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#5926 [Permalink] Posted on 6th June 2017 14:11
8 million pilgrims
transported to Grand Mosque 
in first 8 days of Ramadan

 

Monday 5 June 2017

EDDAH: About 8 million pilgrims using about 30,000 vehicles were transported to and from the Grand Mosque during the first eight days of Ramadan, the Makkah Governate announced Sunday.

The number of pilgrims given transportation was a sharp increase over the same period in 2016. An estimated 5.3 million pilgrims in 22,000 vehicles were transported during the 2016 Ramadan.

The transport plan approved by Makkah Gov. Prince Khaled Al-Faisal has resulted in the success of transporting the passengers.

Procedures for the transfer of pilgrims to and from the Grand Mosque are covered by the transport plan.

In order to implement the plan, the density of public transport and the movement of crowds were distributed to all geographical directions surrounding the Grand Mosque, as well as allocating shaded pedestrian paths that are separated from vehicle routes.

An estimated 35 million passengers are expected to be transported to the Grand Mosque during Ramadan.

http://www.arabnews.com/node/1110341/saudi-arabia

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#5927 [Permalink] Posted on 12th June 2017 15:59
Wheelchair pushers fleecing 
pilgrims in Grand Mosque



The officially fixed fee for the service is SR75, but wheelchair pushers 
charge up to SR200 taking advantage of the Ramadan crowd

June 11, 2017

MAKKAH – A number of pilgrims have complained about exploitation by wheelchair pushers inside the Grand Mosque saying they were charging exorbitant prices.

“Starting Ramadan, they increased the charges to SR200 despite the fact that the authorities have fixed the price for the service at SR75,” a pilgrim told Al-Madina Arabic daily.

Pilgrims have called upon the Presidency of the Two Holy Mosques’ Affairs to intervene and control the price hike and keep a watch on the service providers who exploit pilgrims.

A senior official of the presidency denounced the illegal practice and said wheelchair pushers who charge exorbitant rates from the pilgrims are “mercenaries”, who are not licensed to extend the service. He urged pilgrims to deal only with wheelchair pushers who wear official badges and numbers on their chests.

Fahd Al-Saedi said he visited the Grand Mosque with his family last week to perform Umrah. “I looked for a wheelchair to help my sick mother perform the rituals without difficulty. The wheelchair owner asked me to pay SR200 for performing the saie (the ritual walk between the mounts of Safa and Marwa),” he told Al-Madina.

He insisted wheelchair pusher had pinned a license card on his chest and wore a grey jacket.

Al-Saedi said it was the time for Isha and he could not find any official to complain about the individual. “I approached another person whose jacket was of a different color, but he also demanded the same amount,” he said.

Al-Saedi said he later found another wheelchair pusher who did not wear any card but he took SR120.

Mohsen Al-Masawi, another pilgrim, asked the presidency officials to make surprise inspections of wheelchair service providers at Safa to monitor any price hike.

They should ask wheelchair owners to return extra money they have taken from the pilgrims. They should also prevent unlicensed wheelchair owners from entering the mosque.

Pilgrims look for unlicensed wheelchair owners to get the service at cheaper prices.

“I hope the presidency would take action against wheelchair owners who charge exorbitant prices from the guests of God. They should announce the measures taken against such violators,” Al-Masawi said.

He said presidency officials should be present at Safa during peak hours to take action against any violators.

Hassan Mohammed Al-Bariqi said wheelchair owners inside the mosque were harassing pilgrims to make more money. “This gives a bad impression about the Kingdom’s services to pilgrims,” he pointed out.

He said they are likely to further increase the prices in coming days of Ramadan in the absence of official monitoring.

The authorities close their eyes on these wheelchair service providers for unknown reasons, said Al-Bariqi. “We request Sheikh Abdul Rahman Al-Sudais, head of the presidency, to intervene to prevent charging exorbitant prices, which overshadow the services provided by the government to pilgrims.”

Fadel Al-Amri accused the officials of sympathizing with the violators. He said an official in charge was not ready to punish a violator for his excesses.

“I informed the official about a wheelchair owner who charged me SR200 and found him asking the same amount from another customer. The official just asked the owner to give him the license but did not ask him to return the extra amount taken from the pilgrims,” Al-Amri said.

“When I asked a wheelchair owner who charged only the official rate of SR75 about the punishment given to violators, he said ‘it depends on your relationship with the official’,” he explained.
Al-Amri stressed the need to put an end to such undesirable practices inside the Grand Mosque.

Al-Madina presented the complaints of pilgrims to Mashhour Bin Muhsin Al-Manaami, undersecretary at the presidency. He said the presidency wishes to stabilize prices of wheelchairs and prevent exploitation of pilgrims by wheelchair owners who charge exorbitant prices.

“There are committees to monitor the wheelchair service. Wheelchairs are available free of charge for the pilgrims at the designated place, but people who seek the services of the pushers are charged a reasonable price,” he explained.

Al-Manaami urged pilgrims to make use of wheelchairs supplied by the presidency free of charge and avoid using the services of unauthorized wheelchair pushers. “We have taken steps to seize wheelchairs from those who provide the service illegally,” Al-Manaami said.

http://saudigazette.com.sa/saudi-ara...-grand-mosque/

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#5928 [Permalink] Posted on 13th June 2017 16:09
Call to review policy
on sale of Zamzam bottles

 

June 13, 2017

MAKKAH — The people of Makkah, visitors to the city and pilgrims are asking the pertinent authority to revise its policy of granting two bottles of Zamzam water to each individual, Al-Madina reported.

Mohammad Al-Harby said the General Presidency for the Affairs of the Two Holy Mosques has complicated the process of getting Zamzam.

“The people of Makkah and the pilgrims are displeased with the regulations required just to get bottles of Zamzam. The Zamzam factory used to give the buyer whatever amount he wants and pays for as long as it was a reasonable.
But now you have to register the number of family members you have and it all depends on the distribution and purchase rate of the week,” said Al-Harby.

