Kishida aide describes PM’s visit as ‘precious opportunity’ to deepen Saudi-Japan ties

Special Kishida aide describes PM’s visit as ‘precious opportunity’ to deepen Saudi-Japan ties
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Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and visiting Japan’s Prime Minister Fumio Kishida during the welcoming ceremonies at Al-Salam Palace in Jeddah on Sunday. (SPA)
Special Kishida aide describes PM’s visit as ‘precious opportunity’ to deepen Saudi-Japan ties
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Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman receives Japan’s Prime Minister Fumio Kishida at Al-Salam Palace in Jeddah on Sunday. (SPA)
Special Kishida aide describes PM’s visit as ‘precious opportunity’ to deepen Saudi-Japan ties
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Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman receives Japan’s Prime Minister Fumio Kishida at Al-Salam Palace in Jeddah on Sunday. (SPA)
Special Kishida aide describes PM’s visit as ‘precious opportunity’ to deepen Saudi-Japan ties
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Japan PM Fumio Kishida was welcomed at King Abdulaziz International airport in Jeddah by Prince Badr bin Sultan bin Abdulaziz, deputy governor of Makkah region. (SPA)
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Updated 17 July 2023
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Kishida aide describes PM’s visit as ‘precious opportunity’ to deepen Saudi-Japan ties

Kishida aide describes PM’s visit as ‘precious opportunity’ to deepen Saudi-Japan ties
  • Noriyuki Shikata: We hope visit will accelerate Saudi-Japan exchanges in economy, energy, green tech and culture
  • Says Japan needs to do more regarding gender equality and that it can learn from new measures introduced by Saudi Arabia

JEDDAH: Japan hopes a visit by its prime minister to Saudi Arabia will help accelerate bilateral cooperation in several fields, Noriyuki Shikata, Cabinet secretary for public affairs to the prime minister of Japan, told Arab News Japan on Sunday.

Shikata also said he is aware of the reforms happening in Saudi Arabia, which has recently surpassed Japan when it comes to closing the gender gap, according to recent figures released by the World Economic Forum.

Japan is aware of its need to do more with regards to gender equality, Shikata said, adding that the two countries can learn from each other.

“As Saudi Arabia introduces new policy measures related to gender equality, we can learn from each other,” he said.

Shikata’s comments came as Japan’s Prime Minister Fumio Kishida arrived in Jeddah on Sunday afternoon.

 

 

He was joined by a Japanese delegation of businesspeople, ready to explore a Saudi Arabia brimming with investment and cooperation opportunities.

Later on Sunday, Kishida, who is on a tour of Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Qatar, attended the Saudi-Japan Roundtable Meeting along with Saudi Minister of Investment Khalid Al-Falih.

The main objective of the event was to strengthen economic and investment ties between Saudi Arabia and Japan.

Shikata described Kishida’s visit as a “precious opportunity” to deepen ties between the two nations. “In Jeddah, Kishida is discussing how we can grow our cooperation, including in economic areas,” he said.

“Saudi Arabia has been working hard on Vision 2030 for the reform of (the) Saudi economy and diversification of its industries.”




Just hours after his arrival, PM Fumio Kishida participated in a Saudi-Japan Roundtable meeting in Jeddah on Sunday. (SPA)

Shikata explained that Japan has been dependent on Saudi Arabia for oil imports, but the plan is to build on it. “We wish to move on to new areas of decarbonized energy, including hydrogen or ammonia. We see Saudi Arabia as a great opportunity for producing either green or blue energy for the future,” he said.

“We are hoping this visit would accelerate exchanges between the two countries.”

According to Shikata, one of Kishida’s major topics of discussion is the transition to clean energy, a field Japan wants to further collaborate on with Saudi Arabia.

“We need to encourage growth in green energy. Some of the Japanese companies currently visiting Jeddah are looking to develop new solutions for green transition,” he said.

“We think if more Japanese people, including businesspeople, visit Saudi Arabia, they will find more opportunities for cooperation.”




Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (R) meets with Japan’s Prime Minister Fumio Kishida (2nd left) at Al-Salam Palace in Jeddah on Sunday. (SPA)

Shikata said Kishida planned to propose a “global green energy hub.”

He added: “This global green energy journey could include hydrogen in the supply chain or green materials, like green steel and all that is related to the supply chain.

“We hope to reach agreements on this topic. We are hopeful Kishida is likely to propose this idea.”

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Shikata believes the relationship between the Kingdom and Japan stands on the cusp of a transformation. He put it this way: Japan has been importing much of its oil from Saudi Arabia, but in 10 to 20 years’ time, the energy supply chain composition could be different.

