Arafat Day and the women of Makkah

Until the closure of the Grand Mosque due to the pandemic, women often would pack their food and head to the mosque to spend the day praying while they wait for sundown to break their fast. (MiSK)
Until the closure of the Grand Mosque due to the pandemic, women often would pack their food and head to the mosque to spend the day praying while they wait for sundown to break their fast. (MiSK)
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Updated 18 July 2021

Arafat Day and the women of Makkah

Until the closure of the Grand Mosque due to the pandemic, women often would pack their food and head to the mosque to spend the day praying while they wait for sundown to break their fast. (MiSK)
  • As pilgrims head to Mount Arafat, the women of the holy city head to the Grand Mosque to honor a pastime tradition

JEDDAH/MAKKAH: At a time when millions of Muslims travel to the valley of Mina on the first day of Hajj, the women of Makkah head to the Grand Mosque to honor a pastime tradition only recently broken due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Day of Arafat, the holiest day in the Islamic lunar calendar, is dedicated to prayer and unity, and is a significant event for Muslims.
It is also a day that bears witness to a local phenomenon that has been practiced for ages. As millions of pilgrims head to Mount Arafat on the ninth day of Dul Hijjah, the official first day of Hajj, silence sweeps over Makkah, especially the Grand Mosque.
In mere hours, the floors of the Mataf around the Kaaba — once filled with people circumambulating in the white Ihram — is replaced with a mere handful of people, who are mostly women.
The phenomenon has been witnessed for as long as many can remember and is locally known as “Yawm Al-Kholeef,” derived from the Arabic word for “void” or “empty.”
When women and children head to the Grand Mosque, the men head five miles due east to Mina valley with the pilgrims.
Every year, Makkawis, known as “mutawefeen” across the city, prepare themselves for the Hajj season as soon as Eid Al-Fitr ends as they await pilgrims arriving from Jeddah through their ‘wukalaa’ or agents.
Women prepare their homes for welcoming and lodging their guests, who will stay for either a few days or up to four months, depending on the agreement between the mutawef, the wakeel, and the pilgrim.
“The relationship between pilgrims and mutawef is solid and is not controlled by economic interest,” Faten Hussein, a matawefa and journalist specializing in Hajj and Umrah, told Arab News.




This rare photo is from Bilder aus Mecca, an album by the Dutch orientalist Christiaan Snouck Hurgronje (1857–1936). Hurgronje lived in Makkah for six months, where he converted to Islam and became Abdul Ghaffar. (Supplied)

“The relationship is rather governed by human, spiritual, and religious ties. The profession, for the first generation of mutawefeen, was handed down for generations and considered an honor for those who serve and assist the pilgrims, looking after their comfort.”
On the eighth day of Dul Hijjah, men across the city — old and young — gather the necessary food, tents and gear, before guiding the pilgrims from the Grand Mosque to Mina, where they will stay for the duration of Hajj before they move to Mount Arafat after dawn on the ninth, marking the day of Arafat.
“The mutawefeen would then take the pilgrims to the Grand Mosque while praying along the way.
“The mutawef’s sons and at times even his daughters would be walking in the back with the female pilgrims. This is to ensure that pilgrims stay with the group and do not get lost nor left behind,” said Hussein.
Until the recent closure of the Grand Mosque due to the pandemic, women often would gather their friends, family members, and neighbors, pack their food and gear and head to the mosque to spend the day praying while they wait for sundown to break their fast.
In Islamic tradition, abled Muslims who are not performing Hajj are recommended to fast on the day as “it expiates the sins of the preceding year and the coming year.”




An 1895 illustration, from the ‘Classical Portfolio of Primitive Carriers,’ by Marshall M. Kirman, World Railway Publication Co., shows a group of pilgrims en route to Makkah. (GettyImages)

After spending the whole day at the mosque dedicated to their prayers and supplications, preparations for Eid begin, with women heading to nearby souks to buy toys for the children of the family and sweets for visiting guests.
Today, women still take advantage of the empty mosque and head out to perform Umrah rituals or spend a day praying at the mosque, something that became an annual habit for many in Makkah and nearby cities.
Jeddah-based graphic designer Nedaa Zuhair told Arab News that in her childhood, she noticed her grandmother and aunts going to Makkah every year on Arafat Day as she spent the day at the house of an aunt who decided to stay back.
“Up until recently, I’ve noticed that more and more women would head to Makkah for the day.

FASTFACT

On the eighth day of Dul Hijjah, men across the city — old and young — gather the necessary food, tents and gear, before guiding the pilgrims from the Grand Mosque to Mina, where they will stay for the duration of Hajj before they move to Mount Arafat after dawn on the ninth, marking the day of Arafat.

