King Salman orders Saudi Arabia to host 1,000 Hajj pilgrims from Palestinian ‘martyr families’

07/07/19

JEDDAH: King Salman has ordered Saudi Arabia to host 1,000 Palestinian pilgrims from the families of martyrs to perform Hajj next month.

The pilgrims will be part of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques’ Guests Program for Hajj and Umrah.

The Saudi minister of Islamic affairs, dawah and guidance, Sheikh Abdullatif Al-Asheikh expressed his appreciation for King Salman’s “generous gesture towards the Palestinian state and its brotherly people,” the Saudi Press Agency reported Sunday.

Al-Asheikh said the ministry would work swiftly on executing the king’s order by following up on the pilgrims’ traveling process through its embassies in Egypt and Jordan.

The ministry would also finalize all procedures needed for their travel to the kingdom on private flights, and offer services to help them perform the duty of Hajj.

This article was first published in Arab News

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Second group of Pakistani Hajj pilgrims arrive in Madinah

Time: July 07, 2019  

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Pakistani pilgrims breeze through immigration counters at Prince Mohammed bin Abdul Aziz International Airport in Madinah as part of the “Makkah Route” initiative on July 5, 2019. (SPA)
  • Saudi officials received the pilgrims at the airport, and presented them with flowers, dates, sweets and Zamzam water
  • Makkah Route initiative is expected to serve more than 225,000 pilgrims this year

JEDDAH: The second flight of Pakistani pilgrims, carrying 442 pilgrims, arrived on Friday at the Prince Mohammed bin Abdul Aziz International Airport in Madinah as part of the “Makkah Route” initiative to perform Hajj this year.
Raja Ali Ejaz, Pakistan ambassador to Saudi Arabia, and Saudi officials received the pilgrims at the airport, and presented them with flowers, dates, sweets and Zamzam water.
The pilgrims expressed their gratitude to the Saudi government, which is working hard to allocate resources to help visitors perform Hajj and return to their countries safely.
Meanwhile, Malaysian pilgrims became acquainted with projects to develop the Two Holy Mosques and other spiritual rituals, on screens at Kuala Lumpur International Airport while they were waiting for their flights to the Kingdom.
This is also part of the “Makkah Route” initiative to elevate the level of services provided for pilgrims during the Hajj.
Photographs taken during previous Hajj seasons were displayed on screens on the waiting lounge at the airport, under the supervision of the initiative’s supervising committee, to inform pilgrims about the development projects in the Two Holy Mosques.
Indonesia and Bangladesh will launch the Makkah Route initiative on Sunday for the third consecutive year at Jakarta’s Soekarno Hatta International Airport and Shah Jalal International Airport in Dhaka.
The Makkah Route initiative is expected to serve more than 225,000 pilgrims passing through airports in Malaysia, Indonesia, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Tunisia. The service includes issuing visas, ensuring compliance with health requirements, and codifying and sorting luggage at airports in the pilgrims’ own countries.

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Saudi Arabia increases Sri Lanka’s Hajj quota

Time: July 06, 2019  

Pilgrims from different countries have started arriving in Saudi Arabia. (SPA)
  • Hajj pilgrims FROM Sri Lanka will obtain their entry visas to Saudi Arabia through an online portal for the first time

COLOMBO: The Saudi government has increased the Hajj quota for Sri Lankan pilgrims by adding 500 visas to the existing number, bringing the total to 4,000 from this year, Azmi Thassim, the island’s ambassador in Riyadh, told Arab News on Saturday.

Mohamed Hashim Mohamed Haleem, minister of postal services and Muslim religious affairs, thanked King Salman and Saudi Minister of Hajj and Umrah Dr. Mohammed Salih Bentin for this enhanced facility to allow more people to perform Hajj.

The Sri Lankan minister said that the new quota would be distributed among the prospective pilgrims on the ministry’s waiting list.

The minister said that for the first time in Sri Lanka, its Hajj pilgrims would obtain their entry visas to the Kingdom through an online portal. “We are thankful to the Saudi government for the new service which will save time and effort to obtain the Hajj visas for the pilgrims,” Haleem said.

HIGHLIGHTS

• Saudi Arabia will issue 500 additional Hajj visas for Sri Lankan pilgrims.

• Sri Lankan pilgrims will obtain their visas through an online portal.

