US defense secretary shares Saudi concerns over Iran’s destabilizing activities
Austin: “The US is committed to our strong partnership with Saudi Arabia”
He welcomed the Kingdom’s constructive efforts in advancing the current truce in Yemen
Updated 20 May 2022
RIYADH: US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin said he shares Saudi Arabia’s concerns over Iran’s destabilizing activities in the region on Thursday.
In a tweet, Austin added that he welcomed the Kingdom’s constructive efforts in advancing the current truce in Yemen which came into effect on April 2. He said the truce should be extended.
Saudi Deputy Defense Minister Prince Khalid bin Salman earlier met with the defense secretary during his visit to Washington for the US-Saudi Strategic Joint Planning Committee.
The officials reviewed the Saudi-US partnership, and ongoing and future strategic military and defense cooperation between the two countries.
Austin said it was a pleasure to meet with Prince Khalid and that the “US is committed to our strong partnership with Saudi Arabia.”
Prince Khalid also met with Under Secretary of Defense for Policy Colin Kahl, and the two reaffirmed the strength of the US-Saudi defense partnership.
“Dr. Kahl affirmed the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia as a strategic partner of the United States and underscored US commitment to supporting the Kingdom in defending itself against external threats.”
Iran’s destabilizing actions in the region was also discussed, and the prince and Khal agreed to increase cooperation and work to counter the smuggling of illicit weapons to violent non-state groups in the Middle East.
Return of the leopard is at the heart of plans to conserve and regenerate Saudi Arabia’s landscapes and wildlife
A brief guide to Hajj 2022: What the pilgrims will do over the next few days
This year one million pilgrims will perform the Hajj, one of the pillars of Islam obligatory for Muslims
Saudi authorities have introduced many technological tools to aid pilgrims on their journey
Updated 21 min 5 sec ago
JEDDAH: Hajj is an annual religious pilgrimage to the holy city of Makkah undertaken yearly by millions of Muslims worldwide. It occurs in the 12th month of the Islamic lunar calendar, called Dhul Hijjah, between the eighth and 13th days of the month.
This year, Hajj takes place from approximately July 7 to 12. Taking part in the pilgrimage at least once in their lifetime is a major obligation for all able-bodied Muslims of financial means, and between 2 million and 3 million people participate in the six-day ritual every year.
This year, 1 million pilgrims will flock to the holy city, 85 percent of them traveling from abroad for the first time following a two-year hiatus brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic and attendant restrictions that prevented them from performing the ritual.
To ensure a smooth and safe journey for the pilgrims, the Saudi government has announced a series of entry conditions.
Pilgrims who wish to perform Hajj must be under 65 years old and fully vaccinated against COVID-19 with a booster. They must also present a negative PCR test taken 72 hours before departure for the Kingdom, and priority will go to those who have not performed the ritual before.
Following Prophet Muhammad, for 14 centuries, pilgrims began their journeys in a spiritual state of purity and devotion, also known as Ihram, which is the combined sacred act of Niyyah and Talbiyah necessary to perform Hajj. It is the innate intention to commit an act of worship, while Talbiyah is a special prayer said in supplication to attain Ihram.
After entering Makkah, pilgrims perform the welcome tawaf, circling the Kaaba seven times in a counterclockwise direction, starting at the Black Stone. They then head to the hills of Safa and Marwa, where they perform saee, which is the act of going back and forth between the two hills seven times.
Pilgrims then travel to Mina, an area of 20 square kilometers nearly five kilometers away from the Grand Mosque in Makkah, on the eighth day of Dhul Hijjah, also known as Yom Al-Tarwiyah, where they will stay and fill their day and evening with prayers and supplications, resting and consuming water ahead of their long, perilous journey.
On the second day of Hajj, pilgrims travel to Mt. Arafat, 20 kilometers away. The day is devoted to prayer and supplications as they observe duhr (noon) combined with asr (afternoon) prayers until sunset.
Day of Arafat is considered the most critical day for pilgrims and the millions not performing. It is the day that, “atones for the sins of the preceding and coming (Muslim) year” and is the best day for worship and supplication in the entire year.
