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UAE-Egypt money transfer: Residents can now make payments, send cash via BOTIM

BOTIM has partnered with Egypt's Fawry to enable seamless digital payments for UAE residents

BOTIM, one of UAE's popular communication app, has teamed up with Fawry, Egypt's leading digital payment platform, to offer a convenient way for residents in the UAE and GCC countries to pay bills and invoices in Egypt.

This agreement will allow users to transfer money and pay bills with ease, using the newly introduced Bill Payments feature on the BOTIM app, the communication company said in a statement.

Pay bills via BOTIM

Under this new agreement, Fawry will provide Egyptians residing in the UAE who use the BOTIM app with solutions to pay their utility bills, subscriptions, and other financial transactions in Egypt.

This new feature will enable users in the UAE to send money to users in Egypt, and once the transfer is complete, users in Egypt can withdraw the funds through Fawry's payment and collection channels, powered by Payby on the BOTIM app.

BOTIM bought out by Astra Tech

Users in the UAE and GCC countries can pay various bills and invoices in Egypt through the BOTIM app, including utility bills, school and university fees, driving and car licenses, club memberships, and medical and social insurance.

Fawry's vast network of 'Fawry Plus' outlets and POS machines covers all parts of Egypt, providing local beneficiaries of money remittance with a seamless way to disburse their funds. This combined with the sending money services, offers users an effortless and reliable way to manage their finances, no matter where they are in the country.

"We are excited to work with Fawry to bring a seamless and hassle-free bill payment experience to our users in Egypt. This collaboration represents a significant milestone in our expansion strategy, particularly in the promising Egyptian market, and our commitment to driving digital transformation and financial inclusion in the region," Abdallah Abu Sheikh, Co-Founder and CEO of Astra Tech, BOTIM's parent company, said.

"The partnership between Fawry and BOTIM is a concrete manifestation of Fawry's strategy to attract new segments from various sectors and offer them the benefits of its digital services and solutions," Eng. Atef Magdy, CCO, Financial Services, Digital Solutions & International Business added. It is expected to attract about five million tourists.

This further strengthens Fawry's position as a leading platform in the digital payment market and solidifies its position as the preferred choice for Egyptian citizens, Magdy said.


Grand Egyptian Museum opens its doors for visits before official opening

he Grand Egyptian Museum (GEM) made it possible for Egyptians and foreigners to visit, with several guided tours, to test the readiness of the site before the official opening, through pre-booking on the GEM official website.

Visitors will get tours of the Great Hall and the Glass Hall, in addition to visiting the conference center and the commercial area with the museum's external gardens and the food court area.

However, the interior spaces of the GEM, including the museum galleries, remain closed until the official opening.

Magdy Shaker, the chief archaeologist at the Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities, said the museum is ready to open, but some external preparations were being finalized before the official opening date announced.

Constructed on approximately 500,000 square meters, the new GEM is located nearby the Giza Pyramids and will house the world's largest antiquities collection belonging to a single culture's heritage.

The GEM is set to showcase 5,000 relics from Tutankhamun's collection as well - including 2,000 artifacts displayed for the first time.

The museum includes huge exhibition halls, and is distinguished by its proximity to the Giza pyramids area and the New Administrative Capital, which makes it a gateway to Egypt's past, present and future.

It is expected to attract about five million tourists.

How to visit the GEM?

The visit should be booked on the official website of the GEM, during which the visitor determines the date and time of the visit, in addition to determining the type of tours and accordingly the prices are determined.

Free entry tickets are available only at the museum's main ticket sales windows for children under four years of age and people with special needs. Prices for Egyptians range between LE75 and LE150.

Visiting hours start daily at the Grand Egyptian Museum from 9 am to 6 pm.


UAE and Qatar link traffic systems.

The announcement was made at a meeting held in Abu Dhabi between delegates of the two countries

The inauguration of a bilateral linkage of traffic systems between the UAE and Qatar was announced on Wednesday, February 8.

The announcement came at a meeting held in Abu Dhabi between the delegates of the two countries.

The officials discussed ways to enhance the existing cooperation between both countries in the policing and security fields, official news agency WAM reported.

During the meeting, officials said that the completion of the linkage of the traffic systems [was] part of an integrated GCC project aimed at exchanging information, unifying procedures and facilitating services.

Dubai and Abu Dhabi has launched several initiatives regarding its traffic systems.

Last year, Digital Dubai collaborated with Dubai Police to add a new service to the vehicles and security services section of its DubaiNow app, enabling customers to report minor traffic accidents on the app.


