Saudi deputy defense minister arrives in Pakistan to finalize bilateral security projects 

Saudi deputy defense minister arrives in Pakistan to finalize bilateral security projects 
Saudi Assistant Minister of Defense Talal Bin Abdullah Bin Turki Al-Otaibi arrives in Islamabad on two-day visit to finalize defense deals - Pakistani Ministry of Defense. (Supplied)
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Updated 18 April 2024
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Saudi deputy defense minister arrives in Pakistan to finalize bilateral security projects 

Saudi deputy defense minister arrives in Pakistan to finalize bilateral security projects 
  • Al-Otaibi’s visit comes after Saudi foreign minister was in Islamabad on two-day visit to discuss investments 
  • Pakistan maintains close military ties and provides extensive arms and training to Saudi armed forces 

ISLAMABAD: Saudi Assistant Defense Minister Talal Bin Abdullah Bin Turki Al-Otaibi is in Pakistan on a two-day visit to finalize defense-related bilateral projects, the Pakistani defense ministry said in a statement on Wednesday. 

Al-Otaibi’s visit comes on the heels of a two-day visit to Islamabad by Saudi Foreign Minister Faisal bin Farhan Al-Saud, aimed at enhancing bilateral economic cooperation and pushing forward previously agreed investment deals.

“Saudi Assistant Defense Minister arrived in Pakistan on a two-day visit,” a Pakistani defense ministry statement said, adding that bilateral projects in defense-related fields would be finalized during the visit. 

Photos and videos released by the defense ministry showed Al-Otaibi arriving in Pakistan on Tuesday night and being received by Pakistani military and government officials and Saudi diplomats, including the ambassador to Islamabad. 

Pakistan maintains close military ties with Saudi Arabia, providing extensive support, arms, and training to the Saudi armed forces. 

Since the 1970s, Pakistani soldiers have been stationed in Saudi Arabia to protect the Kingdom and Pakistan has also been providing training to Saudi soldiers and pilots. The two nations also regularly carry out multidimensional joint ventures and defense exercises.


Saudi inventor develops digital solution for lost pilgrims

Saudi inventor develops digital solution for lost pilgrims
Updated 13 sec ago
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Saudi inventor develops digital solution for lost pilgrims

Saudi inventor develops digital solution for lost pilgrims
  • Suliman Saleh Al-Dhalea launches Murshid app to enhance pilgrim safety during Hajj

JEDDAH: With more than two million Muslims expected in Saudi Arabia for Hajj this year, the annual pilgrimage is becoming increasingly hi-tech, with apps to help the faithful navigate Islam’s holiest sites.

In a landmark step to address the issue of Hajj pilgrims who go missing, especially the elderly and those with special needs, Saudi inventor Suliman Saleh Al-Dhalea recently launched a mobile application that offers hope to the thousands of pilgrims who get lost during the Hajj period.

The app, named “Murshid,” which means guidance, connects pilgrims and Umrah performers with guides, Hajj and Umrah companies, volunteers and scouts. Moreover, it promptly deals with requests from people with disabilities and the elderly.

The app has two features — the ability to report lost pilgrims, as well as being able to detect the location and movement of pilgrims to ease the search process if they get lost or separated from their group.

Al-Dhalea, who invented the app, told Arab News that overcrowding often leads to lost pilgrims at Hajj sites, meaning pilgrims get separated from their groups and are unable to rejoin them.

“This project was designed as a result of the difficulty of dealing with the different communities within the holy sites, such as Makkah, Mina, Arafa and Madinah,” he said.

“Our main aim is to know where the missing pilgrim is,” Al-Dhalea said.

He affirmed that with the Murshid app, no one will get lost during Hajj.

“This is to ensure providing the pilgrims who come to Saudi Arabia with distinguished services so that they perform the duty of the fifth pillar of Islam and all its rituals correctly in the best conditions,” he said.

“Though we have many volunteers and scouts helping missing pilgrims find their way, most fail to effectively explain where they are, making it difficult for officials to find them. This new app will help us overcome logistical problems encountered during this busy season,” Al-Dhalea said.

