MAKKAH: The head of the British Council in Saudi Arabia praised Hajj authorities on the successful operation of the Islamic pilgrimage.
The Hajj authorities “have done a wonderful job” in providing services and facilities to over two million people to ensure the pilgrimage goes “smoothly,” Amir Ramzan said.
Ramzan, who was performing Hajj with his family, said he had an “amazing experience” during his pilgrimage this year as it gave him an opportunity to meet a variety of people from around the world from different backgrounds and cultures.
“There is such a nice atmosphere and spirit amongst all the pilgrims. Everyone is smiling, helping each other,” he said, adding that he liked seeing pilgrims give up their umbrellas to others when it rained in Arafat on Saturday.
For Ramzan, Hajj is an opportunity to refresh and renew spiritually.
“Hajj is a really important ritual for every Muslim at least to be performed once in their lifetime, so I am really pleased that I have had the opportunity to perform Hajj this year,” he said, adding that he was especially grateful for having performed it with his family.
Ramzan says that an average of 100,000 British Muslims a year travel to Makkah for Hajj and Umrah. This year, 26,000 UK pilgrims traveled to perform Hajj.
Ramzan explained that Saudi-British relations go beyond the pilgrimage.
Since the announcement of Vision 2030 by Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman in 2016, the UK has been working with Saudi Arabia on a number of projects, according to Ramzan.
Vision 2030 is a roadmap that aims to reduce Saudi Arabia’s dependence on oil and diversify the economy by developing public service sectors such as education, recreation and tourism.
“It has been a very exciting time in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia with Vision 2030, there has been a lot of fantastic change,” he said.
One of the projects include a collaboration with the Ministry of Education called “Khibrat” – meaning experiences in Arabic – to help Saudi teachers develop their skills.
Ramzan said the UK was a popular destination for Saudi students to study.
“There are almost 10,000 Saudi students studying in the UK,” he said.
Aside from education, the British Council has been working with Saudi Arabia on cultural projects, including creating opportunities for Saudi artists to showcase their work in the UK.
This is so that people in the UK get the opportunity to learn more about Saudi Arabia, Ramzan said, adding it was “really important.”