Hajj 2021: How Jeddah earned its reputation as the city of hospitality 

Jeddah old view, Saudi Arabia. Created by Girardet after Lejean, published on Le Tour du Monde, Paris, 1860. (Shutterstock)
Jeddah old view, Saudi Arabia. Created by Girardet after Lejean, published on Le Tour du Monde, Paris, 1860. (Shutterstock)
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Updated 18 July 2021

Hajj 2021: How Jeddah earned its reputation as the city of hospitality 

Jeddah old view, Saudi Arabia. Created by Girardet after Lejean, published on Le Tour du Monde, Paris, 1860. (Shutterstock)
  • For centuries, Jeddah has offered pilgrims comfort and friendship on their arduous journey 
  • The special bond between Jeddah and the pilgrimage has shaped the city’s geography, architecture and way of life

JEDDAH: For centuries, Hajj has been a once-in-a-lifetime experience for the millions of Muslims who travel to the Holy City of Makkah. In days gone by the journey was often arduous. But weary pilgrims arriving in Jeddah, for many their first port of call, have always found comfort and friendship thanks to the famed hospitality of the city’s residents.

The port city on the Red Sea coast has been inextricably linked with Hajj and Umrah for more than 1,300 years. In 674, Caliph Uthman ibn Affan, a companion of the Prophet, designated the city as a gateway for pilgrims traveling to Makkah and Madinah.

It has continued to serve this noble purpose ever since, latterly under the careful stewardship of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, which works tirelessly to facilitate the movement, accommodation and comfort of pilgrims on their journeys to Makkah, 40 miles to the east of Jeddah, and Madinah, 220 miles to the north.

This gateway to two of the holiest cities in Islam has provided generations of Muslims from all corners of the Earth with food and lodgings on their journey to perform the sacred pilgrimage. But the city offers so much more than shelter and sustenance. Pilgrims have traditionally been greeted with profoundly touching displays of hospitality, solidarity and friendship — a proud tradition among Jeddawis that continues to this day.

Families in Madinah are often referred to as “Muzawareen” — which comes from the Arabic word “zeyara,” meaning “visit” — denoting their inherited duty to take into their homes pilgrims visiting the mosque and the grave of the Prophet.

Families in Makkah are often called “Mutawefeen,” which is derived from “tawaf,” one of the rituals during Hajj and Umrah. Again, this denotes their traditional role in guiding visitors.

By the same token, Jeddawis are often known as “Wukalaa” in recognition of the assistance they provided as agents to the pilgrims who arrived there by sea.




Street view with a car in Jeddah, in 1939. (Photo by Ullstein Bild via Getty Images)

In the old days, large ships carrying the pilgrims would anchor in deeper waters off the Red Sea coast, and the travelers would be brought ashore by locals on smaller wooden sambouks and dhows. There they were greeted by their designated agents, who would show them to their lodgings.

Ahmed Badeeb, a local historian and longtime resident of Jeddah’s historic old city, said that this special bond between the people of the city and visiting pilgrims not only shaped its urban geography but its entire way of life.

“Pilgrims arriving by land were very few,” he told Arab News. “Large ships would bring Hajj pilgrims from all over and there were no hotels in Jeddah.

“The people of the city would provide lodgings for pilgrims in their own homes and the pilgrim would become part of the family, establishing relationships. And when their guests returned home, they’d continue their correspondence because they felt like they had a home (there).

Homeowners would normally sleep in the mabeet, their designated sleeping quarters located on the roof of the house, and provide lodging for pilgrims in the megad (sitting room) on the ground floor.

Pilgrims’ visits for Hajj could last for up to four months, but they usually remained in Jeddah for only a few days while their agents arranged onward travel to Makkah or Madinah. Jeddah was therefore a brief pit stop on their journeys.

HAJJ 2021 IN FOCUS

Pilgrims have arrived at the Grand Mosque in Makkah to perform tawaf in the first Hajj act of the year after reaching the city on Saturday. Keep track of this year's pilgrimage here.

“It would take a few days for pilgrims to prepare their belongings before setting out for Makkah with their food, clothing and supplies,” Badeeb said.

