Hajj 2021: How the pilgrim routes to Makkah and Madinah evolved over the centuries

One of the earliest printed European depictions of the Mahmal procession before the start of Hajj, the illustration of ‘The march of the caravan from Cairo to Mecca’ from Vol. 2 of ‘Troisieme Voyage du Sieur Paul Lucas.’ (The Khalili Collections)
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One of the earliest printed European depictions of the Mahmal procession before the start of Hajj, the illustration of ‘The march of the caravan from Cairo to Mecca’ from Vol. 2 of ‘Troisieme Voyage du Sieur Paul Lucas.’ (The Khalili Collections)
A camel caravan traveling to Makkah for the annual pilgrimage circa 1910. (Wikimedia commons)
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A camel caravan traveling to Makkah for the annual pilgrimage circa 1910. (Wikimedia commons)
Sudanese pilgrims disembark from a ship arriving at the Saudi Red Sea port of Jeddah to attend the annual Hajj pilgrimage circa 2007. (AFP file)
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Sudanese pilgrims disembark from a ship arriving at the Saudi Red Sea port of Jeddah to attend the annual Hajj pilgrimage circa 2007. (AFP file)
Travel time for pilgrims during the modern age has been cut from weeks or months to just hours. (AFP file photo)
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Travel time for pilgrims during the modern age has been cut from weeks or months to just hours. (AFP file photo)
Hajj 2021: How the pilgrim routes to Makkah and Madinah evolved over the centuries
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Saudi Arabia’s new Haramain High-Speed Railway cuts short the travel time for pilgrims traveling between Makkah and Madinah. (SPA)
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Saudi Arabia’s new Haramain High-Speed Railway cuts short the travel time for pilgrims traveling between Makkah and Madinah. (SPA)
The annual pilgrimage continues to shape Makkah’s transport infrastructure and urban layout, with authorities seeking to ease congestion through long-term planning. (AFP file)
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The annual pilgrimage continues to shape Makkah’s transport infrastructure and urban layout, with authorities seeking to ease congestion through long-term planning. (AFP file)
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Updated 21 July 2021

Hajj 2021: How the pilgrim routes to Makkah and Madinah evolved over the centuries

A camel caravan traveling to Makkah for the annual pilgrimage circa 1910. (Wikimedia commons)
  • Caliphs, kings and sultans took care of the Hajj and Umrah pilgrimage routes: a duty that continues to this day
  • Even today, pilgrimages continue to shape Makkah’s transport infrastructure and urban topography

JEDDAH/MAKKAH: Before the invention of cars, buses and other modern modes of mass transit, pilgrims performing Hajj and Umrah relied exclusively on convoys of camels, horses and donkeys to reach the holy cities of Makkah and Madinah on demanding journeys that could take months to complete.

Even as the means of transport evolved from pack animal to four-wheeled vehicle, from horseback to horsepower, the older generation still recalls pilgrimages that were grueling, yet had a much stronger spiritual resonance than today’s journeys of relative comfort.

“My late parents performed Hajj on a caravan of carriages, camels and mules all the way from Gaza to Makkah,” Fadhel Mahmoud, a 76-year-old Jeddah resident, told Arab News. “After they went back home, they sacrificed the camel, and distributed its meat to the needy and poor.”

FASTFACT

3,161,573

Hajj pilgrims in 2012, the largest number in 10 years.

Mahmoud recalls his own first Hajj experience in 1968, arriving at the so-called City of Tents in the Mina valley, southeast of Makkah.

“Fifty-four years ago, my brothers and I went to perform Hajj on a pickup truck, and we camped in our tent and prayed with Shaykh Mahmoud Khalil Al-Hussary — an Egyptian Qari (Qu’ran reciter) widely acclaimed for his accurate recitation — in Mina and Arafat,” he said. “It was a very simple Hajj, with a smaller number of pilgrims than these days.”

Historically, there were seven major pilgrimage routes that would approach Makkah and Madinah from the four points of the compass, the five most popular being the Iraqi, Syrian, Egyptian, Yemeni and Omani circuits.




Map showing land and sea routes of the Hajj in the early 20th century. (Courtesy of AramcoWorld)

The Kufi-Makkah route, also known as the Zubaydah trail, which originated in present-day Iraq, was considered among the most important pilgrimage and trade routes of the Islamic period.

The Basra-Makkah route was seen as the second-most important, starting in the bustling Iraqi port city before passing south across the Arabian Peninsula’s northeast, through Wadi Al-Batin, then onward through the rugged Al-Dahna desert, where it would merge with the Kufa-Makkah route.

