reconnect. Minds abuzz and phones lighting up with sporadic notifications, our thoughts and desks cluttered – this is the epidemic of our time. Why has it become seemingly impossible to sit still, stop refreshing our online feeds, and carry on a conversation without once looking at our phones?

We’ve forgotten how to do things mindfully – that mental state achieved by focusing our awareness on the present moment, and being fully engaged.

To re-achieve that, we’ll need a little spring cleaning. bench-accounting-49909


Whether it’s our physical, mental, or emotional space, decluttering helps us realize what is truly important. Start small: clear out your workspace each week, and stop making plans you don’t intend to keep.

DS Recommends: The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing by Marie Kondō (available at Jarir Bookstore)


Staying connected has its benefits, but the occasional digital detox is necessary. Does your phone cause you anxiety? Do you get twitchy when your battery’s low and there’s nowhere to charge? Are you looking at your screen more than anywhere else? Try going off the grid digitally. Start small: turn off notifications and restrict screen time. Take a step further and swap your smartphone for a “dumbphone” that only takes phone calls. You’d be more present in real life and in-the-moment, more attentive, and more engaged with yourself and with others.

Go on a tech detox and write to us about your experience! Email editor@destinationsharqiya.com.


By Hajer Al Alwan

backtobasics_alhassa_2017_aa-1Amidst our fast-paced lives, we often overlook our physical health and wellness. The more modernized we become, the less careful we are about what we consume, our (in)activity, and our remedies for our ailments.

You are what you eat

A good place to start is avoiding preservatives and canned foods, which make a good portion of our daily food consumption. Chemicals added in the production of processed food lead to health complications in adults and children alike. backtobasics_alhassa_2017_aa-2

What you can do:

  • Go for fresh options whenever available. If not, go for frozen rather than canned goods as they contain fewer preservatives.
  • Avoid using products that contain BPA, an ingredient used to make plastic that is also used in most canned and processed product packaging.
  • Read labels and ingredients. Choose foods labeled non-GMO and those that contain trans-fat.

Alternative Remedies

In the day, access to artificial remedies and chemical beauty products was limited. We can look back on the simpler ways our ancestors solved problems and take cues from them. backtobasics_alhassa_2017_aa-5

  • Sage: Sage tea is good for balancing female hormones and adding a glow to the skin.
  • Myrrh: Famously used to cure lots of health complications, and used today to ease issues like gas, chest infections, and stomach bugs.
  • Luqqah: Used in small amounts with red tea for flavoring to ease an upset stomach.
  • Marqadoosh: Also used to help with the symptoms of an upset stomach.
  • Frankincense(Luban in Arabic): Used for religious rituals and aromatherapy (burned on hot charcoal) and famous for improving memory and strengthening the heart and brain.
  • Alum(Shabba in Arabic): Used to control sweat (an alternative deodorant), ease mouth sores and constipation, and for teeth whitening.
  • Miswak: Oral disinfectant containing fluoride used before the modern toothbrush.

Find these herbs at:
Sharqiya Perfumery (Attar Al Sharqiya)
Location: Al Hayat Plaza, King Saud St., Al Anud, Dammam
Al Hussain Perfumary
Location: Jeddah St., Thuqbah, Khobar


By Filza Siddiqui

backtobasics_-soul_alhassa_2017_aa-1We get so caught up in our daily lives that we forget to truly appreciate the beauty around us. One of the best ways to reconnect with the mind, body, and soul is through the profound experience of connecting with nature. It might often feel like a prop in the background of your life, but a tree, a rock, a cloud, or a ray of sunshine, has the power to bring deep peace within your soul. You might realize that nature isn’t just around you, you are also a part of it.

People can channel energy from the earth, bringing a sense of harmony and balance in their lives. Nature can help us realize the magnitude of the world and our place in it. Whether it’s the sea, the mountains, or the desert, we can find focus and calm just by spending time in nature.

