AlUla residents turn to trees to boost their income
How Saudi Events Company Midwam Elevated Tourism and Leisure Experiences to a Whole New Level
DUBAI: A Saudi company specializing in organizing entertainment and cultural events is taking tourism and leisure experiences in the Kingdom to a whole new level, as demonstrated by the recent AlUla Dates festival.
Events company Midwam has managed a multitude of sporting, cultural and musical extravaganzas. Its forte is delivering immersive experiences, in places like London, Paris, New York and Russia, that use the latest technology to awaken the senses.
Midwam claims to leverage augmented, virtual, and mixed reality as well as artificial intelligence to deliver “innovative, flexible, and intelligent solutions across multiple platforms.”
The company has worked on transformational events, including the first MDLBEAST Soundstorm music festival in Riyadh in December 2019, creating what it describes as “emotional and inspiring connections between people and brand”.
Its clients include leading Saudi organizations in the public and private sectors, including the Ministry of Culture, the Saudi Art Council and Misk Innovation.
“We’re in the business of creating ‘big impact’ – that’s the most important thing for me,” Khalid Al-Muawad, CEO and co-founder of Midwam, told Arab News. “If I don’t see ‘impact’ in the project, we don’t take it. We are very selective with our projects in terms of impact.
Over four weekends in October and November, the company has partnered with the Royal Commission for AlUla and the AlUla Dates Festival to give thousands of local and international visitors the chance to experience first-hand the rich heritage and of Saudi culture.
Once considered a lost city of the dead, AlUla has transformed in recent years into a living museum that houses the remains of ancient civilizations, important historical sites and archaeological marvels dating back 200,000 years.
Located in the northwest of Saudi Arabia and covering an area of over 22,000 square kilometers, it is known for its dramatic sandstone mountains and fertile oases. Thanks to its location in the Arabian Peninsula, at a crossroads of civilizations, AlUla was once the ideal resting place for traveling merchants who traveled great distances in trade caravans.
Midwam has used its event expertise to bring the region’s unique heritage to life through an authentic souk, traditional music and even a date auction.
“We are a company in Saudi Arabia that tries to explain to people that an experience should impact different sectors,” Al-Muawad said. “We’re scouring the market to show people how experiences can really reflect on them, how it can impact them, and be a great tool for people to engage.”
Launched in 2012 and based in Jeddah, Midwam has a diverse talent pool, including designers, developers, engineers, architects, storytellers and interior designers. With around 30 employees, 70% of whom are Saudi and half of whom are women, Midwam is in the business of hiring “the best of the best” when it comes to local talent, Al-Muawad said.
“We’ve been surprised by how many people are capable of various things when given the opportunity,” he said. “And I’m very thankful and thankful that we have such talent under our umbrella that is able to deliver.”
Perhaps thanks to his experience in the banking sector, Al-Muawad has a nose for investment opportunities. He identified such an opportunity when he spotted massive unmet demand for innovative cultural and entertainment environments that people can engage with.
“Gaming is about commitment,” he said. “How can you engage people with your product or your story? Considering the latest solutions, technologies and methods that are currently deployed in the world, the ordinary way of engaging with things has become boring, less appealing and less engaging.
“If you go to a bookstore, people want to use their hands, interact with the content, turn the pages, double click on a story and see a visual of it, go to its audio and listen to it rather than read it. These are all attractive tools and solutions that are there.
Such signs of changing market behavior have motivated the Midwam team to create experiences that target different aspects of culture, heritage, tourism, sports and entertainment through partnerships with businesses in Saudi Arabia. , the United States, Europe and the Far East.
“In a nutshell, an experience is a space that contains people with an offering and a journey, and that’s what we do,” Al-Muawad said. “We take spaces and turn them into a journey for people where they can engage with a story, a product, a scene, content, and they can go through stages in that journey and interact with any program or offer designed for this. space.”
When Midwam takes on a project, its team of architects, designers, engineers, developers, coders, and content providers combine their talents to bring ideas for human-centered experiential travel to life.
In AlUla, for example, the outstanding landscape provided a unique canvas which, in the words of Al-Muawad, could turn into a “magnificent magnet” for tourism by making the most of its outstanding natural beauty and heritage. old.
The Royal Commission for AlUla has developed a number of successful projects in the area over the past two years, but Al-Muawad believes there is still potential for growth.
Such growth is already underway; Following the framework set by Saudi Vision 2030, the Journey Through Time master plan was launched in April last year to establish AlUla as a major global tourist attraction.
Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who is chairman of the RCU, described the plan as “a leap forward to develop AlUla in a sustainable and responsible way and to share our cultural heritage with the world”.
RCU had a similar vision in mind when they hired Midwam to transform the AlUla Dates festival. Al-Muawad’s team created a traditional souk for the event, made up of local families selling their own produce, as well as an auction area for those selling dates in bulk. Entertainment was also planned, including a parade, storyteller, musicians and a children’s area.
“We had very positive feedback from the public,” Al-Muawad said. “It was a great opportunity for us, based in Jeddah and Riyadh, to interact with the people of AlUla.
“We were able to meet the farmers and understand the stories of the generations who inherited this activity of growing and selling dates. So it was a very interesting trip for us too.
Al-Muawad believes cultural engagement like this is a powerful tool for people from diverse backgrounds to better understand each other. Saudi Arabia and its people have always pioneered hospitality, he said, with a genuine love of welcoming visitors.
“It’s not just something in Saudi Arabia,” he added. “It’s been a feature of the Arabs for quite a long time. When we were out in the middle of the desert, on camels and in tents, we always had visitors and that was something important — and it still is. .
“So it’s important that within AlUla, when we give people the opportunity to engage with citizens and locals, they understand how nice they are and how interested they are in the field of agriculture and how they have inherited it for generations.
“Once you learn about it, you learn more about this culture and understand the importance and significance within Saudi Arabia itself.”