The Egyptian route to Makkah was the most popular during the first three Hijri centuries, and was used by pilgrims from as far west as Morocco and Andalusia in present-day Spain.

The Syrian route, meanwhile, tied the Levant to the two holy mosques of Makkah and Madinah, its path beginning in Damascus before wending its way through Daraa and onward to AlUla in today’s Saudi Arabia.

Along the Tabuk to AlUla route, which flourished during the Abbasid era (750-1258), archaeologists have found evidence of pools, canals and Kufic inscriptions left by travelers along this historic road.

Since ancient times, Yemeni routes have linked the cities of Aden, Taiz, Sanaa, Zabid and Saada to the Hijaz of western Saudi Arabia, including one along the coast, another through the interior and one over the highlands.




A camel caravan traveling to Makkah for the annual pilgrimage circa 1910. (Wikimedia commons)

The Omani route, meanwhile, passed through Yabrin, where it met the route from Bahrain on its way to Makkah.

Islamic caliphs and sultans down the ages have taken care of these pilgrimage routes, establishing rest stations and wells along the way to cater for weary travelers and their thirsty pack animals.

But, in 1924, pilgrims were ordered to cease using camels and instead rely on motor vehicles to complete the journey. However, due to the lack of proper roads, camels remained the preferred means of transport for several years after the ban.

Then, in 1948, the Saudi General Syndicate of Cars was born, marking the foundation of the first-ever regulated transport service for pilgrims.

Four years later, in 1952, Saudi Arabia’s founder, King Abdul Aziz, ordered the creation of the second General Syndicate of Cars, based in Makkah. What began as a collection of just five logistics firms has today grown to 69 dedicated outfits.

“The General Syndicate of Cars has actively contributed to the development of the types of vehicles that are used to transport pilgrims since its establishment, starting with the very first version of red lorries of various German and American brands used for cargo and other purposes,” Abdulrahman bin Mayouf Alharbi, chairman of the General Syndicate of Cars, told Arab News. “Then we moved to use the famous yellow school buses.”




Inaugurated in 2018, the Haramain High-Speed Railway has helped increase the number of pilgrims and visitors to Makkah and Madinah with ease. (AFP)

Even today, the pilgrimage continues to shape the evolution of Makkah’s transport infrastructure and its growing urban layout. As the Hajj 2021 season approached, new roads and tunnels featuring the latest traffic-control technology were under construction to cater for the expected influx of visitors.

Dr. Othman Qazzaz, head of research at the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques Institute for Hajj and Umrah Research at Makkah’s Umm Al-Qura University, said that his researchers have explored a wide range of intuitive traffic reduction measures, including pedestrian walkways, and independent roads reserved solely for pilgrims and emergency vehicles.

“The institute has sought to help pilgrims perform Hajj and Umrah in ease and peace, most notably by introducing the shuttle bus program and expanding the transportation means provided for pilgrims between Makkah, the central area and their accommodation,” Qazzaz told Arab News.

Since it was established 10 years ago, the shuttle bus program, in particular, has boosted capacity while also reducing congestion. And, because of the city’s mountainous topography, a network of 59 bridges and 66 tunnels has been established over the past four decades to offer additional avenues for vehicles and pedestrians entering the center and to help avoid bottlenecks.




Sudanese pilgrims disembark from a ship arriving at the Saudi Red Sea port of Jeddah to attend the annual Hajj pilgrimage circa 2007. (AFP file)

Raad bin Mohammed Al-Sharif, spokesperson for Makkah municipality, told Arab News the city’s tunnels and holy sites have been equipped with command-and-control systems and a centralized CCTV surveillance network to allow officials to monitor and relieve areas of congestion.

In order to prevent congregations becoming too large, particularly given the threat of stampedes and the need to maintain coronavirus social-distancing, officials are directing pilgrims to gather at four main entrances: Al-Taneem, Al-Sharai, the Kor checkpoint and the Al-Shumaisi security zone.

Years of careful site testing and topographical surveys have gone into this vast urban reimagining, along with extensive data gathering and public questionnaires to help determine areas of high demand, possible pressure points and where there is space for improvement.




Travel time for pilgrims during the modern age has been cut from weeks or months to just hours. (AFP file photo)

In particular, researchers have examined current and future demand for services between Mahbas Al-Jinn, Kudai and the Grand Mosque, the economic and environmental viability of various modes of transport, and the likely impact of greater traffic on the quality of services on offer. Similar surveys have also been conducted in Madinah to improve transport infrastructure.

