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.


International e-learning conference to open next week in Riyadh

International e-learning conference to open next week in Riyadh
Updated 26 min 12 sec ago

International e-learning conference to open next week in Riyadh

International e-learning conference to open next week in Riyadh
  • Four-day event will feature workshops by experts from around the world

RIYADH: Experts from around the world are set to take part in a four-day conference in Riyadh to discuss the future of e-learning and e-training in Saudi Arabia.

The event, which starts on Monday, has been organized by the National eLearning Center under the patronage of its CEO and Education Minister Hamad Al-Asheikh.

Titled “eLearning for Human Capability Development,” the conference will review the latest developments and opportunities in the field, and discuss ways to develop Saudis’ skills to enable them to compete in the global labor market.

Delegates will also review the experiences of groups like the EU, UNESCO and the International Labor Organization, and individual countries such as India.

The event will look at how platforms like edX, Coursera, and FutureLearn can help to boost people’s skills, and discuss ways to use e-learning to harmonize educational output with the needs of the labor market.

The conference will also include a number of workshops presented by experts and practitioners in various disciplines from around the world.

More details about the event are available at elhcd.nelc.gov.sa.


Saudi Arabia and South Korea sign intellectual property partnership

Saudi Arabia and South Korea sign intellectual property partnership
Updated 33 min 7 sec ago

Saudi Arabia and South Korea sign intellectual property partnership

Saudi Arabia and South Korea sign intellectual property partnership
  • The agreement will see Korean IP experts arrive in the Saudi capital

JEDDAH: Saudi Arabia and South Korea recently agreed to implement 35 intellectual property projects together.

A memorandum of understanding was signed on the sidelines of the Saudi-Korean Investment Forum in Riyadh by Dr. Abdulaziz Al-Suwailem, chief executive officer at the Saudi Authority for Intellectual Property, and Dr. Kim Yong Rae, commissioner of the Korean Intellectual Property Office, in the presence of Korean President Moon Jae-in.

The agreement, according to a statement, “enhances the strategic partnership between South Korea and Saudi Arabia,” and will involve the secondment of Korean IP experts to Riyadh.

SAIP spokesman Yasser Hakami told Arab News that the MoU laid out the framework, projects, timeline and procedures for the specified bilateral cooperative activities.

“Within this arrangement, the two sides will implement a number of programs and projects that will foster an IP ecosystem through patent examination, IP information, and national IP strategies. There will also be an IP Academy program, in which invention classes will be provided to elementary school children. The program will also include developing and implementing promotional activities to encourage Saudi female inventors,” Hakami said.

He added that the two parties will meet regularly to review and evaluate the implementation of this arrangement and “will suggest complementary measures or future plans if needed.”

According to the agreement, the two sides may allow third parties from both countries to take part in implementing the projects. The agreement will remain in effect until all the programs and projects are completed, which is expected to take two years.

This is not the first time the two parties have collaborated. On September 25, 2018, KIPO and SAIP signed an MoU on bilateral cooperation in the field of intellectual property at a high-level meeting in Geneva.


Saudi authorities: Air navigation in Kingdom is safe from 5G interference

Saudi authorities: Air navigation in Kingdom is safe from 5G interference
Updated 20 January 2022

Saudi authorities: Air navigation in Kingdom is safe from 5G interference

Saudi authorities: Air navigation in Kingdom is safe from 5G interference
  • GACA: Constantly working on updating air navigation infrastructure, is following technical developments
  • A statement said frequencies used in air transport ensure that air navigation is unaffected

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s authorities for civil aviation and communications said air navigation in the Kingdom is safe from interference from 5G networks.

The General Authority of Civil Aviation and the Communications and Information Technology Commission issued a joint statement saying that navigation systems in the Kingdom’s airspace and airports are safe from potential interference from 5G mobile networks.

The statement said frequencies used in air transport ensure that air navigation is unaffected and meet requirements to provide high quality navigation services in which the highest levels of air safety are applied.

GACA said it is constantly working on updating and developing air navigation infrastructure and is closely following technical developments, including new standards for the frequencies of the 5G network in order to meet the increasing needs of air traffic and its rapid growth in the region whilst maintaining the highest standards of safety.

The CITC confirmed that the frequency bands of the 5G network in the Kingdom adhere to technical standards compatible with international best practices for more than 40 countries worldwide.

The commission added that it is a national regulator of the frequency spectrum and enables and supports various radio services for national sectors in the field of defense, security, space, aviation, communications, and meteorology.

