Pakistani spends four decades in service of Makkah’s Grand Mosque

Pakistani spends four decades in service of Makkah’s Grand Mosque
Ahmed Khan Qandal, 61, is a sanitation supervisor in Makkah and has lived and worked in Saudi Arabia since 1983. (Supplied)
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Updated 25 September 2021

Pakistani spends four decades in service of Makkah’s Grand Mosque

Pakistani spends four decades in service of Makkah’s Grand Mosque
  • The Pakistani worker witnessed the restoration of the Kaaba during the reign of the late King Fahd and said it was one of the most important and beautiful stages of his life
  • 61-year-old Qandal is a supervisor for sanitation work at the Grand Mosque

MAKKAH: Ahmed Khan Qandal, who came from Mandi Bahauddin in Pakistan in late 1983 at the age of 23, never thought that he would spend the next 40 years of his life in Saudi Arabia, specifically as a sanitation worker at the Grand Mosque in Makkah.
Qandal initially promised his parents he would return home as soon as possible. But Makkah and the service of the Grand Mosque kept him preoccupied as his parents have since passed on.
The years flew by and today the 61-year-old Qandal is a supervisor for sanitation work at the Grand Mosque.
His memory is made up of different Saudi events, the most important of which were the Grand Mosque’s second and third Saudi expansions projects, and the Kaaba restoration project.
“Since I came to Saudi Arabia almost 40 years ago, I felt that I was among family and I never felt alienated,” Qandal told Arab News. 
“Whenever I meet someone new, they tell me how lucky I am
to be able to serve the Grand Mosque and pray there. I was always near the Holy Kaaba and this is a great honor that only a person with a special relationship with God can have. I was blessed to be able to do this work for four decades.”
He noted that he came to Saudi Arabia during the reign of the late King Fahd bin Abdulaziz. 

“I worked in cleaning the outer courtyards, and approximately four years later, the second Saudi expansion of the Grand Mosque happened,” Qandal said. “I was a witness to how Muslims began to perform their rituals more comfortably.”
The Pakistani worker witnessed the restoration of the Kaaba during the reign of the late King Fahd and said it was one of the most important and beautiful stages of his life.
Qandal believes God chose him to witness many significant events, including the third Saudi expansion during the reign of the late King Abdullah.
Aside from his time at the Grand Mosque, Qandal also worked with a cleaning company for 11 years until he moved to the Saudi Binladin Group. Over the years, he became known for his efficiency and hard work.
Working with warm, welcoming people from all over the world is what has stuck out the most for Qandal during his time at the Grand Mosque.
“We were all loving brothers,” he said. “All the workers in the General Presidency for the Affairs of the Grand Mosques and the Prophet’s Mosque operate as a united team to show the Two Holy Mosques in the best way possible.”
Qandal has two sons and a daughter. One of his sons works in the electrical department at the Grand Mosque and the other is with his sister in Pakistan.
He stressed that his wish is to be buried in Makkah, the city he lives in, pointing out that whoever lives in the service of the Two Holy Mosques cannot in any way feel bored or lonely.
“Happiness, love, harmony, tolerance, mercy, and peace can be found in all corners of the Grand Mosque,” Qandal said. “Where Muslims coming from all over the world come to praise God.”


KSA, Egypt discuss environmental cooperation

KSA, Egypt discuss environmental cooperation
Updated 59 min 24 sec ago

KSA, Egypt discuss environmental cooperation

KSA, Egypt discuss environmental cooperation
  • The men praised their countries’ successful cooperation in the field of environmental protection

CAIRO: Egypt’s Environment Minister Yasmine Fouad and her Saudi counterpart Abdulrahman Al-Fadley discussed environmental cooperation between their two countries.

They praised their countries’ successful cooperation in the field of environmental protection, with Fouad saying the environment is a priority for Egypt’s leadership.

She also welcomed cooperation with Saudi Arabia in terms of converting waste into energy.

The two sides discussed cooperation in the fields of coastal management, marine policies, environmental monitoring, management of chemicals and hazardous waste, and integration of environmental knowledge into educational curricula.

