Riyadh: A decision to impose a 100 percent tax on bills at restaurants that serve shisha has ignited criticism on social media in Saudi Arabia, where the water pipes are a popular pastime.
The furore has also been fuelled by confusion over how the tax is applied.
In the meantime, some restaurants have stopped offering shisha, while others have lowered their prices to appease customers.
The government’s official gazette said earlier this month that the tax will apply to all tobacco products.
However the ruling from the ministry of rural and municipal affairs said it will apply “to the total invoice of the business serving tobacco products”.
A number of restaurants and cafes contacted by AFP said they believed that the tax applies to all table orders in any establishment that serves tobacco products, whether or not the order included shisha.
The decision sparked an avalanche of criticism on social media networks where the Arabic hashtag “tax on hookah restaurants” is trending in the kingdom.
Many people posted photos of their restaurant bills, with totals of more than double the initial amount when taking into account the new 100 percent tax and a still-unpopular five percent value added tax which went into effect last year.
“Tobacco tax – controversy and confusion,” read a headline in the Al-Madina newspaper on Monday.
There were also suggestions that the new shisha tax could be a measure to protect public health.
“This is an indirect way to prohibit shisha without actually prohibiting it,” tweeted Electronic Lawyer, a popular commentator who has more than 80,000 followers.
Other Twitter users said the new decision goes against the country’s Vision 2030 ambitions to evamp the economy.
Encouraging investment and kickstarting tourism are part of a reform programme envisaged by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to wean the kingdom off its reliance on oil.
Source: https://www.france24.com , Gulf News
Guylian, the Belgian chocolate giant has announced plans to open three more Belgian Chocolate Cafes in the UAE by the end of 2020
The company plans to open three more Guylian Belgian Chocolate Cafés in the UAE by the end of 2020, following the success of its existing outlets in Dubai.
In November 2018, Guylian’s first Dubai branch opened at The Pointe, Palm Jumeirah which features 35 indoor seats and a terrace with 24 outdoor seats overlooking the Atlantis hotel.
The company went on to open two more branches in The Dubai Mall and Mirdif City Centre.
Maamoon Gheyath, managing partner, Timeless Chocolate and Coffee, the area developer for Guylian, said: “Across international borders, Guylian customers outside of the United Arab Emirates enjoy the ‘Guylian wow experience’ that it provides, and by introducing it to the UAE, we hope to add on a fine localised element that our customers can further enjoy.”
The story of Guylian began in 1958 with its founders, Guy and Liliane Foubert. The combination of their names created the name Guylian.
Today, Guylian chocolates are sold in more than 100 countries, the success paving the way to the inception and opening of its first Belgian Chocolate Cafe in Australia.
We wish Guylian all the best in future development in the UAE and in other countries around the world.
Source: Arabian Business
The first phase of the project is set to cover a land area of more than 2 million sq m
The Saudi Ports Authority (Mawani) has announced the launch of Al Khomra Logistics Zone, the kingdom’s largest such integrated logistics area.
The first phase of the project is set to cover a land area of more than 2 million sq m, with over 1 million sq m of grass flat area that will be made available to investors under a lease model.
The logistics zone seeks to provide enhanced infrastructure to help the kingdom being increasingly competitive in line with the goals of Saudi Vision 2030.
Mawani’s president, Saad bin Abdulaziz Alkhalb said that Al Khomra was a “major leap” in Saudi Arabia’s logistics sector, adding that the zone is expected to open up a number of new investment and business opportunities.
The Al Khomra Logistics Zone is particularly significant due to its proximity to international trade routes and ample road connections to Jeddah Islamic Port and King Abdulaziz International Airport.
Al Khomra’s location on the Red Sea coast – in which 13 percent of global maritime trade passes – will make it a vital hub on the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), Alkhalb added.
Additionally, Mawani has launched a plan to optimise the potential and capacity of Saudi Arabia’s ports by offering integrated logistics services and banded and re-export zones.
Source: Arabian Business
Saudi Arabia welcomed 24,000 tourists in the 10 days after it issued tourism visas for the first time, state television reported Tuesday.
