Saudi citizens can now invite Muslim friends abroad to perform Umrah on personal visit visa

Muslim worshippers gather at the Grand Mosque in Islam's holiest city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia on June 14, 2018. (AFP/File)
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Updated 22 July 2023
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Saudi citizens can now invite Muslim friends abroad to perform Umrah on personal visit visa

  • Aside from performing Umrah, visitors can also make trips to various tourist destinations in the Kingdom
  • Applications for personal visit can be submitted through the visa platform of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs

RIYADH: Citizens of Saudi Arabia can invite their Muslim friends abroad to the Kingdom to perform Umrah on "personal visit visa," the Ministry of Hajj and Umrah has said.

Personal visas, which can be obtained online, can either be single entry or multiple entry, the ministry said in a tweet on Thursday.

Aside from performing Umrah rituals at the Grand Mosque in Makkah and visiting the Prophet's Mosque in Madinah, visitors can also make trips to various tourism destinations in the Kingdom.

Applications for a personal visit visa can be made through the visa platform of the Saudi Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

A single entry visa is valid for 90 days, while a multiple entry visa is valid for one year. A visitor with a multiple entry visa may stay in the Kingdom for up to 90 days with each visit.

On Friday, the Presidency of the Two Holy Mosques announced it was ready to receive the first worshippers of this year’s Umrah season. The start of the Umrah pilgrimage is set at least a few weeks after Hajj to allow Hajj pilgrims to return home and avoid congestion in the holy places and airports.

Saudi Arabia has opened its historical sites and other cultural destinations as it develops its tourism industry as part of the Saudi Vision 2030 strategic plan launched in 2016.

The program's goal is to reduce the Kingdom’s reliance on oil exports and diversify its economy by developing and expanding into new industries and sectors.  

Tourism is a key part of the strategy, with the Kingdom aiming to get 100 million visitors by 2030.

Under the plan, the tourism industry is expected to create more than 1 million jobs for the country's growing work force, and at the same time generate revenues for the economy.

A massive boost in spiritual tourism in the holy cities of Makkah and Madinah is also planned, with the number of pilgrims expected to rise to 30 million by 2030.


Passports chief inspects workflow at Jeddah airport

Updated 11 April 2024
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Passports chief inspects workflow at Jeddah airport

  • Al-Yahya urged the passport officers to perform their assigned tasks with efficiency and to continue in their efforts to serve guests

JEDDAH: Director General of Passports Lt. Gen. Sulaiman bin Abdulaziz Al-Yahya recently inspected the workflow at the passport departments at King Abdulaziz International Airport in Jeddah and the Umrah halls.

The inspection aimed to assess the work progress, follow up on the performance of the workers, and complete the departure procedures for Umrah pilgrims.

During the inspection, Al-Yahya congratulated and presented gifts to passengers traveling through the airport on the occasion of Eid Al-Fitr.

He also urged the passport officers to perform their assigned tasks with efficiency and to continue in their efforts to serve guests.

 


Saudi foreign minister discusses Gaza in calls with US, Algeria

Updated 29 min 36 sec ago
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Saudi foreign minister discusses Gaza in calls with US, Algeria

  • Parties review regional developments

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan on Thursday received a phone call from US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, the Kingdom’s ministry said.

The parties reviewed regional developments and ways to reduce the escalation of tensions in the Middle East.

They also focused on issues of common interest, most notably Sudan, developments in the Gaza Strip, and the importance of introducing more humanitarian aid to the besieged Palestinian enclave.

Prince Faisal also made a telephone call to Algerian Minister of Foreign Affairs Ahmed Attaf to discuss regional developments and the conflict in Gaza.

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Who’s Who: Areej Al-Johani, member of the International Academic Advisory Board of the International Anti-Corruption Academy

Areej Al-Johani
Updated 11 April 2024
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Who’s Who: Areej Al-Johani, member of the International Academic Advisory Board of the International Anti-Corruption Academy

Areej Al-Johani has recently been appointed a member of the International Academic Advisory Board of the International Anti-Corruption Academy in Vienna until 2030, a term of six years.

Al-Johani is a highly accomplished professional with a distinguished career in the Saudi Arabian government.

