Ramadan’s success story visible in Makkah’s Grand Mosque

Ramadan’s success story visible in Makkah’s Grand Mosque
Each year, millions of worshippers travel to Saudi Arabia to pray at the Two Holy Mosques in Makkah and Madinah. (AFP)
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Updated 12 May 2021

Ramadan’s success story visible in Makkah’s Grand Mosque

Ramadan’s success story visible in Makkah’s Grand Mosque
  • Authority tasked with keeping pilgrims safe in holy sites offers glimpse behind the scenes

MAKKAH: Each year, millions of worshippers travel to Saudi Arabia to pray at the Two Holy Mosques in Makkah and Madinah. Keeping these vast crowds safe and provided for is a gargantuan task at the best of times, but the pandemic has added many more layers of preparation.

Saudi Arabia banned international visitors from making the Islamic pilgrimage, or Hajj, in 2020, in a bid to control the coronavirus pandemic. Only a very limited number of people residing in the Kingdom were permitted to take part.

Now that flights have resumed and the Kingdom’s borders have reopened, worshippers are permitted to enter — provided they abide by a strict set of protocols.

The General Presidency for the Affairs of the Two Holy Mosques, which is overseeing these protocols, works year-round to improve the experience for visitors and staff.

Hani Haider, the presidency spokesperson, said in a recent statement that “immunization is an essential condition for performing Umrah and praying in the Two Holy Mosques.

“It is the first condition for applicants requesting permits to pray, perform Umrah or visit the Grand Mosque in Makkah. The permits are issued through the Eatmarna app or the Tawakkalna app. Entering the Prophet’s Mosque in Madinah requires the Tawakkalna app.

“This applies to immunized people that have received their first dose of the vaccine no less than 14 days prior to their visit, and to people that have completely recovered from a coronavirus infection.

“Three tracks have been designated to the elderly and people with special needs near the holy Kaaba, while six entry points have been dedicated to pilgrims that are being allowed to the Mataf dish as batches through 14 virtual tracks,” he added.

Haider called on pilgrims to follow these tracks in order to ensure the smooth flow of movement, in addition to abiding by the preventive measures put in place to preserve everyone’s safety.

Many of these measures are carefully managed by the presidency’s Technical and Service Affairs Agency. Its staff distribute single-use Zamzam water bottles in the Mataf dish and squares.

They also oversee transport inside the Grand Mosque, organize the entry and exit of visitors, assist people with special needs, and supervise the equipping, disinfecting and perfuming process.

The agency coordinates the movement of pilgrims inside the Grand Mosque and its squares with a crew of observers to ensure COVID-19 containment measures are respected.

Its staff of 4,000 cleaners disinfect and perfume the Grand Mosque 10 times a day, using more than 60,000 liters of disinfectant and 1,200 liters of air freshener.

More than 70 field teams have also been formed to disinfect the Grand Mosque, its outer squares and bathrooms using carefully selected eco-friendly materials to ensure the safety of visitors.

More than 500 automatic hand sanitizing machines equipped with sensors have been distributed throughout the mosque as part of health precautions.

Meanwhile, the Transport Services Department has raised its readiness to serve visitors to the Grand Mosque by preparing more than 5,000 regular vehicles and 3,000 electric vehicles.

Stickers stressing the importance of social distancing can be found at distribution points, while other signs can found on vehicles to confirm they are disinfected before and after use.

The agency has also recruited more than 100 observers and deployed them at the Grand Mosque’s doors to welcome pilgrims, and guide them to their designated areas.

Authorities have allocated 10 doors for pilgrims, including the King Fahd Gate, Ajyad Gate, Safa Gate, Gate of the Prophet, Bani Shaybah Gate, Al-Marwah Gate, Al-Arqam Gate and Al-Marwah Bridge.

Security personnel are on hand to guide worshippers in case prayer areas become overcrowded.

One of the agency’s most important tasks is monitoring the operational status of all 200 escalators and 14 elevators, overseen by more than 90 Saudi engineers and technicians.

