Saudi Health Ministry: Vaccine not required to travel when flights resume

Saudi Arabia's Health Minister Tawfiq al-Rabiah receives his second dose of COVID-19 coronavirus vaccine in Riyadh on Jan. 7, 2021. (Saudi Ministry of Health handout photo via AFP)
Saudi Arabia's Health Minister Tawfiq al-Rabiah receives his second dose of COVID-19 coronavirus vaccine in Riyadh on Jan. 7, 2021. (Saudi Ministry of Health handout photo via AFP)
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Updated 10 January 2021

Saudi Health Ministry: Vaccine not required to travel when flights resume

Saudi Health Ministry: Vaccine not required to travel when flights resume
  • There were 174 new recoveries recorded, raising the total number of recoveries to 355,382

JEDDAH: Saudis leaving the Kingdom after March 31 will not require a COVID-19 vaccine to travel, a Saudi Health Ministry spokesman said on Saturday.
“There is no condition that states one must be vaccinated to travel. Studies for this are still ongoing. This matter is related to the Kingdom. Other countries might be applying this, but there is no condition in the Kingdom so far,” said Dr. Mohammed Al-Abd Al-Aly.
The Health Passport is a unique service issued by the Health Ministry’s “Twakkalna” application in cooperation with the Saudi Authority for Data and Artificial Intelligence and other entities. It is important that recipients of the vaccine have their appointments documented.
The ministry recorded 110 new coronavirus disease (COVID-19) cases in Saudi Arabia on Saturday, raising the total number of infections to 363,692.
The Riyadh region recorded the highest case count with 40 cases, while Makkah reported 31, and the Eastern Province and Madinah region saw 12 cases each. Hail, the Northern Border region and Al-Jouf recorded zero cases.

FASTFACTS

• The ministry recorded 110 new COVID-19 cases in Saudi Arabia on Saturday.

• The Kingdom recorded one of its lowest death rates in weeks.

• There are now 2,024 active cases, 308 of which are in critical care.

There are now 2,024 active cases, 308 of which are in critical care.
There were 174 new recoveries recorded, raising the total number of recoveries to 355,382. The Kingdom’s recovery rate is holding steady at 97.7 percent.
The Kingdom recorded one of its lowest death rates in weeks after only four new coronavirus-related deaths were reported, raising the death toll to 6,286.
More than 11.3 million polymerase chain reaction tests have been conducted in the Kingdom since the beginning of the pandemic, with 37,043 completed in the past 24 hours.


Saudi Arabia’s most popular, and expensive, scent comes with a warning note

Lead or dye is frequently used to give the impression that agarwood is of high quality, while some stores add materials to dilute and compromise Oud’s quality. (SPA)
Lead or dye is frequently used to give the impression that agarwood is of high quality, while some stores add materials to dilute and compromise Oud’s quality. (SPA)
Updated 52 sec ago

Saudi Arabia’s most popular, and expensive, scent comes with a warning note

Lead or dye is frequently used to give the impression that agarwood is of high quality, while some stores add materials to dilute and compromise Oud’s quality. (SPA)
  • Oud sales are soaring in festive season, but some buyers are vulnerable to production scams and fraudulent sales practices

ALKHOBAR: Saudis’ love of oud — one of the most expensive scents on the market today — may run deep but when it comes to price and quality, many struggle to tell the difference.

The result, experts warn, is that some buyers are vulnerable to production scams and fraudulent sales practices.
Oud’s warm woody scent comes from the heart of the agar tree found mostly in India, Cambodia, Indonesia and nearby countries, with the cost of 1 kg of resin rising from SR2,000 to SR6,000 ($500-1,600) or even higher.
The oil is extracted from trees up to 150 years old, and Gulf countries are among the biggest importers of the product.
Considered a rarity, the oil is commonly used on special occasions, such as Eid celebrations.
Despite its popularity, many find it difficult to judge the quality of oud, with experienced salesmen agreeing that the buyer’s trust in the seller remains a key ingredient in any purchase.
Mamdouh Al-Tamimi, an Aramco employee, enjoys agarwood, amber, musk and rose water oud bought from stores at Al-Maaqilia and Deira markets in Riyadh. Recently he has switched to a single store because he believed the salesman was honest.
“I trust him, so I go to the store three or four times a year,” he said.

FASTFACT

Oud’s warm woody scent comes from the heart of the agar tree found mostly in India, Cambodia, Indonesia and nearby countries, with the cost of 1 kg of resin rising from SR2,000 to SR6,000 ($500-1,600) or even higher.

