Soothing and soulful voices in Grand Mosque anticipated worldwide every Ramadan

Special Soothing and soulful voices in Grand Mosque anticipated worldwide every Ramadan
The Grand Mosque in Makkah at the start of Hajj, Dec. 4, 2008. (Wikimedia Commons)
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Updated 27 March 2023

Soothing and soulful voices in Grand Mosque anticipated worldwide every Ramadan

Soothing and soulful voices in Grand Mosque anticipated worldwide every Ramadan
  • Prayers and calls have reverberated through the centuries in Makkah
  • Bilal bin Rabah made the first adhan from Kaaba rooftop in 630 (8 A.H.)

MAKKAH: They have been reverberating through the Grand Mosque in Makkah for centuries — the soulful and soothing voices of muezzins calling the believers, and imams leading prayers five times a day.

Dr. Mansour Al-Dajani, a researcher on the history of Makkah, told Arab News recently that the first call to prayer, at noon in the Grand Mosque, was delivered from the roof of the holy Kaaba by Prophet Muhammad’s companion Bilal bin Rabah. This was on the order of the prophet on the day of the conquest of Makkah in the year 630 (8 A.H.).

“The Grand Mosque was as large as the Mataf (area of circumambulation around Makkah’s Kaaba) at that time and had no wall surrounding it, nor a minaret. Minarets appeared for the first time in the year 754 (137 A.H.) during the reign of the Abbasid Caliph Abu Jafar Al-Mansour, who built the first minaret, known as Bab Al-Umrah, in the western corner from the northern side of the Grand Mosque.”

The minaret was a tall tower attached or adjacent to the mosque. It was an integral part of the mosque and designed so the call to prayer could be heard loud and clear throughout the city.

He explained: “This minaret and the ones that were built after it were used to recite the call to prayer in the Grand Mosque. The chief muezzin would start the call to prayer from the minaret of Bab Al-Umrah, then all the muezzins would follow him on the other minarets. After that, the Bab Al-Salam minaret became the chief muezzin’s platform for the call to prayer, and in the 16th century (10th century A.H.), the chief muezzin used the dome of Zamzam to deliver the call to prayer.”

Loudspeakers in the Grand Mosque were introduced for the first time in 1947 during the reign of King Abdulaziz.

The late Makkan historian and writer Prof. Ahmed Ali Asad Allah Al-Kazemi stated in his memoirs “The Daily Events in Makkah” that in 1947 Sheikh Abd Al-Zahir Abu Al-Samh, the imam and preacher of the Grand Mosque, asked Minister of Finance Abdullah bin Suleiman Al-Hamdan to provide loudspeakers and a microphone.

He wrote that in that year the speakers in the Grand Mosque were used for the Friday and Eid sermons, which fell on the same day. The sermon was usually delivered by Sheikh Abu Al-Samh’s son, Abdul Rahman, with only a few worshippers in the mosque able to hear. However, on Friday Oct. 31, 1947, Sheikh Abu Al-Samh delivered the Friday sermon with a microphone heard by thousands of worshippers in the Grand Mosque.

In 1957, the speaker’s location was changed when the first expansion of the Mataf in the Grand Mosque took place. In 1963, the speakers were placed in a separate, private building, called Almukbariya, from which the call to prayer is performed, and where the muezzin chants or repeats in response to the imam’s prayers.

Recently further changes were made in the Almukbariya building by the Projects and Engineering Studies Agency at the General Presidency for the Affairs of the Two Holy Mosques, to ensure operational efficiency for Ramadan 2023.

Eng. Mohammed Al-Waqdani, undersecretary of the agency, said the Almukbariya in its new form took into account the architectural changes in the Grand Mosque in terms of color and style.

It allows for greater sound clarity, to amplify the voices of the muezzins. There are also sound and television control rooms and studios, special waiting offices for muezzins and alternates, and rooms for public services. The Mataf and Kaaba can be seen from the southern part of the Almukbariya.

Al-Waqdani added that the Almukbariya plays an important role, in coordination with the Radio and Television Authority, in the live broadcast of  “of all rituals and religious events that are held in the Grand Mosque throughout the year, especially during the blessed Ramadan and Hajj season.”

