Saudi Arabia confirms readiness to receive Hajj pilgrims

This file photo shows travellers walking with luggage past a welcome sign at the Red Sea coastal city of Jeddah's King Abdulaziz International Airport. (AFP)
This file photo shows travellers walking with luggage past a welcome sign at the Red Sea coastal city of Jeddah's King Abdulaziz International Airport. (AFP)
Short Url
Updated 06 July 2021

Saudi Arabia confirms readiness to receive Hajj pilgrims

This file photo shows travellers walking with luggage past a welcome sign at the Red Sea coastal city of Jeddah's King Abdulaziz International Airport. (AFP)
  • The applications were sorted according to a specific mechanism such as the readiness of the pilgrim physically, taking into account if they had already performed Hajj

MAKKAH: The Ministry of Hajj and Umrah has confirmed it is fully prepared for this year’s Hajj season.

Dr. Abdulfattah Mashat, deputy minister of Hajj and Umrah, stressed that the pace of work to ready the Kingdom’s holy sites will increase in the coming days, and all relevant sectors will complete the requirements for receiving pilgrims on time.

“The Ministry of Hajj and Umrah has long developed strategic and operational plans related to Hajj activities in cooperation with more than 30 entities, from various private, government and security sectors,” he added.

In an interview broadcast on Riyadh Radio, Mashat said that pilgrim residences at the holy sites are ready, as are gathering points around Makkah, stressing that there is an integrated plan to make this year’s season safe and secure.

Pilgrims’ tents at Arafat, as well as facilities in Mina and other areas where pilgrims will stay in Muzdalifah have all been inspected.

“The environment … this year will be different from the previous Hajj seasons. It will be a healthy environment, ensuring social distancing between the pilgrims during the entire journey, thanks to large camps allowing continuous air movement, thus eliminating any risks,” said Mashat.

He pointed out that the Saudi government has created an integrated transportation network connecting all relevant sites across the region.

The ministry has long developed strategic and operational plans related to Hajj activities in cooperation with more than 30 entities.

Dr. Abdulfattah Mashat

“There will be buses transporting pilgrims from their residence … to the arrival station,” he said. “The authorities are currently developing the final plan for transport with the security authorities, which will be revealed very soon, accompanied by an awareness program targeting pilgrims via their smart phones or through social media platforms.”

Mashat said pilgrims performing Hajj this season have never been on the pilgrimage before. “In June, the Ministry of Hajj and Umrah began to receive applications. We received, in ten days, over 500,000 applications, while the target number was 60,000.

“The applications were sorted according to a specific mechanism such as the readiness of the pilgrim physically, taking into account if they had already performed Hajj. The data was also sorted out by age groups, with priority initially given to those over 50 years of age from all nationalities residing in the Kingdom.”

The pilgrims were distributed across 190 companies offering three packages. Mashat said the chosen pilgrims will start arriving on July 17 and 18, and that buses that used to accommodate 50 pilgrims in the past will accommodate just 20 this year.

He added that pilgrims’ smart cards would be essential during their stay, providing them with information of significant help to them and service providers.

Ahmed Saleh Halabi, a journalist and writer specializing in Hajj and Umrah services, said: “This year’s Hajj season comes while the coronavirus disease pandemic is still ravaging the world. Some believed that the performance of the Hajj (would have to) stop, after some countries closed their borders, but the Saudi leadership was keen to hold the Hajj season, in a way that guarantees the safety of pilgrims, in limited numbers, and in accordance with precautionary and preventive measures.”

He added: “Last year’s Hajj season was an exceptional season as a result of the outbreak of the pandemic, and the government of the Kingdom has enabled pilgrims to perform their rituals with security and tranquility, gaining good experience in organizing and managing crises and overcoming the pressures imposed by the virus.”

Saudi Arabia’s decision to limit Hajj to citizens and residents within the Kingdom confirms the government’s keenness to maintain the safety, health and security of pilgrims, in line with Islam, that calls on preserving human life, he said.