They are also in charge of checking the sound system, which is made up of almost 8,000 speakers, nine microphones for the imam and six microphones for the muezzin.

Additionally, the agency is in charge of conditioning the air in the Grand Mosque’s squares through water-spraying technology, absorbing the thermal energy from the outside air and lowering its temperature.

There are almost 250 spray fans spread across the squares of the Grand Mosque, which are used during prayer times when the Grand Mosque’s squares are full and the temperature is high.

“The state has mobilized all of its human and material capabilities on various aspects, including engineering, technical and services, to ensure the pilgrims’ comfort,” Kamelia bint Mohammed Al-Daadi, assistant secretary for women’s services and administrative affairs, told Arab News.

Her department has launched four initiatives to help improve security and comfort for female visitors.

The first is dubbed “Safe Sanctuary,” which focuses on managing the squares and transport services dedicated to women, providing name-tagged scarves, and raising awareness about preventive measures through a barcode system that displays incorrect behaviors.

Next is “Good Hospitality,” which manages the doors dedicated to women, welcomes pilgrims, guides them, and provides them with services in numerous languages.

The third initiative is centered on cleanliness, focusing on the disinfection of carpets in the Grand Mosque so that female pilgrims can safely and hygienically break their fast and perform Tarawih prayers.

The initiative’s logo is printed on all sanitized equipment and staff have all been trained to operate disinfection machines, and to distribute disinfectants and cleaning tools in female facilities.

Finally, the department’s Women Suqya Zamzam Unit is responsible for distributing water from the Zamzam well in sanitary containers to female pilgrims.

The General Department for Administrative, Planning, Institutional Excellence and Technology has also launched four initiatives to prepare its staff. The first, dubbed “Digital Flashes,” is overseen by the Technology and Electronic Services Unit.

“It consists of preparing and designing educational publications to promote knowledge and develop digital skills, and publishing them through various social media platforms on a daily basis during the holy month of Ramadan,” Al-Daadi said.

Another initiative called “Proficiency” is carried out by the Planning, Institutional Excellence and Quality Unit, and is designed to actively spread the message and vision of the Two Holy Mosques, and hold educational workshops.

The third, named “Rehabilitation,” is carried out by the Services of Temporary Female Workers Unit to provide temporary female staff with a rehabilitation program before the Hajj season begins and to celebrate World Manager’s Day.

“Lastly, the fourth initiative is ‘Enrichment,’ which is carried out by the Women Training Academy,” Al-Daadi said.

“It consists of organizing an awareness-raising forum that builds bridges between the female employees of the Grand Mosque and female pilgrims in order to raise the level of readiness.”


Saudi Arabia’s Tawakkalna app operating in 75 countries worldwide

Saudi Arabia’s Tawakkalna app operating in 75 countries worldwide
A man displays his details on his mobile phone using the Tawakkalna app as he enters a mall in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. (REUTERS)
Updated 13 June 2021

Saudi Arabia’s Tawakkalna app operating in 75 countries worldwide

Saudi Arabia’s Tawakkalna app operating in 75 countries worldwide
  • An app launched last year by Saudi authorities to help track coronavirus infections is available in 75 countries worldwide
  • The Tawakkalna app was recently updated to show someone’s COVID-19 health status, showing them to be vaccinated or infected, and now functions as a “passport”

JEDDAH: Countries in the first phase of the app’s international availability include: Kuwait, the UAE, Bahrain, Qatar, Oman, Jordan, Algeria, Sudan, Somalia, Morocco, Tunisia, Djibouti, Libya, Egypt, Mauritania, Indonesia, Afghanistan, Uzbekistan, South Africa, Lebanon, Nigeria, India, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Sri Lanka, Philippines, Bangladesh, Portugal, Czech Republic, Denmark, Sweden, the UK, Norway, Austria, the US, Japan, Greece, Spain, Estonia, Italy, Ireland, Iceland, Brunei, Belgium, Poland, Germany, Singapore, Switzerland, France, Finland, Cyprus, Kazakhstan, Croatia, Canada, Latvia, Luxembourg, Lithuania, Liechtenstein, Malta, Malaysia, Monaco, New Zealand, Netherlands, Maldives, and Azerbaijan.

Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Islamic Affairs office in Jazan temporarily closed the Budaiya Mosque in Abu Arish governorate after it was confirmed that the imam had COVID-19.

Field teams undertook preventive and precautionary measures, including sterilization operations and comprehensive maintenance, in preparation for reopening the mosque and receiving worshippers at a later date.

The ministry noted the keenness of worshippers and their active role in reporting mosques that did not comply with health and safety instructions and failed to implement preventive measures.

FASTFACTS

464,780 Total cases

446,960 Recoveries

It asked everyone to report future similar incidents by calling 1933.

Saudi Arabia on Saturday reported 16 more coronavirus-related fatalities, taking the overall death toll to 7,553.

There were 1,077 new cases, bringing the total number of infections 464,780. There are 10,267 active cases, of which 1,562 are in a critical condition.

Of the newly recorded cases, 348 were in Makkah, 225 were in Riyadh, 149 were in the Eastern Province, and 69 were in Madinah.

Authorities said a further 906 patients had recovered from the disease, increasing the total number of recoveries to 446,960.

The country has so far carried out more than 20.27 million PCR tests, with 75,059 carried out in the past 24 hours.

Testing hubs and treatment centers set up throughout the country have dealt with hundreds of thousands of people since the onset of the pandemic.

Taakad centers provide COVID-19 testing for those who show no or only mild symptoms or believe they have come into contact with an infected individual.

Tetamman clinics offer treatment and advice to those with virus symptoms such as fever, loss of taste and smell, and breathing difficulties.

Appointments for both services can be made via the ministry’s Sehhaty app.

Saudi Arabia has vaccinated 15,633,787 people to date.

 


Makkah governor inaugurates prototype of new public transport system

Makkah governor inaugurates prototype of new public transport system
Updated 12 June 2021

Makkah governor inaugurates prototype of new public transport system

Makkah governor inaugurates prototype of new public transport system

 

JEDDAH: Makkah Gov. Prince Khaled Al-Faisal on Saturday inaugurated the prototype of a public transport bus in Makkah.

This will serve citizens as well as pilgrims and visitors of the holy city by introducing an integrated service system in line with the Kingdom’s Vision 2030.

On the sidelines of the Digital Region Projects Exhibition, Prince Khaled was briefed on the operational mechanism of the new transport system, which aims to accommodate needs resulting from the expected growth in the population in Makkah and in the number of visitors to the Grand Mosque and the holy sites.

The new transport system aims to support economic development in Makkah and provide easy access to the Grand Mosque and other mosques in the city as well as educational and health facilities, commercial and recreational areas, and contribute to reducing pollution and protecting the environment by reducing dependence on small cars.

The bus network consists of two stages. The first phase will consist of 12 lines and about 83 stops in which medium-sized buses are used, while the other five lines will be express lines with dedicated tracks, a length of 172 km and about 342 stops, in which buses of greater capacity and frequency are used.

The project also includes operating more than 400 buses, including 240 regular buses that can accommodate up to 85 seats, and 160 buses with a capacity of 125 seats. This is in addition to the construction of a bus accommodation station, which includes a control building, drivers’ management building, gas station, light maintenance workshop, bus washing and maintenance station, heavy maintenance workshop, bus stops and drivers’ housing facilities.

The buses are equipped with environment protection systems that reduce Euro-4 carbon emissions, include protection systems through surveillance cameras inside and outside the bus, a collision-avoidance system, electronic screens showing the destination to be reached, as well as a hydraulic system to help people with special needs, and places for strollers and people with special needs.

The vehicles will also have Internet service (Wi-Fi) and an audio-visual system displaying trip information to passengers. Buses will operate for an average of 22 hours a day.