Al-Fadley expressed his aspiration to cooperate with Egypt in the field of water desalination and reusing extracted salt.

The two sides agreed to focus on cooperating to preserve the Red Sea, with Fouad noting its richness in coral reefs and marine life.


Saudi envoy to UK details rapid modernization under crown prince

Saudi envoy to UK details rapid modernization under crown prince
Updated 56 min 58 sec ago

Saudi envoy to UK details rapid modernization under crown prince

Saudi envoy to UK details rapid modernization under crown prince
  • Prince Khalid: “We have a very young population. They want a different world”
  • “I grew up with religious police telling us what to do, but now it’s about letting people make their own choices”

LONDON: The Saudi ambassador to Britain has praised the wide-ranging modernization efforts carried out by the Kingdom’s leadership.

“In the last five years the pace has been huge — 1,000 laws have been altered or removed,” Prince Khalid bin Bandar bin Sultan told The Times.

“There is a misconception about Saudi that we never change, but going back 100 years it’s been dramatic. My grandfather went to work on horseback, my father flew fast fighter jets, and my cousin went into space.”

Prince Khalid said the way the Kingdom legislates for women is also changing. “Just before I was posted here (in the UK), I went back for two days and I called one of my sisters and said, ‘Let’s go for a coffee. Shall I come and pick you up?’ and she said, ‘No, I’ve got my car.’ It brought a real smile to my face,” he said.

“Ten years ago it would have been unthinkable for her to have a job, let alone drive. We are still a very conservative society but we have a very young population. They want a different world.”

The ambassador, who attended the prestigious Eton College before Oxford University and Sandhurst, said: “I feel very Saudi, but I was brought up in the West.” 

His links to Britain are strong, not only through being educated in the UK but also through his English wife Lucy Cuthbert, a niece of the duke of Northumberland.

Prince Khalid has seen some of the modernization he witnessed in Britain appearing in his homeland, including mobile phones, which he said have made a huge difference to Saudi society.

“We have one of the highest percentages of phones per capita in the world, nearly three phones per person,” he added.

“The young are all over Instagram. In my generation, there wasn’t much entertainment at home so we had to go abroad. Now the young want to go to shops and cinemas, and there has been an explosion of events,” he said.

“There are women-only sections but no enforced separation. I grew up with religious police telling us what to do, but now it’s about letting people make their own choices.”

He told The Times that his sister said she “discovered there wasn’t a glass ceiling — it was more of a soft tent and she could push it out.”

The ambassador said 34 percent of the Saudi workforce is made up of women, dramatically leaping from 18 percent in 2016.

“We have had our first graduation for women in the army, there are women in government, in the police, we are training female judges, we have an equal opportunities and equal pay law,” he added.

Prince Khalid also detailed the rapid expansion of the Saudi tourism industry, including the giga-projects being planned. 

“In 2019 we launched our tourist visa online. We issued 440,000 visas before the pandemic started, 60,000 to the UK,” he said.

“We are developing resorts with a Red Sea project and NEOM, a new futuristic city. Saudi Arabia is the size of Western Europe. We also have 330 heritage sites.” These giga-projects are part of $7 trillion of investment under the Vision 2030 reform plan.

The Kingdom is expected to participate in the UN Climate Change conference, also known as Cop26, in Glasgow later this month. 

“We decided to move away from fossil fuels in 2016. We don’t want to be an oil provider but an energy provider,” said Prince Khalid. “We have committed to producing 50 percent of our energy by renewable sources by 2030.”


Who’s Who: Alaa Abdulaal, VP at the global Digital Cooperation Organization

Who’s Who: Alaa Abdulaal, VP at the global Digital Cooperation Organization
Updated 16 October 2021

Who’s Who: Alaa Abdulaal, VP at the global Digital Cooperation Organization

Who’s Who: Alaa Abdulaal, VP at the global Digital Cooperation Organization

Alaa Abdulaal has been the vice president of strategy and governance at the Digital Cooperation Organization since September 2021.

