How Saudi Arabia can become the vanguard of sustainable tourism

Special How Saudi Arabia can become the vanguard of sustainable tourism
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A deserted California beach on July 4, 2020 as pandemic curbs hit the travel industry worldwide. (Getty Images)
Special How Saudi Arabia can become the vanguard of sustainable tourism
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A deserted California beach on July 4, 2020 as pandemic curbs hit the travel industry worldwide. (Getty Images)
Special How Saudi Arabia can become the vanguard of sustainable tourism
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People walk past empty tables and chairs in Melbourne, Australia, during the COVID-19 pandemic. (AFP)
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Updated 22 May 2022

How Saudi Arabia can become the vanguard of sustainable tourism

How Saudi Arabia can become the vanguard of sustainable tourism
  • An agreement with Jamaica puts resilient tourism at the heart of the industry’s post-pandemic recovery
  • The pandemic highlighted the vulnerability of tourism not only to pandemics but also extreme weather

LONDON: Saudi Arabia is stepping up its efforts to become the vanguard of a UN pledge to develop a sustainable model of tourism after the sector’s levels of resilience were pushed to breaking point by the pandemic and new dire warnings of tourism’s environmental footprint emerged.

Addressing the UN General Assembly on May 6, Saudi Arabia’s Minister of Tourism Ahmed Al-Khateeb said lessons about tourism’s vulnerability to sudden, unexpected events must be taken from the pandemic — which cost the sector 62 million jobs worldwide — and changes made.

“COVID-19 highlighted the vulnerability of the sector, not only to pandemics but also to the effects of extreme weather, so addressing climate change must be at the heart of building a more resilient tourism, and there is no resilience without sustainability,” he said.

“We must work collaboratively, putting sustainable, resilient tourism at the heart of inclusive recovery. Only by doing these things together will we ensure better and more resilient futures for the millions around the world reliant on tourism.”




A partial view shows an ancient Nabataean carved tomb at the archaeological site of Hegra, near the northwestern Saudi city of AlUla. (Photo by 

The UN’s World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) welcomed the Saudi efforts, noting that the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 has already provided the blueprint for a “transformative and deeply ambitious” economic strategy, and could do the same for tourism.

A spokesperson for the UNWTO told Arab News: “This ambitious plan aims to reshape the social and cultural landscape, accelerating growth through strategic investment, new industries and leadership.

“It is an opportunity to bring Saudi Arabia’s heritage, culture and hospitality to the world; and deliver on climate and sustainability goals. Properly managed, tourism can play a key role in achieving this vision.”

Scientists have said CO2 emissions from tourism will increase by 25 percent by 2030 compared to 2016 levels, which if left unaddressed could be a bullet for the sector as visitors begin to factor in the impact, and morality, of climate change on their destination choices.

Signaling the Kingdom’s intent to become the shepherd to sustainability, Al-Khateeb and his Jamaican counterpart, Edmund Bartlett, signed earlier this month a memorandum of understanding to collaborate on developing sustainable and resilient tourism between the two countries.

Part of the agreement also included determination to not only embrace the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development but to lay out a blueprint that can be rolled out globally for a sustainable model of tourism.




The Taif rose season draws visitors from Saudi Arabia and beyond. (AN photo by Huda Bashatah)

Although firm details on the blueprint have yet to emerge, the UNWTO spokesperson noted that policymakers are “best placed” to play a central role so long as their policies include aims to reduce environmental impacts of consumption and production patterns.

“National tourism planning is a well-established practice among national authorities with national tourism policies covering on average a time frame of 10 years and addressing the same thematic areas across regions,” the spokesperson added.

“Aspects such as human resource development, investment, marketing and promotion, employment, product development and diversification have been factored into the policies as these are relevant aspects for the sustainable economic development of tourism.”

Jonathon Day, associate professor and Marriott School of Hospitality and Tourism Management graduate program director, applauded the Kingdom’s “ambition and commitment,” believing it could become a leader in sustainable development.

“Tourism developed sustainably has the potential to contribute substantially to sustainability challenges faced by Saudi Arabia and the world, and I’m sure that through tourism Saudi Arabia can join the destinations leading in sustainable development,” Day told Arab News.

“The Kingdom has the resources to invest in infrastructure to support sustainability goals and knows that tourism that doesn’t adopt the principles of sustainability can make sustainability issues worse. It requires commitment to achieve positive outcomes.”