Muraikabat Mountain Park in Dammam

Muraikabat Mountain Park in Dammam

Find serenity

  • Commit to connecting with nature – be all in. Don’t just sit in a garden and expect a revelation. Clear your thoughts.
  • Try this alone. Having people around you can be distracting, blocking your mind from focusing on yourself. In solitude, you’ll find tranquility.
  • Find a place that you feel a connection to. Here are some places you can go to:
    • Al Fanater Corniche in Jubail.
    • Seafront in Khobar, near the new Water Tower.
    • Muraikabat Mountain Park in Dammam.
    • Sand dunes near Aziziah beach.
    • The Yellow Lake in Al Ahsa
  • Feel the earth beneath you, breathe in the crisp, cool air, let the sun’s warmth soothe your skin.
  • Relax and take note of everything in your vision, the beauty of life around you.
Seafront in Khobar Corniche

Seafront in Khobar Corniche

Look at the world around you, its beauty, its vastness. Finding this peace and beauty through nature will give you a fresh perspective on the way you live your life.


Labor of Love

One man’s story with a business tailored for success.

There are household names that play an integral part in Sharqiya’s history. These very names became synonymous with the development of cities within our province, making them the very stepping stones to the present we live in. One of which is the Zamil family.

The year is 1964, the city is Khobar; skies were bluer, life was simpler, and Faisal Al Zamil, current founder and CEO of Al Zamil Stores was a young boy, setting the foundations of a business that has captivated hearts of thousands for decades.alzamil_khobar_2017_aa-9-edited

Al Zamil Stores has been in business for over 50 years, making it a rightful landmark in the city of Khobar. I remember visiting the store as a young girl, and continuing to visit it as an adult, whether or not I needed something. It had a gravitational pull that is almost unparalleled.

But what makes it this special? It is, first and foremost, merely a crafts store. But under the roof of the multi-floored structure, what you get from Al Zamil Stores is more than art supplies, stationery, and fabric.

More often than not, one leaves inspired to create, to do, to pick up a craft, or go back to one forgotten. Especially if you were lucky enough to catch a conversation with the founder himself–who can be often found assisting a wandering new customer or engaged in banter with a regular.

We were one of the extra lucky ones and got to have a one-on-one sit down with the man behind the Khobar’s favorite store.alzamil_khobar_2017_aa-5-edited

In order to delve into the history of Al Zamil Stores, Al Zamil took us back to the early ‘60s, when his mother, a seamstress in a time where there weren’t many in business, made a living sewing dresses for the women of Khobar. Hindered by the limited supplies in the area, her business stagnated.

A few years later, his older brother, Abdulaziz, visited Beirut–where he stumbled upon troves of sewing supplies, the very ones their mother would need to move her business forward. Which is what happened after purchasing significant qualities of supplies.

Interestingly so, a new business opportunity arose; from the remnants of supplies used after tailoring all those gowns, the young Zamil men found themselves with enough to resell in a market devoid of competition. It was then that Al Zamil Stores was born.alzamil_khobar_2017_aa-3-edited

The business rapidly grew, expanding its product line and service offerings along the years. With very humble beginnings operating out of a small rented showroom, Al Zamil Stores currently fills up 3,000 square meter of space.

Al Zamil attributes the store’s success to hard work, determination, and his love for what he does. From the very start, he was and until recently, the store’s buyer. Anyone who has ever been to the store will marvel at the eclectic range of products that line the shelves.

“I’m an artist”, he tells us, “I know how to knit. I know how to crochet. I don’t think of myself as only a buyer. I am an artist with a deep love for art and all art forms. When I buy, I don’t only buy what I know is good but also what would help the people of Khobar discover their passion, their craft.”alzamil_khobar_2017_aa-2-edited

This explains how the business expanded to include art supplies and materials. “I began to learn more about art every time I travel. I started subscribing to art magazines and catalogs. There was no Internet back then; everything happened the hard way but it was worth it.”

Now, Al Zamil Stores is one of the largest arts and crafts specialty stores in the country, carrying world renowned brands such as Canson, Dylon and DMC – to name a few. The store is also one of the leading giants in stationery supplies, distributing to dozens of schools in the area.

