JEDDAH: At this time every year the mountainous city of Taif is adorned with the hues of bright pink roses that produce some of the world’s most alluring perfumes and oils.
The Taif Rose Festival is the modern iteration of a tradition of cultivation and harvesting that has taken place in this region over the past nine centuries.
It was launched on May 6 at Al-Rudaf Park in the southern part of the city, and is open from 4 p.m. to 12 midnight.
The Ministry of Culture, in cooperation with Taif Municipality and under the patronage of Makkah Gov. Prince Khaled Al-Faisal, have organized the festival for two years in a row.
However, it has been running for the past 17 years, Arab News was told by Ahmad Al-Joaid, a tour guide from Taif who has been operating for 15 years in the field.
Al-Joaid said: “A number of new activities are added to the festival every year. Al-Rudaf Park is an area of over half-a-million square meters … a theater has also been created for the festival … Concerts (are) also a new addition.”
The ministry tweeted on its account @MoC_Engage: “Between the beauty of roses and the creativity of art, we welcome you to Taif roses festival.”
The festival has 13 sections featuring 50 live performances and folkloric dances from across the Kingdom in the park, and music shows by male and female artists.
The organizers have set up a workshop aimed at young people that provides information on how to become involved in the perfume-making industry.
There is also an exhibition titled “Claude Monet,” named after the French painter and founder of impressionism, who portrayed nature with such startling creativity. Several of Monet’s renditions are on display.
The festival also provides an opportunity for aspiring Saudi artists to display their paintings at “Cultural Street,” and drawings and other artwork at “Drawing Exhibit.”
Many families have set up booths to sell byproducts of Taif’s produce such as rose water, perfumes, deodorants, soaps, body and skincare products, food and sweets.
The festival is also a great place for social media enthusiasts because it has several picturesque backdrops for photographs such as the Rose Dome, which contains a giant painting made of natural roses, the largest basket of the flowers in the city, and models and gates decorated with the produce.
Visitors can also view and listen to various rare birds.
Taif roses have historic, economic and religious importance. The oil is used to perfume the walls of the Kaaba, which is also washed twice annually with its scented water.
The region has more than 2,000 flower farms producing over 200 million roses every season.
Residents of Makkah and Jeddah visit Taif regularly in summer. “People can do plenty of things in Taif in addition to visiting the festival during their one-day visit … (including) museums, local markets, rose factories in Al-Shafa and Al-Hada, the cable car, strawberry farm, zoo, and historical castles,” the tour guide said.
Projects launched to develop and uplift holy sites in and around Makkah
Updated 41 min 34 sec ago
MAKKAH: Projects are being launched in and around Makkah to develop and uplift sites through street lighting, seating areas, and walkways.
The CEO of Kidana Development Company, which is behind the initiative, said some areas had already been improved.
“Approximately 20 percent, or 500,000 square meters, have been developed in Mina,” Hatim Mouminah told Arab News. “We are no longer talking about a mere tent but ready-to-live accommodation equipped with integrated services for pilgrims.”
Mouminah said the camps had been developed taking into consideration the highest safety specifications, particularly concerning electricity.
Kidana has launched a project to improve the areas adjacent to Jabal Al-Rahma (Mount of Mercy) on the plains of Arafat as part of its plans for the holy sites.
The project, which covers 200,000 square meters, is aimed at improving the area’s aesthetics and accessibility for visitors and pilgrims throughout the year and not just during the Hajj season.
It includes street lights, toilets, parking bays, seating areas, and walkways. There will also be restaurants, cafes, platforms for TV channels, and security control towers.
Kidana has also launched the Tsleem Comprehensive Services Center to assist pilgrims, facilitate smooth operations in Mina and Arafat, and provide the necessary services for Hajj stakeholders such as Makkah Municipality, the Ministry of Hajj and Umrah, Civil Defense, the National Water Company, and the Saudi Electricity Company.
Mouminah said Kidana could quickly adopt or upgrade changes to assist pilgrims with the help of qualified contractors because it had access to the designs for the camps and holy sites.
He said the company had completed part of a project to renovate toilets at the holy sites.
“This project is part of a package of development projects that aims to construct 1,000 toilets in Mina and 1,000 toilets in Arafat and Muzdalifah, in addition to maintaining and renovating 30,000 toilets to assure the comfort of pilgrims.”
Mouminah also spoke about the Malik Center, a technical support unit that solves problems at the holy sites by referring them directly to the relevant body.
The center is run by Saudis who are trained in communication skills and ensure that the task is completed within the shortest time possible.
Diplomats praise Saudi Arabia’s ‘excellent’ Hajj arrangements
Kingdom welcomes pilgrims from abroad for largest Hajj since COVID-19 pandemic began
Updated 54 min 2 sec ago
RIYADH: Ambassadors and envoys from across the Muslim world have hailed Saudi Arabia’s hosting of Hajj this year.
Pilgrims from around the world have gathered in Makkah for the biggest Hajj pilgrimage since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic almost two years ago.
Hajj was restricted to just 1,000 people residing in Saudi Arabia in 2020, and 60,000 domestic pilgrims in 2021.
