Indonesians impressed with Saudi arrangements to protect Umrah pilgrims

A decision by the Kingdom to ease Umrah restrictions adopted earlier this year to curb the spread of the coronavirus means pilgrims from around the world are now allowed to perform the ritual and visit Madinah under strict conditions. (SPA)
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Updated 06 November 2020

Indonesians impressed with Saudi arrangements to protect Umrah pilgrims

  • They feel ‘chosen’ and ‘blessed’ to be among the limited number of foreigners able to perform the religious ritual

JAKARTA: Indonesian pilgrims who arrived in Saudi Arabia this week for Umrah say they feel “chosen” and “blessed” to be among the limited number of foreign worshippers able to perform the holy ritual.
A decision by the Kingdom to ease Umrah restrictions adopted earlier this year to curb the spread of the coronavirus means pilgrims from around the world are now allowed to perform the ritual and visit the Prophet’s Mosque in Madinah under strict conditions.
“I feel like I am one of the chosen ones, given the limitations set due to the pandemic. It is like going through a profound sense of enlightenment,” said Budi Firmansyah, who arrived in Makkah on Tuesday with a group from the Association of Indonesia Hajj and Umrah Organizers (AMPHURI).
Firmansyah was initially due to lead a group of pilgrims on Feb. 29, but coronavirus restrictions led to the trip being canceled.
“I feel a deeper sense of reverence compared with the first time I arrived in Makkah in the early 1990s,” he told Arab News by phone. “I was so amazed at that time, but I am even more amazed this time. This would be the best moment to perform the ritual.”
All pilgrims undergo a mandatory three-day quarantine on arrival. “I am now enjoying the view of the Holy Mosque tower from my hotel room before we begin to perform Umrah on Friday,” Firmansyah added.

Ita Puspitawati Jayadi, a businesswoman, said she could not believe her luck when she learned she would be leaving for Makkah.
“I feel very blessed that I will be able to perform Umrah. This is like a dream come true,” she said.
She is due to depart on Nov. 8 with a female colleague from her Umrah travel firm, and is looking forward to seeing new regulations implemented by Saudi Arabia to facilitate women pilgrims.
“There are plenty of female friends and clients who have told me they want to hear about my experience as a female pilgrim in the current situation,” Jayadi told Arab News.
She said that both the Indonesian and Saudi authorities “are doing their best to protect the pilgrims.”
Firmansyah said that Saudi authorities have made “impressive” arrangements to protect pilgrims. He also saw a group of female immigration officials at the airport. “It was the first time I ever saw an all-female Saudi immigration squad,” he said.
As Umrah resumes, less than a half of 56,000 Indonesians planning to travel to Makkah will be allowed to make the journey because of current restrictions.

“We are updating the list of those in the 42 percent bracket. The main obstacle will be families with elderly parents or couples who would not be able to travel together as many of them are over 50,” AMPHURI Chairman Firman M. Nur told Arab News.
He expressed his gratitude to the Saudi government for resuming Umrah for international worshippers and “choosing Indonesia as one of the first few countries allowed to send pilgrims.”
Muharom Ahmad, secretary of the Indonesian Hajj and Umrah Tour Operators Society, told Arab News that most of those now traveling to Makkah are involved in the pilgrimage sector, and will observe all procedure changes before adjusting their travel packages accordingly and updating prospective pilgrims on the
new regulations.
“We want to make sure that we know first-hand the new rules to perform Umrah so that we can convey the right information to our clients,” he said.


Saudi investors share expertise on Saudi corporate VC opportunities

Updated 27 November 2020

Saudi investors share expertise on Saudi corporate VC opportunities

JEDDAH: The two-day Step Saudi 2020 event featured two prominent Saudi figures in the field of investment on the second day.
Hashim Al-Awadi, CEO of Tech Invest, and Salman Jaffery, chief investment officer at Saudi Aramco Entrepreneurship Ventures, both shared their expertise, with the latter saying it is more beneficial for corporations to start a venture capital (VC) arm than invest from their current mergers and acquisitions arm (M&A).
Managing partner at Class 5 Global, Zach Finkelstein, who moderated the session on the second day of the event, said the San Francisco-based venture fund invested in a number of companies in the Middle East.
“The Middle East is particularly interesting to us, and in the past, our partners have invested in such regional companies as Careem. We’re excited to explore the development of the corporate VC space and how it can impact places like Saudi Arabia,” he added.
When asked why a corporation should start a VC arm instead of investing from an M&A team, and why have a separate corporate Venture Capital arm in the first place, Jaffery answered that “it brings faster results.”
“I think the easiest answer to that is just speed and agility,” he said. “Getting that response quickly to the market. VC deals can take weeks or months whereas an M&A transaction can take up to a year or longer, and also similarly, if you’re trying to then come out of it, it’s harder to come out of a joint venture agreement or an M&A as opposed to a VC.”
Al-Awadi explained his opinion a traditional VC perspective, and said: “We like the fact that corporations can invest from both their M&A arms and their VC arms if they have them.”
He highlighted that VC arms can invest in a greater variety of companies. “You have the intelligence, you know the market and if you’re looking at specific technology where we don’t have a lot of expertise we trust that you (other venture capitalists) know the market and you can evaluate that technology better to see if it has the capability and potential for growth or not.
“Eventually, you do have an M&A arm that will provide an exit for us, for an incentive for this company to work hard to grasp the intention after having been invested in by the VC arm of this big corporate to maybe look into making a partial agreement or complete acquisition, which really adds an incentive for the company to grow and attracts other investors and also attracts talent to join the company and help it grow even more.”
He said both the VC and M&A arm are important for company growth. “We tend to look at corporate investors through both arms as complementary to what we do when we have both of them around.”
The Kingdom has obtained a high reputation among investors internationally through the years, especially after the economic and social reforms of Saudi Vision 2030.
Step Saudi is home to the Kingdom’s best entrepreneurs, investors, creatives and digital enthusiasts. The last edition of Step Saudi featured four content tracks, more than 100 startups and over 1,500 attendees.