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Finding the joy in accepting with grace!

WSB Admin 25/11/2019 0

By Lizzie Daniell

Finding the Joy in Accepting with Grace!

I was recently reminded by a gorgeous friend of mine that giving and receiving are life’s greatest pleasures.

Not sure if you are like me, but I was brought up to believe and remember daily that GIVING is a sense of love, and love is a wonderful feeling that enriches us all, something I covered in one of my earlier blogs.

But is it easy to ACCEPT?  Now that is interesting… isn’t it?

We know the feeling is incredible; it’s the kind of thing that makes the person giving feel valued, joyous and happy they made the effort. So why do we occasionally squirm and make a mockery, or deflect when we are complimented… or is this just me?

Why is it not always easy to open up our heart and mind to accept the gift of receiving?

  • Do we see ourselves as unworthy?
  • No one showed us how to receive?
  • Do we think there is an ulterior motive?
  • Do we feel we need to reciprocate?
  • Did anyone show us how to accept when we were growing up?
  • Do we find it difficult to do ourselves?

It is really interesting, but acceptance is something that I occasionally find difficult to do or practice. When someone says, ‘you did so well’, ‘you look wonderful’, ‘thank you for help, here is a little gift’ – I deflect! Rather than just giving a big smile, showing joy and saying ‘thank you’.

Why do I do that?

Whilst bringing up my two amazing daughters and two wonderful stepsons, I tried to make sure I showed them honour and love and teach them the gift of acceptance (something I was blessed enough to have learnt from my own amazing family), so that they felt enabled to carry on this wonderful tradition – which they often mirror back to me, and others.

Maybe society, where we are in life and difficult situations can sometimes take us away from our truth and this could be where I am sometimes – sorry, kids!!

But a recent experience helped me get back in my truth and practice what I preach.

I had to have an operation (which appeared as a curveball) here in Saudi. I was a little nervous and instead of focusing on positivity and believing that ‘all will be well’ – under grace and in the perfect way! – I decided to lock into the negative situation that was being thrown at me, and I listened to what others would do in my situation (not good).

I suppose I did this as I felt frightened – and a little bit scared – of what was to come, which meant I was not being myself and trusting the universe.  But a little bit of magic, in the shape of a wonderful nurse called Helen at Kingdom Hospital, came into my life. It’s almost as if she knew what I was thinking, knew my fears and what I needed to hear – a little angel sent with joy! She spent so much time with me, reassuring me (before and after the operation), going over and beyond her normal duties with so much care. What a gift! One I truly needed to honour and accept with grace and wonder. Her words, smile, help and general being were just what I needed to remind me that giving and receiving are some of life’s greatest pleasures! (Oh and the operation went really well and I’m now recovering quickly).

I might not always get it right moving forward, but this experience will stay with me and remind me that people on this earth are wonderful and it’s important to accept and show it!

Wishing you all a wonderful December of Giving and Receiving. With so much joy and love until next time.

To be part of my community please view my website or if you would like to share your thoughts and experiences, please email me


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Strengthen the human bonds in homes and communities

WSB Admin 25/11/2019 0

By Sree Mythili Vardhan

Festivals are a part of our life. Festivals are meant to be celebrated together by bringing in family and friends, remembering those who are far from us, and offering prayers for those who are underprivileged. I am from India, known as ‘the land of festivals.’ There is a festival being celebrated almost every week in some parts of India.

I want to elaborate on one widely known festival called ‘Diwali.’

We celebrate this great Indian festival every November and it is known for drawing people’s attention to the fireworks. According to Hindu mythology, it is the celebration of good over evil, light over darkness and knowledge over ignorance. Long ago, people use to decorate their houses by lighting diyas (lamps) to welcome their family members returning from the battlefield. Now, it is considered to be a festival of joy and happiness, celebrated together with family and friends.

