Saudi Arabia approves emergency plan to safeguard pilgrims

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Air ambulance helicopters of the Saudi Red Crescent Authority (SRCA) are on standby in Makkah for emergencies as the Hajj season approaches. (AFP file photo)
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Saudi security officials assist an elderly pilgrim at the Grand Mosque in Makkah on Thursday. (SPA)
Updated 11 August 2017

Saudi Arabia approves emergency plan to safeguard pilgrims

JEDDAH/RIYADH: A five-point emergency response plan was approved on Thursday to ensure the security and safety of pilgrims during Hajj.
The plan covers risk assessment, the allocation of tasks and responsibilities, technical and administrative support, and the provision of food, fuel and accommodation in the event of a major incident.
Teams of volunteers will assist Civil Defense in implementing the plan if required, along with 32 government agencies. Many young people had expressed an interest in volunteer work because they were keen to help pilgrims, said Lt. Gen. Sulaiman Al-Amr, the director general of Civil Defense.
The aim was to provide the necessary resources for pilgrims to perform their rituals with ease, to guide them through the areas of pilgrimage in Makkah and Madinah and to protect them from accidents, Al-Amr said.
This year’s Hajj pilgrimage will begin in about three weeks.
Hajj infection-free so far: Health Ministry
So far, no infections have been diagnosed among pilgrims who have arrived at Hajj sites from around the world, the Health Ministry said.
Nonetheless, the ministry on its Twitter account urged pilgrims to continue to take adequate preventive measures against infectious diseases and flu, and to cooperate with health officials in the holy areas.
Points of entry by land, sea and air are manned by ministry officials to monitor the health of pilgrims.
The officials have been asked to supplement any vaccines that pilgrims may have failed to take before arrival.
6,015 pharma products, medical equipment cleared for pilgrims
The Saudi Food and Drug Authority (SFDA) has cleared 6,015 pharmaceutical products and medical equipment arriving at King Abdul Aziz International Airport in Jeddah and Prince Mohammed bin Abdul Aziz International Airport in Madinah.
“The SFDA did not authorize the release of some of the pilgrims’ food items because of poor storage, expiration or damage,” said Dr. Abdul Rahman Al-Sultan, SFDA executive director of awareness and information.
With the participation of the Madinah municipality, SFDA representatives inspected 341 food establishments, including kitchens, restaurants, fast-food outlets, bakeries and central markets, he added.
They seized 418 technical and health violators, and confiscated and destroyed 7,433 kg of food, including meat, chicken, fish, liver, vegetables, fruit, corn, chocolate and processed food.
The SFDA provided the Madinah secretariat with the establishments’ health and technical violations to implement fines and other penalties.
— With input from Mohammed Rasooldeen and Rodolfo C. Estimo Jr.

You’ve got mail: Writer of mystery letters in Jeddah revealed

Updated 10 min 21 sec ago

You’ve got mail: Writer of mystery letters in Jeddah revealed

  • She leaves notes all over Jeddah to be picked up by strangers

JEDDAH: Ever wondered what it is like to find an uplifting letter from a stranger? If you are in Jeddah, then you are in luck as you might pass by and pick up a letter in a public area titled: “If you find me, I’m yours.”

These random acts of kindness were devised by an initiative called Garba’at Rasayl, Hejazi slang for “a mess of letters.” The group was created by 23-year-old Saudi freelance graphic designer Hadeel Felemban.

The simple white envelopes are covered in stickers and magazine cutouts. Felemban said letter-writing helps her express her thoughts and feelings while sharing it with the world, one letter at a time.

“Mess happens every time I write paper letters, a mess of words and feelings, a mess of scraps and colors used to decorate the envelope,” she told Arab News.

The act of writing letters is special to her as it brings a sense of connection to her father — who worked at the Saudi Post Office more than 20 years ago — and revives the exchange of letters in a world filled with technology. The initiative holds monthly meetings in different cities, where attendees gather to write letters to strangers.

“My father passed away when I was two, and the only way I knew him was through the stories my mother and his brothers share about him. I would write to him on my phone’s notepad sometimes, but I wanted something other than our names to connect us.”

The discovery of her late father’s stamp collection from different periods in her home two years ago prompted her to start the initiative.

“It was like finding a treasure. And ever since then, I’ve been looking for ways to reuse them and revive paper mail. I realized that in a period different than his, I became a mail carrier just like him.”

Felemban shared her interest in sending traditional mail on Instagram. She was able to send letters to some who responded, but she did not receive any in return.

“The waiting was suffocating, I felt devastated and I blame that we are not used to the mailing system and its hardship,” she said.

One night, she decided to write a letter and leave the envelopes in public places.

“Writing a letter to a stranger is probably the best solution to killing the unknown wait from the other party.”

She decorated the envelope of the message, and left it in a cafe in Jeddah without any contact information. “Then I found myself monitoring the cafe’s account on social media, and was disappointed yet again. I didn’t know what had happened to the letter, was it thrown away, picked up or neglected?”

In a family gathering in early October, Felemban placed her stationery supplies and envelopes on the dining table, ready to write a new letter. Her cousins and mother were curious and joined her.

“I was so happy to include them. I complained to them about the waiting and not knowing if the letter was abandoned.”

Her family members suggested creating a special tag for the letters so that strangers who received the letters could reach out to her.

“I created the Arabic hashtag for ‘mess of letters’ and created a post for my friends in Riyadh — where I was at the time — and asked them if they wanted to gather to write letters together. I received a lot of positive responses and then prepared for the event in one of the cafes in the city.”

She hosted the first gathering on Oct. 25 and was happy to see how the simple gesture of uplifting messages had an impact on her community.

“During exam week back when I was studying, it was such a mentally exhausting time, and I used to write encouraging words and quotes for myself and the visitors of the cafe I usually go to. I noticed they had a great impact on emotional well-being. I held on to that idea by writing letters to strangers in public places.”

This simple act of kindness from one stranger to another can go a long way toward making a difference in someone’s life.