Tanzania affirms support for Saudi bid to host Expo 2030

Tanzania’s President Samia Suluhu Hassan receives Saudi Royal Court Adviser Ahmed bin Abdulaziz Kattan in Dar es Salaam on Monday. (SPA)
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Tanzania’s President Samia Suluhu Hassan receives Saudi Royal Court Adviser Ahmed bin Abdulaziz Kattan in Dar es Salaam on Monday. (SPA)
Tanzania’s President Samia Suluhu Hassan receives Saudi Royal Court Adviser Ahmed bin Abdulaziz Kattan in Dar es Salaam on Monday. (SPA)
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Tanzania’s President Samia Suluhu Hassan receives Saudi Royal Court Adviser Ahmed bin Abdulaziz Kattan in Dar es Salaam on Monday. (SPA)
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Updated 04 September 2023
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Tanzania affirms support for Saudi bid to host Expo 2030

Tanzania’s President Samia Suluhu Hassan receives Saudi Royal Court Adviser Ahmed bin Abdulaziz Kattan in Dar es Salaam.
  • Kattan conveyed a verbal message to the president from King Salman related to bilateral relations
  • Hassan welcomed the first Saudi-African Summit and the fifth Arab-African Summit that will be held in the Kingdom

RIYADH: Tanzania’s President Samia Suluhu Hassan affirmed her country’s full support for Saudi Arabia’s bid to host Expo 2030 in Riyadh on Monday.

During a meeting with Saudi Royal Court Adviser Ahmed bin Abdulaziz Kattan in Dar es Salaam, Hassan also welcomed the first Saudi-African Summit and the fifth Arab-African Summit that will be held in the Kingdom later this year.

Hassan and Kattan discussed bilateral relations between their countries and ways to support and develop them in various fields. They also reviewed regional and international events of common interest.

Kattan also conveyed a verbal message to the president from King Salman related to bilateral relations between Saudi Arabia and Tanzania and ways to enhance joint cooperation.


Arafat sermon projected to reach 1 billion listeners worldwide

Arafat sermon projected to reach 1 billion listeners worldwide
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Arafat sermon projected to reach 1 billion listeners worldwide

Arafat sermon projected to reach 1 billion listeners worldwide
  • The translated sermons promote peace, coexistence, and a deeper understanding of Islam

ARAFAT, Makkah: Saudi Arabia’s King Salman has launched a groundbreaking initiative to translate sermons delivered at Makkah’s Grand Mosque and the Prophet’s Mosque in Madinah and the Arafat sermon delivered at Namira Mosque, the Saudi Press Agency reported on Saturday.

Spearheaded by the Presidency of Religious Affairs of the Two Holy Mosques, the project serves as a cornerstone in spreading the message of moderation and centrism espoused by the holy sites, SPA said.

"This year, the Arafat sermon translation is projected to reach a staggering one billion listeners worldwide, translated into 20 languages.

"The translated sermons promote peace, coexistence, and a deeper understanding of Islam — a religion built on mercy, tolerance, and peaceful living," the report said.

When the project was first launched in 2018, translations were offered in only five languages.  Its reach has continued to grow each year. Sermons are translated into an increasing number of languages and broadcast on various platforms, including digital platforms, FM radio, and Islamic television channels.

"These efforts demonstrate the Kingdom’s unwavering commitment to serving Islam and the global Muslim community," the report said, adding that the initiative "exemplifies Saudi Arabia’s dedication to serving the Two Holy Mosques and their pilgrims. It further reflects the leadership’s commitment to promoting global peace and the values of tolerance and moderation."

"Having surpassed 200 million listeners in 2020, the project fulfills the Kingdom’s sacred responsibility of caring for the Two Holy Mosques and their visitors. By translating the Arafat sermon, they effectively share the message of these holy sites with the entire Muslim world," it further said.

 

 


Interior minister inspects Hajj security forces in Makkah

Prince Abdulaziz bin Saud inspects Hajj security forces in Makkah. (SPA)
Prince Abdulaziz bin Saud inspects Hajj security forces in Makkah. (SPA)
Updated 16 June 2024
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Interior minister inspects Hajj security forces in Makkah

Prince Abdulaziz bin Saud inspects Hajj security forces in Makkah. (SPA)
  • Prince Abdulaziz met with the commanders of the forces and discussed their preparations for their assigned tasks.

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s Minister of Interior and chairman of the Supreme Hajj Committee Prince Abdulaziz bin Saud has inspected the special security forces participating in this year's Hajj security forces in Makkah, the Saudi Press Agency said early Sunday.

As part of the visit, Prince Abdulaziz met with the commanders of the forces and discussed their preparations for their assigned tasks.

