Volunteers planted small iron bars around a big rock in the Western Saudi town of Makkah that to prevent it from rolling down. (Sada)
Sunday, August 14, 2016
Volunteers planted small iron bars around a big rock in the Western Saudi town of Makkah that to prevent it from rolling down on Muslim pilgrims converging on the Gulf Kingdom for their annual Haj next month.
The Saudi daily ‘Sada’ published a picture of the rock which said it is awkwardly located on top of Jabal Al Rahma (Mountain of Mercy) on Mount Arafat in Makkah.
It said the bars were planted around the rock by volunteers.
Standing on Mount Arafat is a fundamental part of Haj as Muslims spend the whole day on that mountain to pray and to supplicate to God to forgive their sins.
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Ministry warns pilgrims against bogus online Haj campaigns
Tuesday 16 August 2016
JEDDAH: The Ministry of Haj and Umrah has taken a strong exception to the ongoing phantom campaigns on some social media accounts selling Haj visas.
In a stern warning to those running such campaigns, the ministry advised that using the e-portal is the correct way to obtain Haj visas. “Ignore such campaigns as they victimize Allah’s guests (pilgrims and visitors) and restrain them from performing the rituals,” the ministry stated.
The ministry indicated that it has been daily monitoring the Haj pilgrim numbers and checking their arrival and other details on day-to-day basis, and urged the offices of Haj Affairs and service organizations to complete the Haj visa procedures without loss of time.
The ministry highlighted its close cooperation with government agencies and stated that it has been following all the procedures required to catch those involved in such campaigns inside and outside the Kingdom.
In addition, the ministry has called upon the people willing to perform Haj to find the information on the Ministry of Haj and Umrah’s website, and report such violations on the following toll-free numbers: National: 8004304444, international: +966-920002814, or the ministry’s website: www.haj.gov.sa.
JEDDAH: Crown Prince Mohammed bin Naif has reiterated the ban on the use of liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) for cooking purposes at the holy sites.
The prohibition on LPG will continue during the current Haj season, with no exception to the buildings and camps of government agencies, said the crown prince, who is also the chairman of the Supreme Haj Committee.
He has also directed the responsible government agencies to follow the decisions and penalize anyone who brings LPG to Mina, Arafat or Muzdalifa.
Gen. Suleiman Al-Amr, director general of Civil Defense, said search and security teams will carry out inspections inside camps and buildings.
They will confiscate LPG cylinders, if found, and impose penalties on those responsible for bringing them.
Officials say the Kingdom is fully prepared to receive and serve pilgrims, with more than 2,600 seasonal workers taking part in the Haj program, in addition to permanent mutawwifs (volunteers).
This, he said, are in addition to 3,000 workers from contracting companies.
All employees are trained and qualified to provide the required services, he said, adding that operational plans have been reformulated this year in accordance with strategic goals.
Reception centers, services and an online electronic platform for services, in coordination with the Ministry of Haj and Umrah, for pilgrims from abroad have been reconfigured to ensure that all services are of the highest standards, he said.
Services are being offered to all nationalities through 54 units, offices and administrative centers, he added.
RIYADH: The Unified Operations Center, 911, will help the security staff to coordinate and respond to emergencies within a few minutes, thanks to the latest technology used for the system.
Maj. Gen. Abdulrahman Al-Saleh, commander of the National Operation’s Center in the Ministry of Interior, said latest cameras have been installed at holy sites to serve Umrah and Haj pilgrims.
"The unified operations project represents a quantum leap in security work. The center has been launched in Makkah, Taif and Jeddah to contribute to speedy coordination between security bodies and other supporting services," he told local media.
The project was launched by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Naif during the Haj season last year through a number of phases. It started with road security patrols, and was then introduced to other security sectors, such as Civil Defense, traffic and security patrols.
Al-Saleh pointed out the secretariat of security planning and development in the Ministry of Interior is responsible for the project, while the National Operations Center is delegated the task of its operation.
The project was launched from Makkah and then Taif, while it was launched in Jeddah on Saturday.
