The journey begins: One million Muslims begin first rituals of Hajj 2022

Muslim pilgrims circumambulate around the Kaaba, Islam's holiest shrine, during the annual Hajj pilgrimage at the Grand Mosque in Saudi Arabia's holy city of Makkah on July 6, 2022. (AFP)
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Updated 07 July 2022

The journey begins: One million Muslims begin first rituals of Hajj 2022

  • Kingdom launches massive operation to protect pilgrims’ health and safety
  • On Thursday, the pilgrims will move to a vast tented city at Mina

MAKKAH: A million pilgrims began the spiritual journey of a lifetime as the first rituals of the annual Hajj began.

Hundreds of thousands of worshippers circled Islam’s holiest site, the Kaaba at the Grand Mosque in Makkah. Many held umbrellas to block the sun as the temperature climbed to 42C.

On Thursday, the pilgrims will move to a vast tented city at Mina, about 5 kilometers from the Grand Mosque, ahead of the main rite at Mount Arafat, where the Prophet Muhammad delivered his final sermon.

Saudi authorities have mounted a massive operation to ensure the health and safety of pilgrims. The Saudi Health Ministry has prepared 23 hospitals and 147 health centres in Makkah and Madinah, the second-holiest city in Islam, to accommodate pilgrims.

Four hospitals and 26 health centers are also ready to treat pilgrims in Mina. There are more than 1,000 beds for patients requiring intensive care and more than 200 specifically for heatstroke patients, and more than 25,000 health workers are ready to respond to cases as they arise.

 “It’s all going well so far. I have moved around a lot and saw rules are being respected,” said Faten Abdel Moneim, 65, a mother of four from Egypt.

Naima Mohsen, 42, also from Egypt, said: “Being here is the best thing that has ever happened to me. I can’t wait for the rest. My only problem is the weather. It’s just too hot.”

FASTFACTS

• The Hajj follows a route Prophet Muhammad walked nearly 1,400 years ago and is believed to trace the footsteps of the prophets Ibrahim and Ismail.

• The Qur’an says that all Islam’s followers who are physically and financially able should make the pilgrimage once in their lifetime.

One million fully vaccinated Muslims, including 850,000 from abroad, are allowed at this year's Hajj, after two years of curtailed numbers because of coronavirus pandemic restrictions.

In 2019 about some 2.5 million Muslims from around the world took part in Hajj, but after that the pandemic forced a downsizing. Only 60,000 fully vaccinated residents of the Kingdom took part in 2021, up from a few thousand in 2020.

The restoration of the Hajj stirred bittersweet emotions for pilgrims Sutrisno and Sri Wahyuningsih, two teachers from Indonesia. Sri’s parents were supposed to take part in 2020, but their plans fell victim to the pandemic.

Sri’s father will now never make the journey after he died from a stroke in March, and her mother could not take part because she is over this year’s age limit of 65.

Nevertheless, Sutrisno, 54, and Sri, 51, are joyful at undertaking the Hajj in place of Sri’s parents. “It’s such a huge moral burden to me,” said Sri. “But my mother has given her blessings to me and I have to think that this is a journey I have to go through, everything is Allah’s decision, and I have to go on the Hajj.”


Saudi tour guides shine at NEOM’s The Line exhibition

Updated 12 August 2022

Saudi tour guides shine at NEOM’s The Line exhibition

  • Details of NEOM project on full display at the exhibition
  • About 49 tours are organised per day, allowing visitors to grasp the scope and complexity of the project’s designs

JEDDAH: An exhibition exploring Saudi Arabia’s ambitious The Line project is leaving visitors enthralled thanks to the work of specialist tour guides.

The details of the NEOM project are on full display at the exhibition, hosted at the Jeddah Superdome. Visitors of all age groups will get first-hand insights with the help of the Saudi tour guides, who explain visual displays in both Arabic and English.

The guides are bringing the exhibition to life with about 49 tours per day, allowing visitors to grasp the scope and complexity of the project’s designs, architectural concepts and engineering capabilities.  

Speaking to Arab News, several tour guides expressed their enthusiasm at taking part in the exhibition and playing a small but important role in NEOM. 

One of the guides, Ragad Seit, said: “The experience is beyond wonderful. I love the excitement on the people’s faces while we explain the details of The Line. It is amazing to see the excitement they have for this revolutionary project and watching that makes me feel that it’s worth being a part of this exhibition. I am sure this will be a great movement for the future and we can’t wait to see the completion of The Line.”

Another young guide, Ghalya Faisal Alsahhaf, said: “My job here is to explain the unique and rare NEOM flora that will be grown in The Line. The experience is definitely one of a kind where I get to educate people on the vegetation aspect.