Iran to reopen diplomatic missions in Saudi Arabia this week

Iran to reopen diplomatic missions in Saudi Arabia this week
Updated 19 sec ago

Iran to reopen diplomatic missions in Saudi Arabia this week

Iran to reopen diplomatic missions in Saudi Arabia this week

RIYADH: Iran will reopen its diplomatic missions in Saudi Arabia this week, the Iranian foreign ministry spokesman said on Monday.  

Tehran's foreign ministry spokesman Nasser Kanani announced the reopening in a statement Monday, confirming earlier comments by a diplomatic source in Riyadh.

“To implement the agreement ..., Iran’s embassy in Riyadh, our Consulate General in Jeddah and our office to the Organization of Islamic Cooperation will be officially reopened on Tuesday and Wednesday,” spokesman Nasser Kanaani said.

The diplomatic mission will return under the leadership of Alireza Enayati, who previously served as Iran's ambassador to Kuwait.

The step comes several months after Tehran and Riyadh agreed to end years of antagonism under a Chinese-brokered deal.

In March, Iran and Saudi Arabia agreed to re-establish relations between the regional rivals whose hostility had threatened stability and security in the Middle East and helped fuel regional conflicts from Yemen to Syria.

President of Venezuela visits Saudi Arabia

President of Venezuela visits Saudi Arabia
Updated 05 June 2023

President of Venezuela visits Saudi Arabia

President of Venezuela visits Saudi Arabia

President of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, Nicolas Maduro, arrived in Jeddah on Sunday.
At King Abdulaziz International Airport, he was received by Deputy Governor of Makkah Region Prince Badr bin Sultan bin Abdulaziz, Minister of State and Cabinet's Member Musaed bin Mohammed Al-Aiban, and a number of officials.

KSrelief delivers dates to Yemeni families in Taez

KSrelief delivers dates to Yemeni families in Taez
Updated 05 June 2023

KSrelief delivers dates to Yemeni families in Taez

KSrelief delivers dates to Yemeni families in Taez
  • The packages distributed benefited 18,000 individuals

RIYADH: The King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Center delivered 3,000 cartons of dates to the neediest families in Al-Muzaffar district of Taiz governorate in Yemen.
The packages distributed benefited 18,000 individuals.
Also on Sunday, a 12th Saudi relief plane landed at Port Sudan New International Airport carrying 30 tons of food baskets and medical supplies.
The latest aid flight is part of the Kingdom’s air bridge initiative, operated by the King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Center, to help the people of Sudan.

How Saudi Arabia’s environmental initiatives are restoring the natural equilibrium

How Saudi Arabia’s environmental initiatives are restoring the natural equilibrium
Updated 05 June 2023

How Saudi Arabia’s environmental initiatives are restoring the natural equilibrium

How Saudi Arabia’s environmental initiatives are restoring the natural equilibrium
  • Strides made by the Kingdom in increasing its protected habitats to 30% by 2030 in the limelight on World Environment Day
  • Initiatives such as SGI offer a road map for increasing vegetation, rehabilitating endangered species, protecting vulnerable habitats

JEDDAH: Centuries of abuse by human hands have challenged the globe’s natural cycle of biodiversity. On this World Environment Day, governments are working to restore balance, including in Saudi Arabia, a country with one of the harshest and most diverse natural environments on the planet.

Almost all organisms live in environments altered, to some degree, by human activities, causing habitat loss, species endangerment and extinction, pollution, and more. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations report on the world’s forests in 2022 stated that “as the window for action narrows, and as population growth and aspirations place new demands on physical resources, it seems clear that natural ecosystems are vital assets that must be restored, maintained and sustainably managed.”

Led by the UN Environment Programme since its inception in 1973, World Environment Day, the most influential global platform for environmental outreach, serves as a reminder of the issues and challenges plaguing the world, with millions of people engaging to protect the planet.

Conservation, “the care and preservation of natural resources,” is not a recent phenomenon, though it was undermined and ignored until the 21st century and the harsh realities of climate change became apparent, making crafting environmental policies an increasingly urgent task.

