Published On:22 September 2013
Posted by Indian Muslim Observer

Celebrating Saudi National Day - From Memorable Past to a Bright Future

By Rohail Khan

On the dawn of 18th June 1985, the entire world was pleasantly surprised that HRH Prince Sultan Bin Salman Bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud, a Royal Saudi Air Force Pilot, became the first and the youngest Muslim astronaut to fly in the outer space. The news brought Saudi Arabia on the radar of international community.

Kingdom of Saudi Arabia’s remarkable multi-sector development is a “modern-age wonder”. Indeed, the nation has come a long way since the grand achievement of the Saudi Prince.

On 23rd September 2013, public celebrations will mark the 83rd Saudi National Day, which commemorates the 1932 unification of the Kingdom by its founder, King Abdul Aziz Al-Saud.

The growing public exuberance on Saudi National Day underscores important changes in Saudi society, most importantly Saudi Nationalism's new found attraction to the Kingdom's growing youth population.

We all extend heartfelt felicitations to the Custodian of Two Holy Mosques His Majesty King Abdullah Bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud on the 83rd National Day of Saudi Arabia. We express our gratitude for his majesty’s able leadership and pray for his majesty’s good health and longevity.

On this auspicious occasion, comments and suggestions from leading Saudis and Expatriates from different professions and walks of life, have been compiled as follows:

Veterans - Nostalgic memories and proud moments

Hameedudin Ansari came to Jeddah from Karachi in 1957 and has personally witnessed the development of Saudi Arabia during last fifty five years. He proudly recalls how in the 1950’s the city of Jeddah started off its socio-economic growth and has come a long way since then. Nostalgic Mr. Ansari reiterates the historical role of Pakistani doctors, engineers, bankers, and business executives to support Kingdom’s development. Jeddah had its proud moments when Sheikh Ahmed Al-Juffali installed electricity grids and brought light into the lives of the citizens. Another wonderful event was the launch of Saudi Riyal in 1961 as the Kingdom’s official currency with Mr. Anwar Ali, Governor, SAMA’s signatures on the currency notes. Mr. Ansari, along with leading business executives, was instrumental in establishing the Pakistani School in 1959 in Jeddah’s old Balad. He fondly remembers how the construction of Jeddah’s roads, bridges, sea and airport, and industrial areas brought prosperity all over the region.

Feza Ur Rehman, came to Jeddah in 1967 from Lucknow, India, after completing his Masters in Sociology. Since last forty years, he has worked as a senior business executive managing bulk imports of commodities to meet Saudi Arabia’s demand for staple food. He states that from 1975 onwards, the rapid development of infra structure across the Kingdom was astonishing. He appreciates that KSA has provided the opportunity to raise the children in a socially-controlled environment. Having observed the last forty years’ evolution, Mr. Rehman advises that, Saudis and expatriates alike, should tackle the recent influx of western media with utmost wisdom and should reinforce the original traditions and cultural values into our daily lives.

Industrialisation in KSA

Ibrahim Al-Hajri, a Saudi national and former Saudi Aramco Oil & Gas Specialist, expressed satisfaction over the Industrialization measures in Saudi Arabia. Since 1980, the Kingdom has become a world leader in upstream and downstream Oil & Gas industry and has successfully diversified the manufacturing and heavy engineering sectors. Recent move to enter Automotive manufacturing is a positive leap and shall place KSA as one of the top industrialized nations in the coming future. C.E.O of Al-Khurayf Water & Power Company, Dammam, Mr. Al-Hajri is a strong proponent of inducting fresh Saudi graduates into the corporate sector. He admires the quality of fresh Saudi graduates, and recommends the Government should send increased number of qualified Saudis on scholarships to Universities abroad.

Healthcare – Promising advancement over 30 years

Dr. Taha Jaffrey, Canadian National, moved to Saudi Arabia thirty years ago. He is serving the Zahid Group as Chief Medical Officer. A seasoned consultant physician, Dr. Jaffrey has special observations about the growth of healthcare sector in KSA.

Over last thirty years, the Saudi Government has achieved commendable progress in the healthcare sector, making substantial efforts to provide modern medical facilities to Saudis and expatriates.

Healthcare is one of the foremost sector where hundreds of hospitals and thousands of polyclinics have been established all over the Kingdom. With the recent introduction of Medical Insurance, it has become convenient for middle and low income class to avail the best of medical facilities.

