Ministry of Hajj opens online registration for pilgrims from Europe, the US and Australia

Ministry of Hajj opens online registration for pilgrims from Europe, the US and Australia
Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Hajj and Umrah has developed a portal through which pilgrims from Europe, America, and Australia can register electronically for Hajj 2022. (@ReasahAlharmain)
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Updated 07 June 2022

Ministry of Hajj opens online registration for pilgrims from Europe, the US and Australia

Ministry of Hajj opens online registration for pilgrims from Europe, the US and Australia
  • Portal allows visas to be issued electronically
  • Hajj pilgrims from Europe, America, and Australia can register directly at: www.motawif.com.sa

MAKKAH: The Ministry of Hajj and Umrah confirmed that pilgrims from Europe, North America, and Australia can register electronically for this year's Hajj.

Engineer Imad Qari, a member of the Board of Directors of the European, American, and Australian Pilgrims Company, told Arab News that this decision aims to direct sales of services to the pilgrims of Europe, America and Australia. 

Pilgrims from these countries will be able to register their data and submit their official documents, including passports and necessary vaccination papers for Covid-19. Then they will enter the lottery process for the appropriate packages and complete the online payment process. After that, the requests are sent to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to issue visas in consultation with the Information Center of the Ministry of Hajj and Umrah.

Qari said that there will be no external mediators, and this method will enrich the pilgrims' experience and positively impact lowering costs.

The Ministry has announced five steps for the e-registration for hajj: The first step starts from three to six of June and includes registration that suits the applicant's preferences. The period from six to eight June is for verifying the required documents. On June 10, those who are eligible for hajj this year are selected, and from June 11 to 12, payment is made through the Mutawwif platform after receiving notification of their candidacy for hajj. On June 14, hajj visas will be issued for applicants once the payment process is complete.

The Chairman of World Hajj and Umrah Care Foundation, Mohien Tutla, told Arab News that today, the Ministry has truly empowered the pilgrims of Europe, North America, and Australasia. He said that for the first time in recent history, there is a direct relationship with the hundreds of thousands of aspiring pilgrims performing hajj; without intermediary agents. 

Tutla explained that this change shall be felt by hundreds of travel agents who were entrusted with pilgrim welfare, who will be left wondering what this change means for them.

He further highlighted that a culture of exploitation had developed, where licensed Munazzem (a privileged group of organizers) had often taken advantage and manipulated pricing structures, with operating practices not in line with the Ministry's best practice guidelines.

“The great gain in this technological advancement is pilgrims being in greater control of Hajj and Umrah practices which in time will improve each year. The great loss is the compassion shared by organizers who took care of the pilgrims' needs, physically and spiritually.”

He continued: “We always hoped that hajj organizers would play an important role in the season, by not simply being travel specialists in Makkah and Madinah, but mentors, cultivating the pilgrims' potential as they transition into becoming better Muslims through the hajj enlightenment.”


KAU, Nahdi partner to train future Saudi pharmacists

KAU, Nahdi partner to train future Saudi pharmacists
Updated 12 sec ago

KAU, Nahdi partner to train future Saudi pharmacists

KAU, Nahdi partner to train future Saudi pharmacists
  • Deal will advance education, training and research programs
  • More than 100 internship opportunities opened for students 

RIYADH: King Abdulaziz University and Nahdi Medical Company have partnered to train future Saudi pharmacists and further the role of youth in the economic development of the Kingdom.

A memorandum of understanding signing ceremony took place at the King Abdulaziz University with Prof. Hani Asfour, dean of the faculty of pharmacy at KAU, and Samer Bokharee, chief human resources officer at Nahdi.

Commenting on the partnership, Asfour said: “It is vital that as a community we acknowledge the integral role a pharmacist plays in providing therapeutic and advisory services to patients, especially amidst as challenging times as the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We are pleased to be partnering with Nahdi Medical Company, who are investing in preparing the nation’s young men and women for the labor market, creating job opportunities, and raising the level of Saudization of this vital sector in line with the goals of Saudi Vision 2030,” he added.

Commenting on the partnership, Bokharee said: “With mutual objectives, this cooperation aims to nurture young, ambitious Saudi pharmaceutical students at KAU and provide them an opportunity to develop their proficiencies through our training and recruitment programs.

“We believe every pharmacist plays a pivotal role in our industry, given that pharmacies are the first touch point for most guests. We are equipping future pharmacists with the right set of skills and knowledge in our continuous pursuit to add beats to the lives of our guests. Nahdi remains committed to delivering intensive training workshops to students and has employed more than 600 Saudi students across the Kingdom,” he added.

Bokharee said that the excellence program offered by Nahdi will provide future pharmacists with real-life career experiences and intensive training sessions at community pharmacies under the supervision of certified trainers.

Applicants will have the chance to apply for full-time career opportunities at Nahdi once their training courses are completed.

Postgraduates and academics from the college of pharmacy at KAU will be granted access to data from more than 1,100 pharmacies across the Kingdom, as well as real-time interaction with more than 5 million guests per year.

Nahdi Medical Company is the largest retail pharmacy chain in Saudi Arabia and boasts a growing healthcare services platform. The company has partnered with more than 15 private and public universities across the Kingdom since 2008 in efforts directed toward training and research.

The strategic deal between KAU and Nahdi underscores the spirit of industry-academic collaboration and the role of Saudi youth in the economic development of the Kingdom.


Sky’s limit for Jeddah Season balloon-flight visitors

Sky’s limit for Jeddah Season balloon-flight visitors
Updated 51 min 31 sec ago

Sky’s limit for Jeddah Season balloon-flight visitors

Sky’s limit for Jeddah Season balloon-flight visitors

JEDDAH: The sky’s the limit for visitors to the Jeddah Season of activities where tethered balloon trips are offering them a bird’s-eye view of the city.

Up to 29 passengers can take to the air with an Aerophile-certified pilot for rides lasting around 10 minutes in the 150-meter-high balloon located in City Walk, one of the festival zones.

The helium balloon, which is 22.46 meters in diameter, is anchored to the ground by ropes. Flights are dependent on weather conditions.


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.”