Virtual reality experience takes Muslims inside Makkah’s Grand Mosque during Ramadan

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General view of Kaaba at empty Grand Mosque, as a preventive measure against the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), during the holy month of Ramadan, in the holy city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia May 7, 2020. (Reuters)
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Muslim worshippers perform the "Tarawih" nightly prayer during the holy month of Ramadan, while keeping their distance amid the COVID-19 pandemic, at the Grand Mosque, Islam's holiest site, in the Saudi city of Mecca, late on May 8, 2020. (AFP)
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Updated 10 May 2020

Virtual reality experience takes Muslims inside Makkah’s Grand Mosque during Ramadan

  • Muslims will be able to digitally attend the prayers thanks to “Wahi,” a virtual reality experience that can bring them to Makkah

LOS ANGELES: With coronavirus shutdowns continuing throughout Ramadan, Makkah will only be allowing clerics to attend the nightly Taraweeh prayers in person.

But Muslims will be able to digitally attend the prayers thanks to “Wahi,” a virtual reality experience that can bring them to Makkah from the safety of their homes. 

The nine-minute film was made using a VR camera rig: six cameras pointing in every direction. The footage was then edited together to give a 360 degree view during the challenging post production process.

“The virtual reality glasses give you a full experience of the visit,” Almotaz Aljefri, the film’s Saudi director, told Arab News. “You can go in all directions, raise your head or switch it right. This gives you more information than a regular video.”

The crew received support from the Saudi government, granting them access to Makkah, as well as the use of drones and helicopters.

The film, which was made alongside the New Media Center at the Ministry of Culture and Information, is available on YourTube and has now been viewed more than 11 million times.

“We were surprised along with the staff that the views reached just last month more than 8 million and we discovered that the reason is definitely the coronavirus, the movie has given the chance to many people who cannot now go to the Grand Mosque in Makkah, to visit it through this technology,” AlJafri said.

“I believe that “Wahi” will allow you to practice all your rituals in Ramadan from your home.

“You can wear the glasses to see and tour the Grand Mosque and there is also historical landmarks and even the people who visit the Grand Mosque personally they might find it hard to get close to certain spots for example the Black Stone, circumambulation area, you can now easily wander around it as you wish at any time.”

In the midst of a global health crisis, Muslims are having to observe Ramadan in a new way. But thanks to new technologies, films like “Wahi,” mean they will not let the virus get in the way of their faith.

 


Fahad Al-Azzam, assistant deputy minister for empowerment at the Saudi Ministry of Health

Updated 14 August 2020

Fahad Al-Azzam, assistant deputy minister for empowerment at the Saudi Ministry of Health

Fahad Al-Azzam has been the assistant deputy minister for empowerment at the Ministry of Health since September 2019.
He has also been the general manager for enterprise at the ministry’s project management office since July 2016, where he developed and implemented a standard set of project management processes and models, and built the framework and updated it to account for developments and best practices.
It was announced on Monday that Al-Azzam’s role as assistant deputy minister for empowerment has been extended for another year.
Al-Azzam obtained a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering at King Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals, Dhahran, in 2007. He studied abroad in the US, obtaining a master’s degree in engineering and technology management from the University of Bridgeport, Connecticut, in 2014.
Prior to his current position, Al-Azzam worked as a cooperative trainee at the Saudi Electricity Co. between May and October 2006.
At the Advanced Electronics Co., he worked as an assistant field service engineer between July 2007 and May 2009, and technical support and field service engineer between May 2009 and December 2010.
At the Saudi Food and Drug Authority, he worked as senior electrical engineer at their radiation safety department between January 2011 and February 2015.
He developed a safety program for exporting and importing electronics devices to and from Saudi Arabia and worked at controlling the risk resulting from the use of radiation-emitting devices. He also worked there as a project manager at their project management office between February 2015 and July 2016.