Saudi Hajj Ministry announces insurance for pilgrims

Muslim pilgrims queue for passport control at King Abdulaziz International Airport in Jeddah on July 7, 2019, prior to the annual Hajj pilgrimage in the holy city of Mecca. (AFP)
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Updated 12 December 2019

Saudi Hajj Ministry announces insurance for pilgrims

  • Announcement comes as part of the Vision 2030 reform plan
  • Insurance will cover emergency cases, accidents and repatriation of the remains of pilgrims who die in Saudi Arabia

JEDDAH: Saudi Arabia has announced insurance for pilgrims coming from outside the kingdom, as part of its Vision 2030 reform plan, according to state media.

Hajj and Umrah Minister, Mohammad Saleh bin Taher Benten signed an agreement with Tawuniya Chairman Sulaiman Al-Humaid at the Hajj and Umrah Ministry’s headquarters in Makkah on Wednesday.

Under the agreement, the ministry will provide health and other insurance services to pilgrims from the time they arrive in the Kingdom until they leave.

The insurance scheme comes as part of the Vision 2030 reform plan, which aims to enhance pilgrims’ experiences, said Minister Benten.

Tawuniya was tapped by the Hajj and Umrah Ministry in consultation with the Saudi Arabian Monetary Authority (SAMA) and the Health Insurance Council, he added.

The insurance will be linked to the visa as soon as the pilgrim arrives in Saudi Arabia, he said. There will be a hotline, and pilgrims will be served by teams who speak multiple languages.

Ayman Al-Arfaj, general supervisor of the ministry’s media center, said the insurance will cost SR189 per person, which will be paid to the insurance company and will cover 30 days, the total stay of a pilgrim in Saudi Arabia.

He said that insurance will be unified for all pilgrims and will cover emergency cases, accidents and repatriation of the remains of pilgrims who die in Saudi Arabia. A pilgrim automatically gets insurance once the visa is issued.

Pilgrims in need of health assistance can avail themselves of the insurance benefit by presenting their passports at any hospital or clinic under the Saudi Ministry of Health or any private hospital and clinic accredited by the Health Insurance Council, Al-Arfaj said.

Abdulaziz bin Hadsan Al-Bouq, CEO of Tawuniya, which has been awarded the contract for four years, said the Kingdom is developing innovative methods to provide health services and reduce accidents at holy sites.

This project, he added, is supported by the Ministry of Hajj and Umrah and each insurance covers an amount of SR100,000 ($26,665) per person.

Al-Arfaj noted that since the start of the Umrah season in October, a total of 1,518,649 pilgrims have arrived in the Kingdom.


Money laundering gang sentenced to over 100 years, have SR465 million confiscated from them

Updated 10 April 2021

Money laundering gang sentenced to over 100 years, have SR465 million confiscated from them

  • Saudi members of the gang will be subject to a travel ban
  • Non-Saudi members will be deported once they have served their sentences

RIYADH: A money laundering gang in Saudi Arabia has been sentenced to a total of 106 years in prison and issued a fine of SR1.08 million ($288,000).
Around SR5 million was seized from the gang and nearly SR2 million was confiscated from their bank accounts, Saudi Press Agency (SPA) reported.
Five citizens obtained seven commercial registers to import foodstuffs, opened bank accounts, and handed them over to 16 residents of Arab nationality with the aim of depositing illegal sums of money and transferring them abroad, the Public Prosecution said.
A sum of more than SR465 million was also confiscated and is similar to the amount of money that was transferred abroad.
Saudi members of the gang will be subject to a travel ban and non-Saudi members will be deported once they have served their sentences.
Work is underway to prepare a mandate to recover funds from the countries to which they were transferred, SPA said.


