Hajj — a profound journey connecting global Muslims

Pilgrims learn the importance of social solidarity through sharing food and mutual assistance in performing the rituals. (SPA)
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Updated 16 June 2024
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Hajj — a profound journey connecting global Muslims

  • Pilgrimage unites languages and cultures, building a bridge to the world

MAKKAH: Each Hajj season, Muslims from all over the world, representing diverse languages, cultures and traditions, gather in the holy cities.

Beyond its religious significance, the pilgrimage offers a platform for cultural engagement among worshippers, displaying the rich cultural tapestry of the global Muslim community.

The cultural diversity is evident not only in the pilgrims’ traditional attire, but also in the variety of languages that can be heard throughout Makkah’s neighborhoods, in the Grand Mosque and the roads leading to it, as well as on public transportation.




Muslim pilgrims arrive to perform the symbolic 'stoning of the devil' ritual as part of the hajj pilgrimage in Mina, near Saudi Arabia's holy city of Mecca, on June 16, 2024. (AFP)

Fawaz Al-Dahas, a history professor at Umm Al-Qura University, emphasized the understanding and solidarity of Muslims who gather for one purpose: to perform Hajj.

Despite their different languages and cultural backgrounds, pilgrims strive for understanding, harmony and kindness with each other to ensure their pilgrimage is accepted and their efforts are not in vain, he said.

“The cultural exchange during Hajj is a unique and enriching opportunity. Pilgrims learn about the customs and traditions of other countries, opening new horizons and deepening knowledge,” Al-Dahas said, adding that this leads to greater respect and deeper understanding among people from different backgrounds.




Muslim pilgrims walk at Mount of Mercy on the plain of Arafat during the annual haj pilgrimage, outside the holy city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia, June 15, 2024. (REUTERS)

“Hajj promotes the concept of one nation, where all pilgrims are equal, regardless of race or nationality,” Al-Dahas said.

“Wearing the ihram, all pilgrims feel a sense of equality and belonging to a single community, fostering peaceful coexistence. This experience teaches patience, tolerance and cooperation during the performance of the rituals, further strengthening the spirit of understanding and coexistence among Muslims after they return home.”

Hajj also promotes collaboration among Islamic nations in areas such as health, security, and logistics, as governments work together to ensure pilgrims’ safety and comfort, he added. This cooperation promotes brotherly relations and solidarity.




Pilgrims learn the importance of social solidarity through sharing food and mutual assistance in performing the rituals. (SPA)

Through this annual event, Muslims bridge cultural and geographical divides. Hajj highlights the value of interaction between peoples and nations, demonstrating how diversity can be a strength in society.

Rania Shawdary, a mutawif (guide for the pilgrims), said: “Hajj is a significant annual event that reflects the Kingdom’s substantial efforts in serving pilgrims from around the world. Pilgrims witness firsthand the extensive services and facilities provided, which encourages them to cooperate and participate and observe everyone working together for the success of this great ritual for Muslims.”

She highlighted the generosity and hospitality, with pilgrims from different parts of the world receiving free services, such as water, food and housing.




Muslim pilgrims pray at dawn on Saudi Arabia's Mount Arafat, also known as Jabal al-Rahma or Mount of Mercy, during the climax of the Hajj pilgrimage on June 15, 2024. (AFP)

Pilgrims learn the importance of social solidarity through sharing food and mutual assistance in performing the rituals, thereby enhancing the spirit of solidarity and brotherhood, Shawdary said.

“The shared challenges and difficulties faced during their journey prompt pilgrims to assist each other and cooperate, helping them put aside their differences.”

Majid Al-Mufadhli, a Saudi journalist who has covered Hajj events for years, said that media plays a significant role in conveying the Hajj experience to the world.

“This helps promote understanding and communication between different cultures, as media coverage of Hajj events and pilgrim stories and experiences raises awareness of Hajj’s importance and its role in uniting Muslims,” he said.