Another attribute to the store’s success is the personal relationships cultivated along the years with the customer. “Know your customers”, Al Zamil tells us. When you know your customer, when you get to understand your customer, you will gain their loyalty. “Even the customers who have left the country still write to us. We get letters and emails regularly. Loyalty like that is priceless.”alzamil_khobar_2017_aa-1-edited

There is a lot to learn when taking in the story of Al Zamil Stores. It’s not an easy business. It’s not a business anyone can start. It is definitely not a business anyone can sustain. But the Zamil brothers have what it takes: passion, drive, and heart. “It’s a family business. It’s a love business.”

“What advice can you give me and our readers?”, I asked.

“Do what you love. Nothing pays off like doing what you love.”

And Al Zamil Stores is proof of that.

Location: 3rd Street, Al Khobar Al Shamalia, Al Khobar 34429
Tel: +966-13-8641919
Web: alzamilstores.com


‘Tis the Season for Cold Brew

This latest java trend is the coolest.

Let’s face it, just the thought of having your coffee hot in this weather is too much to bear, no matter how much we want our caffeine fix. Enter the latest java trend to hit coffee houses worldwide: the cold brew.

Don’t get this confused with the iced coffee we’ve been having for a few years now. The main difference lies in temperature. Cold brew is brewed using room temperature or cold water and is never heated; iced coffee is taking normally-brewed hot coffee and cooling it down (usually with lots of ice).

Interested? We’ve got the best places to find cold brews around town.

Cold Brew by Huda

coldbrewbyhuda_khobar_2017_1Huda was the first to introduce cold brew to the area. Having completed over a year in business, Huda’s cold crew was and still is a huge success. What we love about this brew brand is its innovative twist to their drinks.

Instagram: coldbrew.h


qafcoldbrew_khobar_2017_aa-1It’s safe to say that Qaf can do no wrong. Their cold brew is top notch, like every other beverage they prepare. What we love about Qaf’s brew is that the beans used changes weekly, giving you a new flavor every time you order.

Instagram: qafcoffee
Location: 21st St., Al Ulaya, Khoabr

SN Cafe

sncoldbrew_khobar_2017_aa-1SN is a big supporter of local roasters, which is where they get the beans used for all their coffee, including their cold brew which is prepared in-house. What we love about SN is that, being a restaurant, you can always order a tasty meal when you get hungry!

Instagram: sncafe
Location: Bashar ibn Burd St., Al Ulaya, Khobar

Green Seeds

greenseeds_anak_2017_aa-1Green Seeds serves their brew in small cups (100 ml to be exact), so it’s always concentrated. For that quick fix, this is what you need!

Instagram: greenseedscoffee
Location: 7846 Khaleej Rd, Anak


coldbrewstarbucks_khobar_2017_aa-1Yup, even Starbucks has joined the cold brew craze. We love the accessibility of Starbucks and their brew is pretty strong, too (just how we like it).

Location: All branches

Black Vibes

blackvibes_khobar_2017_aa-1The new kid on the block, Black Vibes started off with coffee from Specialty Beans in Khobar for their main brew, and we all know the top-notch quality of beans that roaster shelves. This brew is an excellent choice for people who are just starting to develop a liking for the brew and don’t want something too strong.

Instagram: blackvibes.sa

Infusion Brew

infusion_khobar_2017_aa-1Hands down the best packaging we’ve seen. Full-bodied in flavor and strength, Infusion Brew is the perfect choice for seasoned coffee lovers. For something different, and to our absolute delight, a line of sparkling brew is available for those who like a little fizz.

Instagram: infusion_brew


South Africa: The Rainbow Nation

The gift that keeps on giving.

Known as the Rainbow Nation (a term coined by the great Archbishop Desmond Tutu), South Africa is diverse in its people as well as the land its people call home.

