Over 40 universities in China teach Arabic

Updated 22 February 2014

Over 40 universities in China teach Arabic

As many as 50,000 Chinese and foreign students, study Arabic and Islamic culture at various universities and educational institutions in Beijing, asserts Zhang Hong, professor at Beijing Foreign Studies (BFU).
Zhang was speaking to Arab News on Friday at a reception hosted by the Chinese Ambassador to Riyadh Li Chengwen in honor of Arabist Chinese academics who are visiting the capital to attend the ongoing Janadriyah festival.
Arabic language is taught at more than 40 universities in China, the professor added.
Among these universities are the University of International Business and Economics and Beijing Foreign Studies (BFU). The latter produces most of the Chinese diplomats and ambassadors posted in the country's missions in Arab countries.
Prominent Saudi academics and media men including Abdullah Al-Washmi, secretary-general of King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz International Center for the Arabic Language, attended the event.
“BFU, which was established under the Chinese Foreign Affair program was the cradle of Chinese diplomacy,” he said, adding that in the eighties it came under the Chinese Ministry of Education.
He said BFU specializes in producing Chinese professionals well versed in foreign languages and experts in the science of languages.
“At our university, 60 major international languages are being taught, including Arabic, English, French, Russian and Spanish. These languages are recognized as business languages at the United Nations and other international organizations,” he said.
BFU has produced 400 Chinese ambassadors and 700 consultants who work in Chinese embassies around the world in political, economic and other domains. “The current Chinese ambassador to Riyadh is one of BFU’s graduates,” Zhang added.
He said that 200 Chinese students have completed the Arabic language course at BFU, of which more than 30 have been appointed ambassadors to Arab countries. Currently there are more than 10 Arabist Chinese ambassadors posted in Arab countries, including the Chinese Ambassadors to the United Arab Emirates, Sultanate of Oman, Sudan, Iraq and even Turkey.
“The Chinese government and the people of China have displayed a keen interest in learning the Arabic language because it represents a strong bridge that connects the two worlds,” the professor said, adding: “Saudi Arabia has an equal interest to teach Arabic, and disseminate Arabic and Islamic civilization to China.”
He said cultural ties between the two countries are growing, especially with the presence of more than 3,000 Saudi students in China.
Meanwhile, Li, the Chinese ambassador, stressed that the participation of Arabist Chinese in the national heritage festival reflects the Chinese government’s keen interest in boosting relations between the two countries.
“We have chosen to strengthen existing bonds between our two countries through cultural exchanges,” the ambassador said.


Umrah app will increase competition, enrich pilgrim experience, says Saudi official

Updated 24 September 2020

Umrah app will increase competition, enrich pilgrim experience, says Saudi official

  • External agents who used to control everything will no longer do so

MAKKAH: The Kingdom’s new Umrah app will create a competitive business environment that will improve pilgrim services and enrich the pilgrim experience, according to a senior ministry official.
I’tamarna is aimed at enforcing health standards amid the COVID-19 pandemic and making it easier for people to book their journeys. It also offers booking services that pilgrims can use ahead of their arrival in Makkah for accommodation, transport and recreation.
Dr. Amr Al-Maddah, chief planning and strategy officer at the Ministry of Hajj and Umrah, said that the app’s launch should push companies to provide people with a broader and better range of services.
“When we provide high quality services at competitive prices, the pilgrim will find himself drawn to these companies, especially when companies work hard to provide the best services at a competitive price to local pilgrims,” Al-Maddah told Arab News.
He added that external agents who used to control everything related to Umrah will no longer do so as they were just agents and did not own facilities. Their job was to represent and market Umrah companies abroad.
According to Al-Maddah, new measures had fixed this problem and organized the relation between Umrah companies and their external agents to be strictly marketing-based.
“The newly adopted measures will free Umrah companies and motivate them, especially at a time when bookings are being performed through several electronic platforms. This allows foreign pilgrims to directly deal with Umrah companies through the phone, the app and additional means other than the external agents. This will liberate the Umrah companies and improve their performance, allowing them to market their services inside and outside the Kingdom.”
Saudi Arabia said earlier this week that it would start allowing pilgrims to perform Umrah in phased return, while taking the necessary precautions. The decision was made after assessing the developments of the pandemic and in response to the desire of Muslims around the world to perform the ritual.

FASTFACT

I’tamarna offers booking services that pilgrims can use ahead of their arrival in Makkah for accommodation, transport and recreation. Pilgrims can download the app on Sept. 28.

“The launch of the app came due to the coronavirus pandemic, its repercussions and preventive measures that require specifying the number of pilgrims,” Al-Maddah said. “There is a capacity that should not be exceeded. This is what prevents the overcrowding of holy sites and limits the spread of the virus among pilgrims.”
He said that the operational capacity was calculated through the Ministry of Health’s Tawakkalna app, with the pilgrim using I’tamarna to book an Umrah appointment that was time-specific and accompanied by anti-coronavirus preventive measures.
The first phase of the gradual return will include allowing citizens and expatriates from within the Kingdom to perform Umrah at a capacity of 30 percent from Oct. 4, the equivalent of 6,000 pilgrims per day.
The second will increase the capacity of the Grand Mosque to 75 percent, which would include 15,000 pilgrims and 40,000 worshippers a day from Oct. 18.
In the third phase, pilgrims from abroad would be allowed to perform Umrah from Nov. 1 with a capacity of 20,000 pilgrims and 60,000 worshippers per day.
The fourth stage will see the Grand Mosque return to normal, when all COVID-19 risks have gone away. Pilgrims can download the app on Sept. 28.