Hajj minister says Saudi Arabia’s tech triumph ensured successful season

17/10/20

The efforts exerted by the government to ensure a hassle-free Hajj and the facilities provided to pilgrims at different levels were highly praised, most notably the health precautions of social distancing and adhering to health requirements. (SPA)

Kingdom harnesses all its potential to make pilgrims feel at home, prioritizing their safety: Muhammad Saleh Benten
JEDDAH: The Saudi Hajj and Umrah Ministry has shared some of the secrets behind what made the “exceptional” 2020 Hajj season a success, with zero transmitted cases of the COVID-19 pandemic.

In an exclusive interview with Arab News, Minister of Hajj and Umrah Dr. Muhammad Saleh bin Taher Benten said that the government utilized the latest technology to improve the pilgrim experience this season.
Speaking about his ministry’s efforts in preventing the spread of COVID-19, Benten said that it implemented precautionary measures in every phase of the pilgrimage, starting with the pilgrims being quarantined at home.
It also introduced institutional quarantine from the fourth to the eighth day of the Hajj, gave pilgrims electronic bracelets and enforced social distancing.
“For the second consecutive year, the ministry used the electronic platform through the ‘smart card’ application, taking into account the pilgrims’ special needs in terms of the journey’s organization and management,” he said. “The platform is a digital ID granted to the pilgrim that is directly linked with the ‘Smart Hajj’ application supervised by the ministry.”
He added that the digital ID contains the pilgrims’ personal, health and housing information, such as the numbers of their group, and which bus seat and bed has been allocated to them.
“It also enables pilgrims to know their special program, gathering points and times of departure. Moreover, the ministry registered pilgrims electronically by using an interactive platform that links 52 systems and is complemented by 30 governmental and nongovernmental bodies,” he added.
Relying on those services, the minister said, came as part of the ministry’s strategy to establish virtual platforms that reduce procedures, and keep pace with the technical development required to achieve the Saudi Vision 2030 goal to serve pilgrims.
With every Hajj season having its own challenges, the Hajj and Umrah Ministry has enjoyed success after success. However, the 2020 season put the ministry to an unprecedented test.
“As every year, Saudi Arabia harnesses all its potential and energies to make the Hajj season a success, prioritizing the safety and security of the pilgrims.

FASTFACTS
• When Saudi Arabia took the decision to hold Hajj for a limited number of people, it was keen to comply with all health and precautionary measures.

• This step was taken based on scientific decisions and thorough research studies that would ensure that pilgrims can perform Hajj rituals safely.

• The ministry and all Hajj-related authorities have learned many lessons from the last Hajj experience, where social distancing was implemented.

“However, last year’s Hajj was a little different with the whole world facing the COVID-19 outbreak. During the 2020 Hajj season, the Saudi government faced a rare and unprecedented challenge, and thanks to God, the Kingdom was able to address it,” he said.
He added: “When Saudi Arabia took the decision to hold Hajj for a limited number of people, it was keen to comply with all health and precautionary measures. This step was taken based on scientific decisions and thorough research studies that would ensure that pilgrims could perform Hajj rituals safely.”
He said that the efforts exerted by the Saudi government in this regard and the various facilities provided to pilgrims at different levels were highly praised, most notably the health precautions of social distancing and adhering to health requirements.
The ministry and all Hajj-related authorities have learned many lessons from the last Hajj experience, where social distancing was implemented. The minister shed light on the most notable lessons, and how they can benefit future seasons.
“The ministry implemented social distancing protocols in all phases of the pilgrims moving between the holy sites through limiting the seating capacity of buses to 50 percent,” said Benten.
As for the residence of pilgrims, officials conducted tests for all pilgrims and workers and assigned health observers to ensure guidelines were maintained.
He added: “Moreover, 49-seat buses were assigned to each group of 22 passengers, and Hajj routes were fixed in a way to achieve social distancing. These measures resulted in zero transmission of COVID-19 between pilgrims and their service providers.”
As many government officials have said in the past, preparations for the next Hajj season begin as soon as the previous iteration ends.
One of the advantages of the extraordinary 2020 season was that the ministry could accelerate projects in the holy sites.
Benten told Arab News that his ministry works every year on developing the services provided for pilgrims, to enrich their experience through providing diverse programs and initiatives.
“The ministry always benefits from the accumulated experiences, large-scale projects and personnel to provide the finest services with the best levels for pilgrims,” he said. “One of those initiatives that benefited the ministry, which will continue to implement it in the future, is the preparation and improvement of the holy sites, the preparation of a comprehensive scheme to expand the capacity and receive the largest number of pilgrims in order to achieve comfort, security, safety and environmental dimensions, reduce pollution and study spatial dimensions.”
He added that the ministry aims for a record time reception of pilgrims through the unified center to analyze data, enhancing crowd control efficiency and rapid intervention, reducing time to organize pilgrims, and distributing them equally.
The Hajj and Umrah companies have been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic; with some failing to meet their obligations towards their employees.
“The Ministry of Hajj and Umrah has provided a myriad of facilities to these companies since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic through developing work and encouraging mergers and investments in Umrah companies,” Benten said.
He added that the ministry has also contributed to reducing the value of financial security for nondefaulting active Umrah companies to SR250,000 ($66,666) for six months.
“The ministry also authorized Umrah companies to reduce their capital in the commercial register to SR500,000 ($133,332), close their doors for one year, and postpone payment of nonessential violations for six months,” said Benten.
The ministry launched the business clinics unit, which is one of its programs aimed at helping companies review their mechanisms and operational plans.
“The Ministry of Hajj and Umrah will also be organizing many workshops and training programs for Umrah companies on strategies to recover from the COVID-19 crisis and the means of developing their business with efficiency,” he concluded.

