MAKKAH: A million pilgrims began the spiritual journey of a lifetime as the first rituals of the annual Hajj began.
Hundreds of thousands of worshippers circled Islam’s holiest site, the Kaaba at the Grand Mosque in Makkah. Many held umbrellas to block the sun as the temperature climbed to 42C.
On Thursday, the pilgrims will move to a vast tented city at Mina, about 5 kilometers from the Grand Mosque, ahead of the main rite at Mount Arafat, where the Prophet Muhammad delivered his final sermon.
Saudi authorities have mounted a massive operation to ensure the health and safety of pilgrims. The Saudi Health Ministry has prepared 23 hospitals and 147 health centres in Makkah and Madinah, the second-holiest city in Islam, to accommodate pilgrims.
Four hospitals and 26 health centers are also ready to treat pilgrims in Mina. There are more than 1,000 beds for patients requiring intensive care and more than 200 specifically for heatstroke patients, and more than 25,000 health workers are ready to respond to cases as they arise.
“It’s all going well so far. I have moved around a lot and saw rules are being respected,” said Faten Abdel Moneim, 65, a mother of four from Egypt.
Naima Mohsen, 42, also from Egypt, said: “Being here is the best thing that has ever happened to me. I can’t wait for the rest. My only problem is the weather. It’s just too hot.”
• The Hajj follows a route Prophet Muhammad walked nearly 1,400 years ago and is believed to trace the footsteps of the prophets Ibrahim and Ismail.
• The Qur’an says that all Islam’s followers who are physically and financially able should make the pilgrimage once in their lifetime.
One million fully vaccinated Muslims, including 850,000 from abroad, are allowed at this year's Hajj, after two years of curtailed numbers because of coronavirus pandemic restrictions.
In 2019 about some 2.5 million Muslims from around the world took part in Hajj, but after that the pandemic forced a downsizing. Only 60,000 fully vaccinated residents of the Kingdom took part in 2021, up from a few thousand in 2020.
The restoration of the Hajj stirred bittersweet emotions for pilgrims Sutrisno and Sri Wahyuningsih, two teachers from Indonesia. Sri’s parents were supposed to take part in 2020, but their plans fell victim to the pandemic.
Sri’s father will now never make the journey after he died from a stroke in March, and her mother could not take part because she is over this year’s age limit of 65.
Nevertheless, Sutrisno, 54, and Sri, 51, are joyful at undertaking the Hajj in place of Sri’s parents. “It’s such a huge moral burden to me,” said Sri. “But my mother has given her blessings to me and I have to think that this is a journey I have to go through, everything is Allah’s decision, and I have to go on the Hajj.”
Saudi festival Outlet 2022 sets new Guinness World Record
The festival includes 3 million items manufactured by more than 1,500 international brands
Updated 02 October 2022
RIYADH: The Outlet 2022 shopping festival, being organized by the General Entertainment Authority, has won Guinness World Records recognition as the largest pop-outlet center.
Covering an area of 146,623 square meters, festival activities started on Saturday in Riyadh. It includes 3 million items, manufactured by more than 1,500 international brands, and discounts of up to 70 percent on fashion, accessories, and cosmetic products designed by international experts.
Farah Ahmed, who lives in Al-Rehab neighborhood where the outlet is located, described it as “impressive,” while Mohammed Al-Bugami, a Saudi private-sector employee, praised the “top organization” he witnessed on the first day.
“I have no words to describe how great and well-organized this festival is. I would like to thank the organizers for their efforts in making this shopping festival a reality,” he said.
Entry to the festival is free and outlet sections include home accessories, leather-made items, bridal gowns, suitcases, and electronics.
The fashion section includes products by names such as Zara, Massimo Dutti, GAP, Ralph Lauren, Diesel, Lacoste, Roberto Cavalli, Versace, and Mango. Additionally, visitors can choose between various sports shoe brands, including Adidas, Puma, and Nike.
GEA chairman, Turki Al-Asheikh, thanked Kuwaiti actresses Hayat Al-Fahad and Suad Abdullah, and Saudi actor Bashir Al-Ghunaim for taking part in the official festival promo that gained millions of views.
The GEA aims to encourage private-sector organizations to develop entertainment activities in the Kingdom. It was established in line with Saudi Vision 2030 to organize and develop the entertainment sector in the country and provide options and entertainment opportunities for all segments of society.
KSRelief provides COVID-19 vaccines, health services in Yemen
This comes as part of the Kingdom’s efforts to support Yemen and its people
Updated 02 October 2022
RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Center (KSrelief) provided health services to displaced people in Yemen, as well as Coronavirus vaccines in the country, the Saudi Press Agency (SPA) reported on Saturday.
KSRelief has been providing support to Yemen’s national vaccination campaign, implemented by the Yemeni Ministry of Public Health and Population, in 12 governorates.
