Egyptian pilgrims ‘top spenders’ during Hajj and Umrah seasons

There is a connection between the pilgrim’s economy back home and their purchasing power and aspirations when in Saudi Arabia. (SPA)
Updated 11 May 2019

Egyptian pilgrims ‘top spenders’ during Hajj and Umrah seasons

MAKKAH: Pilgrim spending in Makkah and Madinah needs to be examined and encouraged, Hajj and Umrah sector experts have told Arab News.
Millions of Muslims visit the two holy cities annually, with more than 6 million umrah visas issued this year so far, but their shopping needs to be stimulated with a greater offering of specialty products that showcase Saudi Arabia and the two holy cities.
Egyptians top the list of spending, according to the head of the tourism and hotels committee at the Makkah Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Aziz Awliyaa.
“Egyptians top the list of spending, followed by Iraqis, Algerians and Turks,” he told Arab News, adding there was a connection between the pilgrim’s economy back home and his or her purchasing power and aspirations when in Saudi Arabia.
“A pilgrim spends an average of $700 during a period of 10 days, five days spent in Madinah and five days spent in Makkah.”
Saad Jameel Al-Qurashi, the former chairman of the National Committee for Hajj and Umrah at the Makkah Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said that different nationalities spent different lengths of time in the Kingdom.
“Indian, Pakistani and Bangladeshi nationals prefer to stay for 30 days, while some Egyptian pilgrims prefer to stay up to 20 days,” he told Arab News. He said that pilgrims spent up to $1,000 in a 10-day period.
Data from the Hajj Ministry, released earlier this month, showed that the largest number of pilgrims are from Pakistan (1,353,625) followed by Indonesia (881,459), India (579,443), Egypt (405,750) and Turkey (279,038).
Al-Qurashi said that one way to cater for a diverse international audience was to globalize food and beverage outlets.
“There is a need to open foreign restaurants in Makkah to give pilgrims the opportunity to leave their hotels, visit these restaurants and taste dishes in a modern setting that stimulates the hospitality sector and supports diversity for more than 150 nationalities that meet in one place during Ramadan.”
He explained that purchasing power was not just determined by nationality or the economic situation in a pilgrim’s home country. There was also a desire to find added value, he said. “Pilgrims are keen to buy items that they do not find in their countries, and that imposes the challenge of diversifying markets so they cater to the pilgrims’ various requirement.”
There was a “dire need” to establish research economic bodies to examine expenditure rates and requirements for pilgrims and to cope with the increase in pilgrim numbers every year, he added.
Al-Qurashi said there was also a need to come up with special gifts for pilgrims who preferred souvenirs made by Saudi nationals and “exemplified the spirit of Makkah.”

Photo exhibition recalls 90 years of Saudi-Lebanon ties

Updated 19 August 2019

Photo exhibition recalls 90 years of Saudi-Lebanon ties

  • Thousands of photos on display
  • Ties ‘rooted’ in history, says Kingdom’s ambassador

BEIRUT: Saudi Arabia’s Ambassador to Lebanon Walid Bukhari and Lebanon’s Minister of Information Minister of Information Jamal Jarrah on Monday inaugurated a photography exhibition celebrating 90 years of bilateral relations.

The King Abdul Aziz Foundation for Research and Archives and the Abdulaziz Saud Al-Babtain Cultural Foundation provided the embassy in Lebanon with historical documents and photos for the exhibition, which was launched on World Photography Day. Some of the material dates back more than 90 years.

Bukhari said the exhibition’s content proved that the countries’ relations were rooted in history and recalled the words of King Abdul Aziz bin Abdulrahman, who said: “Lebanon is part of us. I protect its independence myself and will not allow anything to harm it.”

Jarrah, who was representing Prime Minister Saad Hariri, said: “We need this Arab embrace in light of the attacks targeting the Arab region and we still need the Kingdom’s support for Lebanon’s stability, because Lebanon is truly the center from which Arabism originated.”

The exhibition starts with a document appointing Mohammed Eid Al-Rawaf as the Kingdom’s consul in Syria and Lebanon. It was signed by King Abdul Aziz bin Abdulrahman Al-Faisal Al-Saud in 1930 and states that the consul’s residence is in Damascus and that his mission is to “promote Saudi merchants, care for their affairs and assist them with their legal and commercial interests.”

Black and white pictures summarize milestones in the development of bilateral relations, while others depict key visits and meetings between leaders and dignitaries.

“The exhibition demanded great efforts because the pieces were not found at one single location,” former Prime Minister Fouad Siniora told Arab News. “Circulating this activity in the Kingdom’s embassies in numerous countries is a great step and has pushed the Lebanese Ministry of Information to benefit from this archive. The Lebanese people remember the important positions the Kingdom has taken over the year to support their independence and sovereignty and in hard times.”

Lebanon, particularly Beirut, is a hit with Saudi travelers although the Kingdom had been advising citizens since 2011 to avoid the country, citing Hezbollah’s influence and instability from the war in neighboring Syria. 

But the easing of restrictions since February has led to a surge in Saudis heading to Lebanon.

Riyadh earlier this year released $1 billion in funding and pledged to boost Lebanon’s struggling economy. Another sign of warming ties was an anniversary event marking the 2005 assassination of Hariri’s father that featured Saudi Royal Court adviser Nizar Al-Aloula as a keynote speaker.

“The exhibition highlights the unique model of Lebanese-Arab relations that should be taught in diplomatic institutes, starting with the Lebanese Foreign Ministry,” former minister Marwan Hamadeh told Arab News. “Over the course of 90 years, we have had brotherly ties and political support for independence, freedom, growth, economy and culture and then the Taif Accord (which ended the Lebanese Civil War). Even after that, when Lebanon engaged in military adventures, the Kingdom was there to help with reconstruction and we are proud of these relations.”

Highlights include a recording of King Faisal telling President Charles Helou about the need to strengthen “brotherhood in the face of the aggression targeting our countries without respecting the sanctity of holy sites and international, human and moral norms to extend its influence not only in the region but across the world.”

There are also photos from a recent meeting that brought together King Salman, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and Lebanese officials. 

An old broadcast recording can be heard saying that the “tragedy of the Lebanese civil war can only be ended by affirming the Lebanese legitimacy and preserving its independence and territorial integrity.”

The exhibition is on at Beit Beirut, which is located on what used to be the frontline that divided the city during the civil war.