Malaysian Hajj pilgrims make most of Makkah Route

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At Kuala Lumpur Airport, pilgrims first enter the Malaysian immigration hall to get their passports processed, then proceed to the Saudi hall for the visa check. The whole process takes about 10 minutes before they are ushered into the waiting hall for boarding. (AN photos by Muhd Fadza Ishak)
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Saudi Ambassador to Malaysia, Ambassador Mahmoud Hussien Qattan said the Mecca Road Initiative is part of Saudi's Vision 2030 to develop better services to the people who visit Saudi Arabia. (AN photo by Muhd Fadza Ishak)
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Malaysian pilgrim said the Mecca Road Initiative would give pilgrims a peace of mind when travelling for Hajj. (AN photo by Muhd Fadza Ishak)
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The whole visa process for the Mecca Road Initiative took only 10 minutes, said Malaysian pilgrim Maznah Bashar. (AN photo by Muhd Fadza Ishak)
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"we are the first and last person to greet the pilgrims at the airport and I always try to leave a good impression to them," said Saudi Immigration Officer, Saad Alqarni, to Arab News. (AN photo by Muhd Fadza Ishak)
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The Mecca Road Initiative at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport. (AN photo by Muhd Fadza Ishak)
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The Mecca Road Initiative at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport. (AN photo by Muhd Fadza Ishak)
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The Mecca Road Initiative at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport. (AN photo by Muhd Fadza Ishak)
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The Mecca Road Initiative at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport. (AN photo by Muhd Fadza Ishak)
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The Mecca Road Initiative at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport. (AN photo by Muhd Fadza Ishak)
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The Mecca Road Initiative at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport. (AN photo by Muhd Fadza Ishak)
Updated 03 August 2019

Malaysian Hajj pilgrims make most of Makkah Route

  • The initiative has helped pilgrims clear immigration in just 10 minutes

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysian Hajj pilgrims traveling to Saudi Arabia via Kuala Lumpur International Airport as part of the Makkah Route initiative are spending only 10 minutes at both Malaysian and Saudi immigration counters before boarding.

“The Malaysian and Saudi governments are very happy with the initiative,” Saudi Ambassador to Malaysia Mahmoud Hussien Qattan told Arab News. “We’ve been successful in reducing time spent on immigration procedures.”
The initiative will process 30,200 Malaysian pilgrims traveling to Saudi Arabia for this year’s Hajj.
Malaysia was the first country to implement the initiative in 2017. Indonesia followed suit in 2018.
This year, it has been expanded to Bangladesh, Pakistan and Tunisia, and 250,000 pilgrims are expected to be processed.
“We chose Malaysia as the first pilot program for the initiative because they’re very cooperative and organized. We’re in constant discussion with the Malaysian side and the relation is very good,” said Qattan.
The initiative is part of Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 reform plan, and the government wants to make the visa process easier for Muslims who want to go to Makkah and Madinah, he added.
“One of our goals is to develop our services for the people who visit Saudi Arabia, especially for those who come for Hajj and Umrah. However, our aim is to serve Muslims who visit Saudi Arabia all year around,” he said.
At Kuala Lumpur International Airport, there are two halls for Malaysian and Saudi immigration, which are situated side by side.
Malaysian pilgrims first enter the Malaysian immigration hall to get their passports processed, then proceed to the Saudi hall for the visa check.
The whole process takes about 10 minutes before they are ushered into the waiting hall for boarding.
“The initiative helps to finalize the immigration process for pilgrims on Malaysian soil, as if they’re in Saudi Arabia,” Saudi immigration officer Maj. Ahmad Ahshehri told Arab News.
“Malaysians are very friendly people. It’s very easy to communicate and cooperate with them.”

FASTFACT

• The Makkah Route initiative will process 30,200 Malaysian pilgrims traveling to Saudi Arabia for this year’s Hajj.

• Malaysia was the first country to implement the initiative in 2017. Indonesia followed suit in 2018.

• This year, it has been expanded to Bangladesh, Pakistan and Tunisia, and 250,000 pilgrims are expected to be processed.

• The Makkah Route initiative is part of Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 reform plan, says Saudi envoy to Malaysia.