“The look on the people when they learn about the different kinds of flora is incredible. Also, I get to meet people from different cultures and backgrounds where I interact with them about the exhibition, and have discussions. The enthusiasm of the visitors is unimaginable.”

Abdulaziz Salmin said: “Although I am here as a tour guide, I am very proud to be a part of NEOM and work on this project.

“I work on sections one and two where I explain to the people what The Line is all about. The thrill and anticipation that the public show is very similar to my excitement. I am eagerly waiting to see how the city will turn out, especially after learning a lot more about it through this exhibition,” Salmin added.

Apart from tour guides, NEOM officials are also present at the exhibition to assist those looking for in-depth answers. 

The Jeddah exhibition opens its doors from 10 a.m. to 11 p.m. until Aug. 14, before moving to the Eastern Province and then staying in Riyadh.

“I learned about the project for the first time on social media and I was so excited to get my own first impression of the revolutionary model of The Line. I’m so excited to see this in reality,” Mohammad Ali, a visitor, said.

“Besides, we now understand more about the project with the help of the tour guides. It’s true that they can take the visitors on a whole different journey,” he added.

Another visitor, Raees Ali, said: “The tour guide turned my experience into a most pleasurable one by answering my questions and providing the information available in a clear and simple way.

“The project definitely looks futuristic and promising. After the tour, I did have many technical questions in my mind, but I am certain that they will be answered in the coming days. Hopefully, I would really like to relocate to this dreamy place.”

Saed H. was awestruck at The Line’s designs on display at the exhibition and is excited to see how the city will look after construction. 

“It is definitely a good idea to have a guide who gives some interesting details. I was surprised to learn about the football stadium in the city which will be embedded in a way where the city itself will turn towards the stadium and become the venue. All these details are so mind-blowing that the visitors were awe-inspired by this dreamy world. We really look forward to seeing it come to life,” said Saed.

Divided into different sections, the displays at the exhibition detail urban living plans being implemented in the city. The Line follows a human-first approach with health and well-being prioritized over transportation and infrastructure.

Free tickets can be booked through the Hala Yalla application for events.


Wanted militant detonates suicide vest as Saudi security forces try to make arrest

Updated 12 August 2022

Wanted militant detonates suicide vest as Saudi security forces try to make arrest

  • Abdullah bin Zayed Abdulrahman Al-Bakri Al-Shehri was listed as a wanted person by Saudi authorities
  • Pakistani resident, three security officials injured in explosion

JEDDAH: The list of the nine wanted individuals involved in a militant operation that targeted a mosque for Saudi Arabia’s special emergency forces in the southwestern Asir region in 2015 has been reduced, after the Presidency of State Security announced the killing of Abdullah Al-Shehri, who has been number four on a wanted list.
The man detonated a suicide vest he was wearing when security forces attempted to arrest him in Jeddah on Friday.
The spokesman for the Presidency of State Security said that in addition to the statement issued in February 2016 regarding the announcement of a list of the nine wanted persons for the security authorities, and as an extension of the existing security follow-up, the authority was able to track down the number four on the wanted list, Abdullah bin Zayed Abdulrahman Al-Bakri Al-Shehri, during a security operation.

Abdullah bin Zayed Abdulrahman Al-Bakri Al-Shehri has been listed as a wanted person by authorities in the Kingdom for the past seven years. (Supplied)

He had been approached by security personnel at 10:00 p.m. on Wednesday in the Al-Samer neighborhood in Jeddah. He died at the scene and a Pakistani resident and three security men with various injuries were taken to hospital to receive the necessary treatment.
Al-Shehri has been listed as a wanted person by authorities in the Kingdom for the past seven years, according to the statement. 
Security forces had tracked down the location of the militant and launched an operation to arrest him when he set off his suicide vest. 