Al-Tamimi said that he prefers liquid oud, agarwood oil, musk and amber with fragrant perfumes, especially during summer, and also enjoys good-quality oud incense.
Video posts shared on social media recently claim to show how some stores cheat customers by using lead to extend oud’s storage time and make its scent last longer.
Dr. Hamad Al-Kathiri, a consultant at Lamsat Bakhoor Company, which specializes in oud products, said that fraud is a growing problem in wood and liquid oud manufacture, with lead or dye frequently used to give the impression that agarwood is of high quality.

Lead or dye is frequently used to give the impression that agarwood is of high quality, while some stores add materials to dilute and compromise Oud’s quality. (SPA)

Some stores also add materials to dilute and compromise quality, he told Arab News.
“Of course, the common goal is greed as these stores want to make quick profits.”
Al-Kathiri said that in recent years online purchases of oud products have increased significantly, while customer preferences for types of oud have changed.
“One of the key reasons is the exorbitant price of the exquisite types of oud,” he said.
Trust in the seller is a major consideration for online shoppers, although many experts warn against buying online.
“The fact remains that it is difficult to know if an oud product is original because only experts know that and are able to protect customers from falling into fraudsters’ traps,” Al-Kathiri said.
He said that men are often interested in the quality of the oud, its name, size and scent, while women generally care only about the fragrance.
Al-Kathiri said that regardless of cost, buyers are advised to test no more than three scents in a single visit to an outlet.
Customers can ask for a sample to try at home in order to judge its quality, he added.
The scent of oud lingers for varying amounts of time depending on type and quality, with some types remaining on clothing for more than two days.
“I believe there is no such thing as original and non-original oud. It is all about quality. You can say this is a good quality oud and that is not,” he Al-Kathiri said.
Mahmoud Al-Falahi, manager of Malaysia-based Almoheet Oud Company, said that natural oud is produced from trees over 70 years old, without any improvements or enhancements.
However, some oud investors add lead or dye to add weight or to make the product “more dense,” he said, warning that it is extremely difficult to tell altered oud from the original.
The most common scam is increasing the weight of an oud product to boost its price, he said.
“Some stores would rather cheat to make quick profits than stay authentic.”
Al-Falahi advised buyers to test only two types of oud when they visit a store in order to judge the difference between the scents and to see if the fragrance lingers for the desired amount of time.


Saudi Arabia’s Diriyah Gate’s series of Eid celebrations brought community together

On the first day of Eid, ‘Party Buses’ were launched, driving around Diriyah to spread happiness by giving away thousands of balloons, cotton candy, sweets, puzzles and coloring books to children. (SPA)
On the first day of Eid, ‘Party Buses’ were launched, driving around Diriyah to spread happiness by giving away thousands of balloons, cotton candy, sweets, puzzles and coloring books to children. (SPA)
Updated 14 min 42 sec ago

Saudi Arabia’s Diriyah Gate’s series of Eid celebrations brought community together

On the first day of Eid, ‘Party Buses’ were launched, driving around Diriyah to spread happiness by giving away thousands of balloons, cotton candy, sweets, puzzles and coloring books to children. (SPA)
  • Throughout the week, the DGDA launched an exciting interactive QR activation in five of Diriyah’s parks

RIYADH: To celebrate Eid, the Diriyah Gate Development Authority (DGDA) launched a series of initiatives to distribute gifts and run events for the enjoyment of the entire community.
Earlier in July, a cattle market was established in front of the Diriyah butcher shop to ease access to livestock for the sacrificial feast; wool was collected from the livestock in collaboration with Diriyah municipality, to be recycled.
On the first day of Eid, the DGDA distributed 1,500 first aid kits after Eid prayers to the community, anticipating that some may not have access appropriate medical supplies.
Eid prayers were held in the following six mosques in Diriyah: Imam Mohammad Bin Saud, Modi Al-Othman, Ibrahim bin Sulaiman, Abdulmohsen Al-Suailim, Munirah Al-Nasser, and Al-Khaliah, and following the prayers the DGDA distributed a boxes of chocolates to attendees in celebration.
On the first day of Eid, “Party Buses” were launched, driving around Diriyah to spread happiness by giving away thousands of balloons, cotton candy, sweets, puzzles and coloring books to passersby to celebrate the joyous occasion. Chocolates were also delivered to houses across the area.

HIGHLIGHT

The Diriyah Gate Development Authority distributed 1,500 first aid kits after Eid prayers to the community, anticipating that some may not have access appropriate medical supplies.

