Jeddah Blog

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Archive for the tag “Riyadh”

What are Sensory Brain Breaks?

Differentiated learning is a framework for providing effective teaching to all students in a classroom regardless of difference in ability. If you are an educator, future teacher or even a mother then this workshop could be just the thing for you.

Differential Learning Workshop


* Are your students struggling to learn?

* Do you want to accelerate learning in your group?

* How do you improve the efficiency of students?

* Do you want to improve cognitive skills in your students?

* Do you want to keep them engaged in learning?

* Keep them “focused” and “on task”?


Learn how to identify children who are having difficulty coordinating both sides of their bodies.

Did you know that children having such issues have problems with motor functions such as reading and writing and daily functional tasks such as dressing and tying shoes?

Brain breaks are an effective way for reforming the mental and physical state of the learners in your group, whether they are gifted, average or struggling.

Brain breaks stimulate neurological pathways and help both hemispheres of the brain work together.

So join us today with our expert, Dr. Uzma Raheem on Sensory Brain Breaks. Revive effective teaching through techniques that speed the learning process of your children or students.

Highly recommended for educators, mothers and future teachers.

Professional Training. Limited Places.

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**Make sure your teaching is a memory worth treasuring for children**

We help you make that difference. Talk to us to know more!




TaskSpotting – Make Money While You Shop!

When the nice people at TaskSpotting contacting us at Jeddah Blog and asked us to take a look at their app, I was quite intrigued. The concept is so simple that I was surprised as to why no-one had come up with it before. Shop, complete missions and earn cash. Read on for details on how to sign up and how it works.

Task Spotting Jeddah BlogAlthough new to Saudi, TaskSpotting has been around for over a year, with thousands of app users cashing in and making money while shopping, eating out, and going about their usual errands, basically without having to go out of their way at all.

The concept is simple. Brands place ‘missions’ on the app, which app users can accept and complete. Missions could be as simple as taking a picture of a supermarket shelf or checking the price of an item at a store. Once completed, missions are submitted and approved and the cash appears in your e-wallet! One couple in Dubai made 1000 Dirhams in one weekend through the app.

Task Spotting app Jeddah BlogTaskSpotting has recently launched in Saudi with missions all over Riyadh, Dammam and Jeddah. The missions are simple; such as price checks for washing powder take literally 5 minutes per mission, and pay 50SAR each. App users are allowed to complete 10 missions each so they could earn up to 500SAR in a day. Hard to resist!

Download TaskSpotting now and start making money!

Revisiting That Jeddah Podcast: An Interview with Diana, co-host and blogger.

We’ve written about That Jeddah Podcast before – about why they’re awesome and why we ‘like’ them. We ‘like’ them for their randomness, their charming quirkiness and their cast of characters. This time Anousha Vakani speaks to Diana, co-host and blogger, about the inception of the podcast, the process of recording each episode and much more! 

How and when did you start the podcast? Where did you get the inspiration to start a podcast and how did you launch the idea?

I’m a fan of podcasts. I especially like informative ones like Stuff You Should Know and Neil deGrasse Tyson’s StarTalk, and comedy ones like The Nerdist and (the now-defunct) The Exploding Sandwich.

In 2009, I recorded fake interviews with my friends in Jeddah, and later that year, posted them on my blog as a joke. Early 2010, perhaps also as a joke, Fayiz Melibary set up an iTunes account for a Jeddah Podcast, and this was what “forced” me to just go ahead, make it official and register it in the iTunes podcast directory.

What advice would you give someone who wanted to start a podcast in Saudi Arabia? Is it generally easy or difficult to set up and maintain?

Launching a podcast is extremely easy because of its nature. You record an episode, post it online whenever you like, for free, and subscribers can listen to it whenever and wherever they want.

Whether or not the process of maintaining a podcast is difficult really depends on the producers. I encourage Jeddawis to podcast, it’s an easy enough platform to use if you’re looking to express yourself.

If you can commit to learning how to do it, and you have a general topic you like to discuss with friends, I say go for it. That Jeddah Podcast ultimately wants to be a one-stop-shop place for people to find podcasts that cater to the Jeddah community. Contact us, maybe we can help you.

Who are your listeners and what feedback do you get from them?

