Stoning continues peacefully; Hajis out of ihram

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Pilgrims throw pebbles at pillars during the "Jamarat" ritual, the stoning of Satan, in Mina on Tuesday. (SPA)
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Pilgrims throw pebbles at pillars during the "Jamarat" ritual, the stoning of Satan, in Mina on Tuesday. (Arab News photo by Ahmad Hashad)
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A security officer assists an elderly pilgrim in throwing pebbles at pillars during the "Jamarat" ritual, the stoning of Satan, in Mina on Tuesday. (Arab News photo by Ahmad Hashad)
Updated 14 September 2016
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Stoning continues peacefully; Hajis out of ihram

MINA: Visibly relaxed Haj pilgrims performed the stoning ritual for the second consecutive day in Mina on Tuesday.
They carried out the ritual with relative ease. The stress that was so evident on Monday was gone.
The pilgrims had shed their ihram and were in colorful clothes. For the first time since the rituals began three days ago, they had time to catch up on news and flip through newspapers.
In many cases, younger pilgrims helped their parents, some in wheelchairs, make their way toward the massive multi-story Jamrat Complex where pilgrims cast pebbles at three large columns.
With just one day to go until this year’s Haj is complete, it was common to see many pilgrims engaged in prayer and supplication.
Munawwar Farooqui, from Lucknow in India, who had his head shaved in a tradition dating back to more than 1,400 years ago, said: “The stress of Haj is a metaphor for what must be borne in life. It teaches us that all life is a spiritual quest.”
Canadian pilgrim Assad Yakoub said: “I realize the mercy of Allah, that we are here to seek His forgiveness, and that this Haj will make a change in my life so that I can become a better Muslim.”
Meanwhile, the security forces chief revealed on Tuesday that his men in uniform had stopped 200,000 drivers from sneaking more than 500,000 undocumented pilgrims into the holy sites.
Lt. Gen. Khaled Al-Harbi said the offenders had their fingerprints taken which were passed to the relevant authorities.
He said the rigorous application of security standards prevented the entry of illegal pilgrims, contributing significantly to the smooth progression of the Haj rituals.
He said the ground floor of the Jamrat Bridge accommodated 500,000 pilgrims at a time while 350,000 others were distributed to other floors.
Save for the blistering weather, everything went smoothly and according to plan.
The five-day-long pilgrimage is a series of rituals meant to cleanse the soul of sins and instill a sense of equality and brotherhood among Muslims.
Over the years, the government has spent billions of riyals to improve the safety of the pilgrimage, particularly in Mina.
Narrow streets that lead to the large pedestrian paths around the Jamrat Complex have been widened.
The pilgrims will stream out of Mina on Wednesday after performing what for many has been a once-in-a-lifetime journey of faith.


Al-Ula Royal Commission launches second phase of university scholarship program

Updated 35 min 57 sec ago
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Al-Ula Royal Commission launches second phase of university scholarship program

  • High-quality education will make students ‘valuable assets’ in transformation of the region
JEDDAH: The Royal Commission for Al-Ula has launched the second phase of its overseas scholarship program, giving students the chance to study at universities in the US, UK, France and Australia.
The program is intended to broaden the horizons of Saudi students, creating more rounded graduates with wider experiences of foreign cultures and practices.
The students will also learn the languages of their host countries, which will aid them in later life depending on what path they choose, and encouraging interaction and exchanges between the Al-Ula region and the rest of the world.
Rami Al-Sakran, capabilities development manager for the commission, said the Al-Ula scholarship program was one of four strands in a community development plan.
“We have four different units, sector planning and business licensing so that covers economic development, with community engagement and human capability under the social development plan,” he told Arab News.
The second phase of the scholarship program will run for five years following the positive response to the first phase, which was launched last year. The second phase has been expanded to accommodate 300 students and is open to all genders.
Last September, 165 students were sent to the US, UK and France with Australia to focus on fields such as hospitality, tourism, agriculture, archaeology and heritage.
Many residents from the area had migrated to larger cities because of the lack of job opportunities, he said, so it was important to engage and employ locals first.
“We’ll flood the equation. We’ll see people coming in and our priority is the local community and to provide them with jobs. We want these jobs that we’ll create to be filled by the locals first.
“We’ve currently provided jobs, whether directly or indirectly, some of them temporary and others permanent. At Winter in Tantora, we have volunteers, ushers, drivers as this is seasonal but we’ve established a database and some jobs are permanent, whether they’re directly employed by our CEO or some contract.”
Al-Sakran said locals were key to the success of turning Al-Ula into a major tourist destination.
“Locals, locals, locals. Without the locals, we can’t succeed. We have a very transparent relationship, it’s a two-way street with them. We cooperate with them and communicate with them on every basis. We have a strong relationship with the governor of Al-Ula and we listen to the locals.
“Whether it was our social or economical development, as you can see Winter in Tantora has a major socio-economic impact on the area and ... the locals are working everywhere here and that’s what we want. It’s theirs. We’ll unveil it to the Kingdom ... that’s the idea, to make it a strong and significant destination for all.”