Almost 790k pilgrims perform Umrah since resumption of rituals
Strict health protocols have enabled a gradual increase in pilgrim numbers
Updated 11 November 2020
MAKKAH: As the Kingdom is getting back on track after earlier lockdowns, plans to maintain services for pilgrims while adhering to strict health protocols are proving a success.
Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Hajj and Umrah said that 788,038 people had performed Umrah in total since the gradual resumption of Umrah rituals began on Oct. 4. The third phase, which started on Nov. 1, permitted pilgrims from abroad to perform the ritual alongside residents of the Kingdom.
Saudi Arabia suspended Umrah in March and significantly downsized the Hajj pilgrimage in July by only allowing about 1,000 pilgrims, all in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
In an interview with Arab News, Dr. Amr Al-Maddah, undersecretary at the Ministry for Hajj and Umrah, noted that all visas from abroad that have been filed through accredited agents and the offices of certified Umrah companies have been accepted, provided they fulfilled the necessary requirements.
He said that tourist offices abroad are following their contracts with the Ministry of Hajj and Umrah so that pilgrims can come to perform Umrah rituals.
The undersecretary said in the first phase of Umrah, which lasted for 14 days, 84,000 pilgrims were received — 6,000 people per day. “210,000 pilgrims performed Umrah rituals during the second phase, which lasted for 14 days, at a 15,000-pilgrims capacity per day.” Last week Al-Maddah said, “four groups totaling nearly 1,000 pilgrims came from abroad.”
Meanwhile, Sheikh Abdulrahman Al-Sudais, president of the General Presidency for the Affairs of the Two Holy Mosques called for an increase in the number of paths around the Kaaba to accommodate the increased number of pilgrims performing Umrah and to allocate paths for the elderly and people with disabilities, as well as paths for those in wheelchairs.
Al-Maddah said that during the third phase, the regulatory protocols will be reviewed to streamline services for the pilgrims and assess any required changes.
Those applying for Umrah from abroad must be between 18 and 50 years old, in accordance with the requirements of the Ministry of Health. They must also submit their COVID-19 negative RT-PCR test, issued by a reliable laboratory and taken 72 hours prior to leaving for Saudi Arabia.
Pilgrims must book through the Eatmarna application to perform Umrah, pray in the Grand Mosque, visit the Prophet’s Mosque and pray in the Prophet’s Sacred Chamber in the Prophet’s Mosque, in accordance with the regulations and available capacity. Each pilgrim must also have confirmed return air tickets.
Al-Maddah stressed: “Pilgrims who have booked only an appointment for prayer cannot perform Umrah because they will not be able to enter the Tawaf area.”
How China’s Xi Jinping became the embodiment of a new, multipolar world
Xi Jinping’s rule likely to prove transformative as China eyes title of world’s pre-eminent economic power
Since taking power in 2013, Xi has pursued what he has called a “great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation”
Updated 13 sec ago
RIYADH: When Xi Jinping became China’s president in 2013, the world’s most populous country had already emerged as the second-biggest economy and appeared poised to reset the global geopolitical balance.
Nearly 10 years into his premiership, Xi has cemented China’s place as a regional power, expanded Chinese influence in Central Asia and Africa, and made enormous strides in everything from robotics and artificial intelligence to space exploration.
China today has the world’s largest internet infrastructure, with the number of users increasing from 564 million to 1.03 billion over the past decade, and a robust digital economy, which has increased in value from 11 trillion yuan ($1.6 trillion) to 45.5 trillion yuan.
In that time, China’s GDP has grown from 53.9 trillion yuan to 114.4 trillion yuan, now accounting for 18.5 percent of the world economy. Meanwhile, average life expectancy has risen to 78.2 years, and around 100 million people have been lifted out of poverty.
Over the course of his lifetime, Xi has borne witness to China’s transformative rise, from the first tumultuous decades after the communist revolution of 1949 to the nation’s rapid ascent to superpower status.
Xi was born in Beijing on June 15, 1953, the son of Xi Zhongxun, a senior Communist Party official, one-time deputy prime minister, and former guerrilla commander in the civil war that brought the communists to power.
As the son of a senior official, Xi spent his early years among China’s elite. However, in 1969 at the age of 15, Xi was among the many educated urban youths who were sent to live and work in the countryside during the Cultural Revolution — a period of immense social upheaval.
Xi would remain in the remote northeastern village of Liangjiahe, in Shaanxi province, for seven years, learning firsthand how the majority of his countrymen lived and worked. While there, Xi joined the Communist Youth League and then, in 1974, the Communist Party of China.
