200 survivors and relatives of victims of Christchurch massacres take part in Hajj

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27-year-old Farah Talal is pictured at a hotel in the in Saudi Arabia's holy city of Mecca on August 7, 2019, prior to the start of the annual Hajj pilgrimage in the holy city. (AFP)
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Rana Faraj, the wife of Kamel Darwish, who died during the Christchurch mosque shootings, in Makkah. (Reuters)
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Naila Hassan, New Zealand’s most senior Muslim police officer, and Shehadeh Al-Sinawi, one of the injured victims of the Christchurch mosque shootings, in Makkah, Saudi Arabia. (Reuters)
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Chouaib Milne, left, and Amir Mohamed Khan, in Makkah. Two hundred survivors and relatives of victims of March’s massacres at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, are undertaking the Hajj pilgrimage in Saudi Arabia. (AFP)
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Shehadeh Al-Sinawi, one of the injured victims of the Christchurch mosque shootings, in Makkah. (Reuters)
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Aya Al-Umari, whose brother Hussein was killed in the Christchurch mosque attacks, holds a photo of herself and her brother. (AP)
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Gamal Fouda, the imam of Al Noor mosque in Christchurch, is among 200 survivors and relatives from the Christchurch mosque shootings who are traveling to Saudi Arabia as guests of King Salman for the Hajj pilgrimage, a trip many hope will help them to heal. (AP)
Updated 09 August 2019

200 survivors and relatives of victims of Christchurch massacres take part in Hajj

  • The survivors and relatives of victims of the Christchurch massacres were given a heroes’ welcome as they arrived on August 2
  • 51 people were killed when a white supremacist attacked worshippers during Friday prayers in the quiet New Zealand town, sparking global revulsion

MAKKAH: Two hundred survivors and relatives of victims of March’s massacres at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, are undertaking the Hajj pilgrimage in Saudi Arabia to “pray for the martyrs.”
“I want the world to know who Atta Elayyan was,” said 27-year-old Farah Talal, dressed in a green djellaba robe and an elegant white scarf during her visit to Islam’s holiest city.
Her husband Atta was among 51 people killed when a white supremacist attacked worshippers during Friday prayers in the quiet New Zealand town, sparking global revulsion.




Chouaib Milne, left, and Amir Mohamed Khan, in Makkah. (AFP)


“He was a wonderful person, generous, I want to pay tribute to him,” murmured the young woman of Jordanian-origin who, along with 200 others affected by the massacre, was invited to the Hajj by Saudi’s King Salman.
Authorities have said they hope to “ease their suffering” as part of “the kingdom’s efforts in response to terrorism.”
The survivors and relatives of victims were given a heroes’ welcome as they arrived on August 2.




Rana Faraj, the wife of Kamel Darwish, who died during the Christchurch mosque shootings, in Makkah. (Reuters)


They were also greeted by the flashes of press cameras.
The Hajj, the high point of the Islamic calendar, began on Friday.
Drawing in more than two million Muslims from around the world, it will last five days.

 

Atta Elayyan, of Palestinian-origin, ran an app development company and played goalkeeper for New Zealand’s national futsal side. He left behind a two-year-old daughter.
“He gave us the strength to carry on every day. He is a martyr, just like all the other victims of the carnage,” said Talal of her husband in a vast hotel complex reserved for guests of the Saudi royal family.
Amir Mohamed Khan, 14, lost his father Mohammed Imran Khan, a 47-year-old restaurateur originally from India, on March 15 in New Zealand’s worst mass killing in modern times.




