Holy sites landmark app wins Hajj, Umrah Challenge

Holy sites landmark app wins Hajj, Umrah Challenge
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“Black Stone” VR experience for visitors of the exhibitions. (Supplied)
Holy sites landmark app wins Hajj, Umrah Challenge
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“Black Stone” VR experience for visitors of the exhibitions. (Supplied)
Holy sites landmark app wins Hajj, Umrah Challenge
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“Black Stone” VR experience for visitors of the exhibitions. (Supplied)
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Updated 25 March 2022

Holy sites landmark app wins Hajj, Umrah Challenge

Holy sites landmark app wins Hajj, Umrah Challenge
  • Saudi ministry will adopt top five ideas and transform the projects into reality
  • More than 1,500 people registered for competition

JEDDAH: An app introducing pilgrims to landmarks at the holy sites on Wednesday night won a Hajj and Umrah Challenge, which was launched earlier this week to bring creativity and technology to the pilgrim experience.

The challenge was part of an international Hajj and Umrah conference and exhibition called “Transformation Toward Innovation” that was held in Jeddah and organized by the Ministry of Hajj and Umrah, in collaboration with the Doyof Al-Rahman (Guests of Allah) Program.

The competition’s results were announced by Dr. Tawfiq Al-Rabiah, minister of Hajj and Umrah, on the first day of the conference.

Saudi entrepreneurs were asked to come up with creative solutions in three days across six areas to create a better pilgrimage experience: Crowd and waste management, transportation, catering, health, and housing.

More than 1,500 people registered for the challenge. A ministerial jury whittled down the number of entries from 40 to 13, with 10 ideas passing through to the final stage, and there was SR150,000 ($40,000) prize money on offer.

There were three winners of the challenge, and the top 10 participants were honored. The top three projects won SR50,000, SR30,000, and SR20,000.

The winning app came from Maalem Team, with maalem meaning landmark. It introduces pilgrims to landmarks in the holy sites. People get a notification as they pass one by and receive audio commentary on it.

Maalem Team leader Affaf Al-Hajjaji, quality control manager at Makkah Technical College, said: “Big thanks to the team that worked with me remotely for the past three days. They proved that as long as there is a desire to work, nothing can stop you.”

HIGHLIGHT

A ministerial jury whittled down the number of entries from 40 to 13, with 10 ideas passing through to the final stage, and there was SR150,000 ($40,000) prize money on offer. There were three winners of the challenge, and the top 10 participants were honored. The top three projects won SR50,000, SR30,000, and SR20,000.

Dr. Abdulfattah Mashat, deputy minister of Hajj and Umrah, said the ministry would adopt the first five winning ideas and involve them in business accelerators to transform the projects into reality.

The second-place project focused on serving pilgrims with disabilities, and the third-place project focused on water distribution.

The third day of the conference also had three talks.

One was about the financing needs of businesses operating in the Hajj and Umrah sector. The second was about innovation management in Hajj and Umrah, and the third was about intelligent transport for pilgrims.

They were presented by experts and academics from the Hajj and Umrah sector.

There was also a special session focusing on the bodies serving domestic pilgrims. This session was presented by Dr. Saed Al-Jehani, chairman of the Coordinating Council of Domestic Pilgrims Institutions and Companies.

The council’s mission is to coordinate the efforts of institutions and companies for the domestic pilgrim market. Al-Jehani said the council comprised 185 companies working on generating more creative solutions for the Hajj and Umrah experience.

“We aspire to a better reality, and we must expect the future of Hajj and Umrah to be full of innovative solutions,” he told the conference. “At the council, we will take care of providing innovative solutions in the coming Hajj seasons and we will focus on areas such as housing, transportation, catering, knowledge content, administrative and health affairs, and services.”

The accompanying exhibition saw the participation of government and private sector bodies showcasing products, programs, and projects designed to give pilgrims a better experience.

The booth from the General Presidency for the Affairs of the Two Holy Mosques was among the most interesting as it offered people the chance to experience an immersive VR visit to the Kaaba and the Black Stone.

A VR headset enabled people to see the Kaaba, hear the adhan (call to prayer), and even smell the essence of the Grand Mosque in Makkah.