The Saudi Green Initiative, an ambitious national plan to combat climate change, was launched in 2021. (SGI)

It has often proven to be an uphill challenge. Realizing the consequences of inaction, there have been intense and determined campaigns to further the complex task of defining long-term goals at a time when nature is under assault, to issue guidelines and laws with profound changes in environmental infrastructure, and to promote environmental protection and conservation.

In 2021, the Saudi Green Initiative was launched, an ambitious national plan to combat climate change, improve quality of life and protect the planet for future generations. It coined the term “conservation” with initiatives such as environmental protection, energy transition, sustainability programs, and more under its umbrella. It has become a core message in every ambitious project, company environmental target, and social responsibility goal in less than two years.

Under the SGI, Saudi Arabia has committed to protecting 30 percent of its terrestrial and marine area by 2030. Its targets are clear — emissions reduction, afforestation, and land and sea protection, with 77 initiatives activated. To date, 66,000 sq. km of land and sea are currently protected, over 1,200 animals have been rewilded, and approximately 17 percent of the Kingdom’s land and sea are protected.

Ecosystems, particularly their living components, have always provided the capital to fuel human economies, a notion realized in Saudi Arabia as conservation efforts and development projects go hand in hand.

The Kingdom’s flagship giga-project, NEOM, is considered one of the most ambitious projects with sustainable development embedded in its core values.

While no universally acceptable, practical definition of sustainable development exists, the concept has evolved to encompass three significant points of view: economic, social, and environmental.

The economy is geared mainly toward improving human welfare, the environmental domain focuses on protecting the integrity and resilience of ecological systems, and the social domain emphasizes enriching human life and achievements and strengthening values and institutions.


  • 1,200+ Endangered animals rewilded in 15 Saudi locations.
  • $25m Fund for efforts to conserve critically endangered Arabian leopard.
  • 8m Hectares of degraded land to be rehabilitated by 2030.
  • 600m Trees to be planted by 2030.
  • 10bn Trees planted is equivalent to rehabilitating 40m hectares of degraded land. 
  • 16% Terrestrial and 5.5% marine protected areas.   

Speaking to Arab News, Dr. Paul Marshall, head of Nature Region, said that NEOM has embarked on an ambitious and innovative conservation mission that includes “re-greening” and rewilding while committing 95 percent of the project to nature, spanning 26,500 sq. km.

For “re-greening,” NEOM is planting native vegetation and reducing pressure on the landscape from livestock, which will protect and reverse the degradation of the land by planting 100 million shrubs, trees, and other plants by 2030. So far, more than 100,000 plants have been planted, with over 1 million trees, shrubs, and grasses to be planted by the end of 2023.

As for rewilding, it will reintroduce species that were once indigenous to the area but have since declined. Native species will initially be reintroduced to large, enclosed areas, and over time, as the landscape recovers and animal numbers increase, fences will be removed.

“An early indicator of the success of the rewilding project can be seen in the NEOM Nature Reserve’s first breeding season. Working closely with our partner, The National Center for Wildlife, the first release of native animals into our reserve took place in late 2022 with herds of Nubian ibex, Arabian sand gazelle, mountain gazelle and Arabian oryx successfully reintroduced. The total number of babies born this breeding season is 31. This is 23 Sand gazelle babies and 8 Ibex babies.

Arabian Sand Gazelle released at NEOM Nature Reserve in December 2022. (NEOM)

The achievement is challenging, as he explained that three elements are incorporated into NEOM’s animal distribution modeling. “The first assesses the immediately accessible areas to ensure a healthy and safe release environment, the second analyzes potential dispersal constraints, and the third simulate dispersal through time,” he said.

“For this, we work in conjunction with the plant rewilding team to ascertain where our animals’ potential food sources will be. This helps us model likely dispersal patterns and allows us to plot the regeneration of the reserve.

“In terms of a shift being needed to protect certain species, I think it’s fair to say that a century ago, if we had the tools, knowledge, expertise and capacity that we have now, the Nubian ibex, Arabian sand gazelle, mountain gazelle and Arabian oryx would never have disappeared from the region and would instead be thriving in a vibrant, rich and self-sustaining ecosystem. It is how we envisage NEOM’s land to be and what we are working towards.”

