First full Friday prayers at Two Holy Mosques

First full Friday prayers at Two Holy Mosques
Authorties have used all of their human and mechanical resources to implement the plan to return to full capacity. (SPA)
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Updated 23 October 2021

First full Friday prayers at Two Holy Mosques

First full Friday prayers at Two Holy Mosques
  • Worshippers return to holy cities as restrictions eased

MAKKAH: After more than a year and a half, Muslims worldwide were delighted to see Friday prayers at the Two Holy mosques return to full capacity.

Considered the two holiest sites in Islam, painful images of the mosques devoid of worshippers due to the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in March of 2020 affected Muslims everywhere, but particularly citizens of Makkah and Madinah.

“It’s a blessing, to walk in the mosque’s pathways and you’re surrounded by people again,” said Abdullah Mahdi, a private-sector worker and longtime resident of the holy city. “Though masked still, it doesn’t really matter, the place is alive with movement and worshippers again.

“It’s truly a sight to behold and to see the Grand Mosque’s courtyard around the Kaaba filled with people on the first Friday after the easing of the restrictions is a sign that it’ll be alright, God-willing.”

Last Saturday, the Ministry of Interior announced the easing of restrictions across the Kingdom, including those affecting the Grand Mosque in Makkah and the Prophet’s Mosque in Madinah, which are returning to full operations and capacity.

Deputy Secretary-General for the Affairs of the Grand Mosque Dr. Saad bin Mohammed Al-Muhaimid told Arab News that the Presidency of the Affairs of the Two Holy Mosques had used all of their human and mechanical resources to implement the plan to return to full capacity.

FASTFACTS

• Last Saturday, the Ministry of Interior announced the easing of restrictions across the Kingdom, including those affecting the Grand Mosque in Makkah and the Prophet’s Mosque in Madinah, which are returning to full operations and capacity.

• Those working at the Two Holy Mosques had been asked to abide by and enforce the directives issued by the authorities concerned with fighting the coronavirus pandemic to ensure everyone’s safety.

“They did so through an integrated plan of capabilities and services that were harnessed to preserve the safety of the Grand Mosque’s visitors and facilitate the performance of their rites in a spiritual, safe and reassuring atmosphere,” he said.

“Based on the directives of the president of the General Presidency for the Affairs of the Two Holy Mosques, Sheikh Dr. Abdulrahman Al-Sudais, we have accelerated the pace of work and raised the level of readiness in an effort to provide the Grand Mosque’s visitors with better services and means of comfort.

“We have also doubled our efforts since we started implementing the plan to return to full capacity while achieving the highest-quality standards.”

The deputy secretary-general said that those working at the Two Holy Mosques had been asked to abide by and enforce the directives issued by the authorities concerned with fighting the coronavirus pandemic to ensure everyone’s safety.

The ministry and authorities stressed the importance of visitors adhering to the directives included in the Interior Ministry’s statement by wearing face masks at all times inside the Grand Mosque and booking their Umrah and prayer appointments through the official applications (Eatmarna and Tawakkalna).


White House envoy for antisemitism Deborah Lipstadt conducts roundtable discussion at Arab News

White House envoy for antisemitism Deborah Lipstadt conducts roundtable discussion at Arab News
Updated 39 min 24 sec ago

White House envoy for antisemitism Deborah Lipstadt conducts roundtable discussion at Arab News

White House envoy for antisemitism Deborah Lipstadt conducts roundtable discussion at Arab News
  • Deborah Lipstadt discusses role and religious tolerance at roundtable with Saudi journalists

RIYADH: Ambassador Deborah Lipstadt, US special envoy to monitor and combat antisemitism, expressed her delight to be in the Kingdom and said that she deliberately chose Saudi Arabia as her first foreign visit to help generate dialogue and normalize the coexistence of Muslims and Jews.

Ambassador Deborah Lipstadt, US special envoy to monitor and combat antisemitism, and Arab News Editor-in-Chief Faisal J. Abbas at the roundtable discussion at Arab News headquarters in Riyadh on Tuesday. (AN photo by Basheer Saleh)

“I'm overwhelmed by the changes the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is undertaking. You have got a long road, but you are certainly working down that road,” she told Arab News.

