Hajj homecomings and pilgrims’ gifts, past and the present

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A Muslim man shops for souvenirs and gifts at a shop in Makkah on Aug. 23, 2018, after completing his Hajj pilgrimage. (SPA)
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Pilgrips shop for souvenirs and gifts at a shop in Makkah on Aug. 23, 2018, after completing their Hajj pilgrimage. (SPA)
Updated 23 August 2018
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Hajj homecomings and pilgrims’ gifts, past and the present

  • Long ago, they were simple, including hummus, nuts, sweets and toys for kids; now, they might include Zamzam water, gold and dates
  • In the old days, a special chair was made from wood and palm leaves for pilgrims to sit on the day they returned from Hajj

MINA: Since ancient times, there have been customs and traditions associated with Hajj, not least the joyous celebrations to welcome pilgrims home from their spiritual retreat and, of course, the gifts pilgrims bring back for relatives and neighbors. As larger numbers of people from the world began to participate in the Hajj, the customs spread to all pilgrims, not only Arabs.

The nature of the gifts has changed over the years. Long ago, they were simple, including hummus, nuts, sweets and toys for kids. Now, they might include Zamzam water, gold and dates. Some of the pilgrims at this year’s Hajj shared their memories of homecoming celebrations and gifts from years gone by, and the gifts they will take home this year.

Massaad Al-Otaiby from Taif recalled the customs he remembers from about 60 years ago. He said people of Taif held a gathering called Sararah to celebrate the safe return of their relatives from Hajj. It was a happy and joyful family event, during which pilgrims placed pieces of cake on children’s heads, and everyone took part in folk dancing. The pilgrims brought toys for the children, such as models of horses and camels, along with photographs of the Prophet’s Mosque, the Grand Mosque and other historical landmarks.

Satti Al-Dumaihi, a Saudi, said that in the old days, typical gifts included hummus and candy, which the children loved to receive. Now, pilgrims return with gifts such as Zamzam water, mats and copies of the Holy Qur’an.

Nasser Al-Azimi, from Kuwait, said the gifts for his family will include djellabas for the men, miswak teeth-cleaning twigs, Zamzam water and prayer mats. “Gifts are essential and have become a ritual in our Kuwaiti society,” he added.

Indonesian pilgrim Tomi Satryatomo said Hajj gifts are also part of the customs of his country, and that he will take home dates, which are hard to find in Indonesia, Zamzam water, Saudi abayas, robes and miswak. Some pilgrims like to buy gold in Saudi Arabia, he added, because of its high quality and affordable prices compared with Indonesia.

Medhi Khifaji, a Saudi, said that in the old days, a special chair was made from wood and palm leaves for pilgrims to sit on the day they returned from Hajj. People would also paint their houses white and chant a special song as the pilgrims returned bearing gifts, including Zamzam water and dates from Madinah.


On track for 2030? Movers and shakers in KSA look ahead

Kingdom tower in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. (Shutterstock)
Updated 24 September 2018
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On track for 2030? Movers and shakers in KSA look ahead

  • “The comprehensiveness of Vision 2030 and the wider horizons it addresses positively transform the Saudi citizen’s life to become more integrative and enjoy new prosperity," says Dr. Saad Saleh Al-Rwaita.
  • Cybersecurity has a crucial role to play in accomplishing Vision 2030 objectives, explained Dr. Areej Alhogail.

RIYADH: Saudi Vision 2030 kicked off with the aim of boosting non-oil revenues through capitalizing on current assets, utilizing resources, and starting up new industries.

In order to reach the objectives outlined in the plan, government bodies have launched many initiatives, which have proceeded with the support of the private sector as firms have cooperated through developing their strategic plans, and overcome many challenges. 

The 88th Saudi National Day provides an opportunity not only to celebrate unification, but also to look back on the achievements of Vision 2030 and take stock of how it is paving the way to economic reforms while carving out enhanced influence for its citizens on the world stage.

