Hajj cost drops 39% for 1.4m pilgrims outside Kingdom, says Saudi minister

Hajj cost drops 39% for 1.4m pilgrims outside Kingdom, says Saudi minister
The cost of the Hajj pilgrimage this year dropped 39 percent for 1.4 million pilgrims arriving from outside the Kingdom. (AP)
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Updated 26 June 2023
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Hajj cost drops 39% for 1.4m pilgrims outside Kingdom, says Saudi minister

Hajj cost drops 39% for 1.4m pilgrims outside Kingdom, says Saudi minister
  • Zero-tolerance for firms defrauding pilgrims: Tawfiq Al-Rabiah
  • Last year $42m returned to those cheated during pilgrimage

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s Minister of Hajj and Umrah Tawfiq Al-Rabiah says the cost of the pilgrimage this year has dropped 39 percent for 1.4 million pilgrims arriving from outside the Kingdom.

Speaking at a press conference in Riyadh on Thursday, Al-Rabiah added that there has been a considerable upgrade in services this year as the numbers of pilgrims return to pre-COVID-19 levels.

“The cost of Hajj has decreased, and Hajj packages have decreased by 39 percent for pilgrims outside the Kingdom, benefiting more than 1.4 million … and we will see better services because of the nature of competition that helps enhance quality and reduce prices,” he said.

For this year’s Hajj, the number of firms now providing services has been increased from six to 16.

GALLERY: Hajj 2023: Muslim faithful start arriving for annual pilgrimage

Al-Rabiah said there has also been a cost reduction for domestic pilgrims, with payments now allowed in installments on the Nusuk Hajj platform. The basic package starts at SR3,984 ($1,062.40).

The minister said that one of the most important developments this year was the launch of the Nusuk Hajj platform for pilgrims from the Americas, Europe, and Australia, in seven languages.

Al-Rabiah said that the government would continue to monitor for fraud with regard to pilgrimage packages. Only the Nusuk Hajj platform was authorized to process payments.

“We have a large number of observers who monitor the agreed packages ... Last year, for example, we returned more than SR160 million ($42.66 million) to the pilgrims because of the breach of the agreements that were made, and we will not tolerate (this) with any company. And there will be incentives and (the) honoring of companies that achieve levels of satisfaction,” Al-Rabiah said.

On the Umrah, he said a change previously announced was the extension of the visa from 30 to 90 days.

Decoder

Nusuk Hajj Platform

Nusuk is the planning and booking platform launched last year by Saudi Arabia's Ministry of Hajj and Umrah to make it easier to buy service packages and obtain visas for Hajj pilgrims without the need to go to foreign agencies. With this platform, the cost of going on pilgrimage this year was reduced by 39 percent for 1.4 million pilgrims arriving from outside the Kingdom, according to Hajj and Umrah Minister Tawfiq Al-Rabiah.


Egypt’s president arrives in Jeddah to perform Hajj

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi arrives in Jeddah on Friday to perform Hajj. (SPA)
Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi arrives in Jeddah on Friday to perform Hajj. (SPA)
Updated 14 June 2024
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Egypt’s president arrives in Jeddah to perform Hajj

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi arrives in Jeddah on Friday to perform Hajj. (SPA)
  • El-Sisi arrived in the Kingdom on Thursday and prayed at the Prophet’s Mosque in Madinah

RIYADH: Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi arrived in Jeddah on Friday to perform Hajj as the first day of the annual pilgrimage got underway. 

El-Sisi arrived in the Kingdom on Thursday and later prayed at the Prophet’s Mosque in Madinah. 

Wearing the ihram, the president was seen off by the governor of Madinah Prince Salman bin Sultan bin Abdulaziz earlier on Friday at Prince Mohammed bin Abdulaziz International Airport.