Saudi Arabia announced on September 27 it would start offering tourist visas, opening up the kingdom to holidaymakers as part of a push to diversify its economy away from oil.
“In 10 days, some 24,000 foreigners entered Saudi Arabia on a tourist visa,” the television reported, citing the Saudi foreign ministry.
Up until September 27, the ultra-conservative Islamic state only issued visas to Muslim pilgrims, foreign workers and recently to spectators at sporting or cultural events.
To encourage arrivals, authorities announced Sunday they would allow unmarried foreign couples to rent hotel rooms together.
Kickstarting tourism is one of the centrepieces of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s Vision 2030 reform programme to prepare the Arab world’s largest economy for a post-oil era.
Citizens from 49 countries are now eligible for online e-visas or visas on arrival, including the United States, Australia, several European nations, Malaysia, Singapore, South Korea, China and Kazakhstan.
Source: Arabian Business
Saudi Arabia begun offering visas on Saturday, 28th September for the first time to non-religious tourists, days after the country was criticised at the UN for its grim human rights record.
The new visa programme for citizens of 49 countries, including Belgium, Luxembourg, France, the Netherlands, Italy, Switzerland, the UK and the US, was announced by Saudi tourism officials, quickly followed by a Twitter campaign exhorting users to @VisitSaudiNow.
While Saudi Arabia has a relatively well-established hotel and air transit network, serving the millions of Muslim pilgrims who travel to the country to perform the Hajj and Umrah, its new tourism strategy marks a stark departure.
Kickstarting tourism is one of the centrepieces of Prince Mohammed’s Vision 2030 reform programme to prepare the biggest Arab economy for a post-oil era.
“Opening Saudi Arabia to international tourists is a historic moment for our country,” its tourism chief, Ahmed al-Khateeb, said in a statement. “Visitors will be surprised … by the treasures we have to share – five Unesco world heritage sites, a vibrant local culture and breathtaking natural beauty.”
He said the Kingdom would also ease its strict dress code for foreign women, allowing them to go without the abaya that is mandatory public wear for Saudi women. Foreign women, however, will be required to wear “modest clothing”, he added, without elaborating.
Visas in the desert kingdom, rich in bedouin heritage and archaeological sites, are currently restricted to workers, their dependants and Muslim pilgrims travelling to holy sites in Mecca and Medina.
Among attractions in the kingdom are Nabataean ruins in Madâin Sâlih, once part of the spice route, the palace complex in the Najdi architectural style in Ad-Diriyah, capital of the first Saudi dynasty, and the Red Sea coast.
In a rare move, Saudi Arabia last year began issuing temporary visas to visitors to attend sporting and cultural events in an effort to kickstart tourism.
Prince Mohammed is seeking to change that through a sweeping liberalisation drive that has brought new cinemas, mixed-gender concerts and sporting extravaganzas to Saudi Arabia.
The government, reeling from low oil prices, says it hopes tourism will contribute up to 10% of the gross domestic product by 2030, compared with 3% currently. It says by 2030 it aims to attract up to 100m annual visits by both domestic and foreign tourists.
In 2017, the kingdom announced a multibillion dollar project to turn 50 islands and other pristine sites on the Red Sea into luxury resorts.
Source: The Guardian
Expo 2020 Dubai Higher Committee meets to confirm plans to hold largest event ever held in the Arab World are on track
The Expo 2020 Dubai Higher Committee, led by Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum, has announced that it is on scheduled to deliver the “world’s greatest show”.
Sheikh Ahmed, also chairman of Dubai Civil Aviation Authority, chairman Dubai Airports and chairman and chief executive of Emirates Airline and Group, convened the meeting to hear the latest updates in preparing to host the Expo next year.
The high level taskforce, entrusted with steering progress on the largest event ever held in the Arab World, reaffirmed its commitment to hosting an exceptional Expo, adding that developments are on track.
Sheikh Ahmed said: “It was a very productive meeting, at a time when all our efforts are concentrated toward fulfilling the pledge made to deliver an exceptional World Expo. It deserves to be the world’s greatest show, and we are on track to deliver the event on time. We are sparing no effort in pursuit of this goal, and with it, we will honour the whole country, the people of the UAE, and our wise leadership.”
