Postpone Haj if you can

Updated 03 September 2014
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Postpone Haj if you can

In an unprecedented move aimed at preventing congestion and stampedes and ensuring safety of the guests of God, Saudi authorities have urged domestic and foreign pilgrims to postpone their Haj plans for this year if possible due to ongoing expansion work at Makkah’s Grand Mosque.
The call follows the government’s decision to reduce the number of foreign pilgrims by 20 percent and domestic pilgrims 50 percent this year. Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdul Aziz Al-Asheikh has backed the measure, saying it was taken in public interest.
In a series of announcements through the Holy Qur’an television channel, which is aired from Makkah, the government advised pilgrims intending to perform Haj and Umrah this year to postpone their plans to reduce congestion at the Grand Mosque.
“By making this announcement our government is not preventing anybody from Haj, but asking them to postpone in order to avoid congestion and help first-time Hajis to perform their religious duties without difficulties,” Saeed Al-Qurashi, a member of the Haj & Umrah Committee at Makkah Chamber of Commerce and Industry, told Arab News.
He said the mataf (the circumambulation area around the Holy Kaaba) could hold now only 39,000 faithful per hour, suggesting an influx of a large number of pilgrims could cause congestion inside the mosque.
“Once the mataf expansion is completed, it can accommodate more than 130,000 pilgrims per hour. So, it would be better for our brethren to come for Haj next year or after two years, when they will be able to perform their rituals with ease,” he explained.
Hatem Qadi, deputy Haj minister and spokesman of the ministry, emphasized the need for reducing the number of foreign and domestic pilgrims this year.
“The period for cutting the number of pilgrims will not exceed two years,” he said. The ongoing expansion work at the two holy mosques are aimed at accommodating more pilgrims in the coming years, he pointed out.
Qadi cited the grand mufti’s statement on the issue saying the government took the decision because it was essential. “The ongoing expansion is for the benefit of pilgrims,” the mufti said.
Mohammed Noor Rahman Sheikh, Indian consul for Haj, said his country would send more than 170,000 pilgrims this year. “We have been informed about the government’s plan to cut the number of foreign pilgrims by 20 percent,” he told Arab News.


Ramadan offers ‘golden opportunity’ to get in shape, say Saudi fitness experts

Updated 2 min 6 sec ago
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Ramadan offers ‘golden opportunity’ to get in shape, say Saudi fitness experts

  • Many Muslims take advantage of the holy month of fasting to keep fit
JEDDAH: Saudi fitness experts have urged Muslims to use Ramadan as a “golden opportunity” to start a new healthy lifestyle.
The holy month of fasting is the perfect time to get into shape, say some of the Kingdom’s top trainers.
With regular exercise, Ramadan can offer a new start for many worshippers both spiritually and physically. RK Fit gym owner, Reham Kamal, told Arab News that working out while fasting was healthy because the body used stored fat as energy, resulting in more fat burning.
The 32-year-old Saudi coach recommended low- to medium-impact workouts while fasting to avoid dehydration and advised trying calisthenics, a form of exercise consisting of a variety of movements which work large muscle groups, such as running, standing, grasping and pushing.
Kamal said: “Ramadan is a great opportunity to lose weight. We shouldn’t eat too much when breaking our fast. Sadly, in our culture, people take this month as an opportunity to fill the table.
“They aren’t seeing the golden opportunity to get into shape, because fasting has numerous health benefits, not only weight loss. It promotes blood-sugar control by reducing insulin resistance, increases growth hormone secretion, which is vital for growth, metabolism, weight loss and muscle strength, and aids weight loss by limiting calorie intake and boosting metabolism.
“For fat burning, it is better to work out an hour before breaking your fast, since the insulin level is low, but for building lean, toned muscles, it is better to work out two hours after breaking fast because the insulin level is high,” she added.
Mashael Fagerah, 35, owner of House of Agility, a studio offering high-intensity interval training (HIIT) and circuit training, said: “You can do everything you normally do during fasting especially if you are used to working out. But if you are a beginner, I would recommend starting carefully with low-impact training.”
She told Arab News that many Muslims took advantage of Ramadan to keep fit.
“Whether before iftar, before sahoor or between them, if you have the time for a workout just do it,” added Fagerah. “At the end of the day, it is better than doing nothing.”
Saudi personal trainer and co-founder of Swish bootcamp, Sohaib Mubarak, 29, said it was important to choose the right kind of fitness regime. “When you haven’t had anything to drink or eat your body is low in fuel and dehydrated. Therefore, performing high-intensity training would harm your body and your health.
“Also, studies show that the difference in results is insignificant between exercising in a fasted or a fed state,” he added. 
Mubarak recommended low-intensity cardio for a short period of time. “That is 60 percent to 70 percent of maximum heart rate. By doing that you won’t sweat much and get dehydrated.”
He said people often wrongly related not eating to weight loss, when infact they should focus more on maintaining a healthy lifestyle rather than watching the weighing scales.
“In my opinion Ramadan is like any other month, because losing weight and having a good shape is about changing your eating habits and lifestyle for life not only for one month. One month is not enough to create a tremendous transformation. It’s all about consistency,” Mubarak told Arab News.
Saudi fitness trainer and owner of B. Bros gym, Rayan Bashawri, 27, stressed the importance of listening to the body’s needs and capabilities.
“So many studies have been done about fasted training or training on an empty stomach, and it shows different thoughts depending on what kind of athlete you are or what kind of sport you are doing.
“But my opinion is to listen to your body and do what feels right for you. It’s not healthier to do fasted training but it’s not bad for you either. You can reach your goal either way,” he told Arab News.
The number of people taking out gym subscriptions often shoots up during Ramadan.
Bashawri said: “Right after Ramadan is the time when people travel, and it’s a beach season as well, so obviously everyone wants to look good. The ages of those hitting the gym at this time of the year are from 18-30.”
Fasting was a great opportunity to lose weight, but Bashawri noted that staying up late and sleeping during the day was not ideal. He also warned people not to over-exert themselves if exercising during fasting as it could cause injury and dehydration.