Over 16,000 registered Saudi beekeepers produce more than 5,000 tons of honey each year
Some honey varieties from the Kingdom’s southeast can sell for over $300 per kilogram
Updated 11 sec ago
JEDDAH: With talk of climate change, devastating droughts and growing concerns about the state of food systems due to continuing conflicts, it’s easy to forget the buzz surrounding one of nature’s simplest creatures and their profound role in our food chain — the bee.
Humans most often associate bees with honey. In addition to being a delicious ingredient for sweet and savory dishes, honey is used in traditional medicine to treat various conditions such as asthma, eye infections, and more. In modern medicine, researchers have noted honey’s antioxidant, antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties.
Honey, however, is far from the most important reason to protect bees. This is because bees play a crucial role in pollination: Nearly 75 percent of the world’s leading crops depend on animal pollination. Bees remain the most dominant pollinators of wild and crop plants.
In 2019, the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization, or FAO, released a statement highlighting the threat that the declining number of bees and other pollinators posed to global food security and nutrition.
It is challenging to calculate the number of bees in the world; some experts believe there are at least two trillion bees worldwide, divided into seven families and about 20,000 species. Other experts believe there are between 80 million to 100 million beehives worldwide, with a single bee colony containing 10,000 to 60,000 bees.
Bees are irreplaceable as pollinators of many plants that simply would not survive without them. While the insects are reared primarily for their honey, not all of them produce it, and their decline could have a major impact on the planet’s biodiversity. The FAO also noted how declining bee populations could affect nutritious crops such as fruits, nuts and vegetables, which would then be substituted by staple crops such as rice, corn and potatoes, resulting in an imbalanced diet.
Researchers believe that the headlines of honey bee colony losses have given an impression of the large-scale global decline of the bee population that endangers beekeeping. However, the stories are usually based on research reports limited to a few countries with observations over a relatively short period, such as the US and Europe, where colony losses have been particularly evident during several harsh winters.
Though bees have stood the test of time for hundreds of millions of years as their populations varied, over the past few decades, the fluctuating decline in numbers may also be attributed to poor farming practices, global warming and disease.
Realizing the possible harsh impact the decline of bees can have on crop yields, the beekeeping industry is steadily growing around the world, and the Kingdom is no exception. Though Saudi Arabia’s arid landscape may seem an inhospitable location for beekeeping and honey-making, the practice has been passed down from generation to generation for centuries.
The bee species most prevalent in the Kingdom is the indigenous honey bee, Apis mellifera dementia, which is found mainly in the southern and southwestern regions of the Kingdom, an ideal environment for nature’s cultivators.
The southwestern region of Asir in particular is famous for producing the highest quality honey. Beekeepers there benefit greatly from its climate and diverse flora, which helps honey bees extract nectar to create honey of high nutritional value. Asir is also known to have some of the most fertile soil in the Kingdom. The existence of bees and the preservation of the species is essential for the region’s flourishing agriculture market — a win-win for farmers, bees and beekeepers alike.
The Saudi Ministry of Environment, Water and Agriculture, or MEWA, has several plans to develop the beekeeping and honey production sector through initiatives to preserve and protect local bee species, develop the productive efficiency of queens, honey production and other bee products, develop and safeguard bee pastures, and regulate their exploitation and improve quality to achieve economic and social returns.
Beekeeping has found support from the Kingdom’s program for developing human capabilities, in line with the goals of Saudi Vision 2030, an economic diversification and social reform plan announced by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in 2016. The industry is also attracting much attention due to local support of homegrown small and medium-sized enterprises.
There are about 16,000 registered beekeepers in the Kingdom, a number which is projected to reach 30,000 by 2030, with the number of beehives exceeding 1 million.
According to MEWA, the Kingdom produces nearly 5,000 tons of honey and imports 24,000 tons annually. More than 20 types of honey are sold locally from hundreds of apiaries spread across the country. The southern region produces some of the highest grades of honey and the rarest types such as Al-Majra, which sells for $266 to $320 a kilogram.
