Saudi Hajj officials outline health, security measures

A picture taken June 23, 2020 shows a few worshippers performing morning prayers at the Kaaba at the Grand Mosque complex in Saudi Arabia's holy city of Mecca. Saudi Arabia has announced it will hold a "very limited" hajj this year, with pilgrims already in the kingdom allowed to perform the annual ritual as it moves to curb the biggest coronavirus outbreak in the Gulf. (AFP)
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Updated 16 July 2020

Saudi Hajj officials outline health, security measures

  • Saudi Arabia has decided to allow only a limited number of domestic pilgrims to perform Hajj this year in the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak
  • Of the pilgrims who will receive approval, 70 percent will be non-Saudis residing in the Kingdom

RIYADH: Prince Abdul Aziz bin Saud bin Naif, minister of interior and chairman of the Hajj Supreme Committee, chaired a virtual meeting on Wednesday with the heads of  security agencies and officials in charge of this year’s Hajj season.
During the meeting, the minister and security officials discussed organizational issues related to Hajj, including preventive and precautionary steps related to fighting the coronavirus disease, procedures related to pilgrims commuting to the holy sites, and mechanisms to facilitate performing the Hajj rituals.
Prince Abdul Aziz confirmed abiding by the directives of King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to take all precautions to preserve the safety of the pilgrims, and facilitate their performance of their Hajj rituals, according to the highest health standards to contain the new coronavirus pandemic.
Saudi Arabia has decided to allow only a limited number of domestic pilgrims to perform Hajj this year in the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak.
Only those expatriates between the ages of 20 and 50 who are not suffering from any chronic diseases can apply for the pilgrimage.
Earlier, the Ministry of Hajj and Umrah said that requests from people of 160 nationalities in the Kingdom have been screened electronically to select who will perform Hajj this year.
Of the pilgrims who will receive approval, 70 percent will be non-Saudis residing in the Kingdom and the remaining 30 percent will be Saudi citizens.
Meanwhile, the Ministry of Interior said that anyone found entering the sites of Hajj (Mina, Muzdalifah and Arafat) without a permit from July 18 till the end of Dhu Al-Hijjah 12 will be issued with a fine of SR10,000 ($2,600).
The fine will be doubled if the offence is repeated. Security personnel will be posted on roads leading to the holy sites to ensure that anyone who breaks the law will be stopped and fined.
Around 2.5 million foreign and domestic pilgrims performed Hajj last year.
 


Ithra marks National Day with exhibitions, competitions and performances

Updated 23 September 2020

Ithra marks National Day with exhibitions, competitions and performances

  • The study reveals a need to protect and preserve Saudi heritage in the face of cultural homogenization

RIYADH: The King Abdulaziz Center for World Culture (Ithra) is marking Saudi Arabia’s 90th National Day with exhibitions, a scavenger hunt, a fine dining pop-up, and artistic performances.

The center started its National Day celebrations on Sept. 21 and the activities run through to Sept. 26. 

Rania Biltagi, the head of communication and partnerships at Ithra, said she hoped that people this year would ask themselves what being Saudi meant to them.

“I am proud to be part of an organization created as a creative and cultural destination perfectly positioned to drive and participate in conversations such as these,” she told Arab News. “Our mandate involves igniting cultural curiosity, exploring knowledge and inspiring creativity, and it’s a task we don’t take lightly.”

“Saudi at heart, multicultural by nature” had been the Ithra motto from the start, she said, and the center was always looking inward even as it looked outward.

Biltagi shared the results of research that Ithra had conducted about the impact of globalization on Saudi Arabia’s culture.

“The study reveals a need to protect and preserve Saudi heritage in the face of cultural homogenization. However, it also shows that Saudis are willing and able to embrace modernity and globalization while still cherishing their unique national identity.”

Ithra has created the “Kingdom of Cultures” exhibition, which will take visitors on an interactive and state-of-the-art journey through Saudi Arabia’s lands and tell stories about the Saudi people. It will also feature crafts, dialects and customs.

Writer and Saudi heritage expert Ali Ibrahim Moghawi said he was honored to be participating in the festival as part of the “Flower Men” booth.

“To be representing our great nation at the very place where oil was first discovered, a place that represents the heart of progress in Saudi Arabia, the place that has done the most to respect our heritage and support every Saudi generation future, past, and present, is an honor,” he told Arab News.

Ithra has scheduled musical performances from Saudi band Al-Farabi, which will also feature the pianist Abeer Balubaid and singer Ameen Farsi. Award-winning poet Abdulatif Almubarak will host an evening of poetry – “Aswat” – accompanied by musicians in a celebration of Saudi civilization.

The center has devised a pop-up restaurant called Takya, which will offer guests a fine dining experience with Saudi fusion cuisine and modern takes on old favorites.

It has also announced plans to revamp and renovate an old farmer’s market in Alkhobar’s Al-Ulaya district to give it an energetic and artsy edge. The covered space is being redecorated and will feature areas for art and music, in addition to a dedicated and upgraded space where local farmers can sell their produce.

Ithra plans to curate installations at the market to make it more visually appealing as well as to take art and creativity directly to the community.

It has scheduled two celebration sessions a day with limited space and occupancy. The first runs from 4:00 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. while the second is from 8:30 p.m. until midnight.

Tickets to the events, as well as the special performances, are available on Ithra’s website.