Prince Abdulaziz was accompanied by several high-ranking officials and senior officials from the Ministry of Internal Affairs and State Security.

 


Saudi FM holds meetings on sidelines of Ukraine Peace Summit in Switzerland

Saudi FM holds meetings on sidelines of Ukraine Peace Summit in Switzerland
Updated 15 June 2024
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Saudi FM holds meetings on sidelines of Ukraine Peace Summit in Switzerland

Saudi FM holds meetings on sidelines of Ukraine Peace Summit in Switzerland

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan on Saturday met today with his Ukrainian counterpart, Dmytro Kuleba, on the sidelines of the Ukraine Peace Summit, being held in the Swiss city of Lucerne.
During the meeting, they discussed developments in the Ukrainian-Russian conflict, opportunities to enhance cooperation between the Kingdom and Ukraine, and ways to support and develop it in many fields, the Kingdom’s foreign ministry said.
Prince Faisal also held talks with Iraq’s Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Fuad Hussein, where they reviewed relations between their two countries and ways to strengthen and develop them, and discussed regional and international developments.


In a separate meeting with European Council President Charles Michel, the two sides reviewed relations and existing cooperation between the Kingdom and the EU countries and discussed ways in achieve security and stability in the region and the world.
He also discussed ties with Norwegian Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Store.
The Saudi minister had arrived in Lucerne earlier on Saturday to head the Kingdom’s delegation at the major conference, where more than 100 countries and organizations have gathered to forge a path to peace in the Russia-Ukraine conflict.


Successful test flight of electric taxi opens up new vistas for transportation of Hajj pilgrims

Successful test flight of electric taxi opens up new vistas for transportation of Hajj pilgrims
Updated 16 June 2024
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Successful test flight of electric taxi opens up new vistas for transportation of Hajj pilgrims

Successful test flight of electric taxi opens up new vistas for transportation of Hajj pilgrims
  • Self-driving electric vehicles could be shuttling pilgrims from Jeddah to Makkah by 2026
  • Saudi Arabia aims to become the first country to operate the sustainable transport technology

JEDDAH: Not so long ago, the very notion of flying cars was considered pure science fiction. However, a recent public demonstration in Saudi Arabia has shown that the technology is not only real, but could soon become a staple of the public transport and logistics network.

Officials from the Kingdom’s Ministry of Transport and Logistics, the General Authority of Civil Aviation, and the Ministry of Hajj gathered in the Saudi city of Makkah on June 12 to watch what was billed as the first successful test flight of a self-driving aerial taxi.

The EH216-S eVTOL electric aerial vehicle took off in an autonomous trial designed to showcase its potential for transporting pilgrims between the holy sites, facilitating emergency travel, delivering medical equipment, and providing logistical services.

It is the world’s first air taxi licensed by a civil aviation authority.

The EH216-S eVTOL electric aerial vehicle takes off during a trial flight in Makkah on June 12. (SPA)

Saleh bin Nasser Al-Jasser, the minister of transport and logistics and chairman of GACA, said the air taxi trial is part of the Kingdom’s broader initiative to provide the latest transport technologies.

“The trial was done in order to make sure the air taxi could provide services during the Hajj season,” Al-Jasser told Al Arabiya, speaking from inside the aerial vehicle.

“Pilotless and controlled from the ground, this aircraft fits in two people and can fly without fuel for a distance of up to 40 km, powered only by electricity, in full compliance with all safety parameters.”

Saudi Transport and Logistics Minister Saleh bin Nasser Al-Jasser (center front) watch as the electric aerial vehicle takes off during a trial flight in Makkah on June 12. (SPA)

The trial provided valuable insights and data to support GACA’s development of an advanced air mobility road map, including a regulatory framework tailored to provide safe and sustainable air transport solutions for Hajj pilgrims.

Al-Jasser said further trials and experiments would be carried out in future to allow the vehicle to fly over a longer distance and with increased speed.

“We are following up on all the technologies available in order to be among the first countries that can benefit from these services, particularly in serving Hajj pilgrims,” Al-Jasser told Al Arabiya.

The Ministry of Transport and Logistics plans to roll out the new electronic vertical take-off and landing models, or eVTOLs, by 2026. Once up and running, passengers will be able to travel between Jeddah and Makkah in less than 20 minutes.

“This groundbreaking trial is a pivotal step towards a faster, more efficient, and sustainable Hajj travel,” Al-Jasser said in a statement. “Saudi Arabia is leveraging pioneering technologies to empower pilgrims with a seamless and sustainable pilgrimage experience.”

