Recent News

June Greetings!

WSB Admin 09/06/2016 0

As we conclude another very successful year and prepare to enjoy the summer holiday, WSB would like to announce that long-time Director and WSB supporter and advocate, Betsy Sharma, will be leaving. We extend our deepest gratitude for the hard work, dedication and commitment Betsy has exhibited for WSB. She is truly what this organization represents and we wish her and her family the best of luck on their new adventures!

Preparations are already underway for next season and we are excited to announce that Tamara Awwad has joined the WSB as Director. She is qualified and motivated, and will expertly continue our efforts to help women feel successful in Riyadh.

We want our subscribers and members to know that while we will not publish a newsletter in July and August, we will reply to emails and will do our best to give our “summer members” the support that they need!

Get to Know the New Director:

Tamara is a degree-qualified BA honours educated Jordanian specialising in Leadership and Management and Accounting. She has a career background in the finance and business sectors with positions held in Ernst and Young, one of ‘The Big Four’ audit companies as well as experience in Major Banking, Legal and Health sector companies. Working and specialising in Accounting and Finance, Human Resources and Organisational Effectiveness, Tamara’s reputation is second-to-none.

Highly motivated and driven by the needs of others, Tamara brings a wealth of experience as a working female and fully understands the requirements and nuances of working as an expatriate in Saudi Arabia. Tamara has great experience and knowledge in Marketing and Event Management where she has successfully delivered a number of high profile business and networking events here in the Kingdom. Tamara’s interests include: horse riding, swimming, reading and traveling.

Welcome to the team Tamara!

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Oman

AC Depierreux 09/06/2016 0

For Easter holidays we once again (over) packed the car and headed to the UAE to then continue our road towards Oman. After a stopover at friends in Abu Dhabi, we spent an afternoon in Al Ain slept there and finally arrived in Oman stopping on our way to visit the beehive tombs and settling for two night in Nizwa. We left early the next day in order to catch a nice light on Jebel shams and visited Nizwa fort on our way back.

Beehive tombs

 

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Jebel Shams

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Al-Hamra mud village

 

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Niwza Fort

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We had decided to cross the very scenic Wadi Bani Awf on our way to Muscat. The road was tricky and sometimes scary but definitely worth it:

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We had lunch at the entrance of the small snake canyon and then enjoyed a small walk inside the canyon. Finally out of the Wadi, we went to see Nakhla fort and arrived quite late in Muscat.

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Muscat was interesting to visit but as we aren’t big fans of cities we were happy to spend one day there: the fish market, the Corniche, the Souq, the Sultan’s Palace and Al Mirani fort. All these places are close to one another.

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Our next day, we visited Wadi Shab and Wadi Tiwi. We loved the 1st one!! You park your car, jump on a boat and after 2 minutes you can begin your walk up the Wadi. We each carried one kid across the water but at times the water was up to our hips: what a challenge!

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Wadi Tiwi was promoted as a “must see” but, although the views were fine we definitely preferred its sister Wadi.

My husband went to see the turtles during the night. You’re almost guaranteed to see at least one. The pictures are pretty bad as no flash photography is allowed to avoid disturbing the animals.

 

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Turtles

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We then spent a beautiful afternoon and a night in the desert. Compared to Saudi these “fake” Bedouin camps are a bit too “settled” for us but the site in itself as well as meeting with fellow travellers was nevertheless really enjoyable.

 

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The next days were uneventful as we moved up North in 3 days stopping by the UAE to finally arrive to Musandan. This part of Oman is really different from the rest and worth a visit. It is actually called the Omani fjords:

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The classic boat tour allowed us to enjoy the landscape in the company of dolphins:

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After a night in Khasab we passed by the UAE (again) and reached the border in 3 days visiting Sharjah, some friends in Dubai and the Liwa Oasis at the Saudi border.

After 4500km in 16 days, we were all happy to settle back to our everyday life.

 

 

 

 

 

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My Journey in KSA – “Third Impression”

Francoise Toussaint 09/06/2016 0

Today is a special day for me because summer is upon us and that means schools are closed and I will get to go back to my home country.

However before the summer break, my childhood friend encouraged me to participate in a car rally in France exclusively for women! The race will begin in Paris and end in Saint Tropez whilst driving old classic cars.

