Fluent Makkah locals break down language barriers during Hajj

During the Hajj season, locals in Makkah are often praised for their fluency in several languages. (Supplied)
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During the Hajj season, locals in Makkah are often praised for their fluency in several languages. (Supplied)
During the Hajj season, locals in Makkah are often praised for their fluency in several languages. (Supplied)
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During the Hajj season, locals in Makkah are often praised for their fluency in several languages. (Supplied)
During the Hajj season, locals in Makkah are often praised for their fluency in several languages. (Supplied)
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During the Hajj season, locals in Makkah are often praised for their fluency in several languages. (Supplied)
During the Hajj season, locals in Makkah are often praised for their fluency in several languages. (Supplied)
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During the Hajj season, locals in Makkah are often praised for their fluency in several languages. (Supplied)
During the Hajj season, locals in Makkah are often praised for their fluency in several languages. (Supplied)
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During the Hajj season, locals in Makkah are often praised for their fluency in several languages. (Supplied)
During the Hajj season, locals in Makkah are often praised for their fluency in several languages. (Supplied)
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During the Hajj season, locals in Makkah are often praised for their fluency in several languages. (Supplied)
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Updated 19 June 2024
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Fluent Makkah locals break down language barriers during Hajj

During the Hajj season, locals in Makkah are often praised for their fluency in several languages. (Supplied)
  • Most Makkah residents are able to communicate in several languages after years of direct contact with pilgrims

MAKKAH: During the Hajj season, locals in the holy city are often praised for their fluency in several languages, stemming from their interactions with people from around the world.

Their engagement in Hajj-related activities, both commercial and voluntary, across various sectors, enables them to secure seasonal jobs and gain valuable experience in volunteering. Most importantly, it provides them with the honor of serving pilgrims, meeting their needs, and ensuring their comfort.

Anas Al-Harithi, a Makkah resident, engages in seasonal work every year during the Hajj season with agencies that offer temporary jobs.

He describes it as a great experience that has allowed him to learn Indonesian and interact with Indonesian worshippers — the largest group of pilgrims arriving in Makkah each year.

Al-Harithi said that linguistic barriers have significantly diminished, as many people in Makkah have long been fluent in several languages.

Through his years of working during Hajj, Al-Harithi has built extensive knowledge related to the pilgrimage. His ability to share languages and actively participate makes the journey easier and smoother for pilgrims.

Most Makkah residents gain this skill not through formal education but through direct contact with pilgrims, enabling them to meet the worshippers’ needs effectively, he said.

Rania Chaudhry, a pilgrims’ guide, said that Hajj is a great opportunity for the people of Makkah to work, serve, and enjoy the honor of this noble profession.

Her ability to communicate in Urdu was developed through years of experience welcoming pilgrims, meeting their needs, and ensuring their journey is as smooth and comfortable as possible.

Chaudhry said that many of the male and female guides originally come from the same countries as the pilgrims. Therefore, learning these languages is not difficult for them.

“This advantage allows these families the honor of serving the pilgrims, hosting them, ensuring their comfort, and providing the best possible services to help them perform their rituals during the Hajj season,” she said.

Chaudhry added that guides welcome pilgrims from the moment they arrive in Makkah and accompany them throughout the Hajj journey, helping to overcome any linguistic barriers.

The relationship between guides and pilgrims forms a strong bond, not driven by economic interest but by human, spiritual, and religious ties, she said.

“It is an obligation before God, as well as to officials and society, to care for those described as guests of God who have come to answer His call. Therefore, everyone strives to understand their needs and communicate in their language if they are not fluent in Arabic. This commitment reflects the true essence of faith that the guides live by, witnessing its blessings and maximizing its rewards.”

Awad Al-Maliki, a professor specializing in linguistics at the Islamic University of Madinah, said that pilgrims coming to Makkah from all over the world have a strong desire to get to know this society, experience its culture and social life, harmonize with Saudi traditions, and engage in knowledge exchange and constructive cultural partnerships.

Pilgrims see Saudi Arabia not only as the heart of the Islamic world but also as a distinct and open cultural hub and a cultural incubator that unites the entire Islamic world, he said.

Al-Maliki said that pilgrims feel a strong cultural connection to Makkah, and many are not fluent in Arabic.