She currently serves as the director of policies, awareness and training for the integrity department at the Ministry of Defense.

Al-Johani brings a wealth of experience in leadership, policy development, and program implementation to the role.

Her dedication to public service is evident throughout her career. She previously served as the deputy health minister’s human resources counselor for business quality.

Al-Johani also worked as general supervisor of the Conflict of Interest and Disclosure Office at the Saudi Health Ministry.

She served as director general of the ministry’s workforce planning department from April 2019 to February 2021.

Al-Johani has been a certified internal assessor at the Health Ministry for the King Abdulaziz Quality Award since 2018.

She headed the quality excellence team at the ministry’s deputyship of human resources between 2018 and 2019, and was a coordinator of the leadership renewal program in 2016.

Al-Johani worked for nearly a year in 2009 as supervisor at the learning and resource center of the Jeddah-based Al-Abnaa High School.

Al-Johani has attended various local and international training courses. She is the recipient of several prestigious professional awards and has had research papers published in various journals, and attended conferences both inside and outside the country.

Al-Johani received a bachelor’s degree in education from King Saud University in 2003. After completing a master’s degree at the University of Glamorgan, she obtained a Ph.D. in technology science from the University of South Wales.

 


Saudi novelist Sultan Ayaz’s ‘Crossing Thoughts’ to be adapted into manga

Updated 11 April 2024
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Saudi novelist Sultan Ayaz’s ‘Crossing Thoughts’ to be adapted into manga

  • Ayaz’s novel, written in English, tells the story of humans defending their lands against the oppression of demons
  • In the book, humans fight off demons by using elemental magic and swordplay

RIYADH: A fantasy novel by a Saudi author has been chosen for adaption into a manga, Japan’s famous style of graphic novel.
Sultan Ayaz finished writing the story of “Crossing Thoughts” in 2014, and says the adaptation deal with Manga Arabia is the result of a decade-long dream.
Manga are comics or graphic novels originating from Japan, conforming to a style developed in the late 19th century, though the form has antecedents in earlier Japanese art.
Ayaz’s novel, written in English, tells the story of humans defending their lands against the oppression of demons. It is about the eternal conflict between humans and demons, and a man who stands in between.
In the book, humans fight off demons by using elemental magic and swordplay.
The narrative begins with Drake, a little boy, who, along with his family, lives in tranquility in a tiny town. But the town is destroyed by a demonic attack, which Drake miraculously survives.
Three characters emerge — Aria, Ray and Amber — and study the nature of elements at the Grand College of Elements in the Kingdom of Iora. They learn how to use the elements as weapons against their demonic foes.
“Crossing Thoughts” is full of drama, action and a hint of terror.
Ayaz told Arab News: “I was always into writing in English since high school, and I was influenced by video games and anime, which strongly developed my imagination. Along with daydreaming and creating scenarios in my head, I always wanted to have my own story. So, I started to write short stories from time to time to fulfill this desire.”
The Saudi author said he was “ecstatic” to sign a deal with Manga Arabia and adapt his novel.
“‘Crossing Thoughts’ is the result of hard work and sincere dedication, and I am very proud of it. Since I finished writing the novel back in 2014, I always wanted to have it adapted into a manga or an anime, because I believe it is suitable for such adaptation,” he said.
“When I signed the contract with Manga Arabia, I felt overwhelming happiness, because, for 10 years, this is exactly what I was aiming for. I am very proud of this achievement and honored to be chosen among other talented Saudi authors to be part of this project.”
In 2020, Ayaz became one of the first Saudi novelists to have a fiction work published internationally when a British publishing house, Olympia Publishers, acquired the rights to publish “Crossing Thoughts.” The book was first released locally in 2017 and sold in Virgin Megastores.
“During this journey, I faced many obstacles and hardships that almost forced me to drop my novel and just focus on balancing my life. My father passed away. I had to drop college for a couple of years, and worked in several minimum wage jobs just to contribute to covering the living expenses of my family. But, eventually, I was inspired by my mother’s strength and decided to push myself to the limits and overcome all that, and I succeeded,” Ayaz said.
The writer used two monthly salaries just to cover the printing and publishing expenses of his work.
And though he faced some criticism because the novel was authored in English, “Crossing Thoughts” sold well in Saudi Arabia, attracting the attention of Olympia Publishers.
“I am rather pleased with ‘Crossing Thoughts.’ It is the first English-language fantasy book by a Saudi author to be published, and it helped me overcome my anxiety of failing by landing me live TV appearances and magazine features. It is the sole outcome of real commitment and persistent work,” Ayaz said.
His advice for young writers is to never aim for fame, set your goals straight and persuade audiences with continuous effort. Always remember that “the journey’s experience is priceless,” he said.
Last month, Manga Arabia chose five Saudi authors to have their novels turned into comic stories.
“Drawing Nothingness” by Ashraf Al-Faqih was already featured in the Manga Arabia Youth magazine.
“The Voyagers” by Kendah Jambi, Ayaz’s “Crossing Thoughts,” “The Awsaj” by Al-Jawhara Al-Rimal and Ghada Al-Marzouqi’s “I Live My Memories Upside Down” will also be published in Manga Arabia magazine’s print and digital editions.
The project is part of joint efforts between the Saudi Literature, Publishing and Translation Commission and Manga Arabia to support businesses in the publishing sector.
The manga initiative has been hailed as a “cultural leap” in the presentation of Saudi literature worldwide, and an indicator of progress in the Kingdom’s burgeoning creative industries.