During the meeting, the National Media Council presented progress of construction of the UAE Pavilion, while officials from Expo 2020 updated the committee on the status of the three Thematic Pavilions – Opportunity, Mobility and Sustainability, Dubai Exhibition Centre and the Expo Village, and shared developments related to international participants and ticket prices.
Last week, it was announced that the final piece of the Al Wasl dome has been lifted into place, representing a significant milestone in the construction of the centrepiece of the Expo 2020 Dubai site.
Enclosing a space of 724,000 cubic metres and standing 67.5 metres tall – higher than the Leaning Tower of Pisa – the 130-metre-wide domed steel trellis encircles Al Wasl Plaza, a structure that will be the heart of the Expo 2020 site.
The first World Expo to be held in the Middle East, Africa and South Asia (MEASA) region, Expo 2020 Dubai is expected to attract 25 million visits between October 20, 2020 and April 10, 2021.
The six-month celebration will welcome more than 200 international participants, including 192 nations.
Source: Arabian Business
Saudi Arabia currently holds the greatest potential for the construction sector within the GCC, with more than 5,000 capital projects worth well over $1.6 trillion in the pre-execution stage, said Linesight, a leading cost and project management consultancy.
Long-term positive factors such as economic diversification, social reform, especially in Saudi Arabia, and general demographic demand, combined with renewed government ambition, will be the key drivers.
According to Linesight, which has a GCC pipeline worth over $10 billion, activity in the construction sector throughout the Gulf countries, will begin to recover steadily from the beginning of 2020, after a challenging period of subdued performance.
That includes over 150 development projects worth $3.27 billion, for the Tabuk region, in the northwest of Saudi Arabia, that were announced by Saudi’s King Salman bin Abdulaziz, in November last year. The king also launched more than 600 projects in Qassim, 400 km northwest of Riyadh, worth $4.36 billion and around another 200 new projects in Hail, also in the northwest of the kingdom, valued at $1.14 billion.
However, the centrepiece of its ambitious Vision 2030 initiative is the $500-billion, 26,500-sq-km, Neom project, situated along 468 km of the kingdom’s Red Sea coast close to Egypt and Jordan. The first phase of Neom is due for completion in 2025.
“Naturally, many regional industry professionals are now upbeat about the prospects for Saudi Arabia,” said Damien Gallogly, regional director for the Middle East at Linesight, which has offices in Riyadh, Dubai and Bahrain.
“Saudi Arabia is also actively seeking to improve its rail, airport, port and other transport-related infrastructure, as well as increase residential supply, healthcare, leisure and tourism facilities. Without doubt, the kingdom remains the most active construction market in the region, signalling exciting times ahead,” added Gallogly.
“To underpin social demand, the Saudi government has overseen a major cultural and social transition since 2017, which has allowed mixed audiences at cinemas and concerts and brought an end to restrictions on women travelling alone,” said Gallogly.
The project developments in Linesight’s own GCC pipeline are currently worth in excess of $10 billion, with average annual revenue growth of over six per cent. Some of the more prominent developments in Saudi Arabia include the $4-billion Thakher City mixed-use project in Makkah and the Al Faisaliah District redevelopment project in Riyadh, which involves upgrading the Al Khozama, retail, hospitality and commercial complex
Saudi Arabia’s General Sports Authority (GSA) has also launched the world’s richest horse race, with prize money totalling $20 million and it is also making concerted efforts to bring Formula One to the kingdom, after the successful running of the inaugural Formula E in Riyadh last year.
The GSA has also confirmed that Saudi Arabia will host the world heavyweight title boxing rematch between Andy Ruiz and Anthony Joshua, in Riyadh later this year, following recent debuts for the European Golf tour and WWE wrestling.
Doubts have been cast whether Saudi Arabia will be able to fund the realisation of Vision 2030. And with US shale oil extraction at a record 12.32 million barrels per day on average, the US–China trade tensions dragging on and the slowing global economy, on the surface, the task looks challenging.