Because of this diversity, there is an infinite number of things to love and enjoy. From the outdoor adventures to the sweeping landscapes, from the wildlife safaris to the deep history, South Africa is truly an abundant, and diverse, country with so much to offer.art-1219118_1920

The Mother City

Crowned by many as the hidden gem of Africa, Cape Town offers visitors a cosmopolitan lifestyle surrounded by breathtaking nature. With Table Mountain as your backdrop and the Atlantic Ocean skirting this beautiful city, it’s easy to see why Cape Town is a top travel destination for all kinds of travelers.  A perfect area to stay at is the V&A Waterfront, situated in the heart of Cape Town’s working harbor. This commercial harbor is home to countless of the best restaurants in the city, high-end boutiques, shopping malls, luxury hotels and apartments, and different entertainment venues.

Important sites to visit here:

  • Bo-Kaap: A former township situated in the slopes of Signal Hill, known for its brightly colored homes. Bo-Kaap is also home to Auwal Masjid, the oldest mosque in Cape Town.
  • Canal Walk: The largest shopping mall in South Africa, Canal Walk is home to over 400 stores representing both local and international brands.
  • Greenmarket Square: For a different shopping experience, particularly those that master the art of bargaining, Greenmarket Square is the place for you. Here you’ll find traders and artists selling a wide range of artwork, sculpture, beadwork, and more.
  • Table Mountain: No trip to Cape Town is complete without a trip up Table Mountain. Take the aerial cableway to enjoy a 360 degrees’ aerial view of the city and coastline.
Hout Bay

Hout Bay

Cape Town to Cape Point

The coastal road to Cape Point is by far one of the most beautiful drives a person can experience. Embarking on this full day trip will allow you to enjoy the best beaches in South Africa and stunning views where the oceans meet at Cape Point.

The journey begins by driving down the infamous beaches of both Clifton and Camps Bay. No beach in the Western Cape boasts whiter sands and higher waves. Stop at the fishing village of Hout Bay and catch the Bay Harbor market for beautiful crafts and delicious snacks. Don’t miss the chance to visit the Seal Colony located on Duiker Island, a 40-minute cruise from Hout Bay harbor.

Taking Chapmans Peak drive down Cape of Good Hope all the way to Cape Point will provide impossibly even more beautiful views. At Cape Point, the ice queen Atlantic meets the warm lull of the Indian Ocean; a sight which can be enjoyed from the old lighthouse at the very tip of the peninsula.wallhaven

The Garden Route: Where you Stop and Stare

A highlight in any South Africa itinerary is to take on the N2 Highway–more popular known as the Garden Route. The name comes from the lush and diverse vegetation encountered along the highway, compelling travelers to stop and stare.

Fortunately, there’s no shortage of things to do or explore along the drive that stretches 300 kilometers starting at Heidelberg in the Southern Cape to Storms River Village on the Eastern Cape border.

Our favorite stops:

  • Hermanus: The whale conservatory of Africa is world-renowned for being land-based whale watching central. Aside from the chance to spot those whales, you can’t miss the opportunity explore infamous forest trails by quad bikes and get an adrenaline kick through tree-top zip lining.
  • Oudtshoorn: Stop at Oudtshoorn is explore one of the world’s greatest natural wonders: the Cango Caves. These caves are rich with limestone formations in varying colors. Another highlight at Outshoorn is the High Gate Ostrich Farm for an ultimate ostrich experience.
  • Knysna: The charming albeit small town of Knysna has more to offer visitors than meets the eye. Its popular waterfront is no V&A but it possesses charms and spectacular view of the bay that gives other waterfronts a run for their money. No visit to Knysna is complete without a personal encounter with gentle giants at the Knysna Elephant Park.
  • Plettenberg Bay: The bay is a short drive past Knysna and has some of the most beautiful beaches in South Africa. Make sure you visit Monkey Land and Birds of Eden to learn more about primates of Africa and birds both indigenous or migrated in a walking tour in a free-roaming shelter.

Sun City: A World Within a City

For a completely different mode of travel, we recommend the world found in Sun City. Combining everything you want in one place, Sun City boasts hotels, a golf course, a waterpark, and restaurants to suit all tastes. Sun City is a mere 2 hour drive from the bustling city of Johannesburg.

