International Hajj and Umrah conference and exhibition underway in Jeddah

International Hajj and Umrah conference and exhibition underway in Jeddah. (Supplied)
International Hajj and Umrah conference and exhibition underway in Jeddah. (Supplied)
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Updated 21 March 2022

International Hajj and Umrah conference and exhibition underway in Jeddah

Makkah Gov. Prince Khalid Al-Faisal (right) and Dr. Tawfiq Al-Rabiah, minister of Hajj and Umrah. (Supplied)
  • Ministry seeks to harness creativity, entrepreneurship, technology
  • Saudia Airlines announces 10 new direct routes for Umrah pilgrims

JEDDAH: An international conference and exhibition of Hajj and Umrah services was launched on Monday at Jeddah Superdome by Makkah Gov. Prince Khalid Al-Faisal.

The three-day event, called “Transformation Toward Innovation,” is organized by the Ministry of Hajj and Umrah in collaboration with the Doyof Al Rahman (Guests of Allah) Program.

It is aimed at coming up with recommendations that serve the Hajj and Umrah sector in line with the Kingdom’s Vision 2030.

Dr. Tawfiq Al-Rabiah, minister of Hajj and Umrah, announced the launch of a challenge to involve entrepreneurs in improving the pilgrim experience.

“Doyof Al Rahman is one of the Vision 2030 pillars as it aims to enrich the Hajj experience. We seek creativity and innovation through cooperation with all government and private sectors to achieve these goals,” he told the conference.

“We support the creative initiatives from young entrepreneurs that would help to achieve our goals, so we launched the Hajj and Umrah Challenge, which aims to collect and implement creative ideas. Over the past 48 hours, more than 1,500 people from all over the Kingdom have applied to this platform.”

The challenge will be in two stages.

The first is a Hajj Creative Hackathon, which will last for three days and seeks to bring doable creative solutions to Hajj services. Winners will receive awards of around SR150,000 (around $40,000).

The second stage targets entrepreneurs and innovators across the Kingdom. They will participate through The Open Innovation Platform to share suggestions and ideas for three months.

This stage will be punctuated by several courses and workshops aimed at bringing more startups and entrepreneurial projects into the Hajj and Umrah sector. These small businesses are to be incubated and supported by the ministry and the Small and Medium Enterprises General Authority (Monsha’at).

Al-Rabiah said: “I hope to come out of this conference with distinguished creative ideas that will achieve the desired goals and more.”

The first day of the conference included three sessions from leading speakers, experts, and academics from the Hajj and Umrah sector, in addition to the presence of 30 ministers from around the Islamic world.

The three sessions were: Transformation toward innovation and technology, designing and improving the digital experience in the service of the pilgrims, and innovation and pioneering actions in Hajj services.

The speakers in the first session were Ibrahim A. Al-Omar, director general of Saudia Airlines, Col. General Suliman Al-Yahya, general director of passports, Abdulrahman Addas, CEO of the Royal Commission for Makkah City and Holy Sites and CEO of the Pilgrim Experience Program, and Al-Rabiah.

As Vision 2030 wants to receive 30 million pilgrims, Al-Omar explained how Saudia was preparing to accommodate such a large number.

“That is absolutely doable, and we will implement it by increasing the fleet, increasing direct destinations, and by activating Jeddah airport to be a hub for transit traffic.

“Today we have 144 aircraft and after three years we will add another 38 planes, and this will be reflected in the annual seat capacity of Saudia Airlines. The average number of seats will become 50 million, forming 36 percent as an approximate increase in capacity.”

With direct flights being key to facilitating Umrah visits for international pilgrims, Saudia announced 10 new direct routes to bring this total to 105.

Al-Yahya spoke about the Hajj permit issue procedure and how it could be carried out in the pilgrim’s home country.

“Now, Hajj and Umrah visas are done by fingerprint, and this service is provided in five countries: Malaysia, Indonesia, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Tunisia. So far, it has served more than 277,000 pilgrims since 2017.”

COVID-19 had a huge impact on Hajj and Umrah, especially in terms of capacity and access, but the Kingdom developed apps in response to the pandemic whose use extends beyond healthcare.

Al-Rabiah said the Eatmarna app had helped organize access to the Two Holy Mosques and significantly helped reduce overcrowding.

“The application contributed to creating easier entry to the Two Holy Mosques. It helped identify visitors, giving more room for those who still did not get access. It also enabled us to collect and analyze data and set priorities.”

During the conference, the ministry signed partnerships with the Saleh Abdullah Kamel Humanitarian Foundation, Flynas, Saudia, and the General Authority for Awqaf.

The agreements seek to monitor the needs of pilgrims during Hajj, designing and developing products, programs, and projects for pilgrims, developing the capabilities of nonprofit organizations working in Hajj services, and activating the nonprofit sector to monitor its efforts in serving pilgrims.