He added the presidency has even put the limit on buying Zamzam bottles once every two weeks.

“Zamzam water is being sold in abundance on the roads leading to Jeddah, Madinah, Taif and Al-Leeth. I don’t know how these independent sellers get hold of so many bottles of Zamzam but that only proves that the regulations in place are not effective in preserving the amount of Zamzam water distributed,” said Al-Harby.

Awadh Al-Shihry said the presidency should let everyone choose the amount of Zamzam bottles they want without any restrictions.

“These unnecessary and ineffective regulations have just created a black market for Zamzam water that is unregulated leaving the consumer with no way to know if the product sold is authentic or a counterfeit one. In addition to that, the employees responsible for selling Zamzam water are unorganized,” said Al-Shihry.


 


He added the employees only open two sales counters because there is no supervision.

Waleed Al-Rahman said it is understandable that the presidency is trying to ensure that everyone who wants to buy Zamzam has an equal opportunity of obtaining the water but the regulations in place need to be revised.

Abdullah Al-Ghamdi, a Makkah resident, said the presidency should reconsider the purchase limit it has in place.

“It is the holy month of Ramadan and four bottles of Zamzam for a individual for the hole month is not enough. People want more which makes them unknowingly buy counterfeit Zamzam from street sellers,” said Al-Ghamdi.

Makkah Chamber of Commerce and Industry member Saad Al-Qurashi said the job of selling Zamzam bottles should be delegated to a private distribution company.

“The private sector can help in improving the efficiency of Zamzam distribution and please both the presidency and the consumers. The responsibility could be left for a distribution that is capable of producing a larger amount of Zamzam water and has offices and station in various areas of the Kingdom to facilitate the process of buying Zamzam,” said Al-Qurashi.

He added privatizing the distribution process is the only way to solve the issue of the Zamzam black market.

“Allowing a licensed and supervised private company to take care of selling Zamzam will ensure that buyers will get the amount of Zamzam bottles they wish in good quality. There have already been counterfeit Zamzam water factories shut down. They would fill water bottles with regular water and sell it as Zamzam. The water may even be tarnished due to poor storage and over-exposure to sunlight,” said Al-Qurashi.

The General Presidency for the Affairs of the Two Holy Mosques Deputy President Mashhour Al-Munimi said the presidency prioritizes the demands of the consumers and ensures that consumers receive sanitized Zamzam bottles.

“We cannot increase the amount of Zamzam bottles given to each buyer because the production capacity is limited as the demand is currently higher than the supply. All of the bottles sold have been sanitized and inspected by a team of laboratory technicians,” said Al-Munimi.

http://saudigazette.com.sa/saudi-ara...amzam-bottles/

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#5929 [Permalink] Posted on 22nd June 2017 16:42

Why dogs???

30 bomb squads at Grand Mosque
 

June 19, 2017

MAKKAH — For the first time some 30 specialized weapons and bomb disposal squads have been deployed around the Grand Mosque in Makkah for the last 10 days of Ramadan.

“The units inspect vehicles with the help of sniffer dogs and special tools. This safety measure has been implemented for the first time,” said Khalid Muhareb, a major general in Umrah Safety Forces for Weapons and Bombs.

Drivers around the hotels surrounding the Grand Mosque have been warned against carrying any flammable or prohibited material.

“We have so far not record any suspicion cases,” Muhareb said.

http://saudigazette.com.sa/saudi-ara...-grand-mosque/

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#5930 [Permalink] Posted on 23rd June 2017 22:26
Terrorist plot targeting Grand Mosque in Mecca foiled – Saudi security forces
Published time: 23 Jun, 2017 19:55
Edited time: 23 Jun, 2017 21:04

Terrorist plot targeting Grand Mosque in Mecca foiled – Saudi security forces

A terrorist plot to attack the Grand Mosque in Mecca has been foiled by security forces, the Saudi Arabian Interior Ministry announced on Friday, Al Arabiya TV and state television Al-Ekhbariya report.

According to the spokesman, the attack was planned by three terror groups, two based in Mecca and the other in Jeddah, the Saudi channel reported.

The security forces have acted against the terrorists in Mecca’s Assila district and Ajyad al-Masafi neighborhood, he said.

In Ajyad neighborhood, a suicide bomber was hiding in one of the houses, refusing to give up and opened fire on the police, Mansour al-Turki added.

The perpetrator then blew himself up, wounding six civilians and lightly injuring five members of the security forces, according to the spokesman, who added that five arrests were made as part of the case, with a woman being among the detainees.

Footage from the scene, verified by RT, later appeared on Arabic social media accounts and show the aftermath of the blast.

www.rt.com/news/393799-saudi-security-forces-foil-attack-...
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#5931 [Permalink] Posted on 7th July 2017 14:45
Over 30 million iftar meals distributed 
at Makkah’s Grand Mosque: Report

 

Thursday 6 July 2017

RIYADH: More than 30 million iftar meals were given to worshippers in and around the Grand Mosque in Makkah during Ramadan, according to a report presented to local Gov. Prince Khaled Al-Faisal.

Prince Khaled received the detailed report from Hisham bin Abdulrahman Al-Faleh, chairman of the Executive Committee for the Haj.

It said that a total of 21 government agencies were actively involved in serving the worshippers.

Some 25.11 million iftar packs were distributed to worshippers inside the mosque and another 5.11 million meals were given out outside the main mosque in public places such as bus stops.

There were more than 100 buses to shuttle worshippers to and from the mosque to their respective hotels.

Prince Khaled commended the governmental and non-governmental organizations that drew up plans to handle millions of pilgrims this season.

Some 3 million worshippers including more than 2 million local and foreign pilgrims had visited the grand mosques in Makkah and Madinah.

A strategic plan was implemented by the committee comprising organizations such as the ministries of interior, health, Islamic affairs, the civil defense and some private-sector organizations.