Day is not alone in seeing Saudi Arabia’s financial resources as key in any effort it may make to lead the way in green tourism, with Prof. Willy Legrand of the International University of Applied Sciences believing it “would translate” in attracting talent and developing policy.




AlUla, home to Saudi Arabia’s first UNESCO World Heritage Site, is at the heart of the Kingdom’s tourism ambitions. (Courtesy: Royal Commission of AlUla)

“Not only this, the resources allow the country to develop and implement state of the art (existing) solutions as well as being a pipeline for the testing of new solutions to tackle some of the greater tourism challenges,” Legrand told Arab News.

Architect and sustainable tourism consultant Amine Ahlafi said that while Saudi Arabia had only recently opened for tourism more broadly, it was important to remember it had a rich history of religious tourism, and this was something it could learn from.

Anywhere from 2.5 million to 9 million pilgrims travel to the Kingdom each year, Ahlafi told Arab News that this results in around 15 million plastic cups being used to cater to the water needs of everyone traveling.

“You can of course use technology to recycle all the disposable cups, but sustainable tourism should be about finding ways to raise awareness so that we don’t have to rely on technology,” he said.

“As for developing new tourism, I think they should promote the desert potential of tourism as they can market it as a very interesting place for sustainable tourism — which does not mean they have to reduce the quality.

“We can do luxury combined with sustainability and not in a greenwashing way with the design of luxury desert camps that optimize the natural resources, the sun and the wind for energy.”

Ahlafi said a blueprint would need to be predicated on pushing technology and the habitat you find yourself in. “Technology is the tool, not the solution, the solution is building to suit the environment, not trying to have the environment suit you.”

Legrand said the Kingdom’s capacity to achieve its aims would depend on a “declaration of transparency” in which it not only set out its goals but communicated actions undertaken and results achieved.

Day said it was also important to construct the blueprint not as a series of steps that would work for every country but rather to realize it as a list of questions that all countries could ask of themselves.

“Sustainability and sustainable tourism are ‘wicked problems,’ which means there are many things that need to be done, and it requires many organizations and parts of government to work to achieve common goals,” Day said.

“And while there are a common set of tasks, each destination will have different priorities. So, the questions may be the same — but the answers may be different. For instance, Saudi Arabia probably will focus on water conservation more than some destinations.”

Legrand agreed that the Kingdom’s ability to produce a global blueprint would depend on its ability to recognize that there would be “no one size fits all” approach, but rather a series of questions and inclusion of all stakeholders in the process.

He suggested the questions could include: What are hoteliers’ views on sustainability? Are the restaurateurs capitalizing on local agriculture? Are local communities involved? What are the challenges for these different actors? Are the destination marketers aware?

But he also noted that there were “clear, key topics” that would need to be addressed in a global, universalized manner, not least of which is the elephant in the room: Long-haul air travel.

“Long-haul travel remains a major challenge on the emission front and will remain so for the years to come, although airlines are making progress both in terms of efficiencies and fuel technologies,” he said.

“Transparency at the booking stage is critical to make the right decisions about a trip, here Travalyst and its many members are making progress in providing travelers with that information, such as the carbon footprint of specific airline routes, for example.”

Both Day and Legrand agreed that for Saudi Arabia to meet its ambitions as the vanguard in a push towards sustainable tourism, the country would need to hang its efforts around the UN’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals for industry, not least “collaboration and cooperation.”

They face many challenges, foremost of which is improving citizens’ trust in state institutions.

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Saudi Arabia confers Order of King Abdulaziz on Pakistan’s military chief

Saudi Arabia confers Order of King Abdulaziz on Pakistan’s military chief
Updated 26 June 2022

Saudi Arabia confers Order of King Abdulaziz on Pakistan’s military chief

Saudi Arabia confers Order of King Abdulaziz on Pakistan’s military chief
  • Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and Gen. Qamar Javed Bajwa also met to review Saudi-Pakistani military ties and other fields of cooperation

JEDDAH: Saudi Arabia has conferred on Pakistan’s chief of army staff the Order of King Abdulaziz, an order of merit named after the Kingdom's founder, state media said on Sunday.

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, implementing King Salman's order, decorated Gen. Qamar Javed Bajwa the King Abdulaziz Medal of Excellent Class, "in appreciation of Gen. Bajwa’s distinguished efforts in strengthening and developing Saudi-Pakistani relations," SPA reported.

Bajwa was in the Kingdom on Saturday for a visit. 