The project will be operational after 10 days in certain parts of the Makkah Province, and work will be finalized on Aug. 20, to bring the whole of Makkah Province under the emergency number 911.
The government has put in a lot of efforts in the preparation of this project, which is housed in the government complex, which was constructed by the Ministry of Finance in the Al-Awali area in Makkah, said Al-Saleh.
The operations room in Makkah manages security operations in all parts of the Kingdom, and there are other projects that will be implemented in phases in other cities. He revealed that the number 911 was carefully chosen because it is different from previous emergency numbers, in addition to it being popular globally.
Advanced systems have been used in the project to guarantee speedy response and supervision of workers’ performance, which is a very important requirement for the success and smooth running of the operations.
Al-Saleh said the unified center has a number of supporting bodies, such as the Ministry of Health, Red Crescent, water company, electricity and the Ministry of Transport. He confirmed that these bodies offer support to security bodies only during emergencies.
The center includes a directorate for Haj and Umrah, called crisis management. There are advanced cameras at the holy sites.
911 is the emergency number in Makkah Province and anyone who calls this number from inside the Kingdom will be answered from the operations center in Makkah.
A number of officers have been enrolled for a training course in King Fahad Security College and will be employed in the center as soon as they graduate.
Al-Saleh confirmed that some people were sent to China and Germany to study the system and technology used in the center. “We don’t underestimate the efforts of previous operations’ rooms. Their experience over the years is appreciable,” added Al-Saleh.
Saudi revises visa fees, bears cost for all first time pilgrims
The new charges were announced during Monday’s meeting of the The Saudi Cabinet
Tuesday, 9 August 2016
New amendments have been introduced to visa fees in Saudi Arabia, the country's cabinet of ministers has announced today. Most notably, the changes will see all visa fees completely waived off - and fully paid for by the Saudi government - for all first-time pilgrims coming for either Hajj or Umra.
The newly introduced fee structure includes a single-entry visa that will cost travelers 2,000 Saudi Riyals ($533), applicable to all visitors, except first time pilgrims.
A six month multiple-entry visa will now cost 3,000 Saudi Riyals (SR), a one year multiple-entry visa will cost SR5000, while a two year multiple-entry visa will cost SR8000.The Saudi Cabinet has also made it clear that these changes will not impact any bilateral deals already signed by Saudi Arabia and other countries.
As for transit visas, their new fee is going to be SR300. Exit visa fee for anyone leaving the Kingdom through its seaports will be SR50. These revised fees will come into force from 2 October 2016.
Meanwhile, "exit and re-entry" visa fees for residents will be SR200 for a single trip for two months. SR100 will be charged for each additional month till the validity of residence permit (iqama).
Exit and reentry visa fee for multiple trips will be SR500 for three months. SR200 will be charged for each additional month till the validity of residence permit.
The new charges were announced during Monday’s weekly meeting of the Saudi Council of Ministers, which was chaired by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Nayef who is also the kingdom's Interior Minister.
There were other decisions announced during the meeting, including new and revised fines for traffic violations.
Finance Ministry gives new twist to crane crash probe
Aug 17, 2016
JEDDAH — The Finance Ministry has given a new twist to the Makkah crane crash probe by claiming that the giant crane was advised to be removed from its location 10 months before the tragedy that killed and injured hundreds of pilgrims last September.
In its report to the Bureau of Investigation and Public Prosecution (BIP), the ministry, which represents the government in the Haram expansion projects, said it stopped reimbursing expenses for the crane 10 months earlier because it was no longer considered useful.
The BIP investigated an engineer from the ministry thrice during the past few months.
The engineer absolved the ministry of any responsibility in the crash and said it had asked for its removal but the project manager, despite assurances, did not do anything.
The engineer, who was not identified, said he was responsible for following up the expansion project with the Binladin Group and to make payments but had nothing to do with the safety measures of the project.
Fourteen people are on trial in the case. Newspaper reports said six Saudis, including a billionaire, as well as two Pakistanis, a Canadian, a Jordanian, a Palestinian, an Egyptian, an Emirati and a Filipino are on trial. The defendants’ names were not made public. The defendants are accused of negligence, damaging public property and ignoring safety guidelines.