UAE, Kuwait link traffic systems

Officials at the meeting held in Abu Dhabi discussed ways to enhance existing cooperation between the two countries in police and security fields

The UAE and Kuwait have linked their traffic systems.

The inauguration of the bilateral linkage between the two countries was announced on Tuesday.

The announcement came at a meeting held in Abu Dhabi between delegates of the two countries.

Maj. Gen. Khalifa Hareb Al Khaili, undersecretary of the Ministry of Interior, received the Kuwaiti delegation headed by Maj. Gen. Jamal Hatem Al Sayegh, assistant undersecretary for traffic and operations affairs at Kuwait's Ministry of Interior.

Officials at the meeting discussed ways to enhance existing cooperation between the two countries in police and security fields, official news agency WAM reported.

The linkage of the traffic systems would be completed within an integrated Gulf project aimed at exchanging information, unifying procedures and facilitating services.

The Kuwaiti delegation was briefed on the security support operations room of the General Directorate of Security Support and its systems to support decision-makers during events and following up on police systems.

The announcement comes only days after UAE and Qatar also linked their traffic systems, as part of the integrated project.


UAE increases fuel prices for February 2023

Prices were increased by up to 10 per cent

The UAE has announced fuel prices for the month of February.

The fuel price follow-up committee increased the rates by up to 27 fils per litre.

Super 98 will cost Dhs3.05 per litre, beginning February 1, increasing 27 fils or 9.71 per cent from Dhs2.78 a litre in January.

Meanwhile, Special 95 petrol will cost Dhs2.93 a litre, soaring 9.7 per cent or 26 fils, from Dhs2.67 per litre in January.

In February, E-Plus 91 will cost Dhs2.86 per litre, up 27 fils or 10.42 per cent from Dhs2.59 per litre.

The committee has announced a rise in diesel prices as well, with a litre costing Dhs3.38 in February, up 2.7 per cent or 9 fils from Dhs3.29 a litre in January.


Dubai visa: Residents can learn more about overstay fines, expired permits in new initiative starting today

People in the UAE who are facing visa-related issues can have a golden chance to learn more about how to resolve them in a new awareness initiative.

The General Directorate of Residency and Foreign Affairs (GDRFA) is running a 3-day campaign titled 'A Homeland for All' at Deira City Center to reach out to residents, visitors and tourist who have issues with their visas.

The campaign, which will run every day from February 25 to 27, will have authorities from the GDRFA at a stall in Deira City Centre to help those who have any issues with their visa, including those who have overstayed their permits and those with expired documents. The stall, located near Centrepoint, will be open from 10am to 10pm.

Residents, who are not sure about the validity of their visas, may check their permits' expiry by using only their passports, click here for a guide.

According to a GDRFA social media post, the campaign hopes to encourage a culture of compliance with entry and residence laws. Lt-Col Salem bin Ali, Director of the Client Happiness Department at GDRFA advised people to approach the stand without fear. "Even if you have overstayed for 10 years, our staff will find a solution for you," he said in an Instagram story.

In the UAE, the cost of overstaying the permitted visa period attracts a fine of Dh50 per day. This also applies to visa cancellations and can often result in massive penalties. According to GDRFA, this campaign will give an opportunity to those in the UAE to fix any visa-related issues.


How UAE Golden Visa, changes to company laws have made Dubai a destination for life for residents

Dubai is no longer a transient city where people used to stay for a few years because new initiatives, such as the golden visa and company laws, have created a sense of belonging and people now look to retire here, top executives say.

"In Dubai, people used to stay on average four to six years and now with the amendments to the golden visa and the company laws, people are setting rules and the average span has increased. A lot of people are thinking of Dubai as one station in their life as they have decided to retire here," said Hawazen Esber, CEO, Development, Majid Al Futtaim Group, during a panel discussion.

The UAE allowed 100 per cent foreign ownership in mainland companies and also expanded the scope of a 10-year golden visa for a variety of categories including scientists, outstanding students, entrepreneurs, professionals and businessmen. These two initiatives are being termed as game changers for the country's future economic growth and for attracting the best talent.

Amit Kaushal, Group CEO, Dubai Holding, said the golden visa programme, amongst others, allows the understanding of a longer generational aspect of living. "People want to put down their roots and you start to see movements between single-family and multifamily."

During the panel discussion, he also highlighted the importance of the emirate's infrastructure. And pointed out that the emirate is looking 10-20 years ahead in its planning for the city's development.