The governor praised the distinguished performance of the officials on duty in serving the pilgrims. He said their services had yielded positive results and left guests satisfied.

Prince Abdullah bin Bandar, deputy governor of Makkah Region, thanked the security personnel participating during the Umrah season for their untiring efforts and hard work.

http://www.arabnews.com/node/1125056/saudi-arabia

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#5932 [Permalink] Posted on 10th July 2017 10:29
SR400 bank guarantee 
for each pilgrim


 

Sunday July 9, 2017 / 15 , Shawwal , 1438

Makkah — Domestic Haj companies will have to deposit to the Ministry of Haj and Umrah SR400 per pilgrim before their electronic registration for the upcoming Haj.

This was announced by the Ministry of Haj and Umrah.

The fee will be in the form of a bank guarantee of 30 percent of the value of services provided by Haj companies.

The fees should be paid before registering domestic pilgrims through the online portal for the upcoming pilgrimage season.

The fees should be transferred to the ministry’s account through local banks that are registered with the Saudi Arabian Monetary Authority.

The ministry warned Haj companies against hiking their prices in order to make pilgrims pay for the new fee.

It also ordered them to allocate all administration, reception and data processing jobs to Saudis.

The electronic registration process is scheduled to begin on Dhul Qida 1 (July 24).

The reason for depositing SR400 per pilgrim is to ensure that those pilgrims who cancel their plan to perform Haj and so revoke their Haj permits get their refund from the company.

The ministry is expected to collect SR86 million from bank guarantees provided by Haj companies.

http://saudigazette.com.sa/article/5...UDI-ARABIA/Haj




Saudi Arabia imposes Dh389/$106 fee 
on domestic pilgrims 




The fees should be paid before registering domestic pilgrims 
through the online portal for the upcoming pilgrimage season

July 8, 2017 

The fee will be in the form of a bank guarantee of 30 per cent of the value of services provided by the ministry.

The Saudi Haj Ministry has imposed a $106 fee on each domestic pilgrim to be paid by organisations and companies offering services for them, the media reported on Saturday.

The fee will be in the form of a bank guarantee of 30 per cent of the value of services provided by the ministry.

The fees should be paid before registering domestic pilgrims through the online portal for the upcoming pilgrimage season. The fees should be transferred to the ministry's account through local banks that are registered with the Saudi Monetary Agency, Xinhua news agency reported.

The ministry warned the organisations against hiking their prices in order to make the pilgrims to pay for the new fee, while ordering them to allocate all administration, reception and data processing jobs to Saudis.

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#5933 [Permalink] Posted on 13th July 2017 14:26
Haj fraud: Dodgy travel agents 
still pose risk to UK pilgrims

 

Monday 10 July 2017

LONDON: Major Haj associations in the UK and the City of London Police have warned British pilgrims about fraudulent tour operators offering packages to Saudi Arabia, despite an 86 percent drop in year-on-year reporting of cases.

“Haj fraud” typically involves the sale of non-existent packages, while there have been many reports of dodgy travel agents delivering substandard accommodation, as well as other infringements.

The problem has gained significant attention in the UK but it is not specific to one country, with reports of cases from Nigeria, Indonesia and beyond.

With this year’s Haj season starting in late August, the Council of British Hajis (CBHUK) told Arab News that the scale of fraudulent Haj tour operators in the UK is not reflected in the numbers showing a steep decline in people reporting mis-sold trips.

Rashid Mogradia, CBHUK CEO and founder, said the low number of fraud cases being reported stems from “reprisals and threats by unscrupulous agents (and) an element of embarrassment from victims.”

He emphasized the need for UK pilgrims to check that the travel operators they use are registered with the Air Travel Organizer’s Licence (ATOL) scheme.

“There’s still a lot of work to do in educating travelers and pilgrims alike. People don’t often carry out due diligence on a company,” he said.

“We’re seeing more and more companies advertising packages without the correct Saudi Ministry of Haj and Umrah approval or ATOL licenses. Trading Standards are clamping down on this. CBHUK advises all pilgrims to book only with companies approved by the Saudi Ministry of Haj and Umrah, and that hold a valid ATOL license.”

According to a November 2016 CBHUK survey, 47 percent of respondents said they had not checked to see if their Haj tour operator was ATOL-approved, with a further 29 percent not knowing what “ATOL-approved” means.

But there are signs of improvement. Khalid Pervez, general-secretary of the Association of British Hujjaj, told Arab News: “In recent years we’ve had an extensive campaign to address the issue of exploitation of vulnerable Haj pilgrims, and are pleased that with the help of the law-enforcement authorities in the UK, we’ve managed to improve the worsening situation of fraudulent activities by rogue and unscrupulous tour and travel operators.”

The association believes that its “message is getting across to the community to use the services of only ATOL-registered tour and travel operators,” but that there are still cases where even operators with an ATOL license are violating UK law.

The cost of trips to Makkah can be significant during the Haj season. Easy Haj, a UK ATOL-approved company that is rated the No. 1 tour operator on Hajratings.com, said its standard package costs £3,777 ($4,884) per person for a Haj trip.

More expensive, “luxury” packages are available from other operators, although Easy Haj said these do not offer a great deal more than the basic package.

For those still trying to travel for Haj 2017, the City of London Police urges travelers to do their research.

“Don’t book without carrying out some basic check on your travel agency/tour operator,” it said in a statement, referring to the Association of British Travel Agents (ABTA).

“Go online to see if other people have commented on their services and ensure the company is a member of ABTA.”

Perils can await those who do not follow the guidelines, such as one family (whose members wish to remain anonymous) that in 2016 booked a room for four but experienced a very different Haj trip to what they had planned.

“Once we arrived in Makkah, the men and women were separated. Me and my uncle were in a room of seven people with one bathroom; my mum and wife were in a room of six women. After speaking to one of the directors of the company who was present at the hotel, he denied any arrangements that we had with our agent and asked us to get in touch with him,” said a family member.

