Saudi Arabia may allow women to perform Hajj without male guardian

Time: October 20, 2019  

Saudi Arabia’s Minister of Hajj and Umrah Dr. Mohammed Saleh Benten approved updates to Umrah services. (SPA)
  • Ministry exploring visa options for solo female pilgrims
  • The Maqam portal is an online platform, designed so that Muslims from around the world can apply for an Umrah package digitally

JEDDAH: Women could be allowed to perform the Hajj without a male guardian, Arab News has learned, with the government studying various visa options. Women are currently required to travel to Saudi Arabia to perform pilgrimages with a mahram (male guardian), or be met by him on arrival in the Kingdom, although women over the age of 45 may travel without a mahram if they are in an organized tour group.
If women travel with a group and without a mahram they must submit a notarised letter of no objection from someone who could be considered their mahram, authorizing travel for Hajj or Umrah with that group.
But Arab News has learned that the Ministry of Hajj and Umrah is conducting studies to issue visit visas for both tourism and Umrah purposes, and that this process is expected to pave the way for allowing women to come without the need for a mahram.
It is one of a number of developments in the Hajj and Umrah sector, with Arab News also learning that the ministry was urged to intervene in the sector to save businesses.
Umrah firms have raised their concerns about the impact of regulations, saying they are losing out and warning around 200 companies will be leaving the market if authorities do not step in.
Marwan Abbas Shaban, head of the National Committee for Hajj and Umrah, said each Umrah company was obliged to have two branches, employ 20 staff and spend at least SR1 million ($266,666) annually even if it did not receive a single pilgrim. The majority of companies operating in this sector were small and could not bear such costs, he added.
“We always seek officials to interact with us and we call on higher authorities to consider our demands,” he told Arab News.
Shaban said there were about 750 Umrah and Hajj companies with licenses, but only about 500 of these were in the market and they were only running at 1 percent of their capacity.
The Umrah sector was more profitable than the industrial sector, he added, and pointed to the value of land in the holy city of Makkah.
Saudi Arabia’s Minister of Hajj and Umrah Dr. Mohammed Saleh Benten approved updates to Umrah services following a meeting with the National Committee for Hajj and Umrah to discuss updates to regulations and instructions for Umrah companies.
Deputy Minister of Hajj and Umrah Abdulfattah Mashat said after the meeting that the updates included allowing all IATA membership categories — including travel agencies, WTO certificates, or a certificate of membership of the World Travel and Tourism Council — as a requirement for the eligibility of an external agent.
The ministry updates also include giving pilgrims greater flexibility on transport options, Mashat added, and can be accessed on a portal that allows Muslims around the world to apply for an Umrah package digitally.
The Maqam portal is an online platform, designed so that Muslims from around the world can apply for an Umrah package digitally.
Almost 1.1 million people used Maqam in its trial phase last year, allowing them to choose between over 30 companies providing travel, accommodation and other necessities for trips to Makkah and Madinah.

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

First pilgrims arrive in Saudi Arabia for new Umrah season

Time: September 03, 2019  

1 / 5
The ministry is seeking to issue Umrah visas for 30 million pilgrims by 2030, (SPA)
  • The ministry is seeking to issue Umrah visas for 30 million pilgrims by 2030, and aims to remove obstacles for businesses offering services to pilgrims

JEDDAH: Saudi Director General of Passports Maj. Gen. Sulaiman bin Abdul Aziz Al-Yahya has welcomed the first flights of Umrah performers from outside the Kingdom at King Abdul Aziz International Airport in Jeddah. He said the General Directorate of Passports is prepared to receive and complete all procedures of Umrah performers arriving in the Kingdom.
Authorities said last month that the Ministry of Hajj and Umrah is seeking to issue 10 million visas for this year’s Umrah season. The visas will be issued electronically without the need to visit embassies and consulates for the stamp.
The ministry is seeking to issue Umrah visas for 30 million pilgrims by 2030, and aims to remove obstacles for businesses offering services to pilgrims.
The ministry ensures that all services are available to pilgrims inside and outside the Kingdom through the internet and reliable websites, which pilgrims use when making their bookings.

