New electronic Qur’an to help blind and visually impaired at Makkah’s Grand Mosque

New electronic Qur’an to help blind and visually impaired at Makkah’s Grand Mosque
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Sheikh Abdulrahman Al-Sudais handing out the Haramain electronic Qur’an to a blind man. (Supplied)
New electronic Qur’an to help blind and visually impaired at Makkah’s Grand Mosque
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The General Presidency for the Affairs of the Two Holy Mosques (GPH) will soon provide digital versions of the Holy Qur’an, designed and assigned for the blind who visit the Makkah’s Grand Mosque. (Supplied)
New electronic Qur’an to help blind and visually impaired at Makkah’s Grand Mosque
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Haramain electronic Qur’an for blinds. (Supplied)
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Updated 26 December 2021

New electronic Qur’an to help blind and visually impaired at Makkah’s Grand Mosque

New electronic Qur’an to help blind and visually impaired at Makkah’s Grand Mosque
  • Nearly 6 inches long and 4 inches wide device enables users to smoothly move pages using high-quality Braille cells
  • First phase of project took nearly 10 months

JEDDAH: An electronic Qur’an is being introduced at Makkah’s Grand Mosque to help blind and visually impaired Muslims.

Advanced braille-based technology is being used to create the Haramain electronic Qur’an, allowing blind and visually impaired visitors and pilgrims to read and access the verses of Islam’s holy book more easily.

Ghazi Al-Thubyani, from the General Presidency for the Affairs of the Two Holy Mosques, said special shelves were being prepared for the 100 electronic braille devices that had been designed for the visually impaired.

The device, which is nearly six inches long and four inches wide, means users can move smoothly between pages using high-quality braille cells.

“Each cell can accommodate six dotted points, as well as 10 digital keys that allow the users to enter the page number for swift navigation, as well as rotation buttons. They can also scroll the lines on each side of the texts in braille,” Al-Thubyani told Arab News. “This service will be provided very soon. We are nearly finished with preparing shelves for these devices to be at the reach of the sightless worshippers who visit the holy mosque.”

He added that the Grand Mosque offered paper copies of the Qur’an in Braille in addition to the new devices. “Each mus’haf (Qur’an copy) consists of six volumes. We also have booklets in braille tailored for blind children to help them learn about monotheism and the basics of Islam.”

HIGHLIGHTS

• As part of its plans to digitalize the services provided, the presidency has been making every effort to facilitate people’s experience when visiting the Two Holy Mosques.

• Misha’al Al-Harasani, who led the team that created the new device, previously described his invention as an electronic board with 28 characters.

Blind and visually impaired Muslims experience challenges when reading Qur’an copies available in braille. They need to have up to six paper volumes to read the sacred 600-page book. As part of its plans to digitalize the services provided, the presidency has been making every effort to facilitate people’s experience when visiting the Two Holy Mosques.

Al-Thubyani said that the project’s first phase, which took nearly 10 months, focused on the Qur’an. There will be another phase in which the elucidations and explanations of the Holy Qur’an will be added using the same technology.

The presidency was keen to utilize technology in all its services at the Two Holy Mosques and that their plans complied with the Kingdom’s Vision 2030, he added.

The visually impaired can read the Qur’an easily and navigate through the pages the same way as the entire Qur’an is registered on the board.

Misha’al Al-Harasani

The project began when a meeting at the presidency concluded that the help of inventors should be sought to come up with a device that could spare the exertions and time of the blind and visually impaired when they were reading paper copies of the Qur’an in braille.

Misha’al Al-Harasani, who led the team that created the new device, previously described his invention as an electronic board with 28 characters. Each character had six braille letters, and the board page contained 28 rows.

“The visually impaired can read the Qur’an easily and navigate through the pages the same way as the entire Qur’an is registered on the board,” Al-Harasani told Arab News in an earlier interview.

He explained how the digital mus’haf would ease the process of reading the Qur’an for the visually impaired, compared with the regular version of the Qur’an in braille.