Saudi Arabia announces ten more COVID-19 deaths

Updated 10 April 2021

Saudi Arabia announces ten more COVID-19 deaths

  • The total number of recoveries in the Kingdom has increased to 382,776
  • A total of 6,747 people have succumbed to the virus in the Kingdom so far

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia announced ten deaths from COVID-19 and 878 new infections on Saturday.
Of the new cases, 410 were recorded in Riyadh, 149 in Makkah, 141 in the the Eastern Province, 30 in Hail, 28 in Asir, 24 in Madinah, 23 in Jazan, 22 in Tabuk, nine in Al-Jouf, eight in Najran and eight in the Northern Borders region.
The total number of recoveries in the Kingdom increased to 382,776 after 578 more patients recovered from the virus.
A total of 6,747 people have succumbed to the virus in the Kingdom so far.
Over 6 million doses of a COVID-19 vaccine have been administered in Saudi Arabia to date.


Three soldiers executed for treason — Saudi defence ministry

Updated 10 April 2021

Three soldiers executed for treason — Saudi defence ministry

RIYADH: The Saudi Ministry of Defense has announced the execution of three soldiers - Mohammed bin Ahmed bin Yahya Akam, Shaher bin Isa bin Qasim Haqqawi, and Hamoud bin Ibrahim bin Ali Hazmi on charges of high treason, Saudi Press Agency, SPA reported.
The soldiers were convicted of cooperating with the enemy in a way that violated the Kingdom’s military interests, and were sentenced to death. the report said. 
Denouncing the three convicted, the ministry reaffirmed its confidence in the men of the armed forces “who took their oath and sacrificed their blood to preserve the security and stability of Saudi Arabia.”


Film AlUla to boost Saudi film industry

Updated 10 April 2021

Film AlUla to boost Saudi film industry

  • New film commission will shine a light on Saudi Arabia by attracting international producers

DUBAI: A new regional film commission is launching in Saudi Arabia, Film AlUla, which is being set up by the Royal Commission for AlUla in the northwest region of the country.

Located 1,100 kilometers from Riyadh, AlUla is a place of natural beauty and heritage. It is home to Saudi Arabia’s first UNESCO World Heritage Site, Hegra, which is a 52-hectare ancient city.

AlUla is also home to other historical and archaeological sites, including an old town surrounded by an ancient oasis and the Lihyan Kingdom, which is considered one of the most developed cities of the first millennium B.C. in the Arabian Peninsula.

Extreme E, the off-road electric race championship, will hold this year’s inaugural race in AlUla.

Arab News spoke to Stephen Strachan, film commissioner at Film Alula, to learn more.

Give us a little background on AlUla’s new film commission, Film AlUla. 

Film AlUla is a new regional film office, established in 2020 and launched officially earlier this year by the Royal Commission for AlUla at the Berlin International Film Festival. It was met with a positive reaction from both the film industry and international media.

Film AlUla has been tasked with the mission of promoting the county of AlUla as a filming destination and attracting local, regional and international productions to shoot films, TV series, commercials and documentary projects. The Film AlUla team is made up of local and international industry professionals who offer a range of services, expertise and resources to support production projects in AlUla. 

A view of an old town in ALUla surrounded by an ancient oasis. (Supplied)

What is Film AlUla’s objective? 

We have a range of objectives. Firstly, we want to attract production companies to shoot film projects in AlUla so as to showcase this county of outstanding natural beauty and cultural significance, which has, until recently, remained undiscovered by filmmakers and the world at large.  

This in turn will encourage tourists from around the world to visit AlUla, and to discover the region and the rest of the country, in support of Saudi Arabia’s 2030 vision. Developing our film industry also puts us in a position to shine a spotlight on the wealth of Saudi talent and to provide a platform to champion and support emerging and established creatives here.  

We aim to build a film hub centered in AlUla that generates local and regional employment and educational opportunities for those interested in pursuing a career in the film industry.  

What is the investment in the film and production industry in the city?