The speakers at the second session were: Dr. Abdulfattah Mashat, vice minister of Hajj and Umrah, Mohammed Al-Bassami, general commander of the Hajj Security Forces, Abdelmoneim Al-Mahmoud, ambassador plenipotentiary for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Abdullah M. Al-Issa, CEO of Tawakkalna, and Hani A. Dahhan, executive vice president for guest experience in the Pilgrim Experience Program.

Saudi Arabia has developed technology for Hajj and Umrah services, including a Hajj smart card launched last year, and Mashat said there were two main goals that the ministry wanted to achieve.

“Receiving a bigger number of pilgrims and improving the Hajj experience,” he told the conference. "We want to provide pilgrims with an unforgettable spiritual experience with no interruptions. To do that, we are aiming to harness technology and make it a cornerstone of most of our services."

An exhibition on the sidelines of the conference saw the presentation of programs, products, and projects from those working in Hajj and Umrah-related sectors.

The conference will also review the best innovative and effective ideas on topics compatible with the future of the Two Holy Mosques, such as smart cities and building special development zones, through the Hajj Talk platform.

There were also two workshops on the first day of the conference: The art of dealing with pilgrims and design thinking in the field of Hajj and Umrah.

Locals and entrepreneurs are welcome to attend the conference, with tickets available at ticketMX.com.


Jeddah to host 2nd Saudi International Maritime Forum in November

Jeddah to host 2nd Saudi International Maritime Forum in November
Updated 10 August 2022

Jeddah to host 2nd Saudi International Maritime Forum in November

Jeddah to host 2nd Saudi International Maritime Forum in November
  • Event will be attended by experts in maritime security from around the world
  • The event was a continuation of the Kingdom’s contribution to promoting international peace and security

RIYADH: The 2nd Saudi International Maritime Forum will be held in Jeddah from November 15-17.
Organized by the Royal Saudi Naval Forces and held under the patronage of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the event aims to provide a platform for the exchange of views on how best to ensure maritime safety in a rapidly changing global environment.
Titled “Protecting Marine Units and Vital Coastal Sites Against the Threat of Unmanned Systems,” the forum will highlight the threat of such systems and present ways in which they can be dealt with.
Thanking the crown prince for his sponsorship of the event, RSNF Commander Fahd bin Abdullah Al-Ghufaili said it would also discuss the role individual nations and international organizations have to play in maintaining maritime security.
The event was a continuation of the Kingdom’s contribution to promoting international peace and security, he added.
“It also aims to enhance the role of the RSNF in cooperation with marine environment authorities at the national level, and what naval forces of brotherly and friendly countries are doing to support regional and international efforts, ensure the safety of maritime traffic and contribute to sustaining the global economy,” Al-Ghufaili said.
Military specialists and experts from the fields of technology, industry and academia will take part in a series of workshops during the forum, which will also be attended by representatives from government ministries and organizations and international corporations.
The event will also provide a platform for companies from around the world to display their latest equipment, technologies and systems related to maritime security.


Saudi, Costa Rican foreign ministers discuss ways to strengthen relations

Saudi, Costa Rican foreign ministers discuss ways to strengthen relations
Updated 10 August 2022

Saudi, Costa Rican foreign ministers discuss ways to strengthen relations

Saudi, Costa Rican foreign ministers discuss ways to strengthen relations

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan received a phone call on Wednesday from his Costa Rican counterpart, Arnoldo Andre Tinoco.
During the call, they reviewed bilateral relations and ways to enhance them in all fields to serve the aspirations of the two countries.
They also discussed the latest regional and international developments, and issues of common interest.


Authorities foil attempts to smuggle 70 tons of drugs into Saudi Arabia, 70 held

Authorities foil attempts to smuggle 70 tons of drugs into Saudi Arabia, 70 held
Updated 10 August 2022

Authorities foil attempts to smuggle 70 tons of drugs into Saudi Arabia, 70 held

Authorities foil attempts to smuggle 70 tons of drugs into Saudi Arabia, 70 held

RIYADH: Authorities in Saudi Arabia have arrested 70 people accused of trying to smuggle close to 70 tons of the stimulant khat and 618 kg of hashish into the Kingdom, news agency SPA reported on Wednesday.

Col. Misfer Al-Quraini, a spokesperson for the General Directorate of the Border Guard, said land patrols thwarted multiple smuggling attempts in the Najran, Jazan and Asir regions.

Of those arrested, 33 were Saudi citizens, 20 were Ethiopian and 17 were Yemeni nationals, he said.

Initial legal procedures against the suspects had been completed and the contraband had been passed to the relevant authorities, he added.

