Muslim pilgrims converge at Mount Arafat for daylong worship as Hajj reaches its peak

Muslim pilgrims gather at top of the rocky hill known as the Mountain of Mercy, on the Plain of Arafat, during the annual Hajj pilgrimage, near the holy city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia, Saturday, June 15, 2024. (AP)
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Updated 15 June 2024
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Muslim pilgrims converge at Mount Arafat for daylong worship as Hajj reaches its peak

  • Hajj officially started Friday when pilgrims moved from Makkah’s Grand Mosque to Mina
  • Saudi authorities expect the number of pilgrims this year to exceed 2 million

MOUNT ARAFAT, Saudi Arabia: Following the footsteps of prophets beneath a burning sun, Muslims from around the world congregated Saturday at a sacred hill in Saudi Arabia for intense, daylong worship and reflection.
The ritual at Mount Arafat, known as the hill of mercy, is considered the peak of the Hajj pilgrimage. It is often the most memorable for pilgrims, who stand shoulder to shoulder, feet to feet, asking God for mercy, blessings, prosperity and good health. The mount is about 20 kilometers (12 miles) southeast of Makkah.
It’s believed that Prophet Muhammad delivered his final speech, known as the Farewell Sermon, at the sacred mount 1,435 years ago. In the sermon, the prophet called for equality and unity among Muslims.
“It’s indescribable,” Ahmed Tukeyia, an Egyptian pilgrim, said on his arrival Friday evening at a tent camp at the foot of Mount Arafat.




Muslim pilgrims gather at top of the rocky hill known as the Mountain of Mercy, on the Plain of Arafat, during the annual Hajj pilgrimage, near the holy city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia, Saturday, June 15, 2024.  (AP)


Hajj is one of the largest religious gatherings on earth. The rituals officially started Friday when pilgrims moved from Makkah’s Grand Mosque to Mina, a desert plain just outside the city.
Saudi authorities expect the number of pilgrims this year to exceed 2 million, approaching pre-coronavirus pandemic levels.
The pilgrimage is one of the Five Pillars of Islam. All Muslims are required to make the five-day Hajj at least once in their lives if they are physically and financially able to make the demanding pilgrimage.

GALLERY: Hajj 2024: Muslims converge at Mount Arafat as pilgrimage reaches peak
The rituals largely commemorate the Qur’an’s accounts of Prophet Ibrahim, his son Prophet Ismail and Ismail’s mother Hajjar — or Abraham and Ismael as they are named in the Bible.
The time of year when the Hajj takes place varies, given that it is set for five days in the second week of Dhu Al-Hijjah, the last month in the Islamic lunar calendar.
Most of the Hajj rituals are held outdoors with little if any shade. When it falls in the summer months, temperatures can soar to over 40 Celsius (104 Fahrenheit). The Health Ministry has cautioned that temperatures at the holy sites could reach 48 C (118 F). It urged pilgrims to use umbrellas and drink more water to stay hydrated.




Muslim pilgrims arrive at the Mountain of Mercy, on the Plain of Arafat, during the annual Hajj pilgrimage, near the holy city of Makkah, Saudi Arabia, Saturday, June 15, 2024. (AP)


After Saturday’s worship in Arafat, pilgrims will travel a few kilometers (miles) to a site known as Muzdalifa to collect pebbles that they will use in the symbolic stoning of pillars representing the devil back in Mina.
Pilgrims then return to Mina for three days, coinciding with the festive Eid Al-Adha holiday, when financially able Muslims around the world slaughter livestock and distribute the meat to poor people. Afterward, they return to Makkah for a final circumambulation, known as Farewell Tawaf.
Once the Hajj is over, men are expected to shave their heads, and women to snip a lock of hair in a sign of renewal. Most of the pilgrims then leave Makkah for the city of Medina, some 340 kilometers (210 miles) away, to pray in Prophet Muhammad’s tomb, the Sacred Chamber. The tomb is part of the prophet’s mosque, which is one of the three holiest sites in Islam, along with the Grand Mosque in Makkah and the Al Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem.
In recent years, Saudi authorities have made significant efforts to improve access and avoid deadly accidents. Tens of thousands of security personnel were deployed across the city, especially around the holy sites, to control the crowds, and the government built a high-speed rail link to ferry people between holy sites in the city, which has been jammed with traffic during the Hajj season. Pilgrims enter through special electronic gates.
Saudi authorities have also expanded and renovated the Grand Mosque where cranes are seen around some of its seven minarets as construction was underway in the holy site.