Saudi artist paints elderly back into the social picture

Fawaz Binkolaib. (Supplied)
Fawaz Binkolaib. (Supplied)
Updated 34 sec ago

Saudi artist paints elderly back into the social picture

Fawaz Binkolaib. (Supplied)
  • Fawaz Binkolaib says remaining integrated in society is vital to the well-being of older people

JEDDAH: Art presents us with an opportunity to fight social stigmas and promote inclusion through the positive representation and empowerment of marginalized groups.

In a world where younger generations are celebrated and adulated, the elderly can sometimes feel like they have lost their place and succumb to loneliness due to social exclusion and ageist stigma. But according to a local artist, one way in which older people can remain full and active members of society is through art.
Ageism is a global phenomenon that affects senior citizens across all cultures. In the Saudi context, culture plays a vital role in socially including the elderly, where family solidarity equates to ensuring the well-being of senior members.

FASTFACT

In a world where younger generations are celebrated and adulated, the elderly can sometimes feel like they have lost their place and succumb to loneliness due to social exclusion and ageist stigma. But according to a local artist, one way in which older people can remain full and active members of society is through art.

Fawaz Binkolaib, a Jeddah-based artist with a bachelor’s degree in fine arts from the Art Institute of Houston in Texas, said older members of society were all too often left on the sidelines.
“As we grow older, time leaves its marks on our skin, the stages of our lives telling stories of pain and laughter,” the 29-year-old told Arab News.
“We sometimes unintentionally exclude our seniors from daily social activities, treating them as unfit to take part.”
It was while studying in the US that Binkolaib realized how art could be used as a medium for conversation.
“My passion for art was sparked in a general education class I had to take in my first year called art appreciation,” he said. “My mind was woken by the subjective and various art forms and how that can provide different ways of communicating for us as a species.”
In his latest collection, titled “See In My Eyes,” Binkolaib showcases the beauty of a group of elderly subjects through the intricacies of every fold and wrinkle on their faces.
He said that creating the digital images, which he did using an electronic pen and pad, enabled him to really connect with his subjects.
“Speaking to the elderly was peaceful and easy,” he said. “They were excited to be voiced and heard. As we were speaking, other people passed by and joined the conversation, helping them to get across their stories.
“After talking with my senior muses, I became aware that a sense of community can enhance their overall psychological and emotional well-being,” he added.
“For that, I believe that promoting community-engaged art programs can empower and uplift senior citizens. I also think that their absence from social media has made it difficult for them to represent their image and how the younger generation perceives them.”
Binkolaib also said that facilitating and accommodating elderly people’s inclusion in community activities, like art, and familiarizing them with current trends was a good way to reintegrate them into society.
Art serves as a channel of untraditional communication for those unable to find the words to express their feelings, he added. Therefore, creating artistic outlets for senior citizens can help bridge the generation gap and energize their souls, providing solidarity and social cohesion.
Binkolaib says the elderly were us years before our time, leaving their thumbprint on all the places we are yet to experience for ourselves, carrying with them the wisdom of life gained through trials and tribulations.
“Because one day all we are going to have are the marks on our faces that relay our stories better than our words ever can,” he said.
Examples of the artist’s work can be found on his Instagram page, @Fawaz_designs.


Online platform for research chairs hailed as key development for Saudi universities

Saudi universities have made progress at the international level. (AFP/File)
Saudi universities have made progress at the international level. (AFP/File)
Updated 22 min 5 sec ago

Online platform for research chairs hailed as key development for Saudi universities

Saudi universities have made progress at the international level. (AFP/File)
  • Remarkable progress has been made in recent years in improving the standards of research in Saudi Arabia

MAKKAH: The recent launch of an online platform for research chairs at universities in Saudi Arabia is an innovative step, experts said, that aims to enhance the management of research and innovation at Saudi universities and encourage the development of innovative solutions, so that the nation can more effectively benefit from the progress they bring.
Research chair positions, reserved by educational institutions for top researchers whose work can advance the frontiers of knowledge, are relatively new in Saudi Arabia. But they are already having a positive effect on the research community in terms of fostering talent, encouraging innovative research and helping to develop the leaders of the future in a number of academic fields. This in turn is benefiting the wider education system and culture in the Kingdom.
Last week, Mohammed Al-Sudairi, the deputy minister of education for universities, research and innovation, officially launched the Research Chairs Forum during an event at Princess Nourah bint Abdulrahman University. Experts and researchers from 40 universities and colleges joined 70 research chairs from Saudi universities and other guests at the launch of the platform.
The participants discussed the development of a model for efficient funding strategies for research chairs at universities and reviewed the role they can play in addressing important national development issues.
“The organization of the Research Chairs Forum comes in the context of the Ministry of Education’s constant interest in maximizing the role of universities and developing their research facilities, through research chairs,” Al-Sudairi said during the launch.