First Moroccan pilgrims arrive in Jeddah through Makkah Route Initiative

First Moroccan pilgrims arrive in Jeddah through Makkah Route Initiative
A Moroccan pilgrim breezes through the immigration line at the King Abdulaziz International Airport in Jeddah, thanks to the Mak
Updated 27 June 2022

First Moroccan pilgrims arrive in Jeddah through Makkah Route Initiative

First Moroccan pilgrims arrive in Jeddah through Makkah Route Initiative
  • Morocco is the fifth country to participate in the Makkah Route Initiative, after Indonesia, Malaysia, Pakistan, and Bangladesh

JEDDAH: King Abdulaziz International Airport in Jeddah received its first Moroccan pilgrims through the Makkah Route Initiative.

They departed from the Makkah Route hall at Mohammed V International Airport in Casablanca and were greeted by Moroccan Consul General Ibrahim Ajouli, Col. Suleiman Mohammed Al-Yusuf, and representatives from the initiative at KAIA.

The Makkah Route Initiative was launched for the first time this year in Morocco, adding to the four countries already participating in the project: Indonesia, Malaysia, Pakistan, and Bangladesh.

A Moroccan pilgrim gets gets "processed" without hassle at the immigration desk of the King Abdulaziz International Airport in Jeddah. (SPA)

It aims to simplify procedures for pilgrims by issuing e-visas, completing passport procedures at the airport of the country of departure following the completion of health requirements, and dealing with luggage procedures, transport, and accommodation.

Upon arrival, pilgrims directly move to buses transporting them to their accommodation in Makkah and Madinah while authorities deliver their luggage to their lodgings.

Serving pilgrims is one of the Interior Ministry's programs contributing toward Vision 2030.

The initiative was first launched in 2019 in a few airports and expanded this year, saving pilgrims up to 12 hours upon arrival at Saudi airports.

Decoder

Makkah Route Initiative

Inaugurated by King Salman in 2019, the Makkah Route Initiative is a program that seeks to provide visitors to the holy sites in Saudi Arabia with the finest possible services to help them perform their Hajj rituals easily and comfortably. Five countries are currently participating in the initiative: Pakistan, Malaysia, Indonesia, Morocco, and Bangladesh.


Saudi Arabia’s Jeddah port receives last group of Sudanese Hajj pilgrims 

Saudi Arabia’s Jeddah port receives last group of Sudanese Hajj pilgrims 
Updated 27 June 2022

Saudi Arabia’s Jeddah port receives last group of Sudanese Hajj pilgrims 

Saudi Arabia’s Jeddah port receives last group of Sudanese Hajj pilgrims 
  • Onboard the ship “Amana", 1,183 pilgrims were received by port senior officials and were greeted with rose bouquets, gifts, and souvenirs

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s Red Sea Jeddah Islamic port received the last batch of Sudanese pilgrims traveling by sea, the Saudi Press Agency said early Monday.

Onboard the ship “Amana", 1,183 pilgrims were received by port senior officials and were greeted with rose bouquets, gifts, and souvenirs.

The port received the first group of Hajj pilgrims traveling by ship from Sudan on June 16.

(SPA)

The Red Sea port has started receiving Hajj pilgrims amid a slew of services that include advanced devices for inspecting and transporting pilgrims’ luggage to the arrival terminals and waiting halls.

Modern buses to transport pilgrims, part of which are allocated to transporting patients and the elderly, were also present at the port.

(SPA)

The pilgrims who arrived by sea at Jeddah port expressed their happiness with the warm reception they experienced and the smooth and easy completion of their arrival procedures.

They expressed their gratitude to the Saudi government for its interest and care for pilgrims coming from all parts of the world to fulfill the fifth pillar of Islam.