Last August, my childhood friend approached me and proposed for me to join the car rally. Back then I was not yet settled in KSA. I realise now that I live in a country where women cannot drive. Isn’t it ironic?

The rally is a sportive event and it is quite challenging. We will not be competing on merely speed level but rather on how well the best team is capable of reading and analysing the road in order to achieve and reach each stage at the appointed time.

The name is ‘Rallye des Princesses’ and it will be held from May 28th until June 2nd when we will reach Saint Tropez.

But since we should not simply pretend to behave and drive as princesses, we’ve decided to take on a bigger slice and run for a French foundation – l’Etoile de Martin – (Martin’s Star) which raises funds for children affected by cancer. (Please find below the link of the charity)

https://letoiledemartin.fr/

If you want to follow us please do not hesitate to look at our Facebook page called – ‘Un Rallye pour Martin’.

https://www.facebook.com/rallyemartin/

I wish you a wonderful summer and I look forward to sending you new impressions when we are back in Riyadh!

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My Journey in KSA – “Second Impression”

Francoise Toussaint 16/05/2016 0

I have now been living in Riyadh for about four months – with a positive attitude – despite a strange feeling I’ve started to have: everything here is crystal clear, except when it gets confusing.

Rules are to be followed, but there is always more than one way to reach your goal. I was talking of open-mindedness in my previous article. Today, I feel that nothing is cut-and-dry.  Nothing is black and white.

During my entire trip, while meeting business men and women, I could not reach a conclusion as to how people do things. I said that I had yet to find women managers in large companies; and then, I found myself meeting the Head of Diversity for the largest company of the country. What a title! I love it and I truly believe this is to be the future of all enterprises around the planet.

When I asked if women could be attorneys at law the first answer given was no; and then I realised that, in fact, it is actually possible – just not including the full activity spectrum like a man. I discovered that there are law firms that do have female lawyers.

Everything can be done, studied and achieved with success.

In KSA you stand at a crossroads of everything in the world. You can find here every brand, all the technology and equipment available all over the world (and more!), from the most famous quality cars to the most fashionable handbags. I recently bought myself a new computer with a processor not yet available in Europe, and still incredibly expensive in the US.

As stated previously, nothing is black and white, and work should perhaps be given a higher value in the mind-set of the younger generation. On the other hand, this is not only true or relevant for Saudi Arabia but for kids everywhere. “Everything immediately” has become the youth’s newly found motto and ‘effort’ doesn’t exist in their language as it did in the lives of our grandparents.

It takes time and effort and determination to achieve a goal – no matter what that goal is. And a solid education is a key component in being able to reach nearly any objective.  There are, however, many paths to take to arrive at the same destination.

That is what keeps life interesting.

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Inspiring Women: Nouf

Evelyne Fallows 16/05/2016 0

Nouf makes me laugh. She has that uncanny ability to turn every story or anecdote into bursts of laughter and giggles.

She’s in her early 60’s, a mother of eight, a grandmother, a businesswoman, an entrepreneur, a traveler, a foodie and so much more. Every time I see her, she has new ideas, new plans, new projects. She’s very active with her family, business and community.

I find her story fascinating.

Nouf comes from a small village outside of Riyadh. She has shared with me stories of her childhood, her family and growing up in the 50’s. Her mother was illiterate yet open minded, very generous. The house was always open and welcoming.

She got married at 18, right after graduating from high school. After the children were born, she decided to start her own business and go back to school. Her husband, slightly older and a businessman himself, approved but warned her it would be at her own risk. She had to fund her studies and business. He would support her but not back her up.

So she took up the challenge. Went back to school, learned, made some mistakes and bad investments but step by step her business grew. Eventually things turned out well. She is very proud to say today she did it all by herself. She’s the owner of several boutiques, cafes and restaurants, a gym, a salon. But she’s also engaged in the community to help disabled children…she seems unstoppable.

I admire that energy, her desire to go forward and improve, to learn, and to grow. I enjoy her stories and benevolent humor about people around her. Never arrogant nor judgmental.
She can be very casual, in gym clothes and no make-up. On other occasions she can be regal in dressed up attire.

I love seeing her taste and enjoy food with gusto and then tap her belly and laugh, saying she needs to do something about that.