He said the app will be operational this year and that they have already teamed up with five of the largest Hajj and Umrah companies.

“To date we are working with these companies and, additionally, men, women, taxi drivers and other locals can also work with us as guides.”

Al-Dhalea, who is from Qassim, said the invention of the app is not a commercial project, and that he is not concerned with how much money it will make.

“Saudi Arabia’s great efforts toward serving the pilgrims of the House of Allah led me to think of something to stand by my country and also think of a project which could solve some of the problems pilgrims face,” he said.

After helping an Iranian pilgrim and his wife this week, Al-Dhalea told Arab News that his contribution to serving this pilgrim has added a lot to him both personally and practically.

"It was my first case this Hajj; his name is Hossein Almasi from Iran. He got lost in Makkah before the Hajj season started, and it was reported to us through our app. We immediately started searching and found him.

"As soon as we found him, we guided him along with his wife to the Iranian campaign headquarters, and the man was very happy. When he got there, he asked us how much money to pay for this service. We told him it is a free service. He hugged me and said thank you," said Al-Dhalea.

Unsurprisingly, Al-Dhalea’s app for finding missing people during Hajj saw off the challenges of 450 local and international projects for sustainable solutions for pilgrims organized by the Ministry of Hajj and Umrah during the Hajj Expo.


Ministry of National Guard Health Affairs prepares 5 clinics, center for heat exhaustion at Hajj sites

Ministry of National Guard Health Affairs prepares 5 clinics, center for heat exhaustion at Hajj sites
Updated 11 min 9 sec ago
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Ministry of National Guard Health Affairs prepares 5 clinics, center for heat exhaustion at Hajj sites

Ministry of National Guard Health Affairs prepares 5 clinics, center for heat exhaustion at Hajj sites
  • Some 250 employees and health practitioners made available, including 50 doctors specialized in different fields
  • Facilities include 26 inpatient beds, ICU beds, isolation rooms

MAKKAH: The Ministry of National Guard Health Affairs has prepared five clinics and a medical center for heat exhaustion and sunstroke at Mina and Arafat to serve pilgrims during this year’s Hajj season.
The Saudi Press Agency reported on Thursday that the ministry had concluded its preparations and made available 250 employees and health practitioners, including 50 doctors specialized in intensive care, cardiology, emergency, internal medicine, surgery, obstetrics and gynecology, orthopedics, family and community medicine, and fighting infections.
Dr. Jabr Al-Subaie, the chief operating officer in the health affairs section of the ministry in the Western Region, said that five clinics had been set up for men and women suffering with respiratory diseases, along with 26 inpatient beds, ICU beds, and isolation rooms.
He added that a room for minor operations, a dental clinic, a pharmacy and a laboratory will also be made available, along with radiology services.
The health affairs section is also present for a second year in Arafat, with a heat exhaustion and sunstroke center boasting 20 beds with the latest equipment.
The center has an air and water spray distribution system. There are also clinics for men and women and an outpatient pharmacy.
Dr. Majid Al-Thaqafi, the medical supervisor at the field hospital in Mina, said all rescue teams were equipped with the latest emergency and support equipment at the Jamarat sites at Mina and Jabal Al-Rahma (Mount Arafat).


How Saudi Arabia is using AI and other high-tech solutions to streamline traffic during Hajj

How Saudi Arabia is using AI and other high-tech solutions to streamline traffic during Hajj
Updated 52 min 31 sec ago
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How Saudi Arabia is using AI and other high-tech solutions to streamline traffic during Hajj

How Saudi Arabia is using AI and other high-tech solutions to streamline traffic during Hajj
  • By monitoring congestion with AI-controlled drones, the Kingdom offers pilgrims a seamless transport experience
  • To bypass Makkah’s heavy congested streets, hospitals will use drones to transport blood and laboratory samples

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia is using artificial intelligence technologies to enhance traffic management and alleviate congestion in Makkah during the annual Hajj season, ultimately providing a more secure and seamless pilgrimage experience.