HIGHLIGHT

Ambassador Deborah Lipstadt believed the newer generations are actively changing and shifting perspectives, which is something she admired.

Lipstadt was talking on the sidelines of a roundtable discussion held at the Arab News headquarters in Riyadh, where the history of antisemitism and her work confronting it was discussed.

She focused on acknowledging her country’s past shortcomings and hoped that this trip would help start repairing the previous hostile viewpoint of Jews in the region.

She believed the newer generations were actively changing and shifting perspectives, which is something she admired.

The roundtable was moderated by Arab News Assistant Editor-in-Chief Noor Nugali and attended by Adel Al-Harbi, a prominent Saudi media adviser, Saudi columnist Noor Abdullah, and communications consultant and founder of SMZ International Group Sarah Elzeini.

Journalists from Arab News who attended included Nada Al-Turki and Arkan Al-Adnani, as well as members of the visiting delegation from the US embassy in Riyadh.

Arab News editor-in-chief Faisal J. Abbas with Ambassador Deborah lipstadt. (AN photo by Basheer Saleh)

Lipstadt also met Arab News Editor-in-Chief Faisal Abbas and conducted a tour of the newsroom, where she met journalists and editors on staff and was briefed on the newspaper’s own efforts in combating hate speech and promoting religious tolerance.

“I've seen some of the work you've done (at Arab News), the covers, the Minority report: The Jews of Lebanon. You're putting the Hebrew greeting for the new year ‘Shana Tova’ on your front page. That's unimaginable,” she said. “My country is not perfect; your country is not perfect. We have a long way to go, but what I've seen here certainly at Arab News is a great beginning.”

For his part, Abbas welcomed Lipstadt and her accompanying delegation and lauded her remarkable career in standing up against antisemitism.

“We are delighted to receive a guest of the caliber and accomplishments of Ambassador Deborah Lipstadt visit our headquarters in Riyadh, and we are keen to have more such interactions and offer any insight she and her team might need toward this noble cause, which falls in line with the huge reforms we are witnessing in our country,” said Abbas.

Arab News editor-in-chief Faisal J. Abbas with Ambassador Deborah lipstadt. (AN photo by Basheer Saleh)

Prior to Lipstadt’s visit to the Kingdom, she met the Saudi ambassador to the US Princess Reema Bint Bandar in Washington, where they discussed “Saudi Arabia's meaningful strides in promoting peace, tolerance, and interfaith dialogue.”

This is Lipstadt’s first international trip since assuming her role in April 2022. The 11-day trip will include dialogue with senior government and civil society in Saudi Arabia, Israel, and the UAE.

Her engagements during this tour aim to emphasize the need for interfaith understanding and religious tolerance, as well as to combat distrust and anti-Jewish sentiment.

Arab News will publish an in-depth interview with her tomorrow.


Al Jouf University included in QS world university rankings 2023

Al Jouf University included in QS world university rankings 2023
Updated 28 June 2022

Al Jouf University included in QS world university rankings 2023

Al Jouf University included in QS world university rankings 2023
  • The university’s president attributed its success to the Kingdom's leadership for their unwavering support for the education sector

AL JOUF: Al Jouf University, for the second year in a row, was included in the QS world university rankings for 2023, Saudi Press Agency (SPA) reported on Tuesday.

The university also ranked 701st globally and 8th locally, and was included in the Times World University Rankings for the second year in a row for achieving the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.

Dr. Muhammad bin Abdullah Al-Shaya, president of the university, praised the institution's international classifications team as well as the Kingdom's leadership for their unwavering support for the education sector, which contributed to the university's success.

The president was presented with a certificate for the international classification QS.The Governor of Al-Jawf region and the Minister of Education both stated that the university is continuing to expand on its current position and is working continuously to advance in all fields within the Vision 2030 goals, SPA reported.

The Dean of Scientific Research and Supervisor of the International Classification Unit at the University, Dr. Nabil Al-Ruwaili said Al Jouf’s classification is a reflection of its qualitative practices on an educational, research and scientific level.


