Ramadan at the end of winter brings cool comfort

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Cloudy conditions and intermittent rain in parts of Saudi Arabia, including the capital, over the past 10 days have brought relief from the heat at the start of Ramadan. (AN Photo/Basheer Saleh)
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Cloudy conditions and intermittent rain in parts of Saudi Arabia, including the capital, over the past 10 days have brought relief from the heat at the start of Ramadan. (AN Photo/Basheer Saleh)
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Cloudy conditions and intermittent rain in parts of Saudi Arabia, including the capital, over the past 10 days have brought relief from the heat at the start of Ramadan. (AN Photo/Basheer Saleh)
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Cloudy conditions and intermittent rain in parts of Saudi Arabia, including the capital, over the past 10 days have brought relief from the heat at the start of Ramadan. (AN Photo/Basheer Saleh)
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Cloudy conditions and intermittent rain in parts of Saudi Arabia, including the capital, over the past 10 days have brought relief from the heat at the start of Ramadan. (AN Photo/Basheer Saleh)
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Cloudy conditions and intermittent rain in parts of Saudi Arabia, including the capital, over the past 10 days have brought relief from the heat at the start of Ramadan. (AN Photo/Basheer Saleh)
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Updated 04 April 2024
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Ramadan at the end of winter brings cool comfort

  • IT professional Abdullah Zeyad: The shorter winter days reduce the fasting hours, allowing us to break our fast a bit earlier and provide relief from the scorching sunshine in the summer
  • School employee Abdur Rahman Oomeri: Being observed in March for the first time in many years, fasting at the end of winter has made the experience more comfortable and pleasant

RIYADH: The holy month of Ramadan, beginning on March 11 and observed mostly at the end of Saudi Arabia’s winter, has brought cool comfort for fasting Muslims, making it a pleasant experience.

Based on the lunar Hijri calendar, the beginning of the holy month changes every year, determined by sightings of the crescent moon. A Hijri month alternates between 29 and 30 days. This makes a Hijri year about 11 days shorter than the Gregorian equivalent, with one year coming to 354-355 days, hence the days of Ramadan change gradually from year to year. 

“Being observed in March for the first time in many years, fasting at the end of winter has made the experience considerably more comfortable and pleasant,” Abdur Rahman Oomeri, a long-time school employee working in Riyadh, told Arab News.

Last year also brought pleasant weather throughout Ramadan due to good rainfall. However, in recent years, the Kingdom has faced the challenge of fasting during long, hot days at the peak of summer, he added.

“The shorter winter days significantly reduce the fasting hours, allowing us to break our fast a bit earlier and provide relief from the scorching sunshine in the summer,” said Abdullah Zeyad, a IT professional in the capital.

“This pleasant change is greatly appreciated, as it lightens the physical burden of fasting. Also, the cooler weather enables engaging in outdoor activities with family and friends during iftar and after.”

Mohammad Saad, a bank employee, echoed Zeyad’s view on fasting during the cooler months, saying the cooler conditions and shorter days made fasting easier.

Najmul Hasan, a taxi driver, said: “It made it easy to fast particularly for those of us who cannot always stop for iftar due to the nature of our work. With passengers, we are outdoors, going to different places. The pleasant weather not only makes fasting less daunting, but also improves our overall well-being, making the spiritual journey more engaging and fruitful.”

Zafar Iqbal, an Indian expat in Riyadh, said that there a many advantages, both in terms of spiritual upliftment and social engagement, when Ramadan is observed in cooler months.

“The confluence of spiritual reflection and favorable weather makes Ramadan a uniquely enjoyable experience. The nights are particularly lively, with traditional decorations and treats drawing more people outdoors than in the hotter days during the summer.”

With milder temperatures, many community organizations are arranging outdoor iftars, enhancing community dining experiences for families and friends, Iqbal said, adding that in the searing heat of summer it is difficult to arrange outdoor iftars.

Cloudy conditions and intermittent rain in parts of Saudi Arabia, including the capital, over the past 10 days have brought relief from the heat at the start of Ramadan.

The National Center of Meteorology on Monday said that rainy weather is expected from next Thursday in Riyadh, Qassim, Hail, Najran, Jazan, Asir, Baha, Madinah, Makkah, Tabuk and Aljouf regions.

Cloudy weather is forecast until next weekend, with heavy to moderate rain accompanied by high winds in the cities and rough conditions along the coast.


First phase of 2024 Hajj security plans completed

Updated 16 June 2024
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First phase of 2024 Hajj security plans completed

MAKKAH: Col. Talal bin Abdulmohsen Al-Shalhoub, security spokesperson at the Ministry of Interior, announced during a daily press conference for the 2024 Hajj season the successful completion of the first phase of security plans to lead pilgrims from Makkah to subsequent holy sites.

