“Saudi Arabia is one of the fastest growing ecosystems in the region. With the government clearly identifying innovation and entrepreneurship as one of their key focuses in line with Vision 2030, many new initiatives have been launched in 2018 and 2019. Usually, these initiatives take time to come to fruition, but we have already seen their impact on the ecosystem in the country and Mena region,”

Philip Bahoshy, CEO of UAE-based data platform Magniit, discussing his company’s “2019 Saudi Arabia Venture Capital Snapshot” report. [wamda.com]



Report: Saudi Air Defenses Repel Latest Houthi Missile, Drone Strikes at Oil Facilities


Rocket and drone strikes fired by Iran-backed Houthi rebels at Saudi targets last week – including at Aramco oil facilities – were successfully shot down by Saudi air defenses, according to the Wall Street Journal which cited Saudi officials. [more]



Flights to Saudi Capital Double as 66-day Riyadh Season Proves a Major Boon to Kingdom’s New Tourism Drive


Flight bookings for travel to Riyadh from October 2019 to January 2020 more than doubled compared to the same period in the previous year, Arabian Business reports, citing data from the Seera Group, a Saudi-based travel and tourism company. [more]




Saudi Aramco Makes $5 million Investment in Blockchain-Based Oil Trading Company VAKT


Saudi Aramco Energy Ventures (SAEV) has invested $5 million into blockchain-based oil trading company VAKT, the company said in a press release. [more]




Israelis Can Now Go to Saudi Arabia For Religious Pilgrimages, Business Visits, Israel Says; Saudi Says ‘Our Policy is Fixed’


UPDATE: Saudi Arabia’a Foreign Minister said Israelis were not welcome to visit the kingdom, CNN reported on Monday. “Our policy is fixed. We do not have relations with the state of Israel and Israeli passport holders cannot visit the kingdom at the current time,” CNN quoted Prince Faisal bin Farhan as saying. [Reuters]


A new rule from Israeli leaders will allow Israeli Muslims to go to Saudi Arabia for religious pilgrimages and permit business trips to the Kingdom, according to reports. [more]



US expands troop, fighter jet presence at Saudi base

Via Lolita Baldor in militarytimes.com : Wednesday’s stop at Prince Sultan Air Base was the second time in a week that McKenzie has visited a military site in the Middle East where the U.S. recently set up Patriot batteries to protect against missiles fired by Iran and Iranian-backed militias in Syria and Iraq. The U.S. troop presence here has grown to roughly 2,500 since last summer, when the U.S. announced it had begun deploying forces to what once was a major U.S. military hub. The return of U.S. forces to Prince Sultan Air Base is one of the more dramatic signs of America’s decision to beef up troops in the Middle East in response to threats from Iran.

Saudi Arabia sees 8% drop in expat remittances to $33.5bn in 2019

Via Pedro Gonçalves in internationalinvestment.net : According to the figures from the Saudi Arabia Monetary Authority (SAMA), remittances by expats in the kingdom went down by 1.3% YoY to SAR32.5bn ($8.67bn) during the fourth quarter of 2019. Remittances fell by 8% YoY. The amount of money being sent by Saudis abroad back to Riyadh has also experienced a drop: those remittances shrank 3.6% YoY to SAR58.09bn ($15.49bn) in 2019.

Saudis Plan ‘Solar Dome’ Desalination Plants at Neom Mega-City

Via Vivian Nereim and Anthony Dipaola in bloomberg.com : Neom will have the world’s first “solar dome” desalination plants, which it said will produce no carbon emissions and create less brine than facilities using conventional reverse osmosis technology, according to a statement. The solar dome plants will also process drinking water more cheaply than conventional plants, at 34 cents per cubic meter, Neom said.  Unlike reverse osmosis, in which seawater passes through plastic membranes that remove the salt, Neom will pump ocean water into a dome-like structure of glass and steel. There it will be heated until it evaporates and precipitates as fresh water, Neom said.



