GITEX visitors in Dubai try world’s first Hajj and Umrah VR simulator 

The technology offers a 360-degree view of the most sacred places in Islam. (AN Photo)
Updated 10 October 2019

GITEX visitors in Dubai try world’s first Hajj and Umrah VR simulator 

  • The technology offers a 360-degree view of Makkah and Madinah
  • Software is designed to help first-time pilgrims familiarize themselves with how Hajj works

DUBAI: Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Hajj and Umrah is showcasing its new virtual reality simulator at the Dubai World Trade Center, allowing visitors to experience the technology.

Designed to help would-be pilgrims, the technology developed in Pakistan offers a 360-degree view of the most sacred places in Islam, as well as a guide to the rites and rituals performed during Hajj or Umrah.

“We want to update the way we teach pilgrims how to perform Hajj and Umrah,” Sheriar Ashraf, CEO of Karachi-based Labbaik VR, told Arab News at GITEX Technology Week.

He said the software would help individuals, especially first-time pilgrims, to familiarize themselves with what goes on during the pilgrimage.

“Hajjis will be able to perform the rituals in a hassle-free manner after being trained in a virtual environment that closely resembles the actual sacred sites in Makkah and Madinah,” he said.

The software currently runs on PC virtual reality headsets such as Oculus Rift, with plans in place to launch a mobile app soon.


Saudi Arabia’s AlUla provides a perfect ‘Corner of the Earth’ for Jamiroquai to shine

Updated 25 January 2020

Saudi Arabia’s AlUla provides a perfect ‘Corner of the Earth’ for Jamiroquai to shine

  • “I was transported into a completely different world”: Jay Kay

ALULA: British band Jamiroquai thrilled a delighted audience at Maraya Concert Hall in Saudi Arabia on Friday night during a show packed with hits.

In a first for a venue more used to hosting opera and classical concerts, the British funk/acid jazz outfit had fans dancing along to the music.

The show, at the distinctive, mirror-covered concert hall in historic AlUla, was part of the second Winter at Tantora festival. It opened with “Shake It On,” followed by the hit singles “Little L,” “Alright,” and “Space Cowboy.” By this time the crowd was well and truly warmed up, and “Use the Force” got them on their feet.

“The song seemed to resonate with everyone” Jay Kay told Arab News in an exclusive interview after the show.

During the gig, Kay dedicated the 2002 song “Corner of the Earth” to AlUla, which he described as a “magical and wonderful place, which is absolutely stunning.” The opportunity to perform there was “an honor and privilege” he added. He also thanked “Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman for his vision, and Prince Badr for making this happen and the great hospitality.”

After a further selection of singles and album tracks, the show ended on a high with a quartet of hits — “Cosmic Girl,” “Virtual Insanity,” “Canned Heat” and “Lovefoolosophy.”

Kay praised the Maraya Concert Hall as “a brilliant place to play.” He admitted that initially he was a little worried when he saw it because he was under the impression it would be an outdoor venue. However, any concerns he had were gone by the time the first sound check was done.

“I was transported into a completely different world; the acoustics were unbelievable, like being in a German concert hall,” he said. “It is obviously very well thought out and that’s what makes it so good. The sound was fabulous — I never looked at my sound guy once.”

Jamiroquai’s music videos often feature Kay in super cars, of which he owns many, and he revealed that he would love to shoot such a promo in AlUla.

“In reality, I’m desperate to get in one of the dune buggies, and would kill to have a (Ariel) Nomad and have a go in one in AlUla, where it’s supposed to be driven, for a day or five and dune bash, which is such a rare thing for us in England,” he said.

The singer also said he wants to bring his family to AlUla, which has become a hub for culture and creativity in Saudi Arabia.

“I would like to come out with my family and my youngest, who is called Talula, so hopefully we can have Talula come to AlUla, which would be wonderful,” said Kay.

He added that he was looking forward to exploring the area on Saturday, before leaving the country, but added: “I’m sure you can never have enough time to see everything there is to see.”