Crowds flock to opening of the inaugural Madinah Book Fair

Crowds flock to opening of the inaugural Madinah Book Fair
The book fair, held under the patronage of Madinah Gov. Prince Faisal bin Salman bin Abdulaziz, includes workshops, cultural programs and events for children. (Twitter: @imarat_almadina)
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Updated 22 June 2022

Crowds flock to opening of the inaugural Madinah Book Fair

Crowds flock to opening of the inaugural Madinah Book Fair
  • The 10-day event, which began on Thursday and continues until June 25, includes more than 200 publishers and other related organizations from 11 countries

MADINAH: More than 200 publishers and other related organizations are taking part in the inaugural Madinah Book Fair, which began on Thursday at the King Salman bin Abdelaziz Center for Exhibitions and Conferences.

During the opening ceremony, Mohammed Hassan Alwan, the CEO of event organizer the Literature, Publishing and Translation Commission, said: “The commission is seeking to build its role in the book fair industry based on partnership and integration foundations, and we also aim to provide the people of the city with a renewed cultural scene, and we hope to offer the publishing industry beneficial, culturally and economically viable book fairs.

“We are keen that the city book fair will be an annual exhibition with a distinctive position on the map of Arab book fairs.”

The 10-day event, held under the patronage of Madinah’s governor, Prince Faisal bin Salman bin Abdulaziz, continues until June 25. It includes workshops, cultural and theatrical programs and events for children that offer a window into the creation of literature and the publishing industry.




More than 200 publishers and related organizations are taking part in the 10-day book fair. (Twitter: @SaudiBookFair)

In a message posted on June 6 on Twitter, the official account of Saudi Book Fairs wrote: “In the heart of Medina the cultural program activities of the #Madinah_Book_Fair_2022 are launched to provide an integrated knowledge journey that promises visitors a unique cultural experience.”

Organizers said the event aims to enhance the cultural status of Madinah, boost the Saudi publishing sector, encourage cultural exchanges between countries, provide an integrated journey for readers, and highlight the role of reading in raising awareness and improving quality of life.

Eleven nations are participating in the fair: 10 Arab countries — Kuwait, Iraq, Tunisia, Algeria, UAE, Oman, Mauritania, Jordan, Egypt and Sudan — and the UK.

Among the more than 200 publishers and related organizations taking part, more than 80 are from the Kingdom, including universities, research centers, foundations, commissions, bookstores and libraries. The event attracted huge crowds on day one.

Amir Alsaiegh, a 46-year-old literature lecturer and self-professed bibliophile, told Arab News: “I came today with two suitcases to fill them with book selections which I came to pick from the fair.

“I have a long list for today and I am glad about the huge number of publishing houses available here. The fair exceeded my expectations.”

Ibtihal Al-Jabri, 17, visited the fair with her three sisters who, like her, are all book lovers.

“I was so excited for the book fair when they first announced it two weeks ago,” she said.

Her sister Nouf, 22, added: “This event is the first of its kind in Madinah; I have been waiting for it for so many years. I love it and am willing to come here every day.”

The attractions included immersive offerings in Arabic and English for children, including educational theatrical shows and workshops on topics such as storytelling, handicrafts, drawing, writing, interactive reading, heritage arts, Arabic calligraphy and philosophy.

Six-year-old Samia Al-Nahdi said: “I love reading. I came today with my parents because they like reading, like me.”

Madinah Book Fair is part of the Book Fair Initiatives, one of the Literature, Publishing and Translation Commission’s strategic initiatives that aims to stage fairs across the Kingdom to give Saudi readers a chance to explore works published by local, Arab and international publishers and learn about the latest developments in the publishing industry.




More than 200 publishers and related organizations are taking part in the 10-day book fair. (Twitter: @SaudiBookFair)

To accompany the start of the book fair, two other events took place on Thursday. The first was the opening of a new museum at King Abdul Aziz Complex for Waqf Libraries, which was inaugurated by Prince Faisal.

Fahad Al-Wahbi, the organization’s secretary-general, told Arab News: “Today, the complex is participating in this museum, which aims to shed light on a group of important archaeological and historical collectibles, which vary from ancient manuscripts, some of which date back thousands of years, to rare precious Qur’ans that represent different historical periods, and collectibles from the Prophet’s Mosque.”

The other event involved the King Salman Charter for Architecture and Urbanism, an organization that celebrates the essence of Salmani Architecture, which has organized an exhibition that was first staged in Riyadh before touring Jeddah, Abha and Dhahran, and has now arrived in Madinah.

Sumaya Al-Sulaiman, CEO of the Architecture and Design Commission at the Ministry of Culture, told Arab News: “We have also taken it to Expo Dubai 2021, and we are taking it internationally because this is an international methodology that we think is applicable anywhere.

“It is one of 33 initiatives that we have in the Architecture and Design Commission. It is one of the earliest and most important, given the extent and impact that we anticipate.”

