Indonesian pilgrim, 95, heads for Hajj after King Salman invite

Ninety-five-year-old Uhi, from the Batulawang village of Indonesia’s West Java province, will soon embark on his Hajj pilgrimage. (AN photo)
Updated 28 July 2019

Indonesian pilgrim, 95, heads for Hajj after King Salman invite

  • Saudi king’s offer turns dream trip into reality for grandfather

JAKARTA: A king, a commoner and a YouTube video. As far as fairytales go, this story also has a happy ending.

And if all goes well, Uhi, a 95-year-old man from the Batulawang village of Indonesia’s West Java province, will soon embark on his dream trip — to visit Saudi Arabia for Hajj.

He will be accompanied by his three children and two grandchildren.

While they are undergoing health checks before their departure, their new passports have been submitted to the Saudi Embassy in Jakarta, where they have met the Saudi Ambassador to Indonesia, Essam bin Abed Al-Thaqafi.

Uhi — who like many Indonesians uses one name — still cannot quite believe that he and his family had been invited by King Salman to go to Hajj.

 

“I feel so happy. I could never imagine that this would happen. Once we arrive in Makkah, I just want to pray. Thank you for inviting me to go to Hajj,” Uhi said in Sundanese, his local dialect, during an interview with Arab News in his house on Tuesday.

The invitation came after a video message of himself and his two daughters — holding the king’s photograph while pleading in Arabic their wish to go to Hajj in spite of their family’s limited funds— went viral and was reported to have reached Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

Uhi’s daughter, Nana Rohana, said they recorded the video just before Ramadan in their family house, which is located in Cipanas, a mountainous resort area about 95 km from the capital and a popular holiday destination.

Uhi and his family had befriended a regular Arab visitor, known only as Ali, who suggested making the video. He gave them the king’s pictures featured in the clip.

“I was just chatting with Ali in the house. He asked me ‘do you want to go to Hajj?’ And I told him I wanted to but I didn’t have the money. He jokingly said that he’d tell his president (the king). I really thought he was joking,” said Uhi, who is believed to be a nonagenarian because according to his family, he could remember the era when Indonesia was colonized by the Dutch.

HIGHLIGHTS

• Uhi — who like many Indonesians uses one name — will be accompanied on the Hajj pilgrimage by his three children and two grandchildren.

• Their new passports have been submitted to the Saudi Embassy in Jakarta, where they have met the Saudi Ambassador to Indonesia, Essam bin Abed Al-Thaqafi.

Nana said that Ali had told them he would upload the video online after Eid. The family had no idea what happened to the clip until they got a call from a stranger, telling them that Uhi had been invited to go to Hajj. They didn’t believe it and they wouldn’t let him go alone anyway because of his old age.

But the invitation finally became a reality with a call from the embassy and a meeting with the ambassador.

“I was really moved. I still wonder if this is real, it gives me goosebumps and cold hands. I’m very grateful to Allah. It was my first time ever to set foot in an embassy. I kept thanking the ambassador. Alhamdulillah, this is a gift from Allah, just because this video went viral,” said Uhi.

Nana described the invitation as their “biggest gift from Allah” and that no amount of money could ever compare with it.

“My father always wanted to go on the Hajj pilgrimage. Alhamdulillah, it is happening now. Before we leave, I praise and thank the king who made it possible,” Nana said.


Iraq denies links to drone attack on Saudi oil facilities

Updated 15 September 2019

Iraq denies links to drone attack on Saudi oil facilities

  • The operation was claimed by Iran-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen
  • ‘Iraq is constitutionally committed to preventing any use of its soil to attack its neighbors’

BAGHDAD: Baghdad on Sunday denied any link to drone attacks on Saudi oil plants, after media speculation that the strikes were launched from Iraq despite being claimed by Yemeni rebels.
The attacks early Saturday targeted two key oil installations, causing massive fires and taking out half of the kingdom’s vast oil output.
The operation was claimed by Iran-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen, where a Saudi-led coalition is bogged down in a five-year war.
But the Wall Street Journal has reported that officials were investigating the possibility the attacks involved missiles launched from Iraq or Iran.
Prime Minister Adel Abdel Mahdi on Sunday denied reports Iraqi territory “was used for drone attacks on Saudi oil facilities.”
“Iraq is constitutionally committed to preventing any use of its soil to attack its neighbors,” he said in a statement.
“The Iraqi government will be extremely firm with whomever tries to violate the constitution.”
Iraq is home to several Iran-backed militias and paramilitary factions, placing it in an awkward situation amid rising tensions between its two main sponsors, Tehran and Washington.
United States Secretary of State Mike Pompeo squarely accused Tehran of being behind Saturday’s operation, saying there was no evidence the “unprecedented attack on the world’s energy supply” was launched from Yemen.
Iraq has called for its territory to be spared any spillover in the standoff between the US and Iran, which has included a series of attacks on shipping in sensitive Gulf waters.
Recent raids on bases belonging to Iraqi Shiite paramilitary groups linked with Iran, attributed to Israel, sparked fears of an escalation.
There have been no military consequences so far, but the strikes have heightened divisions between pro-Tehran and pro-Washington factions in Iraq’s political class.
Baghdad has recently moved to repair ties with Saudi Arabia, a key US ally — much to Iran’s chagrin.
Riyadh recently announced a major border post on the Iraqi frontier would reopen mid-October, after being closed for almost three decades.