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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.

This article was first published in Arab News

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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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Saudi Arabia’s Hajj Ministry launches new interactive portal

Time: May 09, 2019  

The new portal will provide more than 30 services for pilgrims. (SPA)
  • A redesigned website will give users easy access the ministry services

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Hajj and Umrah on Wednesday launched a new interactive online portal.

The website has been redesigned to provide easy and quick access to all of the ministry’s services and is part of ongoing efforts to keep pace with the digital transformation taking place in government departments.

Salah Basaif, director general of the ministry’s information technology department, said the new portal offers more flexible options to access services, including advanced search functions and bookmarking of information.

“The e-portal was designed to reduce the effort and cost of future development processes and provide flexibility to maintain the website’s performance and the continuity of providing services even during maintenance or large development processes,” added Basaif.

The new portal will provide more than 30 services for pilgrims, available in Arabic, English and French, with an average of 55 pages per language. Four more languages will be added in the near future.

This article was first published in Arab News

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Arab News and Hajj: Covering the greatest gathering on Earth

Time: April 20, 2019  

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  • Arab News ran more than 300 news stories on the 2018 Hajj season
  • The paper also launched the 2018 version of its smartphone Hajj app for pilgrims to use

JEDDAH: Arab News has a tradition of covering Hajj “but 2018 was a little different,” its editor-in-chief Faisal J. Abbas said.

The newspaper’s focus last year was on the human aspect of Hajj and followed the touching stories of people from around the world.

Arab News, the Middle East’s leading English language daily, ran more than 300 news stories on the 2018 Hajj season. These ranged from news stories, investigative reports and features, to exclusive interviews with top Hajj and Umrah ministry officials. All were intended to provide up-to-date coverage of an event considered to be one of the biggest gatherings on Earth.

All types of human interest stories were present on its Hajj pages. The newspaper carried the story of Jordanian mother who gave birth to a baby boy at Jabal Al-Rahma Hospital in Arafat.

On the other hand there was a suicide at the Grand Mosque that went viral, with fevered online speculation about what happened and who was involved. Arab News was there moments later, a report confirming the incident and giving more details.

The paper also launched the 2018 version of its smartphone Hajj app for pilgrims to use.

“We planned special coverage to showcase the award-winning redesign of our newspaper and expand online capabilities, including a Facebook partnership and an enhanced Hajj app with our signature tracker, which enables pilgrims to connect with their loved ones back home,” said Abbas.

The free app for iOS and Android devices has new and enhanced features, including live news updates.

The Makkah-based Muslim World League (MWL) sponsored the Hajj app. The partnership with MWL is part of the body’s global outreach efforts to serve all Muslims.

The latest release of the app features several functions for use during Hajj season, including safety features such as an emergency call number and a list of embassies and important service providers during Hajj.

New features include a digital Qibla compass, a real-time currency converter, a media gallery, Hajj information and Qur’an prayer audio files.

The app also features improvements to the tracker function. The feature, which is optional, allows users who activate it to share their location and follow families and friends in real-time, around the clock.

Arab News Jeddah bureau chief and head of the Hajj coverage team, Mohammed Al-Sulami, said the aim of this initiative was to provide a useful and free service for pilgrims on their spiritual journey.

“Our mission is to make Arab News more global and more digital, and the Hajj app – thanks to the generous support of the MWL – does just that by providing a live news service and helpful, easy-to-use functions that every pilgrim can benefit from,” he said.

The MWL commended the newspaper’s initiative of deploying technology for the public good.

“We are happy to renew our partnership with Arab News and our support of this app, which reinforces our position as an umbrella body seeking to serve Muslims worldwide,” the MWL said.

Arab News also teamed up with Facebook to put up 360-degree live videos of pilgrims.

The Saudi Minister of Hajj and Umrah, Dr. Mohammed Saleh bin Taher Banten, endorsed cooperation efforts between Arab News and Facebook.