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

Community initiative aims to link doctors, pilgrims

11/08/19

High-tech devices are being provided to needy patients inside their camps. (AN photo by Essam Al-Ghalib)

Drive to facilitate communication between health service providers and Hajjis
MINA: An initiative in Makkah has provided financial support to supply interpreting devices in 120 languages, in partnership with the Community Participation Department of the Makkah Health Department. It is also helping to employ interpreters working around the clock in operations rooms.

Dr. Waddah Abu Talib, director of Mina Al-Jisr Hospital in Mina, said that a number of community bodies and members, including businessmen, in Makkah have participated in this initiative to provide 73 devices that interpret 120 languages, as well as 14 interpreters/translators who are offering their services 24 hours a day through the Ministry of Health.
This initiative aims to facilitate communication between service providers and pilgrims in hospitals and primary care centers in the holy places and Makkah, he said.
The 14 interpreters/translators are working around the clock to provide their services through the Ministry of Health.

100
glucose monitoring devices are being provided for free to patients in need inside their camps.

The languages they cover include English, Persian, Turkish, French, Swahili, Russian and Urdu, which are the most commonly used languages by patients visiting hospitals in Makkah and the holy places.
The supervisor of the Community Participation Program, Mahassen Hassan Shuaib, said that these services are courtesy of the Saudi people, and specifically the people of Makkah, to support the pilgrims in partnership with the Siqaya and Rifada Committee of the Makkah Municipality.
She added: “In addition to that, 100 blood pressure monitoring devices and 100 glucose monitoring devices are being provided for free to patients in need inside their camps, alongside water, umbrellas and shoes.”

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

International pilgrims express gratitude for the Kingdom’s Hajj efforts

09/08/19

  • President of the Lebanese Islamic Center for Studies and Media said Saudi Hajj efforts are make him proud
  • Religious advisor from New Zealand said Hajj will help victims of Christchurch terror attack heal

DUBAI: Pilgrims from around the world have thanked King Salman for the new services offered during Hajj, state news agency SPA reported on Thursday.

Mused Abduljalil. (SPA)

Mused Abduljalil, a pilgrim from the families of martyrs and Yemen’s national army soldiers’ group, visited Makkah as part of “the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques’ guests’ program for Hajj and Umrah.”

“When I received King Salman bin Abudlaziz’s invitation to perform Hajj, my emotions were mixed with happiness tears that my dream was coming true,” Abdulmajid said.

Anwar Jaafar Al-Murooj. (SPA)

Meanwhile, Serbia’s senior imam and mufti advisor sheikh Anwar Jaafar Al-Murooj said the Kingdom was a leading power in the Islamic world.

The Saudi support for Muslims from around the world, including those from Serbia specifically, left him speechless, he added.

Khaldoon Oraymet. (SPA)

The president of the Lebanese Islamic Center for Studies and Media, judge and Sheikh Khaldoon Oraymet, said he was happy to join “the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques’ guests’ program for Hajj and Umrah.”

“What the Kingdom does for pilgrims makes us proud, as despite the hardships in Lebanon we feel like Saudi Arabia will stand in the face of those who want to cause trouble in the Arab world,” he added.

Saeed Abdulaziz. (SPA)

In the meantime, the Mufti of Karelia province in Finland Sheikh Saeed Abdulaziz, who has already previously performed Hajj, said the newly implemented technologies by the Kingdom made the experience easier.

He and his group of pilgrims did not face any problems in commuting between their accommodation and the various places of worship, Abdulaziz added.

Mohammed Haneef Kewazi. (SPA)

Meanwhile, one of the advisors of an Islamic association in New Zealand, Mohammed Haneef Kewazi, thanked the King and the Crown Prince for inviting the families and victims of Christchurch terrorist attack.

The happiness of those pilgrims will help them heal from the pain of the shooting incident, he added.