The organization, a global multilateral entity that aims at increasing social prosperity through accelerating the growth of the digital economy, was established by a group of countries that share an interest in collaborating to realize their collective digital potential. These countries are Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Jordan, Kuwait, Nigeria, Oman, and Pakistan.

Prior to joining the organization, Abdulaal had served for more than a year as the director of IT strategy and governance at the Ministry of Transport and Logistic Services. For over nine years, beginning in 2011, she worked for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs as a database unit leader, technical operation strategist, and a strategic planning and development manager.

In the latter role she established key performance metrics, designed reporting solutions, and promoted the use of structured information to drive enhanced business performance. She also led critical communication development and business reporting.

In 2015, she spent eight months as a research intern at Riva Modeling Systems in Toronto, where she demonstrated a strong interest and aptitude for user experience.

Before that, she worked for more than four years as a database administrator at the Saudi Exchange Market. There, she helped enhance the database’s performance and security. Her job responsibilities also included evaluating the proposed auditing systems and developing the availability process from scratch with the IT service management project consultants. Moreover, she created availability dashboards for Tadawul production services.

Abdulaal received a bachelor’s degree in computer science in 2006 from King Saud University, where she graduated with first class honors. In 2014, she obtained a master’s degree, majoring in applied computing, with the highest GPA result.

She is a certified strategic business planner and a professional business process manager.


Saudi air defenses destroy Houthi drone targeting Jazan

Saudi air defenses destroy Houthi drone targeting Jazan
Updated 16 October 2021

Saudi air defenses destroy Houthi drone targeting Jazan

Saudi air defenses destroy Houthi drone targeting Jazan

RIYADH: Saudi air defenses intercepted a Houthi drone aimed at Jazan, the Arab coalition said early Saturday.

The Houthis consistently target civilian infrastructure in the Kingdom using explosive drones.

The Kingdom has labeled Houthi attempts to target civilians as war crimes.

Earlier this month, attacks on Abha and Jazan airports in southern Saudi Arabia sparked widespread condemnation of the militia’s tactics of targeting civilian sites.

The Arab coalition has been fighting the Iran-backed Houthis, after the militia seized Yemen’s capital, Sanaa, in 2014.

Saudi Arabia as repeatedly said the only way to a peaceful Yemen is through dialogue, and has called on the Houthis to end the fighting. The Riyadh Initiative, which was launch by the Kingdom in March, includes a nationwide ceasefire and a plan to reopen Sanaa airport. The plan has been rejected by the Houthis.

Fighting in Marib province has claimed thousands of lives, among both government and Houthi forces. The resource-rich region has been heavily contested as the militia seek to strengthen their control of northern Yemen.

The Arab coalition said on Friday that ten military vehicles were destroyed and over 180 Houthis killed in operations it carried out in Abedia, a district in Marib that has been under siege since Sept. 23.

The Houthi action in Abedia has hindered the movement of civilians and impeded humanitarian aid flows, including medical supplies, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said earlier this week.

The war, which has now lasted for seven years, has cost thousands of Yemenis their lives and has forced many more to depend on humanitarian assistance.

Saudi relief agency, KSrelief, has poured billions of dollars worth of aid into Yemen and has hundreds of projects focusing on food and health.


Saudi FM discusses Mideast peace concerns with US officials

Saudi FM discusses Mideast peace concerns with US officials
rince Faisal bin Farha
Updated 16 October 2021

Saudi FM discusses Mideast peace concerns with US officials

Saudi FM discusses Mideast peace concerns with US officials

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan met with US National Security Council Coordinator for the Middle East and North Africa Brett McGurk, the director of Middle East and North Africa affairs at the US National Security Council, Ambassador Barbara Leaf, and the Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs Yale Lambert on the sidelines of his visit to Washington, DC.

During the meeting, they reviewed Saudi-US relations and opportunities to enhance them in all fields. Joint efforts to lay the foundations for peace, security and stability in the Middle East and the wider world were also discussed.

The Kingdom’s efforts and initiatives to reach a political solution in Yemen in a way that supports the development and stability of the Yemeni people was also discussed during the meeting, in addition to the most prominent developments regarding the Iranian nuclear agenda.