Saudi ambassador leads sendoff for King Salman’s guests from Indonesia

Indonesian pilgrims with Ambassador Essam bin Abed Al-Thaqafi before their departure for Makkah. (Supplied photo)
Updated 05 August 2019

Saudi ambassador leads sendoff for King Salman’s guests from Indonesia

  • More than 20 people invited for Hajj this year; journalists included in the roster
  • Indonesia has the highest quota at 231,000 pilgrims this year

JAKARTA: An Islamic boarding school teacher, police officers, a journalist and a leader of Indonesia’s Muslim organization are among the 20 people invited to perform Hajj this year as guests of King Salman. 

Saudi Ambassador to Indonesia Essam bin Abed Al-Thaqafi bade farewell to the king’s guests at his residence in the Menteng area in central Jakarta on Sunday. 

Al-Thaqafi said that the king’s invitation is an annual tradition extended to Muslims around the world. In Indonesia, the guests were selected to represent various sections of society and different regions of Indonesia’s vast archipelago.

Indonesia has the highest quota at 231,000 pilgrims this year, the ambassador said. 

He said that selecting people from different backgrounds and locations is also to facilitate the meeting and interaction of people from various places and walks of life in one place, as embodied in the Hajj pilgrimage. 

Among the party of pilgrims is the director of the Jakarta police traffic department, Yusuf Sobir Kasnawi, who is invited along with his wife and nine staff from the department.

“Thank God, I never thought I would get this invitation. All this time, I am just doing my job as a traffic director to make sure the traffic runs smoothly whenever there are foreign guests or delegations, including from Saudi Arabia, visiting the city. This is indeed a gift from God,” Yusuf told Arab News.

Faiz Djafar Baradja, a teacher at an Islamic boarding school in Central Java. Photo/Supplied 

However, this is not the first time that Yusuf will be performing Hajj. His first Hajj was in 2010.

Faiz Djafar Baradja, a 30-year-old teacher at Markaz Iqro pesantren, or Islamic boarding school, in Solo, Central Java province, is also among the guests. 

“An acquaintance called me one night and asked me to provide him with my passport and other documents. I had no idea that it was for this purpose and I am really grateful for this blessing. This is my first time to go to Hajj,” said Faiz, who teaches at Markaz Iqro boarding school. 

Other privileged pilgrims on the list included the treasurer of the Muslim mass organization Muhammadiyah and chairman of the Indonesian Council of Ulema (MUI), Anwar Abbas, a deputy director of Jakarta police Vital Object Security (Pam Obvit), Erik Ferdinand, whose office is in charge of securing embassies, ambassadors’ residences and and other key places in the Indonesian capital, and the editor-in-chief of news portal, Alfito Deannova Gintings. 

This is the second year that journalists have been included in the roster of pilgrims invited by the king.

Al-Thaqafi said Uhi, a 95-year-old man from West Java who departed to Hajj earlier in the week with his three children and two grandchildren after his video addressing the king of his wish to go to Hajj had gone viral and caught the attention of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, is also a guest of the king. 

But Uhi and his family members are not among the list of 20 guests — Uhi is a special guest because his departure from Jakarta and the welcome he received upon arrival in Jeddah were different from that of the 20 guests. 

“I personally saw him off at the airport on the day of his departure. Uhi is special because he is not just the guest of the king, but also a guest of the crown prince and the Saudi people,” the ambassador said. 

The 20 people invited to perform Hajj will get special treatment in terms of accommodation, transport and everything related to performing the Hajj rituals during the pilgrimage. The ambassador said there is a possibility that the special pilgrims would be able to meet the king in person in Mina.

The Hajj season is approaching its peak, and 198,588 out of the 231,000 pilgrims of the Indonesian quota have arrived in Madinah and Jeddah. The majority of them have moved to Makkah, according to data from the Religious Affairs Ministry.

Riyadh Season Boulevard zone opens with spectacular parade

Updated 18 October 2019

Riyadh Season Boulevard zone opens with spectacular parade

  • The Riyadh parade is thought to be the biggest parade in Kingdom to date

RIYADH: More than 1,500 performers and 25 floats took part in a parade and carnival on Thursday night that officially launched Riyadh Season’s Boulevard zone. The crowds that gathered for the fun-packed event were also treated to motorcycle displays, fireworks and other surprises.

The Boulevard lit up at 9 p.m. for the start of the 90-minute event, which featured some of the international artists who will perform as part of Riyadh Season. Afterwards, the zone’s food and drink outlets, outdoor cinema and fountain shows officially opened.

The audience watched the parade, performances and displays from specially constructed stands. Food trucks offered a selection of tasty snacks, and organizers also provided prayer rooms, toilets, first-aid stations and other facilities.


GEA president Turki Al-Sheikh gave an opening speech: “Our dearest people, in the beginning of this season, we welcome you and our guests in Riyadh.

“I want to share a story with you all; once upon a time, I was from a middle-class family. My mother and father would gather both their salaries to have us travel to see the world, and then we would stay in Riyadh for a year. These were our capabilities (at the time) and there was nothing to do in Riyadh. Who would've thought that we’d see all of this in Riyadh, and in our beloved country?

“This wouldn't have been possible without -of course Allah first- a person who has the qualities and vision of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.”

He tweeted: “Riyadh traffic police estimated we have exceeded 600K which means ten times the capacity.”

In addition to the opening-night festivities, the Boulevard zone, which covers 400,000 square meters, will host a wide range of entertainment options and activities for all ages, including the outdoor cinema, restaurants, and sports, music and theatrical events. It has three main venues: The 22,000-seat Mohammed Abdu Theater, the 6,000-seat Abu Bakr Salem Theater, and the 2,000-seat Baker Al-Sheddi Theater.

The parade is just one of more than 100 events featuring local, regional and international performers taking place during the Riyadh Season festival, which continues until mid-December at 12 zones across the city: the Boulevard; the Front; Riyadh Car Show; Winter Wonderland; Riyadh Stadiums; the Diplomatic Quarter; Al-Muraba’a; Al-Malaz; Wadi Namar; Nabd Al-Riyadh; Riyadh Safari; and Riyadh Sahara. It has been organized with the support of Turki Al-Sheikh, chairman of the General Entertainment Authority and president of Riyadh Season.

The ambitious 2019 Saudi Seasons initiative, the first of its kind in the region, was launched in February and includes 11 local seasons covering most parts of the Kingdom. Designed to promote the fledgling Saudi entertainment sector and boost tourism, it is attracting some of the biggest names in world entertainment.

The Riyadh parade is thought to be the biggest parade in Kingdom to date. It follows a folklore parade at the Mawtni (My Nation) cultural event in Yanbu to mark Saudi National Day this year, and a parade during the Jeddah Season festivities in the city’s Obhur district.

The parade had a special surprise; the appearance of DJ Carnage who took to the stage dressed in complete Saudi attire and performed his successful electronic show.

The musician also took to Twitter to celebrate the night and how he had had a hand in “making history,” tweeting: “A huge thank you to @Turki_alalshikh  ..... what you did for your country last night... was so special... thank you for having me... we made history.”