Hawazen Esber said Dubai is a city that creates plenty of opportunities, jobs, innovation, tourism and shopping. "The biggest issue with governments is the rate of success. And what we see in this part of the world is an extremely high rate of success. This is what makes Dubai attractive and it will remain," he said.

Esber added that cities have urban master plans, but the challenge is the execution level.

"What makes also Dubai very special is the closeness or the integration of the private sector," he added.


Major UAE visa update: Expats need AED10,000 salary to sponsor family

The new UAE visa rule outlines all procedures associated with the loss or damage of passports or identity cards for expats

The UAE Federal Authority for Identity, Citizenship, Customs & Port Security (ICP) has released a new resolution concerning visa regulations and clarifications for expats, according to a report by Arabic daily Al Khaleej.

Resolution No. 74 of 2022, issued by ICP chairman Ali Mohammad Al Shamsi, covers the conditions and controls specified in Cabinet Resolution No. 65 of 2022, which became effective on October 3, 2022.

This new decision outlines all procedures associated with the loss or damage of passports or identity cards for expats, whether they occur within or outside of the country.

Lost passport/ID holders can enter UAE

According to the report, the UAE has made a decision to allow expats who have lost their passport or ID to enter the country.

These expats must submit an entry request through the smart services platform, and visit the competent department within three working days to complete procedures.

The decision also outlines conditions for granting tourist visas, including that the sponsor or host should be a tourism-related institution, company, or registered body in the accredited facility card system, and provide a tourism program.

Entering UAE through border ports

Foreigners may be granted an entry visa at adjacent border areas of land entry ports for a 90-day period.

Visa holders can enter the country multiple times as long as the visa is valid, and stay every time for a period not exceeding 48 hours.

The Director General of Residence and Foreigners Affairs may issue an entry visa to expats who are required by relevant authorities in the UAE based on an official request.

In addition, the General Directorate of Residency and Foreigners Affairs (GDRFA) is authorised to issue a "private entry permit" to individuals accompanying heads of state and ministers during their official visits to the UAE.

Entry visas to the UAE

Visit visas allow their holders to enter the UAE once or multiple times, as determined by the issuing entity. However, the visa holder is not allowed to stay in the country for more than 180 days.

Entry visas are valid for 60 days from the date of issuance, and permit the holder to stay in the country in accordance with the type of visa issued, the report said, citing the new resolution.

Additionally, there are new rules for granting a visit visa to someone who wants to come to the UAE to visit a friend or family member.

These rules are in addition to the requirements that were already announced.

To be eligible for the visa, the visitor must be a friend or family member of a citizen of the UAE, regardless of their relationship.

Alternatively, the visitor must be a close relative of an expat who is living in the UAE, and the expat must have a job that is classified as either first or second level.

Humanitarian cases

The decision outlines the issuance of a residence permit that is valid for one renewable year, subject to the availability of a sponsor or host.

The decision also lists five conditions that must be met to issue a residence visa for expats from countries affected by wars, disasters, or unrest.

The decision specifies that those wishing to bring their relatives or their wives' relatives must meet certain requirements to obtain a residence permit.

To meet the requirements for residency in the UAE, one must have the following: Citizenship of a country that is not classified as being in a state of war, disaster, or unrest by the authority's chairman, physical presence in the UAE, adequate financial stability and appropriate housing arrangement, the report said.

Sponsoring in the UAE

If the foreigner is related to a UAE resident or their spouse, they must have the following degree of kinship: the foreigner's father, mother, or underage siblings, provided that they can financially sponsor them, or the wife's father and mother.

If an expat in the UAE is related to an Emirati, they need to prove their family relationship. If the expat is related to a UAE resident or their spouse, they can bring their father, mother, underage siblings (if they can support them financially), or their wife's parents.

Moreover, the expat needs to have sufficient housing and a monthly income to bring their relatives or their wife's relatives, the report said.

They can bring up to 5 individuals if their monthly income is AED10,000 and up to 6 individuals if their monthly income is AED15,000. If they want to bring more than 6 individuals, the chairman of the authority will decide if the applicant is eligible, the report added

Exempt cases

The decision also outlines 3 categories of individuals exempt from having their residence visa cancelled if they stay outside of the country for more than 180 days.

People who hold golden visas and their families, green visas and their families, and those who have been granted exemption by the GDRFA for valid reasons and have paid the required fee will be allowed to keep their residence permits until they expire.

In addition to the previous decision, there are six groups of foreigners who don't need to meet the passport validity requirement while entering the UAE, as long as their passport is valid for at least a month, the report said.

