RIYADH: More than 369,000 pilgrims from across the world have so far arrived in Madinah to perform Hajj this year, according to official figures reported by the Saudi Press Agency on Sunday.
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 Ministry of Hajj and Umrah said that more than 299,000 people had landed at Prince Mohammed bin Abdulaziz International Airport since the start of the first Hajj flights, while almost 70,000 pilgrims had arrived by land.
More than 294,000 pilgrims had already left Madinah and were on their way to the holy sites in Makkah, while almost 75,000 were still in the city, it said.
Authorities in Madinah are working around the clock to ensure the best experience for visitors, the ministry added.
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 live translation 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, Indian, Swahili and Tamil.
Saudi Arabia reports 132 new COVID-19 cases, 3 deaths
Updated 28 September 2022
RIYADH: Saudi Arabia reported 132 new cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday, according to the Ministry of Health. As a result, the total number of cases in the Kingdom over the course of the pandemic grew to 816,262.
The authorities also confirmed three new COVID-19-related deaths, raising the total number of fatalities to 9,350.
Of the new infections, 48 were recorded in Riyadh and 21 in Jeddah. Several other cities recorded fewer than 10 new cases each.
The ministry also announced that 100 patients had recovered from COVID-19, bringing the total number of recoveries in the Kingdom over the course of the pandemic to 803,452.
It said that 3,460 COVID-19 cases were still active, adding that 7,302 PCR tests were conducted in the past 24 hours, bringing the total number to more than 44.3 million.
The ministry said that of the current cases, 33 were in critical condition.
More than 68.5 million COVID-19 vaccine doses have been administered since the Kingdom’s immunization campaign began, with over 25.4 million people fully vaccinated.
OIC, China sign health deal for some African member states
Updated 28 September 2022
JEDDAH: The Organization of Islamic Cooperation signed a health deal on Wednesday with China to help some of its African member states.
The OIC’s Secretary-General Hissein Brahim Taha was present at the ceremony that saw the pact inked on behalf of the organization by Askar Mussinov, assistant secretary-general for science and technology, and China’s Ambassador to Riyadh Chen Weiqing.
Mussinov praised China for the grant and said it was an example of the excellent relations the organization has with Beijing.
The deal was part of several efforts undertaken by the OIC to help some of its African members in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, said Mussinov.
He added that it was Taha who had approached China for the assistance.
Stretch for success with yoga, Saudi students urged
Practice can improve academic performance, online lecture tells university reps
Updated 28 September 2022
JEDDAH: Saudi university students wondering how to gain a mental edge and improve their academic performance have been offered an age-old answer — yoga.
The Saudi Yoga Committee has delivered an online lecture for university representatives highlighting the physical and mental advantages yoga can offer people of all ages, but especially students.
Nouf Al-Marwaai, the committee’s president, said that the benefits of practicing yoga for young men and women are clear, with studies showing that it improves academic achievement, and can play a significant role in reducing stress and anxiety.
The virtual lecture was organized in cooperation with the Saudi Universities Sports Federation under the theme “Yoga for University Students of Both Genders,” and set out to spread awareness and encourage the practice of yoga among all segments of society.
It coincides with the arrival in the Kingdom of a delegation from the Asian Yogasana Sports Federation to train Saudi yoga referees through a qualification course hosted by the Ministry of Sports in cooperation with the Saudi Yoga Committee.
The virtual lecture outlined options available to students on campus who wish to practice yoga simply for mental and physical health, or those who plan to take it to an advanced level with professional yogasana sports training, as well as local and international competition.
Al-Marwaai said that the committee set out to cooperate with the Saudi Universities Sports Federation in order to “build a generation of yoga-lovers, especially among young people, who want to enjoy physical and mental health.”
The committee is seeking to increase the number of practitioners, and build yoga teams to take part in local and regional yoga championships.
The Kingdom excels at the Arab level in yoga, she added.
Al-Marwaai said that asanas and postures used in yoga can improve balance, increase physical flexibility and deliver a wide range of health benefits.
Arab publishers turn the page with audiobooks, Riyadh forum told
Kingdom’s key role in regional publishing outlined on conference final day
Updated 28 September 2022
RIYADH: The second edition of the International Publishers Conference held in Riyadh ended on Wednesday with sessions focusing on the growing demand for audiobooks, the impact of technology and data services, and the search for ways to innovate and renew education.
The event, which was organized by the Literature, Publishing and Translation Commission, introduced a session themed “Stages of the Global Book Publishing Industry.”
Abdul Karim Al-Aqeel, president of the Saudi Publishing Association, told the session that the Kingdom plays an important role in the growth of the regional publishing business.
Saudi Arabia “has 300 publishing houses, 1,000 individual writers, and reading is popular among 31 percent of the population,” he said.
The two-day conference was attended by Secretary-General of the Indonesian Publishers Association, Mohammed Radwan.
The event held eight interactive sessions and five workshops to discuss key aspects of the book and publishing industry, review future prospects and read current market trends.