After sunset, pilgrims descend from Mount Arafat and make their way to Muzdalifah for isha (night) prayers, collect pebbles no larger than the size of a fingertip ahead of the stoning ritual on the next day, and rest until midnight or dawn, when they will make the long journey back to Mina for the final steps of Hajj, the stoning ritual at Jamarat Al-Aqabah.
On the third day of Hajj, Eid Al-Adha, pilgrims stone the Jamarat Al-Aqabah, or the big pillar, a place where the Prophet Ibrahim threw seven pebbles at the devil. After doing so, pilgrims change from their Ihram; sacrificial animals are slaughtered, and men cut or shave their heads while women cut a fingertip’s length of hair to commemorate the end of the Hajj pilgrimage.
For three days, known as Ayyam Al-Tashreeq, pilgrims stay in Mina and perform the stoning of the other two pillars, Al-Jamarah Al-Wusta and Al-Jamarah Al-Sughra.
With years of preparations ahead of the mass gathering, Saudi Arabia’s authorities undergo major planning every year to control the crowds, dividing a large number of pilgrims into groups and designating specific timings and routes to reach the bridge where the pillars are located.
Thousands of volunteers, military, law enforcement, and health personnel will be on the ground to assist pilgrims in what many believe is their sacred duty to serve the guests of God in the holiest and most sacred of journeys for a Muslim.
Utilizing the power of technologies, Saudi Hajj authorities are including the pilgrims’ smart ID again this year to render the transport of the “visitors of Allah” easier and to ensure their fast arrival to their locations and tents, whether in Mina or Arafat, with robots with touch screens available to explain rituals explained in 11 languages.
The Ministry of Hajj and Umrah, in collaboration with the General Authority for Awqaf, launched 13 detailed e-manuals offering advice to pilgrims from around the world on a variety of topics in 14 languages, including French, Turkish, Persian, Urdu, Russian, and Amharic, which are compatible with all phone operating systems and can be reached by visiting guide.haj.gov.sa.
In a video shared on Twitter, the Ministry said: “These guiding e-manuals are interactive, and include Shariah and Islamic law, procedural, organizational and health directives which pilgrims will need during their Hajj journey.”
ThePlace: Maqam Ibrahim, the stone on which the Prophet stood
Updated 07 July 2022
MAKKAH: When worshippers circumambulate the Kaaba, they are often mesmerized by Maqam Ibrahim, the footprints of Prophet Ibrahim, kept in an enclosed glass case.
Maqam Ibrahim is a stone on which the prophet stood when the Kaaba was being built.
The stone is 50 centimeters long on each side and has two footprints in the middle in the form of two oval pits.
According to historians, when the Kaaba was being built, the walls became too high and Prophet Ibrahim stood on a stone that miraculously lifted him to build the walls and lowered him so he could collect stones from his son, Prophet Ismail.
Dr. Samir Ahmed Barqah, a researcher in the history of Makkah and the prophet’s biography, told Arab News: “It is a wet stone holding the footprints of Prophet Ibrahim. His footprints remain visible to the present day. The maqam and the Black Stone are the oldest and most sacred landmarks in Islam, dating back 4,000 years.
It is located in front of the door of the Kaaba, around 10 to 11 meters east.”
Barqah said that historian Mohammed Tahir Al-Kurdi in 1367 stated the length of the footprints to be 22 centimeters long and 14 centimeters wide.
The stone is set in a gold and silver frame and kept in a glass case. During Omar Ibn Al-Khattab’s caliphate, Nahshal floods hit the city and dislodged the stone from its place. When the caliph came to Makkah, he fixed the stone in its current position.
It was previously inside a compartment to protect it from damage and theft. But the compartment was later removed, with the stone placed inside glass casing so that every worshipper could see it.
History researcher Saad Al-Sharif said that, throughout time, the stone had always remained near the Kaaba.
