JEDDAH: Saudi women police officers have been fronting Makkah’s security force for the first time during this year’s Hajj season.
Following last year’s government announcement that women could join the military service, female officers have been able to join their male colleagues in policing the holy city for the Muslim festival.
And with strict measures in place to stop the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, the pilgrimage has been very different from normal.
Afnan Abu Hussein, who was among the first batch of women cadets to graduate from police service training, told Al-Ekhbariya TV: “This is a source of pride and happiness for us. Hajj is a very busy season for us, unlike normal days.”
Hajj began on Wednesday as pilgrims began their journey from the Grand Mosque in Makkah amid strict safety rules.
“Each group of pilgrims has a leader to facilitate and control their movement in order to ensure social distancing,” said Sari Asiri, director general of Hajj and Umrah affairs at the Ministry of Health.
“Moreover, each group is also accompanied by a health professional to monitor pilgrims’ health status and assist them when needed,” he added.
Ministry officials carried out a rigorous selection process to ensure the wellbeing of pilgrims before their arrival in Makkah.
“We visited each pilgrim at their home and did an overall test for their health condition, and we monitored them on a daily basis until they safely arrived at their hotels in Makkah,” Asiri said.
All workers serving pilgrims this year had also undergone health checks to ensure they were free of COVID-19, and Makkah hospitals and health centers have been readied to deal with any emergency.
Tarwiyah Day (fetching water), on Wednesday, was the first day of Hajj ritual. Pilgrims headed to the Grand Mosque to perform Tawaf and Saee between Safa and Marwah hills.
The few hundred pilgrims received at the Grand Mosque this year walked in their groups along specific pathways following their guide.
The movement protocols were designed and implemented by the General Presidency for the Affairs of the Two Holy Mosques in collaboration with the Ministry of Hajj and Umrah and security authorities.
The presidency has allocated specific entrance and exit doors for each group of pilgrims to prevent any crowding and ensure a smooth flow of movement and the organization of social distancing measures passed the efficiency test for the first day of Hajj.
Civil Defense Forces have stepped up their readiness in Mina to receive the pilgrims where they will spend the night before moving to Arafat mount.
Meanwhile, Saudi Public Security announced that it had arrested 244 violators of Hajj guidelines who had attempted to enter holy sites without permission. A spokesperson called on citizens and expats to abide by the law and Hajj instructions, stressing that security forces had imposed a tight cordon around Makkah and the holy sites.
Those caught at the holy sites without permission risk fines of up to SR10,000, with fines increasing for repeated violations.
Each year, about 2.5 million pilgrims descend on Makkah for the annual Hajj, but the COVID-19 pandemic has meant that only about 1,000 will be able to perform it this year.
Guinness World Records has great expectations for Saudi titles milestone
In MENA region, KSA is second behind UAE for its record-breaking prowess, with 93 GWR titles
Updated 25 September 2020
JEDDAH: Saudi Arabia’s penchant for breaking world records looks set to see the Kingdom smash through the 100 titles mark in the not-too-distant future, officials have predicted.
Guinness World Records (GWR), which lists incredible human achievements and extremes of nature, has great expectations for the country over the coming months.
The Kingdom has been placed second behind the UAE in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region for its record-breaking prowess, with 93 GWR titles under its belt.
GWR’s senior marketing manager in the MENA region, Shaddy Gaad, told Arab News: “We’re very impressed with Saudi record-breaking and we’re really excited — a lot of record-breaking happens on the National Day.
“Over the last few years and with the Saudi Seasons (activity festivals) we’ve seen a big rise in record-breaking in Saudi Arabia and we’re looking forward to seeing this continue.
“Saudi Arabia is on the up and it’s rising very quickly. There were a lot of records broken near the end of last year. We had Riyadh Season and we had AlUla. I think that number’s going to rise up very quickly,” he said.
Gaad added that so far this year there had been a 15 percent increase in the number of new records set by MENA nations.
“This year we received 750 applications from the MENA region, compared to 649 in the first eight months of 2019. From Saudi Arabia, we received 79 applications and we expect it to go up to 100 by the end of the year,” he said.
One of the most notable titles achieved by Saudi Arabia was for the largest mirror building, the Maraya Concert Hall in AlUla. “If you see that building itself, it’s absolutely beautiful. It looks like something out of a movie,” added Gaad.