Amid unusually strong winds, the 1,350-ton crane collapsed onto the Grand Mosque bringing down slabs of concrete on worshippers below.
Earlier reports said 170 employees of the Binladin Group had been questioned by investigators ahead of the court proceedings. Okaz said prosecutors decided not to file charges against 42 others who were under investigation, including 16 members of the Binladin family.
Dozens of cranes surround the Grand Mosque, part of a massive construction effort headed by the Binladin Group.
A Saudi-Palestinian company has created a solar-powered umbrella to help meet the demands of Muslim pilgrims.
“Knowledge-Base” hopes its invention will go world-wide and reach multiple users who can take advantage of the solar-powered, GPS savvy accessory.
The multi-purpose umbrella transforms sunlight into electricity, which can then be used to generate power for the umbrella’s many features.
The smart umbrella ‘Kafya’ was born in the Kingdom’s holy city of Mecca, the brainchild of Saudi Arabian scientist Kamel Badawi.
Badawi has volunteered to help facilitate Muslim pilgrimage since he was just a boy. During his years of service, he began to understand through first-hand experience what pilgrims need the most, and thus the smart umbrella was born.
With the help of his Palestinian partner, Manal Dandis, the two set off to create a product they hope will add value not only to the experiences of Muslims in the annual haj season, but also to people around the world.
“Umbrellas are always in demand especially in Europe. They are also being used in haj. However the pilgrims only use the umbrella as a form of protection from the sun. No one has considered the umbrella could be used for more than one purpose. When we started thinking about this, we found that we could install a built-in fan to keep the user cool.
This is a great idea when you consider that the next twelve years will be extremely hot for pilgrims. Of course this claim concerning the extremely hot weather is based on a study we conducted. The built-in electric charger and GPS system are both powered by solar energy.
This means we always have electricity to not only charge mobile-phones, but computers as well. You can charge any device that can be connected via USB. The GPS system will help families stay together by helping each individual who has an umbrella easily identify where he or she is,” Badawi said.
Some of the features include a GPS system, a built-in fan and flashlight.
The umbrella also comes with three different USB outlets to charge mobile phones, tablets and other portable devices including laptops.
“Of course the GPS system comes with a mobile application that you can download and the pilgrim can verify his/her umbrella on this application, in turn making it much easier for pilgrims to communicate with one another,” Dandis said.
Since the idea was conceptualised last year, both Badawi and Dandis’ focus has been on designing a prototype for copyright purposes.
“Getting the patent for the product was the first step. The second step was to start marketing it. Marketing needs special supervision, so we had to find a company capable of providing this supervision.
In order for our product to spread worldwide, we have to avoid marketing it as an exclusive haj product,” Badawi said.
Badawi and Dandis hope an international company or government body will invest in their product to begin mass production. They hope to make it available at an affordable price for anyone to buy.
JEDDAH: The fee for Haj per foreign pilgrim has not changed for the last 52 years, despite the global inflation rate steadily increasing every year.
A royal decree was issued in 1385 A.H., limiting the Haj fee to only about SR214 per foreign pilgrim. Since then, Tawafa institutions have been charging the same amount.
The fee covers the service offices and the accommodation of pilgrims at the holy sites. However, Haj delegations, Haj affairs offices and organizers in each country are responsible for providing housing in Makkah and Madinah, as per the contracts signed.
Osama Zawawi, vice chairman of Tawafa responsible for Turkey as well as Europe, America and Australia, stressed that Tawafa seeks to continuously improve the services it offers pilgrims.
According to rough calculations, he said, the actual cost of services provided to pilgrims at the holy sites should be SR1,050 each, which is almost five times the fee being charged today.
Zawawi said that Tawafa strives to offer best services in order to achieve high levels of satisfaction among pilgrims, explaining that the organization supervises, manages and follows up on the distribution of housing units to all pilgrims.
