Experts discuss digital overhaul in Hajj, Umrah system

Special Experts discuss digital overhaul in Hajj, Umrah system
The 21st Scientific Forum for Hajj, Umrah, Visit Research opened with a documentary highlighting the priority Saudi Arabia places on facilitating Hajj and Umrah pilgrims. (SPA)
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Updated 10 March 2022

Experts discuss digital overhaul in Hajj, Umrah system

Experts discuss digital overhaul in Hajj, Umrah system
  • Prince Faisal affirmed the pride of Saudi Arabia, its leadership and people in serving the pilgrims of the Two Holy Mosques
  • About 30 speakers will discuss the application and governance of digital transformation in the Hajj and Umrah system

JEDDAH: Madinah Gov. Prince Faisal bin Salman on Wednesday inaugurated the 21st Scientific Forum for Hajj, Umrah, Visit Research at the King Salman International Convention Center.

Held under the patronage of King Salman, the three-day forum — titled “Digital Transformation in the Hajj, Umrah and Visit System” — is being organized by Umm Al-Qura University, represented by the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques Institute for Hajj and Umrah Research.

The inauguration was attended by academic researchers with an interest in Hajj, Umrah and visit studies, experts in digital transformation, and representatives from the public and private sectors, financial and educational institutions and youth leaders.

In his speech, Prince Faisal affirmed the pride of Saudi Arabia, its leadership and people in serving the pilgrims of the Two Holy Mosques.

“Since its unification, this blessed country has been exploiting all its efforts and capabilities in the service of the Guests of Allah, and this is reflected in the generous support of King Salman to this forum,” he said.

Prince Faisal added that this patronage demonstrates the priority the leadership gives to pilgrims, Umrah performers and visitors to the holy places.

The governor said that the technical progress Saudi Arabia achieved before, during and after the pandemic has made it one of the best countries to adapt and employ technology in all fields.

Turki Al-Amr, dean of the institute, said that the forum will showcase the latest developments in digital transformation in the field, and provide a platform for sharing ideas and knowledge.

About 30 speakers will discuss the application and governance of digital transformation in the Hajj and Umrah system. Workshops and an exhibition are also being held on the sidelines of the forum. 

The forum will explore three main issues — governance of digital transformation in the Hajj and Umrah system, applying digital transformation to improve the services provided to pilgrims and visitors to the two holy cities, and developing the processes of decision-making and provided services.

In the first session, headed by Amer bin Awad Al-Zaidi, UQU’s vice president for educational affairs, speakers highlighted legislation and regulations to encourage digital transformation.

They also shed light on governance of data sharing, privacy and data security, as well as digital transformation risks and opportunities, and the role of digital transformation in the sustainability of the economy, environment and society.

This session was followed by a speech by the Hajj and Umrah Minister Tawfiq Al-Rabiah, the key speaker in the forum. The minister, who is also a member of the supervisory committee of the institute, underlined his ministry’s efforts in digital transformation for the service of pilgrims.

In the second session, which was led by Abdul-Fattah Mashat, deputy minister of Hajj and Umrah, Abdulrahman Al-Sudais, president of the General Presidency for the Affairs of the Two Holy Mosques, underlined the digital transformation efforts in the Two Holy Mosques.

Other speakers shed light on the roles digital transformation is playing in receiving pilgrims and visitors to the holy sites. Future utilization of artificial intelligence and its effects in improving Hajj and Umrah services were also discussed in the 90-minute session.

Young people are also participating in the Forum’s Hajjathon 2022, a tech competition that aims to connect young generations with the Hajj and is in line with the Kingdom’s efforts to stimulate innovation. Hajjathon activities began a day before the official inauguration of the forum.

Participants are competing in creating creative, technical solutions in the fields of health, catering, waste management, transportation, travel arrangements, crowd management, financial solutions, housing, communication solutions, enrichment of pilgrims’ Hajj experience and awareness.

Through training and workshops, developing innovative ideas and counseling sessions, participants will be able to develop their skills, in addition to building relationships with leaders in the field.


The Saudi Cancer Society launches Hayat initiative

The Saudi Cancer Society launches Hayat initiative
Updated 15 sec ago

The Saudi Cancer Society launches Hayat initiative

The Saudi Cancer Society launches Hayat initiative
  • The initiative provides psychological support and recreational programs to cancer patients struggling with mental health

 

RIYADH: The Saudi Cancer Society has launched its Hayat initiative, Saudi Press Agency (SPA) reported.

Hayat provides psychological support sessions and recreational programs to cancer patients who are struggling with their mental health.

