Pilgrims from all nationalities took part in Saudi National Day

1 / 5
Pilgrims from all nationalities took part in the celebrations to mark the 88th Saudi National Day. (Supplied)
2 / 5
Pilgrims from all nationalities took part in the celebrations to mark the 88th Saudi National Day. (Supplied)
3 / 5
Pilgrims from all nationalities took part in the celebrations to mark the 88th Saudi National Day. (Supplied)
4 / 5
Pilgrims from all nationalities took part in the celebrations to mark the 88th Saudi National Day. (Supplied)
5 / 5
Pilgrims from all nationalities took part in the celebrations to mark the 88th Saudi National Day. (Supplied)
Updated 25 September 2018
0

Pilgrims from all nationalities took part in Saudi National Day

  • A number of pilgrims from various nationalities participated in a national initiative, organized by the Hadiya Association, in the holy cities of Makkah and Madinah
  • This is the first time that pilgrims, who have now finished their rituals and will leave on Sept. 25, have celebrated this special day with all of the people of Saudi Arabia

MAKKAH: Pilgrims from all nationalities took part in the celebrations to mark the 88th Saudi National Day, paying thanks to the Saudi government for the services provided to the two Holy Mosques.

After Saudi Arabia announced the success of this year’s Hajj season, the Umrah season kicked off. It also began to receive pilgrims from all nationalities, all of whom stressed that they cannot forget Saudi Arabia’s support in granting them their rights and helping them throughout their economic hardships.

“Every year I come to Saudi Arabia for Umrah. I am used to performing Umrah every year, but this year is special because it coincides with the National Saudi Day,” said Hamdi Abul-Enein, from Egypt, adding: “For the first time in my life I see the Saudi people celebrating their National Day, reflecting the cohesion between the citizens and their leadership. This is not surprising because we know the core of Saudi people are keen on the security and stability of the country.”

Hamdi added: “In Egypt, we share the joys of the Saudi people. For decades, there have been strong ties between Egyptians and our Saudi brothers. Sincere ties based on the Islamic religion joins us. Congratulations to Saudi Arabia and its citizens.”

Ali Al-Saradi, a pilgrim from Yemen, said: “I roamed the streets of Makkah and Medinah, and found people celebrating the national day. We admire the unity and loyalty of our Saudi brothers to their leadership. I am keen on sharing these celebrations with my Saudi brothers. In Yemen, we are happy for the Saudi citizens’ happiness. We consider them as our brothers and therefore we are happy for their joys and are sad for their sadness.”

Kuwaiti pilgrim, Abdullah Al-Ajami said: “This occasion is not only celebrated by the Saudi people, but also by all those who love this country. I can confirm that the rulers of this country are very generous and put all efforts to serve the two holy mosques. So it is no surprise to see so many nationalities celebrating the National Saudi Day.”

“The Saudi leadership and people stood with their Kuwaiti brothers during the brutal invasion; they opened their hearts before their homes. They were the first to work for the liberation of our country, and this is what strengthened the blood ties between us for decades. I ask God to perpetuate their joys,” he added.

The Hadiya Association involved pilgrims and visitors in celebrating the 88th National Day Festival.

A number of pilgrims from various nationalities participated in a national initiative, organized by the Hadiya Association, held during a reception and farewell for pilgrims, in the holy cities of Makkah and Madinah.

The Association distributed Saudi flags and gifts to the pilgrims. They received traditional Saudi hospitality and were given a presentation on the National Project, conducted in sign language in order to engage deaf people in the celebrations for the first time. The presentation, which was part of the Association’s project entitled “Nourishment of the Soul”, was conducted in 67 languages with the participation of both volunteers and multi-national students currently on scholarships in Saudi universities.

The Director General of the Association, Sheikh Mansoor Al Amer, expressed his joy seeing the pilgrims enthusiasm and willingness to engage in the celebrations for Saudi National Day, which commemorates the unification of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and expresses appreciation of the services provided by the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques during their spiritual journey in Makkah, Madinah, and Al Mashaaer Al Mugaddassah.

This is the first time that pilgrims, who have now finished their rituals and will leave on Sept. 25, have celebrated this special day with all of the people of Saudi Arabia, in what has widely been seen as a practical application of the Kingdom’s new 2030 vision.

Sheikh Al Amer added that a number of volunteers from different fields were cooperating with the association. They have circulated a clip on social media showing the Saudi national anthem being translated into sign language. The anthem was produced in association with Saleh Bin Hamood Al Nefaie, a sign language translator for the Friday sermon, which is regularly broadcasted from the Holy Mosque in Makkah and aired on the Qur’an Channel.


