1.8 million foreign pilgrims expected

Updated 05 October 2012
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1.8 million foreign pilgrims expected

JEDDAH: More than 1.8 million foreign pilgrims were expected to perform Haj this year, Haj Minister Bandar Hajar announced recently.
Speaking to reporters after visiting the headquarters of the Tawafa Organization for South Asian Pilgrims, Hajar said there was no plan to reduce the number of Umrah pilgrims for the mataf (circumambulation area around the Kaaba) expansion project. 
The minister said this year’s was the most successful Umrah season. An estimated 5.5 million foreign pilgrims came to the Kingdom. “We issued 5.8 million Umrah visas this year. Most of the 5.5 million pilgrims came for Umrah have already left the Kingdom. Only 10,000 pilgrims are now remaining in the country,” he said.
“This is a big success compared to the Umrah season of 2005, when 2.5 million foreign pilgrims came and about half of them remained in the country, overstaying their Umrah visas,” he explained.
Hajar said despite the convening of an emergency Islamic summit in Makkah, the Umrah pilgrims who came from different parts of the world were able to leave the Kingdom without any difficulty. He commended the efforts of all government departments for the success of the Umrah season.
Hajar said he is ready to meet the Shoura Council if he gets an invitation from the consultative body. “I have not yet received any invitation and I am ready to accept the invitation at any time,” he said.
Hajar met with chairman and members of the organization’s board of directors and discussed its preparations for the Haj season. He urged the organization to make use of the huge facilities being provided by the government in the service of pilgrims.
The ministry has set out a plan for sending pilgrims of various Tawafa organizations to the Jamrat and the Haram Mosque in coordination with the Public Security and Civil Defense Department.
Adnan Katib, president of the Tawafa Organization of South Asian Pilgrims, said they had discussed with Hajar the organization’s operation plan for the Haj season.
“We have discussed various aspects to improve services for pilgrims including housing, transport and general planning,” Katib said, adding that the organization would mobilize all its resources to extend the best possible services to the guests of God.

 


EXCLUSIVE: Saudi singer-songwriter Tamtam releases music video ahead of historic end to driving ban

Updated 22 June 2018
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EXCLUSIVE: Saudi singer-songwriter Tamtam releases music video ahead of historic end to driving ban

  • Singer-songwriter Tamtam has released a music video to coincide with the day her fellow countrywomen make history
  • In an exclusive interview with Arab News, the LA-based musician said she hopes the song inspires women to see that with patience and perseverance anything can happen. 

JEDDAH: With the long-awaited day when Saudi women can finally drive drawing near, a Saudi singer-songwriter based in Los Angeles has written a song to mark the historic occasion.

Called simply “Drive,” Tamtam’s take on the breakthrough reform covers a range of emotions: Happiness, pride and even surprise.

Millions around the world shared the news that Saudi women would be allowed to drive when it was announced last fall, and with all the preparations taking place, the singer wanted to take part in the best way she could. So she wrote the lyrics to a song that mirrored the exciting events ahead.

Tamtam’s release focuses on the themes of freedom, equality and empowerment that she has explored in her music since the start of her career in 2012.

In an exclusive interview with Arab News, the LA-based musician said she hopes the song inspires women to see that with patience and perseverance anything can happen. 

“If I had to use one word to describe the feeling, it would be hope. Women in Saudi are ready to have a bigger voice and become more independent.

“This is a huge step forward for all of us. The country is showing us that they know we are ready, and they are here to support us and help launch us forward,” said Tamtam. 

Her song’s lyrics include the words: “We know what we want, we know it’s our time, let go of past perceptions, tomorrow is mine, we got drive” — suggesting that it’s time to look forward and stop looking back at what once was.

The verse mirrors the narrative many Saudis are sharing with the world, empowered by the dramatic changes Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is accomplishing with Vision 2030 and beyond. 

Tamtam, inspired by the late Michael Jackson, started singing aged 15. She wrote her first single, “Little Girl,” while attending high school in California after her family moved to the US from Riyadh. Her singing and songwriting have been influenced by events around her, always related to current issues with a twist of optimism. 

Whether it’s her strong vocals or hauntingly beautiful voice, Tamtam’s music transcends expectations. This young Saudi is singing and making a name for herself in the City of Angels, and her positive energy is reflected in her music.

As Saudis embrace a host of reforms, Tamtam believes many Westerners are shocked by the news. Yet people forget that Saudi is a relatively young country and more good changes will come, she said. 

“With hope comes more aspirations, dreams, new achievements and positive energy.”

The “Drive” video is uplifting, with playful, artistic imagery, and soulful and empowering vocals. The singer and her friends wear white, representing peace and femininity, and drive a yellow Ford Mustang convertible (Tamtam’s dream car). 

“Whenever I’m in a car, especially if there is traffic or it’s a long drive, I always turn on music to put me in a better mood. Driving is so much more enjoyable with music,” said Tamtam. “I hope that this song will be blasting through car speakers everywhere.” 

So the question is: Will Tamtam get her Saudi license, too?

“Yes, I can’t wait,” is the answer, obviously.