In 1975, Xi returned to Beijing to study chemical engineering at the prestigious Tsinghua University. It was the following year, on Sept. 9, 1976, that Mao died at the age of 82, ending a 27-year rule characterized by radical social and economic transformation.
Hua Guofeng, Mao’s handpicked successor, emerged as the nation’s new leader. However, he was soon sidelined by Deng Xiaoping, who would go on to introduce significant economic reforms in the 1980s, sowing the seed of China’s emergence as a global superpower.
After university, Xi joined the military as an aide in the Central Military Commission and the Defense Ministry. Then, in 1982, he was given his first position of authority as deputy and then leader of the Communist Party in Zhengding county, south of Beijing, in Hebei province.
In 1985, having proved himself as a skilled provincial official, Xi was appointed vice mayor of the city of Xiamen, a manufacturing hub in coastal Fujian province — a post he would hold for the next 17 years.
It was during this time, in 1987, that Xi married Peng Liyuan, a popular singer in the People’s Liberation Army’s song and dance troupe. The couple had one daughter, Xi Mingze, who went on to study at Harvard University in the US.
With the new millennium, Xi’s national standing grew rapidly. In 2000, he was appointed governor of Fujian province. Two years later, he was transferred to neighboring Zhejiang province, where he was appointed party chief — a post that outranks governor.
Now a rising star within the CPC, Xi was appointed party chief of Shanghai in March 2007. He was to remain in this post for only a few months, however, as that October he joined the national leadership as part of the nine-member Politburo Standing Committee. The following year, in March 2008, he was named vice president.
Xi then began building his international profile. The same year he became VP, he was placed in charge of the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing — an event that marked China’s own re-emergence on the world stage.
In Aug. 2011, Xi hosted then-Vice President Joe Biden on his visit to China, nearly a decade before Biden became US president.
Then, in Nov. 2012, Xi secured the top job in the CPC, replacing Chinese President Hu Jintao as general secretary, beginning his first five-year term as president of China in March the following year.
Since taking power, Xi has pursued what he has called a “great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation” with his “Chinese Dream” vision.
Under his leadership, China has enacted reforms to combat slowing growth and has launched the multi-billion-dollar “Belt and Road” infrastructure project aimed at expanding China’s trade links with Central Asia and Europe.
The country has become more assertive on the global stage, from the South China Sea and Taiwan in the east to countries of Asia and Africa in the west.
In Oct. 2017, marking the start of his second term, and in recognition of his transformational premiership, the CPC enshrined Xi’s ideology, known as “Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era,” in its constitution, as well as his signature Belt and Road initiative.
Such was Xi’s prestige at the outset of his second term that China’s legislature voted in March 2018 to abolish the nation’s two-term limit on the presidency.
Xi’s second term was not without its challenges, however. In July 2018, the US, under then-President Donald Trump, imposed tariffs on Chinese imports, triggering a trade war. China retaliated with tariffs on US goods.
Then, in Jan. 2020, China locked down the city of Wuhan as a new virus sparked what would become the COVID-19 pandemic. Although China has seen one of the world’s lowest per capita death rates, its “zero-COVID” policy has required the imposition of periodic lockdowns.
As one of the world’s major industrial powerhouses, and one of its top manufacturers, China has been eager to play its part in reducing greenhouse gas emissions, weaning its power grid off coal, developing clean renewable technologies, and promoting sustainability.
In Sept. 2020, in a video speech to the UN General Assembly, Xi announced China’s aim to reach peak carbon dioxide emissions before 2030 and to achieve carbon neutrality before 2060.
It was in 2022 that China under Xi truly emerged as a global force with influence over world events. In February, at the opening of the Beijing Winter Olympics, Xi met Russian President Vladimir Putin, announcing a renewal of the Sino-Russian relationship.
Three weeks later, Russia invaded Ukraine, leading to Western sanctions and NATO efforts to shore up the Ukrainian defenders. China, meanwhile, like many equidistant nations, refrained from criticizing Russia’s operation, but stopped short of backing Moscow militarily. This episode alone demonstrates just how far China has come in the new, multipolar world.
In October, Xi began a third five-year term as CPC leader, setting him on a course to become the nation’s longest-serving leader since Mao, and very likely its most transformative, as China eyes the possibility of becoming the world’s pre-eminent economic power.