In Riyadh, far from the motherland, we celebrated Diwali at Al Reem compound by inviting people of different nationalities to attend and experience Diwali. We offered some traditional food and lit diyas and small fireworks. Everyone participated enthusiastically and cherished the festive atmosphere. Usually in India, all the house exteriors are decorated with electric lights and interiors with colourful mandalas and clay diyas. I believe that living in an expatriate community, it is essential to learn, accept, and respect diverse cultures. There are different ways to celebrate this festival. Diwali can be celebrated by either bursting noisy crackers, donating to the less fortunate or offering sweets to the people of our community.

However, with much to share and celebrate, we still miss those people who guard our nation and ensure our security. It could be the army, navy, or air force whose families celebrate the festival without their loved ones at home. I remember the times when I and my family celebrated many festivals without my uncle as he was busy in military drills. I think our celebrations are incomplete without offering prayers to ensure the wellbeing of the soldiers and their families.


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Gifts that Tell a Tale: Saudi Heritage Crafts

WSB Admin 25/11/2019 0

By Arlen Gargagliano 

“Give me a week and I can teach you,” declares Bakria one of the palm weavers we collaborate with in Al Hofuf. I’m sitting across from her, feeling the warmth of her gaze, while being mesmerized by the constant movement of her fingers. She makes this statement in Arabic as she works—without watching—to blend the palm fronds into organized braids.

Bakria is just one of the many artisans Turquoise Mountain Saudi Arabia has the pleasure of representing.  It’s my job to watch, learn, and document the crafts and in this way, help to preserve the beautiful traditions, and keep their stories alive. Giving their crafts as gifts is another way of sharing the tales of their work.

My colleague and I are seated on the floor of a windowless room. Like Bakria and her daughter, we’ve removed our shoes at the entrance and sit on the rug and cushions. The sweet warm, rose-tinged air is as embracing as Bakria’s gaze.

Bakria’s smile widens as our awe increases.  She picks up coloured fronds in front of her and adds them into the mix, all without missing a beat.  Reminiscent of watching Gregory Hines—or Baryshnikov—move across a floor, we watch her fingers dance.

Bakria nods at one of her seven daughters, Ida, who’s seated on the cushions next to me. Ida picks up a bunch of natural coloured palm fronds and starts splitting them by tearing them in half using a fingernail.

“Shufti?” Bakria asks me if I’ve seen what Ida is doing.

I smile and nod a yes. My colleague says something to Bakria and though I don’t understand the words, I know she is telling Bakria that I’m loving the experience.

Bakria shifts into teacher role; she explains that after drying the palm fronds, and prior to weaving, they must be dampened slightly. She reaches to her side to show us a bunch of ready-to-weave palm fronds, cushioned in a damp tea cloth next to her.

“They’ll break if they’re too dry,” she tells my colleague to translate for her.

The door of Bakria’s studio opens, and one of her many young grandsons hands us bottles of water. She says she’s sorry that she doesn’t have more for us. I tell her that we are so grateful for her time—and that I want to come and live with her so that she will teach me palm weaving and Arabic.

“You are welcome,” she says. And she means it.

Note: The work of many of the artisans that Turquoise Mountain collaborates with can be found in the Radisson Blu gift shop, located adjacent to the reception area of their beautiful DQ hotel. You can follow Turquoise Mountain on Instagram.    

 Author Bio: Arlen Gargagliano, native New Yorker, mother of two, home chef, educator, former restaurateur, author/co-author of over 15 cookbooks and textbooks are currently working with Turquoise Mountain Saudi Arabia, a nonprofit dedicated to the support of Saudi artisans, and the preservation of Saudi heritage crafts, to document relevant information about the creation of these crafts.   Currently co-authoring, The Career Guide for Musicians: Turning Your Talent into Sustained Success, to be published in January 2021, with Julliard music professor and multi-Grammy Award-winning drummer and percussionist, Ulysses Owens Jr., Arlen most enjoys supporting people of all ages as they work to improve their skills in a myriad of areas.



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A little act of kindness

WSB Admin 25/11/2019 0

By Gladys Manalo from Marriott Hotel DQ

Working in a different country is difficult, it is not a walk in the park. Although there are plenty of positives, it is not without its challenges too. In addition, the place where we are working should be our second home and I can say that the thing that we need is to make a concerted effort to foster a culture of kindness in our workplace, that is so worth it!