Social media platforms also enhance communication among pilgrims, their families and friends, as well as between worshippers themselves, facilitating the exchange of experiences and cultures and promoting understanding, Al-Mufadhli added.

“Pilgrims face significant challenges related to crowd management, joint work and adhering to plans set by the responsible authorities, which drives them to cooperate and harmonize with each other to perform the rituals with comfort and ease,” he said.

The pilgrimage also represents an opportunity for innovation in areas such as crowd management, health and transportation technology, utilizing modern technologies to ensure safety and comfort. The atmosphere of cooperation shows the world that Muslims are an organized and compassionate community, capable of adapting to ensure the safety and comfort of all.

“Hajj is an opportunity and an extraordinary gathering that unites languages and cultures. Through participating in this great event, pilgrims learn the values of generosity, hospitality, love and brotherhood, returning home with a new spirit of unity and cooperation,” Al-Mufadhli said.

 


Saudi Arabia rejects, condemns Israeli security minister’s visit to Al-Aqsa Mosque compound

Israel’s National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir speaks at the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound in Jerusalem on July 17, 2024. (AFP)
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Saudi Arabia rejects, condemns Israeli security minister’s visit to Al-Aqsa Mosque compound

  • The Kingdom’s Foreign Ministry also condemned an Israeli parliament vote to oppose a Palestinian state
  • Continuing and hostile practices toward Islamic sacred sites and international resolutions demonstrate the aggressive approach of Israeli authorities, ministry said

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia condemned and rejected in the strongest terms on Thursday a visit made by Israel’s far-right national security minister to Jerusalem’s most sensitive holy site.

Itamar Ben-Gvir, an ultranationalist settler leader, said he had gone up to the Jerusalem hilltop compound of Al-Aqsa Mosque to pray for the return of Israeli hostages on Thursday.

The Kingdom’s Foreign Ministry also condemned an Israeli parliament vote to oppose a Palestinian state.

The 120-member Knesset late on Wednesday passed by 68 votes to nine a resolution that said a Palestinian state on land occupied by Israel would “perpetuate the Israel-Palestinian conflict and destabilize the region.”

These continuing and hostile practices toward Islamic sacred sites and international regulations and resolutions demonstrate the aggressive approach of Israeli authorities, the ministry said. 

The ministry added that these practices prevent the achievement of any progress aimed at sparing the blood of innocent people and achieving a just and comprehensive peace. 


Saudi Arabia sets new tourism record

Updated 32 min 37 sec ago
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Saudi Arabia sets new tourism record

  • Record 60 million tourists spent a total of SR143 billion in the first half of 2024
  • Minister of Tourism Ahmed Al-Khateeb: Our country is blessed with a multiplicity of tourist destinations and climate diversity

ABHA: A record 60 million tourists to Saudi Arabia during the first half of 2024 spent a total of SR143 billion ($38.1 billion), Minister of Tourism Ahmed Al-Khateeb has announced.

Speaking at a press conference on Wednesday, the minister highlighted the significant advances made by both the Kingdom and its tourism industry which have resulted in such a notable achievement.

“Our country is blessed with a multiplicity of tourist destinations and climate diversity, (as well as) the moderate weather that the Aseer region enjoys during the summer season and low temperatures compared to most cities in the world,” he said.

Al-Khateeb added that visitors could enjoy diverse attractions, from historic villages to farms rich in local products, along with delicious cuisine telling stories of the past.

The third Aseer Season — which will run until Sept. 1 — is ready to make its mark on the region, with renowned locations set to provide rich cultural experiences for visitors.

Known as the cultural hub of Saudi Arabia, Aseer boasts a range of attractions in Abha such as Rijal Alma and Shada Palace Museum. A key landmark is Soudah Peaks, a sustainable luxury mountain destination standing 3,015 meters above sea level — the highest point in the Kingdom.