However, beekeepers are facing several challenges.
Speaking to Arab News, Prof. Ahmad Al-Khazim Al-Ghamdi, head of the Bee Research Chair at King Saud University and president of both the Arab Beekeeping Association and Beekeepers Association in Albaha, said that preservation projects and initiatives are more critical today than ever before due to climate change and the resulting loss of bees’ natural habitats.
“International reports on climate change indicate that the temperatures in Saudi Arabia will rise dramatically in the next 20 years due to the dryness of the air, and when this happens, the local bees will not be able to bear these conditions, so losing the bees will result in economic and environmental damage,” he said.
“Importing bees in large quantities will result in the replacement of local bees. The mating of local bees with the imported bees, due to mixing the genetics between the local and the imported ones, will lead to the loss of local adaptations.”
Dr. Al-Ghamdi explained that imported bees also have the potential to bring in pests and diseases, “especially the Varroa destructor (mite), and viral diseases, of which nine viruses have been recorded so far, and fungal diseases, the most dangerous of which is Nosema ceranae.”
Through the Beekeepers Association in Albaha, Dr. Al-Ghamdi said that so far, 3,000 have received training in the best practices of beekeeping, including how to withstand harsh environmental conditions to preserve the Kingdom’s indigenous bees.
To further support the protection and preservation of bees, Dr. Al-Ghamdi said that planting suitable trees can help to increase numbers significantly as well as help the region flourish agriculturally and economically.
“We sent a proposal to MEWA to allocate 10 percent of the Saudi Green Initiative’s planned 10 billion trees as flowering trees to provide good nectar and . . . sources of pollen for bees; this is essential to help with the stress resulting from global warming,” Dr. Al-Ghamdi said.
Over time, local honey bees have adapted to regional environmental factors such as climate, vegetation cover, prevailing diseases, lack of rainfall, pests and predators, coexisting with them over the years. Dr. Al-Ghamdi said, however, that more needs to be done to preserve Saudi Arabia’s bees.
This year’s Asian Apicultural Association Conference, to be held in Albaha from Aug. 3 to Aug. 6 under the theme “Breeding the indigenous bees toward sustainable beekeeping to cope with global climate change,” will tackle beekeepers’ most pressing concerns head-on. Guests from more than 40 countries will attend, present their work and participate in the event.
“We initiated a project, which has been in the works for three years now with MEWA, to conserve the native honeybee in the Kingdom. We took bee samples from different regions of the Kingdom, analyzed them, and documented their genetic sequence . . .(we) discovered three genotypes prevalent in the Kingdom, all of which were registered in the US National Biotechnology Information Bank,” Dr. Al-Ghamdi said.
“We’re helping produce 5,000 selected queens at queen breeding and rehabilitation stations in Jazan, Asir, Albaha and Taif, developing a selection and breeding program for the native honeybee using AI and natural mating, and establishing an electronic database in Arabic and English to benefit future beekeepers and researchers.”
He said that some of the initiative’s findings are aimed at preserving the local bees and working with local beekeepers and MEWA, who have allocated land for apiaries to ensure that bee colonies and the industry thrive and grow in parallel.
“This will help capacity building of beekeepers in the Kingdom, offer technical support and data and improve production,” Dr. Al-Ghamdi said.
Saudi leaders open national charity campaign with donations
King Salman, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman donated SR70 million
The campaign aims to strengthen the donation culture within the Kingdom and support community and humanitarian cases in line with the goals and objectives of Saudi Vision 2030
Updated 1 min ago
RIYADH: King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman opened the third national campaign for charitable work with donations of SR40 million ($10.7 million) and SR30 million, respectively.
By 1:36 a.m. on Tuesday the total amount donated exceeded SR400 million.