Specialist Hospitals in metro cities possess technologically-advanced health care facilities and world’s best qualified doctors. Difficult surgeries like Kidney and liver transplant, and artificial heart replacements are being undertaken with 100% success rate. Medical treatment for serious diseases, including different kinds of Cancer and AIDS, are being treated under one roof.

The most impressive part is, now there are thousands of locally available Saudi Doctors who have specialized in various medical fields. The previous trend of getting overseas treatment has now reduced. “Air Ambulances”, acquired by the Saudi Government for medical evacuation, offer one of the best medical emergency services.

Dr. Jaffrey rightfully claims that health services in KSA are “at par with international standards” in advanced countries like USA, Canada, UK, and Germany. There is no stopping. Saudi Government has generously allocated billions of dollars for provision of medical services for the next ten years and beyond. He strongly suggests that First Aid and life-saving CPR courses be made compulsory at schools and in all public and private companies.

KSA - High standards of governance

Barrister Azad Iqbal, British-Pakistani, is the eldest grandson of Allama Sir Muhammad Iqbal. He came to Saudi Arabia in 1984 and is serving the Saudi Binladen Group as Group Legal Counsel. He opines: “In Saudi Arabia the writ of the state and effective judicial system are upheld with high reverence. Governments across the world should learn due lessons from these high-standards of governance. Even the West acknowledges that the security and safety across KSA are par excellence”.

Safe and stable environment to raise a family

Gregory Bauarschi, Lebanese National, working in Riyadh with a top branding firm, and his wife, Rebecca Bauarschi, hailing from New Zealand, are a happy couple who find Saudi Arabia as their “home away from home”. Gregory says: My wife and myself are both expats living in Saudi Arabia for over 12 years now. Today we have beautiful twin girls who just started going to school here in Riyadh. We truly feel privileged to have been able to work, live and raise a family in a safe and stable environment. We are happy to note the economic, social and technological developments which have taken place, specially since King Abdullah Al-Saud was inaugurated. We wish the Kingdom and its lovely people a future full of peace and prosperity.

Sophisticated and secured banking system

Mr. Mohieldeen Naamani, Saudi National, is a senior corporate banker at Al-Rajhi Bank. His comments are value-adding: “Compared internationally, the Saudi banking industry is highly sophisticated offering state-of-the art products and services in both consumer and corporate arenas”. Saudi banks are world’s most-capitalized and offer fully-automated and secured banking platforms. When it comes to compliance and prudence, the Saudi banks are considered ultraconservative. Monitored by SAMA, the robust Saudi banks have played a key role to support and enhance the Kingdom’s economic growth consistently since last five decades.

Saudi Arabia – Proponent of Islamic finance

Dr. Umer Chapra, Senior Adviser at Islamic Development Bank, is an international authority on Islamic banking and Islamic economy. According to Dr. Chapra, Islamic finance has come a long way and has established its credibility among the international financial community. The World Bank and IMF consider “Shariah-based banking” a viable substitute to the conventional western banking system. In a 2011 conference, key international bankers agreed that “excess lending and hedging” by conventional banks are the main source of financial crises. They have come to the conclusion that “risk-sharing” – one of the foundations of Islamic banking – is the key to rationalise the economies and avert financial instability. Saudi Arabia definitely has the capacity to spearhead the growth of Islamic banking across the world.

Hajj and Umrah – Extraordinary arrangements

Shahbaz Senior, Country Manager, Pakistan International Airlines, aptly explains: When it comes to “religious tourism”, Saudi Arabia no doubt is world’s best service provider. In this regard, the commitment of Saudi Government is exemplary and their performance is highly efficient. As an aviation specialist, it is amazing to note that two millions Muslims travel to and fro Saudi Arabia round the year and visit the Holy cities. The arrangements are so smooth, one is filled with gratitude for the Ministries for their extra ordinary zeal and hard work. Extension of Jeddah and Medina airports, the Haramain high-speed railway, along with construction of new hotels in Makkah, proves the will of Saudi Government to serve the Pilgrims better and make their stay more comfortable.

Housing Development – Rapid growth in the offing

Saudi Arabia’s population will soon be crossing the 30 million mark. As such, the need for housing units across the Kingdom has grown rapidly. According to Faisal Al-Hamdan, Investment banker and Real Estate Specialist, three million houses have to be built over next five years to address the situation. In addition to proper legislation, the Saudi Government is pushing the private sector property developers to expedite the construction of villas and apartments for the medium and low income class. Mr. Al-Hamdan is confident that implementation of new mortgage laws, will act as a catalyst for the lenders and the borrowers. The procedures, once stream lined, would facilitate the average Saudi citizens to avail home loans on competitive terms. This sector will generate employment and augment the construction and financial services industries in coming years.