Having hosted 1,845,045 pilgrims in the 2023 season, according to Saudi Arabia’s General Authority of Statistics, efficient traffic control measures are more important than ever.

By implementing AI-powered solutions, such as real-time traffic monitoring and adaptive signal control systems, Saudi Arabia aims to streamline the flow of vehicles and pedestrians, reducing bottlenecks and ensuring smoother movement throughout the city.

Col. Talal bin Abdulmohsen Al-Shalhoub, security spokesperson at the Ministry of Interior, told Arab News there are several new AI applications for this Hajj season, including new algorithms for surveillance cameras to analyze the number of vehicles on the city’s streets.

“We have supplied advanced digital equipment for data, artificial intelligence, and cutting-edge technology to assist field officials and incorporate AI into operational systems,” Al-Shalhoub said.

“We are utilizing AI technologies to enhance traffic control in Makkah by leveraging the collaboration between the Civil Defense and the Saudi Data and AI Authority.”

This partnership will offer digital solutions to assist security personnel in monitoring and analyzing data during Hajj operations.

“The cooperation between these authorities allowed us to establish an integrated advanced technology system during this year’s Hajj season, where operations centers are equipped with smart platforms built with national artificial intelligence algorithms to serve the pilgrims during their performance of Hajj rituals,” Al-Shalhoub added.

Saleh Al-Jasser, the Kingdom’s minister of transport and logistics, recently announced the rollout of new technologies designed to manage traffic during Hajj this year, including the use of drones for road network inspection and evaluation using thermal scanning.

Meanwhile, the Virtual Glasses Initiative is revolutionizing transport monitoring by equipping field monitors with augmented reality glasses to supervise activities and ensure compliance.

With a target to cut inspection times by 600 percent, from 60 seconds to just 10 seconds, it is hoped that this innovative technology will streamline operations and significantly improve efficiency.

“Cameras, intelligent systems, and sophisticated data dashboards, like the Sawaher platform, offer advanced services for identifying and analyzing the flow of vehicles and pilgrims, as well as for detecting violations in different areas,” Al-Shalhoub said.

By improving monitoring quality and easing congestion, the initiative is providing a more seamless transport experience for passengers.

The initiative is currently being tested on a fleet of 100 buses to assess its effectiveness.

The Ministry of Health will also be using drones to quickly and efficiently transport blood and laboratory samples between hospitals around the holy sites to help cut waiting times for transfusions and test results.

Compared with the existing system of making deliveries by road, drones will reduce the time needed to transport blood from an average of two and a half hours to just two minutes.

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The Public Transport Authority has also launched the “Enseeyab” initiative, first introduced during Hajj season 2023, using drones connected to an AI program to measure the real-time movement of pilgrims to the holy sites by bus.

The authority aims to provide safe means of travel using new technologies, including AI, to measure their effectiveness. These technologies will ensure pilgrims can perform rituals in comfort and with ease.

Another way authorities will be managing traffic congestion during Hajj is through micro-mobility options, such as electric scooters, which will be available at the holy sites to facilitate movement.

By providing designated paths for these electric scooters, planners have allowed pilgrims to travel more efficiently and reduce the overall congestion in high-traffic areas.

Some of the key routes that could benefit from the use of electric scooters include Route No.1 from Arafat to Muzdalifah border, which is 4,000 meters in length, and the 1,200m pedestrian road bridge entering and exiting Jamarat.

These technology-driven solutions reflect the country’s commitment to use innovations to optimize the Hajj experience for all participants.

Through the integration of AI into traffic management systems, Saudi Arabia can adapt to changing conditions and address issues quickly.

This proactive stance helps to alleviate congestion and enhance the overall efficiency of transport networks during Hajj.