This article was first published in Arab News

If you want more interesting news or videos of this website click on this link  Arab News Home

Saudis’ love of volunteering on full display during Hajj

Time: 31 July, 2020

The Saudi government made volunteering an important axis in the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 plan. Volunteers have played an important role in contributing to facing the COVID-19 pandemic and reducing its negative effects. (SPA)

MAKKAH: Though the coronavirus pandemic has affected many things, the culture of volunteering continues to remain strong in Saudi Arabia, as citizens serve the Kingdom’s visitors from all over the world.

Mashael Al-Mubarak, the general director of volunteering at the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Development, told Arab News the Kingdom had paid special attention to the issue of volunteerism, as well as its organization and stimulation, despite the crisis.

“Voluntary work carries new horizons, hopes and aspirations in light of the pandemic. Doing voluntary work . . . symbolizes solidarity and cooperation between members of society,” she said.

“Voluntary work’s importance stems from its active role in developing societies by strengthening the belonging of citizens, investing human energies and directing them towards serving the society by relying on the principle of cooperation, partnership and creativity. The goal of volunteering is to grasp positive effects that contribute efficiently to collective efforts, in order to serve the issues that affect the different segments of Saudi society,” she added.

The Saudi government made volunteering an important axis in the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 plan, and it was included in three important programs: The National Transformation Program 2020, the National Character Enrichment Vision Realization Program, and the Doyof Al-Rahman Program.

“Volunteers played a very important role in contributing to facing the COVID-19 pandemic that invaded the whole world and reducing its negative effects with several services, the most important of which was the Volunteer Work Platform,” Al-Mubarak said.

“This platform is designed to be a pioneer in volunteer work to face the pandemic’s repercussions. It is characterized as a Saudi incubator for volunteer work that provides a safe environment, which serves and organizes the association between agencies providing volunteering opportunities and volunteers in the Kingdom.”

The number of registered beneficiaries on the platform has exceeded 228,000 with more than 2,600 organizations.

Al-Mubarak noted that the ministry had also launched a volunteering manual in crises and disasters using COVID-19 as a model, and a practical guide to help entities and individuals direct volunteering efforts to overcome the resulting repercussions.

“This guide . . . focuses on the pandemic in the Kingdom and how to reach the official authorities with whom they can volunteer during this period,” said Al-Mubarak.

She added that the ministry would take practical steps to promote volunteer work during crises and disasters, managing risks and identifying priority interventions for each target segment, and presenting a set of national initiatives, international experiences and pioneering initiatives in various countries of the world during crises and disasters to benefit from them. “The General Administration of Voluntary Work of the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Development . . . have confidence in their ability to reach one million volunteers annually by 2030, to contribute to the advancement and reconstruction of the country. In 2020, in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, the number of volunteers reached 61,753, implementing 2,279,182 volunteer hours through 22,665 opportunities,” said Al-Mubarak.

For his part, the volunteer community’s CEO, Raed Al-Maliki, told Arab News: “Volunteering is the only work that reflects the giving nature of people, as it is carried out with the selfless desire of volunteers to serve their community.”