The crown prince and the Pakistani military chief also met and "reviewed bilateral relations, especially in the military fields, and opportunities for developing them, in addition to a number of issues of common interest," SPA said.

The occasion was attended by Prince Khalid bin Salman, Saudi deputy minister of defense; Saudi Arabia’s Chief of General Staff Gen. Fayyad Al-Ruwaili; and a number of senior officials from the two sides, said the report.

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Saudi Crown Prince, Iraqi PM review bilateral ties

Saudi Crown Prince, Iraqi PM review bilateral ties
Updated 26 June 2022

Saudi Crown Prince, Iraqi PM review bilateral ties

Saudi Crown Prince, Iraqi PM review bilateral ties
  • Leaders exchanged views on strengthening security and stability in the region
  • It was Al-Kadhimi's second visit to the Kingdom as Iraqi prime minister

JEDDAH: Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa Al-Kadhimi held talks in Jeddah, during which they reviewed the bilateral relations between the two brotherly countries and areas of joint cooperation, state media reported early Sunday.

The two leaders also "exchanged views on a number of issues, which contribute to supporting and strengthening security and stability in the region," according to the Saudi Press Agency (SPA).

Al-Kadhimi and his delegation was welcomed on their arrival at Jeddah's King Abdulaziz International Airport late on Saturday by the crown prince and other members of the Saudi delegation.

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman welcomes Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa Al-Kadhimi (L) in Jeddah on Saturday night. (SPA)

The session was attended by Prince Abdullah bin Bandar, Minister of National Guard; Prince Khalid bin Salman, Deputy Minister of Defense; Prince Faisal bin Farhan, Minister of Foreign Affairs; Minister of Trade Majid bin Abdullah Al-Qasabi; Chief of General Intelligence Khalid bin Ali Al-Humaidan; and Saudi Ambassador to Iraq Abdulaziz Al-Shammari.

The Iraqi delegation included Foreign Minister Fuad Hussein, National Intelligence Agency Undersecretary Majid Ali Hussein, Director of the Prime Minister's Private Office Ahmed Najati, and Adviser to the Prime Minister for Protocol Affairs Hassanein Rashid Al-Sheikh.

It was Al-Kadhimi's second visit to Saudi Arabia since he took the post of prime minister in May 2020.


Lauding social reforms in Saudi Arabia, Italian Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio says Rome ready to support kingdom

Lauding social reforms in Saudi Arabia, Italian Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio says Rome ready to support kingdom
Updated 26 June 2022

Lauding social reforms in Saudi Arabia, Italian Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio says Rome ready to support kingdom

Lauding social reforms in Saudi Arabia, Italian Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio says Rome ready to support kingdom
  • The two G20 members are committed to continue working in the ‘same spirit of cooperation and solidarity for strong sustainable and inclusive growth’
  • Di Maio to co-chair 12th session of Saudi-Italian Joint Commission with KSA Finance Minister Mohammed Al-Jadaan

ROME: Italy’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Luigi Di Maio has stressed the importance of consolidating his country’s historic relations with Saudi Arabia ahead of his visit to the Kingdom on Sunday.

Speaking exclusively to Arab News, he said both governments were fully aligned and shared common interests and strategic priorities that provided the foundations for an all-encompassing long-term relationship.

While in Riyadh, Di Maio will review several aspects of Saudi-Italian relations and ways to strengthen them, in addition to discussing regional and international issues of mutual concern.

He noted that Italy would be organizing celebratory events later this year to mark the 90th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between the two nations. Italy was one of the first countries to recognize the Kingdom’s status.

Saudi Crown Prince Mohamed bin Salman (L) meeting with Italian FM Luigi Di Maio in RIyadh. (AFP file photo)

Di Maio said: “Italy was one of the first countries to establish diplomatic relations with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in the early 1930s and 2022 marks a very important anniversary in our longstanding friendship.”

On Monday, he will co-chair the 12th session of the Saudi-Italian Joint Commission with Saudi Finance Minister Mohammed Al-Jadaan, and also attend the Saudi-Italian Investment Forum, where institutions and enterprises from both countries will meet to develop further partnerships.

“Back then, Italy and Saudi Arabia decided to start a strategic dialogue, and my visit aims at consolidating our long-lasting relationship by exploring new areas of cooperation and partnership. The 12th session of the joint commission that I will chair on Monday with Finance Minister Mohammed Al-Jadaan will specifically focus on this goal.