Lucrative market for GCC businessmen

Mateen Karam, Bahraini National, is engaged in imports and distribution of consumer products.

He candidly expressed that the Saudi domestic market has expanded phenomenally and the growing population has multiplied the demand for all kinds of products. Consequently, Mr. Karam and his Bahraini associates have established their company branches in KSA to tap the growing market.

Fayyaz Shah, Omani National and Chairman of Shah Group of Industries, Muscat, admiringly states that among GCC countries, Saudi Arabia is the “big brother” with a strong economy, growing liquidity, and buoyant purchasing power. Mr. Shah, foresees huge potential for cross-country trade through establishment of regional economic zones and free trade agreements between Saudi Arabia and other GCC countries. He suggests that joint ventures between Saudi and Omani industrialists will pave the way for joint progress.

Saudi Women - Role in KSA’s development

Saudi women must come forward and fulfil their duties towards socio-economic development of the Kingdom, says Dr. Noura Abdullah, Head of Mathematics Department, Dammam College for Women. Author of numerous books, Dr. Noura has successfully trained Saudi women for senior positions in teaching and research. She opines the Saudi women require consistent encouragement to join the professions of their choice. Both public and private sectors should provide conducive environments to identify and nurture the growing female talent across the Kingdom. The induction of qualified women in “Majlis e Shoura” is a constructive step enabling Saudi women to put-in their share for the Kingdom’s socio-economic development.

Saudi Females – Pride of corporate sector

Mrs. Leena Bin Talib Al-Harbi, Riyadh-based Saudi female stockbroker, is a specialist in KSA’s capital markets. She insists that Saudi female executives are far more gifted and hard-working than is commonly perceived. Mrs. Al-Harbi warmly encourages Saudi females to pursue executive careers in commerce and industries.

Life for women and children – Full of sanctity and safety

Mrs Samreen Yousuf, a home maker, landed in Jeddah in 1996 from Hyderabad, India. She finds living in KSA has made her a “Better Muslim” and has brought her closer to Islam. Life for women in KSA is distinctly different from other countries. Despite women’s over-dependency on their male counterparts, there is no place in the world like Saudi Arabia when it comes to women’s sanctity and security. Having raised a teenaged girl, Mrs. Yousuf admits “parenting in KSA is safer and fruitful than India”. Socio-cultural practices in Saudi Arabia caste a “protective shield” over growing children and keeps their minds away from undesirable western influences.

Saudi Youth – Bright future

Engr. Moayed Al-Shammari, Saudi youth, is an Aircraft Engineer. After graduating from Royal Jordanian Air Academy in 2008, he studied Business Administration in U.K. Back in Jeddah, he has set up his own business and is testing out his entrepreneurial skills. He is confident that Saudi Youth are highly talented and have the potential to excel in any field, if they put their hearts and minds to it.

Third generation success

Fawaz Farooqui, after graduating from Stanford University, California, is serving the King Abdullah Economic City (KAEC), Rabigh. Engaged in supervising the construction of a mega economic zone, Fawaz is the third generation Saudi’s whose grand father Ataullah Farooqui came to Jeddah from Pakistan in 1957. Ataullah Farooqi was Jeddah’s leading businessman and literary figure and in 1965 founded one of the first advertising companies in the region. Born in Jeddah, both Fawaz and his businessman father Ahmed Farooqui were raised as steadfast Saudi. Fawaz advises young Saudis to pursue advanced education and serve Saudi Arabia with full devotion.

Cultural tolerance - Appreciation of expatriates

Asif Hazratji, British National, and his wife Ruby Hazratji, Philippines National, have been living in KSA since 1985. Asif, a chartered accountant, and Ruby, a qualified teacher, have worked in Jeddah, Riyadh, Al-Khobar, and are currently settled in Jubail. The couple has observed high level of cultural tolerance and congenial atmosphere across the Kingdom. They are grateful to Saudis, from all walks of life, for their warm appreciation and acceptability of the expatriates.

Jeddah: Growing cosmopolitan city

Ali Sheikh and Mrs Sabaa Ali, British Nationals, moved to Saudi Arabia in 2003, and Jeddah is the place they call home. According to Sabaa: When we moved here, I felt a lack of information about Saudi Arabia on the internet. There were so many things I wanted to search for, but didn't know how or whom to ask. Our search for a good accommodation or school was limited to a small circle of acquaintances. It was then that I decided to set up “Jeddah Blog” as not only an information disseminating website, but a positive celebration of all the wonderful cultural and social activities that this cosmopolitan city has to offer. Our blog must have struck a chord somewhere as we have received 110,000 hits in the last year alone. We are proud to improve Jeddah’s visibility and stature as a first-class cosmopolitan city.