The campaign began 11 p.m. on Monday, after it was approved by the king.
Ibrahim bin Abdullah Al-Husseini, chief executive of the National Platform for Charitable Work (Ehsan), said the campaign, which coincides with the last 10 days of Ramadan, would accept donations from companies and individuals for the remainder of the holy month through the Ehsan.sa website and call center on 8001247000.
Saudi energy giant Aramco contributed SR30 million, and real estate developer ROSHN pitched in with SR25 million, with Jarir Investment adding another SR20 million. Saudi National Bank, and SABIC, donated SR15 million each.
The campaign aims to strengthen the donation culture within the Kingdom and support community and humanitarian cases in line with the goals and objectives of Saudi Vision 2030.
Al-Husseini said the Ehsan platform would be available for donations around the clock during the campaign, which will be broadcast live on the Saudi Al-Ekhbariya channel.
Saudi Arabia includes 190 new antiquities sites in national register
Saudi Arabia now has 8,788 archeological locations in country
Asir region in the southwest has the largest number at 35
Updated 15 min 59 sec ago
JEDDAH: The Saudi Heritage Commission approved the registration and documentation of 190 new archaeological sites in the national register of antiquities this week.
There are now 8,788 such locations in the national register across the country, according to reports.
Asir region in the southwest of the Kingdom has the largest number with 35, followed by Al-Jouf in the north with 32, Tabuk in the northwest with 31, Hail in the center with 23, Al-Qassim with 22, and the Eastern Province with 20.
Of the new registrations, 11 are in Jazan, 10 in the Makkah region, five in Al-Baha, and one in Madinah.
• The Kingdom has several archeological sites that are recognized internationally, including Hegra in AlUla which was the first World Heritage property to be inscribed in Saudi Arabia in 2008.
• This was followed by At- Turaif District in Diriyah in 2010, then Historic Jeddah in 2014, Rock Art in the Hail region in 2015, Al-Ahsa Oasis in 2018, and Hima Cultural Area in Jazan in 2021.
The registration of these sites is based on the criteria contained in the Antiquities and Architectural Heritage System issued by royal decree in November 2014.
The Heritage Commission’s registration is followed by the sites being mapped digitally to ensure ease of management, protection and preservation.
The Heritage Commission has called on members of the public to report any sites they discover on the Balagh platform at https://contactcenter.moc.gov.sa.
New sites could also be reported to the commission on its Twitter account and through its regional branches.
The Kingdom has several archeological sites that are recognized internationally, including Hegra in AlUla which was the first World Heritage property to be inscribed in Saudi Arabia in 2008.
This was followed by At-Turaif District in Diriyah in 2010, then Historic Jeddah in 2014, Rock Art in the Hail region in 2015, Al-Ahsa Oasis in 2018, and Hima Cultural Area in Jazan in 2021.
Planning, prioritizing work tasks critical, says life coach
Breathing, light exercises can boost energy, momentum
Updated 11 April 2023
RIYADH: With lengthy nightly prayers, abundant family gatherings, and plethora of activities, it can be difficult to find time and energy to work during Ramadan.
Lina Cherry, a globally certified life coach, by the International Coaching Federation, spoke with Arab News recently about the best ways to balance work, spirituality and personal life during the holy month. Cherry is also the regional director of training for the Middle East and Gulf at Coach Masters Academy, an institution with branches in 40 locations around the world. She coaches several clients in Saudi Arabia on finding holistic balance in life.
When she lived in Jeddah for five years, the concept was fairly foreign to locals, but has recently becoming widely embraced, she said.
Explaining life coaching, Cherry said that it is based on positive psychology and takes a scientific approach. “It’s the process of triggering the brain to create something that is possible and positive. While psychologists or therapists focus on addressing the past, coaches generally counsel clients regarding career, personal and relationship challenges for a better future. When you focus on the past, you want to fix something, when you focus on the present and the future, you want to create something,” Cherry said.