KSRelief worked with the ministry from Sept. 24 to 28 as part of efforts to vaccinate a wider group of the population against the virus, according to SPA.
Through the campaign, 446,966 people were vaccinated and 2,242 members of the Yemeni vaccination team were trained.
KSRelief also deployed 320 volunteer teams and 180 mobile teams to vaccinate the targeted population, SPA reported.
The organization also set up mobile medical centers at Waalan Camp in the Haradh District to provide treatment to displaced people, according to SPA.
From Sept. 14 to 20, the clinics received 56 beneficiaries with various health conditions in different clinics and departments and provided them with necessary medical services.
The KSRelief clinics also provided 162 individuals with medication.
The vaccination campaign and health services all come within the framework of the Kingdom’s goal to continue to provide support to Yemen and its people, SPA said.
Saudi Arabia’s KSRelief continues humanitarian efforts in flood-hit Pakistan
Updated 02 October 2022
Riyadh: Saudi Arabia’s King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Center (KSRelief) is continuing its efforts to provide humanitarian aid to flood-hit Pakistan, the Saudi Press Agency (SPA) reported on Saturday.
The team distributed 2,095 food baskets, 40 tents, and 400 mosquito nets in various provinces to 14,665 people on Friday, according to SPA.
The aid comes within the Saudi Relief Land Bridge, directed by King Salman, to support Pakistan and its people following the disastrous floods that struck the country.
The torrential rains and flooding, which began in mid-June and lasted for weeks, has killed over 1,600 people and affected nearly 33 million people Pakistan.
Global experts discuss economic, social impact of Saudi coffee in Jazan forum
Experts gather to discuss industry’s economic, social and environmental impact
Culture Ministry launches grant to support research into coffee sector
Updated 02 October 2022
JAZAN: Experts from around the world have gathered in Jazan for the Saudi Coffee Sustainability Forum, which got underway on Saturday.
Organized by the Ministry of Culture and held at the Grand Millennium Jazan, the two-day event will discuss the value chain of Saudi coffee and its economic, social and environmental impact.
Among the speakers and guests are Dr. Bandar Al-Rabiah, who heads the development impact department at the Agricultural Development Fund, Dhafer bin Ayedh Al-Fahad, director of the Jazan Mountain Development Authority, and Keren Kellard, a consultant at the National Center for Social Studies in Riyadh.
Al-Rabiah said at the opening session: “The idea isn’t just to increase productivity, we want to help the farmer to benefit from his plantation and to allow tourists to visit the farm and in effect generate a larger income for them.”
One of the highlights of the opening day was the launch by the Ministry of Culture of the Saudi Coffee Research Grant. Organized in partnership with Saudi Coffee Co. and the Public Investment Fund it aims to encourage local researchers to produce scientific papers related to Saudi coffee in three areas.
The first is the history of coffee in the Arabian Peninsula, covering everything from ancient trade routes to the events that led to its spread in Saudi Arabia.
The second relates to coffee culture, including the social practices, rituals and festive traditions within the Kingdom.
The third relates to cultural research into developing Saudi coffee through government procurement in order to promote a sustainable economy and preserve its heritage.
Mayada Badr, CEO of the Culinary Arts Commission, said: “The Ministry of Culture aims to strengthen the position of Saudi coffee. It aims to guide the community to the culture associated with coffee, to be proud of its distinctive identity, and to thank farmers and community members for preserving our culture.”
During the forum’s first session, Al-Fahad highlighted the efforts his team have made in cultivating the coffee industry in the Kingdom over the past 40 years, most notably with the establishment of an experimental facility that seeks to find the best agricultural crops for growing in the mountainous ranges in Jazan. He added that 900,000 coffee seedlings would be distributed for research use in the coming years.
Al-Fahad concluded his speech by saying the Culinary Arts Commission intended to establish the Saudi Coffee Museum in partnership with the Ministry of Culture and that the Kingdom had joined the World Coffee Organization.
The second session of the day discussed investment opportunities in coffee production and looked at sustainable methods of economic growth.
Karl Weinhold, a researcher in rural development and the coffee economy, said: “Most of my work revolves around how these people (farmers) can wrestle around with the institutions that they have been subjected to in order to achieve some sense of prosperity.”
Hassan Hajooj, a professor of economics at the College of Business Administration at King Faisal University, said that the coffee sector accounted for about 0.86 percent of Saudi Arabia’s gross domestic product in 2020 and that that figure was set to rise to 6.18 percent over the next five years.
The Kingdom, which had 22,000 coffee shops in 2021, produces about 300 tons of high-quality Saudi Khawlani coffee a year, which is consumed locally and exported to the Gulf Cooperation Council countries.
The final session on the first day focused on the history and cultural influence of coffee.
Saudi artists at Artorama showcase interactive artworks
State-of-the-art installations are offering visitors a unique immersive experience
Updated 02 October 2022
RIYADH: Creative artworks and state-of-the-art installations by Saudi artists at Artorama are offering visitors a unique immersive experience.