Al-Khateeb said the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 had strengthened the tourism sector through the launch of the National Tourism Strategy in 2019 and a tourist visa. He also spoke about the launch of the Bachelor of International Hospitality Management program, a partnership between the Ministry of Tourism, King Khalid University, and Hong Kong Polytechnic University.

“Our goal is to develop tourism capabilities and expand international specialized technical colleges and strategic partnership institutes in the field of tourism and hospitality,” he said.

Al-Khateeb said 10,000 training opportunities both inside and outside the Kingdom would be allocated to those working in the Aseer region’s tourism sector.

The National Tourism Strategy aims to reach over 150 million local and international tourists by 2030. In 2023, it reached 109 million.

Al-Khateeb added: “The Tourism Development Fund plays an important role in providing financing, allocating SR7.4 billion to enable over 100 tourism projects around the Kingdom with a value exceeding SR35 billion.”


Saudi MMA fighters make waves in world of combat sport

Updated 18 July 2024
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Saudi MMA fighters make waves in world of combat sport

  • Al-Saif and Al-Qahtani reflect on their career journeys

RIYADH: Two trailblazing Saudi mixed martial arts fighters making waves in the Professional Fighters League praised the development of the sport in the Kingdom.

Hattan Al-Saif and Abdullah Al-Qahtani, the most recent guests on “The Mayman Show” by Arab News, recalled their journeys in the world of combat sports.

“Combat sports were unknown in Saudi Arabia, but thanks to the Ministry of Sports, everyone was really pushing, pushing in different ways in Saudi Arabia to develop the sports in a really good way,” Al-Saif said. “We have Saudi games ... we have a lot of tournaments, I’m really proud to be Saudi and I feel like I’m prouder day by day for being a sports person from Saudi in Saudi.”

Al-Saif, 22, a pioneering female fighter, has already made history with her gold-medal win at the 2023 International Federation of Muay Thai Associations World Championships.

Professional fighter Al-Qahtani said: “When I got the contract I was the first in Saudi Arabia, and then I go there and have a good record and … you know, they love it, and they gave me more of what I need,” he said.

“They push me to be the best, and now I’m in the league, I’m in the PFL MENA League, before it was just two or three fights on the global (stage).”

Of his PFL victories, Al-Qahtani said the contests “made me like a star, because the fights were crazy, and I did something no one can do, you know.”

Both fighters agree that their trailblazing efforts should make the Kingdom proud.

“I’m gonna represent the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. And it’s not an easy country to represent and they’re not easy people to make them satisfied with what you are doing. But I’m quite sure that I’m a good person to do it, and I am so proud to be this person to do it,” Al-Saif said. “So, I’m always pushing myself. I’m always doing the best.”

She added that she is glad to have Al-Qahtani and others who support her.

“I have my team, I have my coach. And also half of Saudi Arabia are in love with me and they are helping me and they are pushing me,” she said. “I see a lot of comments. I see a lot of DMs. I see a lot of messages of Saudi people telling me they believe in me. They are proud of me.”

Al-Qahtani said much of his success is down to the influence of his mother.

“My mom, you know, she wanted me to be a world champion, but which sport? We didn’t know. Just a world champion, in a combat sport.”

Besides combat sports he said he also likes extreme sports such as dirt biking.

“But, when I grew up, I liked Muay Thai, MMA … kickboxing. I know what this sport is, this is a combat sport. I just saw my mom who wanted to push me. I needed to be a world champion … and so, yeah, I just started that.”

At PFL MENA 2 on July 12, when Al-Saif beat Egypt’s Eman Baraka at Riyadh’s Green Halls Auditorium, she had Al-Qahtani, currently the Kingdom’s biggest MMA star, in her corner.


Saudi Arabia’s ozone-depleting gases reduced to 1%

Updated 18 July 2024
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Saudi Arabia’s ozone-depleting gases reduced to 1%

  • Results were part of a study conducted on the Kingdom’s refrigeration and air-conditioning facilities to check the extent of their environmental compliance
  • Field survey checked more than 1,200 facilities to evaluate their general condition and respective corrective plans were activated

RIYADH: The National Center for Environmental Compliance revealed today that the proportion of gases emitted in the Kingdom that deplete the ozone layer has decreased to 1 percent.

