First group of Lebanese, Syrian, Palestinian pilgrims leave Beirut for Hajj

Ambassador Walid Al-Bukhari with Makkah-bound pilgrims at the Rafic Hariri International Airport in Beirut where he oversaw their safe departure. (Photo/Supplied)
Updated 02 August 2019

First group of Lebanese, Syrian, Palestinian pilgrims leave Beirut for Hajj

  • Saudi ambassador says 20,000 electronic visas issued to pilgrims traveling from Lebanon

BEIRUT: The Saudi ambassador to Lebanon on Thursday joined the first batch of 20,000 pilgrims from the country leaving Beirut to perform Hajj.

Envoy Walid Al-Bukhari, accompanied Makkah-bound pilgrims to the capital’s Rafic Hariri International Airport where he oversaw their safe departure.

The Saudi Embassy has completed 20,000 electronic visas for worshippers traveling from Lebanon to the Kingdom for this year’s holy pilgrimage.

Al-Bukhari said that 10,000 visas had been allocated to Lebanese citizens, 6,000 to Syrian refugees residing in Syria and Lebanon, and 1,500 to Palestinian refugees. In addition, visas had been issued to diplomats, international organizations and many people who had applied for a courtesy residence.

The ambassador handed out copies of the Holy Qur’an, sweets and white roses to the departing pilgrims at Beirut airport, with the help of the representative of Lebanon’s grand mufti and the director general of the Islamic Endowments, Sheikh Mohammed Anis Al-Arwadi.

“The Hajj agreement that is annually concluded between the Ministry of Hajj and Umrah and the Lebanese Hajj Committee allocates equal quotas in granting Hajj visas to all sects, as a form of respect for this duty,” Al-Bukhari said.

With a backdrop of banners, hanging inside the airport’s departure hall, bearing the slogan “Hajj is a message of peace,” the Lebanese pilgrims boarded flights with Middle East Airlines and Saudi Arabian Airlines, many of them thanking Saudi Embassy officials for their assistance.

“The Kingdom is taking care of all of God’s guests, under the leadership and guidance of King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, to provide the best and highest-quality services and performance level to ease the Hajj rituals,” the envoy added.

Al-Bukhari said the electronic visas issued by the Kingdom’s diplomatic and consular missions around the world formed part of a program of initiatives aimed at streamlining travel services for pilgrims and other visitors to Saudi Arabia.

“The high religious spirituality of Hajj transcends culture and race. Hajj is a message of peace, and Saudi Arabia will not allow any political slogans in order to respect the privacy and spirituality of this duty,” the ambassador added.

“The Saudi Cabinet confirmed last week in a statement that it would not allow the use of any religious slogans, because Hajj is a message of peace that carries very divine spirituality. One must aim for spiritual communication to perform this duty.”

Al-Arwadi said: “The means by which Saudi Arabia is helping pilgrims perform their rituals are huge by human standards. It is mobilizing all of its resources to secure and facilitate Hajj for everyone with no exceptions.”

He also thanked Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman for following up on the achievements of the Ministry of Hajj and Umrah and the Ministry of Islamic Affairs, Call and Guidance, stressing that “Saudi Arabia is the Muslims’ shelter and whatever affects it, affects the entire Islamic world.”


Saudi Arabia reopens its land borders with UAE, Kuwait, Bahrain

Updated 34 min 11 sec ago

Saudi Arabia reopens its land borders with UAE, Kuwait, Bahrain

  • Commercial traffic flows unhindered as measures to curb spread of virus eased and normality returns

JEDDAH: Saudi Arabia’s land borders with the UAE, Kuwait and Bahrain will reopen after a four-month closure as the Kingdom eases the pandemic’s restrictions and economic activity returns to normal.

Commercial trucks carrying goods for the Kingdom will also be allowed to enter through land ports from Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states following a circular issued by Saudi Customs.

On March 7, the Kingdom announced that land border crossings with the UAE, Kuwait and Bahrain would be limited to commercial trucks as part of the government’s efforts to contain the spread of the coronavirus.

Meanwhile Saudi Customs officials are taking the lead in identifying air travelers harboring COVID-19 by employing specially trained sniffer dogs.

On March 7, the Kingdom announced that land border crossings with the UAE, Kuwait and Bahrain would be limited to commercial trucks as part of the government’s efforts to contain the virus spread.

The canine virus detectors are being drafted in at airports throughout the Kingdom to help pick up the scent of infected passengers. Following the resumption of international flights, customs staff in Saudi Arabia are to use the animals as part of their efforts to stop the spread of the virus.

Saudi health authorities recorded 1,342 new confirmed COVID-19 cases on Tuesday, taking the total number in the Kingdom to 281,435. The death toll rose by 35 to 2,984

Of the latest cases, 97 were in Riyadh, 56 in Makkah, 53 in Madinah and Hafr Al-Batin, and 51 in Dammam, with 40 percent of them women.

There were 34,763 active cases, with most patients in a stable condition, and 1,983 critical.

The number of people who have recovered from COVID-19 increased to 243,688, with 1,635 of those being in the latest 24-hour period.