With this announcement, only one wanted person remained from the announced list, Majid bin Zayed Al-Bakri Al-Shehri, who has been in hiding so far. The list included:
1. Saeed Aaidh Al-Dair Al-Shahrani, who was killed during a raid in Makkah in May 2016.
2. Taya Salem Eslam Al-Saiari was killed in a raid on his house in the Al-Yasmeen neighborhood in Riyadh in 2017.
3. Mutee Salem Islaam Al-Saiari was killed by a militant organization and it is believed that Taya’s sister beheaded him in a house in Al-Harazat neighborhood in Jeddah following orders from Daesh leaders after they doubted his intention to surrender to the security authorities in November 2016.
4. Abdulaziz Ahmed Mohammed Al-Bakri Al-Shehri was killed during a siege with another wanted man in the Barah area in Bisha governorate in April 2016.
5. Aqab Moajab Fazaan Al-Otaibi, who was arrested in Bisha in May 2016.
6. Mohammed Suleiman Rahyan Al-Saqri Al-Anzi was killed in a raid in Wadi Numan in Makkah in May 2016.
7. Mubarak Abdullah Fahad Al-Dosari was killed in a raid in Wadi Numan in Makkah in May 2016
8. Majid bin Zayed Al-Bakri Al-Shehri is still in hiding.
The nine militants affiliated with Daesh were involved in a militant attack that targeted worshipers at the Special Emergency Forces Command Mosque in Asir on Aug. 6, which killed 11 security officials and four Bangladeshi workers on the site, while 33 other people were injured.
The Presidency of State Security said the operation confirms the Kingdom’s determination to crack down on militants and ensure the safety of all citizens and residents. 


Saudi Arabia will now allow visitors holding tourist visas to perform Umrah – Hajj ministry

Updated 12 August 2022

Saudi Arabia will now allow visitors holding tourist visas to perform Umrah – Hajj ministry

  • 49 nations eligible under the new rules
  • Booking online or on arrival, says ministry

JEDDAH: The Ministry of Hajj and Umrah has announced that the Kingdom will now allow visitors holding tourist visas to perform Umrah.

Citizens of 49 countries will be able to do so by securing their visas online at Visit Saudi Arabia, or immediately on arrival at airports.

The decision has been taken to allow as many people as possible to perform the ritual.

Those who qualify include holders of visas to the US and the UK, as well as those who have Schengen visas.

The regulations allow visitors to obtain a tourist visa, valid for 12 months, to visit other cities in the Kingdom.

Those who have family visit visas are allowed to perform Umrah, by booking through the Eatmarna app.

To perform Umrah, visitors are required to obtain comprehensive health insurance, which includes covering the costs of COVID-19 treatment, accidents resulting in death or disability, and expenses arising from flight delays or cancellations.

Those wishing to perform Umrah from nations other than those who currently qualify, should apply for visas at the Kingdom’s embassies in their countries.

Documents required include proof of residence and employment, return ticket, bank statement proving financial stability, itinerary, and complete personal information.


Beit Hail in Saudi Arabia’s north showcases local heritage

Updated 12 August 2022

Beit Hail in Saudi Arabia’s north showcases local heritage

  • Ancient Thamudic and Sadu embroidery on display

HAIL: The Beit Hail 15-day festival was launched on Wednesday showcasing local heritage including incense burners, daggers, wicker baskets, and clothes with ancient Thamudic and Sadu embroidery.

Dep. Gov. of Hail Prince Faisal bin Fahd inaugurated the event at Aja Park with the undersecretary of the region, Adel bin Saleh Al-Sheikh, and other officials.

Prince Faisal toured the site and visited the exhibition of the late artist Youssef Al-Shagdali.

The festival also features classic cars and popular, colorful handicrafts created by the region’s artisans.

There were also stalls that showed how cloth is woven and transformed into clothing.

Visitors were entertained by a folklore troupe performing the Saudi Arda.

The event aims to support local talent and boost small businesses.

 

 


The Line city impresses Makkah governor, plans to book first 

Updated 12 August 2022

The Line city impresses Makkah governor, plans to book first 

  • Prince Khaled Al-Faisal visited the design expo at Jeddah Superdome
  • He was briefed on innovations to alleviate environmental challenges

JEDDAH: The architecture of the futuristic city, The Line, has impressed Makkah Gov. Prince Khalid Al-Faisal, who says he will be the first to book an accommodation once it is complete.

Prince Khalid made the remarks in a tweet following his visit to the NEOM exhibition to see the designs on Wednesday at the Jeddah Superdome.

The governor toured the exhibition that showcases the architectural innovations of the city.

He was also briefed on how the city would help alleviate the critical environmental challenges facing humanity.

Last month, The Line’s designs were revealed by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

They showed the most important features of The Line, which is 200 meters wide, 170 kilometers long, and 500 meters high. It will eventually house 9 million people and have a 34 square kilometer footprint.

It will take up less land than other cities of comparable capacity and help to conserve 95 percent of NEOM’s land.

The Line imagines a future without streets, cars or emissions. It will be powered entirely by renewable energy and prioritize health and well-being over transportation and infrastructure.

The exhibition showcases all these aspects of the city. It opened on Aug. 1 and will be taken to other locations from Aug. 14, including Riyadh and the Eastern Province.

It offers 50 guided tours a day in Arabic and English.