Interactive screens guide visitors at Makkah’s Grand Mosque

It aims to facilitate access to ritual sites as well as key locations, including the Mataf. (SPA)
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It aims to facilitate access to ritual sites as well as key locations, including the Mataf. (SPA)
Interactive screens guide visitors at Makkah’s Grand Mosque
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It aims to facilitate access to ritual sites as well as key locations, including the Mataf. (SPA)
Interactive screens guide visitors at Makkah’s Grand Mosque
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It aims to facilitate access to ritual sites as well as key locations, including the Mataf. (SPA)
Interactive screens guide visitors at Makkah’s Grand Mosque
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Updated 22 January 2022

Interactive screens guide visitors at Makkah’s Grand Mosque

It aims to facilitate access to ritual sites as well as key locations, including the Mataf. (SPA)
  • The interactive screens display data in six major languages and provide a QR code

MAKKAH: As part of its plan to develop and upgrade the quality of the guidance system, the General Presidency for the Affairs of the Two Holy Mosques has launched a new service for worshippers, providing them with interactive screens that display the guidance map of the Grand Mosque and its facilities.
It aims to facilitate access to ritual sites as well as key locations, including the Mataf (the area for circumambulation around the Holy Kaaba) and Mas’a building, through providing direct movement paths from the location of the user to the destination.
The interactive screens also display data in six major languages and provide a QR code so that the routes can be viewed via personal devices. 


Madinah welcomes almost 313,000 Hajj pilgrims

Madinah welcomes almost 313,000 Hajj pilgrims
Updated 21 sec ago

Madinah welcomes almost 313,000 Hajj pilgrims

Madinah welcomes almost 313,000 Hajj pilgrims
  • Saudi Arabia is allowing up to 1 million people to join the Hajj this year

RIYADH: Almost 313,000 pilgrims from around the world had arrived Madinah by Wednesday to perform Hajj, according to official figures.

The Ministry of Hajj and Umrah said that 252,140 people had landed at Prince Mohammed bin Abdulaziz International Airport since the start of the first Hajj flights, while 60,731 pilgrims had arrived in the city by land.

A total of 221,267 pilgrims had already left Madinah and were on their way to the holy sites in Makkah, while 91,689 were still in the city, it said.

Authorities in Madinah are working around the clock to ensure the best experience for visitors, the ministry said.

Saudi Arabia is allowing up to 1 million people to join the Hajj this year, welcoming foreign pilgrims for the first time in two years after COVID-19 restrictions meant the annual pilgrimage was limited to residents of the Kingdom.

The General Presidency for the Affairs of the Two Holy Mosques recently launched its operational plan for this year’s Hajj season. It confirmed its readiness to receive pilgrims, saying it had mobilized 10,000 workers to serve them.


Saudi Arabia open to interfaith dialogue to combat religious intolerance, says US Special envoy to combat and monitor antisemitism

Saudi Arabia open to interfaith dialogue to combat religious intolerance, says US Special envoy to combat and monitor antisemitism
Updated 49 sec ago

Saudi Arabia open to interfaith dialogue to combat religious intolerance, says US Special envoy to combat and monitor antisemitism

Saudi Arabia open to interfaith dialogue to combat religious intolerance, says US Special envoy to combat and monitor antisemitism
  • Historian and Holocaust scholar "encouraged" by the Kingdom's openness to interfaith dialogue 
  • Palestine-Israel conflict has led to misunderstanding and animosity between Jews and Muslims 

RIYADH: Ambassador Deborah Lipstadt, US special envoy to monitor and combat antisemitism, said in an interview with Arab News that openness and honesty when addressing important topics such as antisemitism or hate of Muslims is how change can happen.

Repeatedly confronted by real-world antisemitism, she is perhaps best known for the libel suit filed against her, in the UK, by the Holocaust denier David Irving. Lipstadt won the case in 2000, with the judge describing Irving as a “neo-Nazi polemicist” who engaged in “racist and antisemitic” discourse.