After spending around 12 hours in Arafat on Saturday for the most important part of Hajj, the over 1.8 million worshippers officially moved to the rocky plains of Muzdalifah in preparation for the final stages of their Hajj.

“The second stage of the journey to the holy sites is currently being implemented to transport pilgrims from Arafat to Muzdalifah, where they will be spending the night before departing to Mina for Eid Al-Adha,” said Al-Shalhoub.

He added that 25 persons found to be violating Hajj regulations were arrested on the night of June 15 for transporting 103 individuals without Hajj permits.

“The Unified Security Operations Centers (911) in Makkah received 52,274 calls from June 14 to 15. These calls varied between security reports, inquiries, and service calls from pilgrims,” he said.

Speaking on the journey to Muzdalifah, Ayed Al-Ghuwaynem, undersecretary of the Ministry of Hajj and Umrah for Hajj Affairs said: “The tranquility and comfort we witnessed today in Arafat enabled the pilgrims to perform rituals and devote themselves to worship and supplication.”

He added that the smooth operations were the fruit of early planning and collective governmental action.

“This was the result of distinguished cooperation from pilgrims’ affairs offices from all countries, as well as pilgrims’ service providers inside and outside the Kingdom,” said Al-Ghuwaynem.

Dr. Mohammed Al-Abdulali, spokesperson for the Ministry of Health, said that over 112,000 pilgrims have received health care from different providers during the Hajj season, including clinics, emergency departments, hospitals, and intensive care units.


Mashaer metro system transports thousands of pilgrims from Mina to Arafat

Updated 16 June 2024
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Mashaer metro system transports thousands of pilgrims from Mina to Arafat

  • There are 17 trains in the Mashaer metro fleet, each capable of carrying 3,000 passengers

MAKKAH: Hundreds of thousands of pilgrims used the Mashaer metro system to travel from Mina to Arafat on Saturday, as they began the most important day of the Hajj pilgrimage.

The metro system consists of nine stations located across the holy sites, connected by an 18-kilometer double-track railway, and is capable of accommodating 72,000 passengers per hour in one direction. The journey from Mina to Arafat takes just 20 minutes, with the train traveling at 80 km per hour, according to a report by the Saudi Press Agency.

There are 17 trains in the Mashaer metro fleet, each capable of carrying 3,000 passengers. The eco-friendly electric trains significantly reduce traffic congestion and carbon emissions by replacing approximately 50,000 passenger buses during the Hajj season.

The trains are managed the Facilities Security Forces, under the supervision of the Ministry of Interior.

Khalil Hasan, an Egyptian pilgrim, said he is performing Hajj for the second time.

“The first time I performed Hajj was nearly 30 years back when I was a schoolteacher in Yanbu. Everything here has unbelievably changed, including the Jamarat Bridge.“Seeing the metro travelling between stations in the holy sites was a wonderful scene that added great glamor to the place and substantial enhancement to the many services provided by the kingdom,” Hasan said.

Previously, he added, he could not have imagined that a pilgrim would be able to reach Arafat from Mina within minutes.

Hasan’s lifelong friend, AbdulTawab, who is accompanying him on the spiritual journey, said that it is his first Hajj experience, and he was amazed by the metro service.

“It is wonderful, and I am grateful to the Kingdom for this metro that has facilitated the movement of pilgrims, especially the elderly, making it easy and comfortable to move from one place to another within the holy places,” he said.


Pilgrims prepare for the final stages of Hajj

Updated 16 June 2024
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Pilgrims prepare for the final stages of Hajj

  • Pilgrims spent the night in Muzdalifah, under the open sky, where they took the time to rest and refresh

MAKKAH: Hajj pilgrims have begun preparing for the final stages of this year’s pilgrimage, arriving in Muzdalifah after spending the entire day performing prayers and supplications in Arafat.

After they arrived in Muzdalifah, pilgrims performed Maghrib and Isha prayers and collected pebbles for the stoning rituals at the Jamarat area in Mina, which begin Sunday morning.

These stones are used once they reach Mina, where pilgrims perform the “first throwing” of Jamarat, before heading to the Grand Mosque in Makkah for tawaf (circumambulation) and “sacrificing the lamb,” a commemoration of the sacrifice Prophet Ibrahim had intended to make of his son Ismail as an act of obedience to Allah.

Pilgrims spent the night in Muzdalifah, under the open sky, where they took the time to rest and refresh.

The first day in Mina, the 10th of Dhul Hijjah, marks the first day of Eid Al-Adha. On this day, pilgrims sacrifice animals. Male pilgrims have their heads shaved and take off their ihram clothes. Female pilgrims cut only a portion of their hair.