“Though at times I prefer staying at home and spending a relaxing day in peace, I did happen to go a few times in the past years and even though it would be eerily quiet, especially knowing that millions of pilgrims from around the world are gathered just a mere few miles away, it was a special feeling,” she told Arab News.
“In 2011, I had an experience of a lifetime when I was walking around the Kaaba and when I looked to my left, I found that barely anyone was touching the kiswa.
“I was so focused on completing my rounds that I didn’t realize I had a chance and took it. I touched and leaned on the Kaaba for what seemed to be ages, I can’t describe the sense of calm I got and the spiritual connection I felt. I never got the chance to touch the kiswa again but it is a memory I cherish,” she said.
“I found that simple traditions such as Yawm Al-Kholeef are closer to the heart than ever before since we can’t go to the mosque without prior permission due to the pandemic.
“I think one day we’ll be able to go back and do it again and I’ll  bring my young daughter along with me to get a sense of the day’s significance just like I had once with my grandmother,” added Zuhair.
After sundown, preparations for Eid commence. Trays of chocolates and sweets are readied, new clean clothes are hung, toys are stacked in a corner and decorations are on display as women return from the souks and market to add the final touches.
For three days, celebrations with close family and friends have been underway, but the work for the women is not done just yet.
Hussein explained that after the pilgrimage, the mutawefeen and pilgrims return home to a feast from the pilgrims’ land in their honor.
“In the late 19th century, a princess from Bhopal (an erstwhile princely state in India) told of her visit to Makkah and how she found the company of the guide’s women to be very enjoyable and important because it is founded on good treatment and great companionship,” said Hussein.
“The better the treatment the pilgrims receive from the mutawef’s family, the more famous the family becomes among the pilgrims, and the more pilgrims will come to visit them. It is a good means of advertisement for them among the people.”


Saudi Arabia says working with US to ensure global maritime navigation

Saudi Arabia says working with US to ensure global maritime navigation
Updated 33 min 39 sec ago

Saudi Arabia says working with US to ensure global maritime navigation

Saudi Arabia says working with US to ensure global maritime navigation

Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan said Riyadh is working with Washington to ensure global maritime navigation.
He said Iran threatens international shipping operations in the Gulf, adding that the Iranian regime is a negative actor in the region by providing the Houthi militia with weapons.
“The biggest challenge is to reach an agreement to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon,” he added.
More to follow...


Saudi Arabia confirms 11 COVID-19 deaths, 1,075 new infections

Saudi Arabia confirms 11 COVID-19 deaths, 1,075 new infections
Updated 03 August 2021

Saudi Arabia confirms 11 COVID-19 deaths, 1,075 new infections

Saudi Arabia confirms 11 COVID-19 deaths, 1,075 new infections
  • The Kingdom said 1,113 patients recovered in past 24 hours
  • 5 mosques reopened in 4 regions after being sterilized after 5 people tested positive for COVID-19

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia recorded 11 new COVID-19 related deaths on Tuesday, raising the total number of fatalities to 8,270.
The Ministry of Health confirmed 1,075 new cases reported in the Kingdom in the previous 24 hours, meaning 528,952 people have now contracted the disease. 
Of the total number of cases, 10,575 remain active and 1,433 in critical condition.
According to the ministry, the highest number of cases were recorded in Makkah with 209, followed by the Eastern Province with 188, the capital Riyadh with 184, Jazan recorded 107, and Asir confirmed 89 cases.
The health ministry also announced that 1,113 patients had recovered from COVID-19, bringing the total number of recoveries in the Kingdom to 510,107.


Over 28 million doses of the coronavirus vaccine have been administered in the Kingdom to date through 587 centers..
The ministry renewed its call on the public to register to receive the vaccine, and adhere to the measures and abide by instructions.
The Ministry of Islamic Affairs reopened five mosques in four regions after temporarily evacuating and sterilizing them after five people tested positive for coronavirus, bringing the total number of mosques closed and reopened after being sterilized to 1,934 within 178 days.
The coronavirus pandemic has affected over 199 million people globally and the death toll has reached around 4.25 million.


Jordan’s king thanks Saudi Arabia for its support

Jordan’s king thanks Saudi Arabia for its support
Updated 03 August 2021

Jordan’s king thanks Saudi Arabia for its support

Jordan’s king thanks Saudi Arabia for its support
  • King Abdullah said Saudi Arabia’s positions reflect its policy that always supports Jordan in all circumstances
  • He added that Amman and Riyadh share strong and solid relations

RIYADH: Jordan’s King Abdullah II received Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan in the capital, Amman, on Tuesday and expressed his appreciation for the the Kingdom’s support of his country.
Prince Faisal delivered a message from King Salman that dealt with “ways of strengthening the historical relations between the two kingdoms and enhancing cooperation and coordination on regional issues,” Petra news agency reported.
King Abdullah praised Saudi Arabia’s supportive stance of Jordan, while it faced various challenges, including the recent sedition case that Jordan was able to nip in the bud.
He said Saudi Arabia’s positions and its explicit messages of support reflect its policy and the policy of its leadership that always supports Jordan in all circumstances.

The king said that the security of Jordan and Saudi Arabia is one and that they stand united in the face of all challenges, pointing to the centrality of the historical relations that unite their two countries.
He added that Amman and Riyadh share strong and solid relations, as he conveyed greetings to King Salman and wished Saudi Arabia and its people further progress and prosperity.
Prince Faisal said his country was keen to enhance cooperation with Jordan.
The two sides reviewed bilateral relations and ways of enhancing them in all fields, and called for the need to maintain coordination and consultation between the two countries on various issues of common interest, in a way that achieves their interests and serves Arab issues.
“During the meeting, we touched on ways to strengthen the deep-rooted brotherly relations and the long-standing ties of cooperation between the two countries in all fields,” the foreign minister said in a tweet following the meeting.
They also discussed opportunities to increase bilateral trade exchange, and support inter-investment related to the Kingdom’s Vision 2030, which provides many promising opportunities, especially in technology, innovation and renewable energy, Saudi Press Agency reported.


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 
  • Four other countries are also on the “green watch list”

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.