Diplomats praise Saudi Arabia’s ‘excellent’ Hajj arrangements

Diplomats praise Saudi Arabia’s ‘excellent’ Hajj arrangements
Pilgrims praying at the Grand Mosque in Makkah. One million pilgrims, local and global, are performing Hajj this year. (SPA)
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Updated 08 July 2022

Diplomats praise Saudi Arabia’s ‘excellent’ Hajj arrangements

Diplomats praise Saudi Arabia’s ‘excellent’ Hajj arrangements
  • Kingdom welcomes pilgrims from abroad for largest Hajj since COVID-19 pandemic began

RIYADH: Ambassadors and envoys from across the Muslim world have hailed Saudi Arabia’s hosting of Hajj this year.

Pilgrims from around the world have gathered in Makkah for the biggest Hajj pilgrimage since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic almost two years ago.

Hajj was restricted to just 1,000 people residing in Saudi Arabia in 2020, and 60,000 domestic pilgrims in 2021.

This year, after lifting most of its COVID-19 curbs, Saudi Arabia will welcome 1 million pilgrims, including 850,000 from abroad to perform Hajj — one of the five pillars of Islam, which all Muslims with the required means must perform once in a lifetime.

Foreign diplomats in Saudi Arabia have praised the Kingdom for its expansive Hajj arrangements this year.

Kazakhstan Ambassador to Saudi Arabia Berik Aryn told Arab News: “I would like to congratulate all Muslims on the beginning of Hajj season. We have been waiting for this moment for a long time due to the hiatus during the pandemic.

“From the arrival of the first group of pilgrims, the Saudi government has accomplished an outstanding achievement in providing all facilities in the holy cities for the Hajj. They paid special attention to ensuring the safety and security, and good health of the pilgrims, which is important at this time because of the COVID-19 pandemic,” said the envoy.

“On behalf of the Kazakhstan pilgrims, I want to express sincere gratitude to King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman for excellent Hajj arrangements.”




Kazakhstan Ambassador to Saudi Arabia Berik Aryn.

Nigerian Ambassador to Saudi Arabia Yahaya Lawal said: “All praise be to Allah for allowing us to witness the Hajj 2022 season, the first in the post-pandemic period. I also take this opportunity on behalf of Nigeria to convey our sincere gratitude to the Saudi government and King Salman for the internationally acclaimed decision to organize the Hajj this year, and allow foreign pilgrims to participate. We commend the Saudi authorities for all the preventive measures put in place to safeguard the health of the guests of Allah.

“Nigeria, which will be sending almost 50,000 pilgrims, is excited to make a return to this significant event — a journey of a lifetime,” he said.

“We pray for the success of this annual pilgrimage as we also look forward to a normal pre-pandemic Hajj season next year.”




Nigerian Ambassador to Saudi Arabia Yahaya Lawal.

Dato’ Sri Syed Saleh Syed Abdulrahman, head of the Malaysian Hajj delegates in Makkah, told Arab News: “Malaysian pilgrims thank King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman for allowing international pilgrims to perform the Hajj this year. We are extremely grateful to the Saudi government for choosing Malaysia once again to be one of the five countries selected for the Makkah Route program this year.

“Malaysia was the first country chosen for Makkah Route’s pilot project in 2017. The Makkah Route program has provided Malaysian pilgrims with excellent service as they are able to arrive in Madinah and Jeddah, easily and quickly. They are able to breeze through the arrival gates at the two airports after the long flight and not have to worry about their luggage either. All Malaysian pilgrims are very satisfied with the service.”

Saudi Arabia has also built and upgraded various infrastructure in Makkah, Madinah and Jeddah to enhance the experience of all pilgrims, including Malaysians, during the busy Hajj season, he added.

“We pray for Saudi Arabia’s success in achieving Vision 2030 so it continues to provide the best services to Muslims from all around the world who come to Makkah and Madinah for Umrah and Hajj,” said Abdulrahman.