Consequently, residents often serve as their cultural and tourist guides, offering tours of heritage and cultural sites in Makkah and other Saudi cities in several languages, including English, French, Urdu, Malay, and Hausa.

Saudis are passionate about linguistic communication with all groups to enhance the pilgrims’ experience. This cultural diversity propels the city, enriching it culturally, Al-Maliki said.


Variety is the spice of life as Saudi Arabia ushers in dining renaissance

Variety is the spice of life as Saudi Arabia ushers in dining renaissance
Updated 1 min 28 sec ago
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Variety is the spice of life as Saudi Arabia ushers in dining renaissance

Variety is the spice of life as Saudi Arabia ushers in dining renaissance
  • Local eateries are nurturing a sense of community, providing valuable job opportunities to Saudis

RIYADH: In the bustling heart of Saudi Arabia, a culinary revolution is unfolding. Restaurant entrepreneurs are launching new coffee shops and fast-food restaurants that are redefining the dining landscape by offering high-quality food and drinks at accessible prices. The cherry on top? They’re hiring local talent, bolstering both the community and the economy.

Imagine walking into a newly opened coffee shop or fast-food joint with modest expectations, only to be pleasantly surprised by the taste and quality of your order. This is the new norm sweeping across the nation. These establishments are quickly earning reputations for delivering great food and drinks without the hefty price tags.

As more restaurant entrepreneurs enter the market, the competition is driving everyone to elevate their game. (Instagram/sawada.ksa)

“Honestly, I always look for a fair price when it comes to my coffee, and this place fits the bill perfectly,” frequent customer Khalil Al-Azwari told Arab News. “This coffee shop is one of my favorites, and they serve the best V60 for only SR10 ($2.67). It’s great value for money.”

A cornerstone of this transformation is the focus on employing local workers. By prioritizing job opportunities for Saudis over expats, these businesses are not only boosting the economy but also fostering a stronger sense of community.

Establishing a new business requires a deep and thorough study of market needs, sound management, and dedication to the business.

Talat Hafiz, Financial analyst

“Working here has been an amazing experience,” said Ahmed Saleh, a barista at a prominent coffee shop in Riyadh. “I get to work with top-notch ingredients and learn new skills. Plus, it’s great to see familiar faces enjoying the coffee and food we prepare.”

The allure of these new dining spots extends beyond just offering great food and drinks. By prioritizing local hires, these businesses are nurturing a sense of community and providing valuable job opportunities. This approach represents a refreshing change in a country where the service industry has traditionally been dominated by foreign workers.

As more restaurant entrepreneurs enter the market, the competition is driving everyone to elevate their game. (Instagram/sawada.ksa)

Local customers are equally thrilled with the shift. “I love that these new places are hiring people from our own cities,” said Bashayer Mohammed, a regular patron. “It makes the experience feel more personal and connected to our community.”

However, not everyone is embracing this wave of new dining options. Some local business owners are feeling the heat as these large restaurant entrepreneurs gain popularity. Many local establishments, which often have higher prices, are struggling to compete.

“It’s tough,” said Saad, who used to own a coffee shop in Alkhobar. “We can’t match the prices of these big traders, and people are noticing. We’re losing customers, and it’s affecting our livelihood."

Saad opened his coffee shop in October 2021 with high hopes for success. “In the first month, the numbers were doing great,” he recalled. However, as the months went by, business began to decline steadily. Despite his efforts to adapt, the situation worsened. “It was surprising because it got way worse each month,” Saad said.

Determined to save his business, Saad tried everything. “We changed the menu, collaborated with coupon companies, and partnered with delivery apps. We even invested in advertising,” he explained. Despite trying every strategy he could think of, nothing seemed to work. “None of it made a difference,” he admitted.

On top of these challenges, Saad faced unexpected financial burdens. “The rent was much higher than I expected, and I didn’t fully account for staff salaries and insurance,” he said. These expenses quickly added up, straining his finances.

The increase in costs has led most merchants to reduce expenses, cut salaries, and lay off employees. “This is a sign of failure,” Saad added. “Successful merchants invest in the human element and intellect to create and innovate solutions for survival. The general public has a consumer mentality, not a problem-solving one.”

