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 cabinet once again condemns attacks on the Kingdom by Houthis

Saudi cabinet once again condemns attacks on the Kingdom by Houthis
Updated 03 March 2021

Saudi cabinet once again condemns attacks on the Kingdom by Houthis

Saudi cabinet once again condemns attacks on the Kingdom by Houthis
  • Ministers also briefed on King Salman’s recent conversation with US President Joe Biden, and the latest COVID-19 developments

RIYADH: Saudi authorities have again condemned the continuing cross-border attacks on the Kingdom by the Houthi militia in Yemen.

The comments came on Tuesday, during the weekly meeting of the Saudi cabinet chaired by King Salman. The latest Houthi assault took place earlier in the day and left five civilians injured.

“The council appreciated the efficiency of the air-defense system in confronting and thwarting the threats made by the Iran-backed terrorist Houthi militia, and its violations of international laws by launching ballistic missiles and drones at civilians and civilian objects in the Kingdom in a deliberate and systematic manner,” said Minister of Information Majid Al-Qasabi.

The cabinet was also briefed on King Salman’s telephone conversation with US President Joe Biden last Thursday, during which both sides stressed the depth of the relationship between the two countries, and the importance of strengthening the partnership to serve their interests and achieve regional and international security and stability.

The Council of Ministers hailed a second consecutive year of progress made by the Kingdom in the Women, Business and the Law 2021 report recently published by the World Bank Group, which ranked Saudi Arabia among the leading countries in the MENA region for empowerment of women.

Initiatives implemented as part of the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 have helped to support the introduction of legislative reforms designed to enhance and expand the role of women in the economic development of the nation, and make the Kingdom more competitive regionally and globally, the cabinet said.

Ministers were briefed on the latest developments in the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, and reviewed reports from new vaccination centers that have opened in several regions, Al-Qasabi told the Saudi Press Agency.

The cabinet also congratulated Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman for the successful surgery he underwent last week, wishing him health and wellness.
 


Saudis pay tribute to engineer for his services to the Zamzam well

Saudis pay tribute to engineer for his services to the Zamzam well
An undated photo of Yahya Hamza Koshak, who died at the age of 80. (Supplied)
Updated 03 March 2021

Saudis pay tribute to engineer for his services to the Zamzam well

Saudis pay tribute to engineer for his services to the Zamzam well
  • Yahya Hamza Koshak was considered an authority on the architecture and history of the ancient site

JEDDAH: Saudis on Tuesday were mourning the loss of Yahya Hamza Koshak following his death at the age of 80. An engineer by profession, he became famous for his services to the Zamzam well.

Koshak, also known as the “father of engineers,” was a former director general of the National Water Company and member of the Okaz Organization for Press and Publication.
He was born in Makkah, where his father, a merchant, worked during the Umrah season, serving as chairman of the Establishment of Motawifs of Pilgrims of Turkish Muslims of Europe America and Australia.
His mother was a close friend of the wife of the late King Faisal, Princess Effat, whom she met at the Makkah’s Grand Mosque.
Koshak studied in one of Taif city’s first schools after it was founded by King Faisal and Princess Effat.
He studied engineering at Ain Shams University in Cairo, but completed his degree in Riyadh. He later continued his education in the US, where he obtained a Ph.D. in engineering sciences.
His nephew Nabeel Koshak told Arab News that the late engineer was dear to those who worked with him.

FASTFACTS

• Yahya Hamza Koshak was born in Makkah.

• Koshak studied in one of Taif city’s first schools.

• He studied engineering at Ain Shams University in Cairo, but completed his degree in Riyadh.

• He later continued his education in the US, where he obtained a Ph.D. in engineering sciences.

• He led the cleaning team of the Zamzam well four decades ago.

• Koshak wrote a book, ‘Zamzam: The Holy Water,’ in which he recorded his observations inside the well.

“He was very social, close to people, and always kind and did not like to hurt anyone. He was light hearted — these were the characteristics that distinguished his personality.”
Koshak “was like a father to me,” and the family remained proud that he earned the trust of the Kingdom’s leadership, his nephew said.
“He greeted and received the king every year during the last 10 days of Ramadan.”
Koshak held a number of government positions in Makkah over a long career, including undersecretary for technical affairs at the Makkah Municipality.
He led the cleaning team of the Zamzam well four decades ago and wrote a book, “Zamzam: The Holy Water,” in which he recorded his observations inside the well.
“Cleaning the Zamzam well was one of his most important projects, a huge task under the direction of the late King Khalid,” his nephew said.
In his book, Koshak outlined the history of the well and its water sources, and also documented the archaeological objects found during the cleaning project.
The late engineer said: “By observation, it became clear that there are only two main sources of water, one toward the Kaaba, and the other toward Ajyad. As for the third source, which historical narratives said is on the side of Jabal Abu Qubays and Al-Safa, I found instead 12 small holes between building stones.”
Koshak’s interests included alternative medicine, which led to him establishing a specialist center in Jeddah.


Call to declare Houthis terrorists

Call to declare Houthis terrorists
Saudi authorities inspect a site in the Jazan region where a Houthi projectile fell early on Tuesday. (SPA)
Updated 03 March 2021

Call to declare Houthis terrorists

Call to declare Houthis terrorists
  • Iran taking advantage of international inaction, says analyst

JEDDAH: The US condemnation of the Houthi attack on Jazan “makes no difference” to the Iran-backed militia’s behavior as the group should be recognized as a terrorist organization, a Saudi political analyst said.