The results were part of a study conducted on the Kingdom’s refrigeration and air-conditioning facilities to check the extent of their environmental compliance.

A field survey checked more than 1,200 facilities to evaluate their general condition and respective corrective plans were activated.

NCEC made the announcement at the opening of the workshop “Field study of the environmental compliance extent in the refrigeration and air conditioning sector” and attended by executives and specialists from related government and private agencies.

According to SPA, the results of the study showed that, during the past 10 years, the Kingdom’s prohibited gases were reduced to 1 percent, a proportion representing a positive indicator of the reduction of the ozone-depleting gases consumption plan. On the other hand, the Kingdom’s imports of eco-friendly appliances and gases have increased since 2020, as well as an awareness of the Montreal Protocol that aims to reduce the concentration of ozone-depleting gases and use eco-friendly alternatives. As such, the Kingdom could gradually reduce the consumption of ozone-depleting substances and eliminate them radically by 2030.

The study covered 24 factories using the relevant gases (2 percent), 689 maintenance centers (58 percent), 248 gas distributors and suppliers (21 percent) and 28 importers of appliances (2.3 percent).

The Kingdom ratified the Montreal Protocol in 1993 and established the National Ozone Unit, which later joined the NCEC and is responsible for preparing and implementing national plans for compliance with the protocol in cooperation with the pertinent sectors.


Al-Baha mayor announces launch of ‘Theatrical Nights’ program

Updated 18 July 2024
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Al-Baha mayor announces launch of ‘Theatrical Nights’ program

  • Organized by the Al-Baha Municipality in collaboration with the Saudi Arabian Society for Culture and Arts and the private sector, the event will be held from July 21 to 27
  • Ali Al-Sawat: Al-Baha Theatrical Nights program will present a diverse range of theatrical performances, including comedic, social, and patriotic themes

RIYADH: Ali Al-Sawat, the mayor of Al-Baha region, announced the upcoming launch of the “Al-Baha Theatrical Nights” program, the Saudi Press Agency reported.

Organized by the Al-Baha Municipality in collaboration with the Saudi Arabian Society for Culture and Arts and the private sector, the event will be held from July 21 to 27.

Al-Sawat said the program is part of the “A Summer in Al-Baha: Embrace Serenity” festival and includes theatrical performances featuring stars from outside the region, along with artists from Al-Baha. These local artists will introduce themselves to the audience and visitors through seven theatrical performances, all being presented for the first time in Al-Baha region.

He said that the “Al-Baha Theatrical Nights” program will present a diverse range of theatrical performances, including comedic, social, and patriotic themes, all marked by suspense and amazement.”

“These performances will foster a cultural and artistic atmosphere that complements the entertainment events and summer activities. Through this harmony, Al-Baha will be transformed into a vibrant hub featuring international shows, concerts, folk performances, fashion, heritage exhibitions, and culinary arts,” he added.

Al-Sawat confirmed that the theatrical performances include a women-only play, which will be held at the municipality’s theater, the Baljurashi Municipality Theater, and the Wesam Al-Badyah Theater in Al-Mandaq, concluding at the Baljurashi Front Theater. Additionally, the play “Lohmat Watan” (Homeland Kinship) will be staged at the Al-Baha Lights Festival Theater and the Wesam Al-Badyah Theater, with its final performance at the Baljurashi Front Theater.

He said this will be the first time the Al-Baha Summer Festival includes theatrical performances among its various activities, alongside the major events and parties announced in this year’s summer calendar.

According to SPA, with the support of the governor of Al-Baha, the region aims to attract more than 2.5 million visitors and tourists. Al-Baha’s enchanting nature, moderate climate, and well-developed facilities, services and infrastructure have earned it a strong reputation and significant momentum as one of the premier tourist destinations for the Saudi summer this year.