According to the association, the Hayat initiative is based on the values upon which it was founded, which includes reducing the effects of cancer on patients, their families, and society by providing services that allow patients to complete their treatment journey.

Other social services provided by the association include transportation, housing, financial assistance, and psychological support.

Community members can also support cancer patients by donating to one of the initiatives in the association’s online store.


Over 2,000 Pakistani volunteers assist Hajj pilgrims arriving in Saudi Arabia

Over 2,000 Pakistani volunteers assist Hajj pilgrims arriving in Saudi Arabia
Updated 2 min 22 sec ago

Over 2,000 Pakistani volunteers assist Hajj pilgrims arriving in Saudi Arabia

Over 2,000 Pakistani volunteers assist Hajj pilgrims arriving in Saudi Arabia
  • This year, 81,132 Hajj pilgrims will come from Pakistan
  • Volunteers offer assistance and advice to worshippers during their pilgrimage

ISLAMABAD: More than 2,000 Pakistani volunteers have been assisting pilgrims arriving in Saudi Arabia for this year’s Hajj, senior officials told Arab News, ahead of the annual pilgrimage set to commence this week.

One of Islam’s five main pillars of faith, the Hajj was restricted over pandemic fears to just 1,000 people living in the Kingdom in 2020 and 60,000 domestic participants last year, compared with the pre-pandemic levels when up to 2.5 million pilgrims could attend.

This year, with the Hajj pilgrimage set to begin on July 6 and Saudi Arabia having lifted its COVID-19 curbs, the Kingdom will welcome 1 million domestic and foreign pilgrims — and 81,132 of them will come from Pakistan.

Over 2,000 Pakistani volunteers have been assisting Hajj pilgrims from the South Asian country, more than half of whom are Pakistani expats living in Saudi Arabia.

Abrar Ahmed Mirza, Pakistan’s director general of Hajj in Jeddah, told Arab News that “410 Pakistanis who are working in the Kingdom have joined our Hajj mission as local volunteers, while 810 have come from Pakistan.”

The other volunteers had signed up through the Saudi-based Pakistani Hajj Volunteers Group (PHVG), and had received training before they began offering help and advice to the worshippers.

“This year around 750 volunteers will work,” Muhammad Ismail, a central coordinator with the PHVG, told Arab News.

“As per our policy, all volunteers have gone through two mandatory training sessions and are subsequently required to pass an online exam.”

The volunteers are tasked with helping pilgrims get food, access transport, and provide emergency medical aid when required.

Hidayat Ullah, a Pakistani expatriate living in Madinah, said he took leave from his office to join the volunteer mission.

“This is the fourth time I am serving as a volunteer. I am doing this just to serve our country’s pilgrims,” he told Arab News.

Jawad Shafique, another Pakistani volunteer based in Makkah, told Arab News that he wants to help ensure that pilgrims have a smooth stay in Saudi Arabia during their trip.

“We ensure the provision of all basic facilities to pilgrims,” Shafique said.


Kaaba Kiswa to be handed over to senior keeper on Eid Al-Adha

Kaaba Kiswa to be handed over to senior keeper on Eid Al-Adha
Updated 50 min 47 sec ago

Kaaba Kiswa to be handed over to senior keeper on Eid Al-Adha

Kaaba Kiswa to be handed over to senior keeper on Eid Al-Adha
  • The Kaaba is draped in a new Kiswa every year due to the sanctity of the building
  • It is made from raw silk dyed black and is decorated with Quranic verses that are embroidered onto the cloth

RIYADH: The Kiswa of the Kaaba will be handed over to the senior keeper of the sacred building on Dhu Al-Hijjah 10, the president of the General Presidency for the Affairs of the Two Holy Mosques announced on Monday.

The Kiswa will be handed over on the first day of Eid Al-Adha and a new covering will replace it on the first of Muharram, the beginning of the new Islamic year.

Sheikh Abdulrahman Al-Sudais said the Kingdom’s leadership is proactive in everything that raises the level of services provided at the two holy mosques, and that the utmost attention is paid to the Kaaba and its Kiswa.

He added that the Kaaba is draped in a new Kiswa every year due to the sanctity of the building.

The Kiswa is made from raw silk dyed black and is decorated with Quranic verses that are embroidered onto the cloth with gold-plated thread.


Saudi women participating in Makkah’s General Cars Syndicate for the first time

Women are now part of the General Syndicate of Cars for the first time, and the are proud and honored to work during Hajj.
Women are now part of the General Syndicate of Cars for the first time, and the are proud and honored to work during Hajj.
Updated 04 July 2022

Saudi women participating in Makkah’s General Cars Syndicate for the first time

Women are now part of the General Syndicate of Cars for the first time, and the are proud and honored to work during Hajj.
  • ‘Our leadership has made it possible for women to work, especially in all government sectors’

MAKKAH: Women will be part of the General Cars Syndicate in Makkah for the first time since it was set up nine decades ago.

