Saudi Arabia issues warning about Hajj, Umrah online scams, fake websites

Special Saudi Arabia issues warning about Hajj, Umrah online scams, fake websites
Muslim pilgrims perform Umrah at the Grand Mosque during the holy month of Ramadan, in the holy city of Makkah, Saudi Arabia, April 16, 2023. (Reuters)
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Updated 17 April 2023
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Saudi Arabia issues warning about Hajj, Umrah online scams, fake websites

Saudi Arabia issues warning about Hajj, Umrah online scams, fake websites
  • Ministry of Hajj and Umrah officials urged pilgrims to only use official ministry accounts
  • Fraudsters have been duping people in Pakistan into parting with personal information and money by encouraging them to follow a link to a fake website

MAKKAH: Saudi authorities on Monday warned worshippers looking to make Hajj and Umrah pilgrimages to Makkah to be alert to online registration scams.

Ministry of Hajj and Umrah officials urged pilgrims to only use official ministry accounts.

In the latest incident, fraudsters have been duping people in Pakistan into parting with personal information and money by encouraging them to follow a link to a fake website.

Hisham Saeed, ministry undersecretary, told Arab News: “The ministry does not know the source of the link, which has spread recently, but it certainly does not belong to the Ministry of Hajj and Umrah. All pilgrims should avoid such links.”

He pointed out that pilgrims were selected through the official channels of Hajj mission offices in their own country and said where no such offices existed applications should be submitted via the Hajj platform.

Ahmed Saleh Halabi, Hajj and Umrah services adviser, said pilgrims were often targeted by cybercriminals, with some claiming to represent the Saudi non-profit Misk Foundation.

However, he pointed out that Misk would not independently organize trips for Umrah pilgrims from outside the Kingdom without working closely with the Ministry of Hajj and Umrah and relevant Saudi embassies.

Mohsin Tutla, chairman of the World Hajj and Umrah Care Foundation, said: “Digital technology offers sophisticated advantages if used with the right intentions and ethically; but it can be detrimental for preyed-upon pilgrims who are deceived each year with fake websites designed to entice pilgrims into purchasing packages that they (scammers) have no intention to honor.”

Every year, the Saudi reigning monarch welcomes selected members from the Muslim community throughout the world to perform Hajj as special guests of the Kingdom, but some online fraudsters send out false invitations to Hajj.


Yanbu festival honors King Salman, breaks world record

Yanbu festival honors King Salman, breaks world record
Updated 27 February 2024
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Yanbu festival honors King Salman, breaks world record

Yanbu festival honors King Salman, breaks world record
  • In honor of Saudi Arabia’s King Salman, the record-breaking floral arrangement read ‘Salman’ made from 19,464 roses
  • Saudi calligrapher Hani Mehalawi: ‘I am delighted to be part of this work and set this new world record which honors our beloved king’

JEDDAH: Yanbu has set a new Guinness World Record for the largest flower word displayed at the Flower and Garden Festival 2024, which started recently and runs until March 9.

In honor of Saudi Arabia’s King Salman, the record-breaking floral arrangement read “Salman” made from 19,464 roses.

In collaboration with Jubail and Yanbu Industrial Cities Services Co., the masterpiece, which was completed on Feb. 13 by Saudi calligrapher Hani Mehalawi, stood 16 meters wide and six meters tall and is a magnificent work of art.

The entire procedure was overseen by official adjudicators from Guinness World Records, who examined every part of the record attempt from beginning to end.

Mehalawi spoke to Arab News and expressed his joy and happiness in writing the largest flower word. “This feat showed our dedication to our King. With the message behind this initiative being especially close to our hearts, I am indeed delighted to be part of this huge work and set this new world record which honors our beloved king.”

He explained that it took over three days to complete the monumental task of assembling the world’s largest flower word.

“It was a very happy moment for me when the officials of the Flower and Garden Festival asked me to do the work in  short notice but I managed to finish it within few days. My part was to write the name and they filled it with flowers,” he added.

This year’s Flower and Garden Festival also featured the world’s largest flower basket, with 127,224 natural white and red petunia flowers, as well as the world’s largest illuminated flower garden, with a total of 250,000 illuminated flowers. The biennial celebration also featured the largest recyclable vehicle (a space rocket) with a total length of 30,364 meters.