“Since Japan is so dependent on the Kingdom for energy, we think this close partnership could be a great basis for future plans,” he said.

In terms of regional security and peace, Shikata said Japan “welcomes” the new agreement between Saudi Arabia and Iran.

“We have diplomatic ties with Iran, so when better relations emerged between the two nations, that was good news for the region,” he said




Noriyuki Shikata, Cabinet secretary for public affairs to the prime minister of Japan. (ANJP photo)

Japan has been proactive in ensuring peace and security in the region, especially with regard to the Israel-Palestine conflict.

“Japan has been trying to be constructive in the Middle East peace process and we are against any change in the status quo from any parties,” Shikata said.

“Japan has been proactive in providing humanitarian assistance to Palestinian refugees. We are hopeful that there will be peaceful settlement of issues. We wish to be supportive.”

He added that Japan is aware of Saudi Arabia’s stance on the situation, and the Asian country is “eager” to support the Kingdom’s efforts.




Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida holds bilateral talks with Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah (2nd-L) in Tokyo on September 28, 2022. (AFP/File photo)

Japan is also engaging in some recovery projects in Yemen through the UN and hoping to promote peace there as well.

Moving on to the other geopolitical topics, Shikata pointed out that Kishida has imposed sanctions against Russia since its invasion of Ukraine in February of last year.

“Because Japan has suffered from a nuclear power-plant disaster in 2011, there has been expectation from the Ukrainian side to support recovery and reconstruction of the country after a ceasefire,” Shikata said.

As Japan and Saudi Arabia cooperate on fields such as renewable energy, Shikata told Arab News Japan that cultural developments are important as well.

“I understand that Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is a big fan of anime,” he said, pointing out that the Saudi sovereign wealth fund, the Public Investment Fund, has made “investments in the entertainment industry,” one of them being “a substantial one in Nintendo.”

Elaborating on the topic, Shikata said: “Given this appreciation of Saudi people for Japanese pop culture or anime, I think there’s room for young Saudi students to come to Japan and start studying Japanese because they are interested in anime.”




Earlier this year, the Saudi company Manga Productions signed a partnership with Japan's Tsubasa Co. to produce and distribute “Captain Tsubasa”, also known as Captain Majid, and various other projects.  (Supplied)

He added that appreciation for the hit anime “Captain Tsubasa,” or “Captain Majid,” in the Arab world can be an opportunity for cultural exchanges.

As Saudi Arabia aims to host the World Expo in 2030, several countries have voiced their support for its bid ahead of the final vote in November.

“Saudi Arabia is a very good candidate, and we hope that at the Osaka, Kansai Expo 2025, the Saudi pavilion will be very popular,” Shikata said.

“I’m sure Saudi (Arabia) will be a very competitive candidate in terms of hosting such events.”

Kishida will travel to the UAE and Qatar to continue his first trip to the Middle East since assuming office in 2021.

 


Hajj medics successfully performed 24 open-heart surgeries on ailing pilgrims

Hajj medics successfully performed 24 open-heart surgeries on ailing pilgrims
Updated 18 June 2024
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Hajj medics successfully performed 24 open-heart surgeries on ailing pilgrims

Hajj medics successfully performed 24 open-heart surgeries on ailing pilgrims
  • 249 cardiac catheterizations and 1,006 dialysis operations also performed
  • Over 142K pilgrims benefited from various health services, says health ministry

RIYADH: Specialist medical teams deployed in Makkah for the Hajj season had successfully performed 24 open-heart surgeries on pilgrims, the Ministry of Health said on Monday.

In a statement published by the Saudi Press Agency (SPA), the ministry said 249 pilgrims had also undergone cardiac catheterizations, and 1,006 had dialysis operations, in addition to the admission of 4,082 pilgrims in need to hospitals and medical centers to receive the necessary health care.

The patients were more than 142,000 pilgrims who have benefited from the various health services provided by health care centers in Makkah city and Mina since June 15, the first day of the annual pilgrimage.

Health services provided to the pilgrims varied between medical and specialized clinics, pharmacies, dialysis centers, intensive care rooms, and isolation units, said the MOH.

Three patients were evacuated by air ambulance and transferred to the King Ambdulaziz Medical Center in Jeddah. (SPA)

Air evacuations to Jeddah

In a separate report, SPA said a medical team from Ajyad Emergency Hospital, a member of the Makkah Al-Mukarramah Health Cluster, was able to save the life of a 53-year-old Egyptian pilgrim.

Officials said the patient arrived at the hospital complaining of chest pain. After determining that a heart clot was threatening the life and safety of the pilgrim, the case was dealt with urgently and quickly. The patient was then transferred to King Abdullah Medical City in Makkah to receive the required specialized medical service and care.

