Smart tech paves way for ‘holistic Hajj’

The two-day forum will highlight the role of sustainable technologies in ‘Smart Makkah.’ (Photo/Supplied)
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Updated 19 February 2020

Smart tech paves way for ‘holistic Hajj’

  • Saudi exhibition highlights major advances for growing numbers of pilgrims

JEDDAH: Smart technology is being adopted to help pilgrims at all stages of their religious journey in Saudi Arabia, according to Marwan Al-Sulaimani, Ministry of Hajj and Umrah director-general.

Technological advances will smooth pilgrims’ progress from the moment they arrive in the Kingdom until they gather at Mount Arafat, he told Arab News on the opening day of the Saudi Smart Cities Summit and Expo.
The two-day forum will highlight the role of sustainable technologies in “Smart Makkah,” an ambitious plan to incorporate advanced tech in many of the country’s major cities.
More than 1.8 billion Muslims worldwide “dream of experiencing Hajj and Umrah,” Al-Sulaimani said.
“The ministry is looking at the Hajj and Umrah experience as a holistic picture because it is an emotional and religious journey.
“Pilgrims think about this experience years before they arrive. It takes a lot out of them emotionally and financially to come here,”
he said.

FASTFACT

The Ministry of Hajj and Umrah hopes to increase the number of pilgrims to 15 million by 2022 and 30 million by 2030 in line with the Kingdom’s Vision 2030.

“They dedicate themselves to it. We are trying to share with these guys from the moment they make the ‘niya’ (intention) until we send them back, and we want them to go back and share the story of their experience with their relatives, and excite everyone else to come.”
Earlier the ministry said that it hopes to increase the number of pilgrims to 15 million by 2022 and 30 million by 2030 in line with the Kingdom’s Vision 2030.
Al-Sulaimani said that the ministry is working with all stakeholders to ease pilgrims’ experience and improve services every year.
“Hajj is very complex because it’s served by the traffic department, Civil Defense, hospitals and the immigration department. The whole country comes together to serve in Hajji. So in one way or another, the Hajji (pilgrim) has his own experience with the health ministry because he has to go to the hospital, he has to go through immigration, and deal with our customs, the traffic department, the private sector and bus companies.

Technological advances will smooth pilgrims’ progress from the moment they arrive in the Kingdom until they gather at Mount Arafat.

Marwan Al-Sulaimani, Director general, Ministry of Hajj and Umrah

“It is a holistic experience that has to be designed in teams and then linked together,” he said.
“Before you design the smart city and smart system, you have to design the smart process and incorporate the stakeholders smartly because in a city there will be a municipality, a health department and so on,” said Al-Sulaimani. “We have to collaborate across one view, one process, to make life easier.”
He said that a smart system has to be reviewed frequently “as a part of a complete journey.”


It was Russia, not Saudi Arabia, that pulled out of OPEC+ deal: Saudi ministers

Updated 04 April 2020

It was Russia, not Saudi Arabia, that pulled out of OPEC+ deal: Saudi ministers

  • Saudi foreign and energy ministers say Moscow's claim that Kingdom withdrew from the OPEC+ deal was unfounded
  • They said it was Russia that abandoned the agreement, leading to a collapse in world oil prices

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia's foreign and energy ministers on Saturday denied Russia's claim that the Kingdom abandoned the OPEC+ deal, leading to a collapse in world oil prices.

In a statement carried by the Saudi Press Agency (SPA), Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan said "a statement attributed to one of the media of President Vladimir Putin of the Russian Federation claimed that one of the reasons for the decline in oil prices was the Kingdom's withdrawal from the deal of OPEC + and that the Kingdom was planning to get rid of shale oil producers."

"The minister affirmed that what was mentioned is fully devoid of truth and that the withdrawal of the Kingdom from the agreement is not correct," the statement said.

In fact Saudi Arabia and 22 other countries tried to persuade Russia to make further cuts and extend the deal, but Russia did not agree, it said.

Prince Farhan expressed surprise that Russia had to resort to "falsifying facts" when Saudi Arabia's stance on shale oil production is known, the statement said.

He pointed out that Saudi Arabia is one of the main investors in the energy sector in United States, implying that there is no reason for the Kingdom "to get rid of shale oil producers" as Russia has claimed.

He further said the Kingdom "is also seeking to reach more cuts and achieve oil market equilibrium for the interest of shale oil producers."

OPEC+ refers to the cooperation between members of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and non-OPEC oil producers. The cooperation deal which called for cuts in production by the producers was meant to stabilize oil prices. 

In a separate statement, Saudi Energy Minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman rejected Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak’s similar claim that the Kingdom refused to extend the OPEC+ deal and withdrew from it.

Novak "was the first to declare to the media that all the participating countries are absolved of their commitments starting from the first of April," Prince Abdulaziz said in a statement.

He said Novak's statement led other countries to decide "to raise their production to offset the lower prices and compensate for their loss of returns." 

On Thursday, Saudi Arabia called for an urgent meeting of oil exporters after US President Donald Trump said he expected the Kingdom and Russia to cut production by 10-15 million barrels per day.

Prince Farhan said he was "hoping that Russia would take the right decisions in the urgent meeting" so that a "fair agreement that restores the desired balance of oil markets" could be achieved.

The global oil market has crashed, with prices falling to $34 a barrel from $65 at the beginning of the year, as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. 

Fuel demand has dropped by roughly a third, or 30 million barrels per day, as billions of people worldwide restrict their movements.

A global deal to reduce production by as much as 10 million to 15 million barrels per day would require participation from nations that do not exert state control over output, including the United States, now the world’s largest producer of crude.

A meeting of OPEC and allies such as Russia has been scheduled for April 6, but details were thin on the exact distribution of production cuts. No time has yet been set for the meeting, OPEC sources said.