When TJP first started out, I thought it would only attract my friends as listeners, mainly because it features them. In the past couple of years, though, it has attracted the attention of many other English-speaking Saudis and expats within the Kingdom, including other cities like Riyadh and Dammam. We also have listeners from abroad, some of them Saudis who want to get updates about home, some of them non-Saudis who just want to get an idea of what it’s like living in Saudi Arabia.

It’s one of the most awesome things about having a podcast, being able to connect with these people with whom I have something in common – a hometown.

Generally, the feedback is good. We get requests on topics they’d want us to cover, or we get asked questions about places in Jeddah, common practices, recommendations. We’re not “experts” on Jeddah, but it’s nice to be treated like one.

What process do you go through to record one episode?

Outside Saudi Arabia, a podcast is the lowest-maintenance project you can start, but in Jeddah, there are challenges. Some of the things I’ve had to do were: schedule guests and co-hosts to record with me, find a quiet venue to record in, learn some technical things about podcasting (sound editing, feeds, some HTML/CSS), write or brainstorm topics for each episode, and promote the podcast on social media platforms. It takes lots of time and hard work, like most anything, really.

But then also, the beauty of having a podcast is that it doesn’t have to be “conventional radio,” if that makes sense. Every now and then, I’d record a “rogue” unscheduled episode, where I just show up with a mic/recorder at a hangout with friends and record what’s being said. No need for formality.

How do you decide on topics? What topics do you think come up again and again? And what topics do you avoid?

As a general rule, we stay away from the topics of government and religion. We pick topics we know well. When in doubt, I always just think: “would I listen to this episode?” We like sci-fi, pop culture, fitness, the internet, music, the sciences, languages, literature; these things interest us, and we try to stay within the bounds of our interests. Otherwise, they come off as pretentious. Nobody wants that.

We always seem to come back to topics about Jeddah, which is a good thing. There are many episodes about our culture here, what it’s like to live here, what places we go to, what we do at certain social situations.

You were mentioned on BBC a few months ago, what was that like?

That was a nice spike in our traffic. I wish I could say it propelled us to celebrity status.

Do you think you are contributing to some sort of change in Saudi Arabia or in the way the rest of the world might view Saudi and its people? 

That’s huge. The quick answer is “no”. We’re not political. We like information, and we like entertainment, and that’s what we have to offer.

We’re implementing some (good) changes, or additions, to the podcast as we speak. We are going to introduce more team members, more podcasts and more segments. If this contributes some good to the society, hey, how about that.

Shahid Afridi in Jeddah!

Sporting fans will be excited to learn that cricket star Shahid Afridi is currently on a visit to Saudi Arabia to spot talent for the Saudi Cricket Center (SCC). We can reveal that the talent selection will be held in four cities across Saudi Arabia from 15th – 21st January 2013 (Jeddah, Yanbu, Riyadh and Dammam) and the talent hunt in Jeddah will be held on the 16th and 17th of January.

Rohail standing next to cricket superstar Shahid Afridi on his current visit to the Kingdom.

Enthuses Shahid Afridi: “I am very glad I will be able to perform an instrumental role in finding out the best cricket talent from all over the Kingdom”.

Rohail Khan, a senior banker with a keen interest in culture and philanthropy, is supporting the cricket talent promotion in consultation with Shahid Afridi as SCC Advisor. Rohail discloses to Jeddah Blog that other cricketing heroes and socialites will be engaged in the future to promote and develop cricket in Saudi Arabia.

“Developing a strong well-trained “Saudi National Cricket Team” will enhance the Kingdom’s international image and would be beneficial for Saudi and expatriate cricket players and cricket lovers,” asserts Rohail.

How To Register

All cricket players (residents of Saudi Arabia), regardless of age or nationality, from all cricket clubs and leagues (whether affiliated with SCC or not) are equally entitled to participate and compete for the selection. If you are interested in participating in the try-outs then register on this dedicated site.

Jeddah Blog wishes all the best to Rohail and the SCC on this excellent initiative, and will continue to keep you all informed on the progress made by the SCC. Be sure to check back with us regularly for updates.