Safari Fever

Millions of travelers to South Africa make the journey to experience the wildlife in an unconstrained environment. This is where world-renowned safaris and game reserves come into play. Stay at the Kwantu Private Game Reserve or Sebaka Private Game Lodge and enjoy 5-stay accommodations and services within close proximity of the Big Five (African lion, African elephant, Cape buffalo, African leopard, and rhinoceros).

Kwantu Private Game Reserve

Kwantu, hailed as the Eastern Cape’s leader in conservation, is located in a Malaria free zone. The luxury hotel is a unique adventure that brings the wildlife as close as possible to civilization. The local staff is highly qualified, friendly and extremely helpful, they’re just what you need when you’re on your first safari trip. Food at Kwantu is not to be missed. Their Halal Afro Asian food is an authentic blend of spices that’s a treat for the taste buds.

Students from all over the world travel to the Game Reserve to work as volunteers. They’re part of the team who interact with wildlife and make sure animals are in good condition and properly taken care of. All crewmembers will tell you enchanting stories, as though you were on a ride at Jurassic Park.kwantu-game-lodge-001-1

Kwantu’s Game Drives are the main attraction that you’d be insane to miss out on. Groups at Kwantu hop on the open Land Rovers and explore the wilderness, which is home to the Big Five. The Big Five are the famous five mammals of Africa – Buffalo, Elephant, Leopard, Lion and Rhino – who were so named because a trip is incomplete without seeing the group.

From your seat on the safari you’ll be inches away from them, as they play, feed and fight out in the open. You’ll be amazed to see the zebras, giraffes and the rare antelopes whose families have been roaming the plains of Kwantu for centuries. Who knows, an elephant might even sniff at your safari with its long trunk, giving you a story to tell.b_kwantu_private_game_reserve3


The Struggle For Women’s Education

Meet Saudi Aramco’s first women’s training center principle, Samia Idreesi.

It’s not often one finds themselves in the presence of a catalyst for change. We can narrow down the odds further when the catalyst is a woman, fighting for equal higher education opportunities to be given to Saudi women, in the late ‘70s.

Our protagonist is none other than Samia Idreesi, who, upon getting employed by the oil giant Saudi Aramco in 1974, was unaware of the chain of events that would change lives of hundreds of young Saudi women of that time.

Though hired as a translator–the first Saudi translator employed by the company I should add–life had other plans for Idreesi. A few years down the line, she was assigned as principal of an all-new training center established by the company. The center trained graduates of middle school and high school to become keypunch operators and typists. In a time where very few Saudi women were hired as professionals to core businesses in the company, those jobs were as high as one could reach on a career ladder.

What Idreesi saw was something else. She encountered ambition and a hunger for more. Young women with bright minds and a desire to learn was all our protagonist needed to challenge the status-quo. While the training prepared those women to be typists and operators, their male counterparts were learning chemistry, math, physics, advanced English; levels of training where, when passed, the young men of that time were given the opportunity to join a “fast-track” that would make them eligible for a company-backed scholarship.samia-idreesi_khobar_2017_aa-1

Those scholarships would enable the male students to obtain a higher education abroad; a privilege the female students were denied until Idreesi fought, relentlessly, for her students to be given equal opportunity.

“Let them at least sit for the TOEFL exam”, she pleaded with her superiors. After countless of meetings, the top performers from the training center sat for the exam and the results were what Idreesi expected: her students had scored higher. With test scores and grades in one hand and uncompromising determination in the other, Idreesi had built her case and won.

However, correcting the system was just one aspect; there were still the cultural challenges of the time. Young Saudi women leaving not just their homes, but country, was a hard pill to swallow. But nothing could deter our protagonist. She knocked on doors and spoke to families. She explained and exclaimed and slowly, but surely, the number of women armed with a scholarship and their families’ blessing started to grow. For those who could not leave the country, she helped them enroll in universities that offered distance learning, such as King Abdulaziz University in Jeddah.

Because of one woman’s belief in the power of education and the potential of her countrywomen, a generation equipped with the tools taught both in school and life returned to the Eastern Province and became the professional pioneers of our time. These very women became the role models we looked up to growing up.

