As Saudi tourism becomes more accessible, tour guides share their pride in assisting pilgrims

It is ensured that tour guides are equipped with necessary skills to carry out their responsibilities in a professional manner. (Reuters)
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Updated 18 December 2019

As Saudi tourism becomes more accessible, tour guides share their pride in assisting pilgrims

  • Tourists take great interest in visiting Kingdom’s heritage sites and learning about the history of the region

MAKKAH: The journey of pilgrims visiting Saudi Arabia to perform Umrah is no longer confined to the two holy cities of Makkah and Madinah. They can now visit different cities and experience the ancient and modern wonders the Kingdom has to offer.

Hisham Madani, director general of the Saudi Commission for Tourism and National Heritage in Makkah, said that the commission has the capabilities to execute all the ambitious tourist plans.

“We are looking to knowing the pilgrims’ demands, needs and their languages so the guides can be well-versed to enrich their experiences,” Madani said.

He highlighted the importance of training to ensure tour guides are equipped with necessary skills to carry out their responsibilities in a professional manner and to the satisfaction of visitors.

Rania Shodary, a tourist guide, told Arab News that serving Umrah pilgrims was an honor.

“We are eager to give them a better service to ensure they perform the rituals without any difficulty,” she said.




A tourist guide, third left, with visitors. The guides say they work hard on lodging and transportation requirements of visitors to ease their trip. (Photo/Supplied)

A bus service has been introduced to offer pilgrims a round trip from Makkah to Taif with tourist guides to show them historical sites along the way and in the two cities.

Taif’s moderate weather makes it a perfect tourist destination, attracting Muslims and non-Muslims to its breathtaking mountain sites and greenery throughout the year.

Visitors are also keen on visiting sites such as the Prince Saud Al-Faisal Wildlife Center in Taif to see rare animals and rose factories that make high-quality perfumes.

Mona Daghstani became a tour guide after completing a short course offered by the Saudi Commission for Tourism and National Heritage in Makkah. She said that during the course she realized the importance of serving the pilgrims.

FAST FACTS

• A bus service has been introduced to offer pilgrims a round trip from Makkah to Taif.

• Taif’s moderate weather makes it a perfect tourist destination.

• Visitors are keen on visiting sites such as the Prince Saud Al-Faisal Wildlife Center in Taif to see rare animals and rose factories that make high-quality perfumes.

She said that the guides sit with the visitors in order to understand their interests. Daghastani said pilgrims want to visit Saudi heritage sites and learn about the history of the Arabian peninsula.

Another tour guide, Fawziah Harriri, told Arab News that pilgrims no longer want to remain confined to the holy sites, they want to enrich their experience by visiting ancient sites and markets in Makkah, Madinah and beyond.

Some pilgrims also ask about entertainment activities taking place across the Kingdom, Harriri added.

She added that they have developed a passion to visit Saudi universities, colleges and even attend lectures and meet knowledgeable people.

Itemad Ghazawi, a tour guide, said they work hard on lodging and transportation requirements to ease their trip.

Ghazawi told Arab News that some pilgrims “had very wrong impressions about some archaeological sites in Makkah.

“Many were misinformed about the place of birth of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) and his companions,” she said.


World leaders call for courage as virus death toll nears 70,000

Updated 06 April 2020

World leaders call for courage as virus death toll nears 70,000

  • Be strong, Pope Francis says
  • US faces ‘Pearl Harbor moment’

JEDDAH: World leaders urged people on Sunday to show courage and strength in fighting the coronavirus pandemic as the global death toll approached 70,000 from more than 1.25 million cases of infection.

Pope Francis described the outbreak as a tragedy, Queen Elizabeth of the UK offered her personal thanks to frontline health workers, and Americans were warned that they faced the “hardest and the saddest week” of their lives.

Saudi Arabia reported five more deaths from the virus, bringing the total to 34. The number of confirmed cases rose by 206 to 2,385, the highest among Gulf Arab states.

The Foreign Ministry will register requests this week from Saudis abroad who want to return home, with priority given to the elderly, pregnant women and people in countries most affected by the pandemic. Those who return are subject to a 14-day quarantine, and about 11,000 hotel rooms have been set aside for them.

The Health Ministry warned that too many people were ignoring advice to stay at home. “Unfortunately, there is still more than 40 percent mobility in shopping and outdoor activities. This is a very alarming percentage,”ministry spokesman Dr. Mohammed Al-Abd Al-Aly said.

“We are all in this boat together, and those who risk their own lives by going out for no urgent need are risking everybody else’s lives too.”

The six Gulf states have reported 6,757 cases of infection and 54 deaths from the coronavirus. The UAE, where 1,505 people have been infected and 10 have died, will increase its stockpile of strategic goods and waive residency visa fines for the rest of the year, said the prime minister, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al-Maktoum.

In Rome, on Palm Sunday, a Christian religious festival, Pope Francis celebrated mass by live stream with St.Peter’s Square empty of the usual huge crowds.

“Today, in the tragedy of a pandemic, in the face of the many false securities that have now crumbled, in the face of so many hopes betrayed, in the sense of abandonment that weighs upon our hearts, Jesus says to each one of us: ‘Courage, open your heart to my love’,” he said.

Queen Elizabeth gave a rare special address to the British people, only the fourth in her 68-year reign. She praised frontline health workers and more than 750,000 people who volunteered to help the state-run National Health Service.

“I hope in the years to come everyone will be able to take pride in how they responded to this challenge, and those who come after us will say that the Britons of this generation were as strong as any,” she said.

In the US, as the death toll approached 10,000, US Surgeon General Jerome Adams said: “This is going to be the hardest and the saddest week of most Americans’ lives … our Pearl Harbor moment, our 9/11 moment.”