Saudi Arabia charms you, says award-winning photographer on ‘The Mayman Show’

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Updated 16 March 2023
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Saudi Arabia charms you, says award-winning photographer on ‘The Mayman Show’

  • Traveler wants to experience more of what the Kingdom can offer
  • The country has everything, says Anna Aiko

RIYADH: The Kingdom has a distinctive charm that envelops you, according to award-winning iPhone photographer and traveler Anna Aiko.

French-Japanese Aiko was the latest guest on “The Mayman Show” and had nothing but praise for the Kingdom following a recent visit.

She said: “It’s the mix of everything: the moment, the energy, the people, the beauty, the bonheur.

“I don’t know how to say…it just rubs off on you.”

Aiko, who has been traveling around the country, added: “I really like how the architecture is. It integrates with nature and keeps the heritage.

“The heart of people, how people are welcoming you, the hospitality. Each time I come I discover so many things and I know that there’s lots of hidden sites, hidden beauty in Saudi Arabia.

“I really wish to discover more and more. This is my dream.”

Aiko is excited about the Kingdom’s burgeoning tourism sector after traveling in the Arabian Peninsula on the back of a camel, while taking photographs.

She said: “I am really happy that Saudi is opening [up], and growing.

“It is bringing technology and heritage together. This is similar to Japan, which is looking to the future while conserving heritage.”

Aiko believes Saudi hospitality is unmatched, but shares similarities with Japanese customs.

She said: “In Japan, when somebody is coming, it’s like first we’ll have tea, coffee and dates, and then maybe Japanese sweets.

“[Saudi Arabia] is really, really similar and all about respect for people and respect for the family.”

One of Aiko’s most memorable journeys was when she experienced the Darb Zubaydah.

She said: “It’s a trail most important in the Arabian Peninsula, a trail from Kufa to Makkah.

“There were some ancient sites and mosques that I really want to rediscover because Saudi Arabia is very big and I traveled a lot in Saudi in 2019 and I know that there are lots of gems in Saudi Arabia.

“Traveling in the Kingdom is always amazing because I discover different parts of the regions.

“In Hail I had tears in my eyes when I discovered the landscape. A huge landscape, infinite, and lots of mountains and colors. And it was springtime so there was nature and lots of flowers.”

Aiko left her career as a director in the luxury fashion industry in Paris to start traveling in 2015.

She said: “I traveled the Silk Road, taking pictures by iPhone. Then, since 2018, I’ve won lots of iPhone photography awards, international photography awards.”

The chance of traveling by camel came when a friend was looking for a man to cross the Empty Quarter in the Arabian Peninsula.

Aiko said: “I didn’t know how to ride on the camel, but I said it’s going to be me as a woman, and 72 hours later I was flying to Saudi Arabia to cross the vast desert on camelback.

“I wanted to travel like our ancestors to have this deep connection with nature and the camel. It was natural; we became one.”


Pilgrims reminded of benefits provided by Tawakkalna app during Hajj

Updated 13 June 2024
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Pilgrims reminded of benefits provided by Tawakkalna app during Hajj

  • The services it provides include alerts for pilgrims, a distress call function, weather updates, help to determine the direction to face the Kaaba for prayer, and prayer timings
  • The app provides support for seven languages: Arabic, English, Filipino, Indonesian, Bangladeshi, Urdu and Hindi

MAKKAH: Authorities have reminded pilgrims that the Saudi Data and Artificial Intelligence Authority’s Tawakkalna app provides access to several digital services that can help them during Hajj.
The app provides support for seven languages: Arabic, English, Filipino, Indonesian, Bangladeshi, Urdu and Hindi. The services it provides include the latest information and alerts for pilgrims as they perform Hajj rituals; weather updates for Makkah and Madinah provided by the National Center of Meteorology; readings from the Qur’an; help to determine the qibla, the direction to face the Kaaba for prayer; and prayer timings.
Pilgrims can also use Tawakkalna to display their digital Hajj card (Nusuk), while Hajj workers can access entry permits for holy sites. A “rituals” section gives pilgrims with Hajj permit the option to obtain a permit for Umrah, and provides other services such as a “Help Me” section, a distress call function, and a way to check volunteers’ credentials.
Authorities said the app has 32 million users, provides 315 electronic services, and can be used in more than 77 countries. The annual Hajj pilgrimage will begin on Friday, June 14 and continue until Wednesday, June 19.


Saudi leaders send condolences to leader of Malawi over death of vice president

Updated 13 June 2024
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Saudi leaders send condolences to leader of Malawi over death of vice president

  • King Salman: We express to your excellency and your friendly people our deepest condolences and sincere sympathy
  • Deaths of Saulos Klaus Chilima and the others were confirmed on Tuesday when the wreckage of the small military plane in which they were traveling was discovered

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s King Salman sent a message of condolence and sympathy to Malawi’s President Lazarus Chakwera following the deaths of Vice President Saulos Klaus Chilima and nine others in a plane crash.

The king wrote: “We received news of the death of the vice president of the Republic of Malawi, Mr. Saulos Klaus Chilima, and his companions, and we express to your excellency and your friendly people our deepest condolences and sincere sympathy.”

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman sent a similar message to the president, the Saudi Press Agency reported.