 


Saudi decision to allow 60,000 vaccinated residents on Hajj and bar foreigners welcomed

Saudi decision to allow 60,000 vaccinated residents on Hajj and bar foreigners welcomed
The event, scheduled to be held in July, will be limited to those who have been vaccinated and are aged 18-65 with no chronic illnesses, the statement added. (SPA)
Updated 30 min 44 sec ago

Saudi decision to allow 60,000 vaccinated residents on Hajj and bar foreigners welcomed

Saudi decision to allow 60,000 vaccinated residents on Hajj and bar foreigners welcomed
  • The Muslim World League, in a statement issued on behalf of all scholars under its umbrella, supported the measures taken by Saudi Arabia to confront new mutated variants of the virus

JEDDAH: Saudi Arabia’s decision to only allow 60,000 residents vaccinated against the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) to perform this year’s Hajj, and to bar Muslims from abroad for a second straight year, has been widely welcomed.

The Hajj — a must for able-bodied Muslims at least once in their lives — packs millions of pilgrims into religious sites and could be a major source of contagion amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

This year, the pilgrimage will be “open for nationals and residents of the Kingdom, limited to 60,000 pilgrims,” the Kingdom's Hajj Ministry said, quoted by the Saudi Press Agency.

The event, scheduled to be held in July, will be limited to those who have been vaccinated and are aged 18-65 with no chronic illnesses, it added. Those wishing to perform the pilgrimage will have to apply online.

Only around 10,000 Muslims took part in the Hajj in July last year.

Khalifa Shaheen Al-Marar, UAE minister of state, said his country “welcomes the Kingdom’s decision and supports all measures the Kingdom takes as part of its efforts to fight the COVID-19 pandemic, contain its spread and ensure the safety and security of pilgrims and the community.”

Al-Marar added: “The scientific achievements of Saudi Arabia testify to the importance the Kingdom attaches to science as the key driver in supporting healthcare and overcoming the major challenges from the impact of the pandemic.”

Sheikh Khalid bin Ali Al-Khalifa, Bahraini minister of justice, Islamic affairs and endowment, said the decision “falls in line with preserving Hajj rituals and meeting Shariah exigency.”

The Muslim World League (MWL), in a statement issued on behalf of all scholars under its umbrella, supported the measures taken by Saudi Arabia to confront new mutated variants of the virus.

Dr. Muhammad bin Abdul Karim Al-Issa, MWL secretary-general and chairman of the Association of Muslim Scholars, said the rules of Islamic law emphasize the inevitability of taking all safety precautions in such a pandemic.

He added that several senior scholars of the Islamic world contacted the MWL expressing support for the Kingdom’s decision.

The statement stressed the “exceptional efforts” made by the Saudi government, “which clearly demonstrates its concern for the safety of visitors and pilgrims of the Grand Mosque and visitors to the Prophet's Mosque.”

Dr. Yousef bin Ahmed Al-Othaimeen, secretary-general of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, said the Saudi decision emanates from the Kingdom’s success in organizing last year’s Hajj season, held following all the precautionary measures, which effectively contributed to preventing the virus’s spread.

He said the Kingdom assumed responsibility toward organizing the Hajj, which required it to take strict decisions and measures based on current health data and well-established Islamic jurisprudence rules.

Egyptian Grand Mufti Shauqi Allam also hailed the decision.

Related


Saudi Arabia’s Jouf Olive Festival celebrates prosperity of ‘blessed’ tree

Saudi Arabia’s Jouf Olive Festival celebrates prosperity of ‘blessed’ tree
Saudi cities have become centers of olive oil production. (SPA)
Updated 11 min 23 sec ago

Saudi Arabia’s Jouf Olive Festival celebrates prosperity of ‘blessed’ tree

Saudi Arabia’s Jouf Olive Festival celebrates prosperity of ‘blessed’ tree
  • Over 140,000 tons of fruit produced in KSA annually, and 120,000 tons of oil
  • Farmers from nine countries invited to share industry experiences with local producers

MAKKAH: The Jouf Olive Festival celebrates the crop, and this year, in its 14th year, hosted 45 farmers representing the region all competing for the Prince Faisal bin Nawaf Award, worth SR500,000 ($133,000) and given by the prince, who is also the regional governor.