Prospective pilgrims have to apply with the required documents through a licensed travel operator in Sri Lanka, which will obtain the pilgrimage visas for the applicants provided they have not performed Hajj in the past five years. Applicants are required to attach their health certificates and other requested documents along with their applications.

“The Saudi government has been considerate in gradually increasing this quota from 2,240 pilgrims in 2015 to 3,500 to this year, and now an additional quota of 500 more pilgrims has been given on a request made by my ministry,” the minister said.

The minister explained that the Easter Sunday bomb blasts had an impact on the movement of the Hajj pilgrimage this year since about 100 pilgrims had withdrawn from the selected list due to pecuniary difficulties.

He said that the security situation was quickly returning to normal, and there was no reason for concern.

He said the first flight of pilgrims is scheduled to leave Colombo by Saudi Arabia Airlines on July 15 from Bandaranaike International Airport. Sri Lankan Airlines will also fly pilgrims to the Kingdom.

Commending the health facilities and services available in Makkah and Madinah, he said that the Sri Lankan government would also send a team to attend to pilgrims with any urgent medical needs until they were taken to the nearest medical facilities.

Last year, the minister recalled that a Sri Lankan pilgrim successfully underwent heart surgery in Makkah. “These facilities were offered free-of-charge by the government of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman, to look after the millions of Hajj and Umrah pilgrims who visit the holy cities throughout the year,” he said.

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This year’s first Indian Hajj pilgrims arrive in Madinah

Time: July 04, 2019  

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Dr. Ausaf Sayeed, Indian ambassador to Saudi Arabia, and Noor Rahman Sheikh, consul general of India in Jeddah, welcomed the pilgrims at the airport. (Supplied)
  • The Indian ambassador to Saudi Arabia and consul general of India in Jeddah welcomed pilgrims at the airport
  • The pilgrims will stay in the Prophet’s city until July 12, when they will move to Makkah

MADINAH: This year’s first Hajj flight from India, arrived on Thursday at Prince Mohammed bin Abdul Aziz International Airport in Madinah, carrying 419 pilgrims.
Dr. Ausaf Sayeed, Indian ambassador to Saudi Arabia, and Noor Rahman Sheikh, consul general of India in Jeddah, welcomed the pilgrims at the airport.
Officials of the Indian Hajj Mission said all the pilgrims were in good health and had been given accommodation close to the Prophet’s Mosque in the central area of Madinah. The pilgrims will stay in the Prophet’s city until July 12, when they will move to Makkah.
Around 140,000 people are expected to perform Hajj this year under the aegis of the Hajj Committee of India. About 63,000 should arrive in Madinah by July 21, with the remaining 77,000 landing in Jeddah between July 20 and August 5. Hajj is tentatively scheduled to take place between August 8 and 14.
The Indian embassy and consulate have, they say, “deployed sufficient manpower for the smooth movement of the pilgrims and their baggage to their respective buildings.”
Pilgrims who arrive in Jeddah from India will move from Makkah to Madinah after Hajj from August 19, and will depart from Madinah for India eight days later. Those arriving in Madinah will depart from Jeddah starting from August 16. All this year’s pilgrims from India are expected to arrive back home by September 14.

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Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman announces Hajj gift for India with 30,000 increase in quota

Time: June 29, 2019

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi during the G20 Summit in Osaka on Friday. (AFP/Indian Ministry of Foreign Affairs)
  • The total figure rises to 200,000 per year
  • The meeting took place in Osaka where the yearly G20 summit is taking place

NEW DELHI: Saudi Arabia has increased India’s Hajj quota by 30,000, lifting the figure to 200,000 per year. The enhanced quota means India will send the second-highest number of pilgrims for Hajj after Indonesia.

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman decided to raise the quota after a bilateral meeting with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in the Japanese city of Osaka.

Vijay Gokhale, India’s foreign secretary, said that the “crown prince has promised PM Modi the quota will be increased.”

“This is important and this has been done,” he said

India’s Minority Affairs Minister Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi said the increase was a result of Modi’s “cordial and friendly” relations with the Saudi leadership.

“This is the third hike in three years. When the Modi government came to power in 2014, India’s Hajj quota was 136,000. That has now been increased to 200,000,” he said.

Dr. Ausaf Sayeed, India’s ambassador to Saudi Arabia, welcomed the crown prince’s decision.