She said the exhibition aims to reflect the fact that “the experience we have had in Riyadh city through the patronage of King Salman has been so influential that there has been a development of identity within the city of Riyadh through multiple projects that we have seen.

“From an architectural point of view, the charter displayed a masterpiece that has gained international recognition. There are six values within the charter that are guiding principles, including continuity and authenticity, … the individual and community (and) the last values are related to innovation and sustainability.”


US officials led by antisemitism envoy briefed on Saudi efforts to promote tolerance

US officials led by antisemitism envoy briefed on Saudi efforts to promote tolerance
Updated 01 July 2022

US officials led by antisemitism envoy briefed on Saudi efforts to promote tolerance

US officials led by antisemitism envoy briefed on Saudi efforts to promote tolerance
  • They were visiting the King Abdulaziz Center for National Dialogue, the leader of which stressed the importance of communication and dialogue in building bridges between cultures

RIYADH: A visiting US delegation led by Ambassador Deborah Lipstadt, Washington’s special envoy for monitoring and combating antisemitism, was briefed this week on the work of Saudi Arabia’s King Abdulaziz Center for National Dialogue.

After being welcomed to the center by its secretary-general, Abdullah Al-Fawzan, and other senior representatives, the delegates were given a brief presentation about its activities designed to promote and encourage greater tolerance among peoples.

They were also briefed on the results of the first study of its kind in the region on tolerance, carried out by the center to the highest scientific standards, which found that Saudi society is tolerant of other cultures and civilizations.

In greeting the visitors on Tuesday, Al-Fawzan stressed the importance of encouraging communication and dialogue between peoples, to help build bridges of understanding among cultures, as part of the efforts being made by the Kingdom, through its Saudi Vision 2030 development plan, to support tolerance and promote peaceful coexistence based on the principles of moderate Islam.

He said that Saudi society accepts and coexists with people from other societies and cultures, as evidenced by the large number of expatriates who live and work in the Kingdom. This shows that the values of tolerance, peaceful coexistence and unity are not new concepts in the country, he added.

Since its inception, the center has placed great importance in promoting the values of citizenship among among all sections of society, making it a mainstay of its work, Al-Fawzan said.

The members of the US delegation were also given a tour of the center’s Interactive Dialogue Exhibition so that they could learn more about the Kingdom’s efforts to support communications between cultures and civilizations. They also heard about local projects developed by the center to help strengthen the nation’s social fabric, and its regional and global initiatives designed to help build and enhance cultural diversity and human commonalities.


Shoura council speaker heads delegation to Non-Aligned Movement Parliamentary Network conference

Shoura council speaker heads delegation to Non-Aligned Movement Parliamentary Network conference
Updated 30 June 2022

Shoura council speaker heads delegation to Non-Aligned Movement Parliamentary Network conference

Shoura council speaker heads delegation to Non-Aligned Movement Parliamentary Network conference

RIYADH: Speaker of the Saudi Shoura Council Sheikh Dr. Abdullah Al-Sheikh is heading the Kingdom’s delegation to the first conference of the Non-Aligned Movement Parliamentary Network, which began on Thursday in Baku, Azerbaijan, with the participation of several parliament speakers from NAM member states.

Al-Sheikh said in a press statement that the council’s participation in the conference is an affirmation of Saudi Arabia’s keenness to achieve security, peace and sustainable development globally.

Speaker of the Saudi Shoura Council Sheikh Dr. Abdullah Al Al-Sheikh is heading the Kingdom’s delegation to the first conference of the Parliamentary Network of Non-Aligned Movement (NAM), which began on Thursday in Baku, Azerbaijan. (Supplied)

The Kingdom’s participation also highlights its constructive partnership with other countries, the solutions it aims to provide to international crises and the humanitarian work it carries out, Al-Sheikh pointed out.

He stressed that international parliamentary conferences are essential in facing global challenges and achieving cooperation across borders.

The NAM Parliamentary Network was established on the sidelines of the 143rd General Assembly of the Inter-Parliamentary Union, held in Madrid. It aims to provide a framework for cooperation between the parliaments of NAM member states, with the participation of several other international organizations.


Local businesses looking forward to lucrative Hajj season post-pandemic

Local businesses looking forward to lucrative Hajj season post-pandemic
Updated 30 June 2022

Local businesses looking forward to lucrative Hajj season post-pandemic

Local businesses looking forward to lucrative Hajj season post-pandemic
  • The pandemic put a halt to the Hajj for two years, leading to huge losses for some families who solely depended on the pilgrimage season to reap its financial rewards

MAKKAH: Residents of Makkah benefit financially during the Hajj as millions of people from all over the world converge on the holy city to perform the annual pilgrimage.  

But the pandemic put a halt to the Hajj for two years, leading to huge losses for some families who solely depended on the pilgrimage season to reap its financial rewards.  