Saudi farmer, 24, engineers a blooming desert

Sofian Al-Bishri, CEO of Mojan Farms. (AN photos by Huda Bashatah)
Sofian Al-Bishri, CEO of Mojan Farms. (AN photos by Huda Bashatah)
Updated 27 June 2022

Saudi farmer, 24, engineers a blooming desert

Sofian Al-Bishri, CEO of Mojan Farms. (AN photos by Huda Bashatah)
  • Our secret is research and data, says Sofian Al-Bishri, CEO of Mojan Farms
  • Green-fingered engineer grows basil, Japanese cabbage, lettuce, cherry tomatoes

KHULAIS: The last thing one expects to find in the middle of dusty and dry Khulais, located on the western side of the Saudi Arabian desert, is a farm blooming with all sorts of herbs and vegetables.

Yet this is exactly what Sofian Al-Bishri, the 24-year-old CEO of Mojan Farms, has done. The qualified engineer has proven that combining technical know-how with a little ingenuity can go a long way to fulfil his dream of greening the environment, while also running a sustainable business.

Al-Bishri explained to Arab News that despite the lack of water in the area, he was able to construct a full ecosystem using sustainable farming methods such as bumble-bee pollination, hydroponic saltwater technology, and a fully automated monitoring system.

On a 15,000-square-meter strip of family land, Al-Bishri established Mojan Farms in 2020 with five greenhouses, each containing a different type of herb or vegetable.

Hydroponic technology allows for the cultivation of crops without soil, with roots growing in a liquid nutrient solution or inside moist inert materials like Rockwool and Vermiculite.

HIGHLIGHT

Despite the lack of water in the area, Sofian Al-Bishri was able to construct a full ecosystem using sustainable farming methods such as bumble- bee pollination, hydroponic saltwater technology, and a fully automated monitoring system.

The water of the liquid nutrient solution is a mixture of essential plant food, allowing faster crop growth than traditional planting methods.

The farm has various crops, including basil, Japanese cabbage, lettuce and cherry tomatoes. “Every house is a separate ecosystem. We do this to eliminate cross-contamination, so each house is separate and has its designated variety.”

Mojan Farms is environmentally friendly because the system captures and reuses water, rather than allowing it to drain away. “We use drip irrigation, it reduces the water usage by 40 percent, and we work with a company locally that produces biopolymers, which are formed into gels that we have under the ground right now.”

“When talking about wasted water, the problem is when you irrigate the crops, the water just gets drained down. It doesn’t get retained in the soil. So these polymers hold the water which transforms into a gel full of water, allowing enough time for the plant to absorb it, so we get to irrigate much less.”

There is also considerable automation in place, which allows for cooling and irrigation. “We need to believe in research and data, this is our game. I invested in some retrofitted tech from other industries to cut down on labor requirements and time.”

Instead of having an engineer constantly monitor water usage and the spreading of fertilizers, Mojan’s greenhouses are equipped with a sensor system.

“All of these smart devices that we have are automatically connected to the cloud, it all tunes into risk management, so we protect ourselves from any loss of crops.”

Al-Bishri said that he grows crops that are in demand by industry, and is constantly gathering data, sometimes over months, from restaurants, distributors and importers. “So we find those strains that are usually imported, and we find ways to grow them locally.”

Al-Bishri said his farms produce 300 to 400 kilograms of produce ever month. He chooses to grow some Italian strains such as Genovese basil which is different from local ones. In addition, he produces Lola Rossa and Lollo Bionda lettuces, both red Italian types, used mostly to garnish burgers.

He has now decided to go public with his operation. “This farm has been private, it’s just for my father and me, we just come here in winter ... we decided we had enough entertainment here ... and it’s time to share (this project).”

He also plans to plant over 3,000 mango trees as a long-term investment. “Within two years, we’re hoping that it will provide enough shade for us to create artificial lakes and open that for picnics and for the public and families, and to make it an actual park.”

“And the reason we’ve decided to do this now, as opposed to before, is that we’re actually now working with a local startup to provide tech for that strip of land that reduces water by 80 percent, which means we can do it at a more sustainable rate. That’s both good for me and good for the environment.”


