5-year iqama plan excites expatriates

Updated 26 November 2014

5-year iqama plan excites expatriates

Foreign investors and guest workers have welcomed the government’s reported plan to issue resident permits (iqamas) for five years instead of one. They said the move would boost the Kingdom’s economic progress.
“This is a great step on the part of the government and will have a tremendous impact on businesses,” said Siddeek Ahmed, CMD of Eram Group while responding to the Passport Department’s plan to implement a proposal to extend the iqama validity from one to five years.
Maj. Gen. Sulaiman Al-Yahya, director general of the Passport Department, said there is a plan to change the name of iqama to resident ID and extend its validity up to five years.
Speaking to reporters in Riyadh on Sunday, he emphasized that the proposal would be implemented shortly.
He said the department was also studying a proposal to extend the validity of Saudi passport to 10 years.
Arab News contacted Col. Mohammed Al-Hussain, spokesman of the department in the Makkah region, to know when the five-year iqama would be implemented, but he said he did not have any more details.
However, informed sources said the proposal would be implemented soon after its endorsement by Interior Minister Prince Mohammed bin Naif.
Al-Yahya’s statement was widely applauded. “The extension of iqama to five years will provide job security to expatriates. It will also help contracting companies to complete their projects on time,” said Siddeek Ahmed.
He said the move would encourage foreign companies to invest in the Kingdom and transfer their technology without any fear as it guarantees the availability of qualified and skilled foreign workers for five years.
“I am very happy,” said Mohammed Ali, managing director of Jeddah National Hospital.
“This is good not only for expats but also for the Kingdom,” he said, adding that it would encourage experienced guest workers to stay in the Kingdom instead of going to Europe, America and Australia in search of better job opportunities.
He said the five-year iqama program would help expats to make long-term plans. “One-year iqama was creating uncertainty. Doctors and paramedics were unwilling to come to the Kingdom,” he said.
Salah Karadan, former chairman of International Indian School Jeddah’s managing committee, said the move would help expat children to stay long abroad for higher education.
“In the past, many parents had to cancel children’s iqamas as the latter could not come to the Kingdom for renewing iqamas because of exams and other reasons,” he pointed out. “The new move will motivate expats and increase their productivity.”

Saudi Hajj ministry investigating how gift to pilgrims was wrongly labelled ‘anthrax’ 

Updated 6 min 42 sec ago

Saudi Hajj ministry investigating how gift to pilgrims was wrongly labelled ‘anthrax’ 

  • The Arabic word “jamarat" was inaccurately translated to “anthrax",  a dangerous infectious disease
  • Citing possible repercussions of the mistranslation, scholars want a probe to pinpoint responsibility

RIYADH: The Hajj and Umrah Ministry is investigating the inaccurate translation of the word “jamarat” into “anthrax,” which led to Sheikh Yusuf Estes making a video warning pilgrims of the mistake and its possible repercussions.

The translation concerned a bag that was a gift to pilgrims, containing small pebbles to use for the “stoning of the devil” upon their return from Muzdalifah. The bag had the correct original Arabic description, which roughly translates as “jamarat pebble bag,” whereas the English version of “jamarat” was translated into “anthrax,” a dangerous infectious disease.

According to SPA, the Ministry of Hajj and Umrah was notified and opened an investigation with the contractor and translator on August 10, before handing them to authorities to take the necessary disciplinary action.

“Anthrax, where did they get that? They get it from Google, it’s not Google’s fault. Google allows people to tell the meaning of the different languages of words,” Sheikh Yusuf said in the video.

Google Translate, the free multilingual machine translator, relies on comparing large quantities of content between pairs of languages to establish patterns and, in most cases, determine the probability that certain words in one language will correspond with a set of words in another. 


The contractor and translator are being investigated for the inaccurate translation of the word ‘jamarat’ into ‘anthrax.’

Putting Google Translate to the test, Arab News used the platform to translate a name of a type of fish known in the region as “sha’oor” from Arabic to English. The scientific term for the fish is Lethrinus nebulosus, a type of emperor fish most commonly known as the green snapper or sand snapper.  

Google Translate’s translation was “thickness of feeling.”

Though it yields imperfect results, the service can be used at a pinch, though real human translators rather than artificial intelligence are far more likely to lead to more accurate translations.  

Speaking to Arab News, Dr. Gisele Riachy, director of the Center for Languages and Translation at the Lebanese University in Beirut, explained how the mistranslation of “jamarat” could have happened.

“We have two possibilities, it was either translated by Google Translate or the translator was provided with a single sentence and therefore didn’t understand the meaning of “jamarat,” she said.

“The translator may have not taken into consideration the general context of the word, which has certain religious connotations, therefore it should have been borrowed, translated by the “Stoning of the Devil” or even left as it is.”

Dr. Riachy said that the word anthrax cannot be translated without an accompanying adjective for a better explanation of the term.

“What surprised me is that when translating the word “jamarat” from Arabic to English, the word should have been accompanied with the adjective “khabitha,” or malignant in Arabic, for it to be translated to “anthrax” in English. That is why I am confused and I do not think Google Translate would have translated it into “anthrax” if the Arabic version didn’t include the word “khabitha.”

Sheikh Yusuf Estes’ video was intended for those who would like to take the small bags home as a souvenir or gift, sending a message that the mistranslation could cause the traveler trouble with customs in their own countries.