This month, let us park our wants aside and focus on our needs ... I don’t want to ignore my red flags. I want to listen to my body.
Lina cherry, Certified life coach
A healthy work and personal life balance is based on defining wants and needs. Statistics show that seven out of 10 people struggle to balance their jobs and personal goals, Cherry said, and 90 percent of elderly people regret spending most of their lives working rather than nourishing relationships.
“It’s all about balance, exactly like we breathe. Today, how many balls am I juggling? Which balls are made of glass? Which ones are made of rubber? You don’t want to struggle to juggle,” Cherry said.
She advises her clients to create awareness around each task to determine what is urgent, important or neither.
During such a challenging period as Ramadan, individuals are more likely to point the finger at themselves for low productivity, and perhaps forget that this is a month centered on spiritual connectivity and growth, Cherry said.
“During this month we really want to finish everything. We have already been overwhelmed or physically and mentally tired because the routine has changed. So it’s very important, first of all, to plan your day ahead and prioritize your tasks so you keep your momentum going.”
Keeping tasks in line creates a clearer vision for what is ahead. It is key to also minimize subtasks. For example, instead of an in-person meeting, opt to have it online to diminish time and effort spent on transportation. This way, you can also get to your next task quicker, she said.
Cherry suggests doing the bulk of one’s work for the day in the morning, while the brain is still fresh and energized. But as the enthusiasm starts to wear off, there are simple ways to boost energy throughout the day.
Take a few short breaks during the workday to reset between tasks. Increasing prayer during this month not only aligns with the spiritual side of Ramadan, but also increases positive energy. Meditation is also a great stress-buster, and a way to rewire the brain to think positively and set goals, she said.
“Breathing techniques are also very important. It can help get more oxygen into your thinking brain and when you do that, you are activating the parasympathetic nervous system, which in parallel helps the employee or person to reduce stress and relax,” Cherry said.
Light exercises like a short walk or a few jumping jacks can lift energy levels and momentum.
She urged people to declutter their minds from everything that does not serve them this month. Knowing that many tasks have to be completed, whether they are hours or days ahead, can be overwhelming. She said it is essential to practice mindfulness, which is a technique that involves focusing on the present moment, reducing stress and improving focus. “Stay with what’s familiar to you.”
People should not commit to new projects this month because so much energy and time are used to navigate new tasks. There should be a constant awareness that Ramadan is merely a month, and the priority is to engage spiritually, not professionally, she said.
In addition, to create healthy personal boundaries, all unnecessary activities and distractions should be eliminated including TV, social media, non-urgent calls or meetings. People should also avoid blue lights and screens. Spending copious amounts of time on phones can diminish serotonin levels and increase stress hormones, she said.
When the workday is done, then it is time to unwind and unplug, to reset and relax.
Cherry said people should be kind to themselves by defining what they are capable of at work. What is the state of one’s mental health? How is one’s body reacting to lack of sustenance?
For those working with non-Muslims or in a foreign country, they should communicate their experiences with their colleagues. They should create awareness around their state and how much progress they can expect.
Avoiding overcommitting is a tough but necessary action. Prioritizing can come with a lot of guilt, but recognizing human capability can be a fruitful process, possibly even achieving greater productivity, Cherry said.
“You need to be kind to yourself with zero self-condemnation … You need to be patient, flexible, and supportive with yourself and with people around you, in your community, at work with your employees and coworkers.
“Don’t punish yourself … We’re (fasting) for a beautiful reason. So why throw away these beautiful incentives for things you can park for a month?”
Finally, people should not be afraid to push the pause button.
Cherry said: “I need to set healthy boundaries during this month between me, myself, and the world around me. Who am I inviting into my life during the month? Know who you want to connect with. Sometimes people drain you.”
Changes in routine and mood are inevitable during Ramadan, so it is important to acknowledge space is required not denial of the stresses.
