Saudi women set to enjoy football in stadium

Saudi women attend an event to celebrate the 87th annual National Day of Saudi Arabia in Riyadh on Sept. 23, 2017. (Reuters)
Updated 26 December 2017
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Saudi women set to enjoy football in stadium

JEDDAH: The upcoming year 2018 will herald a new dawn for Saudi female football enthusiasts. For the first time in the history of the Kingdom, women will be allowed to enjoy a football match in a stadium.
The much-awaited match will take place between Al-Hilal and Al-Ittihad clubs at Riyadh’s King Fahd Stadium on Jan. 12.
The decision was first announced on Oct. 29, a month after the issuance of a royal decree lifting a ban on women driving. Riyadh’s King Fahd Stadium, Jeddah’s King Abdullah Sports City and Dammam’s Prince Mohamed bin Fahd Stadium are the only stadiums that will be allowed to welcome family audiences.
Lina Al-Maeena, a Shoura member and director of Jeddah United (first women-only basketball team), told Arab News: “It’s a historic game, the first in which Saudi families can enter a stadium together... They are finally going to have activities and entertainment together where they’re not separated, where parents go with their kids and mothers and even grandmothers, where they can enjoy sports events specifically, together. It’s an opportunity for mothers to enjoy watching their children cheering, and for them and younger women to cheer as well. I really think it reinforces family values.”
Al-Maeena predicts a large audience. “Eventually there will be a gradual increase, but I’m very excited to see the number of attendees.”
Twitter is abuzz with excited female fans who cannot wait to experience cheering in person for their favorite teams for the very first time. Manal Qamash reacted to the news with a tweet saying, “YES! I can finally experience this!”
Shahad Ahmad promised to be “the very first female to step into that stadium.” Meanwhile, Nada Al-Ghamdi from Jeddah, expressed her disappointment at the game taking place in Riyadh and said: “Why’s the game not taking place in Jeddah? I really wanted to attend.”
Many male fans displayed their displeasure at the prospect of sharing stadiums with families, referring to the traditional reasons, and their belief that football is a masculine sport. In response, Al-Maeena said: “The first thing that comes to my mind is that the holy land we live in is a non-segregated environment; when we go around the Ka’aba and when we perform Sa’i, it’s a mixed environment. When you look at the core pillars of Islam, in the fifth one, Al-Hajj, there is no segregation.” She added that as long as everyone maintains decency and modesty, there should be no obstacles.
“I’m sure the government has already mentioned its preparations with security reinforcements just to make sure everything is under control, from entrances to public services. When they announced the news, they said it would take place in 2018 to give them time to implement the new changes. The facilities are well prepared and developed as is, but of course, some changes were needed to accommodate families.”


All eyes on Mina as Hajj begins today

A Hajj security man takes care of a child. Security forces have been deployed around the clock to deal with all emergency cases. (SPA)
Updated 10 min 41 sec ago
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All eyes on Mina as Hajj begins today

JEDDAH: Around 2 million pilgrims arrived in the Holy Land from outside and inside the Kingdom in preparation to set out from Makkah for Mina.
They will retrace the noble tradition of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) and spend the Tarwiyah Day on Sunday in Mina. Here they will make final preparations for the Standing (Wuquf) at Arafat, which marks the climax of the annual pilgrimage, on Monday.
To be able to serve the pilgrims and enable them to perform Hajj rituals with ease and comfort, the government and private sectors concerned with Hajj and pilgrim affairs intensify their preparations, under the direct supervision of Prince Khalid Al-Faisal, adviser to King Salman, the governor of Makkah region and chairman of the Central Hajj Committee, and followed up by his deputy, Prince Abdullah bin Bandar.
The Ministry of Health will provide intensive and continuous health services supported by skillful human cadres and state-of-the-art medical technologies, in order to provide the best health services for pilgrims. The Ministry of Health has employed a total of 29,495 physicians, pharmacists, nurses and technicians to provide extensive health care to the pilgrims.
According to the ministry, its manpower during the Hajj consists of 780 consultants in various medical specializations, 1,248 specialists; 2,718 general practitioners; 1,428 pharmacists; 3,553 nurses; 1,173 technicians and lab specialists; 198 specialists in nutrition; 5,587 administrators; 165 engineers; and 1,491 ambulance drivers.
The General Presidency of the Grand Mosque and the Prophet’s Mosque will operate and maintain all technical devices and systems of lighting, air-conditioning and ventilation, sound and control systems, cameras, communication devices and electrical stairs, buildings and libraries in the Two Holy Mosques.
Air-conditioning has been installed in the basement and ground floor and many other areas. Thousands of fans have been installed in the Two Holy Mosques and their yards.
The area around the Two Holy Mosques has been equipped with more than 8,441 toilets, as well as more than 6,000 ablution units. All power supply lines have been prepared to make sure there is power 24/7.
More than 10,000 male and female employees will be available to follow up on work and monitor it during Ramadan, in addition to a large number of cleaners.
Among the services also provided by the Presidency are translation of Friday sermons into 10 languages, organization of various scientific programs, and competitions.
A total of 210 doors in the Grand Mosque and 100 doors in the Prophet’s Mosque have been prepared, as well as 28 escalators in the Grand Mosque and four escalators in the Prophet’s Mosque. There are 38 doors for people with special needs and seven for women.
The Saudi Red Crescent deployed 127 emergency centers, 361 ambulances, 20 motorbikes, and more than 1,861 people to work in the ranges of Makkah and Madinah.
There will be 22 operational hospitals in Madinah and the holy sites, 15 temporary emergency centers, supported with more than 87 ambulances and 653 paramedics.
The Ministry of Municipal and Rural Affairs mobilized its human and mechanical capabilities to enable pilgrims to perform their duties in a safe and healthy environment by employing more than 26,000 individuals and 717 mechanisms to implement the hygiene plan in Makkah and the holy sites, as well as specialized field teams to control 33,069 food facilities in Makkah.
Civil defense teams will be deployed around the clock to deal with all emergency cases, where the injuries will be transferred using stretchers and wheelchairs to several medical evacuation sites inside and outside the mosque.
These teams will also be carrying out extraction and rescue operations inside the Holy Mosque and the surrounding area, in addition to providing urgent first aid, and transferring critical cases to the nearest hospitals and health centers, in coordination with the Red Crescent teams around the Holy Mosque. The Hajj security forces leaderships announced their readiness to maintain the security and safety of pilgrims during the pilgrimage season.
The General Command of the Air General Security is supported by all the security services and various government sectors.
In preparation for the Hajj season, the Saudi General Security Aviation Command announced that it has started implementing the first phase of its security plan to ensure the safety of pilgrims in the Kingdom. The aviation command will commence security operations over the holy sites, where special helicopters will monitor the activities surrounding the Hajj season this year. The planes are stationed in the designated locations in Makkah and Madinah from various bases to carry out the tasks assigned to them, namely traffic and security, logistical support for other security bodies, humanitarian services and the monitoring of pilgrims not following the rules.