Saudi Transport and Logistics Minister Saleh bin Nasser Al-Jasser (right) and Lt. Gen. Mohammed bin Abdullah Al-Bassami, director of public security, try the electric aerial vehicle during a trial flight in Makkah on June 12. (SPA)

In doing so, Saudi Arabia aims to support a modern transport sector in line with the goals of Vision 2030 — the Kingdom’s economic diversification agenda.

Flying taxis are not the only technology developed under the Kingdom’s national transport and logistics strategy. Electric road vehicles and hydrogen-powered trains are also revolutionizing how the public and cargo will get from A to B.

Alongside the deployment of new vehicles, Al-Jasser said his ministry is developing smart mobility, drafting legislation and regulations, and providing experimental environments to test their real-world application.

These and other innovations, including AI-controlled traffic-management cameras and drones, are expected to help reduce passenger travel times in congested areas, particularly during emergencies, facilitate the transport of goods and medical supplies, and speed up surveillance and inspection tasks.

The EH216-S eVTOL pilotless electric aerial vehicle takes off during a trial flight in Makkah on June 12. (SPA)

Speaking after last week’s demonstration, Abdulaziz Al-Duailej, president of GACA, said he and his department are committed to developing services that will allow pilgrims to perform their rituals with ease.

“This air taxi trial marks a major advancement in integrating advanced air mobility solutions into Saudi Arabia’s aviation landscape,” he said in a statement.

“GACA is committed to enabling new safe and sustainable forms of air transport, elevating travel for pilgrims and passengers across Saudi Arabia. This trial acts as a proof of concept for multiple use cases and contributes to the advancement of mobility solutions across the Kingdom.”

He added: “We appreciate the instrumental support of Front End and EHang to mark this historic milestone for Saudi Arabia.”

Front End, a leader in integrating advanced technologies across various sectors, was the Saudi company behind last week’s demonstration, supported by its Chinese partner, EHang, a leading urban air mobility technology platform company.

A pilotless EH216-S eVTOL electric aerial vehicle is displayed at the Front End Limited Co.'s showroom. (LinkedIn photo)

“Front End is paving the way to a new era in smart mobility solutions, potentially revolutionizing Hajj transportation,” Majid Al-Ghaslan, the firm’s CEO, said in a statement.

“Aligned with Saudi Vision 2030, our purpose is to foster a ‘Connected Kingdom,’ serving as a gateway for our partners to access growth opportunities in Saudi Arabia and the wider region.

“This achievement stands as a testament to the power of government-private partnerships in accelerating new technology adoption. Partnering with EHang made this pioneering solution a reality.”

He added: “These eco-friendly marvels offer a cost-effective solution for urban transportation, tackling congestion while aligning perfectly with the Kingdom’s goals for a sustainable future. This advancement underscores Front End’s dedication to national progress and its commitment to shaping a greener, more efficient tomorrow in mobility.”

Also speaking after last week’s demonstration, Huazhi Hu, founder, CEO, and chairman of EHang, said: “This debut flight of the EH216-S pilotless eVTOL in Saudi Arabia marks a significant milestone in EHang’s ongoing internationalization and an important step forward in propelling global advanced UAM reform, showcasing the potential of our pilotless eVTOL products and solutions for widespread adoption in the Middle Eastern market.

Still image from a video showing Huazhi Hu, EHang founder, CEO and board chairman, with one of his company's air mobility vehicle in the background. (EHang video)

“Looking ahead, with the strong support of GACA and in partnership with Front End, we will work together to establish a benchmark for regular AAM operations in Saudi Arabia, driving progress in both regional and global AAM markets.”

Saudi Arabia has invested hundreds of millions of dollars into AAM solutions under the Saudi Aviation Strategy, which aims to transform the Kingdom into the Middle East’s leading aviation hub by 2030.

The strategy is unlocking more than $100 billion worth of investment, with passenger numbers growing by 26 percent in 2023 to 112 million.

Saudia, the Kingdom’s flag carrier, has unveiled plans to launch its own air taxis by 2026 to help ferry Hajj pilgrims between King Abdulaziz International Airport in Jeddah and hotels in Makkah close to the Grand Mosque. It plans to purchase around 100 aircraft.

The chosen model for these air taxis is the German-made Lilium jet. Although the initial plan is to transport pilgrims, Saudia is also looking at options to connect to various other destinations, contributing to the Kingdom’s burgeoning tourism sector.

The potential for this technology was amply demonstrated in 2021 when NEOM, Saudi Arabia’s new smart city in the Kingdom’s northwest, teamed up with German company Volocopter to establish a joint venture to scale advanced air mobility. They successfully tested a flying taxi in 2023.

Travelers making the Hajj pilgrimage will have to wait until 2026 before they can try out the flying taxis for themselves.
 