“The visually impaired read the Qur’an in braille in six large volumes that make it difficult for them to reach the page, passage, or surah. Carrying them and storing them is difficult, too, because of the size.”

He was inspired to create the digital mus’haf when he visited the King Fahd Complex for the Printing of the Holy Qur’an in Madinah to participate in a Qur’an teaching seminar for those with special needs.

“With the help of my team, I researched on the reading of the Qur’an for those with special needs, especially for the visually impaired. And from there, the idea of creating a digital mus’haf for the visually impaired came to be.”

Al-Harasani, whose previous inventions for the visually impaired include a mobile phone, a currency, and a plane passenger seat, said that part of the team he was working with were visually impaired individuals.


Saudi Arabia’s Hajj minister to inaugurate grand symposium

Saudi Arabia’s Hajj minister to inaugurate grand symposium
Updated 24 sec ago

Saudi Arabia’s Hajj minister to inaugurate grand symposium

Saudi Arabia’s Hajj minister to inaugurate grand symposium

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s Minister of Hajj and Umrah Dr. Tawfiq Al-Rabiah will inaugurate the 46th edition of the Grand Hajj Symposium on Sunday, Saudi Press Agency reported.

The symposium, called “Hajj after the Pandemic... Rituals and Care,” will be attended by scholars and intellectuals from the Kingdom and Muslim countries.

The event will last two days and Al-Rabiah will speak at the opening session.

Other speakers include the President of the General Presidency for the Affairs of the Two Holy Mosques Dr. Abdulrahman Al-Sudais, Algerian Minister of Religious Affairs and Endowments Youssef Belmahdi, Pakistani Minister of Religious Affairs and Interfaith Harmony Mufti Abdul Shakoor, and Jordanian Minister of Awqaf, Islamic Affairs and Holy Places Dr. Mohammed Ahmed Al-Khalayleh.

The ministry aims to highlight the role that the Kingdom has played in serving Hajj and pilgrims since the inception of Saudi Arabia, and to highlight the most important achievements, pioneering projects and successive developments in the holy sites that serve Muslims.


Saudi King Salman appoints Shihana Alazzaz as deputy secretary of council of ministers

Saudi King Salman appoints Shihana Alazzaz as deputy secretary of council of ministers
Updated 20 min 45 sec ago

Saudi King Salman appoints Shihana Alazzaz as deputy secretary of council of ministers

Saudi King Salman appoints Shihana Alazzaz as deputy secretary of council of ministers

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia's King Salman appointed Shihana Alazzaz as the Deputy Secretary of the Council of Ministers, in a royal decree announced on the Saudi Press Agency. 

Alazzaz was one of the first women licensed to practise law in Saudi Arabia. She was also the General Counsel at Public Investment Fund. 

The royal decree also listed a few a other appointments, including:

- His Highness Prince Abdul Rahman bin Muhammad bin Abdulaziz Al Muqrin is appointed as an advisor at the Royal Court with the rank of Minister.

- Bandar bin Obaid bin Hammoud Al-Rasheed appointed as Secretary to His Highness the Crown Prince, with the rank of Minister. 

- Ahmed bin Sufyan Al-Hassan, as Assistant to the Minister of Transport and Services

- Abdulaziz bin Hamad bin Saleh Al-Rumaih, as Deputy Minister of Health for Planning and Development

- Khalid bin Walid Al-Zaher, Deputy Governor of the Central Bank of Saudi Arabia


Saudi medical team saves life of Iranian Hajj pilgrim in Makkah

Iranian pilgrim Hussain Qasmi Jalmrazy is shown recovering at the emergency room of Makkah's King Abdullah Medical City.
Iranian pilgrim Hussain Qasmi Jalmrazy is shown recovering at the emergency room of Makkah's King Abdullah Medical City.
Updated 03 July 2022

Saudi medical team saves life of Iranian Hajj pilgrim in Makkah

Iranian pilgrim Hussain Qasmi Jalmrazy is shown recovering at the emergency room of Makkah's King Abdullah Medical City.
  • The medical team offered to perform an open heart operation, but the patient refused this medical procedure

MAKKAH: A specialized team from Makkah’s King Abdullah Medical City has successfully performed an emergency cardiac catheterization procedure to save the life of an Iranian pilgrim on Saturday, the Saudi Ministry of Health said.