Strawberry picking in Taif serves up a sweet summer escape

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Strawberry picking in Taif serves up a sweet summer escape

  • Locations help create jobs during the summer season

TAIF: A strawberry farm in the rugged mountains of Al-Hada in Taif has emerged as a popular spot for visitors looking to escape the summer heat and appreciate the beauty of nature away from the hustle and bustle of city life.

Arab News recently visited the Al-Hada strawberry farm to see how it captures the essence of the region’s natural beauty and vibrant culture.

At Al-Hada farm in Taif, visitors can pick ripe strawberries and feed wildlife such as ducks, geese and parrots to the soothing sound of a nearby waterfall. (Supplied)

Located high in Al-Hada’s tourist area, the strawberry farm welcomes visitors all year round. The experience allows visitors to pick fresh berries and feed wildlife such as ducks, geese and parrots to the soothing sound of a nearby waterfall.

Along with a modest garden for birds and a lake for ducks and turtles, the space includes stalls selling ice cream, hot drinks and strawberry juice, among other refreshments. It also features seating areas and a cottage.

HIGHLIGHTS

• Turki Al-Ahmadi, Al-Hada farm’s founder, told Arab News that he had designed the farm in a way that draws visitors beyond harvest season from April to June.

• Entry to the farm in Al-Hada costs SR35 ($9).

Turki Al-Ahmadi, the farm’s founder, told Arab News that he had designed the farm in a way that draws visitors beyond harvest season from April to June. Various facilities to provide fun and relaxation in nature have been installed to this end.

At Al-Hada farm in Taif, visitors can pick ripe strawberries and feed wildlife such as ducks, geese and parrots to the soothing sound of a nearby waterfall. (Supplied)

His son, Bandar Al-Ahmadi, said that beside picking strawberries and enjoying the fresh fruit, the family are keen to make the farm a space where adults and children can learn about various types of trees.

The farm showcases models of trees including pomegranate, fig, tangerine, quince, apple and mulberry, with information about their habitat, method of irrigation, places of cultivation, and other key details about their lifespan.

We were told by many relatives who visited the strawberry farm in Al-Hada that their trip to Taif governorate would not be complete if they did not (go for) a strawberry-picking activity.

Hamid Al-Subhi, Visitor

“We were told by many relatives who visited the strawberry farm in Al-Hada that their trip to Taif governorate would not be complete if they did not (go for) a strawberry-picking activity,” Hamid Al- Subhi told Arab News during his visit recently.

At Al-Hada farm in Taif, visitors can pick ripe strawberries and feed wildlife such as ducks, geese and parrots to the soothing sound of a nearby waterfall. (Supplied)

Al-Subhi, who drove from Makkah with his family, was fascinated by the farm’s facilities: “Picking your own strawberries at the farm is really something … my kids really enjoyed it and being on the top of the mountain with such a cool weather really makes our visit more enjoyable.”

Abdul Mohsin Al-Qadi, a visitor from Jeddah, said that the strawberry-picking experience was hugely rewarding for him and his family.

“It is a must-visit destination and a breathtaking view,” he said. “This is our first time visiting this farm and we really enjoyed all activities, from handpicking our strawberries to other family-friendly activities at the small garden for birds and the lake of ducks and turtles,” he said. “It is a great way to enjoy the beauty of the area while also learning about local culture and heritage.”

Entry to the farm in Al-Hada costs SR35 ($9). Strawberry farms can also be found in Abha, Hail and Qatif.

 

 


Al-Asabila Palaces in Al-Namas: Saudi heritage meets urban arts

The heritage palaces in Asir boost economic activity by creating job opportunities during the summer season. (SPA)
Updated 34 sec ago
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Al-Asabila Palaces in Al-Namas: Saudi heritage meets urban arts

  • Locations help create jobs during the summer season

RIYADH: The famous heritage palaces in the Asir region have become tourist destinations, offering a rich blend of history and culture.