“The hotel was in a very poor state; the service provided during the two weeks was below expectation and every time we complained about an issue, we were told to walk away and nothing can be done,” he added.

“Our last three days we spent in Madinah. Again we were promised a family room of four, but men and women were separated. We had a room of four while the ladies had a room of six. We had one bathroom that was shared between eight people,” he said.

“We, as Muslims, are advised to be very patient and stay calm during the (Haj) journey, which may be the reason why when people return, they just take this deceit as the norm, but this is fraud on a huge scale. There were a number of arguments with the management by aggrieved travelers; these escalated to threats of physical violence,” he added.

“No doubt a few people I’ve met were very pleased with the service, but most people I speak to in the UK have a story, times where they saw fighting, arguments etc. Although some people may have been happy, they paid approximately £6,000 per person, so for a family of four it’s £24,000. This is a huge amount of money for most of the public, and people spend years saving that money.”

The fightback is ongoing in Birmingham, where a city council spokesperson told Arab News: “Trading Standards officers will visit traders/travel agents to see whether they’re complying with regulations. They’re also working on improving consumers’ awareness of the issue by liaising with local communities (e.g. by visiting mosques).”

The council believes the problem is improving: “From what we know, Haj and Umrah fraud has slightly declined locally and nationally. Consumers are more aware, and tend to check all the paperwork and so on when making their bookings.”

Birmingham City Council points to several high-profile cases that have been successfully convicted in their catchment area in the past year.

http://www.arabnews.com/node/1127076/saudi-arabia

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#5934 [Permalink] Posted on 13th July 2017 14:28
170,000 Indian pilgrims to perform Haj

Indian Consul General Mohammed Noor Rahman Sheikh said that the first batch of pilgrims will arrive in Madinah on July 24. The Air India flight from Goa will touch down at Prince Muhammad International Airport at 10 a.m. and this will be followed by seven other flights on the same day.

Thursday July 13, 2017 / 19 Shawwal 1438

JEDDAH — The Indian Haj Mission is gearing up to receive 125,000 pilgrims from 21 embarkation points from all over the country.

Indian Consul General Mohammed Noor Rahman Sheikh said that the first batch of pilgrims will arrive in Madinah on July 24. The Air India flight from Goa will touch down at Prince Muhammad International Airport at 10 a.m. and this will be followed by seven other flights on the same day.

A total of 170,000 Indian pilgrims will perform Haj this year, and these include 45,000 who will come through private tour operators.

In an interview with Saudi Gazette, Sheikh said that the first flight will land in Jeddah on Aug. 7 and those arriving in Jeddah will make Madinah ziyarah after performance of Haj. Pilgrims will return during the period from Sept. 6 to Oct. 6. Saudi Arabian Airlines and Flynas will join Air India in transporting pilgrims.

He said several improvements have been made, in coordination with the Ministry of Minority Affairs and Haj Committee of India, to ensure much better facilities and services for the pilgrims this year.

The consul general said that the Haj Mission has taken steps along with all the stakeholders that all the pilgrims will be accommodated inside the Central Haram Area (Markaziyah) in Madinah. “Last year, 70 percent of pilgrims got accommodation in Markaziyah, and the remaining 30 percent were outside Markaziyah. Pilgrims in both these categories need to pay the same rate, and there were some complaints about this last year.”

He said, this year, it has been decided that if any pilgrim does not get accommodation inside the Markaziyah, the Haj mission will refund the appropriate money to them. “This was for the first time such a refund will be done as we are keen to ensure both justice and comfort to all the pilgrims.”

Sheikh noted that another major reform is in the form of replacing old buses with newer and better ones for the transportation of pilgrims between Makkah and Madinah. According to Sheikh, transportation between Makkah and Madinah was a headache for the Haj mission.

“Most of the buses were old models and this created many problems. We had requested the Ministry of Haj and Umrah and the Car Syndicate to replace them with new ones,” he said while noting that the Haj Mission has signed agreements with three transport companies including SAPTCO and Al Qaed for arranging mostly 2016-17 model buses and for this the mission needs to pay an additional charge of SR50.

The transportation between Aziziyah and Haram had been improved remarkably last year. “This year, we have decided to further improve this with the signing of agreements with two transport companies of Rabta and Al Qaed, which will operate new brand buses.”

The consul general said that this year an overwhelming majority of pilgrims prefer Aziziyah accommodation. “Out of the total 125,000 Haj Committee pilgrims, nearly 110,000 will stay in Aziziyah. There are 13,000 pilgrims in the Green category while around 2,500 will stay in rubat,” he said, while noting that this year the distance between the accommodation and the Haram in Green has been reduced from 1,500 meters to 1,000 with the rate staying the same.

“In Green, much better buildings have been hired, and we are striving to make arrangements for distribution of food at the lodging as there are no kitchens allowed in Green. We will explore the prospect of finding out any good catering companies willing to open their stores and food supply outlets in our buildings after displaying the rates of food,” he said, adding that the mission will extend all the support and voluntary services apart from getting secured the permission of the local authorities and landlords.

Sheikh said the government of India is sending 50 more medical staff, including 25 doctors, to serve the pilgrims this year. The number of staff from India will be 600 instead of 545 as in the previous years. There will be 33 Muallims instead of 28 Muallims in view of an increase of pilgrims after the lifting of the quota restrictions. There will be one Qadimul Hujjaj for every 200 pilgrims and he will be the link between the Haj Mission and the pilgrims.

“We have ensured that he will always remain connected to the pilgrims with staying in their building and that he should carry the list with the names and essential details of all the pilgrims under him,” he said, adding that the Haj Mission is providing a towel for the pilgrims for the first time this year.

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#5935 [Permalink] Posted on 17th July 2017 09:10
Eight men cycling from London 
for Hajj, to raise £1m Syria fund



The riders from the UK-based charity Human Aid hope to raise £1 million for medical aid in Syria.