Netflix screening ‘big boost’ to Saudi filmmakers

“Six Windows in the Desert,” a series of short films created by Saudis, will make its Netflix debut on Thursday, streaming in 190 countries. After buying...[via arabnews.com]


Saudi Officials Hold Talks with US Special Envoy for Syria

Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan bin Abdullah has met with US Deputy Assistant Secretary for Levant Affairs and Special Envoy for Syria Joel...[via aawsat.com]


More Than A Dozen Saudi Oil Firms Book Hefty Losses In 2019

A total of 14 Saudi companies in the energy sector booked hefty losses last year, Middle East Monitor reported on Wednesday, quoting analysts who had...[By Tsvetana Paraskova via oilprice.com]


Trekking to the Most Beautiful Wadi in the Middle East

Wadi Lejab is this magical spot somewhere on the map of the Al-Raith mountains in Saudi Arabia. After driving for 2 days from Riyadh, we...[By Eva zu Beck via youtube.com]


Inaugural Saudi Cup To Be Televised On FS1

Live coverage of the inaugural Saudi Cup airs Saturday, Feb. 29 at noon Eastern on FS1. The field for the Saudi Cup, the world's richest...[via paulickreport.com]


Can I Fly to Riyadh? Emirates Air to Limit Access to Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia suspended entry for nationalities holding tourist visas and coming from: Greater China, Iran, Italy, Korea, Japan, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Philippines, Singapore,...[By Layan Odeh via bloomberg.com]


Sports minister launches Saudi Games, Kingdom’s largest sporting event

The event will feature 40 games with the participation of 35 sports federations in 18 venues within Riyadh....[via arabnews.com]


Aramco Is Said to Start Early Preparations for Overseas Listing

The world’s largest publicly traded company is in discussions with Wall Street banks to draw up scenarios for a second listing overseas, according to the...[By Matthew Martin, Dinesh Nair, and Ishika Mookerjee via bloomberg.com]


Saudi cuts March oil volumes to China by at least 500,000 bpd

Saudi Arabia, the world’s top oil exporter, is reducing crude supplies to China in March by at least 500,000 barrels per day (bpd) due to...[By Alex Lawler via reuters.com]


Saudi Aramco Open to Share Sales Abroad to Fuel Economic Plans

Saudi Arabia is planning to sell more stakes in state-owned oil producer Saudi Aramco as it looks to raise money to fuel an economic diversification...[By Matthew Martin via bloomberg.com]


China Virus

Fed chair sees China virus as possible risk to world economy

Speaking at a news conference, Powell said the signing of a preliminary U.S.-China trade deal earlier this month, the resolution of Brexit and continuing low...[By Christopher Rugaber via apnews.com]


Trump Peace Plan

Arabs prioritize key ties with U.S. against Iran in reacting to Trump peace plan

Egypt and Jordan, which already have peace deals with Israel, as well as Bahrain, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) used similar language that...[By Stephen Kalin and Amina Ismail via reuters.com]


Trump Peace Plan

Palestinians push U.N. action over U.S. peace plan, Abbas to speak at U.N. Security Council

However, the United States is certain to veto any such resolution, diplomats said, allowing the Palestinians to take the draft text to the 193-member U.N....[By Michelle Nichols via reuters.com]


Trump Peace Plan

Kushner says he hopes Israel waits on sovereignty steps in West Bank

In the interview, he also voiced U.S. displeasure with the Palestinians, who rejected the plan announced by U.S. President Donald Trump on Tuesday, accusing them...[By Jeffrey Heller via reuters.com]


Anti-ISIS Campaign

UN report warns ISIS is reasserting under new leader believed to be behind Yazidi genocide

The wide-ranging report, compiled by the UN Monitoring Team that tracks the global jihadi terror threat, refers to the group by its alternate name stating...[By Paul Cruickshank via cnn.com]



Libya civil war: Macron accuses Erdogan of meddling in conflict

Mr Macron said the presence of Turkish warships was "a clear violation" of what President Erdogan had pledged in Berlin on 19 January during a...[via bbc.com]



Commentary: Bean counters, not bullets, are key to Afghanistan’s future

But a near blackout of information on the effectiveness of U.S. programs in Afghanistan is threatening to increase waste, fraud, abuse and malfeasance on projects...[By Todd South via militarytimes.com]



Soldiers, Militants Killed In Shoot-Out In Northwestern Pakistan

Two Pakistani soldiers and five militants have been killed in a shoot-out in the northwestern region of North Waziristan, the military says. The army said on...[via rferl.org]



Iran: House to vote on measures reining in Trump’s military action

Votes on the two measures to rein in the President come after the House voted earlier this month to approve a war powers resolution aimed...[By Clare Foran and Holmes Lybrand, CNN via cnn.com]


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