Lipstadt’s visit comes ahead of US President Joe Biden’s trip to the Kingdom next month and at a time when US-Saudi relations have been in “one of the downs,” as Prince Turki Al-Faisal said in a previous interview on Arab News’ “Frankly Speaking” when describing the fluctuating but strategic relationship.

On May 24, Vice President Kamala Harris swore in the Emory University historian and professor as special envoy. Only a month later, she made her first international trip to the Kingdom, telling media outlets that “Saudi Arabia is a very important country in the Gulf and it has shown a willingness and openness to hosting me.”

On the sidelines of a roundtable discussion held at Arab News headquarters in Riyadh, she noted how “depiction of the Jew, that in years past, often decades passed, the Jew was demonized. The Jew was spoken about in very derogatory language and that had its impact outside the Kingdom in the rest of the Muslim world.” She added that she has observed the change in notion and was “exceptionally encouraged” upon meeting people who recognize the need for change.

“That’s the first step: Recognizing your own shortcomings, whether you’re an individual, whether you’re a community, whether you’re a family or whether you’re a nation, and saying ‘we want to change.’ Only an honest person can do that. And I have seen some of that here (in Saudi Arabia) and I find that very encouraging,” said Lipstadt.

For years, interfaith dialogue has been encouraged with various religious groups, scholars and leaders alike. Open dialogue is a means of acknowledging and getting to the root cause, as Lipstadt said in the roundtable, and understanding how “prejudice operates, the way in which Jew hatred or antisemitism operates. And more importantly, the way in which hatred of one group morphs into hatred of another group, that the same operating principles in every prejudice, whether it’s racism, whether it’s antisemitism, whether it’s hatred of Muslims, whatever it might be, that it operates the same way.”

She added: “You can’t take what I call a silo approach — I fight one, but not the other. You have to fight across the board, but you also have to take them seriously. And too often there’s been a failure to certainly take antisemitism seriously in many countries. And what I have found so interesting and encouraging here in Saudi Arabia is the way in which things are changing.”

BIO: Deborah Esther Lipstadt

Occupation: Special envoy to monitor and combat antisemitism with the rank of ambassador

Other posts: Dorot Professor of Modern Jewish History and Holocaust Studies

Published works:

- The Zionist career of Louis Lipsky, 1900-1921 (1982)

- Beyond Belief: The American Press and the Coming of the Holocaust (1986)

- Denying the Holocaust: The Growing Assault on Truth and Memory (1993)

- Betrifft: Leugnen des Holocaust (1994)

- History on Trial: My Day in Court with a Holocaust Denier (2005)

- The Eichmann Trial (2011)

- Holocaust: An American Understanding (2016)

- Antisemitism: Here and Now (2019)

Education:

- B.A. from City College of New York

- M.A. and Ph.D. from Brandeis University

Religious and interfaith scholars believe that such discussions and cross-cultural dialogues build bridges, promote peace and are a means toward ending ancient animosities.

In 2016, the American Jewish Committee and the Islamic Society of North America announced a seemingly unlikely alliance of 31 members that included Imam Mohammed Magid and Lipstadt. The announcement came amid growing xenophobia and anti-Muslim rhetoric in the US and across Europe.

Europe and the US have taken different approaches in the postwar era on hate speech and antisemitism, with some European countries making Holocaust denial illegal.

"My country is not perfect. And my president, the secretary of state to whom I report and other leaders acknowledge our shortcomings. And we don’t go out preaching to the world ‘we’re perfect and you should change.’ But what we’re saying is these are issues that concern us within the boundaries of the US and concern us outside the boundaries of the US,” said Lipstadt.

“We don’t come to preach. We come to talk and to teach, and to explore together how things can be made better.”

One of Lipstadt’s main fields of expertise is in serving the Holocaust cause. For decades and over several administrations, she was a historical consultant to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. Bill Clinton and Barack Obama both offered her presidential appointments to the United States Holocaust Memorial Council and President George W. Bush asked her to represent the White House at the 60th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz.

