Police deny Grand Mosque stampede rumors

Updated 31 May 2014
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Police deny Grand Mosque stampede rumors

Makkah police denied rumors circulating on social media sites on Thursday that three pilgrims were killed in a stampede inside the Grand Mosque.
Officials clarified that four people sustained injuries after they were caught up in a melee.
“Three of them — all women — were treated on the spot and the fourth person was transferred to a local hospital,” said Makkah police spokesman Aati Al-Qurashi.
According to another official, the man sustained a deep cut to his head. He said as soon as the Kaaba door was opened for the washing ceremony, there was a heavy rush of onlookers trying to get a glimpse of the inside of the Kaaba. “That is when the man fell down on his head.”
Earlier, Makkah Gov. Prince Mishaal bin Abdullah took part in the washing ritual of the Holy Kaaba on behalf of Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah.
The House of God is washed from inside twice a year in Muharram and Shaaban, the first and eighth months of the Hijri calendar.
“We are honored that our country serves pilgrims throughout the year,” said a statement issued by the General Presidency of the Two Holy Mosques Affairs quoting the governor.
The governor was welcomed by Sheikh Abdul Rahman Al-Sudais, head of the presidency, and Mohammed Al-Khozaim, vice-president, said the statement.
The governor performed prayers at the Grand Mosque and then went on to wash the inside of the Kaaba with zamzam water mixed with “oud” perfume and rose water with companions.
Culture and Information Minister Abdulaziz Khoja, Makkah Mayor Osama Al-Bar and several princes, ministers, members of the diplomatic corps and a group of citizens also participated in the washing ritual.


Umrah pilgrims now free to move around Saudi Arabia

Updated 27 min 47 sec ago
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Umrah pilgrims now free to move around Saudi Arabia

  • Previously, Umrah pilgrims were restricted to the holy cities of Makkah and Madinah and the port city of Jeddah
  • Nearly 8 million Muslims are likely to perform Umrah this year

JEDDAH: Millions of Umrah pilgrims are to be granted the freedom to visit anywhere in the Kingdom during their stay, the Saudi Cabinet decided on Tuesday.

Muslims making the holy pilgrimage will be allowed to tour anywhere in the country as part of Saudi Arabia’s plans to boost tourism and the economy.

“The Cabinet has decided to exclude people coming to perform Umrah and to visit the Prophet’s Mosque (in Madinah), of the prohibition of movement outside Makkah, Madinah, and Jeddah. A royal decree has been prepared to this effect,” the acting media minister, Issam bin Saeed, said in a statement to the Saudi Press Agency (SPA).

Previously, Umrah pilgrims were restricted to the holy cities of Makkah and Madinah and the port city of Jeddah.

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Vision 2030 aims to increase the country’s capacity to welcome Umrah visitors from 8 million to 30 million every year.

Nearly 8 million Muslims will perform Umrah in the Kingdom this year, and the Cabinet’s move will enable them to enjoy a broader experience of Saudi Arabia by visiting key landmarks, historic sites, tourist attractions and shopping centers.

“We are looking to enrich the experience of pilgrims and facilitate their arrival,” Dr. Amr Al-Maddah, chief planning and strategy officer at the Ministry of Hajj and Umrah, told Arab News. “Traveling around the Kingdom is an opportunity for pilgrims to visit cultural and tourist sites.

“At the same time, they will be allowed to arrive at any port in the country which will facilitate their arrival and expand the capacity to receive more pilgrims.”

Ministers hope their decision will help toward reaching Saudi Arabia’s goal of receiving 30 million Umrah pilgrims by 2030.

In the past, pilgrims were allowed to convert their visas into a tourist visa on the condition that they were registered with a tourism program. “This is no longer a requirement,” said Al-Maddah.

He added that they would now be free to plan visits to other Saudi cities, tourist destinations, festivals and events, within the period of their visa validity.

Al-Maddah said: “We want to make it available to everyone in order to enrich the experience of the pilgrims, which is one of the goals of Vision 2030.”

He noted that the authority responsible for implementing the Cabinet’s decision would be the Interior Ministry.