Two critical cases involving a 62-year-old Egyptian pilgrim and a 48-year-old Tunisian had to be evacuated by helicopter from hospitals in the holy sites to the King Abdullah Medical Complex in Jeddah, SPA said in another report.

Dr. Mahdi Othman, head of the KAMC’s Intensive Care Department, the Egyptian patient was received by air evacuation from Jabal al-Rahma Hospital, while the Tunisian patient was received by air evacuation from the Mina Emergency Hospital.

“Both cases contracted severe pneumonia while performing the Hajj rituals for this year 1445 AH, which led to respiratory failure, and then they needed an extracorporeal membrane oxygenation life support machine, and they were admitted to the intensive care unit under intensive medical observation and close follow-up,” the MOH said.


Saudi HR ministry reviews Hajj initiatives on field visit, praises workers

Saudi HR ministry reviews Hajj initiatives on field visit, praises workers
Updated 18 June 2024
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Saudi HR ministry reviews Hajj initiatives on field visit, praises workers

Saudi HR ministry reviews Hajj initiatives on field visit, praises workers

RIYADH: The Saudi minister responsible for labor issues has praised the ministry’s workers for their efforts during this year’s Hajj, the Saudi Press Reported.

Ahmed Al-Rajhi, minister for human resources and social development, made the remarks on a visit to the ministry’s Hajj headquarters, where he reviewed the activities of the regulatory teams and inspected relevant workflows.

The teams are tasked with ensuring that establishments involved in Hajj operations comply with labor laws and other regulations.

More than 1.83 million Muslims performed the Hajj this year, slightly fewer than last year’s 1.84 million. They included more than 1.6 million pilgrims from 22 countries, and about 222,000 Saudi citizens and expatriate residents.

HR ministry initiatives have sought to aid both pilgrims and workers taking part in the annual event.

The ministry has introduced the “Ajeer Al-Hajj” service, which facilitates seasonal work, and the “Seasonal Visas” service.

An anti-begging initiative, available in multiple languages, and the supervision of over 22 childcare centers in Makkah and the holy sites through the “Childcare Centers” are also part of the ministry’s efforts this year.

Al-Rajhi also reviewed key initiatives, services, and volunteer efforts deployed in Makkah’s Grand Mosque and the holy sites.


The sacred sites in Makkah and Madinah that Hajj pilgrims have a chance to experience

The sacred sites in Makkah and Madinah that Hajj pilgrims have a chance to experience
Updated 18 June 2024
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The sacred sites in Makkah and Madinah that Hajj pilgrims have a chance to experience

The sacred sites in Makkah and Madinah that Hajj pilgrims have a chance to experience
  • The act of welcoming Muslim pilgrims throughout the ages has resulted in a distinct cultural identity and legacy
  • Visitors are urged to gain a deeper insight into the spiritual and historical significance of the two holy cities

JEDDAH: During the pilgrimages of Hajj and Umrah, devout Muslims seek out sites that deepen their understanding of Islam and its rich heritage.

The historical sites and archaeological museums in Makkah Al-Mukarramah and Madinah Al-Munawara offer a profound educational experience to millions of visitors from around the world who flock to the two holy cities each year.

After completing their religious rites, such as Umrah and Tawaf, and paying their respects at the Haram, pilgrims yearn to immerse themselves in the history of Makkah and Madinah.

With histories going back thousands of years, these cities are embodiments of the origins of Islamic culture, having welcomed pilgrims down the ages and developed a distinct cultural identity in the process of doing so.

The Hira Cultural District in Makkah is among the must-visit landmarks for pilgrims. (SPA)

To grasp the historical importance of these cities and gain a deeper insight into their religious significance, visitors are urged to venture beyond the well-known landmarks like Jannat Ul Mua’lla, the Cave of Hira in Jabal Al-Nour, Mount Arafat and Masjid-e-Ayesha.

Nestled beside the renowned Jabal Al-Nour, the Hira Cultural District offers a distinctive fusion of cultural, historical, and engaging encounters. Encompassing 67,000 square meters, this district offers pilgrims an immersive voyage through time, enabling them to forge a connection with the vibrant history of Makkah.

Near the Haram lies the historic site of Hudaibiyah, where Prophet Muhammad signed the crucial treaty of Hudaibiyah. A mosque now stands at the site, alongside a weathered structure of unknown origin.

