Saudi Arabia ‘incredibly concerned’ about Red Sea, Gaza security, FM tells WEF

Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan speaks next to Federal Minister of Foreign Affairs of Germany Annalena Baerbock during a panel session at WEF, in Davos, Switzerland. (AP)
Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan speaks next to Federal Minister of Foreign Affairs of Germany Annalena Baerbock during a panel session at WEF, in Davos, Switzerland. (AP)
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Updated 17 January 2024
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Saudi Arabia ‘incredibly concerned’ about Red Sea, Gaza security, FM tells WEF

Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan speaks next to Federal Minister of Foreign Affairs of Germany.
  • Prince Faisal bin Farhan: Peace between Israel, Palestinians ‘will resolve many of the challenges’ Mideast faces
  • Riyadh will continue to work with Washington ‘toward a much better future for the region’

LONDON: Saudi Arabia is “incredibly concerned” about regional security following Houthi attacks on international shipping in the Red Sea and the situation in Gaza, the Kingdom’s foreign minister said on Tuesday at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.
Prince Faisal bin Farhan told a panel titled “Securing an Insecure World” that de-escalation in the Red Sea is essential, and that Riyadh will continue to “engage with all stakeholders” after US and UK airstrikes against Houthi positions in Yemen last week.
While “clearly connected with the war in Gaza,” it is important that the conflict in the Palestinian enclave is addressed separately, he said.
“We need to focus on the war in Gaza not because of the Red Sea,” he told the panel. “We need to focus on the war in Gaza because of its impact on the Palestinians, first, but on regional security in general and on the risks it poses for further escalation.”
Prince Faisal said since Israel began military operations in Gaza, nearly 30,000 Palestinians have died and humanitarian aid is still being heavily restricted, but he has “not seen any real sign” that Tel Aviv is achieving its strategic objectives.
He praised parts of the international community for “moving more in the direction” of calling for a cease-fire, adding that peace between the two sides “will resolve many of the challenges that we have in the region.”
German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock called the war “a total disaster” and reiterated that the “only way out” of the ongoing situation is a two-state solution.
However, she said “a cease-fire, unfortunately, doesn’t fall from the sky” and can only be achieved if both sides “are ready.”

Baerbock said a “vicious circle” of blame is preventing a cease-fire from happening, but insisted that first and foremost, Hamas needs to lay down its weapons and release all remaining hostages in Gaza.
“The answer is there on the table,” she said. “But we can’t ignore that the majority of hostages are still (with) Hamas.”
US Sen. Christopher Coons said he is “optimistic” that peace can be achieved based on talks between American senators and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in Riyadh in 2023, as well as meetings with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Tel Aviv and Egyptian President Abdel-Fatah El-Sisi in Cairo.
However, Coons added that conditions in Gaza are worsening daily, and that Netanyahu has built a political career out of opposing a two-state solution.
Prince Faisal said he is heartened by the “concrete agreement” among major nations that the current situation is untenable, adding: “We need to translate that into action.”
He said Riyadh will continue to work with Washington “toward a much better future for the region,” and raised the possibility of future Saudi recognition of Israel if peace with the Palestinians could be reached.
Coons hinted that a series of elections in Western countries in 2024 could potentially affect the shape of the current set of Middle East crises.
He said Iran’s role in conflicts ranging from Yemen to Ukraine needs to be recognized, but talked down any possibility that a return to the White House for former President Donald Trump would lead to a US withdrawal from NATO. “The US rarely ratifies defense treaties, but when we do, we keep them,” Coons said.
Citing growing concerns about inter-regional conflicts, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said: “What happens in Asia matters for Europe.”
He also noted that Iran is aiding Russia in Ukraine, selling Moscow military drones and helping it construct drone and munitions facilities in Tatarstan.
But he said there is cause for optimism for Ukrainians, noting Russia’s failure to make major progress following the early days of the invasion, and highlighting Kyiv’s success in opening up channels for the export of grain through the Black Sea.
Finnish Foreign Minister Elina Valtonen said nobody wants to live in a world “where only the strongest survive,” adding that her country had felt compelled to join NATO because of Russia’s aggression, highlighting Moscow’s use of “hybrid strategies” to push “third-party citizens” from other countries into Europe via Finland’s border.
Pointing to Finland’s right to security, Nigerian Foreign Minister Yussuf Tuggar said: “What the minister says could apply just as much to Palestine — they have the right.”
He said the world needs to see concrete changes in the makeup of global security institutions, bemoaning a decline in international diplomacy, and adding that a country such as Nigeria should have a place on the UN Security Council. The UNSC “needs to democratize,” Tuggar said. “Clearly it isn’t fit for purpose.”
He added: “Nigeria is a large country. It’s the most populous country on the continent of Africa. It has a population of 220 million people — it’s going to be 400 million by the year 2050. It belongs in the UN Security Council.”


Ministry of Interior hosts families of killed or injured service personnel during Hajj

Ministry of Interior hosts families of killed or injured service personnel during Hajj
Updated 18 June 2024
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Ministry of Interior hosts families of killed or injured service personnel during Hajj

Ministry of Interior hosts families of killed or injured service personnel during Hajj

RIYADH: Saudi’s rulers have hosted the families of military personnel who were killed or injured in the line of duty, Saudi Press Agency reported.

Maj. Gen. Dr. Suleiman bin Abdulaziz Al-Maiman, Ministry of Interior undersecretary for military affairs, said 289 pilgrims from families of martyred or injured personnel had been welcomed during this year’s Hajj season.

Every effort was made to ensure the guests had comfort, peace of mind and as much ease as possible in performing their rituals, added the report.


Ministry of Health helpline receives more than 47,000 calls during Hajj 

Ministry of Health helpline receives more than 47,000 calls during Hajj 
Updated 18 June 2024
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Ministry of Health helpline receives more than 47,000 calls during Hajj 

Ministry of Health helpline receives more than 47,000 calls during Hajj 
  • Staff at the center handle health inquiries, offer medical consultations and help find missing or hospitalized pilgrims at the holy sites

RIYADH: More than 47,000 calls have been received by the Saudi Ministry of Health’s 937 call center since the start of Hajj, Saudi Press Agency reported.

Staff at the center handle health inquiries, offer medical consultations and help find missing or hospitalized pilgrims at the holy sites.

They can deal with reports in seven different languages and a team of administrative staff, specialists and consultants are available around the clock to offer advice and support.

Pilgrims can contact the center through a number of channels, including by telephone at 937 and via WhatsApp and X.


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

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

Hajj medics successfully performed 24 open-heart operations 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.