“Camels were rented to carry pilgrims’ belongings, and at times a howdah (a seat on the back of a camel) was also brought in to carry the women. It would take one day to reach Makkah.”

The duration of a pilgrim’s stay in Jeddah varied depending on the arrangements made between the “wakeel” in Jeddah and the “mutawif” in Makkah who would host the pilgrim upon arrival there.

“(Jeddah’s) population would grow exponentially with every Hajj season,” Badeeb added. “It helped with the city’s economic growth and aided the pilgrims as well, as they would sell their goods and spices to residents of the city, who have always been welcoming.”

In addition to boosting the local economy, Hajj also shaped Jeddah’s architecture. Historians believe that because prosperous families in the old city hosted so many pilgrims, it became common for their homes to include several stories — as many as seven. They had numerous rooms set aside for specific purposes and often featured protruding rowshan balconies. The taller and more elaborately decorated the house, the greater the status of its residents.

Inside these towering structures, the owners would prepare rooms for the pilgrims they were hosting. Guests were normally given the megad on the ground floor and provided with mats and pillows. 




1976: A crowd of pilgrims from Indonesia on the deck of their chartered ship in Jeddah harbour, bound for Makkah. (Photo by Keystone/Getty Images)

Derived from the word “to sit,” the megad is a large room normally used for welcoming family and close friends. While pilgrims were provided with lodgings on lower floors, families would move into rooms on the upper floors and provide their guests with meals prepared in their kitchen, which was usually located on the first floor.

“By the time the pilgrims arrived in Jeddah, their food supplies would have depleted on their long journeys,” said Badeeb. “Everything was provided for them from the minute they landed until they left.

“Pilgrims arriving from certain countries or regions usually stayed with specific families, facilitated through agents in their home countries. The trust that is built through that allowed them to keep their money and belongings safely stored until they completed their pilgrimage.”

Over the years, as the number of pilgrims steadily grew, it became increasingly difficult to find lodgings with families in the old city. To ensure everyone was safely housed and cared for, the Saudi authorities realized they would have to build new, specialized facilities.

In 1950 the Kingdom’s founder, King Abdul Aziz, ordered a “pilgrims’ city” to be established close to Jeddah Islamic Seaport, where about 70 percent of pilgrims arrived in the country on their way to perform Hajj. By 1971, this city within a city had 27 buildings, including health clinics, shops, mosques and other facilities.

Several similar facilities were subsequently established, including one to the east of the historic old city capable of accommodating 2,000 pilgrims, and another near the old airport, which by the mid-1980s could host 30,000 people.

Times have changed and although Jeddah’s families no longer host visitors in their own homes as their forefathers once did, they continue to offer the same warm greetings and hospitality that has characterized the city’s residents for centuries.


Saudi Arabia candidate for UK ‘green list’: reports 

Saudi Arabia candidate for UK ‘green list’: reports 
Updated 03 August 2021

Saudi Arabia candidate for UK ‘green list’: reports 

Saudi Arabia candidate for UK ‘green list’: reports 

DUBAI: Saudi Arabia has reportedly been “earmarked” for the “green watch list” for the United Kingdom according to British daily iNews, which could allow fully vaccinated travellers to enter without quarantining upon return to the UK. 

Four other countries are also on the “green watch list,” the report said, including Bhutan, French Polynesia, North Macedonia, and Norway. 

A leading British consultancy, PC Agency, also said a number of countries were expected to be moved into the green category of rules for entry into England in the wake of an analysis of the latest coronavirus disease (COVID-19) infection and vaccination rates.

It found that 12 destinations, including Germany, Poland, Canada, Austria, Bosnia, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Slovakia, Slovenia, and Romania could go green.

Iceland, Malta, Madeira, and Israel were among destinations that may move from green to amber, while countries such as Greece and Spain could go on the amber list, PC Agency CEO Paul Charles told The Guardian  newspaper.

The British government reviews its traffic travel system every three weeks. The next review is expected on Thursday with any changes coming into place the following Monday.