Saudi Ministry of Islamic Affairs readies for Eid Al-Adha prayers

2,945 mosques and musallas have been prepared for Eid Al-Adha prayers in Riyadh and affiliated governorates. (SPA)
2,945 mosques and musallas have been prepared for Eid Al-Adha prayers in Riyadh and affiliated governorates. (SPA)
Updated 14 June 2024
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Saudi Ministry of Islamic Affairs readies for Eid Al-Adha prayers

2,945 mosques and musallas have been prepared for Eid Al-Adha prayers in Riyadh and affiliated governorates. (SPA)

RIYADH: The Saudi Ministry of Islamic Affairs, Dawa and Guidance has prepared 2,945 mosques and musallas for Eid Al-Adha prayers in Riyadh and affiliated governorates.

The ministry said its Riyadh branch is conducting inspection tours, as well as carrying out maintenance and cleaning work, and is providing all mosques in the region with necessities including incense to ensure that all mosques and musallas are ready to receive worshippers.


Minister tours media offices at holy Hajj sites

Saudi Minister of Media Salman bin Youssef Al-Dossary inspects media offices at the holy sites. (@SalmanAldosary)
Saudi Minister of Media Salman bin Youssef Al-Dossary inspects media offices at the holy sites. (@SalmanAldosary)
Updated 14 June 2024
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Minister tours media offices at holy Hajj sites

Saudi Minister of Media Salman bin Youssef Al-Dossary inspects media offices at the holy sites. (@SalmanAldosary)
  • Al-Dossary visited the media centre in Arafat, which has all necessary equipment to facilitate the work of local journalists and their international partners
  • He also toured the ministry’s office in Mina to inspect the facilities there

RIYADH: Saudi Minister of Media Salman bin Youssef Al-Dossary has inspected media offices at the holy sites where he was briefed on the techniques used by the Saudi Broadcasting Authority in covering the Hajj rituals in Arafat.

He also visited the Arafat Tower and was briefed on the authority’s mobile television studio.

Al-Dossary visited the media centre in Arafat, which has all necessary equipment to facilitate the work of local journalists and their international partners.

He also toured the ministry’s office in Mina to inspect the facilities there.

Al-Dossary underscored the significant role media professionals have played in promoting the Kingdom’s efforts to serve pilgrims. He also highlighted the keenness of the Saudi leadership to facilitate pilgrims in performing their Hajj rituals with ease.

The Saudi Broadcasting Authority has approximately 100 mobile cameras, and 100 correspondents and broadcasters.

It has also established an operation room to support logistics services and prepare over 700 news items in 12 languages.

The production teams consist of individuals specialized in news editing and field coverage. 


ZADK Culinary Academy founder discusses its success 

So far, 371 chefs have graduated from ZADK, earning a diploma in the field of culinary arts or other related fields. (Supplied)
So far, 371 chefs have graduated from ZADK, earning a diploma in the field of culinary arts or other related fields. (Supplied)
Updated 14 June 2024
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ZADK Culinary Academy founder discusses its success 

So far, 371 chefs have graduated from ZADK, earning a diploma in the field of culinary arts or other related fields. (Supplied)
  • Aside from its culinary aims, the academy also runs several social-development initiatives
  • The academy was established in June 2018 and officially opened in December 2019 in the Eastern Province

ALKHOBAR: Since the non-profit ZADK Culinary Academy officially opened its doors in 2019, it has cooked up some hearty dishes and continues to break records, do good, and train the region’s future culinary masters.
“ZADK won the Quality Award in Education and Training from the Ministry of Tourism, and has gained the trust of the Human Resources Development Fund, which supported the delivery of diploma courses for 100 male and female chefs and helped 240 others train for a qualifying certificate in the mini cooking program,” Rania Moualla, the academy’s founder, told Arab News.