AlUla has been identified as one of Saudi Arabia’s most promising destinations. We are confident that the stunning landscapes, wide range of diverse locations and millennia-old archaeological sites will attract film productions and make AlUla a major filming destination. Preserving our heritage sites and landscapes remains a priority in AlUla and the sustainable building of our local screen industries.

A robust financial strategy is in place to make the AlUla region the Kingdom’s cultural capital. Archaeological, cultural and touristic complex plans are underway so we can support film productions with world-class infrastructure and a range of accommodation options, from luxury and unique hotels to eco-friendly, desert canyon resorts, designed to raise the profile of AlUla on the international stage.

What are the incentives being offered to producers?

Production companies are encouraged to get in touch with the Film AlUla team directly to discuss our financial incentives. 

Production companies can also benefit from a range of incentives such as free bespoke production support; location scouting; expert knowledge of filming in AlUla and the rest of Saudi Arabia; assistance in sourcing equipment and professional crew locally and regionally; and, of course, year-round sunshine.

With a temperate climate nine months of the year, AlUla presents filmmakers with an uninterrupted extended period of time during which to shoot their productions. 

What are the procedures and guidelines for local and foreign companies to shoot their productions in AlUla?

We are very excited to open AlUla’s doors to film production and share with the world the wealth of beauty, history, and diversity on display here. We welcome all types of production, and as a member of the Association of Film Commissioners International (AFCI), we follow best practices as laid out by the AFCI.  

We have a very effective regulatory system in place that is simple and straightforward to ensure production and crew have all the necessary permits in place. Hosted on our website is a Film Production and Location guide that provides a comprehensive overview of all the benefits of choosing AlUla as your production destination. Of course, preserving and protecting our landscape and heritage remain paramount. And, for anyone interested in filming in AlUla, we suggest you reach out to us so we can support you during every step of the process and ensure a successful and enjoyable filming experience.

For more information, please visit filming.experiencealula.com.

Can you comment on the Extreme E races being filmed in AlUla?

We are thrilled to be the first location featured in the inaugural Extreme E five-stop global race next month, designed to highlight the impact of climate change and promote switching to electric vehicles to protect the planet.  

AlUla will make for an extraordinary and thrilling backdrop for the event. And with Extreme E set to be aired around the world, this is the perfect opportunity to capture the attention of global audiences, enabling them to see the majestic, cinematic landscapes and breathtaking natural wonders of the region for themselves.


Who’s Who: Prince Waleed bin Nasser Al-Saud, founder and CEO of Mukatafa

Updated 10 April 2021

Who’s Who: Prince Waleed bin Nasser Al-Saud, founder and CEO of Mukatafa

Prince Waleed bin Nasser Al-Saud is the founder and CEO of Mukatafa.
Mukatafa is a Saudi firm that, according to its website, aims to “build an ecosystem of collaboration between the private and public sectors that empowers Saudi Arabia to grow as a prosperous nation with a sustainable future,” in line with the goals of Saudi Vision 2030.
Prince Waleed has previously served as CEO for a group of private business initiatives in the Kingdom, vice president of the People and Shared Services department at McDonald’s, Saudi Arabia, and vice president of marketing and business development at NAFA Enterprises, a Saudi holding company.
Prince Waleed is also a member of several business groups, including the Restaurant and Cafes Association (Qoot), the Grocery Store Association (Mo’an), and the Fashion, Jewelry and Beauty Association (ZY).
He sits on the supervisory committee of the Trade Franchise Center at the Small and Medium Enterprises General Authority and is on the board of directors at both Alfa Co. for Operation Services and Tamkeen Human Resources. Additionally, he is a member of the advisory committee for investment in the municipal sector and a member of the commercial committee in the Riyadh Chamber.
Prince Waleed holds a bachelor’s degree in marketing, graduating with honors from the University of Tampa in Florida, and a master’s degree in accounting, graduating with honors from King Saud University, Riyadh. He also holds certificates in advanced leadership, strategic management, project management, and human resource management programs.