This year, after lifting most of its COVID-19 curbs, Saudi Arabia will welcome 1 million pilgrims, including 850,000 from abroad to perform Hajj — one of the five pillars of Islam, which all Muslims with the required means must perform once in a lifetime.
Foreign diplomats in Saudi Arabia have praised the Kingdom for its expansive Hajj arrangements this year.
Kazakhstan Ambassador to Saudi Arabia Berik Aryn told Arab News: “I would like to congratulate all Muslims on the beginning of Hajj season. We have been waiting for this moment for a long time due to the hiatus during the pandemic.
“From the arrival of the first group of pilgrims, the Saudi government has accomplished an outstanding achievement in providing all facilities in the holy cities for the Hajj. They paid special attention to ensuring the safety and security, and good health of the pilgrims, which is important at this time because of the COVID-19 pandemic,” said the envoy.
“On behalf of the Kazakhstan pilgrims, I want to express sincere gratitude to King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman for excellent Hajj arrangements.”
Nigerian Ambassador to Saudi Arabia Yahaya Lawal said: “All praise be to Allah for allowing us to witness the Hajj 2022 season, the first in the post-pandemic period. I also take this opportunity on behalf of Nigeria to convey our sincere gratitude to the Saudi government and King Salman for the internationally acclaimed decision to organize the Hajj this year, and allow foreign pilgrims to participate. We commend the Saudi authorities for all the preventive measures put in place to safeguard the health of the guests of Allah.
“Nigeria, which will be sending almost 50,000 pilgrims, is excited to make a return to this significant event — a journey of a lifetime,” he said.
“We pray for the success of this annual pilgrimage as we also look forward to a normal pre-pandemic Hajj season next year.”
Dato’ Sri Syed Saleh Syed Abdulrahman, head of the Malaysian Hajj delegates in Makkah, told Arab News: “Malaysian pilgrims thank King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman for allowing international pilgrims to perform the Hajj this year. We are extremely grateful to the Saudi government for choosing Malaysia once again to be one of the five countries selected for the Makkah Route program this year.
“Malaysia was the first country chosen for Makkah Route’s pilot project in 2017. The Makkah Route program has provided Malaysian pilgrims with excellent service as they are able to arrive in Madinah and Jeddah, easily and quickly. They are able to breeze through the arrival gates at the two airports after the long flight and not have to worry about their luggage either. All Malaysian pilgrims are very satisfied with the service.”
Saudi Arabia has also built and upgraded various infrastructure in Makkah, Madinah and Jeddah to enhance the experience of all pilgrims, including Malaysians, during the busy Hajj season, he added.
“We pray for Saudi Arabia’s success in achieving Vision 2030 so it continues to provide the best services to Muslims from all around the world who come to Makkah and Madinah for Umrah and Hajj,” said Abdulrahman.
Pakistani Ambassador to Saudi Arabia Ameer Khurram Rathore praised the leadership of the Kingdom for Hajj preparations. “This year to support and help the pilgrims from Pakistan ‘Route to Makkah’ initiative was very helpful for our Hujjaj coming from Islamabad. It is a manifestation of our brotherly and good relations with Saudi Arabia. Next year, Inshallah, the ‘Route to Makkah’ initiative will be initiated from three major Pakistani cities.”
He added: “The government of Pakistan has developed three digital apps, which will be greatly helpful for our Hujjaj during the pilgrimage.”
Indian Consul General Mohammed Shahid Alam said: “All Indian pilgrims have arrived in Makkah to perform Hajj. This year, 56,637 pilgrims have come from the Hajj Commission of India, and 22,600 pilgrims through the Hajj group organizers. We have made elaborate arrangements in Makkah and Madinah for their comfortable stay, as well as hassle-free transportation to commute between their accommodation and the Haram. We have made available medical facilities and makeshift hospitals.”
Alam added: “We are deeply thankful to King Salman and the crown prince, as well as the Ministry of Hajj and Umrah, for their excellent support to us in making all these arrangements. They have been available round the clock to make the efficient arrangements in time. We extend our sincere gratitude to them for the excellent arrangements they have made for (pilgrims’) safety, enabling them to perform the Hajj smoothly.”
Bangladeshi Ambassador to the Kingdom Dr. Mohammad Javed Patwary said: “I express my deep satisfaction over the Hajj management and thank the king and the crown prince for their continuous support to the Muslim Ummah. Through the wider use of e-Hajj systems, expedited services are ensured. Bangladesh is the fourth largest Hajj pilgrim-sending country and our prospective pilgrims were eagerly waiting to perform Hajj after a two-year pause due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This year, the Saudi government is allowing 60,000 pilgrims from Bangladesh.
“All our pilgrims completed the immigration process back in Bangladesh under the Makkah Route Initiative. They are receiving their luggage at their hotels, which is a remarkable development for hassle-free movement of these guests of Allah.
“Bangladesh pilgrims who have arrived in Saudi Arabia — we have talked to many of them — have highly praised the Saudi authorities for their arrangements,” said the envoy.