“In Saudi Arabia, volunteer work has become a subject of the leadership’s interest and trust in the last ten years. Our leadership has faith in volunteers, of both genders, as some government sectors have launched a series of initiatives that have contributed to empowering and involving volunteers, especially in the field of serving the pilgrims, which every Saudi and expat on this Earth considers as a great honor.”

Al-Maliki said that every year, before the Hajj season, a flow of volunteers who wish to help during the season come forward. However, 2020 may be different due to COVID-19, and would require new and different initiatives, such as sterilization initiatives, social distancing measures and education for pilgrims about safety.

“I believe that a platform that brings together all initiatives related to the service of the Grand Mosque and the Prophet’s Mosque’s visitors should be launched, in order to organize volunteer efforts in the Hajj and Umrah season. It will be supervised by a program serving God’s guests, which was inaugurated by King Salman in 2019 and is one of the Saudi Vision 2020 programs,” said Al-Maliki. “This program analyzes and identifies the need for volunteers, by engaging them in voluntary opportunities belonging to non-profit organizations in order to provide an opportunity to participate in serving the pilgrims and achieving the development goals of the program.”

It is through this organization that volunteers can carry out their work easily and effortlessly, without the trouble of searching for their voluntary needs, he said. They will not be exposed to exploitation or loss of rights, as this platform will be the link and guarantor for all parties and the coordinator of their relationship.

“We in the volunteer community have contributed over the past two years to empowering more than 3,500 volunteers through the ‘Tamkeen’ projects aimed at qualifying volunteer leaders. We also launched the volunteer counseling service, which provided 1,200 voluntary counseling sessions in one year,”  said Al-Maliki.

Meanwhile, Dr. Ghada Al-Ghunaim, a member of the Board of Trustees of the King Abdul Aziz Center for National Dialogue, said: “Saudis are passionate about volunteer work and have extensive experience and expertise, whether within the Kingdom or abroad.”

Al-Ghunaim added that the most important thing that governs volunteerism is the presence of an official body that shields this work, organizes it and ensures its reliability, to reassure parents that their children are under a governmental administration that is properly enhancing and qualifying their capabilities, and immunize them against extremism, and some agendas that function outside of the volunteering framework.

She said that volunteers have become more aware of their responsibilities, the parties they join, their rights, and what they are supposed to offer. The relationship between volunteers and the organizations they work with is more like a contract characterized by commitment, transparency and professionalism, in addition to having great benefits on self-control and preparation.

On her personal experience, Al-Ghunaim said that she spent nine years volunteering inside Saudi Arabia and abroad, which prepared her for the labor market, adding that it was a rehabilitative culture, filling free time and meeting needs.

The pilgrimage this year would not neglect the importance of organizing volunteerism, despite the small numbers of pilgrims, she added. “Volunteers are expected to be trained on how to act, on precautionary measures, and on requirements, in addition to acting cautiously and responsibly.”

This article was first published in Arab News

If you want more interesting news or videos of this website click on this link  Arab News Home

A history of devoted tradition holds firm in Makkah

Time: 30 July, 2020

  • Historians, geographers and painters preserve the past 150 years of Makkah’s history

MAKKAH: Historians, geographers and painters have all contributed to the preservation of the history of the Two Holy Mosques, conveying the urban, cultural and human heritage in all its manifestations and archaeological treasures.

Arab News took a trip through the 150 years of Makkah’s history to review the images that have found their place in the memory of the world.

Dr. Khadran Al-Thubaiti, former professor of geography at Umm Al-Qura University, said that the role of geographers is not so much in historical aspects as in natural, urban and civilizational aspects.

“The relationship between history and geography is close because the temporal dimension and the spatial dimension go hand in hand,” he said.

He explained that historians have played a major role in documenting the development and change witnessed in Makkah and the Grand Mosque area since the migration of the Prophet until the present.

The relationship between history and geography is close because the temporal dimension and the spatial dimension go hand in hand.

Dr. Khadran Al-Thubaiti, former professor of geography at Umm Al-Qura University

“No one can deny the prominent role that Al-Azraqi, Al-Fakihi, Al-Fassi and other (historians) have played in mapping the history and geography of Makkah,” said Al-Thubaiti.

Dr. Abdullah bin Hussein Al-Sharif, supervisor of the King Salman bin Abdul Aziz Chair for Makkah Historical Studies, told Arab News that Makkah occupies a special religious and spiritual place in the hearts of Muslims, and has received the attention of Islamic countries from the time of Prophet Muhammad and caliphs through to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, which vigorously serves the pilgrims and visitors.