Bates Students Come to Saudi Arabia: Host Families Needed

For those living in Jeddah, would you like to host a college student from the USA? Do you want to show foreign students what living in a Saudi home really feels like and what makes it so special? Then here’s your chance.

Leena Nasser and Nora Al Dhuwaihi are arranging for 16 students studying Anthropology in the US to visit Saudi Arabia during May as part of a Study Abroad Programme called Bates Students Come to Saudi Arabia. The students will be visiting Riyadh, Khobar and Jeddah to observe and learn about a variety of topics, such as Saudi culture, modern history, economic change and development, education, health care, women’s issues, expatriates, social services, the environment and much more.

For their duration of their stay in Jeddah the organizers are looking for Host Families to generously open their homes to one or two students (according to their preferred gender) to allow them to experience the simplicity and hospitality of Saudi families. This is a great opportunity for the youth to take part in really helping to construct a positive image of Saudi Arabia.

The Study Abroad Programme

16 Bates College students are going to be flying into Jeddah for a week in May 2012 on an academic trip to learn about Saudi Arabia under the lens of anthropology. They are looking forward to experiencing living in a Saudi home and learning first-hand about the Saudi culture and more importantly people! These students are a group of intellectuals who are art, history, politics, anthropology and environment majors.

The students will be in Jeddah for one week from Saturday May 12, 2012 to Saturday May 19, 2012. In wanting outsiders to engage in an unforgettable, meaningful and deep experience in Jeddah, the organizers thought that there is really no better way, than for them to actually experience living with a hospitable family that understands and lives the culture inside out. If YOU would like to host one of these wonderful students and take part in fostering this academic venture of building respect and understanding between two very different cultures, than please email Leena or Nora at or with the following information:

  • Your name.
  • Why you are interested in hosting a student.
  • The number of members in your family.
  • Occupation.
  • Address in Jeddah.
  • Student preference, ie whether you would like to host a male or female student, and how many students you would like to host.

Their only requirement, is that you provide transportation for the student to be dropped off early in the morning at the meeting destination, and picked up at night at that same destination.

You can follow the programme on Twitter @Bates2Saudi

– Sabaa Ali

Greenbox Museum: Pure Green Landscape of the mind

Aarnout Helb, the creator and curator of the museum of Saudi art in Amsterdam redefines green as well as the limits and power of human thought in a delightful and instructive conversation with Jeddah Blog.

The museum of contemporary Saudi art, Greenbox Museum, is a museum, it is safe to say, like no other. It is ‘kept’ by a man who is, it is safe to say, like few others. The museum is not located, as you would expect, in the well-known cosmopolitan cities of Riyadh or Jeddah, or for that matter, anywhere in the Kingdom or the Middle East. It is located, roughly a continent away, in the city of Amsterdam. It is not housed in a glossy high rise the likes of which dot the Middle East, but in a small and cozy space a little bigger than 6 by 12 square meters, on the fifth floor of an inconspicuous building, a stone’s throw from the better known Van Gogh Museum. Its creator and keeper is not a Saudi or a Muslim, but a Dutch who has never stepped foot inside the Kingdom, but who nonetheless looks to the gates of Mecca for guidance. “In the Quran, I read that Mecca is a guide for all human beings. For the moment, that includes me, and nobody should object.” Ostensibly, the museum’s aim is to serve no purpose but thought alone, and at present, it houses a small but significant collection of works by roughly six Saudi artists, displaying a range of works selected solely for the force of ideas they represent.

Aarnout Helb, the creator and curator of Greenbox Museum of contemporary Saudi art, talks to Jeddah Blog about how the museum came into being, how it stands today, and where he sees it headed.

Aarnout, you are a Dutch who has never visited Saudi Arabia, and yet, you are in a way, the ambassador for its art. Isn’t that just a little bit strange?

Karl May was a German, who never visited America, and was a successful writer of cowboy and Indian stories. I’m no less and no more strange than that.

The museum was born of your connection with Islam. What exactly is your connection with Islam?