Aesop said, “No act of kindness, however small is ever wasted. “ Yes, he’s right and we just need to build a workplace of kindness by simple gestures. Giving a compliment, inviting our colleague for lunch, or offering congratulations are all little acts of kindness that surely can build a strong culture of compassion, in this way, surely we can get a big smile!

Just to share, November 8th was the birthday of my boss, and it is his first month working with us, also it was his first time to work in an Arab country.  I know how he feels, it is so tough being far from his loved ones, to be in a place that has a big difference fr omthe culture where he grew up. As he told us, he never celebrated his birthday, but you can never imagine how he smiled, how his heart was full of happiness when he saw that all of us, his staff had gathered together holding a birthday cake and started a warm happy birthday song. He felt his importance to us, his eyes were full of emotion, while all of us were very happy to make him feel that he is at home away from home.

Act of kindness can happen in different ways. We can initiate the act or we can perform an act in response to a kind of act bestowed on us.  We could do something nice but regardless of which way we do it and to whom, the most important thing is we do it without any expectation of reward. I promise you, even a little act of kindness, will give immense satisfaction and pleasure!

What are you waiting for? Yallah, spread the act of kindness and start in your workplace! – by Gladys Manalo

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My African adventures with wild animals

WSB Admin 24/11/2019 0

By Deepa Thomas-Sutcliffe

I have always enjoyed volunteering my time and skills to benefit animals since my college days where I worked for a veterinary clinic treating dogs and horses in Mumbai as well as supported other animal charities at exhibitions, sales and marathons. As my professional life took off, time to volunteer was reduced until 5 years after I joined eBay and earned my first sabbatical. I had always dreamt of travelling to Africa so February 2010 saw me pack my bags (& mosquito patches) and off to the scenic beach town of Diani Beach in Kenya. I had signed up with the Colobus Trust to work with monkeys (vervet monkeys, blue monkeys, Colobus monkeys and baboons) for two weeks. While I worked in animal care (this covered enrichment and feeding the monkeys, rescue, baby-sitting an orphaned monkey, desnaring as some of our tasks) with a small bunch of international volunteers some of the time, I also used my marketing and communications skills to create a newsletter, create a film script, get their database organised and even show media and schoolchildren around the sanctuary. We lived a simple life in a dormitory-style cottage and had delicious local food cooked for us by the wonderful staff.

At the end of my decade with eBay in 2014, I gifted myself another volunteer holiday and sabbatical, this time in Zimbabwe at the wonderful Chipangali Wildlife Orphanage where again I worked in both animal care as well as in the office working on a newsletter, social media campaigns, brochures, mobile marketing etc. They had a wonderful daily tradition called Animal Time and volunteers were encouraged to hang out with and read, sing to or even talk to animals. I used to read Agatha Christie murder mysteries to animals of my choice including a hyena, a lion, a cervet cat etc.  I had 5 wonderful weeks on the second volunteer holiday again living in a cottage, hanging out with a lion cub Nkulu and his doggy friend Luna and doing some valuable work for a resource-constrained animal charity.

In 2017, I had moved to Delhi and left a high powered but stressful role and I definitely needed a sabbatical to clear my head and decide what I wanted to do next with my final year in India (My husband’s post was ending by December 2017 and we were moving countries). I took off again to Africa, this time to Malawi to Lilongwe Wildlife Trust which does some very inspiring advocacy work with the government and media to benefit animals. I got to work on some wonderful advocacy campaigns, gathering insights and preparing presentations for workshops with key influencers on the illegal wildlife trade. I did some limited animal care but my primary focus was working with the charity in the areas of advocacy and communications strategy.

So hopefully you are now curious and perhaps not familiar with the concept of a volunteer holiday. A volunteer holiday is one of the many ways you can contribute to charities and causes of your choice. Very simply, reputed organisations advertise for international volunteers on speciality websites. You identify the cause, organisation or geography you are passionate about, scroll through the options and send in your interest. The manager or volunteer coordinator gets in touch with you and you agree on your volunteer dates after paying a fee.