As almost 2 million people gathered in Makkah for the 2018 Hajj, Arab News and the tech giant cooperated in the transmission of live broadcasts using 360-degree video technology.

“We introduced it in 2017 and it was a big success, but we wanted to do something for those who couldn’t make to Hajj this year,” head of Arab News’ digital transformation, Eslam Refaat, said.

He added that Arab News believes that technology has even more potential to enhance the annual pilgrimage. Technology has allowed millions worldwide to follow Hajj through the official Arab News-Facebook page.

Banten said his ministry was pleased to endorse the cooperation between Arab News and Facebook because it enabled news about the pilgrimage to reach a wider audience.

People around the world would be able to see how Hajj was performed, and the “array of services” provided by the Saudi government under the leadership of King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, he added.

“Our endorsement of this cooperation comes out of our ministry’s belief in the importance of utilizing new technology … enabling us to show the world the blessed efforts (in serving pilgrims).”

The minister was presented with an official Arab News press jacket, and saw the complimentary umbrellas the newspaper distributed to pilgrims.

“We provided pilgrims with extra coverage – literally. Through our corporate responsibility program, we handed out free Arab News umbrellas to shade people from the blazing hot August sun,” Abbas said.

He briefed the minister, his deputy Abdul-Fattah bin Sulaiman Mashat, and other members of the ministry about the newspaper’s ongoing digital transformation plan. He said the newspaper’s cooperation with Facebook ensured that Arab News was able to broadcast stories to previously unattainable audiences.

Head of regional media partnerships at Facebook, Fares Akkad, said the collaboration followed the success of the live broadcasts of Taraweeh prayers on Arab News’ Facebook page during Ramadan, which he said were very popular.

“Hajj is a unique event, and we are aware of its importance to millions around the world. Therefore, we are delighted with this collaboration, which enables more people to participate in this blessed event. These efforts are part of our commitment to regional communication, particularly in Saudi Arabia,” Akkad said.

Arab News published a series of special reports from the Kingdom and around the world on Hajj rituals, as well as offering 24-hour coverage through its digital platforms and Pakistan-focused website. It was also keen to reach a wider audience through conducting interviews with famous Muslims who were performing Hajj.

US Olympian Ibtihajj Muhammad, who performed Hajj last year, was among them. It was an experience she would never forget, she told Arab News.

The paper was the first media outlet to conduct an exclusive interview with the Hajj minister, who revealed that the holy sites would undergo a significant facelift in the near future.

“There is a comprehensive, integrated plan to develop Mina, Muzdalifah and Arafat altogether. This massive project will see more services for pilgrims and increased capacity, safety and security to ease their Hajj performance.”

Arab News also published a book, “Hajj 2018: Covering the Journey of a Lifetime.”

The 55-page book, which sheds light on the efforts made by the Arab News team during its Hajj coverage, has reached diplomats, ministers and prestigious personalities.

“This book is an extension of our special Hajj coverage, which we hope would tide you over until we return for the journey next year, when you can count on our team to have even more in store,” said Abbas.

The book includes an introduction to Hajj rituals, a glossary, medical tips, statistics about the last seven Hajj seasons and written pieces from reporters who covered Hajj.

This article was first published in Arab News

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Hajj and Umrah e-visas to be issued in minutes

Time: March 12, 2019

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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1.4m Indonesians visit Saudi Arabia for Haj and Umrah annually

Time: February 26, 2019  

Indonesian Consul General Dr. Mohamad Hery Saripudin meets with journalists in Abha.

Saudi Gazette report

ABHA — As many as 221,000 Indonesian pilgrims perform Haj and more than 1.2 million come for Umrah every year, according to Dr. Mohamad Hery Saripudin, the country’s consul general in Jeddah.

“In all, more than 1.4 million Indonesians visit the Kingdom every year for Haj or Umrah alone,” he said.