Throughout the week, the DGDA launched an exciting interactive QR activation in five of Diriyah’s parks. Users could scan the code to download special content including information on the history of Eid in the Kingdom and in Diriyah specifically.
“At this time for reflection and starting afresh, we wanted to celebrate with the local Diriyah community by ensuring this Eid was one to remember,” said Ahlam Althunayan, director of community engagement at the DGDA.
“Eid is a momentous and joyous occasion shared with family and friends, and I’m delighted to see the success of these wonderful activations during the week of Eid.
“DGDA always looks to support and engage the local community; there’s no better time to bring people together than during this celebratory week.”


King Salman, crown prince send cables of condolences to Chinese president after Henan floods

King Salman, crown prince send cables of condolences to Chinese president after Henan floods
Updated 23 July 2021

King Salman, crown prince send cables of condolences to Chinese president after Henan floods

King Salman, crown prince send cables of condolences to Chinese president after Henan floods
  • Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman also sent a cable of condolences and sympathy to the president
  • Villagers were evacuated over makeshift bridges on Friday as floods submerged swathes of central China

RIYADH: King Salman sent a cable of condolences and sympathy to the president of China on Friday after floods sweeping through the country’s Henan province killed at least 56 people.
“We share the pain of this affliction with you, and we send you, the families of the deceased and your people our deepest condolences and sincere sympathy. We hope that the missing return safely,” the king said in a cable to Xi Jinping.
Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman also sent a cable of condolences and sympathy to the president in which he expressed his hopes that the missing would be found safely.
Villagers were evacuated over makeshift bridges on Friday as floods submerged swathes of central China following a historic deluge.
An approaching typhoon threatened to dump more rain on the stricken area.
Millions have been affected by the floods in Henan province and people have been trapped for days without fresh food or water.


Saudi Arabia announces 11 more COVID-19 deaths

Saudi Arabia announces 11 more COVID-19 deaths
Updated 23 July 2021

Saudi Arabia announces 11 more COVID-19 deaths

Saudi Arabia announces 11 more COVID-19 deaths
  • The total number of recoveries in the Kingdom has increased to 496,810
  • A total of 8,141 people have succumbed to the virus in the Kingdom so far

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia announced 11 deaths from COVID-19 and 1,247 new infections on Friday.
Of the new cases, 263 were recorded in Riyadh, 211 in the Eastern Province, 209 in Makkah, 157 in Asir, 90 in Jazan, 68 in Madinah, 55 in Hail, 51 in Najran, 24 in the Northern Borders region, 21 in Al-Baha, 19 in Tabuk, and six in Al-Jouf.
The total number of recoveries in the Kingdom increased to 496,810 after 1,160 more patients recovered from the virus.
A total of 8,141 people have succumbed to the virus in the Kingdom so far.
Over 23.7 million doses of a coronavirus vaccine have been administered in the Kingdom to date.


A look into modernization of tawafa profession as Hajj 2021 ends

A mutawwif is someone who has been appointed by the Ministry of Hajj and Umrah to guide pilgrims. (Supplied)
A mutawwif is someone who has been appointed by the Ministry of Hajj and Umrah to guide pilgrims. (Supplied)
Updated 23 July 2021

A look into modernization of tawafa profession as Hajj 2021 ends

A mutawwif is someone who has been appointed by the Ministry of Hajj and Umrah to guide pilgrims. (Supplied)
  • Pilgrims used to stay up to four months, in comparison to spending less than a week at the moment

MAKKAH: Shadia Jumbi has worked in the tawafa profession since she was eight years old, helping pilgrims and guiding them through Hajj.

“We are used to traveling to Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, the Philippines, and China to bring pilgrims who are later met at the pilgrims’ city in Jeddah. We used to receive pilgrims and supervise them during the Hajj journey in the holy sites and throughout the Hajj phases. They used to stay in Makkah for up to four months, in comparison to spending less than a week (there) at the moment.”
Tawafa establishments are a key part of the Hajj experience, managing pilgrims’ affairs upon their arrival in the Kingdom until they leave for their homeland after the holy rituals have been performed. A mutawwif is someone who has been appointed by the Ministry of Hajj and Umrah to guide pilgrims. These two elements are being brought into line with trade regimes and universal standards through development and modernization.

HIGHLIGHTS

• Shadia Jumbi recalled how pilgrims were captivated by Makkah’s communities. They learned about their customs and traditions, tried Hijazi food, and brought along their culture which merged with the Saudi culture.

• She also recalled that five stories used to be dedicated to pilgrims in Makkah’s houses, with homeowners living in the highest story. They interacted with the household members as an integral part of their Hajj experience. Nowadays, pilgrims eat, drink, and stay at hotels and camps. They do not interact with Makkah’s communities.