Al-Sharif said that in the Saudi era the Two Holy Mosques received special care from the great founder King Abdul Aziz, who was eager to reconstruct and develop them and provide the best services to the pilgrims.

“Historians, travelers, geographers, painters, writers and photographers have taken care to document the history of the Two Holy Mosques, pilgrimages, Umrah and visits, as well as the efforts of Islamic countries to serve pilgrims,” Al-Sharif said.

Al-Sharif explained that the series of images that span nearly 150 years clearly illustrates the historical transition and civilizational development that Saudi Arabia has witnessed and the services it has offered, as well as the great amount of money and unparalleled effort that it has generously provided in the service of Islam and Muslims.

“The main goal of the Kingdom, during the reign of its founder King Abdul Aziz and his righteous sons, the kings of the Kingdom after him, Saud, Faisal, Khalid, Fahd and Abdullah, was to take care of the Two Holy Mosques and provide pilgrims and visitors with the best of services so that they could perform their rituals with ease and comfort. King Salman followed in the footsteps of his predecessors and pursued this matter with vigor, drawing attention, in all his meetings and speeches, to the Kingdom’s keenness to proudly serve the pilgrims,” he said.

Al-Sharif added: “Vision 2030 is a national reform plan introduced by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to develop the Kingdom. It represents the continuation of the government’s efforts and the major Saudi achievements in general, and in the Two Holy Mosques in particular. It reflects a great qualitative leap towards comprehensive sustainable development, progress and global leadership.”

He said that the Kingdom’s founder initiated various works to further develop the holy site “such constructing the Kiswa Factory of the Holy Kaaba in Makkah, building a door for the Kaaba, lighting, maintaining and painting the square of the Mosque, tiling and shading the Masaa area (the running course between Safa and Marwa), advising the expansion of the Two Holy Mosques.”

These epic efforts culminated in the expansion of the Grand Mosque in three phases, he said.  The first phase of the expansion was ordered by King Abdul Aziz and took place during the reign of King Saud and was completed during the reign of King Faisal.

“The second expansion, which took place during the reign of King Fahd bin Abdul Aziz, included the addition to the Grand Mosque of the historic Souq Al-Hazoora area, known as the Souq Al- Sagheer. Other modern developments were added, such as squares, escalators and the circumambulation areas (Mataf).”

The third expansion, the largest expansion of the Grand Mosque in history, began in the reign of King Abdullah and is continuing in the reign of King Salman. “It raised the capacity of the Grand Mosque, Mataf and Masaa to nearly 3 million worshippers, allowing them to perform the Hajj and Umrah rituals with comfort and ease.”

Historians have taken care to document the history of the Two Holy Mosques, pilgrimages, Umrah and visits, as well as the efforts of Islamic countries to serve pilgrims.

Dr. Abdullah bin Hussein Al-Sharif, supervisor of the King Salman bin Abdul Aziz Chair for Makkah Historical Studies

Al-Sharif explained that the three expansions are part of a system of facilities, works, projects and services to be carried out in the two holy cities and the holy sites, with the aim of providing integrated infrastructure, such as water networks through desalination plants and giant strategic reservoirs, electricity and drainage systems, environmental health and municipal services.

“The development projects also aim to offer adequate housing for visitors and pilgrims,” he said.

Al-Sharif said that modern sea ports, airports, roads, bridges, communications and trains, including the Haramain high-speed railway project and the holy sites project are being executed.

The Saudi leadership also took care of building the Mawaqit, entry points for pilgrims on Hajj roads and the holy sites mosques, including the Al-Khayf Mosque in Mina, the Al-Mashaar Al-Haram Mosque in Muzdalifah, the Mosque of Nimara in Arafat, and the historical mosques such as Al-Ijaba, Al-Raya and Al-Jinn mosques.

Al-Sharif stated that the Kingdom was keen to preserve the health of pilgrims and built medical cities, hospitals and health centers in Makkah, Madinah and the holy sites, providing medical services free of charge.

“The Kingdom has proven throughout its history its ability to host millions of visitors and manage crowds efficiently with its generous hospitality and services. It looks forward to receiving about 35  million pilgrims each year through its Vision 2030 projects,” he said.

He added: “The most important thing is to enable visitors and pilgrims to perform their rituals in a safe and healthy environment. The Kingdom was able to achieve this goal, enabling worshippers to perform their Hajj and Umrah ritual in security, peace, comfort and tranquility from their entry into the Kingdom and until they leave.”