As a travel buff, I confess to many a happy wanderlust trip but the satisfaction of working with likeminded passionate people for a cause you care about cannot be beaten. My cause is animal welfare and wildlife conservation. I am sure you know yours or get inspired and try one you like the sound of.

The options are so many and can fit almost every cause. I used Responsible Travel in 2010 and Go Eco in 2014 and the charity website directly in 2017 but a quick internet search will offer up many options from teaching, conservation, farming etc.

The busy corporate world offers very little time to do something about the cause you care for many of us and we end up making the occasional donation, running a marathon or contributing by buying merchandise from the non-profit we want to support. A Volunteer Holiday offers you complete immersion – mentally and physically into the world you want to support and really helps you make a difference for the time you can spare. Hoping this post will help more of you think about this as a rejuvenation option.



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The Treasures of Tradition: A Saudi Perspective

WSB Admin 24/11/2019 0

By Dr. Delayl M. Al-Qahtani with Arlen Gargagliano

Foreword by Arlen Gargagliano

Dr. Delayal M. Al-Qahtani, the current Chief Curator of the National Museum, boasts a myriad of accomplishments in the realm of Saudi heritage. Her MA thesis, Women’s Traditional Ornaments in Asir Province, and doctoral thesis, Al Sadu and Traditional Knotting in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia led to the publication of two of her many books. As part of her extensive research, she’s been an active participant in many seminars and lectures, as well as a leader of several female teams, both inside and outside the Kingdom.

I had the pleasure and honour of meeting Dr. Delayl in her office in the National Museum in Riyadh. She is not only a woman of many accomplishments but also one who works from the heart; her passion for her family and her profession shines through all of her conversations and work. Soft, smiling, and with a gentleness that weaves you in, her stories of sadu and other crafts are such a part of her life; you feel she is bringing you right in and showing you all that she’s lived through and seen. Hearing her life story reminded me of a quote by the poet Maya Angelou: “We delight in the beauty of the butterfly, but rarely admit the changes it has gone through to achieve that beauty.”

“Life is not easy. You will have problems, but you have to focus on what you want.”

My childhood was similar to others in Saudi at the time. My mother, my dad’s second wife, raised my four sisters and three brothers and me, in our home in Riyadh, which we shared with my father’s other wives. Maybe, today someone would look at this and think it was a problem. But then, it was normal. Together we were a family of 21 children. The other wives were my aunties; the other children were my siblings and playmates.

When we were little, my mother animatedly recounted chapters of her Bedouin upbringing and repeatedly reminded us, “you are living a good life!” Mom told us of her seven-year-old life when her responsibilities included the care of sheep and camels. Though we all loved to hear her stories, we didn’t appreciate what she had done. Despite the fact that she didn’t read and write, she was determined, creative, and inquisitive—and the person everyone in the family home always consulted if they had a problem or needed a helping hand.

                               Sadu on a loom

Additionally, she was always an advocate of education—ours and then her own. And here’s a great example of that: one of my brothers earned the opportunity to study in the United States. My parents were very supportive, and so he went. While he was away, he wrote and sent us many letters (this was before WhatsApp and computers!). My mother loved hearing from him. When the letters arrived, she would ask one of us children to read his letters aloud. At one point, she declared that wanted to understand directly what her son was writing to her. So, with eight children and a household to care for, she decided to study Arabic reading and writing in a special school for people who didn’t have the chance to study before. She got up early to make us all breakfast, she prepared lunch for us, then studied five days a week, until 6 pm, when she would then come home to make dinner for us all. I was seventeen years old at the time, but I remember she studied for three years, and in that time, she met her goal: she learned to read and write Arabic and was able to read the Quran—and her son’s letters.