The deaths of Chilima and the others were confirmed on Tuesday when the wreckage of the small military plane in which they were traveling was discovered in a mountainous region in the north of the country. Contact with the aircraft had been lost the previous day. The victims also included former first lady Shanil Dzimbiri, the ex-wife of former Malawian President Bakili Muluzi, and three military crew members.

  • With AP

Egypt’s president prays in the Prophet’s Mosque ahead of Hajj

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi prayed at the Prophet’s Mosque in Madinah on Thursday. (SPA)
Updated 13 June 2024
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Egypt’s president prays in the Prophet’s Mosque ahead of Hajj

  • The annual pilgrimage starts on Friday and El-Sisi will be taking part this year

RIYADH: Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi arrived in the Saudi city of Madinah on Thursday and prayed at the Prophet’s Mosque, the Saudi Press Agency reported.

El-Sisi was received by Prince Salman bin Sultan bin Abdulaziz, the governor of the Madinah region, and a number of local officials on his arrival at Prince Mohammad bin Abdulaziz International Airport.

The annual pilgrimage starts on Friday and El-Sisi will be taking part this year. 


King Salman Arabic Language Academy signs deal with Tashkent State University of Oriental Studies

Updated 13 June 2024
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King Salman Arabic Language Academy signs deal with Tashkent State University of Oriental Studies

RIYADH: King Salman Global Academy for Arabic Language on Thursday signed an agreement with Tashkent State University of Oriental Studies in Tashkent.

The agreement aims to enhance cooperation in promoting the Arabic language, teaching it, preserving its integrity and supporting its use in alignment with the objectives of the human capability development program, one of the initiatives of Saudi Vision 2030.

The academy aims to fulfill its mission of caring for the Arabic language, fostering pride in it, and enabling its civilizational, scientific and cultural contributions.

The academy implemented Arabic language month in Uzbekistan as part of a series of scientific programs undertaken in various countries.
 


Saudi inventor develops digital solution for lost pilgrims

Updated 13 June 2024
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Saudi inventor develops digital solution for lost pilgrims

  • Suliman Saleh Al-Dhalea launches Murshid app to enhance pilgrim safety during Hajj

JEDDAH: With more than two million Muslims expected in Saudi Arabia for Hajj this year, the annual pilgrimage is becoming increasingly hi-tech, with apps to help the faithful navigate Islam’s holiest sites.

In a landmark step to address the issue of Hajj pilgrims who go missing, especially the elderly and those with special needs, Saudi inventor Suliman Saleh Al-Dhalea recently launched a mobile application that offers hope to the thousands of pilgrims who get lost during the Hajj period.

The app, named “Murshid,” which means guidance, connects pilgrims and Umrah performers with guides, Hajj and Umrah companies, volunteers and scouts. Moreover, it promptly deals with requests from people with disabilities and the elderly.

The app has two features — the ability to report lost pilgrims, as well as being able to detect the location and movement of pilgrims to ease the search process if they get lost or separated from their group.

Al-Dhalea, who invented the app, told Arab News that overcrowding often leads to lost pilgrims at Hajj sites, meaning pilgrims get separated from their groups and are unable to rejoin them.

“This project was designed as a result of the difficulty of dealing with the different communities within the holy sites, such as Makkah, Mina, Arafa and Madinah,” he said.

“Our main aim is to know where the missing pilgrim is,” Al-Dhalea said.

He affirmed that with the Murshid app, no one will get lost during Hajj.

“This is to ensure providing the pilgrims who come to Saudi Arabia with distinguished services so that they perform the duty of the fifth pillar of Islam and all its rituals correctly in the best conditions,” he said.

“Though we have many volunteers and scouts helping missing pilgrims find their way, most fail to effectively explain where they are, making it difficult for officials to find them. This new app will help us overcome logistical problems encountered during this busy season,” Al-Dhalea said.

He said the app will be operational this year and that they have already teamed up with five of the largest Hajj and Umrah companies.

“To date we are working with these companies and, additionally, men, women, taxi drivers and other locals can also work with us as guides.”

Al-Dhalea, who is from Qassim, said the invention of the app is not a commercial project, and that he is not concerned with how much money it will make.

“Saudi Arabia’s great efforts toward serving the pilgrims of the House of Allah led me to think of something to stand by my country and also think of a project which could solve some of the problems pilgrims face,” he said.

After helping an Iranian pilgrim and his wife this week, Al-Dhalea told Arab News that his contribution to serving this pilgrim has added a lot to him both personally and practically.

"It was my first case this Hajj; his name is Hossein Almasi from Iran. He got lost in Makkah before the Hajj season started, and it was reported to us through our app. We immediately started searching and found him.

"As soon as we found him, we guided him along with his wife to the Iranian campaign headquarters, and the man was very happy. When he got there, he asked us how much money to pay for this service. We told him it is a free service. He hugged me and said thank you," said Al-Dhalea.

Unsurprisingly, Al-Dhalea’s app for finding missing people during Hajj saw off the challenges of 450 local and international projects for sustainable solutions for pilgrims organized by the Ministry of Hajj and Umrah during the Hajj Expo.

Decoder

What is Murshid?

It is a mobile phone app developed recently by Saudi inventor Suliman Saleh Al-Dhalea to assist Muslims performing Hajj or Umrah in Makkah. The app has the ability to report lost pilgrims and it is also able to detect the location and movement of pilgrims to ease the search process if they get lost or separated from their group.