Thai citizens share their joy performing Hajj

The second group of Thai pilgrims arrived at Prince Mohammed bin Abdulaziz International Airport in Madinah on June 11. (Supplied)
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The second group of Thai pilgrims arrived at Prince Mohammed bin Abdulaziz International Airport in Madinah on June 11. (Supplied)
Thai citizens share their joy performing Hajj
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The second group of Thai pilgrims arrived at Prince Mohammed bin Abdulaziz International Airport in Madinah on June 11. (Supplied)
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Updated 04 July 2022

Thai citizens share their joy performing Hajj

Thai citizens share their joy performing Hajj
  • Arabic teacher Mamu Kayah and businessman Arong Samae praise Saudi and Thai officials for smooth journey

RIYADH: Two Thai pilgrims performing Hajj for the first time have expressed their joy at arriving in Saudi Arabia after not being able to do so because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Hajj is the opportunity of a lifetime for me. I could not hold back the tears when I saw the Kaaba for the first time. If I am able to perform Hajj after this time, I intend to perform Umrah every year, God willing. Hajj means everything to me,” Arong Samae told Arab News.

Samae from Narathiwat Province, located in the south of Thailand, is a businessman who is undertaking the pilgrimage with his wife this year.

“I seize this opportunity to express my heartfelt thanks to the government of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques for its gigantic efforts by which Muslims can visit the city of the Prophet (Madinah) and Makkah once again, and I pray to God Almighty to grant it more prosperity and progress,” said Samae.

The Narathiwat Province native took a plane from southern Thailand to Madinah Airport directly. He arrived in Saudi Arabia on June 11 and left for Makkah on June 17.

“I have never encountered any difficulties; everything is organized and easy. The Thai Hajj Company supplies everything from start to finish, and the Thai government also provides support and facilities at all stages,” Samae said.

“The trip took approximately eight hours by chartered flight, and I did not expect these facilities, because I heard that the pilgrimage journey is tiring and long, starting with car transfers to the capital, then waiting for the flight for two or three days,” he said.

Samae was surprised to see how quick and seamless the process was: “Thank God, everything (was) easy … Less than 12 hours … and I was in Saudi Arabia, I thank God for that,” he said.

“I prayed to God that one day I would arrive in Saudi Arabia. I also thank everyone who serves the pilgrims, whether they are from Thailand or from Saudi Arabia,” he said.

He said that he wanted to perform Hajj two years ago but was unable to because of COVID-19 restrictions. The pandemic had “changed everything” they wanted to do, he said.

Thai native, 58-year-old Mamu Kayah, is performing Hajj with his wife this year. He is a high school Arabic teacher from Yala, a city in the south of the country.

“I am very pleased to have this opportunity, and I thank God day and night for that. And I am absolutely certain that every Muslim who has come to this pure land shares this feeling with me,” Kayah said.

He told Arab News that this was his third time performing Hajj.

“We are very fortunate to have a direct flight from the far south of Thailand, the state of Narathiwat, which is only a hundred kilometers away from my home,” he said.

“The Thai Hajj company and the Thai Hajj mission did their duty well; everything is organized and tidy, especially with the presence of electronic platforms that contribute greatly to facilitating the procedures from the first day until we boarded the plane to Madinah,” he said.

Kayah took a direct eight-hour flight from Narathiwat to Madinah’s Prince Mohammed bin Abdulaziz International Airport. He thanked the Kingdom and Thailand for providing these routes for pilgrims.

“I heard that organizing the chartered plane was not easy, and it can only be done with the tremendous efforts of the two countries, Thailand and Saudi Arabia,” he said.

Kayah and his wife arrived in Madinah on June 12, traveled to Makkah on June 18, and will return to their home country on July 20.

“It can be said that Hajj this year is very special and completely different from my previous experience,” he said.

“For example, from when I got off the plane at Madinah Airport to my arrival at the hotel, the process took only one hour. Every step is fast and tidy, starting with the procedures in the passports, taking the luggage, riding the bus,” Kayah added.

He added that Saudi and Thai employees were available everywhere to assist. “Above all, the reception from the competent Saudi authority was very wonderful; we felt like one of the VIPs,” he said.

It was an emotional experience for him. “Indescribable pleasure, especially for a person of my age. I always cry when I stand in front of the Prophet’s Mosque and the Holy Kaaba, crying for joy, of course, and it is all thanks to God Almighty,” he said.

“The only issue that worries me and everyone is the high prices of everything; in any case, we understand very well that this thing is not in our hands, so that not only the costs of Hajj increased but in everything and all over the world. Other than that, there are no difficulties,” he said.

