Smartphones, social media transforming Hajj experience

Hajj pilgrims take a selfie with Saudi security official in Mina on Friday. (AN photo by Saad Enezi)
Updated 02 September 2017
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Smartphones, social media transforming Hajj experience

JEDDAH: Many years ago, the journey to perform Hajj was long and difficult, during which pilgrims would be unable to communicate with their loved ones. But the development of means of communication has enabled pilgrims to not only stay in touch with their families but also with the whole world.
They can now film and photograph their experiences and themselves on mobile phones, and disseminate footage and photos via social media, which is now full of pilgrim selfies, particularly at the holy sites.
In the age of smartphones, social media and live video streaming, it's now also an experience to be shared in real time.
Across the holy city, pilgrims from around the world can be seen with their arms extended, showing off their surroundings to friends and family back home.
But as widespread and accepted as this phenomenon is, some say it deviates from the main goal of the pilgrimage, which is to communicate with God.
“It has angered a number of clerics and conservatives, claiming it may stop pilgrims from being preoccupied with worship in the most holy places of God,” said Sudanese pilgrim Mohammed Fadl Allah.
But Egyptian pilgrim Maryam El-Sayed said: “It is an opportunity to share Hajj feelings and motivate friends and family. There is a difference between those who take pictures to celebrate Hajj and share it with friends, and those who spend a lot of time on social media chatting with friends.”
Egyptian pilgrim Mohammed Nassar said Snapchat is his favorite app to communicate with relatives. “I share images of the holy places with relatives, who demand further pictures. All Islamic countries are attracted to the pilgrimage and holy places,” he said.
Saudi pilgrim Abdullah Al-Khorayf said such apps have contributed significantly to delivering a positive image of Islam and Muslims, especially during the holy month of Ramadan and the Hajj season.
“Pilgrims and worshippers share pictures and video clips of the rituals of prayer, fasting and Tawaf around the Kaaba,” he said.
“These pictures convey to non-Muslims different images of Muslims. They reveal the interconnection and unity of believers.”
Travel agencies in charge of organizing trips to the Hajj are now offering packages that include mobile Internet so they can avoid roaming fees, according to AFP.
For the faithful it is a deeply spiritual journey, which for centuries every capable Muslim has been required to make at least once in their lifetime.


Pilgrims with special needs treated to a memorable Umrah trip under Saudi ministry’s Ramadan initiative

Updated 26 May 2019
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Pilgrims with special needs treated to a memorable Umrah trip under Saudi ministry’s Ramadan initiative

  • Umrah trip held as part of the Ministry of Hajj and Umrah's “Sadiq Almutamir (Friend of the Pilgrim)” initiative 

JEDDAH: Several Muslims with special needs have benefited from a special Umrah pilgrimage organized by the Saudi Ministry of Hajj and Umrah on the occasion of the holy month of Ramadan.

According to statement from the ministry, the Umrah trip, was held on the 17th of Ramadan  (May 22) under the “Sadiq Almutamir (Friend of the Pilgrim)” initiative in partnership with Sawt Alasm association in Jeddah.

A busload of 20 people with special needs were accompanied by 12 volunteers of Sadiq Almutamir, including sign language interpreters for the deaf pilgrims. 

The first stop was at Kuday area in Makkah, where pilgrims received the special gifts of Sadiq Almutamir, supported by the Establishment of Motawifs of South East Asian Pilgrims. Next was their arrival at the Grand Mosque, wherein the pilgrims performed Umrah, enjoyed Iftar meals, and received souvenirs from Haji & Mu'tamer's Gift Association. 

Volunteers assisted the pilgrims by communicating with them, providing instructions and directions in addition to sharing their feelings with the support of the sign language interpreters. 

Sadiq Almutamir also accompanied pilgrims during the performance of Umrah, providing wheelchairs for the elderly, sharing breakfast, and learning about their impressions of performing Umrah for their first time. 

Sadiq Almutamir is one of the Ministry of Hajj and Umrah’s initiatives in Makkah’s Cultural Forum. It focuses on promoting the culture of giving and cooperation between the Saudi youth as well as elevating the volunteering services provided to Umrah pilgrims in order to enrich their experiences. It also provides optional tours to visit attractions, monuments, and places contribute to enriching experiences of Mutamirs and immortalizing beautiful memories in the Kingdom.

Launched late last year, the initiative aims to develop the spirit of volunteerism among Muslims and to invest in the youth by engaging young men and women in service and social responsibility.

“It focuses as well on improving the efficiency level of services provided to pilgrims, promoting the culture of volunteering, helping elderly and special needs’ people to perform Umrah rituals, and finally contributing to the realization of the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 of reaching 1 million volunteers annually,” ministry statement said.

The trip was held in cooperation with the Western Fleet Transport, in coordination with the undersecretary of the Ministry of Hajj and Umrah for pilgrims’ transportation affairs and Haji & Mu'tamer's Gift Association.