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.


Saudi crown prince announces ‘national priorities’ for research, development projects

Saudi crown prince announces ‘national priorities’ for research, development projects
Updated 48 sec ago

Saudi crown prince announces ‘national priorities’ for research, development projects

Saudi crown prince announces ‘national priorities’ for research, development projects
  • The twenty-year long aspirations include developments in the fields of health, environmental sustainability, leadership in energy and industry

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman announced on Thursday national aspirations and priorities for the research, development and innovation sector to enhance the Kingdom’s competitiveness, Saudi Press Agency (SPA) reported.

The twenty-year long aspirations include developments in the fields of health, environmental sustainability, leadership in energy and industry, and future economies in line with Vision 2030.

To achieve these goals, the research, development, and research sector will reportedly be restructured with the formation of a higher committee, led by the crown prince, which will enable legislation and regulatory standards in addition to project and budget allocation and performance monitoring.

Throught the program, Saudi Arabia aims to become a global leader in innovation, with targets of annual spending in this sector of 2.5 percent of the country’s GDP by 2040, which will add nearly SAR 60 billion ($16 billion) to the GDP by the same target year.

The program will also create thousands of jobs in science, technology, and innovation, SPA reported.

The Kingdom’s health has been given top priority through the program, which will provide the best in digital healthcare and supplying the world with the latest pharmaceutical technologies based on biotechnological advances.

Saudi Arbaia wants to find “radical solutions for chronic and non-communicable diseases” to increase the life expentancy of the population, SPA reported.

Saudi Arabia seeks to eliminate is water shortage and improve food security, and will be looking to become a global model in preserving the environment and developing water technologies through means like sustainable desalination, and food production through means of green spaces.

This will come in conjunction with existing technologies like carbon capture and low-cost electricity production.

Saudi Arabia will also seek to use its vast natural resources and current advantage as a leading global energy supplier to continue its prominence at the helm while innovating production of alternative energy including green hydrogen, solar, and wind.

Measures will also be taken to ensure the sustainability of the oil demand, SPA reported, in addition to developing the rapidly growing mining sector in a sustainable manner.


Grand Mosque ready to receive worshipers on first Friday of Dhu Al-Hijjah: Presidency

Grand Mosque ready to receive worshipers on first Friday of Dhu Al-Hijjah: Presidency
Updated 30 June 2022

Grand Mosque ready to receive worshipers on first Friday of Dhu Al-Hijjah: Presidency

Grand Mosque ready to receive worshipers on first Friday of Dhu Al-Hijjah: Presidency
  • Cleaning and sterilization operations have been intensified
  • There has been an increase in Zamzam water being distributed to pilgrims and worshipers

RIYADH: The Grand Mosque in Makkah is fully prepared to receive pilgrims and worshipers on Friday, the General Presidency for the Affairs of the Two Holy Mosques has said.

This Friday will one of the busiest during the year as many pilgrims have already arrived in Makkah ahead of Hajj which will start on the 8th of Dhu Al-Hijjah (July 7).

The presidency has enlisted 400 employees to receive worshipers and pilgrims, direct them to the mataf and various other prayer spaces, and regulate entry and exit to and from the Grand Mosque.

Cleaning and sterilization operations have also been intensified and there has been an increase in Zamzam water being distributed to visitors.

Around 4,000 employees clean the Grand Mosque ten times a day using 13,000 liters of disinfectants.

There are 25,000 Zamzam containers dotted around the mosque, 20 smart carts holding 80 litres of water are in operation, and 516 drinking fountains are available.

600 employees have been enlisted at the doors of the mosque to receive visitors and direct them to the correct areas, organize entry and exit, and support security personnel in diverting and directing worshipers when prayer areas get filled up.

100 employees are on hand to help pilgrims perform tawaf and other rituals in accordance with the correct manner, the presidency added.


Saudi Arabia announces vital developmental projects in Yemen

Saudi Arabia announces vital developmental projects in Yemen
Updated 30 June 2022

Saudi Arabia announces vital developmental projects in Yemen

Saudi Arabia announces vital developmental projects in Yemen
  • Initiatives include 17 development projects in 6 sectors, valued at $400 million
  • A further $200 million will provide oil derivatives to operate power stations

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia has announced a number of vital developmental projects in Yemen to bolster the economy, the Kingdom’s deputy defense minister said on Thursday.

“The initiatives include 17 development projects in 6 sectors, valued at $400 million, in addition to $200 million in oil derivatives for power stations,” Prince Khalid bin Salman tweeted.