Saudi school principal gets into Guinness for largest mural using water bottle caps

The Green Leaves Playgroup principal broke last year’s record with a 250 sq. meter map of the world. The previous record belonged to Caroline Chaptini, who created a 196.94 sq. meter crescent mosaic. Inset: (Khulood Al-Fadli Supplied)
The Green Leaves Playgroup principal broke last year’s record with a 250 sq. meter map of the world. The previous record belonged to Caroline Chaptini, who created a 196.94 sq. meter crescent mosaic. Inset: (Khulood Al-Fadli Supplied)
Updated 03 August 2021

Saudi school principal gets into Guinness for largest mural using water bottle caps

The Green Leaves Playgroup principal broke last year’s record with a 250 sq. meter map of the world. The previous record belonged to Caroline Chaptini, who created a 196.94 sq. meter crescent mosaic. Inset: (Khulood Al-Fadli Supplied)
  • With determination and consistency, Khulood Al-Fadli continued her work ‘and never gave up’

JEDDAH: Khulood Al-Fadli, a school principal in Jeddah, has joined the ranks of Guinness World Records holders by creating the planet’s largest mosaic using plastic bottle caps.

The Green Leaves Playgroup principal broke last year’s record with a 250-square-meter map of the world using 350,000 plastic bottle caps. The previous record belonged to Caroline Chaptini, who created a 196.94-square- meter crescent mosaic in Miziara, Lebanon.
“I feel beyond the moon. I really felt my work had paid off,” Al-Fadli told Arab News.
“The image doesn’t matter as the size determines if I’m breaking a record and Guinness World Records had so many requirements to break a record or set a new record,” she said.
Meeting the requirements to break the record proved especially difficult due to turbulent weather conditions affecting her outdoor mosaic.
“I went through difficult days of the wind blowing all my water caps away, which delayed the project for a week. But with determination, consistency and with the help of my volunteers and most of all my family and husband, I continued my work and never gave up,” she said.
The project was aimed at shedding light on three events; World Environment Day — collecting plastic and recycling — World Oceans Day — not throwing plastics into oceans or the sea because of its negative effects on the environment — and United Nations Public Service Day — the importance of community volunteering. Al-Fadli said that all three world days met Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 and its sustainable goals.

HIGHLIGHT

The project was aimed at shedding light on three events; World Environment Day — collecting plastic and recycling — World Oceans Day — not throwing plastics into oceans or the sea because of its negative effects on the environment — and United Nations Public Service Day — the importance of community volunteering.

She said that her target volunteers were children, “since they are the future generation.” Al-Fadli was first inspired by student responses after she introduced the topic of global warming and recycling to children at the school.
Al-Fadli said that one pupil had asked: “’Does that mean our earth will die?’ She continued: “He questioned angrily, almost saying how dare people do this to our only planet.”
She told him that people could start change with themselves and a simple step to save the earth was to “collect plastics and make a humane project out of it.”
With the help of her students, family and friends, and the growing number of plastic bottle cap donors, “within 40 days of work, the news kept spreading and people from all over Jeddah, Makkah, Madinah and Taif came to donate.”
She said that the donors were eager to see the outcome, with even the youngest of volunteers excited to see the end result. “They were amazed by how lovely and huge the map is, they promised to save plastics and reuse them or donate it to me for the sake of the Earth.”
Al-Fadli said that creating art out of recyclables was a fulfilling experience — and that she had always had an affinity for maps while growing up.
“Since I was a child, I used to love drawing maps. I don’t know why but it feels like I’m flying. Seeing a huge map was like a dream,” she said.


‘Social isolation’ after Aug. 1 changes will boost jab uptake, says Saudi official

Almost all of the Saudi population are soon expected to become fully vaccinated against COVID-19. (SPA)
Almost all of the Saudi population are soon expected to become fully vaccinated against COVID-19. (SPA)
Updated 03 August 2021

‘Social isolation’ after Aug. 1 changes will boost jab uptake, says Saudi official

Almost all of the Saudi population are soon expected to become fully vaccinated against COVID-19. (SPA)
  • Ban on unvaccinated people entering events, businesses is latest policy to end pandemic

JEDDAH: People in Saudi Arabia who refuse to receive a COVID-19 vaccine will be left “socially isolated” following the Aug. 1 ban, a health official has said, urging Saudis and residents to take immediate action and receive a jab.