These include airplane crews, sailors, and workers on tourist and picnic ships. Also, individuals with emergency entry, transit, and entry visas, and those entering adjacent areas are exempt.

Moreover, the decision has categorised five groups of individuals who can stay in the UAE for up to 180 days after the expiration or cancellation of their residence permit.

These groups consist of the holders of golden and green visas along with their families, foreign widows and divorced expats residing in the UAE, students pursuing further studies after graduation, and the spouses, parents, and children of Emiratis or foreign passport holders.

However, only two categories of people, namely skilled professionals from the first, second, and third levels, and property owners, can stay in the UAE for 90 days after their visa cancellation or expiration.

People with visas issued by sponsors or hosts are allowed to stay for 60 days, while all other categories are only permitted to stay for 30 days.


UAE: How to apply for an Emirates ID online in just five minutes

The UAE Emirates ID contains a wealth of information, including the cardholder's name, photograph, date of birth, and residency status

In the UAE, the Emirates ID has become an essential piece of identification for both citizens and residents alike.

This small, plastic card contains a wealth of information, including the cardholder's name, photograph, date of birth, and residency status.

Applying for an Emirates ID in five minutes

You can apply for or renew an Emirates ID via the Federal Authority for Identity, Citizenship, Customs and Ports Security (ICP) website, or through the ICP App on Google Play, App Store and Huawei, or through an accredited typing centre. Using the website is a quick process that can take a little as five minutes.

The UAE has sought to implement numerous layers of digital governance in a bid to increase efficiency and improve the service for customers.

Late last year, the country ranked among the top five in the world for digital government implementation. The five-minute online application process for the Emirates ID is one example of the UAE simplifying government processes for citizens.

After the application has been sent, ICP will then need to process the physical ID card. According to the ICP, here's how long it takes to receive the physical ID card after applying or renewing it:

Service ChannelService channel availabilityTime to complete the service after its requirements are completed
Smart Services System (Website/Mobile App)7 days a week; 24 hours5 Days
Typing CentersAs per working hours5 Days

If you are opting to apply or renew your Emirates ID through one of the customer care centres, this is how long it will take you to receive your physical card:

Service ChannelService channel availabilityService time and waiting in the centerTime to complete the service after its requirements are completed
Customer Happiness CentersAs per working hoursWaiting 5m - Transaction 9m24hours

That being said, here's how you can apply for an Emirates ID:

Register yourself on the ICP website or sign in with the Green Pass

Apply and pay fees

Take fingerprint and signature

Issue residency

Receive Emirates ID

These are the documents required, according to the ICP website:

UAE nationalsGCC nationalsResidents/Expatriates
?1. Personal photo (4.5 x 3.5 cm) with a white background for all age groups.1. A valid  passport

2. A GCC ID card that is valid for those who are over 21 years old, or for one of the parents for those who are under 21 years old.

3. A personal photo (4.5 x 3.5 cm) with a white background for all age groups.

4. Original birth certificate, passport of one of the parents or Emirates ID for those under 15 years old.

5. The original of the agency certificate for the person acting on behalf of the customer in the event that the person concerned was not present and the application was submitted by a third party

6. Show one of the documents below to prove residency within the countryOriginal document proving kinship with a citizen up to the third degree, such as family book - birth certificate - marriage contract. and the like, in addition to the original identification documents of the citizen (family book - passport - identity card)

7. The original valid trade license.

8. The original ownership of a residential or commercial property.

9. The original certificate of continuity of study from one of the schools, colleges or universities accredited in the country.

10. The original work certificate issued by one of the government institutions in the country for workers in the government sector.

11. A work contract certified by the Ministry of Emiratisation and Human Resources for workers in the private sector.

12. Proof of the customer's residence for the children by one of the documents described above belonging to him, one of the parents.
1. A valid passport.

2. A permit to issue a valid residence permit, a residence origin under renewal procedures, or a valid residence permit for those who did not issue an identity card when issuing the residence permit.

3. A personal photo (4.5 x 3.5 cm) with a white background for all age groups.

4. Original birth certificate, passport of one of the parents or Emirates ID for those under 15 years old.

5. The original of the agency certificate for the person acting on behalf of the customer in the event that the person concerned is not present and the application is submitted by other party.

Emirates ID fees

The fees for UAE nationals are:

AED100: Card issuance fee for five years

AED200: Fees for issuing a card for ten years

AED50: Service fee

AED30: Typing Center fee

AED150: Fees for urgent service, which are carried out at customer happiness centers

The fees for GCC nationals:

AED100: Card issuance fee for five years.