Mohammed Zatara, founder of Wajeez for Audiobooks, said that the format helped to expand public knowledge “because an audiobook can be accessed any time and any place, whether one is going to work or working out at the gym.”
Sebastian Bond, head of the Middle East and Northern Africa at Storytel, said improving the audiobook business requires collaboration between traditional publishers and their audio counterparts to ensure enriching and enlightening content.
Ibraheem Al-Sinan, head of editorial at Raff Publishing, told Arab News that the standard of authorship is “extremely high in the domains of creative books, as well as professional and educational books.”
However, he believes that “this trend does not exist in the market due to the difficulty of publishing houses to absorb it and because readers are not attracted by the new authors.”
Al-Sinan said that authors have become part of the so-called content industry, particularly in the film-writing, series and marketing content sectors, “because of high financial return” in these fields.
Publishing has expanded recently with the inclusion of audiobooks and electronic books, “because of the society’s interest in new audio media such as podcasts,” he added.
Audiobooks are recognized as the fastest-growing and most acceptable format, but “are still not as popular as paper books,” Al-Sinan said.
Mohammed Alsalem, a member of the Arab Publishers Association, believes that the presence of “podcasts” as a content channel has had an impact on the widespread and acceptance of audiobooks.
Alsalem predicted a bright future for publishing in the region, particularly in translation and better reader access via traditional and digital channels, indicating “A promising future for publication.”
Mohammed Kandil, CEO and founder of Dar Molhimon Publishing and Distribution, said that artificial intelligence is “inevitably coming,” and that it will help publishers to upgrade their profession and professional development.
He believes that while audiobooks are now expensive to produce, “one day they will be the basic material on which the writer relies.”
Mesfer Alsubaie, general director of the Arabic Literature Center for Publishing and Distribution, said that the publishing future is thriving locally and regionally because of local and international book fairs, which have helped considerably in the evolution of the publishing sector.
Salih Al-Hammad, founder of Rashm House for Publishing and Distribution, said that although audiobooks are having a growing impact, “paper books have kept their shine and quality.”
He said: “When we talk about audiobooks today, we talk about a few categories of readers associated with the concept of a detained reader, any reader who is in a hospital, on a train, or on an airplane. Book authorship has gone through phases, and books will remain and won’t disappear, just like radios remained when TVs were invented.”
British team to retrace steps of epic Philby trek across Saudi Arabia
Explorer’s 1,300 km journey a century ago led to lifelong friendship with Ibn Saud, Kingdom’s first ruler
The expedition was launched by the UK’s Princess Anne, and the team includes Philby’s granddaughter
Updated 28 September 2022
LONDON: An Arabian desert expedition aims to retrace the steps of a famous journey by a British explorer who served as an adviser to the first ruler of Saudi Arabia.
The planned 1,300-km Heart of Arabia coast-to-coast trek across the peninsula was launched by Anne, Princess Royal of the UK, on Wednesday. It was her first public engagement since the death this month of her mother, Queen Elizabeth II.
The expedition will honor the undertaking and achievement of adventurer, Arabist and intelligence officer Harry St. John Philby, who traveled from the Gulf coast village of Al-Uqair to Jeddah, on the Red Sea coast, on a mission in support of Ibn Saud, the Kingdom’s first ruler.
The Heart of Arabia journey will set off in November, a century after Philby’s crossing. It is led by veteran British explorer Mark Evans and the team, which will travel by foot and on camels, includes Philby’s Saudi granddaughter, Reem.
After reaching Riyadh they will travel west on the final stage to Jeddah, which is likely to present the greatest challenge because of harsh winds and rough terrain, including sand and loose rock.
Philby was sent to Arabia during the First World War to assist T. E. Lawrence as part of the British efforts to foment an Arab uprising against the Ottoman Empire, which at the time stretched across the Red Sea side of the Arabian Peninsula all the way to Yemen.
His journey led to groundbreaking cartographic and natural discoveries, and resulted in significant changes to the political landscape of the Middle East.
Philby, who would later reside in Riyadh, developed a close relationship with Ibn Saud, who at the time was a significant tribal leader. Philby adopted local dress and customs, and converted to Islam, which helped him play a key role in the events that led to the Arab Revolt and the creation of Saudi Arabia.
Evans said of Philby: “He is considered by many as one of the greatest early explorers of Arabia. He not only set out across uncharted land but took time to record everything he saw.”
Reem Philby said that she is drawn to “the stillness and constant movement of the desert at the same time.”
She added: “Just observing how nature controls everything in harmony and how we are the ones that have to adapt, makes one very humble.”
Princess Anne said: “How did people live in the environment that he crossed? What was different about it? And actually, what’s perhaps even more important in modern terms, is to understand how much has changed compared to what existed before.”
The Arabian landscape has long attracted interested intrepid Britons, including explorer and writer Wilfred Thesiger, who commended the tribes he encountered during his crossing of the Kingdom’s Empty Quarter for their loyalty and generosity.