Saudi, US institutes hold discussion on regional, bilateral issues

Middle East issues were the focus of discussions held between the Washington Institute for Near East Policy and the Saudi delegation. (AN photo)
Updated 08 December 2017
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Saudi, US institutes hold discussion on regional, bilateral issues

RIYADH: The Prince Saud Faisal Institute for Diplomatic Studies held a cordial discussion on Thursday about Middle East issues with a delegation from the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.

Saudi-US relations are “becoming stronger, as we’re talking about the biggest oil producer and the largest oil consumer in the world,” said Shoura Council member Dr. Raeda Abu Nayan.
“Deals signed in May during President Donald Trump’s visit are evidence of these close ties,” she added.
“Saudi Arabia has strong confidence in the US business environment, and I think the US believes in the economic reforms that Saudi Arabia is pursuing,” she said.
“Saudi Arabia has shifted from a government-led economy to a market-based one. The government believes all stakeholders should be involved (the government, the private sector, NGOs and foreign investors).”
Shoura Council member Dr. Hanan Al-Ahmadi said: “The meeting with the delegates of the Washington Institute was a great opportunity to exchange views and information on issues of mutual interest between the US and Saudi Arabia.”
She added: “Such meetings are useful to enhance communication between the people of the two countries, who have been allies for decades and have extended relations and cooperation in various fields.”
She said: “We had a very good discussion on the impact of Vision 2030 on all aspects of Saudi life, focusing on the economy, education, the role of youth, women and regional issues.”
Al-Ahmadi added: “We shed light on the achievements of Saudi women and our pride in where we are at this moment in our country’s history.”
She said: “Women represent a higher proportion of university graduates, an increasing percentage of the labor market, and are entering decision-making circles.”
She added: “The movement to improve public sector performance and counter terrorism is a relief to us, as we know that this time the government is determined to succeed.”
The Saudi delegation “emphasized the Kingdom’s role in supporting US counterterrorism efforts,” Al-Ahmadi said.
“We expressed concerns about the fact that American media doesn’t reflect accurately the Saudi role in global efforts to counter terrorism, and the long partnership between our two nations in the fight against terror.” 
Shoura Council member Dr. Modi Al-Khalafi said: “We touched upon several critical topics: Social, economic and religious reforms; unacceptable Iranian involvement in the region and proxy wars resulting from it; and US-Saudi collaboration on counterterrorism.”
Many US delegates said they were impressed and surprised that Saudi women’s voices were articulated loudly, clearly and in partnership with their male colleagues.
“We’re proud of our traditional role as mothers and housewives, as it’s important for the family and society, as much as we’re proud of being working mothers,” said Abu Nayan.
“Our vision is to increase the contribution of women in the workforce from 22 to 30 percent by 2030,” she added.
“We’re breaking the glass ceiling, and we’re going to increase the percentage of women in higher positions from 1.27 now to 5 percent.”
A participant at the dialogue, Susan Wang, said she thought wearing the abaya would be constricting, but “I’m surprised by how liberated I feel wearing it.”
Abu Nayan replied: “We’re proud of our abayas, and you shouldn’t judge us by what we’re wearing on our heads, but what we have in our minds.”
Al-Khalafi said: “As a Saudi woman, there’s always a lot to say about our history, challenges, achievements and hopes for the future.”
She added: “More often than not, exchanges like this, especially among knowledgeable scholars who are candid with each other, result in tangible steps that can bridge a gap or pave the way for further collaboration.” 
 


More than 2 million pilgrims complete journey to Mount Arafat for second day of Hajj

Updated 20 August 2018
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More than 2 million pilgrims complete journey to Mount Arafat for second day of Hajj

  • Pilgrims spent the day praying and repenting and praying for personal strength in the future
  • 'We’re doing this to get closer to Allah, to be absolved'

JEDDAH: Millions of pilgrims gathered on Monday on the plains of Mount Arafat to perform the pinnacle of the Hajj pilgrimage.
On Arafat pilgrims spent the day praying and repenting and praying for personal strength in the future.
It is the most important part of the Hajj pilgrimage, during which the Khutbah (sermon) of Hajj is narrated and Dhuhr and Asr prayers are offered together.
Buses could be seen parked around the hill as workers hurriedly picked up empty water bottles near a yellow sign that read “Arafat starts here” in both English and Arabic.
Carrying brightly colored umbrellas under the blazing sun, worshippers scaled the rocky hill southeast of the holy city of Makkah.

Arms raised, pilgrims repeated “There is no God but Allah” and “Allahu Akbar” (God is greatest).
“The feeling is indescribable,” said Umm Ahmad, 61, who made the journey from Egypt, told AFP.
This year almost 2.4 million Muslims, from every corner of the world, left Mina headed to Arafat. The pilgrims made the journey with ease the movement of traffic was smooth, the Saudi Press Agency reported.
Traffic authorities, security personnel and staff from various government and private sector organizations, in addition to 4,000 Saudi scouts, have been deployed to assist and guide the pilgrims in several languages.
The Saudi leadership ordered authorities to provide more comfort, security and tranquility for pilgrims to complete their rituals.
Some of the pilgrims — men in white seamless garments and women in loose dresses — pushed elderly relatives in wheelchairs on the second day of the Hajj.
Jai Saleem, a 37-year-old Pakistani, said he cried when he and his wife arrived on Mount Arafat, where Muslims believe Prophet Muhammad delivered his final sermon.

 


“It feels great,” he said. “I have always seen this area, since my childhood, in photographs and on television.”
After sunset prayers, pilgrims made their way down Mount Arafat to Muzdalifah, another holy site where they will sleep under the stars to prepare for the final stage of Hajj, a symbolic “stoning of the devil” ritual.
“We know that it’s a difficult task,” said Amna Khan, a 35-year-old American Muslim pilgrim.
“That’s why we are all here. We’re doing this to get closer to Allah, to be absolved.”
A hot wind blew across the hill and the surrounding plain after a downpour late Sunday. Many faithful could be seen sipping from bottles of water throughout the day.
“I knew it would be a little hard to climb Mount Arafat,” said Nigerian pilgrim Saidou Boureima.
“So I prepared for this challenge by working out. And God willing, we can see it through.”
The Hajj is one of the five pillars of Islam, which every Muslim is required to complete at least once in their lifetime if they are healthy enough and have the means to do so.
Arafat includes an open plain and Mount Arafat, which is also called Jabal Al-Rahma (Mountain of Mercy), that is 300 meters wide and 70 meters high.
Arafat is surrounded by an arc of mountains and Wadi Arana and is located east of Makkah.
Muslims on Tuesday observe the first day of Eid Al-Adha, or Feast of Sacrifice, which marks the end of the Hajj.
They traditionally slaughter sheep for the three-day Eid Al-Adha, a tribute to the Prophet Abraham’s sacrifice of a lamb after God spared Ishmael, his son.
They will consume some of the meat and give the rest to poor people unable to buy food.