“As a great believer in interfaith dialogue and interfaith work cooperation, it can’t be just dialogue — if it’s dialogue, it’s just words,” she said.

She noted how striking and emotion-provoking Muslim World League Secretary-General Dr. Mohammed bin Abdulkarim Al-Issa’s visit to the former Nazi extermination camp of Auschwitz was for her. Al-Issa joined a group from the American Jewish Committee and prominent Muslim religious leaders in 2020 in what was called an “unprecedented visit.”

“As a scholar of the Holocaust and as someone who has visited there many times, and as a scholar of antisemitism and my knowledge of the change in attitudes and the change in this country and the portrayal of the Jew… I was tremendously moved,” she said.

The dialogue surrounding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has, for some time now, driven a wedge between the religions, with a growing sentiment against all parties involved. Lipstadt believes that people have the issues confused, the political issues in particular, which is something she said “my country takes very seriously.”

“Antisemitism transcends the political issue, the issue of Israelis and Palestinians. It’s not to say it isn’t serious, of course it’s serious, but we can’t wait to address antisemitism until that is resolved. They both should be addressed together,” said Lipstadt.

Saudi Arabia's ambassador to the US, Princess Reema bint Bandar Al-Saud, recently met with Lipstadt and shared with her Saudi Arabia’s meaningful strides in promoting peace, tolerance, and interfaith dialogue.

Lipstadt described the conversation as "wonderful."


Saudi Arabia participates in UN Ocean Conference for first time

Saudi Arabia participates in UN Ocean Conference for first time
Updated 29 June 2022

Saudi Arabia participates in UN Ocean Conference for first time

Saudi Arabia participates in UN Ocean Conference for first time
  • ‘Blue Saudi’ pavilion sheds light on Kingdom’s efforts in ocean regeneration

JEDDAH: June 28 marked the opening of the Saudi pavilion at the 2022 UN Ocean Conference, which takes place in Lisbon, Portugal, and runs until July 1.

The Saudi pavilion, titled “Blue Saudi,” is aimed at shedding light on the health of the Red Sea and the Kingdom’s leading role in researching its unique habitats and ecosystems, and protecting and regenerating the region.

The 2022 UN Ocean Conference, in its second edition, got underway on June 27 and is co-organized by the governments of Portugal and Kenya.

It aims to inspire a global effort to rebuild marine life, emphasizing the critical role that the oceans play in stabilizing climate systems.

The first edition of the conference was in 2017 and took place at the UN’s headquarters in New York.

This year’s conference theme is “Scaling Up Ocean Action Based on Science and Innovation for the Implementation of Goal 14: Stocktaking, Partnerships, and Solutions.”

According to the UN website, Sustainable Development Goal 14 is about “Life below water” and is one of the 17 SDGs established by the UN in 2015. The official wording is to conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas, and marine resources for sustainable development.

In line with the UN Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development 2021-2030, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres stressed the importance of international unity to help oceans and marine life survive. 

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres.

Guterres said in a statement during the opening ceremony of the conference: “The ocean connects us all — sadly we have taken the ocean for granted and today we face what I would call an ocean emergency.”

He added: “We must turn the tide. Global warming is pushing ocean temperatures to record levels, creating fiercer and more frequent storms … Much more needs to be done by all of us together.”

Saudi Arabia has previously announced several key commitments as part of broader ambitions to drive sustainability, including increasing the percentage of marine protected areas to 30 percent of its waters and planting 100 million mangroves by 2030.

Dr. Mohammad Qurban, head of the Saudi delegation to the UN Ocean Conference, said: “Our presence at this globally significant conference demonstrates our commitment to not only taking part in the conversation but sharing the lessons learned about our coastline and oceans.

“The goal is to play a connecting role, bringing together countries who border these waters, to ensure a comprehensive approach to protecting the Red Sea is developed and successfully delivered.”

Qurban, who is also the CEO of the Saudi National Center of Wildlife, said: “Ultimately, the Kingdom hopes to export the scientific learnings discovered and the positive application of innovative solutions, with the rest of the world, as we all unite together to confront some of the biggest challenges facing people and planet today.”

