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

Special The sacred sites in Makkah and Madinah that Hajj pilgrims have a chance to experience
Visitors climb Thawr Mountain overlooking Makkah. (Getty Images)
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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.
 

 


Jobs boost for Saudi citizens in engineering roles

Jobs boost for Saudi citizens in engineering roles
Updated 20 July 2024
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Jobs boost for Saudi citizens in engineering roles

Jobs boost for Saudi citizens in engineering roles
  • The new policy comes into effect on July 21 will affect private sector companies employing five or more workers in engineering roles

RIYADH: Employment of Saudi citizens in the engineering sector is set to increase under plans announced by the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Development.

In a joint initiative with the Ministry of Municipal and Rural Affairs and Housing, the ministry will implement a 25 percent localization quota for engineering professions, the Saudi Press Agency reported.

The new policy comes into effect on July 21 will affect private sector companies employing five or more workers in engineering roles.

The initiative is part of the Kingdom’s broader strategy to create more attractive and productive job opportunities for Saudi nationals across the country.

The Ministry of Municipal and Rural Affairs and Housing will take charge of monitoring and implementing the policy.

According to SPA, the ministry aims to ensure that the localization efforts align with labor market demands and the specifics of engineering specializations.

To support this transition, the government is offering a range of incentives and support programs to private sector establishments. These include support for recruitment, candidate search, necessary training and qualification, employment, and long-term employment stability.

Companies complying with the new regulations will also gain priority access to various localization support programs and employment initiatives through the Human Resources Development Fund (HADAF).

The Ministry of Human Resources and Social Development has published a detailed procedural guide on its website, outlining the localization process, affected professions, and required quotas. Officials have stressed the importance of adherence to these new regulations, warning that non-compliant establishments will face legal consequences.


Saudi Arabia unveils Golden Pen fiction award with $690,00 prize pool 

Saudi Arabia unveils Golden Pen fiction award with $690,00 prize pool 
Updated 20 July 2024
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Saudi Arabia unveils Golden Pen fiction award with $690,00 prize pool 

Saudi Arabia unveils Golden Pen fiction award with $690,00 prize pool 
  • Competition open to original works in Arabic, and all nationalities and ages will be eligible

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia has launched an award for fiction writing, with winners sharing total prizemoney of $690,000 and successful works to be adapted into film.

Unveiling the Golden Pen Award for Novels on Saturday, Turki Alalshikh, chairman of the General Entertainment Authority, said that the competition will benefit Arab novelists and the regional film industry.

The competition will be open to original works in Arabic, and all nationalities and ages will be eligible.

In a post on social media platform X, Alalshikh said that the first and second-place winners of the grand prize will be awarded $100,000 and $50,000, respectively, with their works being adapted into films produced by the GEA.

The third place winner will receive $30,000.

Additionally, the Novel Tracks Awards will grant $25,000 each to the best novels in categories such as romance, thriller, mystery, comedy, action, fantasy, investigative, horror, and historical fiction.

Prizes for the Best Screenplay Adapted from a Literary Work will also be awarded, with $100,000 for first place, $50,000 for second, and $30,000 for third. The Best Translated Novel Award will offer $100,000, while the Audience Award, determined through a dedicated electronic voting platform, will provide $30,000.

Alalshikh said that the main judging panel will consist of three novelists, three screenwriters, and three producers from the Arab world, along with an auxiliary committee for the initial screening stage.

Competition winners will be announced at a grand awards ceremony to be broadcast on television and various platforms.
 


King Salman Global Academy spotlights India’s role in promoting Arabic language

King Salman Global Academy spotlights India’s role in promoting Arabic language
Updated 20 July 2024
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King Salman Global Academy spotlights India’s role in promoting Arabic language

King Salman Global Academy spotlights India’s role in promoting Arabic language
  • KSGAAL is hosting Arabic Language Month for Indian students and teachers
  • Initiative is in line with Human Capability Development Program of Vision 2030

NEW DELHI: India plays a significant role in promoting the Arabic language in the wake of growing commercial exchanges with Saudi Arabia, the Kingdom’s top linguistic institution has said, as it conducted a series of programs for Indian scholars and learners.

Students and lecturers from the Indian universities and colleges that teach Arabic courses are taking part in training sessions, workshops and competitions as part of the Arabic Language Month organized by the King Salman Global Academy for Arabic Language.

The event, which aims to develop and improve the teaching of Arabic for non-native speakers in the world’s most populous nation, began online in late June and runs until July 26.

The main host is Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi, which has been teaching Arabic for decades.

“India plays a significant role in promoting the Arabic language, driven by a growing demand for learning Arabic within its vast and diverse human, linguistic and cultural landscape,” KSGAAL Secretary-General Dr. Abdullah bin Saleh Al-Washmi told Arab News on Friday.

“Despite India’s diverse multilingual landscape, there is a growing interest in learning Arabic, fueled by increasing commercial activities and cultural exchanges.”

The Arabic Language Month in India features a range of educational activities led by Saudi linguists affiliated with the KSGAAL — from competitions and workshops to enhance Arabic language teaching curricula at different educational institutions, to specialized sessions for instructors to familiarize them with the most recent teaching methodology.

“These activities are conducted in different educational institutions across India, with the primary goal of fostering stronger relationships with Indian universities that have an interest in teaching Arabic,” Al-Washmi said.