The hardships of the road to Makkah and Madinah, as well as the facilities on offer when pilgrims arrive from the distant corners of the Islamic world, have eased over the centuries, and the means of getting there have changed beyond recognition.

Nevertheless the same spiritual yearning that brought those early pilgrims across oceans, deserts and continents remains to this day — and grows with each passing year.


Saudi minister: Culture will be driving force for sustainable world

Saudi minister: Culture will be driving force for sustainable world
Updated 20 min 59 sec ago

Saudi minister: Culture will be driving force for sustainable world

Saudi minister: Culture will be driving force for sustainable world
  • Italian undersecretary for culture praised Saudi approach to culture as ‘innovative and proactive’

ROME: Culture will be the driving force for a more sustainable world and a more prosperous future for all nations, Saudi Culture Minister Prince Badr bin Abdullah bin Farhan said at a meeting of G20 culture ministers in Rome.

He took part as vice president of the G20 Ministerial Meeting of Culture organized by the Italian government, which chairs the G20 this year.

It represents the culmination of the Sherpa Cultural Track within the framework of the G20 agenda, a track that was created during the Kingdom’s assumption of the summit’s presidency in 2020.

The current presidency has identified five priorities for the Sherpa Cultural Track meetings for the year 2021: cultural and creative industries as key drivers of sustainability and growth, protection of cultural heritage, addressing climate change through culture, capacity-building through training and education, and digital transformation from a cultural perspective.

During the meeting, Prince Badr expressed appreciation to Italian Minister for Cultural Heritage and Activities and Tourism Dario Franceschini.

The prince also praised the efforts of the Italian presidency in building on the commitments of the first joint meeting of culture ministers, which resulted in laying the foundations for “fruitful cooperation” among the members of the G20 in order to promote culture as a development engine and a key factor in prosperity.

He then reviewed the Kingdom’s “continuous efforts” to preserve cultural heritage, noting that Saudi Arabia has made great strides to this end with the registration of six sites on the UNESCO World Heritage List.

He also stressed the Kingdom’s commitment to promoting international dialogue on the role of culture in mitigating the effects of climate change, contributing to a re-imagining of the relationship between cultural policymaking and environmental sustainability, launching research initiatives and exploring the vast potential of digitization in cultural sectors to increase their contribution to economic growth.

Prince Badr’s remarks were well received by Franceschini, who also expressed his gratitude to his Saudi counterpart for the “outstanding work in the G20 presidency” and repeated the G20 pledge to “continue to support culture and workers in the sector.” He cited culture as a “great factor of growth” and one that leads to the “creation of opportunities for the new generations and the most vulnerable categories.”

“The Rome Declaration of the Ministers of Culture, unanimously approved, is made up of 32 qualifying points. In the document, very strong expressions appear on the fight against discrimination, on the defense of human rights and on the enhancement of diversity,” Franceschini added during the session.

“The Saudi approach on culture is definitely interesting as it is an innovative and proactive one.  And proactivity and innovation are definitely what is needed most in this difficult period,” Italian Undersecretary for Culture Lucia Borgonzoni told Arab News at the end of the meeting, whose plenary session was held in the spectacular scenario of the Coliseum.

“Like Italy, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia sees cultural and artistic heritage as drivers for economic development but also as a way of preserving identities and opening up to other cultures,” she added.


Saudi Arabia’s diverse topography attracts stargazers amid summer vibes

Mountains typically offer stargazers clear skies in an environment free of clouds, light pollution and dust, and with its different terrains and huge size. (SPA)
Mountains typically offer stargazers clear skies in an environment free of clouds, light pollution and dust, and with its different terrains and huge size. (SPA)
Updated 31 July 2021

Saudi Arabia’s diverse topography attracts stargazers amid summer vibes

Mountains typically offer stargazers clear skies in an environment free of clouds, light pollution and dust, and with its different terrains and huge size. (SPA)
  • Its mountains, valleys, plains, deserts are perfect escape for people trying to avoid bright city lights to observe night sky
  • Stargazing offers an obvious opportunity for the Kingdom to further diversify its tourism offering as it seeks to boost non-oil industries in line with Vision 2030

JEDDAH: Saudi Arabia’s size and diverse topography make it an ideal location for astronomy enthusiasts. Its mountains, valleys, sand dunes, hills, plains and large deserts are a perfect escape for people trying to avoid the bright city lights to observe the night sky.