Misk fellowship competition bootcamp underway in London

Misk fellowship competition bootcamp underway in London
Updated 28 June 2022

Misk fellowship competition bootcamp underway in London

Misk fellowship competition bootcamp underway in London
  • Both bootcamps are designed to equip young Saudis with the skills needed to become effective leaders
  • Misk Fellowship Program 2022 runs for six months and ends in December

LONDON: Saudi students are participating in a competition bootcamp in London this week as part of the Misk Fellowship Program 2022.
It started on Monday and followed the first week of the program, which saw the 60 students participate in a leadership bootcamp.
Both bootcamps, spanning a total of 10 days, are designed to equip young Saudis with the skills and behavior needed to become effective leaders.

Fellows listen to a session presented by Afnan Ababtain  during the competition kickoff bootcamp in London on Tuesday. (AN photo)


Critical thinking, problem-solving, self-motivation, self-awareness, teamwork, and leadership best practices are some of the competencies the bootcamps will focus on.
Abdulrahman Alhenaki, the project officer for the Misk Fellowship Program, told Arab News that the competition kickoff bootcamp would focus on helping fellows find sustainable development solutions to challenges faced by Saudi Arabia with assistance and guidance from Misk partners.

Fellows discuss ideas during the competition kickoff bootcamp in London on Tuesday. (AN photo)


These partners include the Saudi Ministry of Communications and Information Technology, King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology, the Kingdom’s Research, Development, and Innovation Authority, the UN Development Programme, the Small and Medium Enterprises General Authority (Monsha’at), and management consulting firms Bain & Company and Strategy&.
He said the fellows would return to the countries where they were studying once the current bootcamp was over and start the second part of the fellowship program virtually.
“They will start thinking about what kinds of solutions they will come up with to fix these challenges and also participate in other components of the program, including being coached and mentored. We also have placement opportunities to enhance their journey and to make them ready for the job market in the future.”

Fellows listen to a lecture during the competition kickoff bootcamp in London on Tuesday. (AN photo)


Fellows will work in groups of six on their solutions and present them in early September.
“There will be three winners chosen by the judges who will win internships, incentives, and opportunities to participate in other Misk programs. There will also be two other winners. The first will be selected by the audience that day for the best presentation and the other will be selected by the social media audience.”
Dr. Basem Hassan, general manager for technology transfer and commercialization at the King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology, said his organization was helping to guide the students in their challenges.
“Our role in this program is to define the Sustainable Development Goals and challenges facing Saudi Arabia. We defined 12 challenges and, on Monday, we had a session with the students. We presented the innovative ecosystem in Saudi Arabia and all the transformations happening in the ecosystem.

A fellow asks a question during the competition kickoff bootcamp in London on Tuesday. (AN photo)


“We also presented some of the latest technologies and projects in Saudi Arabia addressing global challenges and sustainable climate solutions. Then we talked about the 12 challenges that have been defined for them for the competition, and presented some of the innovative solutions from around the world that address parts of these challenges.”
The director of the women’s and social entrepreneurship department at Monsha’at, Afnan Ababtain, presented a session on Tuesday.
“We are happy to be part of the Misk fellowship. Today we are sharing with the fellows Monsha’at’s strategy in social entrepreneurship and what kinds of services we are providing for social entrepreneurs to make sure that we will have scalable businesses owned by social entrepreneurs,” she said.
Misk fellow Nawaf Bin Awshan told Arab News he was glad to be part of the program.
“It is an insightful program that provides the next generation of leaders with focused points of leadership. This program focuses on how to move students from the student stage to the leader stage. I really enjoyed the first part of the fellowship, the leadership bootcamp. This week, we have started a competition and we will deal with how to solve some of the challenges faced by Saudi Arabia.”
Another Misk fellow, Dana Almudayfi, described the program as “informative and wonderful.”
“This has been a really informative and wonderful program insofar as it has given us the tools to be leaders, which is the most important thing.”
She said she was looking forward to using the skills she had learned over the last two weeks in the workplace.
The program runs for six months and ends in December.


Saudi Arabia forges ahead with health service digital transformation on back of COVID-19 pandemic

Saudi Arabia forges ahead with health service digital transformation on back of COVID-19 pandemic
Updated 28 June 2022

Saudi Arabia forges ahead with health service digital transformation on back of COVID-19 pandemic

Saudi Arabia forges ahead with health service digital transformation on back of COVID-19 pandemic
  • The strain placed on the Kingdom’s health services by the COVID-19 outbreak highlighted the need for more robust apps

RIYADH: The coronavirus pandemic has inadvertently provided the springboard to spur on the digital transformation of Saudi Arabia’s public healthcare sector.