In a statement to Arab News on Sunday, NEOM said “the total number of babies born this breeding season is 31, including 23 sand gazelles and eight (Nubian) ibex. The total number of animals in the NEOM Nature Reserve is now 146.”

With its rich land and marine biodiversity, astounding wildlife, and breathtaking bird migrations passing above the Kingdom’s skies, it is difficult to disconnect the link between science from the initiatives.

Arabian Oryx being released into NEOM Nature reserve in December 2022 – the first time in more than 100 years the species walked the sands of this region. (NEOM)

There are 15 designated protected areas in Saudi Arabia managed by the National Center for Wildlife, including several royal reserves and natural reserves managed by other authorities that are home to over 10,000 species of animals, nearly 500 species of birds, more than 1,800 species of fish, whale, and dolphin, 330 species of coral reefs, and many more according to NCW.

Like land conservation, marine conservation is considered one of the world’s most pressing scientific issues. From space, Earth is a pale blue dot covered with more than 70 percent water.

According to UNESCO, the ocean functions as a life-support system for our “blue planet,” regulating the climate on a global scale and producing over half of the oxygen we breathe. Despite this, humanity has mistreated these life-giving oceans to the point where around 40 percent of marine ecosystems have been harmed.

Nestled in one of the Red Sea’s lagoons, the King Abdullah University for Science and Technology considers the body of water it neighbors as its biggest and most unique laboratory. and one of the Kingdom’s most vital strategic assets.

Coral reefs in the Red Sea. (Supplied) 

Considered one of the saltiest and warmest seas, it provides insight into the environmental stressors the rest of the world’s seas will face in the near future, the director of KAUST’s Red Sea Research Center, Michael Berumen, told Arab News.

“The marine life of the Red Sea has adapted to these challenging conditions, and we seek to understand the mechanisms facilitating this adaptation — ranging from genes and genomes to unique behaviors and physiologies.

“Careful management of Red Sea ecosystems is fundamental for conservation and to ensure that this national treasure remains as healthy as possible for generations to come. Particular attention has been paid to improved management of fisheries and habitat restoration capabilities. Faculty in the RSRC work very closely with KAUST’s Reefscape Restoration Initiative at Shushah Island, arguably the world’s most ambitious coral restoration program,” said Prof. Berumen.

“The lessons learned from the Red Sea can be transferred to many other regions of the world. In line with KAUST’s educational objectives, the RSRC facilitates the training and education of future leaders in marine science through student and postdoctoral support,” he added.

Wide angle view of plants on water and boats in the distance on the Mangrove Coastline. (Supplied) 

The world’s population is growing, with an estimated increase of nearly 2 billion people in the next 30 years, reaching 9.7 billion by 2050. The trend is toward migration into cities.

By 2050, it is projected that more than two-thirds of the world’s population — close to 7 billion people — will live in urban areas. There is a long-standing dispute about how much population growth causes environmental degradation.

Historical trajectories, local policies, and cultural preferences affect how compact or dispersed residential areas are built. “What is needed are solutions that see nature protected and restored, not spoiled by human development and increased urbanization,” said Marshall.


Saudi authorities bust khat smuggling operation in Jazan

Saudi authorities bust khat smuggling operation in Jazan
Updated 04 June 2023

Saudi authorities bust khat smuggling operation in Jazan

Saudi authorities bust khat smuggling operation in Jazan
  • Seizure was handed over to the competent authority for preliminary legal procedures

Saudi authorities bust khat smuggling operation in Jazan
RIYADH: Saudi border guards in the Jazan region have foiled attempts to smuggle 380kg of the narcotic khat.
The seizure was handed over to the competent authority for preliminary legal procedures, the Saudi Press Agency reported on Sunday.
Authorities have urged people to report any activities related to drug smuggling or promotion by calling 911 in the Makkah, Riyadh and Eastern Province regions, and 999 in the rest of the Kingdom’s regions.