China's Xi to visit Saudi Arabia, attend Chinese-Saudi summit
Summit will be chaired by King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman
Will focus on relations between GCC and Arab states and People's Republic of China
Updated 06 December 2022
King Salman invited President of China Xi Jinping for an official visit to attend the Saudi-Chinese summit held in Saudi Arabia from Dec. 7 to 9, state news agency SPA reported on Tuesday.
The summit will be chaired by King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman. It will look at relations between the countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council and Arab states with the People's Republic of China,
Discussions are expected to focus on strengthening joint cooperation in economy and development.
Crown Prince announces Sindalah, NEOM’s first luxury island development
Extending over 840,000 square meters, Sindalah is expected to create 3,500 jobs for tourism, leisure services
The island will act as main gateway to the Red Sea and is expected to start welcoming guests from early 2024
Updated 06 December 2022
RIYADH: NEOM’s first luxury island destination Sindalah will play host to superyachts and top-end apartments, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman revealed as he announced the latest project set to boost Saudi Arabia’s tourism industry.
Extending over an area of approximately 840,000sq. m., Sindalah is one of a group of islands that will be developed in the giga-project, and is expected to create 3,500 jobs for the tourism sector and hospitality and leisure services.
The island will act as a main gateway to the Red Sea, offering bespoke nautical experiences and is expected to start welcoming guests from early 2024, according to the Saudi Press Agency.
The Crown Prince said: “This is another significant moment for NEOM and a major step in the Kingdom realizing its tourism ambitions under Vision 2030.
“Sindalah will be NEOM’s first luxury island and yacht club destination in the Red Sea, providing a scenic gateway to the Red Sea that will become the region’s most exciting and attractive tourism location.
“It will be a destination where travelers can experience the true beauty of NEOM and Saudi Arabia, above and below the water, making Sindalah the future of luxury travel.”
Speaking to Arab News, Chris Newman, executive director of hotel development at NEOM, set out the range of events and activites that the island will see once it has opened.
"Sindalah expects to host sophisticated cultural events, grand sporting spectacles and glamorous social celebrations throughout the year," he said, adding "There will be a year-round calendar of imaginative experiences, curated across various seasons."
These will include a social season from December to February which will offer guests access to exclusive music concerts, art and culture events, hosted in inspiring creative venues.
The 'Glamour season' will run from March to May, and then from October and November, and will coinciding with the peak yachting event season. gGuests will enjoy exclusive access to concerts, fashion and culinary festivals as part of the glamour season.
The active season from June to September will offer guests a range of family-friendly beach and recreational activities.
"Sindalah is one of many islands in NEOM. There are additional islands in development, and we will make the announcements in due course as more information becomes available," Newman added/
Mohammed bin Salman, who is also the chairman of NEOM’s Board of Directors, said the launch of Sindalah is a major step in realizing the Kingdom’s tourism ambitions, in line with the goals outlined in Vision 2030.
Sindalah will have an 86-berth marina, as well as hosting 413 ultra-premium hotel rooms, in addition to 333 top-end serviced apartments.
Other attractions in Sindalah include a luxe beach club, yacht club and 38 unique culinary offerings that will provide an incomparable experience in the Red Sea.
Sindalah is also expected to become a popular golfing destination by offering enthusiasts the opportunity to experience a world-class 6,474-yard (5,920 meters) par 70 course. With its 18 tees, the Sindalah golf course will deliver two unique nine-hole experiences.
NEOM, the $500 billion smart city, is one of the most important projects supporting Saudi Arabia’s national tourism strategy, as the Kingdom steadily diversifies its economy which was heavily dependent on oil for decades.
In November, speaking at the World Travel and Tourism Council Global Summit, Nadhmi Al-Nasr, CEO of NEOM said that the hanging stadiums in the smart city will make tourists reimagine and visualize the future.
“In The Line, we want people to come and see how sports stadiums are built, and where they are built. The sports stadiums in NEOM are 300 meter high, loose and hanging in the air,” said Al-Nasr.
He also added that OXAGON, the industrial city in NEOM also has all the potential to become a world-class tourist destination, where visitors can come and see how the future will be.
“It is in OXAGON where all industries will be, and it is the port of NEOM. Yet, we would like to see tourists spending a day or two in OXAGON. They will see the future of industries in OXAGON. Everything in NEOM is built for the future era. We want them to come and see how future sea ports will operate,” he added.
US director Oliver Stone explores Saudi film scene at Red Sea International Film Festival
Oliver Stone’s latest documentary 'Nuclear' is screening at the festival on Sunday
The 'Scarface' director, RSIFF jury president earlier took to stage at opening ceremony
Updated 04 December 2022
JEDDAH: Lauded US director Oliver Stone took part in a roundtable discussion at the ongoing Red Sea International Film Festival in Saudi Arabia on Saturday.