Fast forward to my education and early adult life: I started my studies at King Saud, but then my husband got the opportunity to study criminal justice at Lewis-Clark College in Idaho, so we moved to America. Actually, he stayed for four years; I was just there for two. I moved back home and got a job outside Riyadh. It wasn’t a bad position, but I wanted something more.

                                                                       Sadu photo from Sami Altokhais

It was my father who told me that my commute to work was too far (back then women were very far from driving), and suggested that perhaps I could attend King Saud University. I had my first baby, and then I enrolled and started majoring in Islamic Studies. There I broadened my knowledge about not only Islam but the history of Saudi Arabia. I loved studying and decided to go on for my MA. By then I had two little girls, and we were living with my husband’s family. My husband, thankfully, was very supportive. My sister-in-law –who also lived in the same complex — was hugely helpful and we shared chores; she prepared the lunches (I was in school) and I prepared dinners. Life was not easy, but I focused on what I wanted.

For my master’s degree, I chose to focus on our traditional Saudi jewellery making. At that time, my father-in-law had a lot of connections with Asir, so it was easy and convenient for me to travel there, the location of a lot of silver and Saudi heritage jewellery work, to meet the jewellery makers in their small shops. At first, the travelling was difficult; my aunt and uncle would consistently ask, “How can you go and leave the kids?” But, like my mom, I was determined. Luckily, my husband was very supportive, and so I continued my work both in the field and at home. I attended many informational workshops (once the committee approved my thesis), and in between travelling and school, I gave birth to my third daughter. At that same time, my husband’s work was getting better and better and so we moved into our own home. Though my sisters were travelling the world, I wanted to stay closer to Saudi Arabia and do research; I focused on my family—and research—and alhamdulillah, all was good.

Working with the artisans sparked a secondary desire: I wanted the artisans to be proud of their craft. I wanted them to recognize the value of their work, which, contrary to what they seemed to believe, went way beyond production. I told them, “This is not easy! This is a great job!”

My days weren’t easy then either. I started my research after everyone was asleep, and worked until 6 am; I made breakfast and slept until 1 pm. Okay, I did have the luxury to have someone assist with cooking and cleaning. Yet—at times it was quite challenging. Nevertheless, I enjoyed every single moment.

                                                                                  Sadu photo from Sami Altokhais

When I started working with the sadu artisans, and doing my research, to the delight of the weavers—I helped them recognize that they knew more than they thought they knew! For example, I reminded them that their work started with their choosing the right sheep for the wool that they would use to weave. They declared, “Right!” followed by “How did YOU know that?” I remembered the sadu work of my grandmother, and reminded them, as I learned from her, that many of their sadu-making steps may seem small, but in fact that they are crucial. And like that, I recognized that my mission of promoting their work and making them realize that their work was valuable and had to continue.

I’ve visited many archeological sites, and did a lot of research about our folklore, authored more than five books to date, and my work at the museum, which now marks its 20th year, is the marriage of my research and life experience. Additionally, I’ve been able to assist in the support—in terms of both time and money—of my husband and our family.  I enjoy bringing the mission of the museum to Saudi children. My key messages to young Saudis is the same as the one that I gave to my own children, grandchildren, and the artisans I’ve met throughout the years: You have to be proud of your heritage—and the richness and diversity of Saudi handicrafts. Additionally, I tell them all, “Life is not easy. You will have problems, but you have to focus on what you want.”


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WSB Inspiring Woman; Azzah Aldeghather – Mimaria-I Architectural Consultants

WSB Admin 24/11/2019 0

By Sally Kennedy

As we go forward into a new year in Saudi Arabia, each month bringing more and more freedoms and opportunities to women,  we are inspired this month by a lady who has been pushing boundaries and being  “Liberated” by her own sheer will for a long time – opening doors for herself and others to work and be professional.

Azzah Al Deghather is a Saudi lady, born in Rome to a diplomatic family.  She lived the expat life as she travelled with her parents to Ethiopia, New York City (seven years), Somalia, Lebanon and the UK being educated, exposed and growing up elite.  From a family who greatly valued education (her two paternal aunts were educated in Iraq as engineer and chemist), there was no question that she would be a professional.