Saudi Finance Minister Mohammed Al-Jadaan. (AFP)

“High-tech Italian companies attending the event could contribute to the Kingdom’s goals of a more diversified economy, especially in the fields of sustainability and energy transition,” he added.

Saudi-Italian relations have been driven toward more political, economic, and cultural development. They have their roots entrenched in sound cooperation, with Italy being one of the Kingdom’s main historical trading partners.

Similar to many nations with long-established Saudi links, Italy has a shared vision aimed at developing and maintaining friendship ties.

Di Maio praised the Saudi leadership for making “significant social developments, especially as far as women empowerment is concerned,” adding that his country was, “ready to provide all the support the Kingdom needs to implement its reforms further.”

The 35-year-old minister is considered one of the most prominent figures in the Italian political arena.

Last week, he established a parliamentary group called Together for the Future (IpF), a breakaway from the Five Star Movement, the populistic party founded by Italian comedian Beppe Grillo and where Di Maio began his political career. The new group will support the coalition government of Prime Minister Mario Draghi.

Di Maio pointed out that Italy and Saudi Arabia shared “deep historical ties,” and said he was “delighted” to be returning to the Kingdom following his last visit in January 2021, “when I also had the privilege to visit the magnificent AlUla site.”

He noted that Rome’s cooperation with Riyadh had “been growing throughout the years in all areas,” including political, cultural, scientific, and technological collaborations, and sectoral partnerships.

Italian FM Luigi Di Maio (R) receiving Saudi Arabian FM Prince Faisal bin Farhan in Rome in June 2021. (SPA file photo)

“We look forward to boosting further our cooperation in the fields of infrastructure, new technologies, smart economy, tourism, and green transition,” Di Maio added.

During 2021, bilateral trade between the two nations topped $8.6 billion, a 32.9 percent increase on 2020. Italy is Saudi Arabia’s seventh-largest supplier of goods, and the Kingdom ranks 21 in goods supplied to Italy. Saudi Arabia provides approximately 9 percent of Italy’s oil imports.

The Observatory of Economic Complexity, the world’s leading data visualization tool for international trade statistics, in 2020 showed Saudi exports of $3.18 billion to Italy, with the top products being crude oil worth $1.7 billion, refined oil at $931 million, and $97.9 million of ethylene polymers.

Over the last 25 years, Italian exports to Saudi Arabia have increased at an annualized rate of 3.31 percent, from $1.67 billion in 1995 to $3.77 billion in 2020.

Oil and gas supplies will be on the agenda during official meetings in the Kingdom as Italy, along with Germany, approved the opening of Russian ruble accounts earlier in May for companies to be able to continue buying Russian oil and gas without violating the letter of sanctions imposed by the EU on Russia.

Di Maio said: “There is always room for improvement though. We count on strengthening our cooperation in the oil as well as in the natural gas sectors.”

Italy agreed with its EU partners to cut Russian crude imports by 2023 — in response to Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine — a move that Draghi called “a complete success.”

The Italian foreign minister added: “(Saudi Arabia is a) key partner for regional stability in the Middle East and the Gulf for Italy. Therefore, we deeply value our dialogue on the main regional files.

“We firmly believe that the broader Mediterranean is a region of opportunities, where fruitful synergies among people and economies can be established. We share this commitment with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, and we stand ready to work together toward those common goals.”

As members of the G20, Saudi Arabia handed over the honorary gavel as a token of the G20 Presidency’s transition to Italy, which held the 2021 G20 presidency. And as fellow members of the G20 Troika, Di Maio highlighted the role of both nations’ commitment to continue working in the same spirit of cooperation and solidarity for strong sustainable and inclusive growth and help, “devise a coordinated response to global challenges.”

On the issue of cooperation, he said: “My participation these days in the joint commission and business forum proves once more our commitment to celebrating this anniversary by strengthening our cooperation in traditional and new sectors.

“Much remains to be achieved, but Italy is ready to provide all the support the Kingdom needs to further implement its reforms. In that spirit, I am confident that the Saudi-Italian Investment Business Forum that I will co-chair on June 27 will turn out as a success and will be a trigger to foster new industrial and trade partnerships.”


Is there a future for psychedelic treatment in Saudi Arabia?

Saudi well-being practitioner and psychedelic integration specialist Haya Al-Hejailan. (Supplied)
Saudi well-being practitioner and psychedelic integration specialist Haya Al-Hejailan. (Supplied)
Updated 25 June 2022

Is there a future for psychedelic treatment in Saudi Arabia?