This article was first published in Arab News

If you want more interesting news or videos of this website click on this link  Arab News Home

Hajj 2020: Miqat Qarn Al-Manazel runs solo this year for the first time in history

26/07/20

A Miqat Mosque in Dhul Hulayfa. (SPA)

  • The number of pilgrims performing this year’s annual pilgrimage is low given the exceptional circumstances brought about by the coronavirus disease pandemic

MAKKAH: For the first time in history, pilgrims performing this year’s Hajj are to pass through just one Miqat (pilgrim station).
Miqat is a term that refers to the boundary from which pilgrims must adorn the Ihram garments, two pieces of white unseamed sheets, in order to perform the annual Hajj or Umrah. Four boundaries were chosen by the Prophet Muhammad for pilgrims arriving from different areas of the world to perform the Hajj and Umrah rituals, while the fifth was chosen by the second Islamic caliph, Omar bin Al-Khattab.
The five boundaries, or Mawaqeet, represent the first ritual of the Hajj pilgrimage. Located northeast of Makkah, Miqat Qarn Al-Manazel, considered by historians as the Miqat of the people of Najd, is also usually a Miqat for pilgrims traveling from Gulf countries and East Asia today. The term refers to a small mountain that extends to the north and the south with water running on both sides, the reason why it is also known as Al-Sail Al-Kabir (the great flood).
The number of pilgrims performing this year’s annual pilgrimage is low given the exceptional circumstances brought about by the coronavirus disease pandemic. The pilgrims are expected to head to Miqat Qarn Al-Manazel as it is the nearest Miqat to Makkah.

FASTFACT

Located northeast of Makkah, Miqat Qarn Al-Manazel, considered by historians as the Miqat of the people of Najd, is also usually a Miqat for pilgrims traveling from Gulf countries and East Asia today.

Al-Sail Al-Kabir Mosque inside Miqat Qarn Al-Manazel is considered one of the biggest in the Kingdom, equipped with modern services for pilgrims.
Dr. Adnan Al-Sharif, professor of history and civilization at Umm Al-Qura University in Makkah, said of the Miqat: “The place was linked to the Prophet’s life, as the Prophet passed by it during the Siege of Taif. According to several historical novels, the Prophet passed by ‘Qarn’ which means Qarn Al-Manazel.”
Al-Sharif said the Saudi state had taken good care of Miqat Qarn Al-Manazel, and provided it with facilities for pilgrims who visit it to perform Umrah and Hajj.
Throughout history, different meanings were behind the naming of Qarn Al-Manazel, according to journalist and historian Hamad Al-Salimi.  It was said that Al-Asmai, a philologist and one of three Arabic grammarians of the Basra school in Iraq, described the Miqat as a mountain in Arafat.
Meanwhile, historians believed that it had also served people coming from other directions throughout history. Al-Ghuri, the 45th sultan of the Mamluk dynasty, said it was the Miqat of the people of Yemen and Taif, while Qadi Ayyad, a famous scholar of Maliki law in the Islamic Golden Age (800-1258) said it was Qarn Al-Thaalib that served as the Miqat of the people of Najd. Some people pronounce it “Qaran”, which is wrong, as Qaran is a tribe in Yemen, according to Al-Salimi.

This article was first published in Arab News

If you want more interesting news or videos of this website click on this link  Arab News Home

Saudi Arabia: Requests from 160 nationalities have been screened to select Hajj pilgrims

12/07/20

Requests from people of 160 nationalities in the Kingdom have been screened electronically to select who will perform Hajj this year. (File/AFP)

Of the pilgrims who will receive approval, 70 percent will be non-Saudis and 30 percent will be Saudi citizens
The requests were sorted in accordance with high standards that will ensure the safety and health of pilgrims
RIYADH: Requests from people of 160 nationalities in the Kingdom have been screened electronically to select who will perform Hajj this year, Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Hajj and Umrah said on Sunday.

The requests were sorted in accordance with high standards that will ensure the safety and good health of pilgrims.

The deadline for all applications was July 10 and the main criterion for selection is good health.

Of the pilgrims who will receive approval, 70 percent will be non-Saudis residing in the Kingdom and the remaining 30 percent will be Saudi citizens.

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Interior said that anyone found to enter the sites of Hajj (Mina, Muzdalifah and Arafat) without a permit from Dhul Qadah 28 till the end of Dhu Al-Hijjah 12 will be issued with a fine of SR10,000.

The fine will be doubled if the offence is repeated. It added that security personnel will be posted on roads leading to the holy sites to ensure that anyone who breaks the law will be stopped and fined.

