Pakistan lauds Saudi efforts as 2m head for Umrah in Ramadan

Pakistani pilgrims upon their arrival in Jeddah. (AFP)
Updated 23 May 2019
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Pakistan lauds Saudi efforts as 2m head for Umrah in Ramadan

  • The government of Saudi Arabia makes special arrangements each year for the pilgrims

ISLAMABAD: Nearly 2 million Pakistanis are expected to perform Umrah during Ramadan this year, officials at the Pakistani Ministry of Religious Affairs told Arab News.

The number of Pakistanis performing Umrah “keeps increasing every year,” said ministry spokesman Imran Siddique, adding that 1.5 million Pakistanis did so last year.

“The government of Saudi Arabia makes special arrangements each year for the pilgrims, which includes exceptional suhoor and iftar meals,” he said.

The ministry is in touch with relevant Saudi authorities “to ensure the best possible facilities for pilgrims this year,” he added.

Pakistani travel and tour operators have introduced special Umrah packages that include scheduled trips to Makkah and Madinah.

“Our business increases around 10-fold during Ramadan because the majority of people want to perform Umrah during the holy month,” Abuzar Butt, manager of Bhagwal Travel Operators, told Arab News.

Tour operators start booking hotel accommodation in Makkah and Madinah, as well as air tickets, several months ahead of Ramadan due to high demand. 

“We’ve never heard of any complaints from our customers regarding their stay and facilities in Saudi Arabia during the pilgrimage,” Butt said.

One of Pakistan’s most beloved actresses, Sarah Khan, wrote on Instagram: “There is no place like Madinah. This is where I was born and this is where I belong. May every Muslim get to see this place Insha’Allah (God willing).”

Celebrated actor Muneeb Butt wrote on Instagram: “Alhamdulilah (thank God) 1st Umrah done!,” He captioned one of his photos: “Don’t have words to express that feeling when we saw Haram for the first time … Allah O Akbar.”

Umrah, unlike Hajj, is not obligatory for Muslims, but holds major religious significance and spiritual importance.


Popular panda on loan from China dies in Thai zoo

Updated 17 September 2019
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Popular panda on loan from China dies in Thai zoo

  • Staff said Tuesday they found no sign of illness or injury on the 19-year-old panda’s body
  • A zoo veterinarian said pandas have a life expectancy of 14-20 years

BANGKOK: Zoo staff in northern Thailand have donned black and white clothing and observed a minute of silence to mourn the sudden death of their popular male giant panda, who was on a long-term loan from China.

Officials said Chuang Chuang collapsed Monday in his enclosure at the Chiang Mai Zoo shortly after standing up following a meal of bamboo leaves.

Staff said Tuesday they found no sign of illness or injury on the 19-year-old panda’s body, and that he had recently passed a health checkup.

A zoo veterinarian said pandas have a life expectancy of 14-20 years. Chuang Chuang and his female mate arrived in Chiang Mai in 2003 on a 10-year loan that was later extended for another 10 years.