Dr. Naser Tawfiq, assistant professor of anesthetics and ICU, warned that as a result of the policy, no one would be allowed to enter any governmental institution without being vaccinated.
“This decision will certainly reduce any negative attitude that disdains the vaccine. One who tries to avoid getting the vaccine will be socially isolated. Their isolation is good for us because all of society wants to get back to normal life, and the only safe solution is to get the vaccine,” Tawfiq said.
He added that by receiving a vaccine and complying with precautionary measures, people can live “almost a normal life” at this stage of the pandemic.
Residents of the Kingdom are required to receive at least one jab or have recovered from COVID-19 to attend social, cultural, sports and entertainment gatherings, and enter private, government or commercial establishments.
Health authorities have called on residents to register for the vaccine, and centers across the Kingdom have been urged to provide more time slots to accommodate the growing numbers of applicants.
Meanwhile, almost all of the Saudi population are soon expected to become fully vaccinated against COVID-19 before returning to the workplace, Abdulmohsin Al-Huwaidi, a human resources specialist, told Al-Ekhbariya TV channel, adding that the majority of people in the Kingdom have now received a vaccine.

FASTFACTS

• Saudi Arabia reported 1,063 new cases of COVID-19 on Monday.

• The death toll rose to 8,259 after 10 more virus-related deaths were recorded.

“This can clearly show the good quality of work in these health organizations and the high level of awareness in society,” Al-Huwaidi said.
So far, 27,638,716 people in the Kingdom have received a jab against COVID-19, including 1,481,272 elderly people.
Al-Huwaidi added that the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Development has approved a variety of options to deal with the unvaccinated workers.
“This gradual plan of dealing with unvaccinated employees begins with directing them to work remotely, and this is an option for the organizations in which job tasks can be done remotely,” he said.
He added: “I think we will see the whole community — both citizens and residents — fully vaccinated in the near future.” However, he noted that people who are excluded from taking the vaccine could continue to work from their homes.
In another move to curb the spread of coronavirus, the Saudi Public Prosecution office has warned that it will impose fines of up to SR500,000 ($133,323) on passengers breaching travel ban restrictions by boarding flights to countries hit by severe COVID-19 outbreaks. Similar penalties will also apply to operators or owners of the means of transportation, the authority said.
In a recent tweet, officials added that severe punitive measures would be taken against travelers who failed to disclose that they had visited any countries listed on the Kingdom’s COVID-19 travel ban list.
Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia on Monday reported 10 more COVID-19-related deaths, taking the death toll over the course of the pandemic to 8,259.
There were 1,063 new cases, meaning that 527,877 people in the country have now contracted the disease. A total of 10,624 cases remained active, of which 1,434 patients were in critical condition.
Of the newly recorded cases, 244 were in the Makkah region, 217 in the Riyadh region, 152 in the Eastern Province, and 70 in the Madinah region.
The Ministry of Health said that 1,620 patients recovered from the disease, increasing the total number of recoveries in the Kingdom to 508,994.
Saudi Arabia has so far conducted 25,226,779 PCR tests, with 98,862 completed 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 COVID-19 pandemic outbreak.
Among them, Taakad (make sure) 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, while Tetamman (rest assured) clinics offer treatment and advice to those with virus symptoms such as fever, loss of taste and smell, and breathing difficulties.
Appointments for either service can be made via the ministry’s Sehhaty app.


Saudi students honored for innovation award wins

Makkah Gov. Prince Khalid Al-Faisal. (SPA)
Makkah Gov. Prince Khalid Al-Faisal. (SPA)
Updated 03 August 2021

Saudi students honored for innovation award wins

Makkah Gov. Prince Khalid Al-Faisal. (SPA)
  • Among students honored by the governor was Amjad Al-Baqami for his “Your Stick Guides You” project for blind people

MAKKAH: Makkah Gov. Prince Khalid Al-Faisal congratulated students from Umm Al-Qura University following their awards success at the international Geneva Inventions Fair 2021.
Passing on his best wishes to the students for the future, the prince also commended university president, Dr. Mudi Al-Qahtani.
Among students honored by the governor was Amjad Al-Baqami for his “Your Stick Guides You” project for blind people, which incorporates a GPS feature and can be used with sensors or headphones.
The prince also praised Ziad Al-Mateen for his project “The wonderful glove,” which translates sign language into audio language transmitted through an external speaker in the glove, to improve communication with people with hearing disabilities.
And Dalia Abu Raya won Prince Khalid’s approval for her “Medical Self-Service” project device for dispensing painkillers.
He also honored Jihad Felimban and Khalil Mijaan for their “Mobile Sunstroke Unit” project, which is a bag that helps provide emergency medical care to treat sunstroke and avoid dangerous complications. SPA Makkah
The bag contains a foldable stretcher, which is easy to use to protect the patient from heat strokes, and water sprays that help cool and hydrate the body to avoid complications. 