A mosque now stands in the historic site of Hudaibiyah, where Prophet Muhammad signed the crucial treaty of Hudaibiyah. (Supplied)

In 809, during a time of extreme water scarcity in Makkah, Queen Zubaida, the wife of Abbasid Caliph Harun Rashid, undertook a pilgrimage to the holy city. Witnessing the challenging conditions faced by pilgrims, she took immediate action by ordering the construction of the Zubaida Canal.

This canal, built more than a thousand years ago, has continued to supply water to pilgrims visiting Makkah ever since. 

Lastly, Mount Abu Qubais, where a miraculous event involving the moon occurred, serves as a reminder of divine intervention in Makkah’s scenery.

One of the must-visit attractions in Makkah is the Assalaamu Aleyka Ayyuhan Nabiyyu Museum, which educates visitors about the life of Prophet Muhammad through innovative displays and artifacts.

By providing glimpses into the type of dwelling he may have inhabited and showcasing clothing from his era, the museum offers a unique insight into his life, allowing guests to delve into the lives of his ancestors, wives, children, and descendants.

The Assalaamu Aleyka Ayyuhan Nabiyyu Museum in Makkah. (Supplied)

The collaborative effort of more than 150 scholars ensures the museum’s authenticity in religious, and archaeological details, creating a comprehensive and accurate portrayal of Prophet Muhammad’s life and legacy.

“I have been guiding pilgrims on deeply spiritual journeys for nearly 15 years, introducing them to the holy city’s lesser-known treasures,” Ahmed Khan, a private tour guide, told Arab News.

“Pilgrims are always thrilled and grateful when we visit sites where the legacy of Prophet Muhammad and the rich heritage of Islam resonate with each step.”

Another private tour guide, Aman Javaid, emphasized the importance of providing pilgrims with accurate information about the sites they visit.

“It’s crucial for me to ensure that I share all the correct details about these places,” he told Arab News. “Many pilgrims often mention the Cave of Hira, but I make it a point to take them to the Cave of Thawr as well.

The Thawr Cave, located in the Jabal Thawr mopuntain, is the place where Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) and his companion Abu Bakr hid from the Quraysh during the migration to Madinah. (Supplied)

“This revered site is where the Prophet Muhammad and his companion Abu Bakr sought refuge during their migration to Madinah. Sharing the story of how they escaped their enemies and found solace there always piques the pilgrims’ interest. I make sure I have comprehensive knowledge about these sacred sites.”

The Cave of Thawr underscores the importance of seeking refuge and divine guidance during adversity, marking a pivotal moment in Islamic history. Pilgrims honor the legacy of the prophet and Abu Bakr by offering prayers and paying their respects in this sacred place.

Located at the birthplace of Prophet Muhammad, the Makkah Al-Mukarramah Library serves as a hub for knowledge and research. With a collection of more than 350,000 rare books and manuscripts, this esteemed institution stands as a testament to Makkah’s cultural and intellectual heritage.

Within the King Abdulaziz Complex lies the renowned Kiswa Factory, where artisans annually produce the exquisite black silk coverings for the Holy Kaaba. Adorned with intricate silver and gold embroidery and Quranic inscriptions, these coverings are a symbol of reverence and tradition.

Inside the King Abdul Aziz Complex, workers fabricate the kiswa, the cover of the Holy Kaaba. (AN photo/File)

The factory, now known as the King Abdulaziz Complex for Kiswa, showcases the artistry of silk knitting and embroidery, preserving a centuries-old craft.

Madinah, as the second holiest city in Islam, holds immense importance for Muslims undertaking Umrah and Hajj pilgrimages. Pilgrims visit to pay their respects at renowned mosques and historical sites steeped in cultural and religious significance.

The city is home to historic mosques dating back to the time of Prophet Muhammad, offering a spiritually enriching experience.

Masjid Al-Qiblatain stands out with its traditional design and renowned twin mihrabs, where it is believed Prophet Muhammad received a divine command to change the qibla direction. Rebuilt during King Fahd’s reign, this mosque remains a beautiful and significant place for prayers in Madinah.

Masjid Al-Qiblatain, meaning “two directions,” was built two years after Prophet Mohammed arrived in Madinah, a city known for its rich Islamic history, and a customary stop for millions of Umrah and Hajj pilgrims every year. (SPA)

Another notable site is Masjid Abu Bakr, honoring the first caliph and close companion of the prophet, reflecting the deep bond between Abu Bakr and Prophet Muhammad through its modest yet serene setting and inviting visitors to draw inspiration from Abu Bakr’s unwavering faith.

Among the historic mosques in Madinah, Masjid Al-Ahzab holds a significant place in Islamic culture, marking the site of a pivotal battle where the prophet’s du’a led to victory.