First Saudi pro boxer hails Kingdom’s rise as major force in global sports

First Saudi pro boxer hails Kingdom’s rise as major force in global sports
Updated 13 June 2024
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First Saudi pro boxer hails Kingdom’s rise as major force in global sports

First Saudi pro boxer hails Kingdom’s rise as major force in global sports
  • Ziyad Al-Maayouf tells the Mayman Show by Arab News he hopes he can inspire more young Saudis to take up the sport and follow in his footsteps
  • In the absence of any local boxing heroes from the Kingdom when starting out, he says he looked to Filipino fighter Manny Pacquiao for inspiration

Riyadh: Saudi professional boxer Ziyad Al-Maayouf is proud that the Kingdom is establishing itself as a major force on the global sports stage.

During an interview with the Mayman Show by Arab News, the 23-year-old also spoke of his hopes that he is only the first of many professional boxers from Saudi Arabia, and told how his journey as a professional boxer began in 2010.

“It really started for me when one day I Googled ‘professional Saudi boxer.’ I found no one,” he said, adding that he then searched for just “Saudi boxer” and still found no results.

This is important, he added, because young people who aspire to careers in sports naturally look to their idols for inspiration.

“It’s even a lot better when your idols are people you can relate to, where your superheroes are people you could relate to,” he said.

But when Al-Maayouf went looking for someone with whom he could closely identify to inspire him in his boxing career he could not find anyone from his country.

“That’s where I said, OK, I think this is where I want to start competing,” he said. “I want to be the guy who, when you Google ‘professional boxer from Saudi Arabia,’ he comes up; and, you know, little did I know, the stars were aligning in the way they did.”

Al-Maayouf said he is very pleased to see sports initiatives form such an important part of Saudi Vision 2030, the Kingdom’s national development and diversification plan.

“The sport they choose to invest in the most, and powerfully, powerfully, like that, is boxing,” he said. “And then behind the scenes, there is a Saudi boxer that’s been training for over a decade, preparing and waiting for a moment like that. So I always say that my career aligns exactly with Vision 2030, you know?”

In the absence of any local heroes, Al-Maayouf said he has been greatly inspired by Filipino boxer Manny Pacquiao, in part because of what the fighter means to the people of his native country.

“The way that he is to the Philippines, they look at him as if he’s come from the sky,” he said. “It's like he is something else for them there. It is like he’s a prophet there (for) what he was for the Philippines, how he carried that weight on his back and how much he achieved while doing so.”

Al-Maayouf said he can relate to Pacquiao’s journey as a boxer who moved alone to another country to train, leaving his family and friends behind. He also respects the legendary fighter’s achievements outside of the ring, in particular his efforts to help promote his country and community.

“How he helped his people, how he introduced the world to the Philippines, you know?” he said. “And he was always announced as ‘the fighting pride of the Philippines.’ So I always wanted to be announced as ‘the fighting pride of Saudi Arabia,’ you know? ‘The fighting pride of the Arab world.’”

Inspired by Pacquiao, Al-Maayouf trained at the Filipino fighter’s gym when he moved to the US in 2019 to pursue his studies, majoring in psychology.

“I only applied to universities in Los Angeles because that’s where Pacquiao was,” he said. “That’s where Pacquiao’s gym was. That’s where his coach was. I wanted to go where Pacquiao did, so I did exactly that.

“On Aug. 4, 2019, I arrived in LA; on Aug. 5, I was in Pacquiao’s gym, training. And ever since, I could maybe count the weeks on my hand that I took off from training since 2019. Because when I moved, I realized that the decade I had been training before went out the window because, you know, we didn’t have the IQ, the knowledge.”

The Kingdom was still learning about boxing during that time, he said, and the sport was rarely even broadcast on TV.

“So the levels were completely different,” Al-Maayouf added. “I stayed there for a lot of years, just getting a beating every single day.”


Saudi FM receives phone call from Iran’s acting foreign minister

Saudi FM receives phone call from Iran’s acting foreign minister
Updated 13 June 2024
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Saudi FM receives phone call from Iran’s acting foreign minister

Saudi FM receives phone call from Iran’s acting foreign minister

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan on Thursday received a phone call from the Iranian acting foreign minister, Ali Bagheri Kani.
During the call, they reviewed aspects of cooperation between the two countries and topics of common interest, the Kingdom’s foreign ministry said.