After serving the company for 20 years, trying on different hats and continuing to learn something new with each role, Idreesi left Saudi Aramco to try something different.

“It’s never too late to learn new skills. But more importantly, don’t be afraid to start something new. Don’t let the safety of your comfort zone prevent you from realizing your ambitions. Learning never stops, for as long as you are breathing, you can learn.” Idreesi continues to forge her own path, shifting roles seamlessly; from translator and writer to advisor and educator, then later in her life a businesswoman, she is always ready for a challenge.

As I sat and listened to her calm voice tell me her life’s journey professionally and personally, I found myself brimming with admiration and awe.

While waxing philosophical on changing times and minds, it’s almost impossible to not get inspired. At the end of the day, of the multitude of hats she has worn throughout her life, the most complex, and ultimately most fulfilling role has been being true to the woman that she is: the heart of her home, wife to a husband who has cheered her on every step of the way, mother to children who grew up to be adults that fill her with pride and joy, and have made her a grandmother (and great grandmother, too!).

Here, before me, is a woman with a life lived. Here before me is a woman who has learned and taught and loved and made it her life to learn, teach, and love.



Your guide to hosting the greatest Gergai’an gathering.

The Space

thenedeelesart_khobar_2017_aa-1Getting the right feel and decorations is crucial to the success of your party. Thankfully, it’s Ramadan, so there’s no shortage of decorations that would transform your space into the perfect party venue.

Pro-tip: Rice lights are a perfect and inexpensive way to give your area the ambiance it needs. Filling your place with mashmoum and palm tree fronds are also nice touches.

Where to buy decoration from: Hazaz (Khobar), Mishwar Al Suwaiket (Khobar), Hayat Plaza (Dammam), Amazon (Dammam).

The Attire

I know we as adults want to have all the fun, but we can’t forget that the focus is the kids.

So, for boys: a thobe with a wizaar wrapped around their waist if you’re going for a truly Sharqawi look (otherwise replace the wizaar with a traditional black velvet vest with golden thread trimmings).

For girls: It’s all about the headgear; whether it’s a bokhnag or a golden haama, you can’t go wrong. Ladies can go for a simple thobe nashel.

Pro-tip: Get your henna on, ladies, but make sure you book your henna artist in advance.

Where to buy outfits from: Check out these Instagram accounts for swoon-worthy outfits.

Instagram: tartarboutique, tagalameerah, nashell_collection, hawra_shakhoor and the_b_boutique.

The Entertainment:

All you need is a few old-school games and folk songs and you’re good to go. How many of you know the original duck, duck, goose?

For the adults around, we recommend playing Bdoon Kalam, the Traditional Proverbs edition. This fun charades game is the perfect activity to play with the range of generations in the family.

Pro-tip: Prepare a playlist of traditional folk songs.

Where to buy games from: Bdoon Kalam is available in Jarir Bookstore or you can order it through the game’s

Instagram: rps_studio

The Goodie Bags

gargaianlooksforkids_khobar_2017_aa-6The true meaning of Gergai’an: the goodie bags! You can always buy these pre-packaged and customized to your liking, or just buy the nuts and candies in bulk, put them in separate, big baskets and fill up the bags together on the day of the party.

Pro-tip: For a personal touch, write the names of the kids on their goodie bags.

Where to buy goodie bags from: For pre-packaged goodie bags, check out these creative Instagram stores.gargaianlooksforkids_khobar_2017_aa-3

Instagram: imaginarygift, zdesigns_sa and a_to_z_party.

For candies and other old-school goodies from when we were kids, you have to visit Dakat Al Thekrayat in Khobar.

Instagram: zamanawal15


Conversations with an Artist

Speaking through your art.

Artist: Faried Omarah
Form of Expression: Conceptual Art

Tell us more about yourself.
I’m an Egyptian architect and a green associate with the United States Green Building Council. That means I’m a specialist in the field of environmental design of buildings and energy consumption, which of course has nothing to do with the art I make.11043104_543215332488053_1961773376940269319_n

When was the first time you realized that creating art was something you absolutely had to do?
There is a saying that goes: what you find yourself doing when procrastinating is the thing you should be doing as a job. Well, I would always do artwork instead of my original architectural work. Thing is, though, I never stopped being an architect; I just managed to do both!