From Ardah to Samri: Diriyah festivities bring Saudi culture to life

Updated 11 April 2024
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From Ardah to Samri: Diriyah festivities bring Saudi culture to life

  • Festivities are set to take place across various locations, including the UNESCO World Heritage Site of At-Turaif, the premium culinary destination of Bujairi Terrace, and Diriyah mosques
  • Festivities will feature a series of events, including captivating performances of the Saudi Ardah, the traditional celebratory dance, and the lively Samri folklore dance

RIYADH: The historic town of Diriyah has been transformed into a festive wonderland as the Diriyah Gate Development Authority has revealed an exciting lineup of events and activities for residents and visitors to celebrate this year’s Eid Al-Fitr.

According to the Saudi Press Agency, festivities are set to take place across various locations, including the historic UNESCO World Heritage Site of At-Turaif, the premium culinary destination of Bujairi Terrace, and Diriyah mosques.

The Eid Al-Fitr celebrations at At-Turaif will embody traditional Saudi hospitality. Visitors will be greeted with the rich aroma of Saudi coffee and dokhon, promising an unforgettable experience.

The festivities will feature a series of events, including captivating performances of the Saudi Ardah, the traditional celebratory dance, and the lively Samri folklore dance, the SPA reported.

In addition to activating the Nuzul experience, it transports visitors back in time to immerse them in the daily life of At-Turaif during the First Saudi State.

Through a series of theatrical performances, guests get a glimpse of life as it was 300 years ago. Each mudbrick house along Nuzul Street represents a different aspect of that era, inviting visitors to step inside and experience history like never before.

From shopping in the souq to schooling and visiting the doctor, the Nuzul experience offers a unique opportunity to engage with the past in a truly immersive way.

Visitors can partake in activities such as the purebred Arabian horse show, the Diriyah coffee workshop, and calligraphy stalls offering beautifully written Arabic names.

The DGDA decorated five mosques across the city to elevate the festive spirit for the Eid Al-Fitr celebrations. These mosques hosted special breakfast tables on the first day of Eid, creating a warm and welcoming environment for everyone.

The Huwamah event also featured several buses touring Diriyah’s neighborhoods in the evening, allowing families and visitors to partake in the Eid activities.

Nearly 25,000 gifts, including chocolate boxes, were distributed at various sites, adding to the festivities, the SPA stated.

Souq Al-Mawsim also welcomed visitors for the first time during Eid Al-Fitr, offering a range of exciting activities.

Visitors to Bujairi Terrace were able to indulge in a variety of activities, including live music performances, engaging storytelling sessions, curated workshops for children, and a range of traditional games and activities.

The authority remains committed to fostering strong connections with the local Diriyah community, extending a heartfelt welcome to residents and visitors on all occasions throughout the year.