Thailand has a post-pandemic quota of 5,885 pilgrims, according to the Thai Embassy in Jeddah, with 3,738 having registered to do so. Before the COVID-19 restrictions, Thailand had a quota of 13,000. In 2018 and 2019, a total of 7,851 and 8,462 pilgrims respectively performed Hajj.

As of June 20, 1,120 pilgrims had arrived in Madinah on Thai Airways charter flights. Four flights arrived in the Kingdom from June 10 to 13. The other 2,618 pilgrims will travel on eight flights from June 29 to Jeddah, five of which are through Thai airways and three are with Saudi Airlines.

As the first groups of pilgrims arrived in Makkah and Madinah on Sunday, Basri Tatif, the deputy head of the Thai Pilgrims Affairs, praised the Kingdom for its organization, and said that his fellow citizens will be able to perform their rituals safely with all the measures in place.


Saudi wildlife agency discovers skeletons of extinct cheetahs

Saudi wildlife agency discovers skeletons of extinct cheetahs
Updated 17 August 2022

Saudi wildlife agency discovers skeletons of extinct cheetahs

Saudi wildlife agency discovers skeletons of extinct cheetahs
  • Find shows the big cats must have once migrated across the Arabian Peninsula

RIYADH: Experts from the National Center for Wildlife in Riyadh have discovered the ancient skeletons of 17 cheetahs in a cave in Rafha, the Saudi Press Agency reported.

The center said the find was significant because it provided rare evidence of hunter-gatherer activity in the Arabian Peninsula.

The discovery was made during research into the biodiversity of caves and bodies of water in the area.

The center’s CEO Dr. Muhammad Ali Qurban said cheetahs had been extinct on the Arabian Peninsula for more than 50 years and that even specimens kept in museums and research centers were very rare.

The discovery of the skeletons, some of which had been mummified, provided the first definitive evidence that cheetahs once migrated across the peninsula to the north of Saudi Arabia, Qurban said.

He added that the find would provide valuable information to support captive breeding and resettlement programs, as well as future research.

The National Center for Wildlife has shelters for cheetahs all over the world, as it works to breed and resettle the animals in Saudi Arabia.


65 countries import dates during Unaizah season

65 countries import dates during Unaizah season
Updated 17 August 2022

65 countries import dates during Unaizah season

65 countries import dates during Unaizah season
  • Saudi dates exported to Gulf Cooperation Council states, Egypt, Morocco, Tunisia, and the US
  • Sukkary rutab, suqai, and medjoul dates are the most popular with foreign buyers

RIYADH: 65 countries including Arab states have imported Saudi dates since the beginning of the Unaizah international dates season, Saudi Press Agency reported on Wednesday.

The countries include Gulf Cooperation Council states, Egypt, Morocco, Tunisia, and the US.

The head of the agricultural committee at the Unaizah Chamber and the season’s president of external export, Abdul Rahman Al-Karida, said that sukkary rutab dates are the most popular with foreign buyers due to their quality and availability, while the suqai and medjoul types took second and third place.

He added that some traders received the Saudi date mark, a quality mark that shows that products are safe. The mark is granted to certain institutions after checks are made to ensure that they meet the requirements of food safety and global markets.

Al-Karida added that special vehicles transport the dates from Unaizah every morning by land to their destination in less than 12 hours, while dates headed for countries further afield in the Arab world, north Africa and Europe are transported by sea.

Saudi date exports from the season have also been received for the first time this year in South Korea, he added.


President of Uzbekistan arrives in Jeddah after visiting Prophet’s Mosque

President of Uzbekistan arrives in Jeddah after visiting Prophet’s Mosque
Updated 17 August 2022

President of Uzbekistan arrives in Jeddah after visiting Prophet’s Mosque

President of Uzbekistan arrives in Jeddah after visiting Prophet’s Mosque
  • Earlier, Mirziyoyev visited the holy city of Madinah where he paid his respects to Prophet Muhammad and visited his mosque

RIYADH: The president of Uzbekistan arrived in Jeddah on Wednesday, Saudi Press Agency reported.

Shavkat Mirziyoyev was received on arrival at King Abdulaziz International Airport by the deputy governor of the Makkah region Prince Badr bin Sultan bin Abdulaziz, the Minister of Investment Khalid Al-Falih, and other officials.

Earlier, Mirziyoyev visited the holy city of Madinah where he paid his respects to Prophet Muhammad and visited his mosque.

The President of Uzbekistan Shavkat Mirziyoyev visits the International Fair and Museum of the Prophet’s Biography and Islamic Civilization in Madinah. (SPA)

While in Madinah, Mirziyoyev and his delegation also visited the International Fair and Museum of the Prophet’s Biography and Islamic Civilization.