The Saudi Press Agency reported that these sites also boost economic activity by creating job opportunities during the summer season.

The heritage palaces in Asir boost economic activity by creating job opportunities during the summer season. (SPA)

The Al-Asabila Palaces, which are situated in Al-Namas Governorate some 150 km south of Abha, have become a major attraction. Situated in the heart of Al-Namas, these palaces now draw hundreds of visitors daily, both tourists and locals, according to the SPA. Their popularity has surged following their inauguration by Prince Turki bin Talal bin Abdulaziz, chairman of the Asir Development Authority.

Visitors begin their tour of the palaces by shopping in areas dedicated to traditional fashions, antiques, and gifts that showcase the heritage and arts of the Asir region.

The heritage palaces in Asir boost economic activity by creating job opportunities during the summer season. (SPA)

They can then relax with coffee and hot drinks before exploring the Abs Palace, which has been restored to welcome guests.

Tourist guide Saleh Al-Shehri told the SPA: “At the beginning of the Saudi era the palaces served as the headquarters for various government agencies, including the court, and as venues for national events.”

FASTFACTS

• Al-Asabila Palaces are situated in Al-Namas governorate some 150 km south of Abha.

• These palaces now draw hundreds of visitors daily, both tourists and locals, Saudi Press Agency reports.

• The initiative to restore the palaces was taken by their owners and helped transform them into a tourist and cultural attraction, says tour guide.

He added that the initiative to restore the palaces was taken by their owners and helped transform them into a tourist and cultural attraction. This effort aligned with the Kingdom’s Vision 2030, which aims to revitalize the area and boost domestic tourism.

The heritage palaces in Asir boost economic activity by creating job opportunities during the summer season. (SPA)

Historian Amr bin Gharamah Al-Amrawi says that Al-Namas was established in 1363-1364. However, it only received the name Al-Namas about 150 years ago, being previously known as Al-Waad village.

It was later named after the trees in the surrounding areas and the adjacent valley, while the presence of a well called Al-Namasa also contributed to the village being renamed Al-Namas.

The heritage palaces in Asir boost economic activity by creating job opportunities during the summer season. (SPA)

The heritage site features several palaces, including Abs, Mishref, Turban, and Kharif. These structures, which range from two to three floors in height, are examples of the traditional construction style of the Asir region.

The palaces contain 60 rooms and span a total area of about 5,000 sq. meters. The exteriors are of white limestone, extracted from white quartz stone, while the roofs feature wood, leaves, and juniper. The interiors are finished with plaster mixed with clay.

The heritage palaces in Asir boost economic activity by creating job opportunities during the summer season. (SPA)

According to the SPA, the area is home to numerous archaeological sites from various periods, the most famous location being Al-Jahwah village, mentioned by the traveler Al-Hamdani, which is located east of the present-day Al-Namas Governorate.

Al-Amrawi added that the governorate contains Islamic inscriptions in mountains known as Al-Sijin, Al-Gharamah, Dhul-Ain, Ajama, and Qarn Al-Ghala.

 


Beit Hail festival attracts over 68,000 visitors

Festival highlights include a Hijazi village exhibit, alongside live demonstrations of traditional crafts. (SPA)
Updated 42 sec ago
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Beit Hail festival attracts over 68,000 visitors

  • The festival includes folk art performances from the Hail and Yanbu regions, a “Made in Hail” pavilion, and an array of traditional foods prepared using heritage methods

RIYADH: The third Beit Hail heritage festival, themed “Your Home Away From Home,” has attracted more than 68,000 visitors since its opening at Aja Park earlier this month, Saudi Press Agency reported.

The 30-day event has drawn visitors of all ages from the region and beyond, offering a showcase of local culture and traditions.

Festival highlights include a Hijazi village exhibit, alongside live demonstrations of traditional crafts. (SPA)

Festival highlights include a Hijazi village exhibit featuring Yanbu’s heritage, alongside live demonstrations of traditional crafts.

Visitors can also observe artisans creating prayer beads, practicing Sadu weaving, crafting leather water bottles, and demonstrating embroidery techniques.

HIGHLIGHT

The 30-day event has drawn visitors of all ages from the region and beyond, offering a showcase of local culture and traditions.