Saudi gaming developers level up in growing market

The team behind Hakawati, a studio focused on developing games for children. (Supplied)
The team behind Hakawati, a studio focused on developing games for children. (Supplied)
Updated 03 August 2021

Saudi gaming developers level up in growing market

The team behind Hakawati, a studio focused on developing games for children. (Supplied)
  • Saudi Arabia home to 21.2 million gamers, has seen its gaming industry jump 4.1 percent this year, making it the world’s 19th-largest market

JEDDAH: Out of the many growing industries in Saudi Arabia, the gaming industry is accelerating at an unprecedented pace, with developers taking standards to the next level in an exciting new territory.
In 2020, the Saudi gaming market was estimated to be worth SR2.6 billion ($690 million), with various platforms being launched to give confidence to developers, entrepreneurs and investors so they can continue building the industry.
The Kingdom, home to 21.2 million gamers, has seen its gaming industry jump 4.1 percent this year, making it the world’s 19th-largest market.
Mohammad Waleed Hashim, a 30-year-old indie game developer, is currently producing a game the revolves around a player who needs to find his way through the deserts of Saudi Arabia, training herds of camels, befriending desert folk, fighting off predators and navigating the mysteries of the desert, just like his grandfather once did.
“The Shepherd” is set to be released soon on the Steam platform for $10 with no additional in-game purchases, a plan he says will allow gamers to enjoy it more.
Indie games are made by a small group of people, or in Hashim’s case, a single developer.
Apart from occasionally hiring freelancers for the art and design, Hashim said: “The game focuses more on the mechanics and the story and less on the graphical aspects.”
The developer said that the game was meant to be a small hobby, but it rolled into a bigger project and became the detailed product it is today. “The Arab touches were very important to me because I wanted something the players could relate to,” he said, adding: “I found a picture of my grandfather wearing traditional clothes and that’s where the inspiration for the character design started.”
Abdullah Bamashmoos, founder of Jeddah-based game development studio Hakawati, said games that allow children to build their own in-game worlds — such as Minecraft and Roblox — can influence young children to jump on the bandwagon.
“That opens the possibility of one day creating their own games in Saudi Arabia, the generation that grew up playing the games that enhanced their creativity are now learning to develop actual games,” said Bamashmoos.
The 31-year-old developer said that there were a small number of gaming studios a few years ago, so he could not pursue his passion for developing games right away. He faced opposition from his community when he started investing his time and money into development.
“What kept me going is that all crazy ideas start somewhere and although things like augmented reality were once believed to be science fiction stories, it became a profitable reality years later. So, I figured that the technology here in Saudi Arabia will advance far enough and I was able to foresee a future in what I was investing in.”
Bamashmoos said that his journey was one of trial and error: “I would create files, scavenge the internet for solutions to some of the software issues, delete files, and start from scratch.”
According to the developers, it is not just the software skills that aspiring developers need to work on, Bamashmoos said that they also need to work on their team-building abilities and finding efficient developers who are willing to work hard throughout the development stage of their games.
“Another thing that Saudi developers need to do is keep practising and learning additional talents so they can gradually progress in the industry.”
When the two developers started on their journeys over 10 years ago, the internet was not as rich with information as it is now, which has been a game-changer for developers.
They can now find a treasure trove of information for free or very low prices, which Bamashmoos said could ease the production pipeline.
“Developers in the country are also helpful since the community is small, the ones who are interested can get help from the professionals easily.”
Despite Hashim’s struggle with the industry, he is hoping to build a small gaming studio.
“I have so many ideas for more games after this one, seven to be precise. I look forward to hiring people who can work with me.”