Meanwhile, Masjid Al-Ghamamah, though small in size, remains an important site for seeking blessings during ziyarat in Madinah. Visitors are encouraged to respect the mosque’s guidelines, including observing prayer times and maintaining modesty, to fully appreciate the spiritual significance of these revered locations.

Another fascinating site relates to the Battle of the Trench, also known as the Khandak Battle — a significant military confrontation in 624 between the Muslims of Madinah and the Makkan army, which was attempting to suppress the spread of Islam.

The Khandak Mosque stands in the place where the Khandak Battle took place in 624 between the Muslims of Madinah and the Makkan army, which was attempting to suppress the spread of Islam. (Supplied)

Fought near the Badr wells, it proved to be a decisive victory for the Muslims, highlighting their strength and Prophet Muhammad’s leadership.

Likewise, the Garden of Hazrat Salman Farsi in Madinah is a historic site where Prophet Muhammad planted 300 date palms to free Salman Farsi from slavery. Located near Masjid Quba, the garden remains lush with date palm trees and features a date shop for visitors to enjoy tea amid the greenery.

Meanwhile, the city’s oldest museum, Al-Madinah Museum, highlights Islamic history and the life of Prophet Muhammad through rare artifacts and models of city landmarks.

A general view of the Hira Cultural District in Makkah. (SPA)

Similarly, As Safiyyah Museum and Park, located near the Prophet’s Mosque, offers a unique cultural experience with a focus on educational enrichment and enjoyment.

The centerpiece is the Story of Creation Museum, which utilizes advanced technology to visually depict the creation narrative.

Madinah's Safiyyah Museum and Park, located near the Prophet’s Mosque. (Supplied)

Finally, the Hejaz Railway Museum is housed in the historic railway station and provides insights into the significance of the Hejaz Railway, which was built to facilitate pilgrimages to the holy cities. The museum displays vintage locomotives, historical photographs, and documents detailing the railway’s history.

These sites not only deepen pilgrims’ understanding of Islamic history but also foster a greater appreciation for the rich cultural heritage of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

Through these visits, pilgrims connect with the legacy of their faith, making their pilgrimage a truly holistic journey.
 

 


SDAIA develops AI-powered Smart Makkah Operations Center to serve Hajj pilgrims

SDAIA develops AI-powered Smart Makkah Operations Center to serve Hajj pilgrims
Updated 17 June 2024
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SDAIA develops AI-powered Smart Makkah Operations Center to serve Hajj pilgrims

SDAIA develops AI-powered Smart Makkah Operations Center to serve Hajj pilgrims
  • The operations center uses the latest technologies based on AI techniques to do so

MAKKAH: The Saudi Data and AI Authority (SDAIA) has developed the Smart Makkah Operations Center (Smart Moc) to ensure the safety and comfort of Hajj pilgrims and facilitating their movement and the services provided to them, Saudi Press Agency reported.

The operations center uses the latest technologies based on AI techniques to do so, SPA added.

A team of experts in a variety of fields, including programming, data, and AI, are employed at Smart Moc on a round-the-clock basis to monitor the operational processes of the platforms and provide precise analyses of their progress.

This is in accordance with SDAIA's commitment to utilizing the most advanced technologies and AI to assist pilgrims and visitors to the Grand Mosque.

Among the center's major achievements is the "Basier" platform, the first real-time computer vision system in Saudi Arabia and one of the largest crowd management systems in the Middle East, used to manage crowds in the Grand Mosque, regulate their movements, and facilitate the flow of vehicles.


Deputy governor of Makkah region hands over Kaaba Kiswa to gatekeeper

The Kaaba’s Kiswa was handed over to the gatekeeper of the holy site on Monday. (SPA)
The Kaaba’s Kiswa was handed over to the gatekeeper of the holy site on Monday. (SPA)
Updated 17 June 2024
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Deputy governor of Makkah region hands over Kaaba Kiswa to gatekeeper

The Kaaba’s Kiswa was handed over to the gatekeeper of the holy site on Monday. (SPA)
  • The hand-over was signed off by Minister of Hajj and Umrah Tawfiq Al-Rabiah and the deputy chief gatekeeper Abdul Malik bin Taha Al-Shaibi

RIYADH: The deputy governor of the Makkah Region Prince Saud bin Mishal bin Abdulaziz handed over the Kaaba’s Kiswa to the gatekeeper of the holy site on Monday, Saudi Press Agency reported.

The hand-over was signed off by Minister of Hajj and Umrah Tawfiq Al-Rabiah and the deputy chief gatekeeper Abdul Malik bin Taha Al-Shaibi.

The Kaaba will be adorned with its new Kiswa on Muharram 1, the stat of the new Islamic year.