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

Staying safe at Arafat: a guide

09/08/19

An Egyptian pilgrim pushes his elderly father in a wheelchair Friday at the huge tent city of Mina, in Makkah, Saudi Arabia, where pilgrims will spend the night before heading to Mount Arafat on Saturday. (AP Photo)

Muslim pilgrims pray on Mount Mercy on the plains of Arafat during the annual Hajj pilgrimage, outside the holy city of Makkah. (File/Reuters)

  • On the 9th of Dhu Al-Hijjah, pilgrims will leave Mina and head to the area of Mount Arafat for a day of prayer and contemplation, repenting for their sins and asking Allah’s forgiveness
  • Umbrellas are an excellent way for pilgrims to gain some protection from the sun’s glare – health experts also highly recommend sunscreen and sunglasses

JEDDAH: As Hajj pilgrims begin their entry into the vicinity of Mount Arafat on Saturday, Arab News takes a look at the most important information you need to know regarding the day of supplication and prayer.

According to the Prophet (PBUH), “Hajj is Arafah”. Arafah Day is the most fundamental of the rites of Hajj, and without it, the pilgrimage cannot be complete. On the 9th of Dhu Al-Hijjah, pilgrims will leave Mina and head to the area of Mount Arafat for a day of prayer and contemplation, repenting for their sins and asking Allah’s forgiveness before heading to Muzdalifah.

With more than 2 million pilgrims performing Hajj this year, safety is a concern for everyone involved. And with Hajj taking place in the middle of summer, the heat poses a serious problem. Here are some tips on how pilgrims can stay safe during this scorching Hajj season.

Pilgrims are required to enter Arafah any time before sunset, which is when pilgrims will start making their journey to Muzdalifah. Therefore some pilgrims can try to avoid the biggest crowds and journey to Arafah any time during the day, as long as they arrive before Maghrib prayer.

The number one concern of Hajj pilgrims is heat stroke; the Ministry of Hajj reported that heat-related illnesses contributed to 24 percent of hospital admissions in 2015. Various hospitals throughout Makkah have echoed the sentiment.

According to the rules of Ihram (Hajj preparation), men are forbidden from covering their heads with hats, turbans, and anything touching the tops of their heads. A common misconception is that this means that they cannot cover their heads at all, but umbrellas are an excellent way for pilgrims to gain some protection from the sun’s glare. Health experts also highly recommend sunscreen, sunglasses and other means of sun protection.

Pilgrims are also advised to ensure that their footwear is appropriate: male pilgrims are allowed to wear open sandals or flip-flops, and are not advised to try to perform Hajj barefoot. Female pilgrims can wear anything, as long as it is taher (free of decontaminants). The ground can often get dangerously hot and cause severe discomfort. The only time during Hajj a pilgrim is required to be barefoot is within the Masjid Al-Haram and during the tawaf (circumambulation of the Ka’abah).

Another important tip is to stay hydrated; the heat can peak at 50 degrees at the worst of times, and combined with the efforts of performing Hajj, the danger of dehydration is very real. There are various points throughout all the major stops of Hajj where pilgrims can get water and zamzam, and having a canteen or a refillable water bottle can be a godsend. For those who prefer their water cold, insulated bottles such as those available from Corkcicle or Thermos can keep your drinks cold for long periods of time.

It’s also important to remember that with so many people from all around the world in such a small place, the potential to get sick rises significantly. It’s important to always have some vitamin C tablets with you, and other immunity boosters. Proper sustenance is also a must; keeping one’s strength up is a vital part of being able to get the most out of one’s Hajj. Healthy foods, healthy snacks, and proper doses of vitamins can help you minimize your chances of getting sick post-Hajj.

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

Makkah’s King Abdullah Medical City performs 163 heart operations on pilgrims in July

Time: August 01, 2019  

The King Abdullah Medical City in Makkah performed 163 heart operations on Hajj pilgrims in July. (SPA)
  • The operations included 160 cardiac catheterization procedures and three open-heart surgeries

RIYADH: The King Abdullah Medical City in Makkah performed 163 heart operations on Hajj pilgrims in July.
The operations included 160 cardiac catheterization procedures and three open-heart surgeries.
The executive management of the city said that the heart center had made preparations to ensure that it is able to serve Hajj pilgrims and treat them in the best manner around the clock.