Elaf Al-Mashaer, a local five-star hotel, is all set to welcome over 20,000 pilgrims this year, and the team has prepared the place to be as comfortable as possible to ensure a smooth stay for guests.

“We must know the number of guests who will stay in the hotel and their nationalities so that we can provide them with what they need,” hotel owner Abdulaziz Al-Sharbeeni told Arab News.

The 304-room establishment has several restaurants to cater to guests’ palates. “Each nationality has its own culture or a certain way of eating. We have Indian, Pakistani, East Asian, and Arabic restaurants.”

(Supplied)

It has also made modifications and preparations to make the rooms and suites accessible to people with disabilities.

“Some pilgrims come alone, so we give them a room on request, while others come with their families, so we give them a suite,” Al-Sharbeeni said. “There is a target we must achieve during the Hajj season as a facility, and the most important seasons in the year to achieve these financial goals are the Ramadan and Hajj seasons.”

The Hajj season attracts a large and diverse crowd, and everyone who visits Makkah enjoys shopping for gifts. They also use taxis, hospitals, restaurants, and other services and amenities, providing locals with many economic opportunities.

“I sell gold in the local market, and Hajj season is considered our opportunity to reach the target. So I’m more than happy that Hajj is back because we miss the pilgrims and we love interacting with them and welcoming them,” said Ahmed Al-Suliman.

Al-Suliman said there were more opportunities for work during the Hajj as significant manpower was required to serve, manage, and help with the influx of pilgrims.

“The people of Makkah, in particular, want to take advantage of the Hajj season. Young and old are working this season, and even if someone sells a bottle of water for SR1 ($0.27), he will earn a lot of money. You can apply for seasonal field jobs through the website of the Ministry of Hajj and the official platforms.”


Program launched to measure pilgrims’ satisfaction during Hajj

Program launched to measure pilgrims’ satisfaction during Hajj
Updated 30 June 2022

Program launched to measure pilgrims’ satisfaction during Hajj

Program launched to measure pilgrims’ satisfaction during Hajj
  • Guests will be assigned incognito to help evaluate Hajj services according to a pre-studied scientific methodology

JEDDAH: The Saudi Ministry of Hajj and Umrah has launched a performance initiative aimed at measuring pilgrims’ satisfaction at service provision during this year’s Hajj season.

Assistant deputy minister of Hajj and Umrah, Hesham Saeed, signed a joint cooperation agreement with acting secretary-general of the coordination council, Dr. Abdullah Al-Muwaihi, in relation to the program.

Al-Muwaihi said the monitoring scheme would involve measuring quality-of-service performance and beneficiary satisfaction, while also including an incognito guest program, all designed to improve and enrich worshippers’ spiritual experience.

Under the incognito initiative, Saeed said a designated guest would, “serve as a pilgrim under mission, who lives the full experience of Hajj, starting from the country of the pilgrim, passing through the holy sites, and performing the rituals until they return to their country.

“The assigned incognito guest will be living all the details, seeing what contact points they pass through, and will give an evaluation according to a pre-studied scientific methodology regarding the measurement criteria,” he added.

 

 

 


A million Muslims from around the world to perform Hajj in 2022

A million Muslims from around the world to perform Hajj in 2022
Updated 30 June 2022

A million Muslims from around the world to perform Hajj in 2022

A million Muslims from around the world to perform Hajj in 2022
  • Pilgrims from outside the Kingdom must submit a negative PCR test result within 72 hours of their departure

JEDDAH: A million Muslims from around the world will perform the Hajj this year, in line with the quotas allocated to each country and following recommendations from the Saudi Ministry of Health.

The Hajj was limited to 60,000 vaccinated citizens and residents from the Kingdom in 2021 to contain the spread of COVID-19 and ensure the safety of pilgrims and others.

But, following Saudi Arabia's successful implementation of precautionary measures for Hajj and Umrah seasons during the pandemic, pilgrim capacity has been raised to 1 million.

This year's Hajj is for people aged 65 and under who must comply with the requirement to complete a COVID-19 vaccination program.

The Ministry of Hajj and Umrah tweeted that pilgrims from outside the Kingdom must submit a negative PCR test result within 72 hours of their departure for Saudi Arabia.

It said the shots required for pilgrims in Saudi Arabia included one for meningitis for people who had not been vaccinated in the past five years. They are also required to get the flu vaccine. Local pilgrims must take these vaccinations at least 10 days before going to the Hajj.

Figures from the General Authority of Statistics showed that, during the pandemic's peak in 2020, the number of pilgrims plummeted to just 1,000. The decision to restrict capacity was based on risk assessment and public health and safety concerns.  

There were almost 2.5 million pilgrims at the Hajj in 2019, and 1.9 million were from overseas.

The highest number of local and foreign Hajj pilgrims in the past decade was in 2012 when nearly 3.2 million people performed the annual pilgrimage. The lowest was 1.9 million in 2016.