Saudi crown prince receives Ukraine president in Riyadh

Saudi crown prince receives Ukraine president in Riyadh
Updated 5 sec ago
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Saudi crown prince receives Ukraine president in Riyadh

Saudi crown prince receives Ukraine president in Riyadh

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman received the President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelensky in Riyadh on Tuesday.

The president said he was in the Kingdom “to continue our regular dialogue with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.”

Zelensky wrote on social media platform X that he would discuss prisoners of war and deportees with the crown prince.

“The Kingdom’s leadership has already contributed to the release of our people. I am confident that this meeting will also yield results,” he wrote. 

The president added that he will discuss “promising areas of economic cooperation and Saudi Arabia’s involvement in Ukraine’s reconstruction.”


KSrelief, UN officials hold talks on volunteer programs

KSrelief, UN officials hold talks on volunteer programs
Updated 27 February 2024
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KSrelief, UN officials hold talks on volunteer programs

KSrelief, UN officials hold talks on volunteer programs

RIYADH: Officials from Saudi Arabia’s aid agency, KSrelief, and the UN held talks on their respective volunteer programs in Riyadh on Tuesday.

Ali bin Saad Al-Qarni, director of volunteer programs at KSrelief, met with Niels Knudsen, who is the external communications chief for the UN Volunteers program. There were several UN officials present at the meeting.

Al-Qarni said KSrelief has 597 volunteer projects running in 40 countries across the world, which cover health, education, and vocational training.

The projects have benefited more than 1.5 million people.

Al-Qarni also highlighted KSrelief’s efforts in developing the skills of volunteers and humanitarian workers in needy countries around the globe.

Knudsen and Al-Qarni held discussions on future areas of cooperation.


Saudi source denies reports that commerce minister met Israeli counterpart

Saudi source denies reports that commerce minister met Israeli counterpart
Updated 27 February 2024
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Saudi source denies reports that commerce minister met Israeli counterpart

Saudi source denies reports that commerce minister met Israeli counterpart

RIYADH: An official Saudi source denied on Monday allegations circulating on social media platforms regarding a meeting between Majid Al-Qasabi, Minister of Commerce, and an Israeli occupation official, Saudi Press Agency reported.

The same source said in a statement carried by SPA that the video circulated was while Al-Qasabi was standing with his Nigerian counterpart, prior to the opening of the thirteenth Ministerial Conference of the World Trade Organization in Abu Dhabi.

“The individual shook (the Saudi minister’s) hand and then was introduced, without (Al-Qasabi’s) prior knowledge,” the source told SPA.

This was followed by Israeli media reports claiming that the two discussed peace between Saudi Arabia and Israel, with one Israeli outlet running a picture of the two under the heading: “Israeli minister and Saudi counterpart shake hands and discuss ‘making history together.’”

The source also affirmed to SPA Saudi Arabia’s firm position on the Palestinian issue and its steadfast support for the Palestinian people against Israeli aggression.


King Salman given award for services to Arab security

Saudi Interior Minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Saud receives the award on behalf of King Salman in Tunis. (SPA)
Saudi Interior Minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Saud receives the award on behalf of King Salman in Tunis. (SPA)
Updated 26 February 2024
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King Salman given award for services to Arab security

Saudi Interior Minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Saud receives the award on behalf of King Salman in Tunis. (SPA)
  • The award was received by the Kingdom’s Interior Minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Saud
  • Interior minister said the council is keen to achieve stability and development in the Arab world

RIYADH: King Salman was given the Prince Naif Award for Arab Security on Monday for his services to the security of the Arab community, Saudi Press Agency reported.

The Arab Interior Ministers Council conferred the award and it was received by the Kingdom’s Interior Minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Saud in Tunis during a council meeting.  

The minister said the meeting was being held at a time when the Palestinian people are experiencing an unstable security situation which has caused the suffering of thousands of children, women, and the elderly. 

He said that the council, since its inception, is keen to achieve security for Arabs and bring about stability and development.

Prince Abdulaziz said the world is witnessing developments in cyber crime, the misuse of artificial intelligence, and advanced drug trafficking methods. 

These developments have “created fertile ground for the spread of multiple types of organized crime,” armed organizations, and terrorist groups which requires developing plans to invest in infrastructure and support development, education, and capacity building to confront these threats. 

He added that Arab coordination to deal with these threats is important in order to mitigate the possible negative repercussions from such threats.