As Saudi tourism becomes more accessible, tour guides share their pride in assisting pilgrims

It is ensured that tour guides are equipped with necessary skills to carry out their responsibilities in a professional manner. (Reuters)
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Updated 18 December 2019

As Saudi tourism becomes more accessible, tour guides share their pride in assisting pilgrims

  • Tourists take great interest in visiting Kingdom’s heritage sites and learning about the history of the region

MAKKAH: The journey of pilgrims visiting Saudi Arabia to perform Umrah is no longer confined to the two holy cities of Makkah and Madinah. They can now visit different cities and experience the ancient and modern wonders the Kingdom has to offer.

Hisham Madani, director general of the Saudi Commission for Tourism and National Heritage in Makkah, said that the commission has the capabilities to execute all the ambitious tourist plans.

“We are looking to knowing the pilgrims’ demands, needs and their languages so the guides can be well-versed to enrich their experiences,” Madani said.

He highlighted the importance of training to ensure tour guides are equipped with necessary skills to carry out their responsibilities in a professional manner and to the satisfaction of visitors.

Rania Shodary, a tourist guide, told Arab News that serving Umrah pilgrims was an honor.

“We are eager to give them a better service to ensure they perform the rituals without any difficulty,” she said.




A tourist guide, third left, with visitors. The guides say they work hard on lodging and transportation requirements of visitors to ease their trip. (Photo/Supplied)

A bus service has been introduced to offer pilgrims a round trip from Makkah to Taif with tourist guides to show them historical sites along the way and in the two cities.

Taif’s moderate weather makes it a perfect tourist destination, attracting Muslims and non-Muslims to its breathtaking mountain sites and greenery throughout the year.

Visitors are also keen on visiting sites such as the Prince Saud Al-Faisal Wildlife Center in Taif to see rare animals and rose factories that make high-quality perfumes.

Mona Daghstani became a tour guide after completing a short course offered by the Saudi Commission for Tourism and National Heritage in Makkah. She said that during the course she realized the importance of serving the pilgrims.

FAST FACTS

• A bus service has been introduced to offer pilgrims a round trip from Makkah to Taif.

• Taif’s moderate weather makes it a perfect tourist destination.

• Visitors are keen on visiting sites such as the Prince Saud Al-Faisal Wildlife Center in Taif to see rare animals and rose factories that make high-quality perfumes.

She said that the guides sit with the visitors in order to understand their interests. Daghastani said pilgrims want to visit Saudi heritage sites and learn about the history of the Arabian peninsula.

Another tour guide, Fawziah Harriri, told Arab News that pilgrims no longer want to remain confined to the holy sites, they want to enrich their experience by visiting ancient sites and markets in Makkah, Madinah and beyond.

Some pilgrims also ask about entertainment activities taking place across the Kingdom, Harriri added.

She added that they have developed a passion to visit Saudi universities, colleges and even attend lectures and meet knowledgeable people.

Itemad Ghazawi, a tour guide, said they work hard on lodging and transportation requirements to ease their trip.

Ghazawi told Arab News that some pilgrims “had very wrong impressions about some archaeological sites in Makkah.

“Many were misinformed about the place of birth of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) and his companions,” she said.


$800bn plan to turn Riyadh into cultural hub for the Middle East

Updated 06 July 2020

$800bn plan to turn Riyadh into cultural hub for the Middle East

  • Saudi capital’s planning chief unveils ambitious strategy ahead of G20 urban development summit

DUBAI: Saudi Arabia is launching a SR3 trillion ($800 billion) plan to double the size of Riyadh in the next decade and transform it into an economic, social and cultural hub for the region.

The ambitious strategy for the capital city was unveiled by Fahd Al-Rasheed, president of the Royal Commission for the City of Riyadh, ahead of key meetings of the U20, the arm of the G20 leaders’ summit that deals with urban development and strategy.

“Riyadh is already a very important economic engine for the Kingdom, and although it’s already very successful, the plan now, under Vision 2030, is to actually take that way further, to double the population to 15 million people,” he told Arab News.

“We’ve already launched 18 megaprojects in the city, worth over SR1 trillion, over $250 billion, to both improve livability and deliver much higher economic growth so we can create jobs and double the population in 10 years. It’s a significant plan and the whole city is working to make sure this happens.”

About $250 billion in investment is expected from the private sector, with the same amount generated by increased economic activity from population growth, finance and banking, cultural and desert tourism, and leisure events.

HIGHLIGHTS

  • 18 megaprojects have already been launched worth over $250 billion.
  • 7 million trees planted in Riyadh in the next few years.
  • King Salman Park will be bigger than Hyde Park in London.

“We must also ensure the growth is managed properly, so there will be a focus on transport and logistics, including the Riyadh metro which will open at the beginning of next year. The aim is to increase productivity,” Al-Rasheed said.

The plan involves the creation of a “mega industrial zone” focusing on advanced technology such as renewables and automation, and biotechnology and aquaponics. Another key feature is sustainability, with energy conservation, the circular carbon economy with its emphasis on reducing emissions, and water management, all priorities.

“You will see 7 million trees planted in Riyadh in the next few years, and King Salman Park will be bigger than Hyde Park in London,” Al-Rasheed said.

The city also aims to be a Middle East artistic and cultural hub. An opera house is being considered, as well as public art shows with 1,000 works commissioned from around the world. “We have not seen anything like it since Renaissance Florence,” Al-Rasheed said.

The plans will be discussed this week during online meetings of the U20 linking Riyadh with Houston. The Texas oil capital is suffering a new spike in coronavirus cases and pandemics will be on the agenda. “We want to deal with this one, but also be ready for the next one,” Al-Rasheed said.