Computerization of Government Processes – Newcomer’s advice

Engr. Shoaib Alizai, recently came to Saudi Arabia after serving a multi-national engineering firm in Dubai for ten years. Engr. Alizai appreciates the recent changes being undertaken to reform the employment and sponsorship processes in KSA. He recommends that a 360 degree implementation of “online e-Government” (like UAE) at local ministries would dramatically improve the efficiency of these processes and would be of meaningful benefit to the trio of Government ministries, local employers, and expatriate workers.

Education and Saudi society

Mrs Humera Adnan, Jeddawi by birth, is a teacher at the PISJ. She underlines that the education system at Saudi Schools, Colleges, and Universities is a “unique balance” of teaching modern social and physical sciences, medical, and professional courses – all within “well-defined Islamic context and traditions”. Nowhere in the Muslim world can one find such an education environment. Thus, the graduates of local educational institutions are better-prepared to serve the Saudi society. She further identifies that the children of expatriates, having lived their entire lives in KSA, are forced to go abroad for higher studies after passing the 12th grade grade at local community schools.It would be worthwhile, Mrs. Adnan suggests, if a University is established to accommodate these expatriate youngsters for under-graduate studies within the Kingdom.

Unmatched Infra-structural development

Nadir Sargiroh, Senior Urban Planner, came to Saudi Arabia in 1993 after graduating from Bombay, India. He feels that Infrastructural development in the Kingdom stands un-matched when compared with neighbourly countries. The ongoing large-scale development of airports and railway, the expansion of telecommunication and logistics, the construction of industrial cities in Rabigh and Jizan, along with the launch of King Abdullah sports, medical, and financial cities will certainly upgrade Saudi Arabia as one of the top industrialized countries in near future.

KSA’s Telecommunication sector - Exponential growth

Back in the 1980’s, who would have imagined that every individual in KSA would carry handy mobile and smart phones. In fact, Saudi Arabia boasts one of the “most mobile-savvy populations” on the planet, says Faisal Al-Bannai, Saudi CEO of Axiom Telecom. With STC, Mobily, and Zain as the leading players, the KSA mobile market is already the most competitive in the Arab world. Mobile phone penetration stands at 182 percent – almost two subscriptions per individual – and the emerging broadband market offers exponential growth for the KSA telecoms industry in coming future.

Information Technology sector – catching up quickly

Mohamed Zaitoun, Egyptian National, Sales Manager, Oracle Saudi Arabia, observes, “Automation increases the operational efficiency and productivity of companies and improves their profitability”. Twenty years back, except for multinationals, very few Saudi companies took up computerization and automation. However, the trend has now changed and this sector has picked up proactive growth. Now thousands of companies are automated and we can see hundreds of local suppliers of IT products and Software applications. Per Mr. Zaitoun, in near future, the IT spending will multiply and the IT sector will positively support the Kingdom’s growth.

Leaders of the Ummah

Dr. Athar Naqvi, is a renowned Saudi scientist and Professor of Physics. After his Ph.D in 1969 from Imperial College of Science, University of London, Dr. Naqvi has taught at King Saud University and is engaged in research & development.

Prof. Naqvi says: “Living and working in Saudi Arabia has been a wonderful experience. The proximity of two Holy Cities is a constant source of blessing and has no parallel”. He continues: “Teaching physical sciences to young Saudis has been a stimulating experience. There is great potential in the Saudi youth. We are constantly seeing snippets of this aptitude in headlines all the time. I do see “Saudi youth as future leaders of the Ummah”. They should get higher education and strive to excel in all fields”. Dr. Naqvi sees King Abdullah University of Science & Technology (KAUST) as a hub to train and educate Saudi Arabia’s coming generations.

[Rohail A. Khan is a Senior Banker and CFO based at Jeddah. He is also Chairman, Urdu Academy International (UAI), Washington, D.C. He can be contacted at rohailkhan00@gmail.com]

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Posted by Indian Muslim Observer on September 22, 2013. Filed under , , . You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Feel free to leave a response

By Indian Muslim Observer on September 22, 2013. Filed under , , . Follow any responses to the RSS 2.0. Leave a response

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