Saudi Arabia investment gives yoga a new twist

The Saudi Yoga Committee aims to increase the number of yoga centers and studios in all cities of the Kingdom. (Supplied)
The Saudi Yoga Committee aims to increase the number of yoga centers and studios in all cities of the Kingdom. (Supplied)
Updated 26 June 2022

Saudi Arabia investment gives yoga a new twist

The Saudi Yoga Committee aims to increase the number of yoga centers and studios in all cities of the Kingdom. (Supplied)
  • Training academies, modern studios to promote sport in Saudi Arabia

JEDDAH: Yoga — an ancient art, science and sport combined — is getting a modern twist as Saudi Arabia begins planning specialist academies and training institutes to cater for the growing community of devotees in the Kingdom.

As part of the 8th International Yoga Day, the Saudi Yoga Committee, in cooperation with the Ministry of Sport, launched its own page on the Nafes platform to encourage investment in yoga by opening halls, academies and institutes to train instructors, and to speed up the issuing of licenses for studios and centers.

“Due to the strong demand for yoga in the Kingdom, the committee aims to increase the number of yoga centers and studios in all cities so that it is easier to access and practice yoga,” said Nouf Al-Marwaai, president of the Saudi Yoga Committee.

HIGHLIGHT

As part of the 8th International Yoga Day, the Saudi Yoga Committee, in cooperation with the Ministry of Sport, launched its own page on the Nafes platform to encourage investment in yoga by opening halls, academies and institutes to train instructors, and to speed up the issuing of licenses for studios and centers.

Al-Marwaai said that these services and centers are concentrated in the main cities, but growing demand has recently been noticed in southern regions in Asir and Abha, in the north in Tabuk and Hail, and in the west in Makkah and Madinah, Yanbu and Rabigh, as well as in smaller cities such as Al-Aflaj and on the outskirts of the Riyadh region.

“They all have a community of yoga instructors and practitioners,” she said.

Nouf Al-Marwaai, president of the Saudi Yoga Committee.

Al-Marwaai said that the committee has launched other initiatives to promote yoga sports in Saudi Arabia.

“In addition to registering yogaasana players in the Saudi Yoga Committee, and issuing licenses to yoga trainers and teachers in cooperation with the Ministry of Sport on the Nafes platform, we are also inviting all yoga practitioners to participate in the first professional yogasana competition in the Kingdom,” she said.

“The aim of the competition is to create a platform for yoga professionals in the Kingdom, and expand the concept of yoga tournaments and competitions, as the Saudi Yoga Committee cooperates with International bodies such as the Asian Yogasana Sports Federation and the World Yogasana Sports Federation to form local, regional and international championships.”

The competition will be a traditional yogasana competition, consisting of three compulsory poses. The first three winners will be honored with financial prizes and will be added to the Saudi Yoga Committee as professional players.

Entrants simply post a 10-second video while holding the pose on Instagram or Twitter, mentioning the Saudi Yoga Committee account and the following hashtags #Saudi_Yoga_Competition.

Al-Marwaai said that the competition will encourage the practice of different types of yoga.

The competition began on June 21 and results will be announced on July 3.

“The Saudi Yoga Committee expects a great response to these initiatives due to a large number of yoga lovers, practitioners and trainers in the Kingdom,” she said.

Recently, Al-Marwaai was a guest of the Embassy of India in Riyadh, while Saudi Yoga Committee CEO Ahmed Al-Saadi attended a ceremony at the Indian Consulate in Jeddah.


Bahraini king meets Saudi FM

Bahraini king meets Saudi FM in Manama. (Supplied)
Bahraini king meets Saudi FM in Manama. (Supplied)
Updated 26 June 2022

Bahraini king meets Saudi FM

Bahraini king meets Saudi FM in Manama. (Supplied)
  • King Hamad conveyed his greetings and appreciation to King Salman and the crown prince, wishing further progress and prosperity to Saudi Arabia and its people

MANAMA: Bahrain’s King Hamad received Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Salman at Al-Sakhir Palace in Manama on Sunday.
Prince Faisal conveyed the greetings of King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to Bahrain’s king and its brotherly people, wishing them continuous progress and prosperity.
King Hamad conveyed his greetings and appreciation to King Salman and the crown prince, wishing further progress and prosperity to Saudi Arabia and its people.
They discussed bilateral relations, issues of relevance to the Arab and Muslim worlds, and regional developments. The meeting was attended by Prince Sultan bin Ahmed, Saudi ambassador to Bahrain.