 


Seeing is believing for these virtual pilgrims

SalaamVR allows injured and hospitalized pilgrims the chance to experience a virtual Makkah. (SyncVR)
SalaamVR allows injured and hospitalized pilgrims the chance to experience a virtual Makkah. (SyncVR)
Updated 15 June 2024
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Seeing is believing for these virtual pilgrims

SalaamVR allows injured and hospitalized pilgrims the chance to experience a virtual Makkah. (SyncVR)
  • Dutch medtech firm offers bedbound worshippers a high-tech Hajj experience

RIYADH: Once a year, millions of Muslims from all walks of life make their way to Makkah to perform one of the five pillars of Islam.

The journey can be demanding, with pilgrims spending days walking long distances. Unfortunately, the taxing experience can lead to injury or health problems, and some are unable to complete the pilgrimage.

Last year, SyncVR Medical partnered with King Abdullah Medical Complex in Jeddah to bring their virtual reality application, SalaamVR, to injured and hospitalized pilgrims, allowing them to experience a virtual Makkah. The project is expected to continue in KAMC in Jeddah this year.

SalaamVR allows injured and hospitalized pilgrims the chance to experience a virtual Makkah. (SyncVR)

Floris van der Breggen, CEO of SyncVR Medical, told Arab News: “We work with quite a few different countries, including Germany, UK, Denmark, etc. I think the openness from the people in Saudi Arabia was the most open mindset that I have experienced.

“If someone uses the technology for the first time, they don’t only see the value of what they’re seeing at that moment, but they also see the future.”

Overseen by a nurse, patients using the technology are immersed on the road to Makkah, seeing all the relevant Hajj spots such as Muzdalifa, Mina, Mount Arafat, and the Kaaba, which they witness from sunrise to sunset while surrounded by other virtual pilgrims.

HIGHLIGHTS

• SyncVR Medical was one of many companies that took part in the 2023 HealthTech Innovation Summit and Expo in Riyadh.

• Patients scored SalaamVR tech an average of 8.9 for the extent it enhanced their sense of relaxation and well-being.

The whole trip takes no more than 10 minutes, after which they are offered an opportunity to virtually visit other places in the world, swim with dolphins, or venture into a jungle.  

Pilgrims can receive medical attention, while also enjoying Hajj experience.

When tested on pilgrims who sought medical treatment for extreme fatigue or dehydration, infections, or even sprained ankles, the pilot program’s results were promising.

Of the overall patients’ questionnaire scores, the average was 8.86/10 for how likely they are to use extended reality as a preferred method for pain and stress management in future medical procedures.

Patients also scored the technology an average of 8.9 for the extent of the XR experience to enhance their sense of relaxation and well-being.

SyncVR also facilitates the introduction of virtual and augmented reality in healthcare, with education apps that supplement staff education, surgery and anatomy training, nursing simulation training, and patient education.  

“People are very keen to influence things (here) and are way less conservative than other countries,” van der Breggen said.

“What has been really challenging is the key innovation hurdle, which is that you’ve shown that (the technology) works, everyone has that thirst about it, it can basically be used tomorrow. But then it still needs to come into clinical practice; management needs to accept it. That just takes quite a long time.”

The medtech company was established five years ago with the aim of using virtual reality to enhance social experiences, and broaden the technology’s sphere beyond the video gaming industry.

One of its first projects was designed for cancer patients, using the technology to alter their emotional state while undergoing chemotherapy.

“Of course, these patients are overwhelmed by their cancer, thinking about their life and how to spend it. What we did was provide VR headsets, and it worked so positively there. Instead of patients being completely silent and in a negative state, they were uplifted and started talking to each other and escaped those negative thoughts,” van der Breggen said.

“Their life, however long or short it will be, can be really meaningful, and that’s what a virtual reality experience can bring.”

SyncVR Medical was one of many companies that took part in the 2023 HealthTech Innovation Summit and Expo in Riyadh, where it exhibited an all-in-one application platform to help patients. From hardware to software, the company’s products can help with pain anxiety, stress reduction, rehabilitation, and medical education through immersive simulations.

Originally based in one hospital in the Netherlands, SyncVR Medical now supplies 200 hospitals across Europe with its health technology, and aims to be the largest platform for extended reality healthcare on the continent. The SalaamVR application is the firm’s introduction to the Saudi market.

“This technology, by giving a completely different experience and taking them to a new world, has a primary effect on the brain. That effect is the same in the Netherlands as it is in Saudi Arabia, Canada, Australia or Vietnam. The market (in Saudi) may be a bit smaller, but that’s where we’d have an impact,” van der Breggen said.