Hisham Thamin, an Indian pilgrim living in Qatar, told Arab News that it had been a seamless Hajj experience.

“It’s a very nice (and) very spiritual feeling. I’m enjoying the vibes here. The people here are very calm. It’s a very peaceful atmosphere.”

Thamin said that he was initially concerned about the arrangements given the heat and high numbers of people, but he was pleasantly surprised by the coordination and organization by the Saudi government.

“I’m glad the Saudi government has made very good arrangements. There’s cold water, cold juices, and breakfast boxes for everyone. They have spread out all the sheets on the sand, to make sure it’s comfortable for everyone. So I’m liking it very much. And it’s not what I expected, it’s much better than what I expected.”

Nawaf Alhabib, a Saudi pilgrim, said his experience had been “perfect.”

Alhabib planned to walk to Mina on Sunday morning before Fajr prayer.

“By 12 in the morning, we will finish from Muzdalifah and make our way towards Mina. We will rest and then perform Jamarat and it will hopefully be a beautiful day tomorrow.”

Saudi pilgrim Tawfeeq Alquraishi said he was proud of the developments and initiatives fulfilled by the Kingdom.

“The services provided to ensure a smooth Hajj experience for pilgrims is something I am so proud of as a Saudi national. This is a successful and comfortable Hajj.”

Waleed Mohammed, a pilgrim from Egypt, was grateful for being able to perform Hajj.

“This is a feeling I cannot explain. Thank God for everything,” he said. “This is an experience that everyone dreams of … everyone is happy and the organization is beyond our expectations.”


225 pilgrims treated for heat stress and fatigue on second day of Hajj

Updated 16 June 2024
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225 pilgrims treated for heat stress and fatigue on second day of Hajj

  • The cases were treated at the Medical Center for Heat Exhaustion and Sunstroke 

MAKKAH: About 225 cases of pilgrims suffering from heat stress and fatigue had been treated at the medical center for heat exhaustion and sunstroke in Makkah, the Saudi Press Agency reported on Sunday.

The cases were reported on Saturday, the second day of Hajj, when pilgrims ascended Mount Arafat to ask God for mercy, blessings, prosperity and good health.

The ritual at Mount Arafat, known as the Hill of Mercy, is considered the peak of the Hajj pilgrimage. 

 

Medics at the center for heat exhaustion and sunstroke in Makkah attend to a heat stroke victim on Saturday. (SPA)

The center, affiliated with the Saudi Ministry of National Guard Health Affairs, has 20 beds equipped with the latest equipment to deal with cases of heat stress and sunstroke.

It is also equipped with an air and water spray system using sprinklers to cover all parts of the injured person’s body, in addition to clinics for men and women and a pharmacy.

Saudi officials had earlier advised pilgrims to use umbrellas and keep themselves hydrated, and to take rest periods between rituals to avoid heat fatigue. 

The National Center for Meteorology had forecast that temperatures in Makkah would range between 45 C and 48 C, with little rain potential.

 


Arafat sermon projected to reach 1 billion listeners worldwide

Updated 16 June 2024
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Arafat sermon projected to reach 1 billion listeners worldwide

  • The translated sermons promote peace, coexistence and a deeper understanding of Islam

ARAFAT: The Arafat sermon delivered on Saturday at Namira Mosque in Makkah was projected to reach a staggering 1 billion listeners around the world, the Saudi Press Agency reported.

The sermon was translated live into 20 languages as part of the groundbreaking initiative launched by Saudi Arabia’s King Salman in 2018. There were also non-simultaneous translations into 17 other languages.

Led by the Presidency of Religious Affairs of the Two Holy Mosques, the project serves as a cornerstone in spreading the message of moderation and centrism espoused by the holy sites, SPA said.

“The translated sermons promote peace, coexistence, and a deeper understanding of Islam — a religion built on mercy, tolerance, and peaceful living,” the report said.

When the project was launched in 2018, translations were offered in only five languages. Its reach has continued to grow each year. Sermons are translated into an increasing number of languages and broadcast on various platforms, including digital platforms, FM radio, and Islamic television channels.

“These efforts demonstrate the Kingdom’s unwavering commitment to serving Islam and the global Muslim community,” the report said, adding that the initiative “exemplifies Saudi Arabia’s dedication to serving the Two Holy Mosques and their pilgrims. It further reflects the leadership’s commitment to promoting global peace and the values of tolerance and moderation.”

The report continued: “Having surpassed 200 million listeners in 2020, the project fulfills the Kingdom’s sacred responsibility of caring for the Two Holy Mosques and their visitors. By translating the Arafat sermon, they effectively share the message of these holy sites with the entire Muslim world.”