The consul general, speaking during a visit to Abha recently, said 28 Indonesian students were accepted at King Khalid University in Asir as a first batch of Indonesians to study religious subjects at the university.

“These students, who are studying under scholarships provided by the Saudi government, will be followed by 200 other students,” Saripudin said hoping that the number of students from his country would further increase in all Saudi universities.

Saripudin described the relationships between Indonesia and Saudi Arabia to be historical and very close. “These relationships were further consolidated by the visit of Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman to Jakarta at the end of 2017,” he added.

“The strategic ties are continuously developing in all fields,” he said, adding that his country, which has a population of more than 230 million people, strongly supports the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 reform goals.

“The Kingdom is the heart of the Islamic world,” he said.

The consul general also visited the headquarters of Al-Watan Arabic newspaper and met with the journalists during his tour of the Asir region.

This article was first published in the Saudi Gazette

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Saudi Hajj ministry updates online portal for foreign pilgrims

Time: January 31, 2019

Almost 1.1 million Muslims used the Maqam portal in its trial phase last year. (Salman Al-Marzouki/AN photo)
  • The portal allows pilgrims to apply and compare services digitally before making their trip

JEDDAH: The Ministry of Hajj and Umrah launched a package of updates for their Maqam e-portal on Thursday, in a move to simplify pilgrimages for Muslim’s traveling from outside the Kingdom.

The Maqam portal is an online platform, designed so that Muslims from around the world can apply for an Umrah package digitally. It also compares the prices of competing service providers, checks the status of flights and bookings, and makes electronic visa applications, without the need to travel to an embassy.

It is aimed especially at Muslims traveling from non-Muslim countries, where access to organizations and information for making pilgrimages can be harder to access.

Deputy Minister of Hajj and Umrah Dr. Abdul-Fattah bin Sulaiman Mushat said that the updates would simplify pilgrimages for the 30 million people visiting the Kingdom every year.

The site was updated by the Hajj ministry. (Supplied)

Almost 1.1 million Muslims used the Maqam portal in its trial phase last year, allowing them to choose between over thirty companies providing travel, accommodation and other necessities for the respective trips to Makkah and Madinah.

As well as making life easier for the pilgrims themselves, Maqam has also been a boost for local companies, allowing them to directly target pilgrims around the world with special offers and services tailored to their needs.

Maqam provides e-services in Arabic, English and French, and can be visited at: https://eservices.haj.gov.sa/eservices3

This article was first published in Arab News

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Prince Khalid Al-Faisal Receives Minister of Hajj and Umrah

Time: January 06, 2019     

Prince Khalid Al-Faisal, Advisor to the Custodian of the Two Holy  Mosques and Governor of Makkah Region, met here today with Minister of Hajj and Umrah Dr. Mohammed Benten.

During the meeting, they reviewed the Ministry’s plan for this year’s Umrah season.

This article was first published in AlRiyadh Daily

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British delegation praises help for Hajj pilgrims

Time: December 03, 2018

From Left: Deputy Minister of Hajj and Umrah, Dr. Hussein Al-Sharif; Seif Usher, British consul general; Lord Qurban Hussain, vice chair of the APPG; MP Yasmin Qureshi; and Rashid Mogradia, CEO of CBHUK, during the event in Jeddah. (Photo supplied)
  • British Consul General Seif Usher hosted a UK All-Party Parliamentary Group on Hajj and Umrah at the British Consulate in Jeddah
  • The parliamentary group was led by MP Yasmin Qureshi and Lord Qurban Hussain

JEDDAH: British Consul General Seif Usher hosted a UK All-Party Parliamentary Group on Hajj and Umrah at the British Consulate in Jeddah.

At a reception to welcome the group on Sunday, Usher said that the British government was committed to providing the best possible consular service to pilgrims visiting Saudi Arabia each year.

“The British consular team works year round to ensure that British pilgrims have a peaceful and trouble-free pilgrimage,” he said.

