Haj 2012 begins, pilgrims start moving into Mina

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Updated 31 October 2012
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Haj 2012 begins, pilgrims start moving into Mina

Hundreds of thousands of white-clad believers, in buses, cars and on foot and all of them chanting “Labbaik Allahumma Labbaik” (“Here I am, O Allah, here I am”), began their trek last night to the nearby tent city of Mina in the first leg of the annual pilgrimage.
Nearly 2 million pilgrims have come from abroad for what is described as the largest gathering of Muslims in the world. They will be joined by nearly 1 million from within Saudi Arabia, including a large number of expatriates.
The weather was moderate with a mild and cool breeze blowing across the Mina valley.
Saudi Arabia has left nothing to chance to ensure that pilgrims perform the arduous rituals with ease and comfort. Following instructions from Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah, all Haj-related ministries and security agencies have mobilized their resources in the service of the guests of Allah.
All Muslims are required to perform Haj at least once in their lifetimes if they have the means to do so. Pilgrims from nearly 150 countries are taking part in this year’s Haj. Among the countries that have sent the largest contingents of pilgrims are India, Egypt, Pakistan, Indonesia and Turkey.
The Saudi religious authorities have announced that the standing on the Mount of Arafat in prayer by pilgrims, the high point of the annual pilgrimage, will take place tomorrow.
The following day will be Eid Al-Adha, the feast of the sacrifice, when Muslims worldwide slaughter lambs, goats and camels to mark Prophet Ibrahim’s readiness to sacrifice his son Ismail upon instructions from Allah.
Many pilgrims began leaving for Mina last night after circumambulating the Holy Kaaba, the first house of worship on Earth, built by Adam. Prophet Ibrahim and his son Ismail rebuilt it some 5,000 years ago. Most Haj rituals are related to Prophet Ibrahim, his wife Hager and Ismail, and thus reflect the unity of humanity.
The whole atmosphere in and around the Grand Mosque yesterday was charged with piety and religious fervor and the pilgrims, men, women and children, were speaking only one language — the language of the Holy Qur’an. There were tears of joy in their eyes.
“You might be rich and famous, with everything at your beck and call, but unless He gives a call, you cannot perform Haj,” said Zainul Abedeen, from Khartoum, Sudan. “O Allah, grant victory to Muslims wherever they are.”
The government has given top priority to the security and safety of pilgrims and has deployed thousands of security forces in Makkah, Mina, Arafat and Muzdalifah, all cities within a radius of 10 kilometers, to ensure a safe and secure Haj for the guests of God. Haj is one the five major pillars, or tenets, of Islam that followers of the religion must abide by. The others are the Shahadah, the declaration of the faith; Salah, the five daily prayers; Zakah or mandatory giving of a portion of a person’s wealth to the needy; and Saum or fasting during the month of Ramadan.
“Unity is essential to show practically that Islam is valid for all places and all times until the Day of Judgment,” said Mustafa Ismail, an Indian pilgrim. “It is only with unity that we will be able to rectify the image of Islam and Muslims.”
The pilgrims will camp in Mina today praying to Allah for forgiveness and solace before leaving for the plains of Arafat tomorrow.
“This is a dream come true for me. Each year I saved money to come on this journey,” said Saeed Jabara, an Egyptian pilgrim. “Now that day has arrived and I’m among millions of Muslims who have gathered here to perform the pilgrimage.”
The number of checkpoints on all roads leading into Makkah has increased enormously. Security forces were checking each and every vehicle. Those who did not have the mandatory Haj permits were turned away to avoid overcrowding at the holy sites.


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.