“We are grateful to the Kingdom for increasing the Hajj quota. This will be the highest number of pilgrims to be handled by the Indian Hajj mission in its history,” he told Arab News. “The decision reflects the increasingly close and developing strategic relationship between the two countries, which has taken an upward trajectory in the recent years,” he said.

“We are geared up to receive the Indian Hajj pilgrims starting from July 4, 2019. The Saudi leadership involved in Hajj management, including Makkah Gov. Prince Khaled Al-Faisal and Hajj Minister Mohammed Salih Bentin, have promised to make Indian pilgrims’ stay in the Kingdom as comfortable as possible.”

Anwar Sadat, a New Delhi resident, also welcomed the increase in the quota. “I waited for three years before my turn came to perform Hajj. The increase of 30,000 is significant … I feel that the quota should go up further.”

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Saudi Arabia welcomes all Muslim pilgrims: Hajj minister

Time: May 31, 2019  

Hajj and Umrah Minister Dr. Mohammed Salih Bentin.(SPA)

MAKKAH: Saudi Arabia welcomes any Muslim pilgrims from all over the world without discrimination, said Hajj and Umrah Minister Dr. Mohammed Salih Bentin.

The Kingdom is ready to provide facilities and services to enable pilgrims to perform their rituals with ease and tranquillity, he added.

On Tuesday, King Salman inaugurated the Guests of God Service Program, which features more than 130 initiatives.

The program aims to offer the finest services at all levels, and manage Saudi archaeological and cultural sites to enrich pilgrims’ experience.

Bentin praised the cooperation of the various bodies concerned with Hajj and pilgrims’ affairs, and their keenness to facilitate their access to the Two Holy Mosques and their movement between the holy sites.

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King Salman inaugurates ‘Guests of God Service Program’

Time: May 29, 2019

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King Salman was joined by Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman. (SPA)
  • The program is a key element of Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 reform plan

MAKKAH: King Salman on Tuesday inaugurated the Guests of God Service Program featuring more than 130 initiatives, the Saudi Press Agency reported.

The ceremony was attended by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, Makkah Gov. Prince Khalid Al-Faisal as well as other princes and officials at Al-Safah Palace in the holy city.

The program is a key element of Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 reform plan.

Minister of Hajj and Umrah Dr. Mohammed Salih Bentin said: “King Salman, on this blessed night and on this pure land, you were keen on inaugurating the pilgrims’ program. We thank God for this honor of serving pilgrims, which has been inherited from the kings who ruled this country from the reign of the founder King Abdul Aziz.”

He added: “As you inaugurate the pilgrims’ program, one of the most important programs of the Kingdom’s Vision 2030, you demonstrate your obvious and clear interest in Islam and Muslims. Your special sponsorship of this unique program expresses your constant attention and care toward pilgrims. This great honor requires all our strength to provide more comfort and reassurance to pilgrims.

“This program is an extension of your efforts in the service of pilgrims, as you have always ensured that the valuable and generous efforts to serve pilgrims and take care of their comfort, is a source of pride for our country since its foundation. This is an inherited honor of cumulative and consecutive achievements in the service of pilgrims. Through this program, which is an extension of the Kingdom’s efforts in the service of pilgrims, we seek to facilitate their access to the Two Holy Mosques and facilitate all stages of their journey until their safe return to their countries through the most advanced technologies.

“The program also aims to offer the finest services on all levels, as well as enriching the experience of pilgrims by managing the archaeological and cultural sites in our country so that pilgrims can experience a spiritual, religious and cultural journey full of faith.”

Bentin said that more than 32 government agencies and hundreds of private sector agencies will take part in implementing the program that facilitates and harnesses all potentials in the services of the guests of God.

Bentin said that the program will bring about a further qualitative leap in the facilities and services being offered to the Hajj and Umrah pilgrims.

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Bassam Ghulman, deputy minister at the Ministry of Hajj and Umrah

Time: May 25, 2019  

Hajj and Umrah Deputy Minister Bassam Ghulman

Bassam Ghulman has been deputy minister for transportation affairs at the Ministry of Hajj and Umrah since February 2018.

Previously, he was general manager of the Haramain High-Speed Rail Project, which links the holy cities of Makkah and Madinah.

He was also a professor of contracts and construction project management at Umm Al-Qura University in Makkah.

He first joined the university as an assistant lecturer in 1994, and held several positions there, including head of the civil engineering department.