But mostly I love her love for her country, people, culture and religion. Her acceptance of the “new generation” as she calls it (including her children) who want a different kind of lifestyle. I love her tolerance of different choices and opinions.

She’s a lady. A real inspiration to women of all generations.

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Weight Loss Diets

Evelyne Fallows 02/04/2016 2

According to the National Eating Disorder Information Center, 95% of people who go on a weight loss diet will regain all the weight (if not more) within 1 to 5 years.

Yet, all around us, in magazines, on TV, on the internet, new diet programs pop up.

The low fat diet, the high protein diet, the 80/20 diet(80% of the time you eat a balanced and healthy diet), the cabbage soup diet, the green tea diet, the low sugar diet…one lady I know even went on a coffee diet. She very excitedly told me that “all you drink is coffee and it works, you lose the weight!”

Well yes…but what happens after the diet, when you go back to your regular eating habits?

I’ve seen so many women struggle with their weight, obsessed with the scale, going from one nutritionist to the other, trying new diets, yo yo dieting, feeling hopeful, then disappointed…and starting all over again.

And that’s precisely the problem; selling “magic” products (pills, tea, ready to eat meals…) or diet programs to people who feel unhappy, desperate, and fragile.

None of these are sustainable.

So what is the long term solution? I think the first step is AWARENESS.

Look at your own eating habits, activity and/or fitness levels, without comparing yourself to others.

*What are your eating habits? The types of food you like/can you do without? Do you binge eat, skip breakfast? Do you need sweets at night? Can’t stop eating chips/chocolate once you start?

-To help you become more aware of your own eating patterns, I suggest you write a food blog or diary, the time you eat, the food you eat and how you feel afterwards. Try to vary as much as you can to give your body all the nutrients it needs. And see what works best for you.

*What’s your activity level? Do you move a lot or spend most of the day sitting at the computer or on the couch? Do you play any sports?

-Being more active will definitely help. Try a new sport or activity. Get a workout buddy to train with you. Set yourself new goals.

*Think long term. Drop the diet mentality. What works best for you? Find your own sustainable, healthy and balanced eating plan. Eat less, exercise more. It seems deceptively easy but that’s the long term solution.

Are you ready? Have fun exploring new possibilities!

“The chief pleasure in eating does not consist in costly seasoning, or exquisite flavor, but in yourself”

Horace

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My Journey in KSA – “First Impression”

Francoise Toussaint 30/03/2016 0

What was the most impressive element upon my arrival in Riyadh? No need to say it, it was the temperature. I arrived on Sept. 3, 2015 and had the unpleasant feeling that I could no longer breathe. I had been previously warned by my husband but the stand-alone experience itself was a real shock. Still, this phenomenon is not a unique one and the sensation also appears in other places in the world, doesn’t it?

So what next, perhaps the traffic due to the number of cars, the workers from the Metro and the undisciplined drivers? Again, this cannot be a truly specific characteristic of any country around the world, but what surprised me the most is that drivers here even push their luck further by constantly checking their Facebook while driving; or even worse, watching a movie while driving! Of course, not when they are parked waiting for their passengers, no, only when they conveniently overtake your car from the right side because after all why not?!

I am not one for shopping and chit-chat, so I started meeting various business men and quickly gathered that all of them are highly educated, amazingly experienced and of great open-mindedness. What truly holds the greatest importance for me is meeting different people from all walks of life and allowing me to experience their different brains and characters. Of course that includes expatriates living in Riyadh and locals who I had the pleasure of meeting and just as easily, exceed my expectations.

What an amazing place to live!!

There is, of course, a hidden face to the moon.

Mostly, what disappointed me was that I cannot enjoy all the beautiful clothes I have in my wardrobe. Why? Simply because it would be a joke to dress up while I am staying in my compound, and when I am running my errands I am in my abaya so it is pointless. How ironic for a girl who once upon a time worked for designers many, many years ago!!

The opportunity to dress up arises during coffee mornings; when a bunch of ladies go up and organise coffee mornings to show off their beautiful new dresses or coats, shirts and new pair of jeans, jumpers or sweaters. There is no need here to focus on an attire you could have worn in a previous life. You may nevertheless find yourself wearing long dresses and cocktail gowns that you could have never imagined before. At the Princesses Souk you will find as many dresses as the eye can see. KSA is definitely a country with top-notch market opportunities in terms of fashion designers and apparel.