The “Blue Saudi” pavilion showcases many ambitions and ongoing efforts in the field of ocean regeneration.

Since the Red Sea is the world’s warmest and saltiest ocean, and provides a home to extensive coral reef banks and a narrow deep central axis as large in area as the Great Barrier Reef, the Kingdom is highly focused on researching these unique habitats to provide a better understanding of their challenging conditions.

It is also aiming to develop technologies to help expand coral habitats and to enable biodiversity to flourish.

On the opening day, the pavilion hosted an event to facilitate conversations around the role of science and innovation in enabling regenerative development of the Red Sea, and how meaningful partnerships and collaboration, coupled with good governance, are driving positive action in the marine environment.

To register interest and attend the event visit: www.bluesaudi.com


King Salman receives written message from Qatar emir

King Salman receives written message from Qatar emir
Updated 29 June 2022

King Salman receives written message from Qatar emir

King Salman receives written message from Qatar emir
  • Kingdom’s FM and Qatari ambassador to Saudi Arabia discussed bilateral relations and ways of enhancing them

RIYADH: King Salman received a written message from the Emir of Qatar Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani on Wednesday, Saudi Press Agency reported.

The message touched on “brotherly relations” between the two countries and was received by the Kingdom’s Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan during a meeting with the Qatari ambassador to Saudi Arabia Bandar bin Muhammad Al-Attiyah.

The two officials discussed bilateral relations between their countries and ways of enhancing them in various fields during the meeting in Riyadh.

They also exchanged views on regional and international issues of common interest.


Diplomatic Quarter: Palestinian ambassador praises KSA generosity over decades

Diplomatic Quarter: Palestinian ambassador praises KSA generosity over decades
Updated 29 June 2022

Diplomatic Quarter: Palestinian ambassador praises KSA generosity over decades

Diplomatic Quarter: Palestinian ambassador praises KSA generosity over decades

RIYADH: Palestine’s ambassador to Saudi Arabia has praised the Kingdom for its financial assistance and support over several decades.

Basem Abdullah Al-Agha met Ahmed bin Ali Al-Baiz, assistant supervisor general for operations and programs at the King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Center, to discuss issues of common interest related to humanitarian affairs.

Al-Agha told Arab News on Wednesday that the talks followed on from previous meetings with KSrelief, and were “an extension of our gratitude to the Kingdom, King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, and to the generous Saudi people for their ongoing support and the assistance over decades.”

Support from KSrelief reaches about 80 countries, he said.

The center offered assistance to Palestine’s Ministry of Health during the pandemic, including the provision of vaccines.

“It’s our duty to give our gratitude to the center,” Al-Agha added.

He also expressed hope that further assistance will be provided to meet Palestinians’ health needs, including support for hospitals in Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza.

Saudi Arabia remains one of the top providers of financial aid for Palestine.

Between 2000-2018, the Kingdom provided more than $6.4 billion in aid to Palestine, according to the Kingdom’s humanitarian groups.

Khaled Manzlawiy, Saudi Arabia’s deputy permanent representative to the UN, said in May 2020 that the Kingdom is proud to be one of the largest donors to the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East.

“Knowing the role the agency serves for more than 5 million Palestinian refugees — and because of its belief in the (importance) of the Palestinian cause — the Kingdom has supported UNRWA with more than $1 billion since 1994, which the humanitarian organization described as clear evidence of the Kingdom’s wish to ensure Palestinian refugees enjoy dignity and well-being,” Manzlawiy said during a virtual briefing on the investigations of the Office of Internal Oversight Services and various UNRWA initiatives.

Saudi Arabia on April 27 this year reaffirmed to the UN its stance over Palestine, calling for end to the Israeli occupation, the establishment of an independent Palestinian state with Jerusalem as capital, and the guaranteed right of return for refugees.

Mohammed Al-Ateeq, charge d’affaires of the permanent mission of Saudi Arabia to the UN, highlighted the Kingdom’s position during a UN Security Council session on the Middle East and Palestinian situation.