How ‘Absher’ app liberates Saudis from government bureaucracy

The Absher website also provides information on how to report wanted persons, or administrative or financial corruption. (Supplied)
Updated 17 February 2019
0

How ‘Absher’ app liberates Saudis from government bureaucracy

  • Western media mistaken in portraying app as a tool of repression, leading female journalist says

JEDDAH: Absher, the “one-click” e-services app launched by the Interior Ministry in 2015, is now regarded as the leading government platform for Saudi citizens, freeing them from bureaucratic inefficiency and endless queuing for everyday services.
However, in a recent New York Times article, the app was criticized as a “tool of repression” following claims by Democratic Senator Ron Wyden and women’s rights groups.
Apple and Google were urged to remove the application from their devices over claims that it “enables abhorrent surveillance and control of women.”
In an official statement, the ministry rejected the allegations and said the Absher platform centralized more than 160 different services for all members of society, including women, the elderly and people with special needs.
The app makes electronic government services available for beneficiaries to access directly at any time and from any place in the Kingdom, the ministry said.
Absher allows residents of the Kingdom to make appointments, renew IDs, passports, driver’s licenses, car registration and other services with one click.
Many Saudis still recall having to queue at government agencies, such as passport control offices and civil affairs departments, for a variety of official procedures. Appointments could take weeks to arrange, with people relying on their green files, or “malaf allagi” — the 1980s and 1990s paper form of Absher that was known as the citizen’s “lifeline,” both figuratively and literally.
Hours would be spent as government departments ferried files back and forth, and if a form was lost, the whole transaction process would have to start again. As complicated as it was for men, women suffered more.
Muna Abu Sulayman, an award-winning strategy adviser and media personality, told Arab News the introduction of Absher had helped strengthen women’s rights.
Sulayman said she was disappointed at comments on the e-services platform being made abroad. “There are consequences that people don’t understand. It’s a very idealistic and naive way of understanding what is going on,” she said.
“The discussion on the guardianship law is internal and ongoing — it is something that has to be decided by our society and not as a result of outside pressure. We’re making strides toward equality and Absher is a step in the right direction,” she said.
“In a Twitter survey, I asked how many women have access to their guardian’s Absher. Most answered that they control their own fate. Men who don’t believe in controlling women gave them access to their Absher and that shows an increase in the participation of women in their own decision-making.”
Absher also provides services such as e-forms, dealing with Hajj eligibility, passport control, civil affairs, public services, traffic control, and medical appointments at government hospitals.
The platform is available to all men and women, and removes much of the bureaucracy and time wasting associated with nonautomated administrative systems.
On the issue of granting women travel permits, the law requires a male guardian to grant it through the portal, as well as for men under the age of 21.
Retired King Abdullah University professor Dr. Zainab M. Zain told Arab News: “I always had issues with my passport renewal as well as my children’s as they are both non-Saudi. For years it was risky not to follow up properly at passport control — you never knew what could happen, but now I can renew their permits by paying their fees online through Absher from the comfort of my home in Abu Dhabi.”
Ehsanul Haque, a Pakistani engineer who has lived in the Kingdom for more than 30 years, said: “Absher has helped tremendously with requests, such as exit and entry visas for my family and myself. I can receive approval within an hour whereas once it would’ve taken me days,” he said.
“The platform has eased many of my troubles.”
The Absher website also provides information on how to report wanted persons, or administrative or financial corruption.
In April, 2018, the ministry launched “Absher Business,” a technical initiative to transfer its business services to an interactive digital system.
With an annual fee of SR2,000 ($533), business owners such as Marwan Bukhary, owner of Gold Sushi Club Restaurant in Jeddah, used the portal to help manage his workers’ needs in his expanding business.
“There are many features in Absher that helps both individual and establishment owners,” he said. “I took advantage of the great features it provided, and it saved me a lot of time and trouble and also my restaurant workers. It’s a dramatic change. When Absher Business was launched last year, it organized how I needed to manage my workers’ work permits.
“Through the system, I could see the status of all my employees, renew their permits, grant their exit and entry visas, and have their permits delivered to my house or my business through the post after paying the fees. It saved business owners a lot of time and energy.
“I used to have to do everything manually myself or have my courier help. I believe it’s the government’s most advanced system yet with more features being added every now and then,” Bukhary said.
“Absher has eased our burden, unlike the old days when we needed to visit government offices and it would take four weeks just to get an appointment. One click is all it takes now.”