Jumbi, who is 70, is considered to be one of the first mutawwif in Makkah. She remembered when guides would fly to the home countries of people who wanted to visit the Kingdom, saying there were vast differences between Hajj in the past and Hajj in the present and that Hajj used to be an arduous journey for both pilgrims and mutawwif.
She recalled how pilgrims were captivated by Makkah’s communities. They learned about their customs and traditions, tried Hijazi food, and brought along their culture which merged with the Saudi culture. They witnessed Makkah’s manners which were a reflection of the host country’s manners and delivered a positive message to all their communities abroad.
“In the past, we received them in our homes, cooked for them, washed their clothes, celebrated them and invited them to join all our celebrations and occasions. They were keen to learn the Arabic language and learn about the most important places in Makkah and visit them, as well as the historic and archaeological sites.”

Tawafa establishments are a key part of the Hajj experience, managing pilgrims’ affairs upon their arrival in the Kingdom until they leave for their homeland after the holy rituals have been performed.

She recalled that five stories used to be dedicated to pilgrims in Makkah’s houses, with homeowners living in the highest story. They interacted with the household members as an integral part of their Hajj experience.
Nowadays, pilgrims eat, drink, and stay at hotels and camps. They do not interact with Makkah’s communities.
Jumbi said that the mutawwif would grow close to pilgrims and form a strong relationship and solid bond with them.
“Nowadays, the mutawwif has become a mere number in a series of the tawafa offices that are spread everywhere. They no longer play their role in supervising tourist trips and market visits and, when pilgrims get sick, we drive them to the hospital, treat them and supervise them from the moment they arrive until they leave.”

Shadia Jumbi, who is 70,  is considered to be one of the first mutawwif in Makkah. Jumbi has worked in the tawafa profession since she was eight years old, helping pilgrims and guiding them through Hajj.


She spoke of farewells, tears and open arms. “When we visited them in their countries, they did not let us stay in hotels. They received us in their homes. The mutawwif was respected and, unlike today, their main role was dealing with pilgrims as a family they respect.”
Ahmed Saleh Halabi, a writer specializing in Hajj and Umrah services, said there were many benefits to tawafa institutions being transformed into companies.
“There are benefits and gains in developing the human resources working in services and administration. Their work will not be limited to working in the Hajj season alone, but also throughout the year through diversifying service programs. The role of the tawafa companies will not be limited to securing and preparing the pilgrims’ camps in the holy sites, as they will also secure housing and food for pilgrims (in Makkah and the holy sites).
“Moreover, the companies will be able to organize the visits’ program in Makkah, as well as the tourism programs in Taif and Jeddah, which means that contributors and workers in the area of providing services for pilgrims will have economic benefits, met with the pilgrims’ benefits through the services they receive.”

Mentalities must change and everyone must accept the new shift.
Ahmed Saleh Halabi
Writer specializing in Hajj and Umrah services

Halabi said that if institutions worked on diversifying their services, they would receive different sources of income and change their traditional methods of receiving pilgrims, supervising their housing, setting up their camps in the holy sites, and providing buses to transport them.
“It is hard to demand (that) contributors inject money in new companies to increase capital, however, it is possible for companies to obtain concessional loans from banks that enable them to stand strong.”
He also said that “mentalities must change” and “everyone must accept” the new shift.

Old business card of mutawwif.

“Companies now need new ideas that call for diversifying services and participating in other services that the institutions were not involved with, such as investment in transportation and food.”
He said transformation could not harm tawafa establishments and mutawwif and that he expected change to be beneficial as they could work through the year, instead of seasonally, in any profession or service.
A mutawwif at the National Tawafa Establishment for South Asian Pilgrims, Abdul Aziz Abdul Razzaq, agreed that transformation had its advantages.
These included having a memorandum of association, a statute, share certificates, and a corporate governance manual to protect the company, ensure contributors’ rights and develop the organizational structure for members and committees by choosing the skills of professionals based on adopted standards.
Other benefits were discussing strategic goals and reports in regular meetings, and getting into investment opportunities with external partnerships — for areas such as communication, housing, food and transport — as well as providing high-quality services for pilgrims, enabling contributors to trade and purchase shares in the future, raising the share value for shareholders, enabling contributors to join the service delivery companies and the possibility of entering the Umrah system in the future.

Decoder

Tawafa and mutawwif

Tawafa establishments are a key part of the Hajj experience, managing pilgrims’ affairs upon their arrival in Saudi Arabia until they leave for their homeland after the holy rituals have been performed. A mutawwif is someone who has been appointed by the Ministry of Hajj and Umrah to guide pilgrims. These two elements are being brought into line with trade regimes and universal standards through development and modernization.