“Previous condemnations against Iran and its militia failed to stop them from what they wanted to do,” Dr. Hamdan Al-Shehri, who is also an international relations scholar, told Arab News.
The US Embassy in Riyadh on Tuesday condemned the latest missile attack by the Houthis targeting a border village in the Jazan region in southwestern Saudi Arabia, in which five civilians were injured. “We call on the Houthis to stop attacking innocent civilians and to engage in the diplomatic process to end this conflict,” the embassy said.
Al-Shehri said that if the US was serious in its denunciations, then the administration should have kept the Houthis on its terrorist list: “That is the least it can do, let alone being an ally to the Kingdom.”
“On the international level, lifting the ‘terrorist’ designation imposed on the Houthis was like giving them the green light to continue in their terror activities as if they were not harmful, terrorist acts,” Al-Shehri said.
He expects more than words of condemnation from the US as Saudi Arabia has been on the receiving end of several Houthi attacks.
“The problem with the new US administration is that it knows quite well where dangers and problems are,” Al-Shehri said.

On the international level, lifting the ‘terrorist’ designation imposed on the Houthis was like giving them the green light to continue in their terror activities.

Dr. Hamdan Al-Shehri, Political analyst

He said Iran is keen to “heat up” the region and the increasing Houthi attacks on the Kingdom reflect that.
“Regionally, Iran is taking advantage of the current unrest and instability in the region for the benefit of its nuclear project,” he said. “The plan is being led by the military ruler of the Houthis, Hassan Irlu, who is now in Sanaa.”
The Houthis are under pressure in Marib and they are trying to use all ballistic missiles, military projectiles and drones against the civilians, Al-Shehri said.
“Iran is to be blamed, not the Houthis,” he said.
“The international community that is watching silently is also responsible for the terror acts by the Houthi militia, which has turned against the country’s legitimate government.”
UN Resolution 2216 acknowledges the legitimacy of the Yemeni government, but Al-Shehri said: “It has not even been implemented. Nor has it brought peace and stability to Yemen or the region.”
Meanwhile, the joint coalition forces on Tuesday night intercepted and destroyed a booby-trapped drone launched by the Houthi militia.
“It was (sent) in a systematic and deliberate manner to target civilians and civilian objects in the southern region,” Brig. Turki Al-Maliki, spokesman for the Coalition to Support Legitimacy, said in a statement to SPA.


Saudi Arabia, Iraq hold talks to boost ties

Saudi Arabia, Iraq hold talks to boost ties
Iraqi Defense Minister Juma Inaad Saadoun presents a memento to Saudi Arabia’s Chief of Staff Gen. Fayyad bin Hamed Al-Ruwaili in Baghdad. (SPA)
Updated 03 March 2021

Saudi Arabia, Iraq hold talks to boost ties

Saudi Arabia, Iraq hold talks to boost ties
  • The Saudi military chief held a meeting with his Iraqi counterpart Lt. Gen. Abdul Amir Rashid Yarallah and reviewed bilateral ties in a way that help both sides achieve their common goals

Saudi Arabia’s Chief of Staff Gen. Fayyad bin Hamed Al-Ruwaili, who is on an official visit to Iraq, met Iraqi Defense Minister Juma Inaad Saadoun on Wednesday.
During the meeting, they discussed matters related to the armed forces and other issues of common interest.
They stressed the need to strengthening ties between Saudi Arabia and Iraq to ensure the security and stability of the region.
The Iraqi minister presented Al-Ruwaili with a memento.
The Saudi military chief also held a meeting with his Iraqi counterpart Lt. Gen. Abdul Amir Rashid Yarallah and reviewed bilateral ties in a way that help both sides achieve their common goals.
He also held meetings with the chiefs of the Iraqi army and air force.


Who’s Who: Areej Attiyah Al-Johani, deputy health minister’s human resources counselor for business quality

Who’s Who: Areej Attiyah Al-Johani, deputy health minister’s human resources counselor for business quality
Areej Attiyah Al-Johani
Updated 03 March 2021

Who’s Who: Areej Attiyah Al-Johani, deputy health minister’s human resources counselor for business quality

Who’s Who: Areej Attiyah Al-Johani, deputy health minister’s human resources counselor for business quality

Areej Attiyah Al-Johani was recently appointed as the deputy health minister’s human resources counselor for business quality.
She has been general supervisor of the Conflict of Interest and Disclosure Office (Afseh) at the Saudi Health Ministry since 2018.
Al-Johani received a bachelor’s degree in education from King Saud University in 2003. After completing a master’s degree at the University of Glamorgan, Cardiff, she obtained a Ph.D. in technology science from the University of South Wales.
Before her current role, Al-Johani served as director-general of the ministry’s workforce planning department from April 2019 to February 2021.
She has been a certified internal assessor at the health ministry for the King Abdul Aziz Quality Award since 2018.
Al-Johani headed the quality excellence team at the ministry’s deputyship of human resources between 2018 and 2019.
In 2016, she was a coordinator for the leadership renewal program at the ministry’s deputyship of human resources. In 2009, she worked for nearly a year as supervisor at the learning and resource center of the Jeddah-based Al-Abnaa High School.
Al-Johani has attended various local and international training courses. She is a recipient of several prestigious professional awards.
From 2005 to 2014, she attended several IT courses in the UK.
Al-Johani has had research papers published in various journals. She has also attended conferences inside and outside the country.