Here both public and private sector leaders who contribute to the economic transition plan share their thoughts on Vision 2030. 

Homam Hashem, Chief Executive Officer at Kafalah Fund, a financing guarantee program for small- and medium-sized enterprises, commented: ”One of the main objectives of Vision 2030 is to increase the contribution of the SME private sector to 35% of GDP. Small and medium enterprises have a significant impact on raising growth rates by raising financing opportunities and providing ways of success for the advancement of the sector. The program has contributed by raising the ceiling of guarantees for regular guarantees and developing specialized programs for the sectors (tourism, working capital support, and emerging enterprises). It has also attracted new sectors such as businesswomen and promising regions by providing additional incentives and developing many incentives that contribute to support raising local lending rates for small and medium enterprises up to 20% by 2030. The focus was on supporting the sectors that are compatible with the Kingdom's vision 2030 and diversifying the means of support.” 

Dr. Fahad Al-Shathri, Deputy Governor of Supervision at the Saudi Arabian Monetary Authority (SAMA), said: “In view of the demographic challenges, Saudi Arabia cannot solely rely on the same economic model as during the past five decades, namely oil. Twelve years from now, I would expect the economy to be more dynamic and to have multiple sectors driving growth and job creation, including tourism and logistics. Entrepreneurship will be the central focus for young people in future, inspired by the great accomplishments of their peers. These will be the new drivers of the economy that Vision 2030 is aiming at, and we hope that everyone will strive to contribute to its success.”

As education will play a crucial role in the development of human capital in the Kingdom, we asked Alfaisal University president Dr. Mohammed Al-Hayaza for his take. The former Shoura Council member said: “The Ministry of Education has taken unprecedented measures to ensure that our institutes of higher education are both the best in the region and top-ranked internationally. Vision 2030 has developed job specifications for each field of education, and by utilizing these specifications Alfaisal University is closing the gap between the learning outcomes of higher education and that of the demands of the job market through continued targeted alignment.”

Dr. Saad Saleh Al-Rwaita, Vice-Rector for administrative and financial affairs at Prince Sultan University in Riyadh, commented: “The comprehensiveness of Vision 2030 and the wider horizons it addresses positively transform the Saudi citizen’s life to become more integrative and enjoy new prosperity. 

The Vision will safeguard the Kingdom against dependence on circumstantial changes of the natural resources market and being influenced by external factors that are beyond our control, while empowering the Kingdom to create change and exert influence that surpass the local reality to direct the international compass and take the initiative, particularly in the economic field, in order to guarantee a bright future for the future generations.”

Looking to the real estate sector, Ehab Al Dabbagh, CEO of real estate development firm Ijmal, said the industry was likely to see big changes in future: “Firstly, the demand for housing products would be met. Technology and industrial progression will play a major role in building a variety of eco-friendly housing products. Houses could be ordered through an online application and fabricated in weeks.”

Another vital contributor in Vision 2030 is the food industry. Engineer Abdul-Mohsen Al-Yahya, who founded the chain of fast food restaurants Kudo, and currently an investor in supply and support at the food sector, said: “From my own experience in food services for more than 30 years in Saudi Arabia, I believe that in future the food service sector will continue to grow with more investments, products diversity and quality will increase, while continuing to become an extension of economic growth in Saudi Arabia and a key industry generating employment opportunities.”

Cybersecurity has a crucial role to play in accomplishing Vision 2030 objectives, explained Dr. Areej Alhogail, assistant professor in the Department of Information Systems at Imam Muhammad bin Saud Islamic University in Riyadh, who sits on the Saudi group of information security, said: “The Kingdom has taken pioneering steps, such as establishing the National Cybersecurity Authority, the Saudi Federation for Cybersecurity, and allocating scholarships in the field of information security. (These initiatives) will enable the Kingdom to be at the forefront of countries in the field of cybersecurity by 2030, and will protect the local economy, perhaps attracting foreign investments in various fields of information to be the ideal environment of trained local professionals and advanced laboratories and legislation protection.”