My connection with Islam goes back all the way to my childhood. I inherited a box of family memorabilia with a postcard that belonged to my grandfather. It had been sent to him by his uncle. On this postcard, the word ‘Allah Taalah’ was inscribed on the four corners, and my grandfather’s uncle had done the calligraphy himself. He was Dutch, born of a Dutch father and a Javanese mother, himself married a Javanese wife, and converted to Islam.  Apart from the postcard, I received several colourful stories about him in my legacy. So, you can say that Islam was present by token since childhood. Then, living in the Netherlands, I was no stranger to Islam. It has always somewhat ‘been in the air’. To quote an example, Mohammad is the most popular name for newborns in Amsterdam and other big cities here. However, I became involved more directly with it in recent years, when I started reading the Quran myself.

A foot in several cultures: The rare and enchanting legacy that was passed on to Aarnout, and which informed, to a great extent, the course of his life. (Image by Aarnout Helb)

The museum itself was born out of the confluence of a couple of incidents. On a visit to Singapore, in the Malabar mosque, I accepted the Imam’s invitation for a cup of tea, and over tea, I asked him if he could show me where it was written in the Quran that respected and interested travel to Mecca was forbidden to non-Muslims. I’m a lawyer by training, so I wanted to understand what the legislation was that led to this assumption. Well, he couldn’t answer me, and having left the discourse, I’m not really bothered by the question any more – Saudi Arabia is very hot anyways to my knowledge- but to some extent, my museum is the metamorphosis of this legal question. If I couldn’t go to Mecca, I could bring Mecca to me indirectly. I conceived the museum as a virtual voyage to Mecca. Another factor was crucial in the creation of the museum. A Dutch film maker, Theo van Gogh, who I used to meet at my barbershop, was murdered by a confused young Dutch Muslim. Theo made documentaries, and in his own way, was trying to understand Islam. His manner was often offensive to Muslims, but I do know that he was genuinely trying to understand them and paying them respect instead of ignoring them. The incident made me realize that we are divided in the head, and that nothing will change unless things are not set right in our heads. The museum was conceived as a space for a healthy, open-minded and ongoing discussion, leading people in through curiosity.

From the looks of it, Abdulnasser Gharem was turning the same question over in his mind not so long ago. ‘The Road to Makkah’, stamp painting by Abdulnasser Gharem. Image from

You see the museum as a space of the mind?

Essentially, yes. I collect artworks based on the merit of their ideas, and use them as portals to ideas. I’m hosting a space in which ideas can flow freely, in an open, non judgmental way. My space is very limited in terms of square metres, but  large in terms of the mind. I have long passed the official White Cube museum in terms of facebook ‘likes’. The museum is not about paintings and statues and its intention is not to place art on an elevated position. It is about ideas, visual communication, research, curiosity and all of that in a pleasant way. Wearing a white dress does not mean the world is white and researching what goes on in terms of visual impulses we receive all day, actually strengthens people against all the misleading commercial and political information that is carried around, and which is, more often than not, the cause of misunderstandings and conflicts.

Outside views of the museum.

Limited in square metres, but infinite in possibility, imagination and the power to bridge divides.

Limited in square metres, but infinite in possibility, imagination and the power to bridge divides.

 What’s with the colour green?                                          

‘Talisman X-Ray’ by Ahmed Mater

The merit of ideas alone: ‘Allah’ from ‘The Language of Existence’ by Louloua Homoud.

The green on my walls first of all reflects my wish to take a designated interest. It’s like my statement of purpose. When I established the museum to research what different people make in terms of visual art from Mecca, I still wasn’t clear about the exact direction and about my later decision to house only art from Saudi Arabia. So, taking a cue from the first painting that entered the museum, which happened to be a very green landscape painting by Jan Heyse of a region down south in the Netherlands, I started painting the walls green. While I was still painting the walls, I realized that the color is also that of Islam. At this time, I acquired some work from the series ‘Yellow Cow’ by Ahmed Mater, and later, some more work by Saudi artists through the Edge of Arabia initiative. But I had works by non-Saudi artists as well till this time. The defining moment came when I realized in the course of my correspondence with Saudi artists Lulwah Al-Homoud, Reem Al-Faisal, and Maha Malluh how much they enjoyed this interest in art from their country, and that there was no such museum in KSA itself. That was the moment I decided to remove everything else and collect only works by those who share in having custody of Mecca. Mecca is the symbolic centre of Islam, all Muslims look Mecca-wards while praying. That was the key concept, I thought about the direction of the eyes of all Muslims. In that sense, I’m an artist, I see the oneness of things, and I will not compromise on the conceptual premise by sending eyes in all directions of the world. So, the green on my walls is the stamp of that conceptual commitment.