This article was first published in Arab News

If you want more interesting news or videos of this website click on this link  Arab News Home

Saudi Arabia issues protocols to ensure the safety of pilgrims during Hajj

06/07/20

The Saudi Center for Disease Prevention and Control (Weqaya) has set safety protocols amid the ongoing coronavirus disease pandemic. The protocols affects all workers and pilgrims. (Photo/Supplied)

All rituals will be performed as per the rules set by the authorities to control the spread of coronavirus
JEDDAH: With coronavirus disease (COVID-19) cases still surging throughout the world, Saudi Arabia has limited the number of pilgrims to performing this year’s Hajj and put several protocols in place.

The Saudi Center for Disease Prevention and Control (Weqaya) has set the protocols to decrease the infection rate and ensure pilgrims’ safety. Saudi Health Minister Dr. Tawfiq Al-Rabiah announced earlier last month that the number of pilgrims would be limited this year.
Saudi Minister of Hajj and Umrah Mohammed Saleh Benten said that the decision to limit numbers “aims to protect people above everything else, which has been the priority of the Kingdom since the start of the pandemic.”
The long list of protocols affects all workers and pilgrims this year. From July 19, authorities will prohibit all entry into Mina, Muzdalifa, and Arafat without permits.
Guides and awareness signs must be placed in all areas and written in various languages that include COVID-19 infection warnings, hand washing protocols, sneezing and coughing etiquette, and the use of alcohol-based hand sanitizers.
Organizers must distribute pilgrims in the Tawaf area around the Kaaba to decrease overcrowding while adhering to a 1.5-meter distance between each person. Organizers at the Holy Mosque must ensure that pilgrims are distributed on all floors of the Saee (ritual walking between Safa and Marwa) and place track lines to maintain social distancing while ensuring that the grounds around the Kaaba and Saee are sanitized by cleaning crews before and after each group performing Tawaf.
Touching the Holy Kaaba and Black Stone will be prohibited, barriers will be set to prevent reaching the sites and the mosque’s carpets are to be removed to allow pilgrims to use their personal prayer rugs instead to decrease the chances of the spread of any infection.
Food will not be permitted in the mosque nor will it be allowed on the mosque’s grounds.
All personnel, guides, pilgrims and workers’ temperatures must be checked throughout the pilgrimage; protective face masks and gear must be worn at all times. Floor signs must be placed in locations such as baggage claim areas, restaurants and bus stops with a meter-and-a-half distance between each floor sign.
Concerning the protocols for Arafat and Muzdalifa, pilgrims must adhere to social distancing at all times, wear masks and organizers must ensure that no more than 10 pilgrims are located in a tent of 50 square meters, ensuring a 1.5-meter distance between each pilgrim. Pilgrims must adhere to designated tracks and organizers must be vigilant and ensure that all pilgrims stay in line while adhering to social distancing rules.
Organizers must assemble no more than 50 pilgrims heading to the Jamarat (stone pillars) per group and disinfected and packaged pebbles will be provided for pilgrims as well.

HIGHLIGHTS
• Organizers must distribute pilgrims in the Tawaf area around the Kaaba to decrease overcrowding.

• Food will not be permitted in the mosque nor will it be allowed on the mosque’s grounds.

• Touching the Holy Kaaba and Black Stone will be prohibited. Organizers must assemble no more than 50 pilgrims heading to the Jamarat (stone pillars) per group.

Those suspected of carrying the infection will be allowed to perform their pilgrimage only after being evaluated and cleared by a physician. They will be allocated into specific groups of suspected cases, placed in designated accommodation, and in buses with designated tracks to accommodate their condition.
Weqaya’s protocols also advised that no personnel are allowed to work if they contract flu-like symptoms (fever, cough, runny nose, a sore throat, or sudden loss of the sense of smell or taste) until symptoms disappear and are cleared by a physician.
Disinfecting and sanitization rounds must be scheduled and organized to ensure that surfaces such as door handles and tables in reception areas, public seating areas, and waiting areas are cleaned around the clock.
Sanitizers must be placed next to ATMs, touch-screen guides, and vending machines while all printed magazines and newspapers must be removed to decrease the possibility of transmission.
Workers at pilgrims’ accommodation must always wear face masks. Guests must wear masks when leaving their rooms and workers must disinfect and sanitize all luggage on arrival.
Weqaya also laid out protocols to decrease the rate of transmission at restaurants and rest stops. Water coolers must be discontinued in the Grand Mosque and holy sites and individual bottled Zamzam water will be available and distributed to pilgrims at all times.
Individual pre-packaged meals and food will be served to pilgrims. Workers distributing the meals must follow strict protocols that include washing hands for no less than 40 seconds using soap and water throughout their shifts and where they are not able to access these, alcohol-based sanitizers must be used instead for no less than 20 seconds.

