King Salman’s guests visit historical sites in Madinah

Hajj pilgrims visited King Fahd Complex for the Printing of the Holy Qur’an, Quba Mosque and Martyrs of Uhud in Madinah. (SPA)
Updated 16 August 2019

King Salman’s guests visit historical sites in Madinah

  • The Kingdom has served more than 95.85 million Hajj pilgrims in the last 50 years

MADINAH: Thousands of pilgrims have visited King Fahd Complex for the Printing of the Holy Qur’an, Quba Mosque, Martyrs of Uhud and a number of historical sites in Madinah. The guests, who came as part of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques’ Guests Program for Hajj and Umrah, described the complex as a great edifice to serve Islam and Muslims all over the world.
The pilgrims also expressed their thanks and appreciation to the king for enabling them to perform Hajj this season.
As many as 6,500 pilgrims from 79 countries were hosted by the Ministry of Islamic Affairs, Call and Guidance, which supervised the implementation of the program. There have been 53,747 beneficiaries of the program since its inauguration.
The pilgrims expressed their congratulations to the Saudi leadership on the success of this year’s Hajj season.
The guests said that they valued the services accorded to them during their stay in the holy sites and Makkah while performing Hajj at the expense of King Salman.
There were 2,489,406 pilgrims at this year’s Hajj, according to the General Authority for Statistics (GASTAT), and 1,855,027 of them came from outside the Kingdom. There were 634,379 domestic pilgrims, of whom 67 percent were non-Saudi.
The authority stated that the number of male pilgrims reached 1,385,234, while the number of female pilgrims was 1,104,172.
Last year, more than 1.75 million pilgrims from abroad performed Hajj, according to figures from the Saudi General Directorate of Passports.
The Kingdom has served more than 95.85 million Hajj pilgrims in the last 50 years.


Experimental cocoa bean harvest: A sweet opportunity for Saudi Arabia

Gebran Al-Maliki, owner of a cocoa plantation, says introducing cocoa will help reshape the agriculture sector. (Photos/Supplied)
Updated 01 December 2020

Experimental cocoa bean harvest: A sweet opportunity for Saudi Arabia

  • Saudi Arabia provides an environment conducive to the shrub’s growth, says expert

MAKKAH: In an unprecedented experience for the Kingdom, a harvest season of more than 200 cocoa shrubs began this year in Jazan following several years of planting the Filipino seedlings.

The foreign plant is a new experiment for the Kingdom as it plans on testing out the long-term success of planting the favored sweet treat.

Specialists in the region pointed out that the cocoa shrub resembles the famous coffee shrub found in the south region of the Kingdom, where a number of farmers have already begun to evaluate the experience and continue cultivating land to make room for more, while others were not so successful.

The supervisor of the Mountain Areas Development and Reconstruction Authority in Jazan, Eng. Bandar Al-Fifi, said: “The cocoa shrub is a tropical or subtropical shrub and is native to South America and East Asia. It was presented to the Mountain Regions Development and Reconstruction Authority a few years back, specifically to the agricultural research station.”

FASTFACTS

• The Jazan region is known for its lush, green lands and fertile soil that possesses the necessary ingredients to ensure the development of other crops.

• Rainfall is abundant, seasonal fluctuations in rainfall are scarce and humidity is high, ensuring that soil continues to retain the moisture it requires for harvests.

He added: “The cultivation process was carried out six years ago by bringing seeds and seedlings from the Philippines. The seeds were cultivated and seedlings were distributed to some interested farmers in the region.

“We in the station’s field have cocoa, banana, mango and guava trees, as well as many tropical and subtropical trees. The field is being used as a guarantor of seeds, in addition to conducting tests and real experiments in an area of 200 meters, in particular on 15 cocoa plants and the first cocoa shrub in Saudi Arabia.”

He told Arab News that it was difficult at first to encourage farmers to invest in the plant, as many were hesitant to introduce a plant not indigenous to the region in order to facilitate the establishment of manufacturing factories and grow a local market.

Al-Fifi said that in Ethiopia, companies buy crops from farmers and then start an integrated industrial process of sorting, cleaning, drying and roasting, because to complete the whole process is not economically viable for farmers alone.

“If every farmer owns 30 cocoa shrubs, this will be an additional source of income for their future,” he added.

The Jazan region is known for its lush, green lands and fertile soil that possesses the necessary ingredients to ensure the development of other crops that guarantee continuity and different harvest times for each type of plant harvested in the area. Rainfall is abundant, seasonal fluctuations in rainfall are scarce and humidity is high, ensuring that soil continues to retain the moisture it requires for harvests.

“In addition to the fact that the temperature gap between small and mature shrubs is not big, due to our proximity to the equator, Saudi Arabia is located below the tropical line, which creates environmental conditions that help the shrub grow,” said Al-Fifi.

Gebran Al-Maliki, one of the owners of a cocoa plantation in Jazan, told Arab News: “Adding cocoa to the Kingdom’s agricultural field is one of the innovative things in Saudi Arabia and it began to give good results that would broadly stimulate the development process, provide an agricultural model that can be trusted and improve experience in a country that supports its farmers and provides them with all the required capabilities.”

He received seeds and seedlings by the end of 2016 as an experiment in which everyone was granted support. “Some wanted to give this new experience a try, because it is similar to the coffee plant. It is an ordinary shrub, just like fruit and citrus trees, but it is a drought-tolerant shrub that is watered once a week.”

To successfully cultivate the fruit, Al-Maliki said that shrubs need shade when first planted in the ground as they are “quite finicky,” but that with the proper care and attention, a tree will flower at about three to four years of age and can grow up to two meters in height.

With up to 400 seeds, the product testing began on his farm after just four years.

“You can find 30 to 50 seeds inside a pod, which are later dried under the sun and ground to become a ready-to-use powder. Cocoa powder can be found in chocolate, oils and cosmetics, in addition to several other uses,” Al-Maliki said.

He said that the seed is very bitter and explained that the more bitter, the better the quality. He added that he has four shrubs, and what hindered the spreading process was waiting for the product quality test results, indicating that the fruit was tried and was found very successful.

The agricultural research station for the Development and Reconstruction of Agricultural Areas aim to reach 50 shrubs in the region to provide enough fruit to produce seeds and seedlings for farmers. Al-Fifi said that they aim to reach 400 seedlings per year that will be distributed, on top of seedlings grown by the region’s farmers themselves.