Desperate, Saad even tried to sell the coffee shop to investors. “It just didn’t work,” he said. Ultimately, the mounting losses forced him to close the coffee shop in 2023. “It was a huge loss for me,” Saad reflected.

As more restaurant entrepreneurs enter the market, the competition is driving everyone to elevate their game. Local businesses are starting to take notice and are striving to match the quality and affordability that these new players offer, although it remains a challenging transition.

In an interview with Arab News, financial analyst Talat Hafiz emphasized the crucial role that small and medium enterprises play in the Saudi economy: “SMEs in Saudi Arabia and elsewhere around the world are the backbone of the economy and business activities.”

Recognizing this, the Saudi government has been proactive in fostering the growth of these enterprises. It has made significant efforts to facilitate the growth of SMEs and enhance their contribution to the Kingdom’s non-oil gross domestic product from 20 percent to 35 percent by 2030, Hafiz added.

The establishment of the General Authority for Small and Medium Enterprises, also known as Monshaat, in 2016 is a testament to these efforts. “Monshaat was created to regulate, support, and develop the SME sector in the Kingdom,” Hafiz said.

Additionally, the Loan Guarantee Program, established in 2006, aims to overcome financing obstacles for economically viable SMEs lacking the necessary guarantees. Despite these avenues of support, many SMEs still face significant challenges. “There are still some companies that fail to continue their businesses successfully and close their doors within the first year or by the third year of operation,” he said.

Hafiz has identified several reasons behind these failures. “Most complaints from SME owners are due to various fees imposed by the government, especially violation fees,” he said. However, he believes that the primary reasons for failure lie elsewhere.

“The main reasons behind the failure of SMEs, especially startups, include a lack of careful consideration of market needs and different consumer preferences, lack of management experience, technical and professional expertise, and the imitation of adding value to the market,” Hafiz added.  

He also highlighted the importance of management dedication and sufficient financial resources. “Establishing a new business requires a deep and thorough study of market needs, sound management, and dedication to the business. It also requires specific talents that allow the company to respond quickly and effectively to market and economic changes,” he noted.

While the Saudi government has regulated fines to be more transparent, fair, and progressive, Hafiz stresses that the focus should not be limited to government fees. “The focus on business failures should also address the main and real causes of businesses’ failure. The government fines are transparent and progressive, and it is also not permissible to impose them the first time, as there is a warning that precedes the violation.”

 


Hail’s ancient crafts breathe new life into Saudi cultural festival

Hail’s ancient crafts breathe new life into Saudi cultural festival
Updated 1 min 43 sec ago
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Hail’s ancient crafts breathe new life into Saudi cultural festival

Hail’s ancient crafts breathe new life into Saudi cultural festival
  • Abdullah Al-Khazzam highlighted the distinctive features of the Najdi door, which typically incorporates three crossbars, in contrast with the traditional Hail door’s four-crossbar design

RIYADH: The third Beit Hail heritage festival, themed “Your Home Away from Home,” is a vibrant display of Saudi Arabia’s rich cultural heritage, with traditional craftsmanship taking center stage.

At the heart of the festival is the “Hail Wooden Door Making and Plaster Engraving” exhibit, which has drawn crowds to the Aja Park Entertainment Center where the techniques and tools used in crafting intricate designs are on show.

Abdullah Al-Khazzam’s specialty lies in crafting the distinctive old Hail house door, traditionally made from tamarisk wood and other local timber varieties. (SPA)

Abdullah Al-Khazzam, a Hail native and registered artisan with the Saudi National Handicrafts Program “Bari,” began his journey into the world of intricate woodworking with a childhood fascination for mud construction, which evolved into a passionate pursuit of mastering the art of wooden door-making and engraving, Saudi Press Agency recently reported.

At the festival, Al-Khazzam showed his expertise, demonstrating the nuanced differences between regional door styles. His specialty lies in crafting the distinctive old Hail house door, traditionally made from tamarisk wood and other local timber varieties.

Abdullah Al-Khazzam’s specialty lies in crafting the distinctive old Hail house door, traditionally made from tamarisk wood and other local timber varieties. (SPA)

He highlighted the distinctive features of the Najdi door, which typically incorporates three crossbars, in contrast with the traditional Hail door’s four-crossbar design.