In a statement carried by the Saudi Press Agency early Sunday, the ministry said that the Hajj pilgrim was taken to the hospital's emergency department when he complained of severe chest pain while he was on his way to the Grand Mosque in Makkah to perform prayers.

A digital copy of the Iranian pilgrim's Hajj tag, shared on social media by Ekhbariyah TV.

The patient was identified in his Hajj tag as Hussain Qasmi Jalmrazy, from Isfahan in central Iran.

Specialists performed an urgent diagnostic catheterization after examination results "showed the presence of blockage of more than two arteries in the heart," according to the Health Ministry.

The medical team offered to perform an open heart operation, but the patient refused this medical procedure. It was then decided to insert stents instead in the damaged arteries, enabling the patient to recover and continue his pilgrimage, the statement said.

King Abdullah Medical City, with full the support from the Saudi government, offers specialized health care for all Hajj and Umrah pilgrims.

A million Muslims from around the world will perform the Hajj this year, up from only 60,000 vaccinated pilgrims in 2021 and a symbolic 1,000 pilgrims in 2020 at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. 


Thai citizens share their joy performing Hajj

The second group of Thai pilgrims arrived at Prince Mohammed bin Abdulaziz International Airport in Madinah on June 11.
The second group of Thai pilgrims arrived at Prince Mohammed bin Abdulaziz International Airport in Madinah on June 11.
Updated 03 July 2022

Thai citizens share their joy performing Hajj

The second group of Thai pilgrims arrived at Prince Mohammed bin Abdulaziz International Airport in Madinah on June 11.
  • Arabic teacher Mamu Kayah and businessman Arong Samae praise Saudi and Thai officials for smooth journey

RIYADH: Two Thai pilgrims performing Hajj for the first time have expressed their joy at arriving in Saudi Arabia after not being able to do so because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Hajj is the opportunity of a lifetime for me. I could not hold back the tears when I saw the Kaaba for the first time. If I am able to perform Hajj after this time, I intend to perform Umrah every year, God willing. Hajj means everything to me,” Arong Samae told Arab News.

Samae from Narathiwat Province, located in the south of Thailand, is a businessman who is undertaking the pilgrimage with his wife this year.

“I seize this opportunity to express my heartfelt thanks to the government of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques for its gigantic efforts by which Muslims can visit the city of the Prophet (Madinah) and Makkah once again, and I pray to God Almighty to grant it more prosperity and progress,” said Samae.

The Narathiwat Province native took a plane from southern Thailand to Madinah Airport directly. He arrived in Saudi Arabia on June 11 and left for Makkah on June 17.

“I have never encountered any difficulties; everything is organized and easy. The Thai Hajj Company supplies everything from start to finish, and the Thai government also provides support and facilities at all stages,” Samae said.

“The trip took approximately eight hours by chartered flight, and I did not expect these facilities, because I heard that the pilgrimage journey is tiring and long, starting with car transfers to the capital, then waiting for the flight for two or three days,” he said.

Samae was surprised to see how quick and seamless the process was: “Thank God, everything (was) easy … Less than 12 hours … and I was in Saudi Arabia, I thank God for that,” he said.

“I prayed to God that one day I would arrive in Saudi Arabia. I also thank everyone who serves the pilgrims, whether they are from Thailand or from Saudi Arabia,” he said.

He said that he wanted to perform Hajj two years ago but was unable to because of COVID-19 restrictions. The pandemic had “changed everything” they wanted to do, he said.