Saudi well-being practitioner and psychedelic integration specialist Haya Al-Hejailan. (Supplied)
  • Haya Al-Hejailan wants to open a clinic and to see Saudi pioneer in psychedelic research

RIYADH: Psychedelic researcher Stanislov Grof once wrote that “psychedelics, used responsibly and with proper caution, would be for psychiatry what the microscope is for biology and medicine or the telescope is for astronomy.”

To many, this may sound like an outlandish claim, but now more than ever, it is proving to be true and may very well become a frontier in practicing medicine.

Saudi Arabia was enduring a mental health epidemic and the psychological strains of the pandemic exacerbated that. People are finding themselves desperate for ways to cope. One of the most recent psychotherapy methods in the region, albeit stigmatized, is psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy. A recent study published by Neuropsychopharmacology showed that the substances were proven to achieve positive long-term mental health effects and their efficiency, safety and tolerability in treating major depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder and certain addictions.

I get more people contacting me asking me how they can receive this treatment, and it’s really heartbreaking to tell them, I’m sorry, but you’re gonna have to wait. It’s not available yet.

Haya Al-Hejailan, Saudi well-being practitioner and psychedelic integration specialist

It is also associated with enhancing creativity and problem-solving, according to an article published by the Journal of Psychoactive Drugs in 2019.

While the stigma around mind-altering substances, both in the region and globally, is unavoidable, researchers and scientists argue that if these drugs are regulated and used purely for medicinal reasons, what is the harm?

The term “psychedelics,” a class of hallucinogens, comes from the Greek words “psyche,” meaning the mind, and “delia,” meaning manifesting. The psychoactive substances are meant to alter the mind and create an alternative cognitive perception.

Psychedelics are classified into classical, which includes lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD), psilocybin (commonly known as magic mushrooms), mescaline and others, and non-classical, such as methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA or ecstasy) and ketamine.

“(They’re) really great tools for us being able to understand the brain and the study of consciousness better,” Saudi well-being practitioner and psychedelic integration specialist Haya Al-Hejailan told Arab News. Her work centers on psychedelic research and the treatment of borderline personality disorder.

This point may seem counterintuitive: How can addiction be treated with a substance that may cause another addiction? But psychedelics are, in fact, anti-addictive in nature.

“They have anti-addictive properties, meaning they don’t constitute physiological addiction, but one can become psychologically addicted to anything,” said Al-Hejailan, refererring to non-substance addictions such as coffee or mobile devices.

However, the use of psychedelics can pose certain dangers, making it crucial to undergo treatment strictly under professional medical supervision, which can only be accessible through clinics. Psychedelic therapists are trained to create a controlled environment for patients undergoing psychedelic therapy, with sessions prior to administering the treatment dose to identify any red flags or possible risks that would otherwise create a larger margin of error. Patients who self-dose could potentially be subject to health risks, retraumatization, depersonalization and dissociation.

“I get more people contacting me asking me how they can receive this treatment, and it’s really heartbreaking to tell them, ‘I'm sorry, but you’re gonna have to wait. It’s not available yet,’” Al-Hejailan said. “But I’m optimistic with highlighting the word ‘yet.’”

An article published by The Lancet showed that most antidepressants are ineffective and can be harmful to adolescents and children.

In an attempt to fulfill that medical need, several research efforts and trials have been unertaken to evaluate alternative routes, such as psychedelic-assisted therapy.

A study published by the National Library of Medicine found that small IV doses of ketamine can have positive, long-lasting antidepressant effects in patients. Although the scientific research regarding psychotherapeutic psychedelic use in the region is insufficient, Saudi Arabia has been easing its way into their use use for other purposes. Last year, the Saudi Journal of Emergency Medicine published a paper describing a successful case of refractory status epilepsy, a life-threatening condition, in a child treated with a single dose of ketamine.

Despite its growing popularity in mainstream media, psychedelic science is one of the cutting-edge neurosciences, yielding insufficient research compared to other sciences. The 1950s saw the first English-language report published on LSD, and research continued into Richard Nixon’s US presidential term, ending in the 70s. However, research efforts were quickly banned under the justification of the war on drugs as a public enemy declared by the US president. However, it was supported by other factors, such as the lack of funding for psychedelic research and failed medical trials, according to an article published by the Cambridge University Press.