The syndicate is an executive body that arranges and organizes pilgrim transportation through affiliated companies.

I am grateful that women now have more professional opportunities to participate and serve during Hajj.

Binan Basnan, Customer service specialist - General Syndicate of Cars

Khadijah Fida, a journalist and content creator at the syndicate, said: “A lot of women have been assisting with work for Hajj in the Kingdom for decades. I saw my father’s work in this sector, along with my brother and husband, and today I have also participated in it. Our leadership has made it possible for women to work, especially in all government sectors, and play an active role in line with Saudi Vision 2030.

(From L to R) Binan Basnan, Mervat Habhab & Khadijah Fida. (Supplied)

“Today, I represent the General Cars Syndicate in the media, public relations, creating quality material, and monitoring the successes of the transport information center during Hajj. I am proud and honored to be a woman from Makkah who works in the syndicate that greatly and actively contributes to the success of Hajj and the safe transport of pilgrims.

The syndicate is always working on creating and establishing an institutional framework for this association that has made a dramatic difference in transport in Makkah.

Khadija Fida, Journalist and content creator - General Syndicate of Cars

“We experience Makkah’s Hajj and Umrah seasons, and the syndicate is always working on creating and establishing an institutional framework for this association that has made a dramatic difference in transport in Makkah to bring comfort to pilgrims who (earlier) struggled on dirt roads to reach Makkah.”

Mervat Habhab, a customer service specialist at the syndicate’s information center, said that women’s roles had become more noticeable and significant.

“It is my mission to interact and address the situation of every beneficiary, based on their needs, and transport them to the relevant departments for a quick response and intervention. It is an honorable and wonderful mission to contribute to the service of pilgrims when those services were limited to men. In this prosperous era and these blessed days, I have the opportunity to play an important and active part as a woman from Makkah who loves God and her homeland.”

Habhab added that government support motivated them to improve their work performance every year.

Binan Basnan, another customer service specialist at the syndicate, said: “I am proud and honored to work in a great institution such as the General Cars Syndicate that serves pilgrims on their Hajj journey through receiving their inquiries and complaints. I am grateful that women now have more professional opportunities to participate and serve during Hajj. I hope to be rewarded (by God) and thank our government, which gave us these great opportunities.”


Madinah exhibit enriches the visitor experience

There is audio translation, enabling visitors to access the exhibition’s content through dedicated devices. (SPA)
There is audio translation, enabling visitors to access the exhibition’s content through dedicated devices. (SPA)
Updated 04 July 2022

Madinah exhibit enriches the visitor experience

There is audio translation, enabling visitors to access the exhibition’s content through dedicated devices. (SPA)
  • The exhibition presents content in several languages through wall panels and interactive screens

MADINAH: The Exhibition of the Prophet’s Holy Mosque Architecture is considered a historical legacy, as it contains valuable possessions and rare artifacts that enrich the visitor experience.

It is south of the Prophet’s Mosque, over an area of 2,200 square meters, and reviews the history of the building’s architecture since its first construction by Prophet Muhammad and his companions until the expansions of the first, second, and third Saudi states.

These expansions span more than 1,400 years and are witness to the beauty and elaboration of Islamic architecture, its designs, and ornamentations.

In collaboration with the Al-Madinah Al-Munawwarah Research and Studies Center, the General Presidency for the Affairs of Two Holy Mosques is highlighting the architectural dimensions of the Prophet’s Mosque, shedding light on its specialty, status, and architecture, elevating the level of cultural awareness in Islamic civilization, and enriching the visitor experience at an artistic and cultural level through a detailed and comprehensive presentation.

The presidency has also worked on introducing visitors to the features of the Prophet’s Mosque, such as the pulpit, mihrab, domes, canopies, doors, adhan, muezzins, minarets, squares, and the services offered to people.

The exhibition presents content in several languages through wall panels and interactive screens. All exhibition output is in Arabic and English, while the content has been translated into 12 languages.

There is also audio translation, enabling visitors to access the exhibition’s content through dedicated devices. Visiting time is divided into two daily periods from 7 a.m. until midday and from 4 p.m. until 10 p.m.

The exhibition features modern technology, interactive screens talking about architecture, information related to the Prophet’s Mosque, films, and cinema halls.

It also has special halls for valuable objects, including rare and precious items belonging to the Two Holy Mosques and ancient artifacts preserved through the ages.

The experience time in the exhibition is around 40 minutes, with 30 visitors per tour.