The parliamentary group was led by MP Yasmin Qureshi and Lord Qurban Hussain.

Usher also extended a welcome to the Deputy Minister of Hajj and Umrah for Hajj Affairs Dr. Hussein Al-Sharif.

“I would like to take this opportunity to thank Rashid Mogradia, CEO of the Council of British Hajjis, and all the other organizations and tour operators for their efforts to support British pilgrims,” the envoy said.

Qureshi said: “I would like to thank Seif Usher for hosting the cross-party group in Jeddah. It is important that we understand the issues facing British pilgrims on the ground when they are on Hajj and Umrah, and work closely with the British consulate and the Ministry of Hajj and Umrah to address any issues so that people have a positive experience.”

Hussain highlighted the challenges, such as travel fraud, facing the UK Hajj and Umrah industry. He welcomed advances in technology to help pilgrims in line with the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 reforms.

Rashid Mogradia, CEO of the Council of British Hajjis, highlighted the work of the charity and the parliamentary group in educating pilgrims when booking a pilgrimage package.

Recent annual Hajj awards held at the Intercontinental Park Lane London had brought a positive outlook to the Hajj and Umrah sector, he said.

Al-Sharif accepted the award for the ministry’s eHajj system. The British consulate in Jeddah collected the best UK public sector award for services to British pilgrims. British Consul General Seif Usher hosted a UK All-Party Parliamentary Group on Hajj and Umrah at the British Consulate in Jeddah.

At a reception to welcome the group on Sunday, Usher said that the British government was committed to providing the best possible consular service to pilgrims visiting Saudi Arabia each year.

“The British consular team works year round to ensure that British pilgrims have a peaceful and trouble-free pilgrimage,” he said.

The parliamentary group was led by MP Yasmin Qureshi and Lord Qurban Hussain.

Usher also extended a welcome to the Deputy Minister of Hajj and Umrah for Hajj Affairs Dr. Hussein Al-Sharif.

“I would like to take this opportunity to thank Rashid Mogradia, CEO of the Council of British Hajjis, and all the other organizations and tour operators for their efforts to support British pilgrims,” the envoy said.

Qureshi said: “I would like to thank Seif Usher for hosting the cross-party group in Jeddah. It is important that we understand the issues facing British pilgrims on the ground when they are on Hajj and Umrah, and work closely with the British consulate and the Ministry of Hajj and Umrah to address any issues so that people have a positive experience.”

Hussain highlighted the challenges, such as travel fraud, facing the UK Hajj and Umrah industry. He welcomed advances in technology to help pilgrims in line with the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 reforms.

Rashid Mogradia, CEO of the Council of British Hajjis, highlighted the work of the charity and the parliamentary group in educating pilgrims when booking a pilgrimage package.

Recent annual Hajj awards held at the Intercontinental Park Lane London had brought a positive outlook to the Hajj and Umrah sector, he said.

Al-Sharif accepted the award for the ministry’s eHajj system. The British consulate in Jeddah collected the best UK public sector award for services to British pilgrims.

This article was first published in Arab News

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9 areas open for investment in Haj and Umrah sectors

Time: November 27, 2018   

Sara Al-Ayed

By Zain Anbar

Okaz/Saudi Gazette

JEDDAH — Some nine areas of activity in the Haj and Umrah sector are available for investment by male and female entrepreneurs, Deputy Chairperson of the National Committee for Entrepreneurship at the Council of Saudi Chambers Sara Al-Ayed told Okaz on Tuesday.

A program is set to be launched in cooperation with the related authorities to acquaint entrepreneurs of these opportunities.

The opportunities are in fields like packaging, import and supply of food and beverages, public health, financial solutions, transport, crowd management, traffic flow control, travel and accommodation, waste management and housing, Al-Ayed said.

She expects growth in activities in digital economics including e-commerce, e-services, supply chain sectors, and logistics performance, among others.

This article was first published in Saudi Gazette

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