 

 


Bangladesh extends support for Saudi Arabia’s Expo 2030 bid

Bangladesh extends support for Saudi Arabia’s Expo 2030 bid
Updated 10 August 2022

Bangladesh extends support for Saudi Arabia’s Expo 2030 bid

Bangladesh extends support for Saudi Arabia’s Expo 2030 bid
  • The ambassador presented the letter to the Saudi minister during a meeting at the foreign minister’s office in Riyadh on Wednesday

RIYADH: Bangladesh Ambassador to Saudi Arabia Mohammed Javed Patwary delivered a letter from President of Bangladesh Mohammed Abdul Hamid expressing the country’s support for the Kingdom’s bid to host Expo 2030 in Riyadh.

The letter was delivered to King Salman through the Bangladesh ambassador and Saudi Foreign Minister Faisal bin Farhan.

The ambassador presented the letter to the Saudi minister during a meeting at the foreign minister’s office in Riyadh on Wednesday.

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman announced the Saudi bid in October last year and the formal application was submitted in December during a virtual meeting of the Paris-based Bureau International des Expositions.

The Kingdom has already won significant backing for its expo bid.

In November, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation pledged its support for the Saudi application.

Saudi Arabia’s bid is based on the theme “The Era of Change: Leading the Planet to a Foresighted Tomorrow.”

If the Kingdom is successful, the expo will take place in Riyadh from Oct. 1, 2030, to April 1, 2031.

Saudi Arabia has received a number of international endorsements and emerged as a strong contender.

There are five stages to the candidature process, which will culminate in a vote in late 2023.

During the meeting the Bangladesh ambassador and the Saudi foreign minister discussed cooperation between the two countries, and exchanged views on regional and international issues.

Patwary also reiterated Bangladesh’s fraternity and solidarity with the Kingdom.

The Saudi foreign minister voiced his satisfaction over the relationship between Bangladesh and Saudi Arabia, and said that he was looking forward to deepening the relationship further.


Rock stars: Saudi climbers chase a new high in NEOM

Rock stars: Saudi climbers chase a new high in NEOM
Updated 10 August 2022

Rock stars: Saudi climbers chase a new high in NEOM

Rock stars: Saudi climbers chase a new high in NEOM
  • The single-pitch routes, near NEOM, have become a favorite destination for a fast-growing and tight-knit group of climbers and adventurers
  • Wide variety of rock types in Saudi Arabia could play a huge role in attracting overseas climbers

JEDDAH: Saudi climbing enthusiasts in search of a “new high” have been gathering in the desert near NEOM to try out 100 new routes opened late last year as part of Rise 100, the Kingdom’s first climbing festival.

The single-pitch routes have become a favorite destination for a fast-growing and tight-knit group of climbers and adventurers.

Single-pitch climbing routes are up to a half-rope length (about 30 meters) with an anchor at the end, and are accessible to climbers of all abilities.

Rise 100 last December set the stage for NEOM’s diverse adventure sport offerings, which are designed to encourage greater environmental awareness, educating thrill-seekers beyond just the sport.

Now indoor climbing gyms are opening around the country, while a growing number of events bring international and local climbers together.

The result is a fast-growing community of young, but highly committed, climbers.

Abdul Rahman Abughazala, a 25-year-old mechatronic engineer, said that after developing an interest in the sport in college, “it took over my life.”

The young adventurer’s day now revolves around climbing.

New routes opened in NEOM “mean a lot to the climbing community,” he added.

“Newer climbers can experience different rock types and styles of climbing that are absolutely beautiful. And it is easier for Middle Eastern climbers from the north to visit Saudi and try climbing here,” he told Arab News.

Bolting more routes around the Kingdom will offer climbers more exposure and variety as they learn how to deal with different climbs and rock types.

Pioneering Saudi climber Faisal Al-Dosary said that hard granite rock gave Tanomah, a popular climbing destination in the Kingdom’s southwest, an advantage.

“Granite is stronger and more difficult to break,” he said.

“In NEOM, they are a bit closer to sandy rock, which makes them fragile. Fortunately, the routes are safe because they are bolted extremely deep. These kinds of differences will ensure that the climbers will be able to deal with any type of rock around the world.”

Abughazala agreed that the wide variety of rock types in Saudi Arabia could play a huge role in attracting overseas climbers to the Kingdom.

Al-Dosary, who was part of a team that worked together to open the first dedicated indoor climbing center in Saudi Arabia, said that it is encouraging to see so many younger climbers joining the sport.

“It is a skill that we need to develop at an early age, and it helps with flexibility and strength,” he said.

Follow this path, the climbing veteran said, “and we will have Olympic-level climbers.”

Abughazala said that he is excited about the future “because I know our potential, and I know that it is just a matter of time until our community thrives.”

Growth in the sport will also lead to greater environmental awareness and have “a big impact on the perception of nature,” he said.

“As climbers and nature lovers, leaving the place as it is, or in even better condition, is as important as the action of climbing. It is every single person’s job to care for it as much as the workers or the government body around the area.”

Climbers believe the NEOM routes are merely the start for Saudi Arabia, with the Kingdom’s desert areas and mountains destined to attract climbers from around the world.