First group of Lankan pilgims arrives

WARM WELCOME: Mohammed Azmi Thassim, Faizer Mackeen and senior diplomats from Riyadh and Jeddah receive the first group of Sri Lankan pilgrims in Jeddah on Sunday. (AN photo)
Updated 20 August 2016

First group of Lankan pilgims arrives

RIYADH: The first group of 62 of the 2,240 Sri Lankan Haj pilgrims arrived on a Saudi Arabian Airlines plane in Jeddah on Sunday.
The island’s national carrier, SriLankan Airlines, and other carriers will bring more pilgrim in the coming days.
Sri Lankan Ambassador Mohammed Azmi Thassim, Consul General Faizer Mackeen and senior diplomats welcomed the pilgrims.
“This year, we had a limited quota because of the ongoing development works in Makkah,” Thassim, who met Haj and Umrah Minister Mohammed Salih Bentin on Sunday, told Arab News from Jeddah.
Ferrying of the Colombo pilgrims to and from Jeddah will be shared by the SriLankan Airlines, the Saudi Arabian Airlines and other airlines.
Consul General Mackeen said: “Today, we received the Ummul Qura Group, led by Sheikh Hussein Deen.”
He said the consulate has deployed a team at the Haj terminal of the Jeddah airport to welcome Sri Lankan pilgrims. The officials offer refreshments to the pilgrims on arrival and attend to their needs until they leave for the holy cities.
Four teams have been formed in Makkah, Jeddah, Minah and Madinah to assist the pilgrims. In addition to the mission’s staff, the diplomat said that he had solicited the cooperation of volunteers, who would help the pilgrims in Makkah, Madinah and at the Haj terminal. “A medical team will also arrive with the pilgrims to look after their health needs.”
Speaking from Colombo, Mohamed Hashim Abdul Haleem, Muslim religious affairs and posts minister, said the Sri Lankan pilgrims will be provided with the best of services both in Makkah and Madinah during their pilgrimage. “With the help of the Saudi government, we have also introduced a new software to our system to streamline all our Haj activities,” he said
He said the pilgrims’ movements will be monitored and the travel agents held responsible if anything untoward happens to the pilgrims.
The minister said that this year, the first timers were given preference in the pilgrims’ selection process. “I have also stipulated the minimum cost for each pilgrim, which should include the airfare, accommodation and internal travel,” he said, adding that any travel operator who tries to exploit the pilgrims will be severely dealt with.

Height of adventure: Treading the ‘Edge of the World’ near Riyadh

Updated 19 April 2018

Height of adventure: Treading the ‘Edge of the World’ near Riyadh

  • Cliffs in Tuwaiq were formed as a result of the movement of the Arabian plate toward the northeast because of the spread of the Red Sea rift
  • Several prominent Saudi tour companies offer daylong excursions to the site

Thrill seekers and fitness gurus all over the Kingdom will be pleased to know that their choices for weekend activities have increased. 

Several tour operators in Riyadh have started offering trips to the area known as the Edge of the World, making the location more accessible than ever.

With the country’s obesity rates on the rise and many citizens growing more concerned about their physical health and stress levels, people are seeking ways to maintain their fitness without having to restrict themselves to the monotony of a gym routine.

One such solution that has steadily increased in popularity over the past year is hiking, which many have embraced as being much more exciting and fulfilling than spending hours on the treadmill. And most popular of all for hiking and other fitness activities in a natural setting is the magnificent landmark of Jabal Fihrayn, more commonly known as the Edge of the World.

Described as a “window framed by rock,” the Edge of the World offers stunning views of the valley below, a lush grove of acacia trees teeming with wildlife and vegetation. The spot is well-known for being a favorite of visiting picnickers.

Hikers can choose from several trails of varying levels of difficulty, making their way to the top of the Tuwaiq escarpment to take in the magnificent views at the top of the trail, where the colossal cliff faces drop off to reveal the dizzying height from the valley below. In addition to the rich wildlife unique to the location, you can also find samples of fossilized coral and raw mineral deposits in certain areas of the valley.

The cliffs in the areas were formed as a result of the tectonic movement of the Arabian plate toward the northeast because of the spread of the Red Sea rift situated 1,000 km to the west of Tuwaiq.

Due to the increasing popularity of the site, the authorities have built a hardtop that leads to the gates of the sites and arrangements are in place to protect the area and its natural treasures. 

Several prominent Saudi tour companies offer daylong excursions to the site. The more intrepid explorer also has the option to go alone; though past visitors recommend that solo travelers take an all-terrain, 4x4 vehicle and extra precaution. Visitors can spend the day at the site and leave before 6 p.m. (when the gates are closed for the night) or stay behind for a night of camping to enjoy the sunset and the breathtaking celestial views of a star-studded night sky.

Nora Alfard, amateur hiking enthusiast and two-time visitor to the location, was quick to offer praise about her trip. 

“The trip out there was a bit tiring, but totally worth it,” she said. “The views are stunning, and the hiking itself is not that difficult. Most people should be able to make it to the top without too much trouble.” She said she was likely to go a third time, and encouraged others to do the same.

The Edge of the World is roughly 100km northwest of Riyadh, about 1.5 hours’ drive from the capital. Visitors should be prepared for at least 30 minutes of hiking, possibly more depending on your trail and your level of fitness and experience. Previous visitors recommend bringing water and snacks, and stress the importance of dressing appropriately — hiking shoes only!


What is hiking?

Hiking means a long, vigorous walk, usually on trails in the countryside. Day hikers generally carry at least food, a map or a GPS navigation device.