Some flights to and from the US were canceled on Wednesday over fears the rollout of the high-speed wireless service could interfere with aircraft technology that measures altitude.

International carriers that rely heavily on the wide-body Boeing 777, and other Boeing aircraft, canceled early flights or switched to different planes Wednesday following warnings from the Federal Aviation Administration and the Chicago-based plane maker over possible interference with radio altimeters.

US Telecom giants AT&T and Verizon began 5G service in the US on Wednesday without major disruptions to flights after the launch of the new wireless technology was scaled back.

The firms spent tens of billions of dollars to obtain 5G licenses last year, but aviation industry groups have raised concerns about possible interference with airplanes' radio altimeters, which can operate at the same frequencies and are vital for landing at night or in bad weather.

Both AT&T and Verizon this week agreed to scale back the launch of 5G near airports following an outcry from US airlines, who had warned the roll-out would cause mass disruptions.


Saudi Arabia cals on Security Council to confront Houthi terrorism, Israeli violations

Saudi Arabia cals on Security Council to confront Houthi terrorism, Israeli violations
Updated 13 sec ago

Saudi Arabia cals on Security Council to confront Houthi terrorism, Israeli violations

Saudi Arabia cals on Security Council to confront Houthi terrorism, Israeli violations

LONDON: Saudi Arabia called on the international community to take firm measures against the Iran-backed Houthi militia, who obstruct all peace efforts to end the 8-year war.
The absence of firm measures against the militia is what gave the Houthis more room to harm the Yemeni people, destabilize the region and significantly affect international peace and security, the Kingdom’s deputy permanent representative to the UN, Mohammed Al-Ateeq, told the Security Council.
He was speaking at a speaking at a session on the situation in the Middle East, including the Palestinian issue.
Al-Ateeq reiterated the Kingdom’s position toward the Palestinian cause and ending the occupation, establishing an independent Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital, and ensuring the right of return for Palestinian refugees. He said this also includes ending Israel’s occupation of the Syrian Golan Heights and Lebanese territories.
He stressed the importance of comprehensive and lasting peace in the Middle East.
“The occupation authorities continue to violate international resolutions and norms in occupied Palestine and practice the most heinous forms of injustice and aggression against the Palestinian people,” he said.
“The flagrant violation of the sanctity of the Ibrahimi Mosque in the city of Hebron by the Israeli president represents the tip of the iceberg of these violations,” he added.
Al-Ateeq said the time has come for the international community and the Security Council to carry out their responsibilities toward supporting the Palestinian people and the Palestinian cause, by realizing the right of the Palestinian people to build their independent state guaranteed to them by international resolutions, and to firmly address the ongoing Israeli practices and violations.
“The Iranian-backed terrorist Houthi militia confirms day after day its indifference to the aspirations of the Yemeni people, the stability of Yemen and its subversive role in threatening regional stability and international peace and security,” Al-Ateeq added.
The biggest evidence of this is its continued threat to the safety of international navigation and the use of civilian objects and Yemeni ports to destabilize the security of the region and attack civilians in the Kingdom and the UAE, he said, the latest of which was the terrorist attack that targeted Abu Dhabi International Airport, and the hijacking of the Emirati ship Rwabee.
Al-Ateeq also expressed the Kingdom’s support for the Lebanese people, and said his country urged all Lebanese leaders to give priority to the public’s interests, work to achieve security, stability and prosperity, and stop Hezbollah’s terrorist hegemony over the country.


Saudi Arabia reports 5,591 new COVID-19 cases, 2 deaths

Saudi Arabia reports 5,591 new COVID-19 cases, 2 deaths
Updated 20 January 2022

Saudi Arabia reports 5,591 new COVID-19 cases, 2 deaths

Saudi Arabia reports 5,591 new COVID-19 cases, 2 deaths
  • The total number of recoveries in the Kingdom has increased to 584,050
  • A total of 8,914 people have succumbed to the virus in the Kingdom so far

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia announced two deaths from COVID-19 and 5,591 new infections on Thursday.

Of the new cases, 1,476 were recorded in Riyadh, 551 in Jeddah, 295 in Makkah, 249 in Dammam, 213 in Hofuf, 190 in Madinah, and 115 in Abha. Several other cities recorded less than one hundred new cases each.

The total number of recoveries in the Kingdom increased to 584,050 after 5,238 more patients recovered from the virus.

A total of 8,914 people have succumbed to the virus in the Kingdom so far.

Over 54.5 million doses of a coronavirus vaccine have been administered in the Kingdom to date.