Mirziyoyev was received on arrival at Prince Mohammed bin Abdulaziz International Airport by the acting governor of the Madinah region Prince Saud bin Khalid Al-Faisal and other officials.


GCF 2022 to focus on reconsidering global cyber arrangements

GCF 2022 to focus on reconsidering global cyber arrangements
Updated 17 August 2022

GCF 2022 to focus on reconsidering global cyber arrangements

GCF 2022 to focus on reconsidering global cyber arrangements
  • Forum to discuss geopolitical, strategic changes and prospects for shaping future of cybersecurity
  • Abdulrahman Alquaari: AI can be a powerful protective tool against cyber-attacks

RIYADH: The Global Cybersecurity Forum 2022, to be held Nov. 9-10 in Riyadh, will discuss accelerating geopolitical and strategic changes, and prospects for shaping the future of cybersecurity under the theme “Reconsidering the Global Cyber Arrangements.”  

Organized by the National Cybersecurity Authority under the patronage of King Salman, the forum is a leading global platform that opens horizons of knowledge on cybersecurity issues and builds the foundations of cooperation.

This year’s forum will witness the participation of elite decision-makers and executive officers, senior government officials and representatives of the most prominent international companies, non-governmental organizations and academic entities from around the world.

The presence of the GCF 2022 in Riyadh confirms the position of Saudi Arabia as a global leader in unifying international strategic discussions over issues related to cyberspace.

Sessions will cover a wide range of issues to promote development and enhance cooperation and partnerships between government and private entities around the world.

Five main discussions will be addressed in depth: "Prospects for Change in the Cyber Landscape,” which will deal with current and future cybersecurity threats; “Cyber Economies,” which will deal with areas benefiting from market forces, incentive programs and economic governance in shaping cyberspace; “Geo-Cyber Evolution,” which will deal with ever-changing global cyber arrangements; “Future of Cyber Work,” which will address ways to attract, develop and preserve talent; and “Cybersecurity — No One Left Behind,” which will deal with the search for practical solutions to bridge the cyber gap globally.

During the two-day forum, participants will look for solutions to all concerns in cybersecurity. The registration procedures for attending the GCF, as well as the names of local and international speakers, will be announced soon.

Abdulrahman Alquaari, a data science specialist, told Arab News: “Integration and use of software, technical solutions, and databases must be accompanied by relevant security measures

“Cybersecurity is an ever-growing industry. Notably, as technology evolves, artificial intelligence is becoming an integral part of cybersecurity, which helps organizations of different sizes and industries to promote cybersecurity efficiency. Therefore, it is inevitable to use artificial intelligence techniques to enhance and support cybersecurity,” he said.

“AI is a critical asset for organizations that use automation to increase the productivity and effectiveness of their operations,” Alquaari added, confirming that cybersecurity is one of the applications benefiting most from AI.

With the massive spread of internet of things devices, the number and sophistication of data breaches is increasing, but AI can be a powerful protective tool against cyber-attacks, he added.

“Where many people feel fear about AI in automating cybersecurity for several reasons — the most important of which is reducing job opportunities — I see exactly the opposite, as AI may take job opportunities while providing others, and it also helps in providing protection for data and information, and making decisions that may be made too late (by humans),” he explained.


Saudi Arabia’s Narcotics Control seize over 2M amphetamine pills hidden in floor mops 

Saudi Arabia’s Narcotics Control seize over 2M amphetamine pills hidden in floor mops 
Updated 17 August 2022

Saudi Arabia’s Narcotics Control seize over 2M amphetamine pills hidden in floor mops 

Saudi Arabia’s Narcotics Control seize over 2M amphetamine pills hidden in floor mops 
  • A Syrian resident who had arranged for the drugs to be delivered to him was arrested

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s narcotics control department seized 2,250,000 amphetamine pills hidden in a shipment of cleaning mops that were being smuggled through the Jeddah Islamic Port, the Saudi Press Agency (SPA) reported on Wednesday. 

Users of the substance pay from $10 to $25 a pill according to research by the International Addiction Review journal, that puts the street value of this latest haul at a massive $22.5m to $56.2m.

A Syrian resident who had arranged for the drugs to be delivered to him was arrested, according to the official spokesman of the General Directorate of Narcotics Control, Major Muhammad Al-Nujaidi. 

Users of the substance pay from $10 to $25 a pill according to research by the International Addiction Review journal, that puts the street value of this latest haul at a massive $22.5m to $56.2m. (SPA)

The man has been referred to the Public Prosecution, the spokesman said. 

The Kingdom’s authorities said they have been cracking down on attempts to smuggle drugs into and out of the country to ensure the public’s safety.