Mulham Hindi, an astronomy researcher, told Arab News that the best place to observe the night sky is far away from light pollution caused by human settlements.
“It is also best in locations where cloud cover is low. With its different terrains and huge size, Saudi Arabia is a suitable place for observing stars and even building observatories,” Hindi said.
He added that there are many locations in Saudi Arabia that are perfect places for astronomers and stargazers, citing Bani Malik, 150 kilometers south of Taif as a prime example.
“The (height above sea level) of that mountainous area reduces the percentage of moisture and atmospheric impurity,” he explained. “Its throughout-the-year cloud cover is less than 25 percent.”
Hindi also mentioned Al-Figrah mountain, west of Madinah, as one of the best areas for stargazing, as the mountain stands an estimated 6,000 feet above sea level.
“With their moderate weather, the northwestern regions of the Kingdom — which include AlUla, the Red Sea Projects, and NEOM — are among the areas with the least light pollution, (so) stargazers regularly visit,” he added.
Hindi explained that the observation of the stars and planets is deeply rooted in Saudi culture, particularly in the nomadic lifestyle prevalent in the Arabian Peninsula before the discovery of oil.
“Stars are (mentioned in) many Arabic poems that were composed hundreds of years ago and are still cited today,” he said. “It is also part of Saudi culture to observe stars while moving from one place to another, especially in the desert areas.”
Hindi also noted that the night sky above the Kingdom has become a popular subject for photographers in recent years. “These photographers have enriched exhibitions with very beautiful photos of the starry sky of the Kingdom, its distinctive terrains and heritage sites,” he said.
From a scientific perspective, he pointed out, the development and growing popularity of astronomy have encouraged Saudi astronomers to examine the planets, galaxies and stars more thoroughly than ever before, producing “scientific studies and research (that) can significantly contribute to the study of astronomy.”
A few days before his death earlier this month, the head of the astronomy and space department at King Abdul Aziz University (KAU), Dr. Hasan Asiri, spoke to the Saudi Press Agency about the difference between the three main types of terrain for stargazing in the Kingdom — deserts, plains and mountains.
“Deserts are characterized by their aridity and lack of light pollution. They include the desert of the Empty Quarter, the Nafud desert, Al-Dahna desert and Bajada desert, which is located to the west of Tabuk region,” Asiri said.
He added that plains are characterized by stable atmospheric layers and low temperatures and humidity levels. “These include the plains of NEOM, AMAALA the Red Sea islands, Al-Wajh, Al-Shuaibah and Al-Silaa region located to the south of Al-Wajh province.”
Mountains, he explained, typically offer stargazers clear skies in an environment free of clouds, light pollution and dust. He listed Al-Figrah Mountains, west of Madinah; Taif’s Al-Shafa and Al-Hada Mountains; and Mount “Ral,” near Al-Wajh’s Al-Manjor Center as good spots for astronomers. “Several cities can also be added to the list of sites suitable for observational astronomy, namely the northwestern city of AlUla, which is considered one of the Kingdom’s most prominent tourist destinations, in addition to Hail and Tayma, found to the southwest of the city of Tabuk,” he added.
Asiri said that ‘stargazing tourism’ offers an obvious opportunity for the Kingdom to further diversify its tourism offering as it seeks to boost non-oil industries in line with Saudi Vision 2030.
“This issue interests many people, especially now that the Kingdom is steadily moving forward towards establishing an actual tourism sector and ensuring its sustainability through a comprehensive national development plan,” he said.
“Establishing additional stargazing reserves allows us to create new and exceptional tourist destinations that are at the same time entertaining and educational,” he continued. “It also enables us to organize astronomical events, such as world space weeks or astronomy days, activate public and private space domes, and participate in scientific activities related to astronomical events — such as observing solar and lunar eclipses, shooting stars and planets. This approach would combine science with the joy of observing the night sky.”
The Kingdom is already home to several observatories, he noted, including those in Makkah, Al-Wajh and Halat Ammar, as well as the mobile observatories in Sudair, Tumair, Shaqra, Qassim, Dammam, Madinah and Hail. Meanwhile, the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques Center for Crescents and Astronomy, located at the top of Makkah’s Clock Tower, is considered the largest network of astronomical telescopes in the world.
According to the head of the Qatif Astronomy Society, Dr. Anwar Al-Mohammed, the Milky Way is one of the best astronomical phenomena to observe.
“It is the galaxy in which our sun and the solar system are located. It (consists of) more than 100 billion solar masses,” he explained. “At night, the Milky Way appears as a band of light in the sky and its appearance differs between one region and another based on the level of light pollution.”
Al-Mohammed noted that the Red Sea Development Company is currently working on turning an area of the Tabuk region between the provinces of Umluj and Al-Wajh into an “International Starlight Reserve,” by limiting the use of unnatural lighting in the Red Sea Project at night.
This, he said, could qualify the area as an International Dark Sky Reserve (a region characterized by “an exceptional or distinguished quality of starry nights and nocturnal environment that is specifically protected for its scientific, natural, educational, cultural, heritage and/or public enjoyment”), which requires the approval of the International Dark-Sky Association (IDA).
If it were to be granted membership, he explained, “it would be joining more than 100 international sites that have abided by strict measures when supporting their communities to achieve this goal, and restore the amazing relationship between mankind and the stars.”