Festivalgoers seemed captivated by Al-Khazzam’s craftsmanship, marveling at the intricacy of his work, SPA reported.

Abdullah Al-Khazzam’s specialty lies in crafting the distinctive old Hail house door, traditionally made from tamarisk wood and other local timber varieties. (SPA)

Beyond door-making, the booth displays a range of related crafts. Islamic plaster engravings, integral to Najdi architecture, adorn mock-ups of building entrances and the majlis (reception rooms).

Visitors were drawn to the elaborate engravings, patterns and motifs that offer a glimpse into the social fabric of bygone eras. The festival has reported a surge in demand for these traditional designs, with many visitors expressing interest in buying replica doors and decorative pieces for their homes.

Al-Khazzam’s repertoire extends to other traditional items, such as replicas of historical water-raising devices, an ornate camel saddle that was once a common sight in the region, and recreations of the decorative elements that once adorned traditional mud houses.

Some of these designs incorporate Qur’anic verses, proverbs, and ornamental patterns while others incorporate motifs based on local flora.

 

 


Attempt to smuggle 160 kg of qat thwarted in Jazan

Saudi authorities have arrested individuals carrying illegal drugs in Jazan. (SPA)
Saudi authorities have arrested individuals carrying illegal drugs in Jazan. (SPA)
Updated 2 min 1 sec ago
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Attempt to smuggle 160 kg of qat thwarted in Jazan

Saudi authorities have arrested individuals carrying illegal drugs in Jazan. (SPA)
  • Three expatriates have been accused of fraud involving expired food products from unknown sources

JAZAN: Eight Yemeni nationals were arrested by Border Guard patrols in Al-Dair, Jazan for attempting to smuggle 160 kg of qat into the Kingdom.

The suspects, who were apprehended for violating border security regulations, have been processed according to initial legal procedures. Both the alleged smugglers and the seized substances have been handed over to the appropriate authorities for further investigation.

Separately, three expatriates have been accused of fraud involving expired food products from unknown sources. The investigation revealed that the suspects stored over 55 tonnes of expired chicken meat from unknown sources, changed their packaging, and placed false commercial data on them, providing inaccurate expiration dates and places of production.

The suspects have been arrested and referred to the criminal court to demand the penalties prescribed against them under the anti-commercial fraud and commercial data regulations.

 


Partnership deal signed to support talents in KSA

Partnership deal signed to support talents in KSA
Updated 2 min 7 sec ago
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Partnership deal signed to support talents in KSA

Partnership deal signed to support talents in KSA
  • Dr. Amal Al-Hazzaa said that the agreement enhanced bilateral cooperation while benefiting the students of Mawhiba, adding that the field of health was of the utmost importance for students at the foundation

RIYADH: The Saudi Commission for Health Specialties, and the King Abdulaziz and His Companions Foundation for Giftedness and Creativity on Sunday signed a partnership agreement to support talented individuals.

The ceremony, which was held in Riyadh, honored 18 talented men and women from several scientific fields.

Dr. Aws Al-Shamsan, the secretary-general of the commission, spoke of the body’s pride in supporting talent and creativity, as well as partnering with Mawhiba in exchanging expertise and knowledge in science and research, implementing innovative projects, and raising students’ awareness about the importance of health-related sciences.

Dr. Amal Al-Hazzaa, secretary-general of Mawhiba, said that the agreement enhanced bilateral cooperation while benefiting the students of Mawhiba, adding that the field of health was of the utmost importance for students at the foundation.

 


Deputy FM meets ambassador of Gambia in Riyadh

Deputy FM meets ambassador of Gambia in Riyadh
Updated 15 sec ago
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Deputy FM meets ambassador of Gambia in Riyadh

Deputy FM meets ambassador of Gambia in Riyadh
  • They discussed bilateral relations and various topics of common interest

RIYADH: Saudi Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Waleed Elkhereiji met with Ambassador of Gambia to the Kingdom Omar Jibril Sala in Riyadh on Sunday.

During the meeting, they discussed bilateral relations and various topics of common interest, the Saudi Press Agency reported.

Meanwhile, Saudi Minister of Human Resources and Social Development Ahmed Al-Rajhi received Guinea’s Minister of Labor and Civil Service Faya Francois Bourouno in Riyadh.

They discussed cooperation in the labor market.