When Prophet Muhammad conquered Makkah, he and his companions decided to shift the stone from its original location near the Kaaba to its current location at a distance of more than 10 meters to facilitate circumambulation.
MAKKAH: Three hundred people with disabilities have arrived at King Abdulaziz International Airport in Jeddah to perform Hajj, the fifth pillar of Islam.
This is part of a national initiative launched by the Ministry of Hajj and Umrah, for the second year in a row, that includes orphans from across Saudi Arabia.
The program provides these pilgrims with facilities and services that allows them to perform their Hajj comfortably, and forms part of the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 reform plan. For those who need it, special housing and 24-hour escort services are provided.
The Kingdom is allowing up to 1 million people to perform Hajj this year, welcoming foreign pilgrims for the first time in two years, during which COVID-19 restrictions meant the annual pilgrimage was limited to residents of the country.
The General Presidency for the Affairs of the Two Holy Mosques confirmed its readiness to receive pilgrims, saying it had mobilized 10,000 workers.
The presidency also said that the live broadcast of the Arafat Day sermon, one of the most important events in the Islamic calendar, has been expanded to include 14 languages as Saudi Arabia’s leadership seeks to convey a message of moderation and tolerance to the widest possible audience.
The sermon will be available in English, French, Malay, Urdu, Persian, Russian, Chinese, Bengali, Turkish, Hausa, Spanish, Hindi, Swahili and Tamil.
Who’s Who: Naif Sheshah, chief digital officer at KSA’s Communications and Information Technology Commission
Updated 07 July 2022
In April, Naif Sheshah, the assistant deputy governor for planning and development and chief digital officer at Saudi Arabia’s Communications and Information Technology Commission, was named as one of 110 young global leaders by the World Economic Forum.
He joined the commission in November 2016 as general manager for strategic planning and development and acting GM of its postal and logistics services and was promoted to his current position in February 2021.
He has spearheaded the communications authority’s digital transformation strategy and helped in the launch of several industry reports including one into the advancement of the Kingdom’s internet and gaming performance.
He also played an instrumental role in launching IGNITE, a $1.1 billion program to transform Saudi Arabia into a leading digital entertainment and media production hub.
While managing the commission’s postal and logistics services, he restructured the sector and introduced a regulatory sandbox for delivery apps during the coronavirus pandemic.
He has also been the chief strategy officer at the Saudi Space Commission since May last year.
In 2012, he began his career as a business process analyst at Al-Elm Information Security Co. and in May of the same year joined Saudi Basic Industries Corp. as a senior business process controller.
From 2017 to 2019, he worked as an ambassador for the National Center for Performance Measurement. In addition, he has sat on the board of the National Information Technology Center since 2019 and has been a member of the International Data Corp. Middle East Advisory Council since 2021.
Sheshah gained a master’s degree in information technology and business process management from the Queensland University of Technology, in Australia, an associate degree in English from the University of Nebraska Omaha, and a management acceleration certificate from INSEAD in France.
Group of 185 pilgrims arrives in Jeddah under Saudi king’s guest program
The king’s generous gesture comes in line with the Kingdom’s permanent efforts to serve pilgrims, build positive relations with other countries
Updated 06 July 2022
JEDDAH: The Saudi Ministry of Hajj and Umrah on Tuesday received 185 pilgrims at Jeddah’s King Abdulaziz International Airport as part of the guest program of King Salman.
This year’s program enables representatives from the the 41 countries working in the Islamic Military Counter Terrorism Coalition, along with relatives of martyrs and people injured in terrorist attacks, to perform their Hajj rituals.
The ministry is taking care of the guests to ensure that they will be provided with all the services they need throughout their Hajj journey.
Services include accommodation, transportation, meals and any other services they may need while performing their rituals.
The guest program also provides other services to the pilgrims, most notably securing travel tickets, obtaining visas, providing medical care, as well as providing round the clock buses from accommodation to the Grand Mosque in Makkah.
The king’s generous gesture comes in line with the Kingdom’s permanent efforts to serve pilgrims, build positive relations with other countries and open wider horizons for strengthening ties in the Muslim world.