AED50: Service fee

AED30: Typing Center fee

AED150: Fees for urgent service, which are carried out at customer happiness centers

The fees for residents/expats:

AED100 (depending on the period of years): Card issuance fee for five years.

AED50: Service fee

AED30: Typing Center fee

AED150: fees for urgent service, which are carried out at customer happiness centers

The documents required and cost of renewing an Emirates ID is the same as applying for a new one.

Renewing an Emirates ID

However, the Emirates ID has an expiry date.

The time limit to renew an expired ID card is 30 days from the date of expiry, after which late fines will apply, according to information shared by the official UAE government portal.

Note that after the Emirates ID expires, the ID holder must apply for its renewal. The ICP will also send a notification via SMS requesting them to renew their ID card.


What type of visas are available for travel to Saudi Arabia?

Travellers planning a visit to Saudi Arabia have an additional type of visa to consider.

On Tuesday, the Saudi Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced a new stopover visa aimed at transit passengers.

Issued electronically, the visa allows travellers to enter the kingdom for up to 96 hours, and welcomes tourists to apply for a free hotel stay.

It's the latest in a series of tourism visas available in Saudi Arabia ever since the country opened its doors to travellers.

Here's what you need to know about each of the different types.

Saudi Arabia's new stopover visa

Saudi Arabia's newest visa is the stopover visa. It is available for passengers flying into the kingdom with Saudia or Flynas from any destination.

Valid for stays of up to 96 hours, travellers booking flights can apply for the visa up to three months in advance and it will be issued immediately.

A photograph is required to apply and the visa is valid for 90 days from the date of its issue. Travellers can only stop over once per trip using the visa and must have at least six months on their passport, plus a confirmed travel ticket to their intended destination, as well as any required entry visas or permits.

Tourists, business travellers and those planning to perform Umrah are eligible to apply, but those travelling for religious reasons must also register on the Nusuk platform.

The visa itself is free of charge, however, a $10 administration and health insurance fee may be applicable, depending on travellers' nationality and country of departure.

After applying for the visa, tourists will also be able to apply for a hotel stay via the Saudia Holidays website. All travellers approved for accommodation will have to present their boarding pass at the hotel reception when they arrive.

eVisas for GCC residents

Residents from any of the GCC countries can apply for this visa, provided their line of work is approved by Saudi authorities - the list features hundreds of occupations and is available to view on the Visit Saudi website.

Travellers must have a residency visa that has been valid for at least three months before applying, must be at least 18 years old and have at least six months validity on their passport.

There's a multiple and single-entry visa available, both of which cost 300 Saudi riyals ($79.9), plus health insurance fees. The single-entry visa is valid for three months and for stays of up to 30 days, while the multiple-entry option is valid for one year from the date of issue and can be used for stays up to 90 days.

Travellers can apply online via the Ministry of Foreign Affairs website.

eVisa and visa on arrival for non-GCC residents

Visitors who live outside the GCC can apply for tourist visas online before travelling, or upon arrival in Saudi Arabia through the visa offices of the immigration department at the airport - eVisas are issued within 30 minutes.

There are 49 countries from where travellers can apply, including Canada, the US, China, Japan, Australia, France, the UK, Russia and Switzerland. The full list of destinations is available on the Saudi Tourism website. Countries with bilateral agreements (USA, UK, South Korea and Japan) can apply for the visit visa through eVisa or get a visa on arrival, or apply through Saudi embassies and consulates.

Travellers need to be 18 years old and hold a passport that is valid for at least six months. The online visa costs 535 Saudi riyals, while the visa on arrival fee is 480 Saudi riyals.

The multiple-entry visa is valid for one year from the date of issue and for stays up to 90 days.

Overstay fees of 100 Saudi riyals apply for each day visitors remain in the country after their tourist visa expires.

Saudi Arabian consulate visa

Consulate visas are available for travel to Saudi Arabia.

Applicants need to provide a number of documents, including proof of accommodation, return tickets for travel, proof of employment, bank statements and more. The visa takes one to two business days to process and all applicants must be at least 18 years old and have six months left on their passport at the time of travel.

Two types of visas are available via the consulate - including a multiple-entry document valid for one year and for stays of up to 90 days, as well as a single-entry visa valid for three months and for stays up to 30 days.

Umrah visa

Visitors holding a standard tourist visa or stopover visa are entitled to perform Umrah during their stay, but there is also a dedicated visa for those who want it.