Rania Moualla, the founder of the non-profit ZADK Culinary Academy. (Supplied)


In 2023, a culinary scholarship program was created in cooperation with the HRDF. Each student went straight into work after completing the program.
“The aim is to train Saudi nationals to be qualified chefs in accordance with international standards. This contributes to supporting the labor market and preserves the cultural heritage of Saudi cuisine, while helping achieve Vision 2030’s goals of supporting and empowering youth,” Moualla said.
So far, 371 chefs have graduated from ZADK, earning a diploma in the field of culinary arts or other related fields.
“A large number of them have joined the labor market, working in international hotels, restaurants and the corporate food sector,” Moualla said.
The academy was established in June 2018 and officially opened in December 2019 in the Eastern Province. Prince Saud bin Nayef bin Abdulaziz, governor of the Eastern Province, was one of the academy’s earliest, and fiercest, supporters.
“He was the first to believe in the idea and support it when he cut the ribbon and adopted the ZADK logo, which is a camel carrying food,” Moualla said.
ZADK’s aim is to “prepare young talent to contribute to Vision 2030, supporting advancement at the economic and social levels; preserving Saudi food culture and showcasing it to the world,” she added.
The academy, she continued, also “aspires to be a platform for social change regarding food waste, healthy eating, sustainability and culture.”
Aside from its culinary aims, the academy also runs several social-development initiatives. Its students have put in numerous hours volunteering and have even earned a Guinness World Record, creating a Saudi flag made of cupcakes to mark the 91st Saudi National Day.
The academy also sources its ingredients locally, to help promote local farmers and to ensure access to healthy food, in addition to applying a zero-waste principle.
The academy has earned International Organization for Standardization certification for quality management in work and food safety, and this year the academy qualified for accreditation from the National Center for Education and Training Evaluation.
“In terms of building competencies, following the example of our Swiss partner (the Culinary Arts Academy) — which is ranked among the seven best institutes in the world — we have invested in an advanced information system to enhance administrative efficiency and create a dynamic, stimulating educational community. We will begin working on it in the coming days,” Moualla said.
Classes have already started for the 10th batch of students, who will be joined in August by the 11th batch — which includes 56 students enrolled in a higher diploma through a scholarship from NEOM.
The international diploma for chefs includes practical training, workshops, an orientation program, and field visits. Another 24 chefs graduated from the Sultanate of Oman as part of the Hospitable program, organized by the Ministry of Labor, the Oman Tourism College, and the Omran Group in cooperation with the academy.
“The graduates are building a foundation for a bright tomorrow, transforming their passion into a profession and their dreams into reality. They also revive the history of our fathers and grandfathers, and our cultural heritage, through cooking,” Moualla concluded. 


Saudi authorities detain 18 suspects over violating Hajj rules

Saudi authorities detain 18 suspects over violating Hajj rules
Updated 14 June 2024
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Saudi authorities detain 18 suspects over violating Hajj rules

Saudi authorities detain 18 suspects over violating Hajj rules
  • The suspects, a GCC national, an expatriate and 16 Saudi citizens, were detained on Thursday
  • Offenders will be detained for 15 days each and fined SR10,000 against each person transported

MINA: The Interior Ministry announced on Friday that the Hajj Security Forces apprehended 18 suspects at Makkah’s entrances for violating Hajj rules and regulations by transporting 91 persons without Hajj permits.
The Saudi Press Agency reported that the suspects, a GCC national, an expatriate and 16 Saudi citizens, were detained on Thursday.
The General Directorate of Passports’ seasonal administrative committees issued against the offenders 18 administrative decisions, including a prison sentence for a period of 15 days for each transporter, and a fine of SR10,000 ($2,666).
Fines are multiplied against transporters according to the total number of persons (without Hajj permits) transported.
Meanwhile, expatriate offenders will be deported after serving their punishments and will be prevented from entering the Kingdom for the periods specified by the pertinent laws.
The offenders will be named and shamed, and the authorities have also impounded the two vehicles used in transportation.
The Interior Ministry called on citizens and expatriates to abide by Hajj rules and regulations so that pilgrims could enjoy safety, security and comfort while performing their rituals.