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

Hussein Al-Sharif, undersecretary at the Ministry of Hajj and Umrah

Time: July 24, 2019  

Hussein Al-Sharif

Hussein Al-Sharif has been the undersecretary of Hajj affairs at the Ministry of Hajj and Umrah since 2014.

He has sponsored Al-Zamzami Al-Sagheer initiative launched by the suppliers of Zamzam water, Unified Office of Zamzama, which will distribute Zamzam water to pilgrims during Hajj.

Al-Sharif holds a doctorate in public law from the University of Newcastle, UK, which he received in 2000.

He became a lecturer at King Abdul Aziz University (KAU) in 1990 in legal administration. In 2002, he was appointed assistant professor in the faculty of economics and administration and was the undersecretary of the systems department between 2002 and 2003.

Al-Sharif later became the head of the systems department for two consecutive terms until 2007.

While teaching at KAU, he taught administrative law, administrative justice, administrative contracts, principles of law, international private systems and criminal procedures.

He is the founding member of the National Society for Human Rights, and was the general supervisor of their branch in Makkah. He participated in the Second Regional Conference on National Human Rights Institutions in the Arab World  in 2006.

Al-Sharif is also an accredited arbitrator, and participated in the regional conference of the International Criminal Court in Bahrain in 2004 and the regional session for monitoring trials and fair trial standards in the country in 2005.

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

Umrah pilgrims now free to move around Saudi Arabia

Time: July 17, 2019  

Muslims coming to Saudi Arabia to perform the Umrah pilgrimage can now tour anywhere in the country as part of the Kingdom. (SPA file photo)
  • Previously, Umrah pilgrims were restricted to the holy cities of Makkah and Madinah and the port city of Jeddah
  • Nearly 8 million Muslims are likely to perform Umrah this year

JEDDAH: Millions of Umrah pilgrims are to be granted the freedom to visit anywhere in the Kingdom during their stay, the Saudi Cabinet decided on Tuesday.

Muslims making the holy pilgrimage will be allowed to tour anywhere in the country as part of Saudi Arabia’s plans to boost tourism and the economy.

“The Cabinet has decided to exclude people coming to perform Umrah and to visit the Prophet’s Mosque (in Madinah), of the prohibition of movement outside Makkah, Madinah, and Jeddah. A royal decree has been prepared to this effect,” the acting media minister, Issam bin Saeed, said in a statement to the Saudi Press Agency (SPA).

Previously, Umrah pilgrims were restricted to the holy cities of Makkah and Madinah and the port city of Jeddah.

FASTFACT

Vision 2030 aims to increase the country’s capacity to welcome Umrah visitors from 8 million to 30 million every year.

Nearly 8 million Muslims will perform Umrah in the Kingdom this year, and the Cabinet’s move will enable them to enjoy a broader experience of Saudi Arabia by visiting key landmarks, historic sites, tourist attractions and shopping centers.

“We are looking to enrich the experience of pilgrims and facilitate their arrival,” Dr. Amr Al-Maddah, chief planning and strategy officer at the Ministry of Hajj and Umrah, told Arab News. “Traveling around the Kingdom is an opportunity for pilgrims to visit cultural and tourist sites.

“At the same time, they will be allowed to arrive at any port in the country which will facilitate their arrival and expand the capacity to receive more pilgrims.”

Muslims on Umrah pilgrimage can now have the option to visit many of the Kingdom’s historic attractions, such as the ancient city of Al-Ula, shown in this photo with a concrete road connecting the abandoned to the modern city.
(Photo contributed by Arab  News reader Eduardo Benavidez/File)

Ministers hope their decision will help toward reaching Saudi Arabia’s goal of receiving 30 million Umrah pilgrims by 2030.

In the past, pilgrims were allowed to convert their visas into a tourist visa on the condition that they were registered with a tourism program. “This is no longer a requirement,” said Al-Maddah.