Thursday, 13 July 2017

Beginning tomorrow (July 14), a group of eight young men is embarking on a challenging six-week journey, cycling all the way from London to perform Hajj in Saudi Arabia.

The riders from the UK-based charity Human Aid also hope to raise £1 million for medical aid in Syria. They claim to be championing the principles of Islam while revisiting the early Muslim tradition of travelling to Hajj on land.

The journey starts in East London and the group will first cycle to New Haven and will take a ferry to Dieppe in France. From there, they will bike to Paris and will then be travelling to Switzerland, Germany, Austria, Liechtenstein and entering Italy.

In Venice the group will catch a ferry to Igoumenitsa in Greece. They will cycle through Greece and take a plane over the sea to Alexandria. They will cycle in Egypt and go to Hurghada from where they will take a ferry to Yanbu in Saudi Arabia.

On the last leg of their journey, they will travel from Yanbu to Medinah. Enthusiasts will be joining the group during different segments of their journey while some cyclists will be welcoming the group into Saudi Arabia.

Donations on the way

People can donate money to Hajj Ride and the money the group raises will be used for emergency services in Syria. Human Aid and a few other organizations in UK and in Malaysia organized a unity convoy and since April they have sent 80-85 ambulances to Syria.

The funds raised during Hajj Ride (Hajjride.com) will be used to replenish these ambulances and give them the equipment they need. Abdul Wahid, the founder of Hajj Ride conceptualized the project when he converted to Islam 11 years ago.

“People say you have to change everything about you when you become Muslim. I had a lot of time to think about how I can merge my lives. I thought I love cycling and I want to go to Hajj, so why don’t we go back to the old way of journeying?” Wahid told Al Arabiya.

According to Wahid, they are trying to be in touch with their ancestors and to overcome the difficulties in the journey and raise awareness for charity. Wahid joined a London to Paris cycle ride in 2015 which made him realize that cycling form London to Madinah is indeed possible.

He pulled out his old plan and started drafting and turned the sketches into a project plan. The eight men of which three are Bengali British, four Pakistani British and one from the UK, are addressing many causes.

“The spirit of Hajj has been lost. People used to travel for half a year or a year to go to Hajj. Some people would have been gone for two years at a time. It is a spiritual journey and it is a chance for us to see different people. We will be talking to people and educating them about our cause,” he said.

Wahid said they are also going to raise awareness about medical efforts in Syria. “I have found that people throughout Europe and further are very respectful of your intentions and efforts when I tell them about it. I hope this will spread the nobility of Islam,” he said.

With diabetes and heart disease being common in the Muslim community in Britain, the men are also hoping to raise awareness about regular exercise. “Being away from our families and friends and being on the roads for nearly two months will be the biggest challenge. We have to support each other in these difficult times,” Wahid pointed out.



 



Resting at night

None of the cyclists are professional athletes and the group will be cycling through the day and resting at night.

Another rider, Dobbir Uddin, is a lab technician originally from Bangladesh who is born and brought up in London and is performing Hajj for the first time. He believes the main challenge for the riders is going to be the terrains as they will be cycling through the Alps and through mountains in the Arab region.

“Climbing the mountains is going to take time. Greece onwards the heat is going to be a challenge as we haven’t had training in the heat. The heat will be a challenge and it’s going to be quite arid and dry,” he said.

“I am looking forward to the brotherhood and the bond that will hopefully develop between us. Since the beginning of Hajj, people have travelled for days and months to go to Hajj. Now, people perform express Hajj, within a few days. We are trying to revisit the tradition and keep alive the spirit or essence of Hajj,” Uddin said.

According to him, his family members were earlier skeptical of his plans but are now supportive. In key areas where the group will be staying over, they are hoping to have receptions from media outlets. They will have a team at Human Aid who will be giving them promotional support.

Saifullah Nasser an Imam based in Northampton is also going on the Hajj Ride. “The fact that it is unique is what makes stand out. People from Russia and China have cycled to Hajj in the past. We are all cycling enthusiasts, but none of our professional athletes,” said Nasser.

“Going for Hajj is not difficult. I have done it earlier but this time I will actually travel on the land I once flew over. I feel to appreciate the highs you have to experience the lows. We hope to inspire the British public. Muslims have been tested in recent times in Britain. We can fulfil our duties and do amazing projects like this,” Nasser said.

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/New...yria-fund.html


 
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#5936 [Permalink] Posted on 20th July 2017 09:10
Vaccination rules for Haj pilgrims announced
 

Thursday 20 July 2017

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia has issued the vaccination and health requirements for pilgrims applying for Haj visas, according to a Ministry of Health official.

The requirements for this year focus on the likes of the Zika virus, dengue, Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS), yellow fever, cholera, meningitis, polio and vaccination against seasonal influenza.

Vaccination against meningitis is mandatory for all local and foreign pilgrims. The flu vaccine is not mandatory but it is desirable to take it considering the climate and susceptibility of pilgrims.

The official advised high-risk patients — those with ailments such as diabetes, hypertension and renal problems — to take the flu vaccine, which will help them perform their Haj and Umrah rituals without problems.

In accordance with the International Health Regulations from 2005, travelers arriving from countries at risk of yellow fever transmission must present a valid yellow fever vaccination certificate. The life-long certificate is valid from 10 days after the vaccination date.

Aircraft, ships and other means of transportation coming from countries affected by yellow fever are requested to submit a certificate indicating that they applied disinsection in accordance with methods recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO).

Regardless of age and vaccination status, proof of receipt of a dose of oral polio vaccine, or inactivated polio vaccine, within the previous 12 months and at least four weeks prior to departure, is required to apply for an entry visa to Saudi Arabia for travelers arriving from countries including Afghanistan, Nigeria and Pakistan.

The polio vaccine is also required of pilgrims from states no longer affected by the infectious disease, but which remain vulnerable to reinfection. These include Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Guinea, Laos, Madagascar, Myanmar, Niger, Ukraine, Democratic Republic of Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Ethiopia, Iraq, Kenya, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Somalia, South Sudan, Syria and Yemen.