This article was first published in Arab News

If you want more interesting news or videos of this website click on this link  Arab News Home

Saudi Arabia: Hajj 2020 to be held with limited number of pilgrims

22/06/20

Pilgrims arrive in Mina during Hajj in 2019. (AFP/File)
  • Decision taken due to the ongoing threat from the coronavirus pandemic
  • Pilgrims will come from various nationalities who already reside in Saudi Arabia

RIYADH: Hajj will go ahead next month but with a “very limited” number of pilgrims allowed to take part, Saudi Arabia said on Monday.

The decision was taken due to the ongoing threat from the coronavirus pandemic and to preserve “global public health,” the Saudi Ministry of Hajj and Umrah said.

Pilgrims taking part will be from various nationalities who already reside in Saudi Arabia.

Foreign Ministry ??

@KSAmofaEN

issued by the Ministry of Hajj and Umrah regarding Hajj of 2020

View image on Twitter
832 people are talking about this

About 2.5 million pilgrims performed Hajj last year but the ongoing scale and spread of COVID-19 worldwide means people will not be able to travel to the Kingdom to take part.

The ministry said the decision had been made “in light of continuation of the pandemic and the risks of Coronavirus spreading in crowded spaces and large gatherings.”

The statement said: “A very limited number of pilgrims from various nationalities who already reside in Saudi Arabia, would be able to perform it.

Pilgrims travel to Mount Arafat on the second day of Hajj last year. (Arab News/ Ali Khamg)

“This decision is taken to ensure Hajj is performed in a safe manner from a public health perspective while observing all preventative measures and the necessary social distancing protocols.”

Last year, more than 1.8 million pilgrims traveled to Saudi Arabia from abroad to take part. The Hajj ministry said this year the risk of transmitting the disease between countries and the increase in infections globally meant the risk was too high.

The ministry said Saudi Arabia’s top priority is to always enable Muslim pilgrims can  perform Hajj and Umrah safely and securely.

The Council of Senior Scholars said on Monday it supported what the Kingdom’s decision to limit the number of pilgrims in order to preserve their health and safety.
Meanwhile, Egypt’s Minister of Awqaf, Mohamed Mokhtar Gomaa, said that in light of the spread of the coronavirus pandemic, his country also supports the Kingdom’s decision to limit the number of pilgrims, based on nationalities as well.

This article was first published in Arab News

If you want more interesting news or videos of this website click on this link  Arab News Home

Saudi Arabia deserves praise for best Hajj arrangements

26/01/20

Muslim pilgrims leave after offering noon prayers outside the Namirah mosque on Arafat Mountain, during the annual hajj pilgrimage, outside the holy city of Makkah, Saudi Arabia, Monday, Aug. 20, 2018. (AP)

Saudi King Salman confers the King Abdul Aziz Medal on Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Riyadh on April 3, 2016. (SPA)
  • Presence of 2.6 million Indian expats in Saudi Arabia boosts bilateral ties

On the occasion of India’s 71st Republic Day, I extend my best wishes to my fellow Indian citizens in the western region of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

India and Saudi Arabia enjoy cordial and friendly relations which reflect centuries-old economic and socio-cultural ties.
Visits by Prime Minister Narendra Modi to Saudi Arabia in April 2016 and in October 2019 plus the exchanges of other high-level visits have further strengthened the warm relations between the two countries.
As our prime minister said during his visit in October 2019, India would work hand-in-hand with Saudi Arabia on the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 plan.
The presence of over 2.6 million Indian expatriates in the Kingdom has also contributed immensely to the strength of economic and socio-cultural ties between our two nations.
Bilateral trade delegations have also increased in the last few years. Indian business delegations are now a regular feature of trade exhibitions in Jeddah and other parts of the Kingdom. The Indian Consulate in Jeddah works tirelessly and diligently to provide the best possible service to Indian nationals residing in the western region of the Kingdom.
This good service includes reducing to three working days the length of time required for issuing/reissuing passports.
The introduction of an e-visa facility for Saudi nationals has further streamlined visa processing and provides a smooth first step for those wanting to visit India.
The Indian government and the people of India are grateful to King Salman, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and Hajj Minister Dr. Mohammed Benten for making excellent arrangements during Hajj 2019. In that year, 200,000 Indian nationals performed Hajj and more than 650,000 Indians came for Umrah.
The Indian side remains committed to partnering closely with Saudi Arabia and working toward a very successful Hajj 2020.
We sincerely express our gratitude to King Salman, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and the Saudi ministries of foreign affairs, labor, interior and the authorities of Jawazat, Tarheel and other concerned agencies who have always provided exemplary assistance to the consulate which has enabled the comfortable stay of the many Indians visiting, living, and working in the Kingdom.