As you can see; positive attitude is essential and detrimental to finding ways to make out the best of everything.

All I can say is welcome to Riyadh, and don’t be afraid to explore what you have never faced before.

Don’t miss “My Second Impression” of Riyadh in the May WSB Newsletter!

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Trip to Japan

AC Depierreux 30/03/2016 0

I have just arrived from a 2 week condensed trip to Japan: 14 days: Tokyo-Matsumoto-Kyoto-Hiroshima-Tokyo.

First of all: Japan IS different and I’ll explain a bit further down the page why.

I had booked an Airbnb in Tokyo and Kyoto and a hotel in Matsumoto and Hiroshima. We made the majority of our trips by train as we had opted for the Japan Rail Pass a real bargain as you can use it both between cities and inside the big ones.

Tokyo is a crazy city of some 13 million people. The pace is quick and ordered and you can see quite parks, (super) high buildings and small calm streets, people walk around dressed pretty “normally” (dark colours, business like attire) but that doesn’t stop you from seeing the “today I live in a manga” kind of dress or “I rebel strongly against society”. Food is available at every corner as nearly everywhere in the country.

Ladies dressed traditionally in a temple in Tokyo:

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We passed by Matsumoto for its castle and Onsen (these warm water Japanese baths).

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Kyoto is simply beautiful: an infinite quantity of temple and places to visit around. In 5 days, we visited: the Imperial Palace gardens, Daikoku-ji, Kinkakuji, the Bamboo grove, Fushimi, Koyasan, the manga museum, Nara and South Igashyama.

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Hiroshima was interesting and emotional although there was a bit of a lack of historical background. Even after visiting the museum, there was this impression that the bomb was dropped from nowhere from nobody without any kind of reason…

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Back in Tokyo we tried to go east and see Mount Fuji but we only spotted a small piece from the train and it was totally covered by the time we reached the view point.

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That is where you park your stroller:

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You queue respectfully without pushing or trespassing before getting on the train, when you want to take the lift or the elevator, to get your lunch… You follow the prepared path from the train onto the bus to the monastery (in Koyasan). There are toilets everywhere and they are super clean! Actually, everything is clean: floors in public transport, train stations, the streets, shops…. Japanese are respectful, polite, helpful and efficient. Food is readily available at all times: Japanese, Thai, Chinese, Italian, Nepalese, and Indian you name it. Whatever you order be sure that it will be carefully presented and packed in a lot of plastic if it’s a take away.

So, don’t be scared by the “it’s a super expensive country”. Food is cheap, and accommodation can be if you are flexible. Travelling around is OK if you plan your trips ahead and optimize your rail pass.

Book a plane ticket and come and check by yourself: you won’t be disappointed!

Tokyo tower:

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Robot restaurant:

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Cold weather:

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Manga family portrait:

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Geisha:

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Review: Acoustic Tea Lounge

Evelyne Fallows 30/03/2016 0

When I heard a friend recommend The Acoustic Tea Lounge, the name alone arose my curiosity and I decided to put it on my “to do list”.

I went for Saturday lunch with a friend. Located right next to Fauchon on Tahlia, it’s quite easy to find. Open from 9:30am to 12pm every day, it offers an extensive breakfast, lunch and dinner menu. Friday brunch is also available. The Lounge presents a different artist every month, typically showcasing Saudi and foreign painters and photographers. Currently the photos of Khalid Al Sudairy (a Saudi photographer) are on display.

While I was waiting for my friend, I got the chance to meet the owner, Samer Alhashim, who very graciously answered my questions and gave me some background information.

My first question was about the name…why Acoustic?

“Because I love the guitar and I hope one day to have a live guitar player,” she replied.

When I came in, some songs by the famous Lebanese singer Fayrouz were playing in the background. There was music throughout our lunch.

The atmosphere was relaxed and welcoming. The lounge is open and bright. There are no partitions, not even on request. When I asked Samer about the separation between Singles Section and Family Section, she replied, “If somebody wants a partition, we say sorry, we don’t have any.” The décor is modern, tasty and cozy.

Samer explained that she first opened a similar lounge in Al Khobar in 2007 and then in Riyadh in 2014. “There is no way I could have opened a place without partitions and with music in Riyadh back in 2007,” she explained.  Listening to her comments, I thought it was proof again that Riyadh is changing.