Dominique Legros, a WHO cholera expert, said in Geneva last week that the Kingdom has taken adequate preventive measures to combat communicable diseases during the annual pilgrimage.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has sent out circulars to all its missions abroad regarding the rules. 

http://www.arabnews.com/node/1132131/saudi-arabia

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#5937 [Permalink] Posted on 21st July 2017 10:42
Israel seeks Saudi flights deal
for Hajj pilgrims



A shot from above shows hundreds of thousands
of piligrims praying at Makkah's Grand Mosque.

Wed 12 Jul 2017 

Israel is trying to persuade Saudi Arabia to allow it to send special Hajj pilgrimage flights to Makkah, building on Trump administration efforts to strengthen cooperation between the two nations.

Instead of enduring the 1,000-mile bus route across the Jordan River and through the Saudi desert to reach Islam’s most sacred shrine, Israel hopes its Muslim citizens will be able to fly directly into the kingdom from Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion International Airport, Communications Minister Ayoob Kara said. Just two months ago, Trump broke a longstanding taboo by flying between the two nations, which do not have formal diplomatic relations or airline links but have drawn closer in recent years due to a shared enemy, Iran.

“Reality has changed,” Kara said in an interview this week at his office in Jerusalem. “This is a good time to make the request, and I’m working hard on it.”

Saudi Arabia, the world’s biggest oil exporter, has dangled the prospect of air traffic and other commercial ties between the two countries since proposing its Arab Peace Initiative in 2002. In return, Israel would have to accept a Palestinian state and withdraw from territories it has occupied since the 1967 Middle East war, something it isn’t willing to do. But their suspicion of Iran’s ambitions has made cooperation an open secret.

Both Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu say involvement by Saudi Arabia and its Gulf neighbors would be useful in reaching a peace deal with the Palestinians.

Facilitating the pilgrimage to Makkah is one of several proposed sweeteners aimed at inducing Israel to make negotiating concessions to the Palestinians, Kara said. Others include lifting some trade restrictions, improving telecommunications links with the Gulf and giving overflight permission to Israeli air carriers, saving them time and money on flights to Asia.

“There’s a long history of Hajj travel being used as a confidence-building gesture, partly because it has a purity of religious purpose, and yet politics are involved because borders are not open in the Middle East,” said Scott Lasensky, a visiting fellow at the Institute for National Security Studies in Tel Aviv and a former policy adviser at the US Embassy in Israel.

About 6,000 Israeli Arabs make the Hajj journey every year, most on group bus tours, though a few hundred are allowed to fly to Saudi Arabia from Jordan’s Queen Alia International Airport, Kara said.

Saudi Arabia makes an exception to its official hands-off policy with Israel when it comes to the Hajj because of its religious duty as guardian of the holy city to facilitate travel to Makkah for all Muslims. Even so, Kara says the trip can be difficult. The buses are often in poor condition, air conditioning breaks down and border delays are frequent. Because Saudi Arabia doesn’t honor Israeli passports, its citizens are issued temporary Jordanian travel documents, which often take a long time to process, he says.

Ideally, Israeli travelers to Makkah should be able to fly non-stop from Tel Aviv, but the route being negotiated may have a stop in Jordan or another country, Kara said. Also in discussion is the prospect of Saudi Arabia issuing temporary passports for the Israeli pilgrims, instead of relying on Jordan, which has a formal peace treaty with Israel, he said in the July 10 interview.

Kara said he’s spoken to government officials in Saudi Arabia, Jordan and other countries about the Hajj plan and they’re “ready to do it, but it’s very sensitive and it’s still a matter of negotiation.”

Saudi Arabia’s General Authority of Civil Aviation did not immediately respond to an email and telephone call requesting comment.

A spokesman for Royal Jordanian said no one from the airline had been contacted by Israeli officials about the matter.

"RJ usually transports Arab 48 Hajj or Omrah passengers from Tel Aviv to Amman and then from Amman to Jeddah or Madinah and vice versa,” the spokesman said in emailed comments. Ummrah is another Muslim pilgrimage, while “Arab 48” is a euphemism for Israeli Arabs.

An increasing number of Israeli companies have been doing business in Saudi Arabia and its Gulf neighbors, mostly through subsidiaries that mask their origins. Some of the most sought-after Israeli products are in the fields of cyber-defense, agricultural technology and desalination, Israeli officials say, Publicly, Saudi authorities say the kingdom has no commercial relations with Israel.

Kara, a Druze Arab who fought in the Israeli military, opposes Palestinian statehood and is fiercely loyal to Netanyahu, said he believes Gulf countries will deepen commercial ties with Israel even if peace efforts collapse. He previously was Netanyahu’s deputy minister for regional cooperation, a role he said put him in contact with leaders from many countries that don’t have diplomatic ties with Israel.

“For the countries in this region, what provides more defense than tanks and jets?” said Kara. “They need cyber-defense, and that’s an integral part of my office.”

Palestinians fear Netanyahu will try to strike agreements with the Gulf countries, which share Israel’s security concerns about Iran, while leaving them stateless. Kara, who says Israel’s ties with the broader Arab world can’t forever be held hostage to the Palestinian issue, hopes his new job can help promote Israel as a commercial partner in Arab countries.

“It opens doors,” Kara said. “I want to use it to help develop Israeli business everywhere, certainly in the Gulf and also across the entire Arab world.”

http://www.arabianbusiness.com/conte...-hajj-pilgrims

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#5938 [Permalink] Posted on 21st July 2017 14:44
PAKISTAN

Ministry launches SMS service
to prevent Haj fraud

 

July 17, 2017 

ISLAMABAD - Federal Ministry of Religious Affairs and Interfaith Harmony has launched a Short Message Service (SMS) 8331 to help preventing private Haj scheme pilgrims from any swindling or fraud.

According to an official, the main aim of starting SMS service was to help preventing pilgrims from any deception, besides saving them from fictitious companies.

