Portuguese traveler looks back on her journey in Saudi Arabia

Cidalia Espiguinha with her daughter in Balad. (Supplied photo)
Updated 17 June 2019
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Portuguese traveler looks back on her journey in Saudi Arabia

  • The 38-year-old Portuguese mother says, ‘I have basically spent my life traveling — it is my life now’

JEDDAH: Cidalia Espiguinha, a Portuguese mother often found exploring the streets of Jeddah’s historic Al-Balad area, told Arab News that she “comes from a family of travelers.”

Commonly called Lia, the 38-year-old Espiguinha met her Spanish husband after he journeyed to Portugal to study.

On Instagram, Espiguinha can be seen traveling the world with her seven-year-old daughter, but many of the images were taken in Al-Balad.

“We are a family of travelers,” she said.

“The first time I traveled was in 2002, in my second year of university. You can buy a ticket for the train and cover all the European countries in a single month. I traveled with my friends.”

Asked how she developed her passion for travel, Espiguinha replied: “Ever since the trip around Europe I have started meeting lots of people who are travelers like me. The experience cannot be put into words. “I have basically spent my life traveling — it is my life now.”

Espiguinha’s husband moved to Saudi Arabia to complete a project. However, the couple feared Saudi Arabia would not be a good place for their daughter, and Espiguinha stayed behind.

However, a few months later, her husband urged her to come, saying he thought the experience would help their daughter. “A few months later, we arrived in Jeddah, and the first impression was overwhelming. It was extremely hot and we landed in the middle of a sandstorm. There was turbulence and the plane had difficulties landing. My daughter was only three at the time.”

The first few weeks in the Kingdom were hard, Espiguinha said. “I was in a foreign country with no friends. When you don’t know anyone and you don’t speak Arabic, it takes a long time to adjust to the abayas and prayer times.” She is disappointed at being unable to discover as much of Saudi Arabia as she would have liked in her years here. “In the beginning, I used to think I would have so much time to travel and explore, and now my years here are over — time has passed so quickly.

“My daughter doesn’t even want to leave, but one day when tourism is open I will definitely come back and visit all the places on my list,” she said. Espiguinha managed to visit the Madain Saleh archaeological site and Taif, outside Jeddah.

“I had a chance to visit the city of Petra in Jordan and Madain Saleh is much better. It just does not get the appreciation it deserves.”

Espiguinha hopes to visit the Asir region and discover more of the Kingdom’s geographic gems.

She described the experience of leaving Saudi Arabia as “bittersweet.”

“When I get the chance, I will definitely come back,” she said. 


Makkah Route: Health services presented to Hajjis in their home countries

Updated 21 July 2019
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Makkah Route: Health services presented to Hajjis in their home countries

  • 257,981 pilgrims benefited from the "preventive services" since the new initiative’s launch

RIYADH: One of the services provided by the Makkah Route initiative, which aims to smooth the Hajj journey of pilgrims and provide top-quality service, is to ensure that all health requirements are met.

The Communication, Relations and Health Awareness General Department of the Ministry of Health is implementing the initiative in two ways. 

The first is to ensure that the proper application of the health requirements for Hajj and Umrah is followed in targeted countries before issuing the Kingdom’s entry visa (Malaysia, Indonesia, Bangladesh, Pakistan, and Tunisia). 

The second is to check that preventive measures are taken according to the world’s epidemiological situation, for instance in Pakistan.

“Preventive measures” mean, for example, providing polio vaccines for pilgrims. The vaccine, approved by the World Health Organization (WHO), is provided through the Pakistani health authorities at the departure area of the airport.

“The ministry is also deploying a team of five people qualified to supervise the application of health requirements and assess the vaccination procedure and the application of preventive measures,” the department added.   


HIGHLIGHTS

The Makkah Route initiative aims to ensure that the proper application of the health requirements for Hajj and Umrah is followed in targeted countries before issuing the Kingdom’s entry visa.

The initiative also ensures that preventive measures are taken according to the world’s epidemiological situation, for instance in Pakistan.

The workforce at the different land, air, and sea entry/exit points during this year’s Hajj season numbers more than 1,700 individuals.

The teams include 131 experienced doctors, general health specialists, epidemiological monitors, and other staff to provide the necessary treatment and preventive services to pilgrims.


The ministry’s procedures in the departure hall include prepping emergency clinics at the points where Makkah Route pilgrims are received. 

These clinics deal with urgent cases, prepare awareness information for pilgrims and coordinate with the General Authority of Civil Aviation regarding their distribution on the targeted airlines.

The workforce at the different land, air, and sea entry/exit points during this year’s Hajj season numbers more than 1,700 individuals, including 131 experienced doctors, general health specialists, epidemiological monitors, and other staff to provide the necessary treatment and preventive services to pilgrims.

The ministry stated that the number of health practitioners assigned to the service of pilgrims during Hajj “is more than 30,000.”

The ministry encourages volunteering during the Hajj season; it believes that it is a very important and noble service toward fellow citizens, nations and the religion, where Islam highly encourages volunteering and serving others.

The ministry is coordinating the major institutions and commissions via its Hajj volunteering link to register volunteers so that they can participate through the societal partnership program.

The missions affiliated with the pilgrim’s affairs offices provide basic treatment services and refer patients to the ministry’s health facilities, keeping an eye on the overall health situation and reporting any suspicious infectious diseases. 

The ministry monitors all the health institutions and medical missions affiliated with the pilgrim’s affairs offices to make sure the health requirements are being properly applied, to ensure pilgrims’ safety and guarantee an environment free of infectious diseases.

The Health Ministry has confirmed that so far that there has been no incidence of any epidemic diseases or quarantine cases recorded among pilgrims, who arrived and the health situation is reassuring.

Since the first of Dul Qaada, the ministry has provided preventive services, via access points, to 257,981 pilgrims, with a total rate of commitment to vaccination reached  87.4 percent for meningitis, 67.3 percent for yellow fever and 95.3 percent for polio.