Sri Lanka seeks to strengthen ties with Kingdom

Sri Lanka’s Ambassador Azmi Thassim confers with Riyadh Gov. Prince Faisal bin Bandar in this file photo. (AN photo)
Updated 03 February 2017

Sri Lanka seeks to strengthen ties with Kingdom

RIYADH: Sri Lanka looks forward to further strengthening ties with the Kingdom, especially in the fields of employment, trade, investment and tourism, the island’s Ambassador Azmi Thassim told Arab News on the eve of his country’s Independence and National Day on Saturday.
“Appreciating the long-standing relationship with Saudi Arabia, our country wholeheartedly supports Vision 2030 under the wise leadership of Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman and the NTP (National Transformation Program) 2020 initiated by Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, second deputy premier and defense minister,” Thassim said.
The envoy, who met with Riyadh Gov. Prince Faisal bin Bandar recently, expressed hope for the enhancement of bilateral ties.
“Since the establishment of diplomatic relations between the two countries, trade and tourism have tremendously increased for the benefit of the people of the two friendly countries,” Thassim said, adding that nearly 38,000 Saudis visited Sri Lanka last year.
The diplomat said his country is an ideal tourist destination for a family holiday: “We have plenty of attractions to offer Saudi tourists, and we are making every effort to attract tourists from this part of the world.”
He added that Saudi families who had visited Sri Lanka had always opted to repeat their visits because of the island’s natural scenic beauty and the hospitality of its people.
“Muslim visitors will feel at home in the city of Colombo since they can see mosques in the vicinity of every shopping center,” he said, adding that women in hijab are a common sight in the capital. “A good number of Saudis are currently visiting Sri Lanka for their leisure and honeymoon.”
Thassim said: “Our target is to promote trade and investment with the Kingdom.” Sri Lankan exports to Saudi Arabia include tea, garments, fruit and vegetables, cut flowers, leather goods and porcelain products.
“Ever since we established diplomatic relations with the Kingdom in July 1974, the two countries have maintained excellent relations in social, cultural, political and economic fields,” the ambassador said.
He added that the relationship with Saudi Arabia is significant not only because it is home to nearly 200,000 Sri Lankans, but also because it is a holy land for the Muslims who form 10 percent of the island’s population of 24 million.
A large number of Sri Lankan Muslims regularly travel to the Kingdom for the annual Haj and Umrah pilgrimage.
Thassim thanked the Saudi leadership for the “special care given to Muslims from all parts of the world, including Sri Lanka.”
He also thanked Crown Prince Mohammed bin Naif, deputy premier and interior minister, and Prince Mohammed for their kind cooperation in maintaining relations with friendly countries such as Sri Lanka.

Hajj 2018: What’s on pilgrims’ bucket lists

Masjid Quba in Madinah is a favorite destination for Hajj pilgrims, according to tour guides. Below: The Cave of Hira, Al-Baqi’ cemetery and the Prophet’s Chamber allow visitors to step back in time. (Getty Images)
Updated 15 August 2018

Hajj 2018: What’s on pilgrims’ bucket lists

  • A number of companies in Makkah and Madinah help people organize their trips, making sure they cover the important sites in the two holy cities
  • Most of the sites in the two holy cities are spiritual, giving pilgrims a sense of the prophecies

RIYADH: Hajj is one of the biggest dreams of every Muslim’s life, and pilgrims looking forward to their stay in Makkah and Madinah say a bucket list is the best way to plan the trip. 

Most of the sites in the two holy cities are spiritual, giving pilgrims a sense of the prophecies. Standing in the places of the Holy Prophet transports them back to the past as if they lived those incredible moments. 

A number of companies in Makkah and Madinah help people organize their trips, making sure they cover the important sites in the two holy cities.

Sayed Shafei, an operation manager for City Sightseeing, a tour company in Madinah and worldwide, told Arab News: “We offer a special tour with a multilingual tour guide presented in eight languages. We also offer 24-hour tickets. We have scheduled tourism trips starting from the Prophet’s Mosque to 12 destinations every 30 minutes. The whole trip lasts for 14 hours a day.” 

Asked about the most popular requests, Shafei said: “Our customers always ask to visit Masjid Quba, the Sayed Al-Shuhada Mosque in Uhud, which is considered a vital historic landmark of Madinah, and Al-Qiblatain Mosque.” 

Most of the group’s customers are from East Asia, but many also visit from Kuwait, Bahrain, the UAE, Indonesia, Malaysia, the US and Europe.

Munirah Al-Jebreen, an English instructor at Princess Noura University who will perform Hajj this year, told Arab News her bucket list began with an online search. 

“I found a travel guide on Google that has all the best sites in Madinah and Makkah, so I decided to visit Uthman ibn Affan’s Farm and Well in Madinah, the Holy Qur’an exhibition, and one of the most important places I want to visit is the grave of the Holy Prophet,” she said.

The area between the Prophet’s Chamber, which holds his grave, and the Mimbar is known as the Rawdah, which is actually the Garden of Paradise. It is presently distinguished by a green carpet.

Al-Jebreen also listed some of her planned tour destinations in Makkah, including the Cave of Hira, where the Holy Prophet meditated frequently during the first 40 years of his life and the site of the first revelation. 

She will also visit Bilal Mosque and Mount Abu Qubais and, finally, will try Al-Garmushi, one of the famous traditional restaurants in Makkah.