The festival also hosted, for the first time, farmers from the US, Spain, Argentina, Italy, China, Palestine, Jordan, Morocco and Egypt, to share their experiences of the industry.

Omar Al-Hamwan, director general of public relations and media and the official spokesperson for Jouf Municipality, said Saudi Arabia’s olive production amounts to 120 tons annually, and there is a specialized committee to monitor the volume of sales at the end of the festival and to crown the winners of the award.

He added that no oil could be entered into the festival unless it was certified and tested by the laboratory of Jouf Municipality, to ensure its quality, acidity and suitability for human consumption.

Other Saudi cities have also become centers of olive oil production, he said, such as Tabuk and Al-Baha, but Jouf still produces the largest volume.

HIGHLIGHT

Saudi Arabia now has over 20 million olive trees, more than 80 percent of which are in the Jouf region.

He added that Basita, an agricultural area in Jouf, has the largest olive farm in the world, owned by Al-Jouf Agricultural Development Co., which produces 10,000 tons of the finest oil annually, citing the abundance of water in the area as one of the reasons behind the success.

The CEO of Al-Jouf Agricultural Development Co., Mazen Badawood, said that this year’s festival was one of the best in terms of organization, direction and participation.

“Each year, we see a new image of the festival, and this time we witnessed an improvement as many wonderful activities were added, so as to place olive cultivation in a good light and highlight its importance in Saudi Arabia and worldwide,” said Badawood.

He added that the olive tree was a blessed tree, mentioned in the Qur’an and in the Prophet’s teachings, that provided great economic returns, whether from its fruit, leaves, or even its wood.

He pointed out that the olive tree consumes less water compared to other crops, noting that Al-Jouf Co. uses modern drip irrigation techniques for sustainability.

Olive cultivation is carried out by planting both trees for both traditional and intensive farming. Al-Jouf Co. is considered one of the pioneers in cultivating and developing olive trees in the region, especially for intensive production.

Badawood said his company is proud to be the owner of the largest modern organic olive farm in the world, with more than 5 million trees and a planting area of over 7,300 hectares.

“Saudi Arabia now has over 20 million olive trees, more than 80 percent of which are in the Jouf region, which is famous for olive cultivation thanks to its suitable environment,” he explained.

Badawood noted that the Kingdom produces over 140,000 tons of olive fruits annually, with 120,000 tons of oil being made as a result.

He pointed out that Saudi Arabia consumes about 45,000 tons of olive oil per year, 15,000 to 18,000 tons of which are locally produced while the rest is imported.

However, he noted, with the expansion of olive cultivation, there is an opportunity for self-sufficiency in the near future, which goes in line with the Kingdom’s vision of increasing sustainability and decreasing imports.

 


Who’s Who: Abdulraheem Kano, director at Saudi Post and Logistics

Who’s Who: Abdulraheem Kano, director at Saudi Post and Logistics
Updated 12 June 2021

Who’s Who: Abdulraheem Kano, director at Saudi Post and Logistics

Who’s Who: Abdulraheem Kano, director at Saudi Post and Logistics

Abdulraheem Kano has been the internal workforce mobility and outsourced services director at Saudi Post and Logistics since April 2020.

Between February 2019 and April 2020, Kano served as talent acquisition manager at Noon, one of the leading e-commerce companies in the Middle East.

From September 2016 to October 2018, Kano held the position of strategic projects manager at SAED, a Saudi company providing and managing personnel solutions in the workforce, from basic positions to the executive level.

Kano joined SAED in July 2014 and worked as talent acquisition manager until September 2016.

From January 2013 to July 2014, he held the position of senior recruitment officer at Tamer Group, a leading health, beauty care and prestige product company. Its core activities include importation, distribution, promotion, marketing and manufacturing.

From January 2012 to January 2013, Kano worked as an insurance officer, controlling all general insurance-related activities including motors, marine and properties.

Kano holds a bachelor’s degree in business administration from King Abdul Aziz University, Jeddah. He received a diploma in IT from the University of South Australia.

He also completed an HRBP certification course from the Society for Human Resource Management.