Saudi Arabia’s Umrah plan to ensure flow of pilgrims

Saudi Arabia’s Umrah plan to ensure flow of pilgrims
The resumption of Umrah will take place in three phases, each with a certain capacity and under constant supervision, similar to the standards enforced during the Hajj pilgrimage last August. (Ministry of Media)
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Updated 28 September 2020

Saudi Arabia’s Umrah plan to ensure flow of pilgrims

Saudi Arabia’s Umrah plan to ensure flow of pilgrims
  • First phase will allow 6,000 pilgrims daily and will be divided into 12 groups across 24 hours

JEDDAH: As the Kingdom begins to reopen for business, many Saudis and expatriates have found the gradual resumption of Umrah a welcome sign, but remain vigilant.

The resumption will take place in three phases, each one with a certain capacity and under constant supervision, similar to the standards enforced during the Hajj pilgrimage last August. Saudi Minister of Hajj and Umrah Dr. Mohammed Saleh Benten said that “the ministry is here to help the pilgrim.”

He also quashed rumors about the Kingdom imposing any fees to book time slots.

The minister said that to fulfill the needs of pilgrims, every step is computerized using AI with the Ministry of Hajj and Umrah launching a new Umrah application, Eatmarna, on Sunday. This will help to enforce health standards amid the COVID-19 pandemic, making it easier for pilgrims to book their Umrah provided they are cleared by the authorities.

Users downloading the app must also ensure they are registered with the Ministry of Health’s Tawakkalna app to check on the user’s health status and eligibility to perform Umrah rituals.

In an interview with Saudi National TV’s Al-Rased program, Dr. Mohammed Saleh Benten announced that the first phase will allow 6,000 pilgrims daily and will be divided into 12 groups across 24 hours. This is while maintaining social distancing measures with the help of the authorities to ensure that they receive the same care provided to pilgrims performing the Hajj pilgrimage, adding that it will be “more accurate, more precise with more precautionary measures in place,” he said.

“We’ve also designated the age groups be between 18-65 years old for those who are able to. Those who can’t will have wheelchairs ready for them to perform Tawaf and Saee, but the flow of the Tawaf (the act of going around the Kaaba seven times) will be consistent with the same speed and flow,” said the minister.

“We have an accurate implementation plan in place to facilitate the flow of residents from the 17th of Safar (Oct. 4) to perform the Umrah ritual,” announced Saudi Minister of Hajj and Umrah Dr. Mohammed Saleh Benten.

The minister said that the pilgrims would have a specific time period in which to perform the rituals.

“Pilgrims who will be arriving from outside Makkah, who booked hotels and residences, will be asked to meet at the check points 15 minutes before their scheduled departures to the Grand Mosque where they will be met by guides and health specialists to perform the rituals in a very specific time period within their booked time slots,” the minster said.  

HIGHLIGHT

Lifting the ban on Umrah in phases reflected what has been said about the safety of the visitors to the holy sites being the Kingdom’s top priority.

Children will be allowed to accompany their parents as long as they are added to the Tawakkalna app under the users dependents. Users may also add dependents to accompany them to perform the Umrah.

Cars will not be allowed to park inside the central zone around the Grand Mosque with the exception of those who live in the area. Pilgrims who are arriving by car but without a hotel booking will be able to accompany the designated group assigned to the time slot of choice by meeting them at the checkpoint and be transported by buses.

Pilgrims arriving from abroad will be allowed to enter the Kingdom in the third phase of the plan with the Ministry of Health designating which nationalities will be allowed in the Kingdom.

“Pilgrims arriving from abroad will receive the same treatment as the residents of Saudi Arabia. They’ll be able to book a time slot just as well and arrive knowing full well that they will be taken care of from arrival to departure,” the minster said.

Khairallah Al-Zahrani, a school teacher, said: “The decision to gradually resume Umrah after the rate of coronavirus cases has reduced to small numbers is a wise decision that meets both the demands of worshipers and the health measures for a safe Umrah.”

Al-Zahrani said that he had performed Umrah a number of times, and would not apply for an Umrah permit.

“There are many Muslims of different nationalities who are living in Saudi Arabia, and these people are dying to perform Umrah after that long period of suspension due to the pandemic,” he said.

He said that lifting the ban on Umrah in phases reflected what has been said about the safety of the visitors to the holy sites being the Kingdom’s top priority.

“This reflects the keenness of Saudi Arabia to keep the coronavirus under control until a vaccine is produced,” Al-Zahrani said.

Like Al-Zahrani, Sattam Jassar, a Yemeni dry-cleaning worker, told Arab News that he has been in Saudi Arabia for many years, and he was not willing to apply for an Umrah license.

“I have a feeling that this pandemic will soon end, and I can then comfortably perform Umrah. Many expats in Saudi Arabia whose residency permits have ended are preparing to get back to their countries. I believe these people should be given the chance to do their lesser pilgrimage since they may not find another chance to visit the Grand Mosque in Makkah,” Jassar said.

“This country is known to have never done anything against the benefit of pilgrims,” Jassar said.

On the other hand, Saleh Al-Qudaimi, a Yemeni family driver in his late fifties, said that he will do all he can to be among the first group to perform Umrah.

“You can’t imagine how impatient I am to wear the white clothes and circle the sacred Kaaba. This pandemic has deprived me of the pleasure I feel when in the Grand Mosque. I want to perform Umrah for at least one more time in my life,” he said.

He said that the Saudi authorities had succeeded in managing the last Hajj and they would do the same when resuming Umrah.

“With no COVID-19 case registered, the last Hajj was a success, and this could have not happened if there were no professional Hajj management. This management is going to make Umrah another success story, with the health measures the authorities are taking,” Al-Qudaimi said.