However, life has never been stable in the middle east and she was in multiple schools due to travel, changing political situations and “life.”  Between Connecticut , Beirut, a very conservative school in Berkshire, UK; she excelled and eventually graduated secondary school.

Starting in the American University in Beirut as a pre-med, she discovered after a year and a half that her passion was not medicine……..having friends studying architecture exposed her to design courses and a whole new creative future.  Women were not allowed to be licensed architects in Saudi Arabia…….her family did not approve……and once again war started in Lebanon. She went to Somalia and Kenya where her father was stationed and needed to change universities.   Her parents agreed to allow her to study architecture if she could get accepted to one of the top ten architecture schools……a challenge not to be lost. She gained acceptance to Syracuse University, New York and graduated with a five year Bachelor of Architecture Degree.  After graduating, she had a choice between a Master’s degree and a job in New York City.

However, life interfered…..her father was ill and mother had passed during her university days……coming back to check on her father……life’s responsibilities kept her in Riyadh……

But women were not allowed to be licensed as architects then……no one would train or hire her due to restrictions in the workplace, especially as a Saudi female. Qualified, passionate about her profession, how could she go forward?  Perseverance and determination led her to working and connecting any way she could, with support from the Arriyadh Development Authority, (called “the test-tube baby”), …….she was able to grow; from giving workshops for philanthropic societies to women’s groups to advising women on interior design……..and if you get out and get active, people will notice…….! People started to hire her to advise on design……still not licensed she would have to work with a male-owned organisation to sign off on her work. She did what she had to do to continue…….finally she sent a letter to King Abdullah (GRHS), explained her situation (by then expat women could be licensed but not Saudi) and eventually got a reply of “no objection.” Bureaucracy kept her application going around in circles…….she kept pushing……contacting people……determined to get her license.  Eventually, due to her insistence, in 2006 there was a royal decree allowing Saudi women professionals in all fields related to Engineering, Architecture and Interior Design to be licensed!!!

Azzah changed the world! She was the first licensed female Architect and consultant in Saudi Arabia.

She has her own consulting firm Mimaria Architectural Consultants who have worked consistently, placed in National and International Competitions, trained and certified in Earth Block and Rammed Earth Construction, she also has been researching theories on the relationship of Islamic Principles to Modern Urban Planning.

Saudi woman……expat life…….surely proving that determination, perseverance and strength of belief in yourself and your inherent rights can prevail.

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Communicating sustainability in Saudi Arabia: A profile of AEON Strategy

WSB Admin 27/10/2019 0

What was the inspiration behind starting AEON Strategy?

The founders of AEON have always seen the value of sustainable practices and the importance of inclusivity and social equity in development. They understood the necessary synergy between policy and advocacy that is needed to push change and accelerate progress. Pursuing such a path lead them to complete their Master’s degrees in international affairs at Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs. It was there – through cross-disciplinary coursework, and by working closely with faculty from the policy department and the earth science department – that they became inspired to pursue careers at the intersection of energy and environmental policy.

What are the company’s main focus areas?

AEON strategy is a sustainable development advisory firm. Based in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, AEON is one of the first local firms that provides consultation and conducts studies on topics related to climate change and the future of energy. AEON’s services cover multiple topics related to sustainable development, working at the intersection of energy, environment, and socioeconomic progress. In parallel, AEON operates a non-for-profit research collective that is separately endowed. Centred within the sustainability ecosystem, AEON engages a wide network of contributors to its collective through multiple initiatives and activities to build on experiences and expertise and further inspire a community of collaboration and promote a deeper understanding of topics and the complexities that lie within it. Their lecture, workshop and discussion series as well as their collaborative effort “Saudi Sustainability Talks Series” aim to promote a deeper understanding of issues related to sustainable development and the complexities that lie within it. As propagators of knowledge, the collective also produces knowledge pieces ranging from accessible narratives on sustainability topics, to more in-depth studies. They are also launching an Artist in Residence program to further communicate sustainability through the humanities.