Pakistani Ambassador to Saudi Arabia Ameer Khurram Rathore praised the leadership of the Kingdom for Hajj preparations. “This year to support and help the pilgrims from Pakistan ‘Route to Makkah’ initiative was very helpful for our Hujjaj coming from Islamabad. It is a manifestation of our brotherly and good relations with Saudi Arabia. Next year, Inshallah, the ‘Route to Makkah’ initiative will be initiated from three major Pakistani cities.”

He added: “The government of Pakistan has developed three digital apps, which will be greatly helpful for our Hujjaj during the pilgrimage.” 

Indian Consul General Mohammed Shahid Alam said: “All Indian pilgrims have arrived in Makkah to perform Hajj. This year, 56,637 pilgrims have come from the Hajj Commission of India, and 22,600 pilgrims through the Hajj group organizers. We have made elaborate arrangements in Makkah and Madinah for their comfortable stay, as well as hassle-free transportation to commute between their accommodation and the Haram. We have made available medical facilities and makeshift hospitals.”

Alam added: “We are deeply thankful to King Salman and the crown prince, as well as the Ministry of Hajj and Umrah, for their excellent support to us in making all these arrangements. They have been available round the clock to make the efficient arrangements in time. We extend our sincere gratitude to them for the excellent arrangements they have made for (pilgrims’) safety, enabling them to perform the Hajj smoothly.”




Indian Consul General Mohammed Shahid Alam.

Bangladeshi Ambassador to the Kingdom Dr. Mohammad Javed Patwary said: “I express my deep satisfaction over the Hajj management and thank the king and the crown prince for their continuous support to the Muslim Ummah. Through the wider use of e-Hajj systems, expedited services are ensured. Bangladesh is the fourth largest Hajj pilgrim-sending country and our prospective pilgrims were eagerly waiting to perform Hajj after a two-year pause due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This year, the Saudi government is allowing 60,000 pilgrims from Bangladesh.

“All our pilgrims completed the immigration process back in Bangladesh under the Makkah Route Initiative. They are receiving their luggage at their hotels, which is a remarkable development for hassle-free movement of these guests of Allah.

“Bangladesh pilgrims who have arrived in Saudi Arabia — we have talked to many of them — have highly praised the Saudi authorities for their arrangements,” said the envoy.




Bangladeshi Ambassador to the Kingdom Dr. Mohammad Javed Patwary.

Head of the office of Thai pilgrims affairs, Zaki Takei, also praised the efforts and services provided by the Saudi government to pilgrims. He said that the Kingdom has “spared no effort” in aiding the visits of pilgrims.


Deputy environment minister stresses importance of developing geospatial infrastructure  

Deputy environment minister stresses importance of developing geospatial infrastructure  
Updated 12 sec ago

Deputy environment minister stresses importance of developing geospatial infrastructure  

Deputy environment minister stresses importance of developing geospatial infrastructure  

RIYADH: Mansour Al-Mushaiti, deputy minister of environment, water and agriculture, stressed the importance of developing geospatial infrastructure during a meeting organized by the ministry at its headquarters in Riyadh on Tuesday. 

Al-Mushaiti commended the ministry’s work on geospatial infrastructure and remote sensing over the past years and emphasized the need to develop leadership in this area. 

Bandar Al-Muslmani, general supervisor of the geospatial information and remote sensing department at the ministry, spoke about the significance of developing training programs in the field in order to bolster digital sectors through geospatial data, applications and spatial analytics.

Such training programs would lead to increased efficiency, improved services and location-based decisions.

According to the Unified National Platform, the availability of geospatial information is required to achieve the goals of the Kingdom’s Vision 2030.  