Other showcased skills include hand-woven carpet production, crochet, and the crafting of traditional wooden doors with intricate plaster engravings typical of old Hail residences.

Festival highlights include a Hijazi village exhibit, alongside live demonstrations of traditional crafts. (SPA)

The festival also includes folk art performances from the Hail and Yanbu regions, a “Made in Hail” pavilion, and an array of traditional foods prepared using heritage methods.

Nayef Al-Salhoub, head of the organizing committee, told SPA: “Our goal is to connect younger generations with Saudi Arabia’s rich cultural legacy.”

The event runs daily from 6 p.m. to 1 a.m., featuring a diverse program of folk activities.

Visitors to the festival value the opportunity to explore Saudi Arabia’s ancestral traditions with their children, learning about historical lifestyles and the ingenious use of natural materials in daily life, SPA added.

 


19,817 residency and labor violators arrested across KSA

Saudi police have arrested hundreds of illegals breaching country’s labor law. (SPA)
Updated 1 min 13 sec ago
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19,817 residency and labor violators arrested across KSA

  • A total of 1,389 individuals were caught attempting to enter the Kingdom, of whom 45 percent were Yemeni, 53 percent were Ethiopian and 2 percent were of other nationalities

RIYADH: In joint field campaigns across the Kingdom from July 11 to July 17, 19,817 people were arrested for violating residency, labor and border security laws.

This number included 12,436 violators of residency laws, 4,881 violators of border-security regulations and 2,500 violators of labor laws.

A total of 1,389 individuals were caught attempting to enter the Kingdom, of whom 45 percent were Yemeni, 53 percent were Ethiopian and 2 percent were of other nationalities. Additionally, 48 individuals were caught attempting to exit the Kingdom illegally.

Nine individuals were apprehended for involvement in transporting, harboring and employing violators and covering up for them.

A total of 17,067 violators — 15,394 men and 1,673 women — are currently being processed by the relevant authorities.

 

 


Who’s Who: Noel Gomes, CEO of ASCES, Al-Halloul, Al-Badila

Noel Cunha de Ornelas Gomes, Chief Executive Officer of ASCES - Al Halloul, Al-Badila
Updated 1 min 20 sec ago
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Who’s Who: Noel Gomes, CEO of ASCES, Al-Halloul, Al-Badila

Noel Gomes was appointed CEO of ASCES, Al-Halloul, Al-Badila (Alternative Solutions Company for Environmental Services) in July 2024.

He is an entrepreneur and executive with a career in the financial sector spanning more than 25 years.

The Saudi private company focuses on global management of waste and disposal solutions.

As CEO, Gomes seeks to promote a circular economy, using advanced technologies to improve operational efficiency and minimize environmental impact. Under his leadership, the company is transforming waste management into a resource-efficient and environmentally friendly process.

Gomes’ career began at PwC in Portugal, where he refined his accounting and financial management skills. This was followed by significant roles in various multinational corporations, including Asea Brown Boveri, where he became chief of the accounting and treasury department, responsible for international financial reporting and strategic financial management.

Later, he was the group finance director at Novagest, and managed financial departments across Portugal and Angola, focusing on budgeting, reporting, and strategic advisory.

Gomes was a financial director at Lyon, an Angolan project development and construction company, where he oversaw accounting, treasury, and human resources, contributing to the company’s growth in Portugal and Angola.

Later, he became CEO of the LLeon Group, where he led the group’s management strategy, represented international groups in Portugal, and played a key role in the international expansion of Ajman government projects in the UAE.

In 2022, Gomes was a business consultant at the private office of Sheikh Ahmed bin Faisal Al-Qassimi in the UAE, where he expanded the office’s international relations and partnerships, particularly in Portugal.

From October 2022 to January 2023, he was chief international officer at Heights and Jewels, managing international relations and business modeling for projects associated with the private company of a member of the Saudi royal family.

Since 2018, Gomes has also been a prominent figure in the football sector, advising investors, and helping clubs, agents, and players to expand their networks and secure the best deals.

He holds a degree in financial audit from the Lisbon Accounting and Business School and a bachelor’s degree in accounting and administration from Instituto Militar dos Pupilos do Exercito in Portugal.