AEON Strategy’s Riyadh office

When did AEON Strategy begin?

The idea of forming their own company had been an ongoing discussion since their time at graduate school. When they moved back to Riyadh, each of the founders pursued a separate career. In late 2016 however, they decided that to achieve what they wanted to achieve, they needed to build their own model and sought organic growth by addressing niche markets. AEON strategy officially began its operations a year later.

Can you talk about some of the main projects you are working on in Saudi Arabia? Any projects in Riyadh?

For the moment all of the projects are in Riyadh, although AEON does leverage global partnerships; in the US, UK, and Europe. The founders have worked in both the residential and commercial sector to address energy efficiency needs, providing support and strategy guidance to local and international entities.

What is next for AEON?

Between the various programs under Vision 2030 and as Saudi prepares to take over the G20 Presidency for the year 2020, a lot of momentum is happening. AEON sees itself contributing to various efforts through its activities and engagements with various stakeholders, to pursue a shared national vision for prosperity and position the country at the forefront of advancement in development and sustained progress.

Can you share an overview of sustainability in the Kingdom?

Sustainability in Saudi Arabia is a burgeoning field. Thanks to an emphasis from the leadership in our government, every major corporation knows that it needs to have a strategy for sustainability. We are very encouraged by all the efforts being made in Saudi Arabia from the policy side since the Paris Agreement in 2015 and the adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals earlier that same year. There remains a lot of work to be done however, addressing knowledge gaps and capacity constraints are one of the main areas of focus.

Where can WSB Readers read about you (website, social media),,, @aeonstrategy (Twitter & Instagram)

Can you share some tips for leading a sustainable lifestyle in Riyadh?

The term sustainability is broad and covers multiple facets of a person’s life; ranging from managing one’s finances to repurposing personal items, using and reusing environmentally friendly materials for packing and storage. It could also refer to how one contributes back to society. The concept of sustainability is generally concerned with the economic, environmental and social aspects of our lives. It presents itself differently and can take multiple forms depending on circumstances and mean different things to different people. The aim in our belief is to be mindful of the impact of one’s activities and the choices they make, how a decision could impact one’s personal life, how would it affect society, and what impact would it have on future generations. From an ecological and environmental perspective, one could begin by adopting practices that are easy to sustain. Build on the surrounding infrastructure and ecosystem to enhance awareness around sustained practices to promote and push for a stronger culture of environmental stewardship.

Mashael Al Shalan and Noura Al Saud are the founding partners of AEON Strategy.

For more information, please contact or


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The story of a green dream

WSB Admin 26/10/2019 0

By Muna Alamer

It is an idea that turned into a project that turned into a business that turned into a lifestyle. When we started the business 8 years ago and as students, we had no idea that we will go this far and as partners, we often talk about how this business turned us to be better people.

Naqaa Sustainability Solutions is a social enterprise that provides environmental sustainability solutions and consultations for businesses across the kingdom specially in the field of recycling. We are an all-women managerial team as we were 4 partners who started the business in 2011 with this one vision of introducing recycling in our university’s campus and that was in Dar Al-Hekma University in Jeddah. 8 years later and we are proud enough to walk into fine dining restaurants with our eco-friendly metal straws.

In a country where 15 million ton of solid waste is produced on a yearly basis, it was never easy to explain the importance of environmental sustainability practices. However, we think that now is the time. Every day we meet people who share their interest and go the extra mile to do their part to help to preserve the planet.

Today, we have more than 50 clients in different parts of the kingdom and we have planned and executed many green campaigns to launch and promote green practices for some of the clients. We couldn’t be happier than to see how Naqaa is contributing to Vison 2030 by ensuring a sustainable life in the kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

Environmental sustainability matters have never been this urgent but the awareness has not been this high either. What we find motivating is when we receive a call from a passionate employee who is usually a lady asking us how she could sell our services to her management.  This lady would meet us and do the needed homework simply because she finds not recycling is too frustrating and someone must do something to start somewhere. We are witnessing the positive change not only because of the change in environmental regulations but also because more women are joining the Saudi workforce and slowly imposing values like care, values that are helping all of us to be better human beings.