“This month, let us park our wants aside and focus on our needs … I don't want to ignore my red flags. I want to listen to my body,” she said.
Art and soul: Great places to expand your creative mind this Ramadan
An exhibition of some of the photographic work of Greek artist, writer and poet Marianne Catzaras is being held at the L’Art Pur Gallery until April 30
Updated 11 April 2023
RIYADH: There are lots of interesting art and cultural events and exhibitions to enjoy during the holy month of Ramadan. Here are some of the best from across the Kingdom:
Sociale Cafe, Riyadh
Sociale Cafe is hosting an exhibition of creative works from local, unknown artists from now until the end of Ramadan.
Owner Danielle Touma said: “We wanted to find ways to celebrate art during this holy month of Ramadan, a month of peace and reflection. Engagement in art complements this time, not only as a peaceful activity but as a useful tool for reflection.
“Art is a crucial part of Sociale’s culture and we are always looking for ways to collaborate with creatives. We hope to connect local Saudi artists with art lovers in the city.”
The cafe has just nine submissions on display but welcomes more artists to submit their work.
“Art is not only helpful in contemplating life and ourselves, but helps us explore and understand other perspectives, allowing us see the world from different angles,” Touma said.
“It is also a wonderful way to celebrate beauty, to study nature, to express humor, among many other things depending on the artist.”
L’Art Pur Gallery, Riyadh
An exhibition of some of the photographic work of Greek artist, writer and poet Marianne Catzaras is being held at the L’Art Pur Gallery until April 30.
Staged in collaboration with the French Embassy and Alliance Francaise, “Au Dela Du Temps (Beyond Time)” is a collection of Catzaras’ digital compositions representing her observations of time, space and people.
Rania Rizk, artistic director at L’Art Pur Foundation, said the exhibition was being held to coincide with the Francophonie Festival 2023 and Year of Poetry in Saudi Arabia.
“Art increases cultural enrichment and deserves to be celebrated,” she said. “It is the highest form of humanity, as it touches the soul and illuminates the mind.
“Marianne chooses to photograph whenever words are not enough … as she considers that photography breaks the language barrier and touches universally.
“In front of her photos, we are absorbed by a meditative silence that invites us to stand still and contemplate those captured moments layered with a lot of emotion and spirituality”
Catzaras has previously had exhibitions in Tunisia, Egypt, the US and Europe.
Misk Art Institute, Riyadh
The works of Saudi and Emirati artists Manal Al-Dowayan and Hassan Sharif Volumes are the focus for the latest editions of “The Art Library Exhibit: Discovering Arab Artists.”
On until June 15, the event takes visitors on a journey of Arab art and how it has shaped the contemporary art scene.
Ithra, Eastern Province
Sky Castle by Eness is an eye-catching interactive sound and light installation that comprises motion-sensitive colorful arches with a melodic xylophone soundscape.
Also in Ithra, “The Art of Orientation” is the largest collection of Islamic masterworks in Saudi Arabia and presents the significance, evolution and history of mosques around the world.
The exhibition dives deep into the interior design and artifacts within mosques with displays of minbars, mihrab niches, calligraphic pieces, prayer rugs, mosque lamps and Qur’anic manuscripts. It also includes virtual reality walk-throughs of famous sites like the Two Holy Mosques of Makkah and Madina.
The Ramadan edition of Children’s Museum at Ithra this year features a variety of interactive activities, workshops and classes for youngsters aged 12 and under to help them enrich their creative minds.
Hayy Jameel, Jeddah
Art Jameel is collaborating with Islamic Arts Biennale to present a collection of six local and international films about culture, life and faith, with three each being shown at the Hayy Cinema and Hajj Terminal.
The Hayy Cinema’s offerings are: “Raven’s Song,” “Honeyland” and “Dounia and the Princess of Aleppo,” while at the Hajj Terminal visitors can see “Soufra,” “A Road to Mecca” and “Roll’em.”