Saudi immigration officer Saad Al-Qarni said he has not encountered any problems processing visas for Malaysian pilgrims as part of the initiative.
“Everything here is facilitated by the Malaysian government. It’s a good initiative because it’s easy and convenient for pilgrims,” he told Arab News.
“After processing their visa and passport, they can enter Saudi Arabia without going through immigration in Jeddah,” he said.
“I enjoy my work at immigration because we’re the first and last person to greet pilgrims at the airport, and I always try to leave a good impression on them.”
Malaysian pilgrim Maznah Bashar, 60, said she was both excited and anxious about going to Makkah for Hajj for the first time.
“I went to Makkah for Umrah before, but it’s not the same experience as we didn’t go to Arafat, Muzdalifah, Mina and many more (places),” she told Arab News.
“Before this, I didn’t enjoy the long wait at Saudi immigration in Jeddah, but under the Makkah Route initiative, the whole process took a mere 10 minutes and they treated us very well,” she said.
“After we arrive in Jeddah, a bus will await us at the airport and will send us straight to our hotel. Even our luggage will be sent directly to the hotel. The system is very fast.”
But Bashar said the immigration hall “felt a bit crowded as there were more than 400 pilgrims processed” there.
Zaifizar bin Zainal Abidin, 42, a Malaysian pilgrim traveling with his wife and daughter, told Arab News that the initiative “helps give us peace of mind, especially for us who have to travel for a long period of time.”
He said: “I’m excited to go to Makkah. It’ll be the first and probably the only time I’ll experience Hajj together with my wife and daughter.”


Tradition, modernity mingle at Japanese Emperor Naruhito’s enthronement

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe shouts “banzai,” meaning “long live the emperor,” during the enthronement ceremony for Emperor Naruhito at the Imperial Palace in Tokyo. (AFP)
Updated 22 October 2019

Tradition, modernity mingle at Japanese Emperor Naruhito’s enthronement

  • Ritual-bound, centuries-old ceremony takes places at Imperial Palace in Tokyo
  • Heads of state and officials from Japan and 180 countries among the attendees

TOKYO: It was a ceremony similar to coronations used by monarchs worldwide, but combining the historical and the spiritual with modernity. Japan’s Emperor Naruhito formally completed his ascension to the Chrysanthemum Throne at the Imperial Palace in Tokyo on Oct. 22.
Purple curtains were drawn back to reveal Naruhito, 59, and Empress Masako, 55, standing before their imperial thrones as the enthronement ceremony began.
Wearing a dark orange robe, similar to that worn by his father Akihito at his own enthronement in 1990, Naruhito proclaimed his ascension from a 6.5 meter-high, canopied “Takamikura” throne.
Through the centuries-old ceremony, Naruhito declared himself Japan’s 126th emperor and vowed to “stand with the people” before roughly 2,000 guests, including heads of state and officials from Japan and more than 180 countries. Among the attendees were Japanese royal family members also wearing traditional robes.
In his congratulatory message to the emperor, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe promised that the people of Japan would “respect (his) highness the emperor as the symbol of the state and of the unity of the Japanese people.” He then stood before Naruhito’s throne, bowed and raised his hands three times, shouting “banzai,” meaning “long live the emperor.”
Saudi Arabia was represented by Minister of State Prince Turki bin Mohammed bin Fahd bin Abdul Aziz, who conveyed greetings from King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to the Japanese people.Saudi Ambassador to Japan Naif bin Marzouq Al-Fahadi, and other Saudi officials, were also present.

Japan’s Princess Mako attended the enthronement ceremony. (AFP)


The enthronement ceremony is a part of a succession of rituals that began in May when Naruhito inherited the throne, after Akihito became the first emperor to abdicate in 200 years.
As Naruhito ascended the throne, boxes containing items of imperial regalia, including an imperial sword and jewel, were presented to him.
“Having previously succeeded to the Imperial Throne in accordance with the constitution of Japan and the Special Measures Law on the Imperial House Law, I now … proclaim my enthronement to those at home and abroad,” the Japan Times newspaper quoted Naruhito as declaring.
“I pledge hereby that I shall act according to the constitution and fulfill my responsibility as the symbol of the state, and of the unity of the people of Japan, while always wishing for the happiness of the people and the peace of the world, turning my thoughts to the people and standing by them.” An imperial procession that was to take place after the ceremony was postponed after Typhoon Hagibis hit Tokyo earlier this month. On Nov. 10, the emperor and empress will take part in a procession through central Tokyo to the Akasaka Imperial Residence.
To mark the enthronement, the government has granted pardons to more than half a million people found guilty of petty crimes such as traffic violations.
In an article for Arab News, Shihoko Goto, deputy director for geoeconomics at the Asia Program of the US think tank the Wilson Center, asked a question she believes will be echoed by many in Japan: “Can the country carry on its historical legacy while embracing the opportunities of the 21st century? “The new imperial couple is likely to want to further Emperor Akihito’s legacy as a conduit for reconciliation.”