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.


Arab coalition says Yemeni prisoner swap ‘positive’ step

Updated 27 September 2020

Arab coalition says Yemeni prisoner swap ‘positive’ step

  • Agreement includes release of 15 Saudi soldiers, 4 Sudanese nationals
  • Red Cross to supervise prisoner exchange process in Yemen

RIYADH: The Arab coalition fighting to restore the legitimate government in Yemen said on Sunday that it views a Yemeni prisoner swap as a “positive agreement.”
Yemen’s warring sides agreed earlier on Sunday to exchange 1,081 detainees and prisoners during the first stage of talks in Switzerland.
The Arab coalition said the prisoner exchange agreement was “purely humanitarian,” and in line with the Stockholm Agreement.
It has almost been two years since an agreement between the Yemeni government and the Iran-backed Houthi militia was signed in Sweden, with the aim of ending the brutal conflict that has led to the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.
Spokesperson Col. Turki Al-Maliki said the Houthi militia will release 400 government prisoners while the Yemeni government will free 681 Houthi fighters, including on-the-ground deals for 20 prisoners.
Col. Al-Maliki said the coalition’s top priority is to recover the prisoners as soon as possible, adding that the agreement included the release of 15 Saudi soldiers and four Sudanese nationals.
He also said the Red Cross is expected to supervise the prisoner exchange process in Yemen.
Col. Al-Maliki called on the Houthi militia to not undermine the efforts of the UN special envoy to Yemen Martin Griffiths, saying there was a real desire to implement all the points of the Stockholm Agreement.