Deputy environment minister stresses importance of developing geospatial infrastructure  

Deputy environment minister stresses importance of developing geospatial infrastructure  
Updated 1 min 17 sec ago

Deputy environment minister stresses importance of developing geospatial infrastructure  

Deputy environment minister stresses importance of developing geospatial infrastructure  

RIYADH: Mansour Al-Mushaiti, deputy minister of environment, water and agriculture, stressed the importance of developing geospatial infrastructure during a meeting organized by the ministry at its headquarters in Riyadh on Tuesday. 

Al-Mushaiti commended the ministry’s work on geospatial infrastructure and remote sensing over the past years and emphasized the need to develop leadership in this area. 

Bandar Al-Muslmani, general supervisor of the geospatial information and remote sensing department at the ministry, spoke about the significance of developing training programs in the field in order to bolster digital sectors through geospatial data, applications and spatial analytics.

Such training programs would lead to increased efficiency, improved services and location-based decisions.

According to the Unified National Platform, the availability of geospatial information is required to achieve the goals of the Kingdom’s Vision 2030.  


Saudi Arabia’s deputy defense minister welcomes agreement to operate Aden hospital in Yemen

Saudi Arabia’s deputy defense minister welcomes agreement to operate Aden hospital in Yemen
Updated 18 August 2022

Saudi Arabia’s deputy defense minister welcomes agreement to operate Aden hospital in Yemen

Saudi Arabia’s deputy defense minister welcomes agreement to operate Aden hospital in Yemen

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s Deputy Defense Minister Prince Khalid bin Salman on Thursday congratulated Yemen’s Presidential Leadership Council and the Saudi Development and Reconstruction Program for Yemen for signing a contract to operate Aden General Hospital for three years.

SDRPY on Wednesday signed the contract to operate and manage the hospital in the de facto capital and serve 438,000 patients a year, at a cost of more than SR330 million ($87.9 million)

“In continuation of the Kingdom’s efforts to provide support to the Yemeni people in the humanitarian, relief and economic aspects, we congratulate the Presidential Leadership Council in Yemen and SDRPY for signing a contract to operate Aden General Hospital for a period of three years, with a value exceeding SR330 million, to provide health care to the brotherly Yemeni people,” Prince Khalid said in a tweet.

Operations at the hospital will begin within 90 days of completing of staff preparations, taking delivery of medicines and medical equipment, and testing health care devices.

The hospital will operate at 50 percent capacity during its first year of responding to the urgent needs of the people of Aden and neighboring governorates, increasing to full capacity by year two.


Uzbekistan president meets with Organization of Islamic Cooperation head

Uzbekistan president meets with Organization of Islamic Cooperation head
Updated 18 August 2022

Uzbekistan president meets with Organization of Islamic Cooperation head

Uzbekistan president meets with Organization of Islamic Cooperation head
  • Officials discussed issues of interest, including supporting peace and security in the region and the world

RIYADH: The president of Uzbekistan met with the secretary-general of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation during an official trip to the Kingdom on Thursday.

During the meeting, Shavkat Mirziyoyev praised Hissein Brahim Taha for leading the OIC’s efforts to promote joint Islamic action and consolidate the spirit of Islamic solidarity.

The president stressed that the organization receives special attention from his country’s government which is looking forward to strengthening cooperation with the OIC.

Taha expressed his appreciation for Uzbekistan’s role in the OIC and its efforts to support the activities of the organization and promote joint Islamic action through various initiatives.

He stressed the OIC’s keenness to enhance cooperation with Uzbekistan in all areas of common interest.

The two officials also discussed issues of common interest, including supporting peace and security in the region and the world and taking care of the interests of the organization and its member states.


Saudi beauty brands champion sustainable, cruelty-free values

Saudi beauty brands champion sustainable, cruelty-free values
Updated 18 August 2022

Saudi beauty brands champion sustainable, cruelty-free values

Saudi beauty brands champion sustainable, cruelty-free values
  • Muzon Ashgar, founder and manager of Saudi brand MZN Bodycare, put together her own recipes for natural skincare products and packaged them herself
  • Managing partner Mama’s Alchemy Dina Horanieh: We wanted to offer vegan options in the bodycare category in Saudi and the region, as there are very few brands that cater to the cause

RIYADH: Muzon Ashgar, founder and manager of Saudi brand MZN Bodycare, has always had an interest in natural skincare products, which she sourced from the US.