However, Saudi Arabia’s budget for 2019 is $295 billion, a seven per cent increase over 2018. The economic and social reforms are clearly designed to attract more foreign direct investment, which stood at $3.5 billion in 2018, already double that in 2017.
Saudi Arabia still has certain state assets which the government aims to generate over $10 billion through its privatisation programme, notwithstanding the aborted Saudi Aramco IPO. Last but by no means least, there is the Saudi sovereign wealth fund which should surpass $600 billion by next year.
“Saudi Arabia is committed to completing these projects and is confident that it will be find the appropriate finance to do so. It is this strategic intent that in my opinion, makes the kingdom the most dynamic construction market in the Middle East,” said Gallogly.
Source: Trade Arabia
UAE malls and retail firm Majid Al Futtaim (MAF) has launched a ‘sail thru’ Carrefour store concept to serve yachts and beachgoers in Dubai.
‘Carrefour Bites and More by the Shore’ is new concept where customers can order items to the beach or collect them personally on jet ski, yacht or sailing craft from a specialised Aqua Pod.
MAF said 300 items would be available to customers on Kite Beach, Jumeirah Public Beach and Al Sufouh Beach including hot and cold snacks, ice cream, beverages, fresh and dried foods, and non-food items such as sunscreen.
Jet skiers and small boats can order at the Aqua Pod’s window, pay and collect their items.
Those on larger vessels or on the selected beaches can order by calling 056 4003659 or using the ‘Aqua Pod’ app to order, with delivery promised in less than 45 minutes.
“With Dubai’s stunning coastline being enjoyed by millions of people each year, it is a natural next step to cater to our customers with relevant products in a locale where they are not currently being served,” said chief operating officer and head of operational excellence for Carrefour UAE at Majid Al Futtaim Retail Miguel Povedano.
“It’s exciting to know that we can reach our customers anywhere whether it be land or sea, and we can’t wait to delight them with this world-first service.”
The Aqua Pod concept is designed and created by Aquatic Architects Design Studio (AADS), in Dubai, and has been built and designed with an eco-friendly focus.
It is powered by rechargeable batteries, which will allow it to cruise out to sea and back. An attached ‘seabin’ vacuums any floating debris into its holding tank to ensure rubbish is collected and disposed of once the vessel returns to shore.
The Aqua Pod can also convert grid water in its holding tank to potable water using a built-in purifier, eliminating the need for plastic bottles on board.
MAF said the Aqua Pod experience would only provide customers with biodegradable paper straws and bags and encourage the public to dispose of any waste from their purchases in an environmentally friendly manner.
This service is operational six days a week 10:00am to 6:00pm depending on weather conditions.
Source: Gulf Business
The second significant religious festival of Islam, Eid al-Adha, is shortly due to take place.
This year, the celebration of Eid al Adha begins this Sunday, August 11, and ends four days later on Thursday, August 15 – however, but public holidays vary around the world with Arab countries observing a nine-day public holiday.
To celebrate this most holy of days millions of Muslims get together to pray while enjoying feasts and wearing their best clothing.
Muslims are also encouraged to be especially friendly and reach out to one another during this period.
How is the festival celebrated?
As Eid al-Adha commemorates the sacrifice made by the prophet Ibrahim, Muslims typically celebrate the festival by carrying out a Qurbani, meaning “sacrifice” in Arabic.
The animal that is sacrificed – which is usually a goat, sheep, cow or camel – is separated into three parts.
“At least one third of the meat from the animal must go to poor or vulnerable people,” states international aid organisation Islamic Relief.
“Traditionally, a Muslim would keep one third of the meat for their family and give the final third to their neighbours.”
During the morning of Eid al-Adha, a special prayer called Salat al-Eid is recited in honour of the festival, ahead of the Dhuhr prayer at noon.
Muslims traditionally dress in fine clothes in celebration of Eid al-Adha, in addition to exchanging gifts.
Eidi is the Arabic word for a gift given to children by relatives during Eid al-Adha and Eid al-Fitr.
Due to the celebrations of Eid Al Adha next week, both private and public sector will not work till Wednesday or longer (depend on the country).
Of course, we would like to wish to All our Muslims friends and their families Eid Mubarak!