British Council official praises Hajj authorities on ‘wonderful’ pilgrimage

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Head of the British Council Amir Ramzan congratulated the organizers of the pilgrimage. (AN Photo/Seif Al-Mutairi)
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There have been more than 2 million people, many from overseas, take part in the pilgrimage. (AN Photo/Essam Al-Ghalib)
Updated 12 August 2019

British Council official praises Hajj authorities on ‘wonderful’ pilgrimage

  • Head of British Council in Saudi Arabia says Hajj was wonderful
  • Approximately 26,000 UK nationals have performed the Hajj pilgrimage this year

MAKKAH: The head of the British Council in Saudi Arabia praised Hajj authorities on the successful operation of the Islamic pilgrimage.

The Hajj authorities “have done a wonderful job” in providing services and facilities to over two million people to ensure the pilgrimage goes “smoothly,” Amir Ramzan said.

Ramzan, who was performing Hajj with his family, said he had an “amazing experience” during his pilgrimage this year as it gave him an opportunity to meet a variety of people from around the world from different backgrounds and cultures.

“There is such a nice atmosphere and spirit amongst all the pilgrims. Everyone is smiling, helping each other,” he said, adding that he liked seeing pilgrims give up their umbrellas to others when it rained in Arafat on Saturday.

For Ramzan, Hajj is an opportunity to refresh and renew spiritually.

“Hajj is a really important ritual for every Muslim at least to be performed once in their lifetime, so I am really pleased that I have had the opportunity to perform Hajj this year,” he said, adding that he was especially grateful for having performed it with his family.

Ramzan says that an average of 100,000 British Muslims a year travel to Makkah for Hajj and Umrah. This year, 26,000 UK pilgrims traveled to perform Hajj.

Ramzan explained that Saudi-British relations go beyond the pilgrimage.

Since the announcement of Vision 2030 by Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman in 2016, the UK has been working with Saudi Arabia on a number of projects, according to Ramzan.

Vision 2030 is a roadmap that aims to reduce Saudi Arabia’s dependence on oil and diversify the economy by developing public service sectors such as education, recreation and tourism.

“It has been a very exciting time in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia with Vision 2030, there has been a lot of fantastic change,” he said.

One of the projects include a collaboration with the Ministry of Education called “Khibrat” – meaning experiences in Arabic – to help Saudi teachers develop their skills.  

Ramzan said the UK was a popular destination for Saudi students to study.

“There are almost 10,000 Saudi students studying in the UK,” he said.

Aside from education, the British Council has been working with Saudi Arabia on cultural projects, including creating opportunities for Saudi artists to showcase their work in the UK.

This is so that people in the UK get the opportunity to learn more about Saudi Arabia, Ramzan said, adding it was “really important.”


Two new academies to boost Saudi arts, heritage and music

Updated 19 August 2019

Two new academies to boost Saudi arts, heritage and music

  • One academy specializing in heritage and traditional arts and crafts will start receiving applications in autumn 2020
  • A second academy dedicated to music will receive 1,000 students and trainees from 2021

JEDDAH: Saudi Arabia is to set up arts academies, including two in the next two years, offering a step toward academic qualification and enlarging the Kingdom’s footprint in heritage, arts and crafts, and music.

The initiative is part of the Ministry of Culture’s Quality of Life program. 

The minister, Prince Badr bin Abdullah bin Mohammed bin Farhan, said investment in “capacity building” was one of the most important elements in encouraging the cultural sector, which enjoyed unlimited support from King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

The Kingdom was rich in diverse arts, talents and artistic production, Prince Badr said, and the academies would be a first step toward academic qualification in the arts within the Kingdom.

One academy specializing in heritage and traditional arts and crafts will start receiving applications in autumn 2020, targeting 1,000 students and trainees in long- and short-term programs. 

A second academy dedicated to music will receive 1,000 students and trainees from 2021.

The music academy in particular will be “the core of music production and talent development in Saudi Arabia,” Saudi musician, composer and producer Mamdouh Saif told Arab News.

The music industry was a large and diverse field, Saif said, and education was crucial. 

“The academy is the right place to launch the music industry in Saudi Arabia, and it will have a significant impact on Saudi youth, and young people in surrounding countries,” he said.

He expects “a very high turnout” for the academy among young Saudis. 

“Due to my expertise in this area, I receive many questions from people who want to learn music, but through private lessons,” he said.

“But the availability of an academy for this purpose, that teaches music in a methodological way, will be the right start for those interested in music.”