Return of British pilgrims gladdens UK consul general in Jeddah

Return of British pilgrims gladdens UK consul general in Jeddah
British Consul General Seif Usher, Naveed Mohammed, the British Army’s liaison officer, and his team members. (AN photo by Huda Bashatah)
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Updated 21 April 2022

Return of British pilgrims gladdens UK consul general in Jeddah

Return of British pilgrims gladdens UK consul general in Jeddah
  • Saudi Arabia, UK have a long-standing friendship, strong bilateral ties, and enjoy economic, religious cooperation

MAKKAH: The UK’s consul general said he was pleased about the return of British pilgrims to Saudi Arabia’s holy sites following a two-year absence because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

This year the Ministry of Hajj and Umrah announced that 1 million pilgrims, including those from overseas, would be allowed to perform Hajj.

For the past two years, Hajj and Umrah have been limited to those in Saudi Arabia.

The UK’s Consul General, Seif Usher, who spoke to Arab News at an iftar in Makkah, welcomed the ministry’s decision because British Muslims could once again experience religious rituals in Saudi Arabia.

“It’s very good to be back in Makkah after some time,” he said. “Mashallah, the haram is very busy. As we see, pilgrims returned to the Kingdom from the United Kingdom. The opening of the e-visa, in particular, has allowed many thousands of British pilgrims to come to Makkah and visit Madinah, come here, and perform Umrah typically during Ramadan.

“Certainly before COVID-19, we would expect tens of thousands of British nationals coming to Makkah during Ramadan. So, inshallah, we shall see increasing numbers of pilgrims from the United Kingdom coming to Makkah.”

The previous iftar hosted by the consul general was in 2019.




British Consul-General in Jeddah Seifeldin Usher. (AN photo by Huda Bashatah)

Saudi Arabia and the UK have a long-standing friendship, strong bilateral ties, and enjoy cooperation on economic and cultural fronts. But there is also religious cooperation.

“In the United Kingdom, we have more than two-and-a-half million Muslims or around 5 percent of the population. So, there are many tens of thousands of Muslims who travel to Saudi Arabia every year. Typically, pilgrims coming for Umrah, there’ll be more than 100,000 per year. For Hajj pilgrims, there will be more than 25,000.

“So, the numbers are significant. The role of Saudi Arabia in receiving the pilgrims, and taking care of them while they are here, is hugely important and is greatly valued both by the pilgrims themselves and us in terms of the British government. So, we’re very grateful for all the work of the authorities every year and inshallah we shall see an increase as we go forward now after the very difficult years of COVID.”

In 2019, over 130,000 British pilgrims performed Hajj and Umrah. But the last two Hajj seasons witnessed an unprecedented drop in the number of international pilgrims because of travel restrictions and other lockdown measures in Saudi Arabia and around the world.

Usher said he did not know how many British pilgrims would come for this Hajj season, but he estimated there would be between 8,000 and 10,000.

“We’re waiting to hear what the formal announcement is from the Saudi authorities, and we look forward to welcoming British pilgrims here in Makkah in the summer.”

The role of Saudi Arabia in receiving the pilgrims, and taking care of them while they are here, is hugely important and is greatly valued both by the pilgrims themselves and us in terms of the British government.

Seif Usher, UK’s Consul General

Usher, who converted to Islam 25 years ago, has worked in Sudan, Jordan, Iraq, and Syria.

His first Ramadan in Saudi Arabia was in 2019, although he arrived in the country in Sept. 2018 to supervise the Hajj journey for British pilgrims.

This year will be his fourth living in Saudi Arabia.

“Ramadan is the most special time of year I think, for all Muslims. It’s a month where we can find some spiritual peace. We can enjoy going to the mosque for Tarawih prayers, and it’s particularly special when we have the opportunity to do so in Makkah.

“So I feel very blessed that I have that opportunity. It’s been a return to normality somewhat after the difficult years of COVID, Alhamdulillah, and it’s very good to be here.”

Monday’s iftar hosted members of the UK’s armed forces who were performing Umrah.

Naveed Mohammed, the British Army’s liaison officer for improving links with British Muslim communities, traveled to Saudi Arabia with 10 other Muslims for Umrah.

He told Arab News: “The standard of care and the organization I have seen is exceptional. Our host in the Saudi Arabian Armed Forces looked after us very well. When we walk around, we have tours of the various sites in Makkah and Jeddah. All we can see is the highest standard of organization, the highest standard of preparation, and how Saudi authorities are looking after all pilgrims.

“It doesn’t matter if somebody has come from one part of the world or somebody has come from another part of the world. Everyone gets treated like a guest, which is wonderful to see.”


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.


First group of Omani pilgrims arrive in Saudi Arabia ahead of Hajj

First group of Omani pilgrims arrive in Saudi Arabia ahead of Hajj
Updated 30 June 2022

First group of Omani pilgrims arrive in Saudi Arabia ahead of Hajj

First group of Omani pilgrims arrive in Saudi Arabia ahead of Hajj
  • The pilgrims’ entry procedures were completed with ease
  • Thursday marks the start of Dhu Al-Hijjah, the month during which Hajj is performed

RIYADH: The first group of Omani pilgrims arrived in the Kingdom through the Empty Quarter port ahead of Hajj, Saudi Press Agency reported on Thursday.

Thursday marks the start of Dhu Al-Hijjah, the month during which Hajj is performed. The first day of Hajj, 8th of Dhu Al-Hijjah, will fall on July 7, and the pilgrimage will end on the 12th day of the month (July 11). Arafat Day falls on the 9th day of Dhu Al-Hijjah (July 8).

The pilgrims’ entry procedures were completed with ease, and the General Directorate of Passports is supporting sites designated to serve pilgrims with modern technical devices and qualified employees so that procedures are completed without delay, SPA said.


Saudi Police arrest 15 Hajj fraudsters

Saudi Police arrest 15 Hajj fraudsters
Updated 30 June 2022

Saudi Police arrest 15 Hajj fraudsters

Saudi Police arrest 15 Hajj fraudsters
  • Illegal online adverts included providing transportation to the holy sites securing sacrifices for pilgrims

RIYADH – Saudi authorities arrested 15 people in two separate operations for offering fraudulent Hajj-related services, state news agency (SPA) reported.

Makkah police arrested seven residents of different nationalities for promoting fake services on social media involving Hajj performed on behalf of others.

The illegal online adverts also included providing transportation to the holy sites and hotels, as well as securing and distributing sacrifices for pilgrims, according to the SPA statement.

In a separate operation, Riyadh police detained seven residents for offering fake transportation services for pilgrims to Makkah. Another resident was detained for running an unlicensed website in Riyadh to promote fraudulent Hajj campaigns.  

The fraudsters were detained and referred to public prosecution.

The Ministry of Hajj and Umrah earlier warned against suspicious sites and social media accounts offering unauthorized Hajj-related services, stressing that the ministry's online platforms are the only official channels to book Hajj campaigns inside the Kingdom.