This can be secured via the online Nusuk application, which also provides information on the holy sites of Makkah and Madinah, the rituals involved in Umrah and packages from specialist tour operators.

In October, Saudi Arabia's Ministry of Hajj and Umrah announced the extension of the Umrah visa from 30 to 90 days. Pilgrims do not need any other type of tourist visa to continue their travels across the kingdom.

Electronic Umrah visas are available to all citizens and residents of the European Union, the UK and the US, as well as citizens and residents of GCC countries. They will be processed via the app within 24 hours.

Pilgrims hoping to perform Hajj will still need to apply for special visas through their nearest Saudi embassy or consulate.


Private schools shall fix tuition fees a year in advance, and no increase allowed during academic year

JEDDAH - It is mandatory on the part of private schools in Saudi Arabia to fix their tuition fee one year in advance, and it is not permitted to make any hike in fees during the academic year. These provisions are included in the regulations governing tuition fees in private schools, approved by Minister of Education Yousef Al-Benyan, Okaz/Saudi Gazette has learned.

According to the regulations, private schools must register details such as the amount of tuition fees, the date when the new fee comes into force, and any changes made in the fee, through the ministry's private education portal on the electronic link of the Tuition Fee Program (http://fef.moe.gov.sa

Schools shall determine the tuition fees and register them on the portal one year before the start of the academic year, and any amendment to the fees after that period will not be allowed.

The Ministry of Education will publish a list of tuition fees for schools on its website, and it will be the reference in the event of any dispute with regard to the amount of tuition fee. Punitive measures will be taken against schools that fail to adhere to these regulations in accordance with the provisions contained in the regulations governing tuition fees in private schools issued by an earlier Cabinet decision.

According to the regulations, a committee shall be formed in the ministry by a decision of the minister with the task of reviewing the regulations governing tuition fees for schools. The duties of the committee include reviewing the level of compliance of private schools with regard to registration of their tuition fees and changes made in it. The committee will review the level of compliance of private schools with regard to notifying parents about changes in tuition fees at least one year before the start of the academic year.

The committee will review these regulations every two years and will make necessary changes pursuant to the public interest. The committee shall submit an annual report to the minister including the size of the annual change in the level of tuition fees, the justifications for the changes made in the tuition fee, the committee's recommendations, and the proposed remedies for any potential issues.

The committee shall hold its meetings in the presence of the majority of its members, and its decisions will be taken by the majority of the votes of the members present, and when the votes are equal, the decision will be in favor of the side with which the chairman of the committee voted.


Riyadh public transport buses will start operation next month

RIYADH - Minister of Transport and Logistics Saleh Al-Jasser announced on Wednesday that Riyadh public transport buses will start operation in March.

The operation of the bus service will be part of the first phase of the King Abdulaziz Public Transport Project. This project, which consists of trains and buses and costing $22.5 billion, is considered as the largest public transport project in the world.

Addressing the Zakat, Tax and Customs Conference, Al-Jasser said that the Riyadh Metro will be operated in the coming months. The minister said that the international shipping lines and logistics companies are racing to do business in Saudi Arabia. He also stated that Saudi Arabia tops the index of the 25 best ports in the world.

It is noteworthy that Fahd Al-Rasheed, CEO of the Royal Commission for Riyadh City, said at the World Economic Forum in Davos last month that the population of the city of Riyadh increased to 8 million in 2022. He said that the public transport project in the city of Riyadh was affected by the Covid-19 pandemic, and was slightly delayed. "Today we are looking at a plan to expand the Riyadh metro lines in light of the city's population growth," Al-Rasheed pointed out.

The Riyadh Metro or electric trains is also part of the King Abdulaziz Public Transport Project. The Riyadh Metro is one of the giant projects in the world. It includes 85 railway stations, apart from six major metro lines that have been established to cover the capital city of Riyadh from all directions. There will also be a network of buses and all these cover an area of 1800 km. It was revealed recently that more than 80 percent of the works of railway stations and 350 km of railroads across the city have been completed.


UK hotel brand Premier Inn to open new Saudi property

Britain's biggest hotel brand Premier Inn said its Mena unit is set to open its new property in Saudi Arabia this year as part of its long-term Middle East expansion strategy.

It currently has 11 hotels across the UAE and Qatar and is planning to further extend its footprints in existing markets across the region.