Ghulman serves as vice chairman of the board of the Saudi Council of Engineers. He was an adviser to the secretary of Makkah, having first joined the municipality there as an assistant civil engineer in 1991.

Ghulman holds a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering from Umm Al-Qura University. He earned his master’s and Ph.D. in civil engineering from the University of Oklahoma in the US.

He has participated in local, regional and international events and conferences, and has published numerous academic papers and books.

Ghulman is a member of several government committees, including the advisory board for development in the Makkah region.

He recently met with members of the transport sector at the Ministry of Hajj and Umrah to discuss early preparations for this year’s season.

Ghulman said the meeting was in line with the ministry’s vision to improve and develop services to transport pilgrims to holy sites.

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400 prayer rugs for Makkah’s Grand Mosque cleaned daily during Ramadan

Time: May 22, 2019  

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A dedicated laundry facility with 20 trained workers cleans 400 prayer rugs every day during the Ramadan and Hajj seasons.
  • A dedicated laundry facility with 20 trained workers cleans 400 prayer rugs every day during the Ramadan and Hajj seasons

MAKKAH: After nearly two decades of importing prayer rugs for the Grand Mosque in Makkah, Saudi Arabia established dedicated factories at home to manufacture and clean rugs for the largest mosque in the world.
A dedicated laundry facility with 20 trained workers cleans 400 prayer rugs every day during the Ramadan and Hajj seasons, according to Nayef Al-Jahdali, director of the Department of Cleansing and Carpet at the Grand Mosque.
Al-Jahdali said workers use a special machine to remove dust from the rugs, then environmentally friendly shampoo and perfumes are applied before the rugs are rinsed.
They are placed inside industrial driers for two minutes, then dried under the sun for 24 hours before being moved to warehouses. A special department is responsible for repairing damaged rugs.
Belgium, Germany and Lebanon manufactured rugs for the Grand Mosque before the Kingdom opened its own rug-cleaning facilities in 2000.

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Hajj and Umrah e-visas to be issued in minutes

12/05/19

Muslim pilgrims go through passport control upon their arrival at Jeddah airport on July 14,2018, prior to the start of the annual Hajj pilgrimage in the holy city of Mecca. – The Hajj, the largest annual pilgrimage in the world, is the fifth pillar of Islam, a religious duty that must be carried out at least once in the lifetime of every able-bodied Muslim who can afford to do so. (Photo by Amer HILABI / AFP)
The electronic platform will include new services that will give non-Saudis access to the e-portal, where they can review service packages, choose a package and apply for visas electronically. (AFP/ File photo)
  • New service to boost number of pilgrims, says official
  • e-portal will allow pilgrims to review service packages and apply for visas electronically

RIYADH: Electronic visas for Hajj and Umrah pilgrims will be issued within minutes for various Hajj/Umrah campaigns and companies under plans by Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Hajj and Umrah.

“Pilgrims who are coming from outside the Kingdom are tied to Hajj and Umrah service-providing companies and agents in order to obtain a visa. The electronic visas will be issued to these entities who will be licensed to facilitate Hajj and Umrah in these countries,” Abdulrahman Shams, an adviser to the minister of Hajj and Umrah and general supervisor of Hajj and Umrah’s electronic platform, said on MBC.

Shams said the electronic platform will include new services that will give non-Saudis access to the e-portal, where they can review service packages, choose a package and apply for visas electronically.

“We are working closely with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Interior to issue visas electronically, within minutes of completing the required forms, and without the need for passports to go through embassies,” he said.

The move will help encourage greater numbers of pilgrims, he added. Saudi Arabia has issued over 4.33 million Umrah visas this year. The ministry’s move helps facilitate pilgrims’ journeys and minimizes pre-planning. Under Vision 2030, the Kingdom hopes to attract more than 30 million Umrah pilgrims and provide them with top-class services.

In January, the ministry updated its online portal to support foreign pilgrims. Almost 1.1 million Muslims used the Maqam online portal in its trial phase last year, allowing them to choose between more than 30 companies providing travel and accommodations for trips to Makkah and Madinah.

The ministry has been discussing incorporating e-services since November 2018.

Abdulaziz Al-Wazzan, the deputy minister of Hajj and Umrah, said the initiative aims to make visas more accessible to pilgrims, while also contributing to an increase in pilgrim numbers.

This article was first published in  Arab News

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