That area of medicine was considered niche until recently. In 2017, MDMA was given “breakthrough therapy” designation by the Food and Drug Administration, meaning it was granted an expedited review process. In 2018, the FDA granted a group of psychiatrists researching psilocybin-assisted therapy for treatment-resistant depression the same status.

In the same year, Michael Pollan’s book “How to Change Your Mind” created a public space for people to think differently about psychedelics and the consciousness expansion of the mind. Ketamine was granted the same status a year later. Arguably, that is when psychedelics hit the mainstream, although its resurgence into clinical research and trials resumed in the 1990s.

“(Before that) I was met with a lot of skepticism. People literally thought I was talking about something that’s crazy,” Al-Hejailan said in reference to discussing psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy before 2018.

“There’s a lot of interest, enthusiasm and curiosity that I’m met with now when I talk about my work.”

With a master’s in applied positive psychology and coaching psychology from the University of East London, Al-Hejailan’s work also includes positive psychology integration and psychedelic education, providing training in psychedelic therapy and ketamine-assisted psychotherapy. She also co-directed and co-produced a documentary titled “Psychedelic Renaissance,” centered on the reemergence of the psychedelic movement globally and its cultural significance.

Al-Hejailan said that raising awareness about psychedelic studies was the first step in creating a regional environment that allows for alternative psychotherapy methods.

“I think we need to, in general, focus more of our energy and attention on psychoeducation, educating the public about mental health and well-being. The more we do that, the more people are likely to continue becoming accepting and interested,” she said.

Future steps to normalize the use of psychoactive drugs include active training for clinicians and therapists on their uses and benefits and eventually establishing specialized clinics and research centers.

“My goal is to have presentations specifically on psychotherapy and to meet with therapists, psychologists, psychiatrists and other physicians, and policymakers at some point. To show them what’s happening abroad, what the science shows and to discuss how we can replicate this here in a safe way that respects our culture and that respects our specific or unique needs,” Al-Hejailan said.

“I really want to open a clinic and research center here. Me and my colleagues would very much love to see Saudi pioneer in psychedelic research in the region, and maybe globally.”


First group of British pilgrims arrives in Makkah

Pilgrims expressed their appreciation for the facilities that allow them to perform Hajj with ease and comfort. (SPA)
Pilgrims expressed their appreciation for the facilities that allow them to perform Hajj with ease and comfort. (SPA)
Updated 25 June 2022

First group of British pilgrims arrives in Makkah

Pilgrims expressed their appreciation for the facilities that allow them to perform Hajj with ease and comfort. (SPA)
  • Worshippers praise Saudi government for providing facilities, services

JEDDAH: British Hajj pilgrims have returned to Makkah, ending a two-year hiatus because of COVID-19 restrictions.

A group of about 190 UK pilgrims who arrived on Saturday represent the first worshippers from Europe, the US or Australia to journey to the holy city for this year’s Hajj season.

HIGHLIGHT

A group of about 190 UK pilgrims who arrived on Saturday represent the first worshippers from Europe, the US or Australia to journey to the holy city for this year’s Hajj season.The group is registered via the electronic portal www.motawif. com.sa, which the Ministry of Hajj and Umrah launched as part of a strategy to develop digital services for worshippers.

Abdulrahman Shams, assistant undersecretary of the Ministry of Hajj and Umrah for Umrah affairs, and a number of officials welcomed the pilgrims and offered them Zamzam water, flowers and souvenirs.

Pilgrims expressed their appreciation to the government of King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman for the facilities and services that allow worshippers to perform their Hajj rituals with ease, comfort and tranquility.

Deputy Minister of Hajj and Umrah Abdulfattah Mashat said: “The ministry is working to improve all programs that contribute to serving pilgrims, including registration mechanism for pilgrims from Europe, America and Australia for this Hajj season 2022, through an integrated online portal that includes a variety of package options and support services.”

The first group of British pilgrims is registered via the electronic portal www.motawif.com.sa, which the Ministry of Hajj and Umrah launched as part of a strategy to develop digital services for worshippers.

The portal helps to ensure pilgrims fulfil Hajj requirements, including completion of COVID-19 vaccination doses and negative tests. It also includes integrated services for communication in multiple languages around the clock and the issuing of visas electronically.

Earlier, British Consul-General in Jeddah Seifeldin Usher praised the Kingdom’s efforts in welcoming pilgrims.

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

“We are 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.”