Owned by UK hospitality company Whitbread, the top brand said plans are afoot to launch a new, higher-grade room category in the Middle East, as well as enhancements at its existing properties this year, thus reinforcing its commitment to the region and maintaining its position as Mena's hotel brand of choice for quality, value and accommodation.

It is in discussions with several investors and potential business partners in the region, said the statement from Premier Inn.

Managing Director Simon Leigh said: "Premier Inn's focus for 2023 is to further evolve our brand and footprint in the region - on our existing 'home grounds' of the UAE and Qatar, elsewhere in the GCC and in other markets in the wider Middle East."

"With its huge investment in tourism under Vision 2030, a bid to host EXPO 2030 and world-class developments in full swing across the country, Saudi Arabia offers excellent opportunities for Premier Inn," he stated.

The leading British hotel brand said it has seven hotels in Dubai, two in Abu Dhabi and two in Qatar, with more in the pipeline.

"We would be immensely proud to bring our much-loved brand to the kingdom and be part of its ever-growing tourism and hospitality sector. "Fruitful discussions are continuing, and we are confident that Premier Inn will make its KSA debut this year," stated Leigh.

He pointed out that 2022 was a record year for Premier Inn Mena in terms of trading and growth, fueled by large-scale events such as Expo 2020 and the World Cup, the continued post-pandemic bounce-back, and the opening of its 11th property - Premier Inn Barsha Heights.


Masdar JV announces opening of largest solar park in Jordan

Baynouna Solar Energy Company (BSCE), a joint venture between Abu Dhabi-based renewable energy company Masdar and Finnish investment and asset management group Taaleri, has announced the opening of its new 200MW solar park in Amman.

The largest clean energy project in Jordan - Baynouna Solar Park - produces over 560 gigawatt-hours (GWh) of energy annually - enough to power 160,000 homes.

Developed through a power purchase agreement between Masdar and National Electric Power Company, Jordan's state electricity provider, the Baynouna Solar Park also displaces 360,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide per year, equivalent to taking nearly 80,000 cars off the road.

The inauguration was held in the presence of Bisher Al-Khasawneh, Prime Minister of Jordan, and was attended by Dr Sultan Ahmed Al Jaber, UAE Minister of Industry and Advanced Technology, COP28 President-Designate, and Chairman of Masdar; Dr Saleh Al Kharabsheh, Jordan's Minister of Energy and Mineral Resources; and Sheikh Khalifa Bin Mohammed Bin Khalid Al Nahyan, UAE Ambassador to Jordan.

The ceremony was also attended by other high-level officials from the government of Jordan and senior executives from Masdar.

Al Jaber said: "In partnership with the Jordanian government, the Baynouna Solar Park will contribute to Jordan's climate targets, provide access to clean energy, create jobs and ensure economic growth. Along with our other project here - the Tafila Wind Farm - Masdar is already helping Jordan to produce 29 percent of its electricity from renewable sources and will support its goal of increasing that to 50 percent by the end of the decade."

"Ambitious, transformative partnerships like these are precisely what we need if we are to deliver on the promise of the Paris Agreement and continue to ensure that we are holding back emissions, not progress. COP28 will focus on moving from goals to implementation, with a clear focus on demonstrable action on mitigation, adaptation, loss and damage, and finance, as we aim to keep the objective of limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees alive," he added.

Al Kharabsheh said: "We are focused on developing local energy sources to achieve energy security, enhance self-reliance and limit the effects of climate change. If we look at the world today, we see that renewable energy, especially solar and wind energy, are the fastest growing and widespread renewable energy sources and the time has come to maximize the benefits of renewables.

Al Ramahi expressed delight at witnessing the inauguration of this project, which is one of the fruits of Masdar's long collaborative partnership with Jordan.

"We stand ready to support Jordan in its energy transition and will look to increase our presence in the Kingdom through the development of further clean energy projects that will drive economic growth for the nation," he added.

Financial institutions that supported the Baynouna project include the International Finance Corporation (IFC), the Opec Fund for International Development (OFID), the KfW Group's DEG, and the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA).

Taaleri Group CEO Peter Ramsay said: "We are very excited to be inaugurating the largest solar park in Jordan. This impressive project is a testament to the strength of cooperation between Masdar and Taaleri, two pioneers who have been active in the renewable energy field for a long time. We are proud to advance our common global climate change mitigation goals together with our partners and investors."


Expatriates welcome salary ceiling cut for family visas

Muscat: A large section of expatriate workers in the Sultanate of Oman has welcomed the recent decision of the Royal Oman Police (ROP) to reduce the salary ceiling for family visas by more than 50 per cent.