• Md. Noor Rahman Sheikh is India’s consul general in Jeddah. 

This article was first published in Arab News

If you want more interesting news or videos of this website click on this link  Arab News Home

Saudi Hajj Ministry widens plans for Egypt, Sudan pilgrims

14/12/19

Agreement signed with the Sudanese delegation
Saudi Hajj minister Mohammed Salih Bentin signs agreement with a member of the Sudanese delegation. (Supplied)
  • Saudi Hajj ministry has signed agreements with Egypt and Sudan

MAKKAH: Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Hajj and Umrah has signed agreements with Egypt and Sudan in preparation for next year’s Hajj season.
Saudi Minister of Hajj and Umrah, Mohammed Salih Bentin, met Maj. Gen. Ashraf Muslim Gawish, Egypt’s assistant minister of interior and head of pilgrims affairs, and Nasreddine Mufreh Ahmed, Sudan’s minister of religious affairs and endowments, on Thursday to discuss Egyptian and Sudanese pilgrims’ requirements.
The meeting was also attended by the Kingdom’s Deputy Minister of Hajj and Umrah, Abdulfattah bin Sulaiman Mashat, and several officials.
Under the agreements, the arrival and needs of pilgrims from Egypt and Sudan will be overseen by service agencies as part of the pilgrims services system.

This article was first published in Arab News

If you want more interesting news or videos of this website click on this link  Arab News Home

Hajj Ministry announces insurance for pilgrims

Time: December 12, 2019 

Hajj and Umrah Minister Mohammed Salih Bentin and Tawuniya Chairman Sulaiman Al-Humaid signed an agreement on Wednesday to provide insurance for pilgrims coming from outside Saudi Arabia. (Supplied)
  • Comes as part of the Vision 2030 reform plan
  • Supported by the Ministry of Hajj and Umrah

JEDDAH: Hajj and Umrah Minister Mohammad Saleh bin Taher Benten and Tawuniya Chairman Sulaiman Al-Humaid signed an agreement on Wednesday to provide insurance for pilgrims coming from outside Saudi Arabia.

The signing took place at the Hajj and Umrah Ministry’s headquarters in Makkah. As part of the agreement, the ministry will provide health and other insurance services to pilgrims from the time they arrive in the Kingdom until they leave.

The insurance scheme comes as part of the Vision 2030 reform plan, which aims to enhance pilgrims’ experiences, said Minister Benten.

Tawuniya was tapped by the Hajj and Umrah Ministry in consultation with the Saudi Arabian Monetary Authority (SAMA) and the Health Insurance Council, he added.

The insurance will be linked to the visa as soon as the pilgrim arrives in Saudi Arabia, he said. There will be a hotline, and pilgrims will be served by teams who speak multiple languages.

Ayman Al-Arfaj, general supervisor of the ministry’s media center, said the insurance will cost SR189 per person, which will be paid to the insurance company and will cover 30 days, the total stay of the pilgrim in Saudi Arabia.

He said that insurance will be unified for all pilgrims and will cover emergency cases, accidents and repatriation of the remains of pilgrims who die in Saudi Arabia. A pilgrim automatically gets insurance once the visa is issued.

Pilgrims in need of health assistance can avail themselves of the insurance benefit by presenting their passports at any hospital or clinic under the Saudi Ministry of Health or any private hospital and clinic accredited by the Health Insurance Council, Al-Arfaj said.

Abdulaziz bin Hadsan Al-Bouq, CEO of Tawuniya, which has been awarded the contract for four years, said the Kingdom is developing innovative methods to provide health services and reduce accidents at holy sites.

This project, he added, is supported by the Ministry of Hajj and Umrah and each insurance covers an amount of SR100,000 ($26,665) per person.

Al-Arfaj noted that since the start of the Umrah season in October, a total of 1,518,649 pilgrims have arrived in the Kingdom.

This article was first published in Arab News

If you want more interesting news or videos of this website click on this link  Arab News Home

ru