Virtual reality experience takes Muslims inside Makkah’s Grand Mosque during Ramadan

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General view of Kaaba at empty Grand Mosque, as a preventive measure against the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), during the holy month of Ramadan, in the holy city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia May 7, 2020. (Reuters)
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Muslim worshippers perform the "Tarawih" nightly prayer during the holy month of Ramadan, while keeping their distance amid the COVID-19 pandemic, at the Grand Mosque, Islam's holiest site, in the Saudi city of Mecca, late on May 8, 2020. (AFP)
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Updated 11 May 2020

Virtual reality experience takes Muslims inside Makkah’s Grand Mosque during Ramadan

  • Muslims will be able to digitally attend the prayers thanks to “Wahi,” a virtual reality experience that can bring them to Makkah

LOS ANGELES: With coronavirus shutdowns continuing throughout Ramadan, Makkah will only be allowing clerics to attend the nightly Taraweeh prayers in person.

But Muslims will be able to digitally attend the prayers thanks to “Wahi,” a virtual reality experience that can bring them to Makkah from the safety of their homes. 

 


The nine-minute film was made using a VR camera rig: six cameras pointing in every direction. The footage was then edited together to give a 360 degree view during the challenging post production process.

 

“The virtual reality glasses give you a full experience of the visit,” Almotaz Aljefri, the film’s Saudi director, told Arab News. “You can go in all directions, raise your head or switch it right. This gives you more information than a regular video.”

The crew received support from the Saudi government, granting them access to Makkah, as well as the use of drones and helicopters.

The film, which was made alongside the New Media Center at the Ministry of Culture and Information, is available on YourTube and has now been viewed more than 11 million times.

“We were surprised along with the staff that the views reached just last month more than 8 million and we discovered that the reason is definitely the coronavirus, the movie has given the chance to many people who cannot now go to the Grand Mosque in Makkah, to visit it through this technology,” AlJafri said.

“I believe that “Wahi” will allow you to practice all your rituals in Ramadan from your home.

“You can wear the glasses to see and tour the Grand Mosque and there is also historical landmarks and even the people who visit the Grand Mosque personally they might find it hard to get close to certain spots for example the Black Stone, circumambulation area, you can now easily wander around it as you wish at any time.”

In the midst of a global health crisis, Muslims are having to observe Ramadan in a new way. But thanks to new technologies, films like “Wahi,” mean they will not let the virus get in the way of their faith.

 

 

 


Major Saudi research center prepares to take part in advanced COVID-19 vaccine trials

Updated 22 September 2020

Major Saudi research center prepares to take part in advanced COVID-19 vaccine trials

  • Ministry of Health and King Abdullah International Medical Research Center have been working with two Chinese drug companies

JEDDAH: King Abdullah International Medical Research Center (KAIMRC) in Saudi Arabia is preparing to take part in advanced trials of one or two COVID-19 vaccines.

About 40 potential vaccines are being tested on humans, nine of which are at the advanced stage of clinical trials to evaluate their safety and effectiveness in protecting people against a virus that has infected more than 31 million people around the world.

The center confirmed its readiness to cooperate with the Kingdom’s Ministry of Health and the Saudi Food and Drug Authority (SFDA) and participate in tests of one or two of the nine vaccines that are in the third phase of clinical trials, during which large-scale testing on humans takes place.

Dr. Naif Al-Harbi, the head of KAIMRC’s drug-development unit, told Al-Ekhbariya TV news channel that it is unprecedented to have nine vaccines in stage three of clinical trials so soon, less than a year, after the emergence of a new virus.

“Approval or disapproval of any drug normally follows the third stage of its clinical trials, which is the last stage,” he added. “Since the pandemic, KAIMRC has been in continuous contact with a number of drug companies in four countries (that are developing vaccines).”

KAIMRC has been working with one Chinese pharmaceutical company in particular to help evaluate and accelerate the development of its vaccine, he said.

“Over the past two months, we have been in contact with Sinovac to scientifically evaluate its product, in term of the tests on animals and a study of the results of stages one and two on humans,” Al-Harbi said.