Saudi Defense Ministry hosts its first Strategic Communication Forum

Saudi Defense Ministry hosts its first Strategic Communication Forum
Updated 17 September 2021

Saudi Defense Ministry hosts its first Strategic Communication Forum

Saudi Defense Ministry hosts its first Strategic Communication Forum
  • Event is part of project to develop ministry’s internal and external communications to meet the requirements of modern media applications and practices

RIYADH: The Saudi Ministry of Defense held its first Strategic Communication Forum on Thursday in Riyadh. The aim was to engage the ministry’s communication staff across the Kingdom with its targeted operating model, to help achieve the objectives of its transformation program.

The event, which took place under the patronage of Khalid Al-Biyari, assistant minister of defense for executive affairs, also formed part of the ministry’s project to develop its internal and external communications to meet the requirements of modern media applications and practices.

The forum included a number of workshops, presented by Prince Ahmed bin Salman Applied Media Academy, focusing on communications-related subjects such as creative content creation, video production for social media and event management. The participants included officials and communication specialists from the Saudi Armed Forces, joint forces and the military’s Health Services Department.

Al-Biyari said during the forum that the ministry views strategic communication as a crucial approach to achieving excellence in performance.

“Adding strategic value to communications raises our media practices to a more advanced level in terms of planning the dissemination of key messages,” he said. “The rapid and frequent advancements in technology make it inevitable that all organizations, not only the Ministry of Defense, must think of communication with audiences strategically.”

Ahmed Ali Asiri, the deputy minister for strategic affairs and a keynote speaker at the event, stressed the importance of strategic communications to the ministry’s media activities. He said it is imperative for all employees to receive updated information accurately and in a timely manner, to ensure the quality and efficiency of operations.

He added that strategic communication is vital to send the right messages about the work of the ministry.

Abdullrahman Al-Sultan, the ministry’s director-general of strategic communications and media, gave a presentation about the role of his directorate, its organizational structure and the strategy behind its operating model.


Saudi crown prince, Spanish prime minister hold call

Saudi crown prince, Spanish prime minister hold call
Updated 17 September 2021

Saudi crown prince, Spanish prime minister hold call

Saudi crown prince, Spanish prime minister hold call

NEOM: Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman was in a phone call on Thursday with Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez.
The pair discussed bilateral relations between Saudi Arabia and Spain and ways to enhance them.


Saudi aid agency KSrelief delivers food aid to Mali, medical support to Uruguay

Saudi aid agency KSrelief delivers food aid to Mali, medical support to Uruguay
Updated 17 September 2021

Saudi aid agency KSrelief delivers food aid to Mali, medical support to Uruguay

Saudi aid agency KSrelief delivers food aid to Mali, medical support to Uruguay

BAMAKO: Saudi Arabia’s King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Center recently launched a project to distribute food aid to the poor in Mali.

An event to mark the distribution was attended by Saudi ambassador to Mali Khalid Al-Khalid, a KSrelief team and a number of Malian officials.

The aid includes 15,038 bags of rice, weighing 752 tons. It will be distributed to a number of Malian regions, benefiting 120,304 individuals.

It comes within the framework of humanitarian and relief projects being implemented by the Kingdom, through KSrelief, for countries and peoples around the world.

Meanwhile, KSrelief delivered medical and preventive assistance to Uruguay in order to help the country combat the COVID-19 pandemic.

On behalf of KSrelief, Saudi Ambassador to Uruguay Eyad bin Ghazi Hakim officially handed over the support in the presence of Uruguayan Minister of Public Health Daniel Salinas.

Salinas said that Uruguay has “benefited greatly” from Saudi assistance in its fight against the pandemic.


Saudi Arabia raises awareness on World Patient Safety Day

Saudi Arabia raises awareness on World Patient Safety Day
Updated 17 September 2021

Saudi Arabia raises awareness on World Patient Safety Day

Saudi Arabia raises awareness on World Patient Safety Day

JEDDAH: Saudi Arabia has joined the world in celebrating World Patient Safety Day 2021.

The Saudi Patient Safety Center said that the 72nd World Health Assembly, affiliated with the World Health Organization, adopted in May 2019 a global action on patient safety, which guarantees celebrating a world day on patient safety each year.

The SPSC noted that this year saw the inauguration of an awareness campaign under the theme “safe maternal and newborn care,” which aims at raising community awareness on the safety of mothers and newborns.

It also aims to support the best health practices to reduce risks and deaths that can be avoided during delivery.


Deal signed to empower locals in Saudi Arabia’s Diriyah community

Deal signed to empower locals in Saudi Arabia’s Diriyah community
Updated 17 September 2021

Deal signed to empower locals in Saudi Arabia’s Diriyah community

Deal signed to empower locals in Saudi Arabia’s Diriyah community

RIYADH: The Diriyah Gate Development Authority has signed a memorandum of understanding with Jahez International Company to strengthen their partnership, activating initiatives for charitable and community work, supporting working families and training young men and women in the province.

The agreement also covers the exchange of and participation in relevant studies and statistics to achieve the objectives of joint initiatives, empowering and developing the Diriyah community by providing opportunities for working families, offering training programs and offers and discounts to target groups and promoting events and initiatives to support community groups.

Jahez is one of the most important active partners for many community and charitable events organized by the DGDA, the most recent of which was the “Jahiziyat Al-Diriyah” initiative, during which the authority provided hundreds of free dishes from restaurants offering authentic Najd cuisine.

The initiative also featured many competitions and events during the holy month of Ramadan, introducing the historical monuments and the ancient human and cultural heritage in the land of kings and heroes.