Elaborating about details of sending message to 8331, he said an intending pilgrim, desiring to perform the sacred religious ceremony through Haj Group Organiser (HGO) should send the first four digits of his HGO's enrolment number from his mobile phone to 8331 to check its authenticity.


The pilgrim would promptly receive a reply, containing details about the enrolment status of HGO, name of its chief executive, its allotted quota and address.

Furthermore, quota status of HGO could also be confirmed from Ministry's relevant department by contacting the Ministry on phone no 051-9207519; 051-9205212; 051-9205427.

The Ministry has warned the intending pilgrims to avoid inking agreement with any HGO or travel agent without checking its enrolment status of allotted Haj quota, he added.

Meanwhile, Ministry of Religious Affairs and Interfaith Harmony has urged intending pilgrims to ensure administering vaccines before leaving for Haj to prevent themselves from deadly infectious diseases.

An official of the Ministry asked intending pilgrims to carry medication certificates of administering polio, flu vaccines, etc atleast 10 days before departing to Saudi Arabia.

He asked intending pilgrims to get informative booklets "Rahnamai Haj" and "Haj Information Kit" from their respective Haji Camps. The pilgrims could also download mobile application to get important information about Haj.

Reminding pilgrims about importance of consulting their doctors before travelling to ensure their stable condition during Haj, he asked people with chronic conditions to carry sufficient doses of their medication with them during their pilgrimage to avoid any problems.

In a related development, an updated electronic monitoring system has been launched by the Ministry of Religious Affairs and Interfaith Harmony for instantly resolving complaints of Hujjaj during Haj days.

According to official sources, the system has been updated in collaboration with Punjab Infrastructure Technology Board (PITB) for Haj 2017.

The system is a comprehensive portal that comes with a variety of value-added features, all designed to cater to specific needs of the pilgrims.

The first feature is a helpline accessible both online and through an Android application named `Pak Haj Moavin'.

It allows users to register queries, complaints and suggestions in an effective manner. An SMS service has been developed to disseminate important information. Complaints may also be registered via an on-line complaint registration portal.

The system has an in-built mechanism that transfers unresolved complaints to the next tier of management, who can then take appropriate measures.

A daily situation report is generated for the information of senior management, the sources claimed.

The system was launched for the first time in 2013. Hundreds of inquiries and complaints were registered using the forum and were addressed in a satisfactory manner.

The mechanisms for monitoring and supervision Haj operations in Pakistan and Saudi Arabia would strengthen and help review the performance of the government and Haj Group Organiser (HGO) schemes, in accordance with contractual obligations and Saudi Arabian Taleemat.

In addition, pro forma based feedback, introduced last year, will be obtained from pilgrims of both government and private Haj schemes at the time of their return to Pakistan.

Further, the Haj Group Organisers-Management Information System (HGO-MIS) system would be updated and strengthened and more modules will be added in it on the basis of experience gained in Haj 2016.

Meanwhile, Director General of Haj Dr Sajid Yousaf in Jeddah said on Sunday that this year 179,210 Pakistani pilgrims will perform Haj.

The government Haj scheme includes 107,526 Hujjaj, while the rest would perform hajj through private Haj operators, said a Press release.

In order to provide greater opportunities to the people who have not performed this sacred duty, Government of Pakistan has announced that the person who has performed Haj in last seven years will not be eligible to Haj 2017.

He said that the Haj mission has made best possible arrangements with maximum facilitation of Hujjaj.

Previously the hajis used to get delayed at the airport due to the procedures of luggage clearance.

This year, the Haj mission has made special arrangements in collaboration with Maktab Al Wokala, for express clearance of the Hujjaj luggage at the Jeddah and Madina airports so that they reach their destination in time.

In order to provide better transportation services, companies having modern buses have been hired for Hajis to make their journey safe and comfortable.

In Madina, all the accommodation is hired in Markazia, which makes the Masjid-e-Nabawi within walking distance for all the Hujjaj.

In Makkah the accommodation has been hired in Aziziya and BthaQuraish, within the rates of accommodation approved by the government.

The transport will be available at the buildings, round the clock, to facilitate the Hajis to go to Haram.

The Haj mission has hired a number of kitchens in Makkah and Madina for provision of three time meals daily to the Hajis. The meals will be available to the Hajis in their building as well as at Arafat, Mina and Muzdalifah.

The staff of the kitchen will bring the food to the buildings where proper dining areas have been arranged. This year special efforts have been made to provide Pakistani food to Hajis and the kitchen owners have been advised to hire Pakistani chefs for this purpose.

http://nation.com.pk/national/17-Jul...vent-haj-fraud

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#5939 [Permalink] Posted on 24th July 2017 09:33
First Pakistani Haj flight arriving today
 

Monday July 24, 2017 

JEDDAH — The first Haj flight from Pakistan is arriving at King Abdulaziz International Airport (KAIA) on Monday signaling the arrival of pilgrims by air for this year’s Haj.

Chairman of the General Authority of Civil Aviation (GACA) Abdul Hakeem Al-Tamimi and other senior government officials will receive the pilgrims on arrival.

The Haj Terminal at KAIA has been well equipped for arrival and departure of pilgrims.

The terminal will receive pilgrims from the first day of Dhul Qada (July 24) until Dhul Hijja 6 (August 28) which will witness the arrival of the last Haj flight.

The departure of pilgrims after the competition of Haj will start on Dhul Hijja 14 (Sept. 5) and will conclude on Muharram 15, 1439H (Oct. 6).

The Haj terminal is prepared to receive as many as 3,800 pilgrims per hour at the peak time of the Haj and Umrah seasons and to send off about 3,500 of them.

All the concerned government and private departments have already started their work at the terminal to serve pilgrims and facilitate their arrival and departure procedures.

http://saudigazette.com.sa/article/5...UDI-ARABIA/Haj




Indonesian pilgrims to arrive from July end
 

Monday July 24, 2017

JEDDAH — The Indonesian Consulate General in Jeddah has disclosed that 221,000 Indonesians are expected to perform the Haj pilgrimage this year.