Head of the office of Thai pilgrims affairs, Zaki Takei, also praised the efforts and services provided by the Saudi government to pilgrims. He said that the Kingdom has “spared no effort” in aiding the visits of pilgrims.
ThePlace: Maqam Ibrahim, the stone on which the Prophet stood
Updated 46 min 45 sec ago
MAKKAH: When worshippers circumambulate the Kaaba, they are often mesmerized by Maqam Ibrahim, the footprints of Prophet Ibrahim, kept in an enclosed glass case.
Maqam Ibrahim is a stone on which the prophet stood when the Kaaba was being built.
The stone is 50 centimeters long on each side and has two footprints in the middle in the form of two oval pits.
According to historians, when the Kaaba was being built, the walls became too high and Prophet Ibrahim stood on a stone that miraculously lifted him to build the walls and lowered him so he could collect stones from his son, Prophet Ismail.
Dr. Samir Ahmed Barqah, a researcher in the history of Makkah and the prophet’s biography, told Arab News: “It is a wet stone holding the footprints of Prophet Ibrahim. His footprints remain visible to the present day. The maqam and the Black Stone are the oldest and most sacred landmarks in Islam, dating back 4,000 years.
It is located in front of the door of the Kaaba, around 10 to 11 meters east.”
Barqah said that historian Mohammed Tahir Al-Kurdi in 1367 stated the length of the footprints to be 22 centimeters long and 14 centimeters wide.
The stone is set in a gold and silver frame and kept in a glass case. During Omar Ibn Al-Khattab’s caliphate, Nahshal floods hit the city and dislodged the stone from its place. When the caliph came to Makkah, he fixed the stone in its current position.
It was previously inside a compartment to protect it from damage and theft. But the compartment was later removed, with the stone placed inside glass casing so that every worshipper could see it.
History researcher Saad Al-Sharif said that, throughout time, the stone had always remained near the Kaaba.
When Prophet Muhammad conquered Makkah, he and his companions decided to shift the stone from its original location near the Kaaba to its current location at a distance of more than 10 meters to facilitate circumambulation.
MAKKAH: Three hundred people with disabilities have arrived at King Abdulaziz International Airport in Jeddah to perform Hajj, the fifth pillar of Islam.
This is part of a national initiative launched by the Ministry of Hajj and Umrah, for the second year in a row, that includes orphans from across Saudi Arabia.
The program provides these pilgrims with facilities and services that allows them to perform their Hajj comfortably, and forms part of the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 reform plan. For those who need it, special housing and 24-hour escort services are provided.
The Kingdom is allowing up to 1 million people to perform Hajj this year, welcoming foreign pilgrims for the first time in two years, during which COVID-19 restrictions meant the annual pilgrimage was limited to residents of the country.
The General Presidency for the Affairs of the Two Holy Mosques confirmed its readiness to receive pilgrims, saying it had mobilized 10,000 workers.
The presidency also said that the live broadcast of the Arafat Day sermon, one of the most important events in the Islamic calendar, has been expanded to include 14 languages as Saudi Arabia’s leadership seeks to convey a message of moderation and tolerance to the widest possible audience.
The sermon will be available in English, French, Malay, Urdu, Persian, Russian, Chinese, Bengali, Turkish, Hausa, Spanish, Hindi, Swahili and Tamil.
Muslim pilgrims will head to Mina on Thursday to spend the day of Al-Tarwiyah
“Tarwiyah,” or the day of fetching water marks the journey of Hajj pilgrims from Makkah to Mina
Pilgrims are required to remain in the city until sunrise on the second day of Hajj
Updated 06 July 2022
RIYADH: Muslim pilgrims on Thursday will head to Mina to spend the day of Al-Tarwiyah, following the way the of Prophet Muhammad to perform different rituals.
Thursday is the 8th day of the Hijri month of Dhu Al-Hijjah, when the Hajj pilgrimage begins and will continue until Tuesday.
It is desired that all pilgrims arrive before noon to Mina where they should be praying Duhor (noon), Asr (afternoon) Maghreb (sunset), Isha (night) and Fajr (dawn) by shortening them to four-prayers without combining them.
“Tarwiyah,” or the day of fetching water marks the journey of Hajj pilgrims from Makkah to Mina.
Pilgrims are required to remain in the city until sunrise on the second day of Hajj, when they leave and travel to Arafat.
Mina, 7 km northeast of the Grand Mosque in Makkah and within its boundaries, would normally be the site of the world’s largest tent city, accommodating about 2.5 million pilgrims.
Meanwhile, the Coordination Council for Institutions and Companies Serving Domestic Pilgrims and the owners of internal pilgrims companies received the first batch of pilgrims from citizens and residents at King Abdulaziz Airport in Jeddah.
The pilgrims are on their way to perform the fifth pillar of Islam, in the presence of the Secretary-General of the Council, Dr. Abdullah Al-Muwaihi.
Al-Muwaihi said the influx of pilgrims will continue until Thursday and companies will provide arrangements to receive the pilgrims at the airport and transport them to their camps in Mina to spend the day of perfusion and complete their rituals comfortably and easily.