But after throwing a recreational “spa party” for friends a few years ago, she realized there was no need to look abroad to be ethically conscious.

Ashgar put together her own recipes for natural skincare products and packaged them herself. She went from giving the products away as gifts at her at-home spa to selling at local markets and events, eventually establishing her own company.

Now her cruelty-free and sustainable products can be found at major pharmacy chains, premium retailers, and spas across Saudi Arabia.

“We are impressed that most of our customers actually care about MZN being a sustainable brand. There is a remarkable awareness within our community of the benefits of buying sustainable local brands,” Ashgar told Arab News.

But this awareness was not always apparent, and is nonexistent in some communities.

A report by business consultancy Mordor Intelligence found that the major players in the Saudi beauty industry are non-cruelty-free firms, including Beiersdorf AG (parent company to brands such as Nivea and Labello) and Estee Lauder.

When a brand is not cruelty free, the company either conducts individual testing on animals itself, through their supplier, or through a third party.

Ranked top in the huge global market is Procter & Gamble, which holds brands such as Herbal Essences, Pantene, Olay and SK-II. The consumer giant recently announced its commitment to #BeCrueltyFree throughout its 19 companies, highlighting moves by the industry to become more sustainable.

Coming in third is Avon, a brand that is completely cruelty free. While Estee Lauder is not, some of the brands in its portfolio, including Smashbox and Too Faced, both popular with Saudi consumers, have cruelty-free certification by the US-based animal rights group PETA.

The issue becomes complicated because some brands cannot fully develop a cruelty-free approach because they sell products in countries that require animal testing by law, such as China. Pulling their supply from such countries would result in a huge revenue loss.

However, Saudi Arabia does not insist on animal testing for skincare and beauty products. This creates an easy market for local sustainable and vegan cosmetics to step up and answer the demand for those items.

Saudi environmentalist Zahra Alqatari told Arab News that there is only limited awareness of sustainability as an issue in the Kingdom.

“That makes demand for cruelty-free and sustainable beauty products low. As a result, the beauty industry continues to produce products that harm us, animals and the environment.” 

However, this is changing as local brands, such as MZN Bodycare, champion natural, vegan and cruelty-free products for the everyday consumer.

The brand, established in 2015, believes in using local plants to create environmentally friendly products.

“Our region is full of plantations that have amazing benefits like the moringa, olive oils, rose and lavender essential oils, and date seed powder and oils. We found through published research that those oils are very high in antioxidants and vitamins which are beneficial to the skin,” Ashgar told Arab News.

The company has seen a growing interest among Saudis in developing sustainable and environmentally friendly living habits.

“We actually had some customers ask for a ‘return packaging’ program from us, where we take back the used packaging and refill it for them. Some call us to verify the source of our raw materials and that we are actually a cruelty-free brand,” said Ashgar.

Another cruelty-free brand, Mama’s Alchemy, is based on veganism as a core value and motivator.

“We wanted to offer vegan options in the bodycare category in Saudi and the region, as there are very few brands that cater to the cause. We believe veganism plays a vital role in keeping our planet clean and reducing waste,” Dina Horanieh, the firm’s managing partner, told Arab News.

The brand founders went on the hunt for vegan body products for their personal use, but were unable to find any — so they made their own. Mama’s Alchemy caters not only to vegan consumers, but also anyone looking for clean and sustainable body products.

 “The response (from the Saudi public) has been heartwarming. We hope to see more local suppliers offering sustainable options. We are continuously working to offer more vegan and sustainable products,” said Horanieh.