Thai native, 58-year-old Mamu Kayah, is performing Hajj with his wife this year. He is a high school Arabic teacher from Yala, a city in the south of the country.

“I am very pleased to have this opportunity, and I thank God day and night for that. And I am absolutely certain that every Muslim who has come to this pure land shares this feeling with me,” Kayah said.

He told Arab News that this was his third time performing Hajj.

“We are very fortunate to have a direct flight from the far south of Thailand, the state of Narathiwat, which is only a hundred kilometers away from my home,” he said.

“The Thai Hajj company and the Thai Hajj mission did their duty well; everything is organized and tidy, especially with the presence of electronic platforms that contribute greatly to facilitating the procedures from the first day until we boarded the plane to Madinah,” he said.

Kayah took a direct eight-hour flight from Narathiwat to Madinah’s Prince Mohammed bin Abdulaziz International Airport. He thanked the Kingdom and Thailand for providing these routes for pilgrims.

“I heard that organizing the chartered plane was not easy, and it can only be done with the tremendous efforts of the two countries, Thailand and Saudi Arabia,” he said.

Kayah and his wife arrived in Madinah on June 12, traveled to Makkah on June 18, and will return to their home country on July 20.

“It can be said that Hajj this year is very special and completely different from my previous experience,” he said.

“For example, from when I got off the plane at Madinah Airport to my arrival at the hotel, the process took only one hour. Every step is fast and tidy, starting with the procedures in the passports, taking the luggage, riding the bus,” Kayah added.

He added that Saudi and Thai employees were available everywhere to assist. “Above all, the reception from the competent Saudi authority was very wonderful; we felt like one of the VIPs,” he said.

It was an emotional experience for him. “Indescribable pleasure, especially for a person of my age. I always cry when I stand in front of the Prophet’s Mosque and the Holy Kaaba, crying for joy, of course, and it is all thanks to God Almighty,” he said.

“The only issue that worries me and everyone is the high prices of everything; in any case, we understand very well that this thing is not in our hands, so that not only the costs of Hajj increased but in everything and all over the world. Other than that, there are no difficulties,” he said.

Thailand has a post-pandemic quota of 5,885 pilgrims, according to the Thai Embassy in Jeddah, with 3,738 having registered to do so. Before the COVID-19 restrictions, Thailand had a quota of 13,000. In 2018 and 2019, a total of 7,851 and 8,462 pilgrims respectively performed Hajj.

As of June 20, 1,120 pilgrims had arrived in Madinah on Thai Airways charter flights. Four flights arrived in the Kingdom from June 10 to 13. The other 2,618 pilgrims will travel on eight flights from June 29 to Jeddah, five of which are through Thai airways and three are with Saudi Airlines.

As the first groups of pilgrims arrived in Makkah and Madinah on Sunday, Basri Tatif, the deputy head of the Thai Pilgrims Affairs, praised the Kingdom for its organization, and said that his fellow citizens will be able to perform their rituals safely with all the measures in place.


Jeddah Season receives 6 million visitors

The season created numerous opportunities for partnerships with the private sector. (SPA)
The season created numerous opportunities for partnerships with the private sector. (SPA)
Updated 03 July 2022

Jeddah Season receives 6 million visitors

The season created numerous opportunities for partnerships with the private sector. (SPA)
  • Jeddah Season began in May and ended on Saturday, July 2

JEDDAH: Jeddah Season set a new attendance record over its 60 days of events this year. Organizers said 6 million people had visited the season — the highest number in its short history.

Jeddah Season began in May and ended on Saturday, July 2. The number of visitors it attracted suggests the Kingdom’s drive to boost its tourism and entertainment sectors is a success.

The season created numerous opportunities for partnerships with the private sector, as well as a wide range of employment opportunities for young Saudi men and women in stores, restaurants, cafés, markets, or other organizational or logistical services.

More than 80 percent of all employees involved in Jeddah Season were Saudis.