Muna Alamer

Co founder in Naqaa Sustainability Solutions

Instagram: @naqaaSustain

Twitter: @naqaasusstain



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Finding the joy in RECYCLING those thoughts

WSB Admin 26/10/2019 0

By Lizzie Daniell

As I sit here in my little part of the glorious world, I think about my positive consciousness and what I can do to try and make a difference today. I often do this in my morning affirmations and daily meditations – helps give focus to my day.

First and foremost, what will bring joy and help us all carry that smile?  And what needs to be sorted today?

It is important to me to try to be mindful of how I think, as I know this will form the thoughts and actions as I move forward. I have learnt from my many wonderful years on this earth that this way of being creates a calmer environment and happier lifestyle for me and my family.  But is it easy to do?

Hmm…. Is it? Well, I have to say it is something I have been practising for some time now (and preaching to my family) but not always easy to achieve; especially if I am having a difficult time, feeling stressed or just down. During good times, it can be easy to be mindful and remember my mantra “thoughts create things”, but when one is not in that state of mind it takes effort and wanting to recycle those thoughts and turn them into a positive!

Is it possible to change actions of the past by recycling or changing how we think today? My answer is yes – I can only speak for myself, but I believe it works!

One example I often refer to concerned my beautiful daughter as a young teenager at boarding school – hope you don’t mind me sharing your story, darling? For some reason she occasionally erred on the negative side of life back then, often believing the following….  ‘This won’t work, no one will listen, it won’t be nice weather, it’s going to rain’ and so it went on. Bit of an Eeyore, from ‘Winnie the Pooh’! 

So when she heard at the end of a summer term that it had been decided to reorganise the dormitory arrangements, she panicked and assumed the worst.  

For many weeks of the holiday she spent the time saying ‘I don’t want this room’ and ‘I don’t want to share with this person’, until I said to her, “darling, instead of saying what you don’t want, let’s try and focus on what you do want” – change those words!” 

So for the remainder of the summer holidays, she tried to refocus her thoughts and think about what she did want when school started again in September – I kept my fingers crossed. And as if by magic it worked – she received what she had been asking for/thinking about, which was also a great reminder to me that it works.

I suppose negative/unhappy thoughts come in all shapes and sizes:

  • Dislike of oneself
  • Past experiences
  • Patterns
  • Pain
  • Frustration at other people
  • Or just anger at the world,

…and so the cycle goes on.

Unless we decide to retrain/recycle those thoughts, take some responsibility when required and learn to forgive, life will continue on the same path.

So, this is all well and good, but how can we try to look at making those changes?

I read a study once, that if you want to get rid of unwanted, negative – recycled – thoughts, try just ripping them up and tossing them in the bin. It was found that when people wrote down their thoughts on paper and then physically threw the paper away, they mentally discarded the issues as well.

I also wanted to share other methods that I use to help me remember my mantra – thoughts create things:

  • Forgive yourself or another person, to move on from the past and release yourself from negative emotions and thoughts;
  • Meditation has been used for thousands of years to clear and free the mind;
  • Exercise – if that’s your thing;
  • Spend time with people you love;
  • Say 20 times a day ‘I love and approve of myself’ and ‘today I choose me’;
  • Try to let go and release the past;
  • Be mindful;
  • Stop feeling guilty;
  • Smile, laugh and find the joy;
  • Watch a funny film;
  • Stop being a people pleaser and seeking approval from others – believe in your own intuition;
  • Just do it! For one day do something that scares you, step out of that comfort zone and see how it makes you feel;
  • Decide to recognise, honour and let go of toxic relationships;
  • Visualise yourself as the person you want to be;
  • Let go of those regrets – they serve no purpose now;
  • And finally,… practice ‘self love’ 😊

I would be honoured to know how you try to recycle your thoughts and do let me know if you have any other methods that help – it’s a continuous journey.

With so much joy and love, until next time xx

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