HIGHLIGHT

The participants discussed the development of a model for efficient funding strategies for research chairs at universities and reviewed the role they can play in addressing important national development issues.

“They are a bridge with the community to keep pace with its (the community’s) requirements and meet its developmental needs, thus achieving the aspirations of the leadership, in line with the priorities of Saudi Vision 2030”.
Remarkable progress has been made in recent years in improving the standards of research in Saudi Arabia. This is reflected in the fact that in January, the Kingdom ranked first in the Arab world and 14th globally in terms of publishing research about COVID-19, according to the Web of Science website. More generally, 65 percent of all scientific papers published by universities in Arab countries were from institutions in Saudi Arabia.
In addition, Saudi universities have made progress at the international level in the field of innovation. Three state universities ranked among the top 50 on the list of universities granted patents in 2020, in terms of the number of patents registered in the US, according to annual figures compiled by the National Academy of Inventors and the Intellectual Property Owners Association.
King Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals ranked 14th globally last year, according to data released by the United States Patent and Trademark Office, which highlights the vital role of patents in university research and innovation.
King Abdulaziz University ranked 33rd, an improvement of 50 positions in just one year. King Saud University was in 45th place.
Ahmed Al-Thobaity, supervisor of the Office of Scientific and Academic Chairs at Imam Abdulrahman bin Faisal University in Dammam, told Arab News that Saudi universities have made great strides in recent years in the area of scientific research, in keeping with the aims of Saudi Vision 2030, and that the significant progress made by several universities in global rankings is testimony to their successes.
He said the launch of an online platform for research chairs reflects the interest of the country’s leaders in supporting science and scientists. He added that he hopes it will be provide a starting point for enhanced cooperation among researchers from all the country’s universities to help build effective scientific partnerships between institutions to improve the quality of scientific research.
Al-Thobaity said that the platform is particularly important for promoting the sharing of expertise between well-established universities and those founded more recently, thereby reducing gaps in the quality of scientific study that can exist between older and newer institutions.
“This platform is also important in establishing a comprehensive database for research chairs that helps researchers in the country and acts, for media platforms, like a source to promote the Kingdom’s great advances in science, in accordance with numbers, data and accurate statistics,” he added.
“Another benefit is establishing lines of communication between the private sector and universities, to channel financial support to the most modern findings of science in various fields.”
Manal Abdul Aziz Al-Shadde, a former dean of scientific research at Princess Nourah bint Abdulrahman University, predicted that the new platform will indeed help to enhance cooperation between researchers and universities.
“Universities take private initiatives to promote scientific research between researchers from different universities,” she told Arab News. “However, this platform is the culmination of these initiatives, with the Ministry of Education’s systematic work, with all its technical and human potential.”
Al-Shadde said the language of science has no boundaries or borders and aims to serve all people.
“We aspire to make this platform a pioneer in enhancing cooperation, sharing expertise and optimizing human and financial resources and equipment,” she added. “We will soon see the great impact of this platform in supporting our research efforts at our universities, institutions and research centers.”