Samer recommended the Rose Latte and offered the croissants (plain and pistachio, the Isphana with saffron was not available unfortunately) on the house. The Rose Latte (coffee latte with rose water and a rose bud on top) was so good that we each had two. They were served with a delicious fine biscotto.

The croissants were deliciously fresh and crisp yet not too sweet. We then decided to try the Ottoman Morning (Shashooka poached eggs in tomato salsa with warm pita breads), very good too. A small dish of exquisite ground cumin was served along and gave a very nice enhanced flavor to the dish.

Finally we opted for the beetroot tartare (yogurt, walnuts and mint), served with warm bread and breadsticks. The portions are quite generous so we decided to stop there but will definitely go back.

The menu is quite extensive, offering healthy breakfast options (granola parfait, white omelette), Arabian pancakes, nice coffee and tea selection, sandwiches and freshly baked pastries.

The lunch and dinner menu offers salads, pasta and risotto, pizza, chicken quesadilla, avocado and beetroot tartare and much more. The desert menu is very appealing too, with 4 kinds of cheesecake, chocolate fondue, brownies, mille feuille etc

It was a very pleasant experience, the staff was efficient and friendly, and Samer told us the Greek chef will soon offer a new menu with low calorie dishes.

Check out www.acoustic-tealounge.com and acoustictealounge on Instagram.

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A Woman Who Walks With Purpose: Mrs. Jenny Canar

Fari Ardigo 10/03/2016 0

Mrs. Jenny Canar is a very highly motivated person. Every morning I see her at school, walking with confidence, smiling big to everyone, beaming with positivity and energy. It was a sunny Monday morning, when I was interviewing her, listening to her saying that “There is ALWAYS a way.” My hope here is that we all learn to be “fearless optimistics.”

Jenny Canar is Elementary School Principal at the American International School of Riyadh.

Jenny, could you please tell us a bit about yourself.

I grew up in a very small town in Chicago. I was always a very studious student and I ALWAYS wanted to work with kids. I started at the University of Iowa, and then I transferred to Illinois State University, graduated from there and did my student teaching in England in Brighton University.

I taught in the States for three years. My first international experience as a teacher was in Berlin, Germany, for two years. Then I had another two years of teaching experience in the International school of Indonesia.

I started my Masters through a college in New Jersey which had a satellite program in Majorca, Spain and I completed my Masters there, while I was working at Shanghai International American School. It was there that I met Dr. Brain Matthews, who is currently our superintendent. It was meeting him and having him as a professor for a class on supervision, when I started thinking about moving to Riyadh. I’ve been here now for six years. I started as the assistant principal, and have been the principal for the past five years. I love everything we do here. So I think I’ll be here for a while.

What have been your challenges as a principal?

As a principal, one of the initial challenges that I faced was definitely building relationships. When I became the principal, my first mission was to keep the trust built by the principal prior to me, intact.  Our school had already established itself as a wonderful learning community and I wanted to ensure that the reputation continued.

I met with parents because I wanted them to understand that here is a person who is very serious about her job and very serious about wanting an environment for children to learn and to grow and be happy.

When you’re working with adults with different cultures and working with children who carry those same cultural differences you must have TOLERANCE and you must be accepting. Here, I’ve learned some knowledge of PATIENCE, so what WAS a challenge in the beginning, ended up making me become a better person.

 What do you consider to be your strengths?

I have this attitude that there is always a way. There is always a way to solve a problem and there is always a way to make something better.

And I am NOT afraid of challenges. In order to really have an organization grow, you need to be constantly prepared to make changes. And sometimes those changes create some hardships. I want to make sure that everyone is armed with what they need in order to be successful, and when we have a little roadblock, I want that roadblock to be dealt with swiftly and painlessly.

I consider myself to be very enthusiastic. I’d say that my most unique quality is my very high level of ENERGY, which always motivates me. I don’t tire easily and this quality helps me a lot in leading the elementary school forward.

What does success mean for you, Jenny?

There is a quote from Ralph Waldo Emerson which I tend to repeat to myself and it’s the definition of success also for me:

“To laugh often and much; to win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children; to earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure; to leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch, or a redeemed social condition; to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded.”

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