Jeddah can boast the world’s largest burger restaurant, with I’m Hungry covering 2,860 square meters, the equivalent of 11 tennis courts according to its marketing team.
The Red Sea port city also has the world’s tallest unsupported flagpole, while AlUla plays host to the largest hot air balloon glow show, and Saudi influencer Hussain Sallam (known as S7S) holds the record for the largest serving of sayadieh (1,334 kilograms of the seasoned fish and rice dish).
Stunt driver Terry Grant completed the largest loop-the-loop in a car during Riyadh Season on Nov. 25, and the MDL Beast Festival in the Saudi capital on Dec. 21 won the tallest stage title.
However, similar to most organizations, WGR has had to adapt to working around safety restrictions put in place due to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.
“We moved a lot of things online. To view the growth in the number of applications, we launched this online record-breaking; what happened is it’s a dedicated brand and content division, focused on helping brands and businesses break records as part of their marketing campaign, and all of it is done over the internet.
“It wasn’t difficult; record-breaking and evidence provision is generally done online. It wasn’t difficult for us; the only thing was that people just had to get used to it, but it was a seamless process,” said Gaad.
The new division runs over content such as live-streaming, online pledges, online albums, video relays, and video chains.
One of them happened in Saudi Arabia, with the most viewers for an Iftar YouTube live stream, when 183,544 people tuned in to enjoy popular YouTubers such as “The Saudi Reporters” and comedian Omar Hussein.
“These influencers got together on YouTube, live, and for an hour they were sharing their stories about Ramadan traditions and Saudi traditions. They broke their fast and shared this moment with their fans. That video ended up trending as No. 1 in Saudi and the region.
“If anything, this pandemic has taught us to adapt to situations. I think people are now more flexible with the idea of doing online records as much as they’re doing offline records,” Gaad added.
He pointed out that the online application process for the GWR was simple and that titles were granted based on whether the record was measurable (longest, largest, heaviest, etc.), breakable, standardizable, or verifiable, and if it was made up of one variable.
SOME OF THE RECORDS BROKEN IN SAUDI ARABIA
• Tallest flagpole: The tallest unsupported flagpole measures 171 meters (561 feet) and was erected by Jeddah Municipality and Abdul Latif Jameel Community Initiatives (ALJCI) in Jeddah on Sept. 23, 2014.
• Largest drinking water storage facility: The largest drinking water storage facility is the Briman Strategic Water Reservoir, in Jeddah, with a total capacity of 2,062,500 cubic meters, verified on Nov. 17, 2014. Fun fact: The volume of this facility could fill up six skyscrapers the size of the Burj Khalifa in Dubai.
• Largest burger restaurant: The largest burger restaurant covers an area of 2,860 square meters and the title was achieved by I’m Hungry in Jeddah on Dec. 12, 2019.
• Largest hot air balloon glow show: The largest hot air balloon glow show consisted of 100 hot air balloons and was achieved by the Royal Commission for AlUla on Jan. 6, 2019.
• The Largest Serving of sayadieh: The largest serving of sayadieh was 1,334 kg achieved by Hussain Sallam in Jeddah on Sept. 14, 2019.
• Darkest man-made substance: The darkest man-made substance is a black material made of gold nanoparticles and called dark chameleon dimers, which absorbs more than 99 percent of visible light over the whole visible range. The material was made by scientists from King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST), in a joint collaboration between Prof. Yu Han and Prof. Andrea Fratalocchi.
• Largest water desalination company: The largest water desalination company is Saline Water Conversion Corp. (Saudi Arabia) which produces 4,600,000 cubic meters a day as verified on June 4, 2016.
•Largest Tele-ICU command center: The largest Tele-ICU command center consisted of 796 beds and was achieved by Dr. Sulaiman Al-Habib Medical Group in Riyadh and verified on July 31, 2019.
• Tallest stage (temporary): The tallest stage (temporary) measured 38 meters in height and was achieved by MDL Beast Fest in Riyadh on Dec. 21, 2019.
• Most consecutive wins in AFC champions league: The most consecutive wins of the AFC champions league are two achieved by Al Ittihad FC (Saudi Arabia) in 2004-2005.
• Largest human awareness ribbon: The largest human awareness ribbon consisted of 8,264 participants and was achieved by Saudi women at an event organized by 10KSA in Riyadh on Dec. 12, 2015.