“Moreover, the Arabic Language Month serves as a platform to highlight the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia’s efforts in promoting and teaching the Arabic language through innovative methods. This initiative is in line with the objectives of the Human Capability Development Program, a key component of the Kingdom’s Vision 2030.”

Upholding and promoting the Arabic language is part of the Vision 2030 transformation strategy, which also focuses on the development of skills and academia.

“The program also focuses on enhancing the teaching skills of Arabic language educators, both locally and globally, particularly in non-native speaking communities,” Al-Washmi said.

“These initiatives include supporting modern activities for teaching Arabic to non-native speakers, enhancing the teaching competencies of instructors, and organizing scientific competitions to discover and encourage individuals with linguistic talents.”


KSrelief continues aid projects in Lebanon, Pakistan 

KSrelief continues aid projects in Lebanon, Pakistan 
Updated 20 July 2024
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KSrelief continues aid projects in Lebanon, Pakistan 

KSrelief continues aid projects in Lebanon, Pakistan 

RIYADH: Saudi aid group, KSrelief, has distributed 25,000 bags of bread in Akkar Governorate and Miniyeh District in Lebanon.

The distribution comes as part of KSrelief’s Al-Amal Charitable Bakery project to support Syrian and Palestinian refugee families, and the host community living in northern Lebanon, benefiting 125,000 individuals.

KSrelief continues to distribute bread to refugee families in northern Lebanon. (SPA)

Elsewhere, KSrelief implemented the Saudi Noor Volunteer Program to combat blindness and eye diseases in Pakistan's provinces of Sindh and Balouchistan from May 15 to July 10.

During the program, rolled out in cooperation with the Albasar International Foundation, KSrelief's volunteer medical team examined 21,614 cases, distributed 4,683 eyeglasses, and performed 2,038 successful eye surgeries.

KSrelief implemented the Saudi Noor Volunteer Program to combat blindness and eye diseases in Pakistan's provinces of Sindh and Balouchistan from May 15 to July 10. (SPA)

 


Saudi Arabia’s Mawhiba ties up with UNESCO to promote STEM education in Arab countries

Saudi Arabia’s Mawhiba ties up with UNESCO to promote STEM education in Arab countries
Updated 20 July 2024
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Saudi Arabia’s Mawhiba ties up with UNESCO to promote STEM education in Arab countries

Saudi Arabia’s Mawhiba ties up with UNESCO to promote STEM education in Arab countries
  • Partnership aims to enhance STEM education for students from 6th grade to 12th grade across Arab states
  • Special attention will be given to empowering Arab girls and young women, ensuring they have equal opportunities to excel in STEM fields

PARIS: Mawhiba, an endowment organization that aims to nurture talented Saudi students in the scientific field, has signed a partnership agreement with UNESCO to foster science, technology, engineering and mathematics education across Arab countries.

The agreement was signed on July 19 in Paris by Abdulaziz bin Saleh Al-Subail, Mawhiba deputy secretary-general for business development and communication, and Lidia Arthur Brito, UNESCO’s assistant director-general for natural sciences, Mawhiba said in a news release carried by the Saudi Press Agency.

Mawhiba is the short name for the King Abdulaziz and his Companions Foundation for Giftedness and Creativity, which was organized in 1999 in honor of Saudi Arabia’s founding king.

Brito said that the partnership aimed to enhance STEM education for students from 6th grade to 12th grade across Arab states, ”focusing on refining their scientific knowledge, nurturing creativity, and fostering critical thinking.”

It sought ”to provide young people with the necessary knowledge and capabilities and to motivate them to use science, technology, engineering and mathematics to meet global challenges,” she said.

Brito said that the experience would help in exchanging these experiences globally, adding that ”there is potential for expanding these efforts to Africa and other parts of the world to promote sustainable development goals.”

Special attention would be given to empowering Arab girls and young women, ensuring they had equal opportunities to excel in STEM fields, she said.

Mawhiba has identified 97,000 gifted students out of more than 300,000 tested in more than 100 cities and villages across the Kingdom. Its sponsorship of more than 54,000 students and its participation in international science competitions for talented youth has reaped global recognition for the Kingdom. 

Saudi students have so far won more than 397 medals and prizes in these competitions, developed in excess of 16,000 ideas, acquired 15 patents, and more than 1,000 Saudi students were accepted in the world’s top 50 prestigious universities in distinguished disciplines that met the needs of national development plans, the SPA report said.

Mawhiba Secretary-General Amal bint Abdullah Al-Hazzaa emphasized the shared commitment to empowering young Arab minds and advancing sustainable development through education and innovation. She underscored the importance of this collaboration within the framework of Saudi Vision 2030.

Central to the initiative is the MAWHIBA-UNESCO Online STEM Oasis, which will serve as a global platform for local, national and regional science and engineering fairs. 

The partnership will focus on training Arab science teachers to lead research and guide students in scientific projects, thereby enhancing the overall quality of STEM education, the Mawhiba news release said.

“Mawhiba is committed to expanding the use of the UNESCO Open Science Portal and the UNESCO Science-2-Innovation Network to build the capacity of young scientists and women in STEM education globally.

“Over the past three years, Mawhiba has supported 839 students from Arab states through enriching STEM programs, setting a precedent for regional cooperation and development in STEM education,” it added.

By joining forces with UNESCO, Mawhiba aims to amplify its ability to address global challenges such as climate change, health crises and technological disruptions, it said.