Do you have a creative process or set of rituals?
Coffee, classical music, night time, solitude and more coffee.%d9%84%d8%a8%d9%8a%d9%83-%d8%a7%d9%84%d9%84%d9%87%d9%85-%d9%84%d8%a8%d9%8a%d9%83-copy

What are you trying to communicate with your art?
It’s very hard and nearly impossible for me to articulate my vision into words; that’s why I create it into art after all. I let the piece speak for itself.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
“Creativity is subtraction.” You should remove everything you can until there is nothing else to take out. What remains is all that’s needed to serve your purpose.

What inspires you?
Almost everything. Everywhere I look I see something that can be used in a work of art.%d9%84%d8%b9%d9%84-%d8%a7%d9%84%d9%84%d9%87-%d9%8a%d8%ad%d8%af%d8%ab-%d8%a8%d8%b9%d8%af-%d8%b0%d9%84%d9%83-%d8%a7%d9%94%d9%85%d8%b1%d8%a7%d9%8b

What do you want to be remembered for?
I love it when people tell me that they like the “idea” in my works, not the aesthetic aspects.

Who is your favorite artist?
I’d say Banksy. I like his techniques, his morals and the halo of mysterious identity around him.

If your closest friends and loved ones were to describe you in three words, what would those words be?
Rational, calm and composed.

You’re at a restaurant to have dinner with four people. Who are you meeting? (It can be anyone from past, present or future.)
There are many people that I’d like to have long talks with, including: Nikola Tesla the physicist, Ahmed Bahgat the writer, Fyodor Dostoyevsky the Russian novelist and Kurt Gödel the mathematician.

Web: fariedesign.com
Instagram: fariedomarah


The Hijazi Ommah

The headwear representation of heritage.

When it comes to headwear, the omama, or ommah as we say in Hijazi, is not merely a fashion statement. Tracing back to centuries, the ommah (the turban-like head wrap) is steeped in tradition with deep cultural roots. Whether demonstrating the religious position of the wearer, to distinguish the tribe the wearer is from, or a simple fashion tribute, there is no denying the significance of the ommah in our culture.

To know more about the history of the ommah, the differences and variations, we sat with renowned photographer Mazen Falemban.ummah-june-2017-aram-03

Falemban is not your typical photographer. His arcane interest in the Hijazi culture drove him to make a photography documentation of the traditional Hijazi lifestyle and heritage the center of his exhibits. With already six exhibitions in the past, Falemban is currently preparing for his seventh exhibition, planned to take place July of 2018 in Jeddah’s Al Balad.

There’s so much one can learn from art, and that’s what Falemban’s work aspires to achieve. His photography is not merely a method to archive the beautiful and deep-rooted heritage of the Hijazi culture. He aims through his pieces to also educate and spread awareness in the youth.ummah-june-2017-aram-04

Because of his thorough research and accumulated knowledge, Falemban can be considered a go-to to all things associated to the Hijazi heritage, particularly when it comes to lifestyle and clothing.

Falemban tells us that the ommah can be traced back to our ancestors, and are worn by different groups that make up the community. For instance, religious scholars wear the white Ommah, which is exclusively worn by them making it a differentiator. A distinctive ommah is also worn by head of notable heads of families and mayors. Even craftsmen wear one unique to them. The variations are not just in type of textile and color, but also the way the ommah is wrapped – making it both an art and tradition carried down by generations.ummah-june-2017-aram-02

When it comes to the types of textile used, there are a number that are popular in the region and are usually imported from the city of Aleppo in Syria, or from India.  But the best quality are the ones brought in from Syria.

As for the prices of ommah fabric, the prices could range from SR 150 – 3,000. On rare occasions, one may opt for a more luxurious choice, like the Sulaimi silk, and that may reach up to SR 5,000.

Instagram: mazenfelemban
Twitter: mmaaff92