When asked by Arab News if he would consider filming in Saudi Arabia, he said: “My time is limited, I’m 76 years old. What do you want me to do, come down here and learn a whole different culture? No, I don’t think that’s possible. I have one project in mind, which I can’t tell you because nobody knows about it and if I can get that done, I would be very happy.”
“The Middle East has tremendous potential, economically too. People are putting money here, no question,” he added.
When commenting on film’s ability to act as a cultural bridge, he said “I imagine cinema has played a huge role, but on the other hand cinema is also very violent and revenge-motivated — those stories always seem to work — so you could say that’s not a good example for the world… so it’s double-edged, it depends on the movie.”
Stone’s latest documentary “Nuclear” is screening at the festival on Sunday.
Prior to his private discussion, the “Scarface” director and RSIFF jury president took to the stage at the opening ceremony of the festival on Thursday to share his views on Saudi Arabia.
Stone said the country is “much misunderstood in the present world – people who have judged too harshly should come and visit to see for themselves.” He also noted “changes” and “reforms” taking place in the Kingdom, which he said make it worth a visit.
Commenting on the 15-strong competition slate, the Oscar-winning director said: “These films stick to very basic ideas of survival, migration, suffering. There’s a real spirit here, which is growing,” according to Variety.
The event will continue until Dec. 10 under the slogan “Film is Everything.”
The festival is set to showcase 131 feature films and shorts from 61 countries, in 41 languages, made by established and emerging talents. Seven feature films and 24 shorts from Saudi Arabia will also be shown.
At Riyadh Forum, thinkers say space may be ‘home’ sooner than we think
With participation from over 19 countries, the platform targets wide audience from various backgrounds
This year’s conference is building off the success of last year’s event which discussed unpredictability
Updated 03 December 2022
RIYADH: The second edition of the Riyadh Philosophy Conference launched on Thursday as international and local specialists gathered to discuss topics under the theme “Knowledge and Exploration: Space, Time and Humanity.”
Organized by Saudi Arabia’s Literature, Publishing and Translation Commission, the three-day event kicked off with welcome remarks by Saudi critic, thinker and translator Saad bin Abdulrahman Albazie, who was introduced by the CEO of the commission, Mohammed Alwan.
With participation from over 19 countries, the global platform targets a wide audience from various academic and professional backgrounds.
“We are heading toward endless informational and explorational horizons, toward space, time and humanity, and settling into our human fate, moral values and scientific criteria of the universe,” Albazie said.
“We will create a philosophical space out of our physical space, and propose new concepts in an undiscovered field in the spirit of entrepreneurial research that has been touched upon by this conference’s esteemed guests.”
While taking a trip to space is, undoubtedly, a dream for many, it may well be a place we call “home” much sooner than we think.
A keynote speech by Mishaal Ashemimry, moderated by Prof. Nicolas de Warren of Penn State University, examined the futuristic concept of humanity becoming an interplanetary species.
Discussing humanity’s options if Earth is no longer accommodating or habitable, Ashemimry, special adviser to the CEO at the Saudi Space Commission, said: “We must prepare for our future because no one knows. Yes, we can monitor all these items that are orbiting Earth, but there are so many that we don’t know about.
“I’m not suggesting that this is the only way. I am suggesting that we need to hedge our bets, invest in all the technologies necessary and all the possible solutions to prevent this existential problem — whether it’s going to Mars or preparing to go to Mars, or whether it’s intercepting that asteroid, and having mechanisms to detect it sooner and enable us to have enough time.”
The conversation around space continued with Abdullah Al-Ghathami, professor of criticism and theory at King Saud University, delivering a keynote speech under the title “Humanity in Space: Glory or Power.”
Leading thinkers took part in panel discussions, including “Inquiry Techniques in the Classroom” by General Manager of the Baseera Institute Dalia Toonsi, and “Chaos and Logos” with physicist Reem Taibah and Saudi Space Commission adviser Haithem Al-Twaijry.
This year’s conference is building off the success of last year’s event, which discussed unpredictability.
The forum aims to open up the once-taboo study of philosophy in the region by involving contemporary philosophers, scientists, writers and intellectuals from all over the world.
Discussions in the coming days will focus on the status of contemporary science, the complexities of space diplomacy and climate change, justice and ethics in exploration, and the dilemmas of artificial intelligence.