Umar Badarsyah, vice consul for information, social and cultural affairs at the consulate, said

the Indonesian pilgrims would start arriving in the Kingdom by the end of July.

Asked about the preparations for receiving the pilgrims, he said all arrangements are in place for the accommodation and transportation of the Haj pilgrims.

This Haj, there is a considerable increase in the number of pilgrims last year, when only 168,000 Indonesians performed the pilgrimage.

The increase follows the lifting by the Saudi authorities of a 20 percent cut in the pilgrimage quota for all countries, which was in force during the expansion work under way in the Grand Mosque in Makkah.

“We are confident that this year we will have better arrangements for the pilgrims with the help of Allah,” added Badarsyah.

http://saudigazette.com.sa/article/5...Haj-pilgrimage

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#5940 [Permalink] Posted on 26th July 2017 09:36
Haramain Express Train trial successful

From Jeddah to Madinah
 

Wednesday 26 July 2017

JEDDAH: On behalf of Makkah Gov. Prince Khaled Al-Faisal, Prince Abdullah bin Bandar, deputy governor of Makkah, participated on Tuesday in a pilot trip of the Haramain Express Train.

Also present were Transport Minister Sulaiman Al-Hamdan; Spanish State Secretary for Infrastructure, Transport and Housing Julio Gomez; President of the Saudi Railway Organization (SRO) and Chairman of the Public Transport Authority Rumaih Al-Rumaih; and a number of other top officials and media personnel.

The Haramain Express will transport passengers from Makkah to Madinah (and vice-versa), via Jeddah and King Abdullah Economic City. The railway is around 450 km in length, and will offer a fast-paced, comfortable and secure transportation option for travelers passing through Jeddah and King Abdullah Economic City. The train is expected to be fully operational during the first quarter of 2018.

On its pilot trip, the Haramain Express first ran from Jeddah to King Abdullah Economic City (KAEC) station in Rabigh, which was toured and inspected. The train then continued its journey toward Madinah at a speed of over 300 km per hour.

Prince Saud bin Khaled Al-Faisal, deputy governor of Madinah, received the train upon its arrival at Madinah Station on behalf of Madinah Gov. Prince Faisal bin Salman, and boarded the train for its return journey to Jeddah.

Al-Hamdan explained that the speed at which this large-scale national project — one of the largest transportation projects in the Middle East — has progressed would not have been possible without the ongoing support of King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, and support of the governors of Makkah and Madinah, and the support of the Public Investment Fund.

“The project represents substantial added value to the transportation system in the Kingdom, and is in line with one of Vision 2030’s objectives — to harness energies and potential to serve the guests of God by increasing the capacity of the systems and services provided to them.”

Such services include transportation, he said, noting that the number of pilgrims and visitors to the Two Holy Mosques is predicted to increase from 8 million to 30 million people by 2030.

The minister went on to explain that the design of this project was based on the latest global specifications for high-speed railways, and features the highest safety and quality standards. The fully operational Haramain Express is expected to transport more than 60 million passengers annually.

For his part, Al-Rumaih said that the inauguration of the new railway will reduce pressure and limit pollution and congestion on roads between the two holy cities, while also providing a safer and faster transportation option.

The train’s travel time between Jeddah and Makkah will be around 21 minutes. It will take less than two-and-a-half hours to travel between Makkah and Madinah. 

http://www.arabnews.com/node/1134791/saudi-arabia




Haramain high-speed train ready for launch

 

Wednesday July 26, 2017 / 3 Dhu al-Qaadah 1438

Jeddah — Saudi Railways Organization (SRO) on Tuesday conducted the first complete trial run of the Haramain high-speed train from Jeddah to Madinah.

Reaching a speed of 330 kph, the new train could cut travel time between the two cities down to as little as 90 minutes. The new 12,000 horsepower electric locomotive would save as much as 120 minutes of the current commute between Jeddah and Madinah.

Prince Abdullah Bin Bandar Bin Abdulaziz, deputy emir of Makkah region, Minister of Transport Sulaiman Al-Hamdan, a team of Spanish officials along with Saudi Railways Organization officials, experts from Saudi Rail Road and local and international media representatives were present onboard during the trial run.

Saudi Railways Organization is currently conducting tests to check the compatibility of all components of the high-speed system.

The trial run of the aluminium Talgo coaches started at Al-Sulaimaniah station in Jeddah at 1:00 p.m. and the train which carried around 470 passengers raced toward King Abdullah Economic City (KAEC) in Rabigh. After a stopover of about 1 hour 15 minutes the train left for Madinah at 3:00 p.m., eventually reaching the Prophet’s City at 4:15 p.m.

The train traveled at speeds between 300-330 kph during the 90-minute run between the two cities.

The Haramain high-speed rail line is a 450km network connecting the Kingdom’s two holy cities of Makkah and Madinah via stations at the new airport in Jeddah and at King Abdullah Economic City near Rabigh. It has been designed to reach speeds of up to 360kph.

“We are fully prepared for the official opening. Everything is in working order. The train will officially come into operation as soon as Saudi officials give us the green light,” said Mariano De La Vega, project manager of Talgo.

Eng. Nayef Fawaier, rolling stock liaison manager of the Haramain high-speed railway project of German DB (Mobility Networks Logistics), noted that Saudi Arabia is expecting to receive around 35 high-speed trains. So far 11 trains have arrived and they are ready for operation.”

Abdullah Al-Ahmadi, Saudi train driver, expressed his happiness at being the first Saudi train driver.

“I was trained in Spain for this type of train,” he said.

Al-Ahmadi and nine other Saudi drivers completed a training program in Spain to drive such high-tech trains.

Train was met on arrival at Madinah station by the Deputy Emir of Madinah Prince Saud Bin Khaled.

http://saudigazette.com.sa/article/5...Haramain-train

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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