The projects will be carried out by the Saudi Development and Reconstruction Program for Yemen and aim to help the Yemeni people.

Prince Khalid met with the President of the Yemeni Presidential Leadership Council Dr. Rashad Al-Alimi and members of the council to convey the Kingdom’s support and appreciation for their efforts.

The deputy defense minister said Saudi Arabia is committed to alleviating the suffering in Yemen and achieving security, peace, stability, and economic development.


Saudi Heritage Commission launches partnership with Noon.com

Saudi Heritage Commission launches partnership with Noon.com
Updated 30 June 2022

Saudi Heritage Commission launches partnership with Noon.com

Saudi Heritage Commission launches partnership with Noon.com
  • Local artisans will be able access to a larger consumer audience through the Noon Mahali program

RIYADH: The Heritage Commission on Thursday signed a cooperation agreement with Noon, an online shopping platform, to empower local businesses in Saudi Arabia, Saudi Press Agency (SPA) reported.

A ceremony was held at the Commission's headquarters to commemorate this partnership, which was attended by Heritage Commission CEO Dr. Jasir Suleiman Alherbish and General Manager of Noon KSA, Ahmed Abdel Qader Gadouri.

Under this agreement, Saudi artisans will be able to sell craft products and cultural heritage content online, gaining access to a larger audience through Noon's Mahali program.

The program also aims to assist local entrepreneurs and small and medium-sized businesses improve their product quality.

Dr. Alherbish thanked Noon for its cooperation, emphasizing the significant benefits gained through the agreement.

He also made note of the Commission's numerous initiatives to develop the handicraft sector, such as training programs and providing a consumer audience through outlets, exhibitions, events, and festivals.

"Our collaboration with the Heritage Commission demonstrates our ongoing commitment to assisting entrepreneurs and small businesses. The Mahali program helps local talent grow their businesses by providing them with the tools and services they need to reach a larger segment of customers in the region." Gadouri said.

The Noon Mahali program exemplifies the company's founding goal of empowering local talent through the development of a strong e-commerce platform.

The agreement is part of the Heritage Commission's broader efforts to strengthen partnerships with the public and private sectors as part of the Kingdom's cultural sector development.


Saudi Arabia offers global forum a vision of a new urban future

Saudi Arabia offers global forum a vision of a new urban future
Updated 30 June 2022

Saudi Arabia offers global forum a vision of a new urban future

Saudi Arabia offers global forum a vision of a new urban future
  • The Kingdom’s Architecture and Design Commission took part in the recent forum with a display featuring the King Salman Charter for Architecture and Urbanism
  • Among the charter’s aims is the creation of memorable buildings and spaces that integrate cultural and national identity

RIYADH: An exhibition outlining Saudi Arabia’s future urbanization strategy may inspire a new community-focused approach to architecture following its debut at the 11th World Urban Forum in Katowice, Poland.

The Kingdom’s Architecture and Design Commission took part in the recent forum with a display featuring the King Salman Charter for Architecture and Urbanism, launched late last year to help develop the sector as part of Vision 2030.

King Salman’s architectural vision, developed during his five decades as governor of Riyadh region, was highlighted in the exhibition, which also showcased exemplary projects in the Kingdom.

Among the charter’s aims is the creation of memorable buildings and spaces that integrate cultural and national identity, as well as contemporary designs that meet the needs of local communities.

The commission hopes to increase awareness of the charter, and inspire architects and designers worldwide in line with the forum’s theme “Transforming Our Cities for a Better Urban Future.”

A panel discussion on the charter brought together CEO of the Saudi Architecture and Design Commission Sumayah Al-Solaiman, founder of Dabbagh Architects Sumaya Dabbagh, and Arup Group’s director of master planning and urban design Daniel Ringelstein.

Al-Solaiman said: “Our participation at WUF 2022 opens new horizons for applying the charter and presents an excellent opportunity to introduce the international public to its methodology. By showcasing the ways in which the charter has already improved the built environment, we highlighted the range of circumstances in which the charter can be applied to improve quality of life not only in Saudi Arabia, but also further afield.”

This is the exhibition’s first international appearance after touring through five cities in Saudi Arabia: Riyadh, Abha, Jeddah, Dhahran and Madinah.

The World Urban Forum was established in 2001 by the UN to examine the growing global issue of rapid urbanization and its impact on communities, cities, economies and climate change.