Artorama, Nowaar Entertainment’s latest event, will run until Oct. 21 in Riyadh’s Laysen Valley.
The first zone features distinctive designs from five Saudi artists. The visitor must physically touch the designs to view the artworks in their full, colorful glory.
“Eternal Light” by Ameera Sheikh was originally executed as the cover for the yet-to-be-published novel by Sara Al-Hussain. It tells the story of a young girl who sets off on a journey to uncover a mysterious power as she faces unknown evils ahead.
“I wanted to show the magical and mysterious environment but with an ominous and an unsettling feeling that makes you feel a little anxious as you are drawn into the piece, just like our heroine,” Sheikh told Arab News.
The artist was told in the past to leave Saudi Arabia in pursuit of job opportunities abroad, but she saw the great potential for a better future at the time, which has now proven to be the case for aspiring artists.
“I feel very grateful for being patient. We had a little community of artists here where we helped each other improve by hosting small galleries and gatherings to keep it active and help it grow,” she said. “Now our community has a very powerful impact both globally and locally, and this has been strengthened by the current growing embrace of art and artists in the country.”
In illustrator Ethar Balkhair’s piece, the visitor’s touch brings two figures to life in an explosion of color, highlighting the cultural and social aspects of Al-Balad, Jeddah’s historical area. “Jeddah is all about color. I really wanted to reflect the spirit of Al-Balad in this art. At the same time, I wanted to tell the story of Hijazi people,” she told Arab News.
Balkhair was born into a family with a passion for art; one of their household activities was to sit down and draw together. Her collaboration with Artorama was the first opportunity for her to showcase her illustrations in a local setting, but her work has reached far beyond Riyadh, with big names such as Vogue and Bobbi Brown featuring her art.
“Recently, with the initiatives from the Ministry of Culture and others, people have a chance to release the art that’s inside of them. Now, everyone has a space. In Saudi Arabia, the art scene is only growing,” Balkhair said.
“Artwork doesn’t just have to center around beauty. There’s a story behind it. Now, they’re shedding light on the artist behind the art, and that supports us even more, makes us more confident, and allows us to explore more without fear,” she said.
Mahmoud Zaini’s “Human Sustainability” takes a deep dive into the ethics and future of modern technology. The eccentric piece, drawn in 2017, raises awareness of the tech industry’s impact on humanity. “I was extremely disgusted by our trajectory as a race. Eventually, technology will turn us into cogs in its machine. I decided, therefore, to illustrate that concept with this contraption that recycles everything coming in and out of this ‘consumer’ to grant him a more sustainable existence,” Zaini told Arab News.
• The first zone features distinctive designs from five Saudi artists. The visitor must physically touch the designs to view the artworks in their full, colorful glory. Zone 1 also has an infinity room and a photo booth station, where visitors can engage with dynamic backgrounds.
• Zone 2 features a variety of attractions including a ball pit with interactive games, a projection drawing station, 3D printing, immersive swings and a volcano sandbox, where both children and adults can learn more about the science of volcanoes.
• Anamorphic projection mapping technologies in Zone 3 utilize high-power projectors to give visitors the illusion of seeing the building’s interior while standing outside of it.
The artist expressed his delight with the General Entertainment Authority’s interest in highlighting the topic. “I am extremely happy with the trajectory we’re headed in as citizens of the Kingdom, where art pieces are appreciated and dialogue around them is fostered. What an incredible time to be in as a Saudi artist interested in big questions,” he said.
Zone 1 also has an infinity room and a photo booth station, where visitors can engage with dynamic backgrounds. Exhibition-goers can color and design their own race car, which is then scanned and projected as if racing through the streets of Riyadh.
Zone 2 features a variety of attractions including a ball pit with interactive games, a projection drawing station, 3D printing, immersive swings and a volcano sandbox, where both children and adults can learn more about the science of volcanoes as they build their own. Anamorphic projection mapping technologies in Zone 3 utilize high-power projectors to give visitors the illusion of seeing the building’s interior while standing outside of it.
“This event releases the inner kid inside of us. We all like to play, we all like to experiment, and this is a good place to test that out,” Khalid Sonbol, one of the project managers at Nowaar Entertainment, told Arab News.
Artorama was one of the winning pitches under the General Entertainment Authority’s “Ideas for Entertainment” initiative in 2021, which aimed to empower 20 Saudi projects centering around entertainment activities and preserving Saudi heritage for future generations. Nowaar Entertainment seeks to amplify Saudi voices, showcasing exclusive works by Saudi artists and creators around the Kingdom — even in their product gift shop. “We’re interested in showing what we have in the Kingdom,” Sonbol said. “We believe entertainment is necessary. Most people used to travel to have an actual entertaining experience. They would go to museums, parks. Now, we don’t need that. We have that here,” he said.