Saudi study documents safety of AstraZeneca

The logo for AstraZeneca is seen outside its North America headquarters in Wilmington, Delaware, U.S. (REUTERS file photo)
The logo for AstraZeneca is seen outside its North America headquarters in Wilmington, Delaware, U.S. (REUTERS file photo)
Updated 31 July 2021

Saudi study documents safety of AstraZeneca

The logo for AstraZeneca is seen outside its North America headquarters in Wilmington, Delaware, U.S. (REUTERS file photo)
  • No major side effects were observed, no breakthrough infection was reported

JEDDAH: A Saudi study has documented the safety of the AstraZeneca vaccine used to protect people against the coronavirus.

The results of the study, titled the “Safety and Reactogenicity of the ChAdOx1 (AZD1222) COVID-19 Vaccine in Saudi Arabia,” were shared on Friday by the deputy minister of preventive health, Abdullah Assiri.
The cross-sectional study, conducted on 1,592 randomly selected vaccinees, measured the “estimated the safety and reactogenicity of the ChAdOx1-S vaccine as administered to adults after the first dose.”
No major side effects were observed and no breakthrough infection was reported during the observation period.
The results showed that 34.7 percent of the studied group reported a reaction after the first dose while none of the group had any reaction after the second.
Some of the side effects reported among the group were injection site pain in 30.5 percent, musculoskeletal symptoms in 27.5 percent, while 62.4 percent of males experienced more fever than females (37.6 percent).
The study also concluded that the rate of post-vaccine COVID-19 infection was 0.5 percent with zero hospitalization.

INNUMBERS

524,584 Total cases

505,003 Recoveries

8,226 Deaths

11,355 Active cases

“The data showed that the vaccine is well tolerated with differences in the reactogenicity between males and females. In the follow-up period, there was no reported COVID-19 infection, hospital admissions or death,” the study found. “However, the prevalence of the different variants in Saudi (Arabia) is not reported. In an international phase clinical trial, a single dose of the Ad26.COV2.S vaccine showed 67 percent efficacy in preventing moderate to severe–critical COVID-19 as evaluated 14-28 days after the dose administration. The efficacy against severe–critical COVID-19 was 77-85 percent as evaluated 14-28 days post after administration.”
Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia on Friday reported 14 more COVID-19-related deaths, taking the overall toll to 8,226.
There were 1,187 new cases, meaning that 524,584 people in the country had contracted the disease. A total of 11,355 cases remained active, of which 1,395 patients were in critical condition.
In addition, the ministry said that 1,176 patients had recovered from the disease, increasing the total number of recoveries in the Kingdom to 505,003.
Meanwhile, 26,395,789 people in the country to date have received a jab against COVID-19, including 1,458,482 elderly people.


Saudi Arabia will not tolerate human trafficking crimes, says attorney general

Sheikh Saud bin Abdullah Al-Mujib. (Supplied)
Sheikh Saud bin Abdullah Al-Mujib. (Supplied)
Updated 31 July 2021

Saudi Arabia will not tolerate human trafficking crimes, says attorney general

Sheikh Saud bin Abdullah Al-Mujib. (Supplied)
  • “The system stipulates a number of severe penalties for those who carry out any of the criminal descriptions”

JEDDAH: Saudi Arabia’s Bureau of Investigation and Public Prosecution will not tolerate trafficking in persons and will take legal measures against the perpetrators of such crimes, the Kingdom’s attorney general has said.

Sheikh Saud bin Abdullah Al-Mujib said that the victims of such crimes would receive special attention from the competent care authorities.

His statement was made in response to World Day Against Trafficking on July 30.