In a recent decision, the ROP confirmed that expatriates who are earning over OMR150 will be allowed to bring their family to Oman.

Prior to the latest decision, the minimum salary requirement for expatriate workers to bring their family to Oman was OMR350 a month.

An Indian expatriate worker Benoy K, who works in a private company, was glad that he could now bring his family to Oman.

Benoy said: "I am happy that my salary will no longer be a constraint in bringing my family to Muscat. I earn around OMR300 per month. I never thought that I could bring my wife and my children to Oman. In fact, I used to visit them once annually." "With this latest decision, I can plan to have my family here. I realise things are costly but I can now think of bringing them,"he said.

They always wished to come to Oman as I used to describe how beautiful the country is. Maybe, we may not save money, but to have a family stay together is a price I wish to pay."

Benoy added: "My wife is educated and maybe she can try to find a job here to ease our financial burden. If it clicks, it will be good but even if she doesn't get a job, I am happy to plan their stay. It may take some time for me to arrange my finances, but I am happy that my salary is not a hurdle in bringing them."

Experts have predicted that the move may spur the domestic economy.

"With families joining, the local economy may get a boost as there would be an increase in spending habits," said Mohammed al Maimani, a local shop owner.

The minimum monthly income rule for 'family joining visa' was introduced by Oman in 2011. In 2017, the government reduced the requirement from OMR600 to OMR350 to qualify for a dependent visa.

The latest move is aimed at promoting family reunification and has a positive impact on the well-being of expat workers and their families, as they can now reunite and build a more stable life in Oman.

The new policy also grants sponsors the authority to decide on their family's status, as they may be in a better position to evaluate their capacity to support their family in Oman.

The decision to reduce the salary requirement is also expected to provide a significant boost to Oman's economy by attracting skilled workers with family requirements much easier paving the way for greater expats' spending.

It may be mentioned that there was a sizable exodus of expat workers over the past few years due to the impact of COVID-19 pandemic.

Joey, a Filipino expatriate, also was happy that the minimum salary requirement to get a family dependent visa, has been reduced.

"It is a good decision as now we can plan to get our aged parents here to stay with us. We are always concerned about their wellbeing but we can now plan to bring them here. We can take better care of our parents," said the sales executive, who works with her husband at a leading apparel store.

Salauddin, a worker from Bangladesh, said: "It is a positive move but not many can afford to bring their families with the rising cost of living here in Muscat. Maybe, workers living in the interior regions can still manage. For me, to get my wife and my three-year old child with a salary of OMR 200 per month, may not be a feasible idea. However, I will try to save more so that they can at least visit Oman once a year on a family dependent visa. One of the biggest compromises we make is leaving our families back home. This move can bring smiles on many faces."

Anand Rai, an Indian expatriate said: "From the economic perspective, when families of expatriates are here,their increased local expenditure is an advantage for the country. However, it is an added burden on the ordinary workers who try to make ends meet.These workers will come under pressure to bring their families here. Accommodation, food and education expenses will be a burden for them. The move may also reduce the remittances to the respective nations, in particular, in the sub-continent, if families start staying in Oman as the savings will drop considerably.``


Qatar, Japan to begin mutual visa exemption from April 2

Beginning April 2, Qatari and Japanese travellers holding ordinary passports will no longer need to apply for visit visas to enter the other country.

Qatar's Ambassador to Japan Hassan bin Mohammed Rafea Al Emadi and Japan's Assistant Foreign Minister Nagaoka Kansuke, who is also the Director General of the Middle East and Africa Department, signed memorandums to start procedures for mutual visa exemption in Tokyo on Thursday.

The step will allow holders of ordinary Qatari passports - who intend to stay for a period of less than 30 consecutive days - to enter Japan without obtaining a visa. However, they will need prior registration at any of the Japanese embassies or consulates.

Qatari nationals will be provided with registration certificates, free of charge and valid for three years, for the purpose of waiving visa requirements.

The original agreement for visa exemption was made during the second round of the Qatar-Japan Strategic Dialogue, which was held in Tokyo under the chairmanship of Qatar's Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs HE Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani and Japan's Minister of Foreign Affairs Hayashi Yoshimasa.

Qatar's passport had recently been selected as the 55th most powerful in the world, allowing its holders to travel to 100 nations without the need for a visa.

According to the 2023 report by the Henley Passport Index, considered the authoritative ranking of all world's passports, Japan has the world's most powerful passport, allowing the nation's travellers to travel to 193 countries visa-free.

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