Aya Al-Umari, whose brother Hussein was killed in the Christchurch mosque attacks, holds a photo of herself and her brother. (AP)


“I was in school on March 15,” said Khan, his green eyes glistening as he wore a traditional salwar kameez. “I was very shocked, I didn’t have any reactions... I couldn’t believe it... I loved him so much.
“It will be very hard without him, but I’m thankful to be in Makkah today. I’m doing Hajj for my father, to pray for him.”
His friend Chouaib Milne, 16, lost his brother Sayyad Milne — two years his junior — when he was killed while praying in Christchurch’s Al-Noor mosque, one of the two places of worship targeted.
“I was supposed to be at Friday prayers with my brother, but I was on a school trip,” he said, wearing a white salwar kameez, along with a red and white checkered headscarf.
“When I’m at the Kaaba,” the cubic structure in the Grand Mosque that is Islam’s holiest site and toward which all Muslims pray, “I will pray for my brother and do Hajj for my brother,” Milne added.




Gamal Fouda, the imam of Al Noor mosque in Christchurch, is among 200 survivors and relatives from the Christchurch mosque shootings who are traveling to Saudi Arabia as guests of King Salman for the Hajj pilgrimage. (AP)


Many Muslims in Christchurch were affected by the bloodshed, in a country where Muslims make up one percent of the population.
Afghan Taj Mohammad Kamran, 47, recounted how the attacker “shot me in my leg (and) after (that) shot one of my friends — he was lost.”
Kamran, his head wrapped in a turban, was shot three times in total and now walks with crutches.
“Before I had too much depression. Now I come here, I relax — all Muslims want Hajj.”

 


LA Italian eatery Amadeo delights the palate in Riyadh Season pop-up

Updated 15 December 2019

LA Italian eatery Amadeo delights the palate in Riyadh Season pop-up

  • Despite minor setbacks he faced while setting up, Vietina considers the experience to be a positive one

RIYADH: Renowned Italian restaurant Amadeo has opened up in Al-Murabba for Riyadh Season. 

The pop-up has started brightly, and head chef Gianni Vietina invited Arab News to sample the menu and chat about his experience.

Vietina, in Saudi Arabia for the first time, said that he loved the location he had set up in, and was very happy to be opening up in the Kingdom. 

“The location is gorgeous. At night, with all the lights on, the music going, it’s very nice.”

Despite minor setbacks he faced while setting up, Vietina considers the experience to be a positive one and that the response was even better than he had expected. 

“Like anything new, you have quests, you have problems. Up to now, we’re doing pretty good. We are up and running. We’re comfortable now, which is a shame as we’re leaving pretty soon,” he said.

He added that he would repeat the experience in a heartbeat if he could: “They were nice enough to ask me to stay in Saudi a little longer, but I can’t. I need to go back home. But I would love to come back.”

He said that while he was not planning to open up a permanent restaurant in Saudi Arabia, he would not rule it out completely.  “I’ve been offered options, and friends have offered to show me locations while I’m here, but I can’t do it right now, I just opened a new restaurant two months ago,” he said.

“I chose the dishes that I know that most of the Saudis that visit my restaurant in Los Angeles like.”

Gianni Vietina, Head chef of Amadeo

The pop-up’s menu contains most of what the original restaurant offers, including his ever-popular penne amadeo and spaghetti bolognese, with the chefs using a combination of imported and locally sourced ingredients. 

“I chose the dishes that I know that most of the Saudis that visit my restaurant in Los Angeles like,” he told Arab News.

For the pop-up, Vietina has stuck to using halal and alcohol-free ingredients. 

“It was challenging at the beginning. But the bolognese at Amadeo doesn’t contain pork, and I realized after we tried cooking without wine that almost nothing changed. I actually prefer it,” he said.

Amadeo is a favorite of Saudis visiting Los Angeles, with Vietina going so far as to describe the restaurant as a “Little Riyadh” on most evenings between July and September. 

He even recognizes some of the customers who have come into the Riyadh pop-up, and always stops over to greet them.

Upon sampling the menu, it’s easy to see why the food at Amadeo has remained popular all these years. 

The eggplant parmigiana is a perfect blend of crusty cheese and silky smooth eggplant, with hints of basil and rosemary. 

The bolognese is rich, meaty and decadent, without being too heavy and greasy. And the penne Amadeo, which Vietina has been eating since his childhood, is a timeless classic of crushed tomato, basil, finished off with butter and Parmigiano Reggiano for a creamy, rich flavor.