Pilgrims may also want to visit the myriad attractions of the mountain region of Asir, such as this heritage site. (SPA)

He added that they would now be free to plan visits to other Saudi cities, tourist destinations, festivals and events, within the period of their visa validity.

Al-Maddah said: “We want to make it available to everyone in order to enrich the experience of the pilgrims, which is one of the goals of Vision 2030.”

He noted that the authority responsible for implementing the Cabinet’s decision would be the Interior Ministry.

The Eastern Province also offers a long list of choices for tourists, including the heritage site of Al-Ahsa. (SPA)

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

Dr. Amr Al-Maddah, chief planning and strategy officer at Ministry of Hajj and Umrah

Time: July 11, 2019  

Dr. Amr Al-Maddah

Dr. Amr Al-Maddah has been the chief planning and strategy officer at the Ministry of Hajj and Umrah, and an adviser to its minister, since February 2019.

Up to 25,000 Hajj pilgrims in Mina this year will be issued with wearable high-tech smart cards in a pilot program being launched by the Ministry of Hajj and Umrah. The cards will store the pilgrims’ personal information, health status, residence and Hajj tour details. They will also be fitted with a location tracker to follow individual pilgrims’ movements, managed by a control room in Mina.

Al-Maddah said that it is the experimental stage of a smart Hajj initiative they are working on, and they will study to what extent it might be advantageous to the pilgrims.

Al-Maddah received his bachelor’s degree in electronic engineering from King Abdul Aziz University (KAU) in 2007.

He obtained his master’s in robotics and intelligent systems from Osaka University in Japan in 2010, and a Ph.D. in 2013 from the same university.

After getting his bachelor’s, he worked for Saudi Hollandi Bank as a premises engineer until 2008.

When he concluded his education in Japan, he joined the King Abdullah Petroleum Studies and Research Center (KAPSARC) as a research associate from 2013 to 2014.

Al-Maddah then joined KAU as an assistant professor. He continues to teach in the electrical engineering department, while also acting as a consultant to the university vice president for business and cognitive creativity. In 2015, Al-Maddah became director of KAU’s business incubators until March 2016.

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

Saudi Arabia issues more than 7.65m visas for Umrah pilgrims

Time: June 14, 2019  

504,809 pilgrims still in the Kingdom. (SPA)
  • 278,368 of the remaining pilgrims are in Makkah and 226,441 are in Madinah

RIYADH: The number of Umrah visas issued this year has reached 7,650,736, of which 7,393,657 pilgrims have arrived in the Kingdom, according to data provided by the Hajj Ministry.

There are 504,809 pilgrims still in the Kingdom, with 278,368 in Makkah and 226,441 in Madinah, the Saudi Press Agency reported.

Most pilgrims — 6,550,520 — came to the Kingdom by air, while 707,955 entered by land and 135,182 arrived by sea.

The largest number of pilgrims are from Pakistan (1,657,777) followed by Indonesia (967,125), India (650,480), Egypt (539,045), Algeria (365,628), Yemen (338,618), Turkey (321,494), Malaysia (278,674), Iraq (277,571) and Jordan (216,165).

The weekly data also included the number of Saudi staff within Umrah companies and institutions. They are 10,945 Saudis including 9,065 males and 1,880 females.

Developing Hajj and Umrah organizations and services in the Kingdom is among the top priorities of the Saudi government.

The Vision 2030 reform plan aims to attract more than 30 million Umrah pilgrims, and provide them with excellent services and an outstanding experience.

Earlier, Hajj  Minister Mohammed Salih Bentin said: “The ministry aspires to develop Hajj and Umrah companies and provide a model for distinguished companies that not only seek to make a profit, but also compete with similar international services in the hospitality sector and enrich the pilgrims’ experience. The ministry is fully prepared to develop and support such a model.”

Over the next two years, Bentin said the ministry would like to see Umrah companies elevate the sector to unprecedented levels by raising the quality of the services they offered, especially in housing, transport and visits to historical sites.

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