“The Saudi state, since its inception, has been protecting rights and freedoms from all forms of crime and exploitation, emphasizing the Basic Law of Governance and all the systems in force in the Kingdom and international treaties and charters, and designated an independent system concerned with this crime — the Anti-Trafficking in Persons Law,” Al-Mujib said.

“The Public Prosecution is responsible for filing a criminal case against violators of the Anti-Trafficking in Persons Law, as well as inspecting and monitoring shelters for victims of trafficking in persons in order to protect them,” he said. “The system stipulates a number of severe penalties for those who carry out any of the criminal descriptions.”

The bureau has also allocated an independent department to investigate such crimes and undertake the related procedures to deal with them.

Meanwhile, president of the Saudi Human Rights Commission (HRC), Dr. Awwad bin Saleh Al-Awwad, said that the Kingdom was at the forefront of anti-trafficking efforts.

He said that the Kingdom was deeply committed to the protection and promotion of human rights. It had focused on criminalizing and combating trafficking in persons crimes through a variety of measures and procedures that guaranteed human dignity and protected against all forms of degradation and exploitation.

“The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, under the direction of King Salman and the supervision of the Crown Prince Mohamed bin Salman, has made progress in its ranking on TIP (Trafficking In Persons) index reports putting itself on par with developed countries,” Al-Awwad said.

“The Kingdom continues to exert significant and relentless efforts to combat trafficking in persons crimes through a variety of measures, most notably the formation of the National Anti-Trafficking in Persons Committee, the passing of adequate laws and legislations that guarantee the protection of victims and the preservation of their rights,” he said.

Saudi Arabia had made domestic and international commitments by signing and ratifying agreements and conventions, he said.

Al-Awwad said that the Kingdom did not limit its efforts to the passing of laws and legislation that combated trafficking in persons. Rather, it made sure those laws were implemented and respected by creating initiatives and mechanisms to ensure implementation.

Saudi Arabia’s Anti-TIP National Referral Mechanism (NRM) created a national reference and framework to guarantee better Anti-Trafficking in Persons cooperation.

The NRM also helped to raise awareness about the regulatory, legal and procedural aspects of the issue, created principles for dealing with Trafficking in Persons cases, and clarified the roles and responsibilities assigned to various government agencies.

The NRM further helped to promote victim protection, ensured they were able to access the range of services provided to them, and contributed to tracking and addressing cases.

Al-Awwad said that these efforts affirmed the Kingdom’s commitment to the protection of human rights as a deeply rooted principle in the Saudi quest to preserve human dignity.

He said that the committee worked to enhance cooperation with various government agencies, NGOs and international organizations.

Alongside other measures, the committee assigned a national TIP crimes team and organized a variety of training programs to build national Anti-Trafficking in Persons capacities, he said.


Who’s Who: Naif Mosallam Alblawi, GM at Saudi Arabia's General Authority for Statistics

Who’s Who: Naif Mosallam Alblawi, GM at Saudi Arabia's General Authority for Statistics
Updated 31 July 2021

Who’s Who: Naif Mosallam Alblawi, GM at Saudi Arabia's General Authority for Statistics

Who’s Who: Naif Mosallam Alblawi, GM at Saudi Arabia's General Authority for Statistics

Naif Mosallam Alblawi has been the general manager of international relations and cooperation at the General Authority for Statistics (GASTAT) since August 2017.

Alblawi is in charge of developing and implementing strategies with international statistics offices and organizations and monitoring assigned deportment at GASTAT on the international statistical press release to ensure the information and data included for Saudi Arabia is accurate and up-to-date.

He also served as the director of partnerships and statistical coordination at GASTAT from August 2017 to March 2020 and was responsible for supervising and developing a methodology and framework for strategic partnerships as well as preparing the agreements and the special memorandums of understanding and ensuring the clarity and quality of these agreements.

Alblawi also held the position of international data supply unit supervisor, and who established this unit to provide international organizations with data.

He worked as the team leader of the united-ethylene department at the Saudi Arabia Basic Industrial Co. from July 2007 to February 2013. He is known as a highly motivated and professional individual, with an ability to communicate and handle the corporate and multinational environment.

Alblawi attended several international conferences and events. He is a member of the MASDAR committee, a member of the coordinating committees of GASTAT, a member of the Sustainable Development Goals, a member of the Global Innovation Index committee and a member of the UN Statistical Commission that created the high-level group.

He received double majors in international business and a management minor in economics from King’s College, in the US.