Do you collect based on a particular criterion? Is there a pattern? How is it going to be in the future?

I go by the ideas that the works represent. My museum is the size and nature of a cabinet of curiosities, and I intend to keep it that way. My aims are modest. I work on a small private budget. I don’t wish to expand beyond a certain limit and get into the whole business of getting sponsors. In the future, I intend to collect two works each year by young artists.

Regarding the whole concept of Islamic art, what is your perspective? Doesn’t concept art and its high creativity clash with the traditionally understood (or misunderstood) role of the artist as a re-arranger or a passive creator instead of an active one?

This is important. The greatest of all Dutch writers that ever lived, Multatuli, noted somewhere that artists and poets are only re-arrangers and never creators. I totally agree with this concept and this small museum – in some ways only an installation of a lawyer with a sketchbook – is of this serving and open minded character. Everything in the museum was handed to me from elsewhere at different moments in time and the only thing I do is take rational decisions, based on all that I know and meet, to channel a process that I earnestly believe that I do not own. My perspective to your question is that the concept of Islamic art is terribly damaging to Muslims. A wise man, perhaps long ago in Isfahan, once wrote on a new dinner plate, in his most accomplished handwriting, that there is only one God and that his name is Allah. The next day, or many years later, a Western ‘art expert’ got his hands on this plate and defined it as being of another God than his own and so completely defeated the artist’s intention. I think, to truly and strongly answer your question, that ‘Islamic art’ is a colonial coinage and definition and that Museums for Islamic art around the world are actually British prisons for the creativity of Muslims. Have you ever noticed how often such museums are consulted by people from European museums with colonial and anthropological collections?  I will tell you this. This little space that is Greenbox Museum breaks free of this tradition and is filled with ideas about the unity of all things. It by far transcends such heavily consulted Arab or Islamic projects in the Gulf or elsewhere, whatever their very best of intentions.

How do you feel about the profile of your museum as it is evolving now, the profiles of visitors and facebook ‘likers’? This museum of contemporary art from Saudi Arabia is attracting ‘likers’ from all over the Muslim world.

The museum has no predictions, no prognosis and no business model. As I said, I think Greenbox Museum transcends what others do in terms of art museums in relationship to Islam. That is how I interpret the ‘likes’ I gather on facebook. They are from Tanger in Morocco to Port Darwin In Australia, where somebody from  Indonesia lives who dresses his young son as a Saudi. The visitors in Amsterdam are less than I would like but there is so much to do here and I take things slowly, not wanting to spend money on advertising.  Most ‘likers’ are now from Indonesia, then Pakistan, and recently, a lot of Muslims from India as well as Algerians and Tunisians have been discovering the museum page. There are now 4500 Saudi Arabians who like the page.

What are the profiles of your real visitors? Do they consciously come looking for Saudi art or are they just dropping in to see just ‘a’ museum? What are their reactions?

They consciously come  looking for Saudi art and sometimes even fly in against my advise but combine it on a first visit to Amsterdam with the Van Gogh Museum. I do have the occasional Dutch lady and gentleman who have seen all other museums. In general, when they come, they spend at least an hour, viewing the work and then discussing with me. Western visitors always have simplistic clichés about Islam and Saudi Arabia and art related to the two, but I hope the museum does its part in realigning their perspective, if not dispelling the clichés altogether.  Of all visitors their surprise is complete, and although personal opinions and reactions vary, they all meet the unexpected. It opens people’s eyes. I think nobody walks out of the museum indifferent.

From what you tell, the museum came about as a happy accident. What would you be doing if you weren’t researching and collecting Saudi art?

‘Only Allah knows the unseen’.

Green is also the colour of fertility. The landscape of our mind is often rife with misconceptions, prejudices and false ideas about the nature of things. More than anything else, perhaps, the green of Greenbox represents the will and the courage to pluck out these weeds and to restore the pure green landscape of the mind.

All images reproduced courtesy the Greenbox Collection unless specified otherwise.


–          Naima Rashid

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