The strain placed on the Kingdom’s health services by the COVID-19 outbreak highlighted the need for more robust apps, such as booking platforms for vaccinations and remote access to patient records.

As a result, the Saudi Ministry of Health has been forging ahead with the introduction of multi-cloud solutions, built on VMware Cloud Foundation, to boost provision to the country’s growing population of more than 35 million people.

The ministry can now offer secure, cloud-based services to a range of public healthcare providers including hospitals, clinics, and pharmacies, significantly boosting their efficiency, and enabling them to grow and innovate.

Health officials have simplified the ministry’s information technology infrastructure by deploying VMware Cloud Foundation as the unifying platform for its cloud environment, spreading workloads across the clouds of service providers including STC and Mobily.

Ministry information security general director, Khalid Al-Medbel, said: “The Ministry of Health seeks to achieve the highest levels of excellence in healthcare in line with the aims of Saudi Vision 2030. This means having the best multi-cloud foundation to optimize operations, raise efficiency, and drive innovation across the country’s healthcare providers.

“Thanks to our digital transformation with VMware, all public healthcare providers will have access to best-in-class cloud services that will improve operations and boost healthcare provision for citizens and residents.”

By utilizing VMware, the ministry has gained access to a complete set of highly secure software-defined services for compute, storage, network, security, Kubernetes, and cloud management. Once fully deployed, Saudi Arabia’s public healthcare system will benefit from the resiliency, agility, and efficiency offered by the shared cloud platform.

Each healthcare facility will have access to virtual infrastructure and as-a-service apps and will also be able to design and deploy apps from the cloud, giving them the freedom to innovate and provide world-class services to patients.

Saif Mashat, Saudi Arabia country director for VMware, said: “The Ministry of Health’s transformation with VMware shows the power of multi-cloud to re-invent healthcare with the highly efficient use of resources, and unleash new levels of agility and innovation.

“We look forward to working in partnership with the ministry as it continues to move workloads to the new environment and offer more cloud-enabled services to healthcare providers across the country.”

Over the coming months, ministry officials plan to deploy more VMware solutions — including for additional cybersecurity and secure distributed working — to bring additional app development capabilities to the Kingdom’s public healthcare providers.


Pathways launched to develop, improve buildings for Education Ministry  

Pathways launched to develop, improve buildings for Education Ministry  
Updated 28 June 2022

Pathways launched to develop, improve buildings for Education Ministry  

Pathways launched to develop, improve buildings for Education Ministry  
  • TBC Building Development Company was set up in 2013

RIYADH: TBC Building Development Company, which is owned by the Public Investment Fund, has launched four pathways to develop and improve buildings for the Ministry of Education.

The first three are for building projects and maintaining, cleaning, restoring, and rehabilitating buildings. The fourth is for furnishing and advisory services. All of them are integrated and planned to cover the Kingdom’s regions.

The first focuses on developing school buildings, multi-use halls, guard housing, canteens, rooms, shaded yards, and other facilities. The project started in 2018, with more than 1,125 school buildings completed.

The second provides maintenance and cleaning services for schools and administrative facilities. The provision of services expanded in 2020, assisting 1.6 million students and 7,137 schools and administrative buildings. It focuses on improving the quality of buildings and adopting digital technologies to provide an efficient educational environment for students.

In the third, the company provides services for the restoration, rehabilitation, emergency maintenance, and enhancements of schools and administrative facilities. The company prepared virtual learning tools for 1,445 schools and 197,000 students during the pandemic.

The fourth features furnishing, maintenance, and advisory services. It aims to support projects and provide solutions for them. Schools and offices have been equipped with supplies for the past three years and services have reached more than 6,300 schools and administrative buildings, creating the proper educational environment for 1.8 million students.

The company launched in 2013 as a government firm owned by the PIF.

It specializes in project management, supervising educational building projects, and the administrative facilities of the Ministry of Education. The company inspects and completes different programs including 628 educational facilities and serves more than 289,000 students in Saudi Arabia.