Who’s Who: Dr. Mubarak Al-Suwailem, secretary-general of the International Camel Organization

Dr. Mubarak Al-Suwailem. (Supplied)
Dr. Mubarak Al-Suwailem. (Supplied)
Updated 36 min 38 sec ago

Who’s Who: Dr. Mubarak Al-Suwailem, secretary-general of the International Camel Organization

Dr. Mubarak Al-Suwailem. (Supplied)

Dr. Mubarak Al-Suwailem is the secretary-general of the International Camel Organization, a position he has held since March 2019.
Al-Suwailem supervised the establishment of the European Camel Ranch Owners’ Association in Zurich in 2019, and of the North American Camel Ranch Owners’ Association in North Carolina in 2020.
He organized an international symposium titled “The Camel in Ancient Art, History and Culture in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia,” the first of its kind. He organized with UNESCO the first ICO International Experts Congress in June 2021.
He is a former officer of the Saudi Armed Forces, where he rose to the rank of brigadier general. He served as an adviser to the governor of Makkah region for 14 years and as an adviser to the governor of Riyadh.
He is an expert on sport, politics, security and administration. He has written two books on parachuting and published academic papers in the field of education.
Al-Suwailem is the president of both the Air Sports Federation of Asia and the Saudi and Arab Federations, and has been the Saudi representative in the International Parachute Commission for 13 years. He is an arbitrator at the Saudi Sports Arbitration Center.
He received a skydiving D license in the US in 1992 and joined several American clubs. He was the first Arab to skydive over the North Pole in 2004 and has participated in international competitions.
He received a Mohammad bin Rashed Al-Maktoum Award for Creative Sport.
Al-Suwailem took his bachelor’s degree in Security Sciences at King Fahd Security College. He earned his master’s and Ph.D. in educational management and planning from Umm Al-Qura University.


Saudi Arabia reopens consular section of Kabul embassy

Saudi Arabia reopens consular section of Kabul embassy
Updated 30 November 2021

Saudi Arabia reopens consular section of Kabul embassy

Saudi Arabia reopens consular section of Kabul embassy
  • The decision stems from the Kingdom’s keenness to provide all consular services to the Afghan people

RIYADH:  Saudi Arabia reopened the consular section of its embassy in Kabul on Tuesday.

The decision stems from the Kingdom’s keenness to provide all consular services to the Afghan people, Saudi Press Agency reported.

The Kingdom has previously called on the Organization of Islamic Cooperation to urgently convene an extraordinary ministerial meeting to discuss the humanitarian situation in Afghanistan and pathways for a humanitarian response.

Pakistan has offered to host this meeting in Islamabad on Dec. 17.


In Jeddah, Italian gastronomic delights whet the Saudi appetite

‘It’s great to learn about Italian cuisine, drinks and desserts that we did not know about before. (Supplied)
‘It’s great to learn about Italian cuisine, drinks and desserts that we did not know about before. (Supplied)
Updated 30 November 2021

In Jeddah, Italian gastronomic delights whet the Saudi appetite

‘It’s great to learn about Italian cuisine, drinks and desserts that we did not know about before. (Supplied)
  • World Week of Italian Cuisine in Saudi Arabia concludes with feast in Jeddah

JEDDAH: The celebrations in Saudi Arabia for the sixth annual World Week of Italian Cuisine concluded with a showcase of Italian gastronomic delights, accompanied by authentic Italian music, at the country’s consulate general in Jeddah.
A number of Italian food brands, restaurants and catering companies took part in the event on Sunday, which celebrated Italian culinary arts by serving up traditional dishes to representatives of the Italian and Saudi communities.
“It’s great to learn about Italian cuisine, drinks and desserts that we did not know about before,” said Abdulrahman Rammal, one of the Saudi guests. “Our previous knowledge of Italian food was limited to certain meals, such as pizza and pasta, but the Italian Cuisine Week created more-knowledgeable awareness of the world of food.”
He said that a number of Italian sweets companies also presented their latest products, and added that such cultural events encourage Saudis to learn more about other nations and their peoples.
Stefano Stucci, the consul general of Italy in Jeddah, told Arab News: “The event is a worldwide initiative of the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, with the support of Italian embassies and consulates around the world, aimed at promoting the quality and heritage of Italian cuisine, as distinctive signs of our identity and culture.”
The consulate general in Jeddah said it organizes, with selected partners, a number of events designed to promote Italian cuisine culture, and the uniqueness and diversity of authentic Italian ingredients and products.

Food exports play a vital role in the Italian economy. With an annual turnover of more than $163.4 billion, they represent the second-highest-ranking Italian manufacturing sector and account for 8 percent of national gross domestic product, according to Federalimentare, which protects and promotes the Italian food and beverage industry.