Mahmoud Damanhouri, member of the civil institution for Tawafa, said there are additional pilgrimage-related services, such as food, air-conditioning and arrangements inside tents. “These function according to the supply and demand mechanism, and cater to pilgrims with varying financial abilities.”
The cost of these services is paid to the institution according to the contracts and agreements signed, which are supervised by the Ministry of Haj and Umrah, he said.
Airport clearance for each pilgrim ‘takes 20 minutes’
Monday 22 August 2016
JEDDAH: The “electronic track” system at King Abdul Aziz International Airport is helping in the completion of procedures for each pilgrim in just about 18 to 20 minutes, said an official.
“It is not taking more than 20 minutes for each pilgrim from the moment he or she steps out of the aircraft until leaving the airport premises,” said Nabil Haddad, director of Haj and Umrah Affairs at the airport.
According to the performance indicators and evaluation criteria, the application of the electronic track system has achieved a quantum leap in providing services to the pilgrims, he told local media. “The airport has so far received more than 250,000 pilgrims from outside the Kingdom.”
Haddad gave a briefing on the program to welcome the pilgrims overseen by the Ministry of Haj and Umrah. He said the program is being followed up under the directions of Minister Mohammed Salih Bentin, with the participation of the six Tawafa establishments.
“This is a kind of extension to what the mutawif used to do to celebrate the arrival of Hajis, receiving them and welcoming them,” he said.
Hani bin Abdulaziz Danish, the operator of the project to receive and group the pilgrims in the South Asian Pilgrim Establishment, said his establishment is participating in the program to welcome the Haj pilgrims through the committee he supervises.
He said that every Monday, the committee participates in distributing gifts to the pilgrims at the Jeddah airport.
JEDDAH: The Ministry of Labor and Social Development has unveiled an e-hiring service for the Haj season that allows employers to recruit temporary staff via the ‘Ajeer’ portal.
The move is aimed at balancing demand and supply of jobs during the pilgrimage. The portal combines companies which provide services for pilgrims in Makkah and Madinah and job seekers including citizens and expats who wish to work during Haj.
Ahmed Kattan, deputy minister for labor policies of the ministry, said the temporary work portal can be accessed at https://www.temporarywork.com.sa and companies can post jobs on the portal to let job seekers review them and submit their applications.
He said that the portal also allows job seekers to submit their applications in the wait list, and employers can retrieve their registered information and appoint suitable candidates.
Kattan emphasized that the portal will provide an electronic market that takes into account the demand and supply aspects, while individuals can be contracted on a temporary basis by Haj service providers. Candidates must be Saudi nationals and residents applying for the job should have previously performed Haj.
JEDDAH: In an attempt to streamline operations during the stoning ritual at Jamrat, the Ministry of Haj and Umrah has warned the pilgrims against leaving their camps for the ritual during certain timings.
The ritual will be banned from 6 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. on Dul Hijjah 10, from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. on the 11th day; the restriction will be for three-and-a-half hours between 10:30 a.m. and 2 p.m. on the 12th day, say reports.
The new regulations were put in place during a meeting held by the Tawafa Establishment for Pilgrims of Turkey, Europe, Americas and Australia to discuss the stoning (Rami Jamrat) timetable with Husain Al-Sharif, the ministry’s undersecretary, and a number of officials and experts.
The meeting discussed the tracks for grouping the pilgrims to perform the stoning ritual which will be under the management of the holy sites administration which, is linked with the Tawafa establishments, the department to monitor and control pilgrims, the grouping department and the Makkah Region Development Authority.
The undersecretary highlighted the plan to maintain pilgrims’ safety, stressing that this is a national mission in which everyone should be involved.
He said the primary goal of the meeting was to familiarize the Mutawifeen with the plans to enable the pilgrims to perform the ritual and return to their camps safe, in accordance with the specific numbers and allocated routes and to prevent crowding.
Meanwhile, another coordination committee has ruled that the pilgrims will not be allowed to perform Tawaf Al-Qudum (pilgrim’s circumambulation of the Kaaba before beginning the pilgrimage) close to prayer time.
According to the committee officials, the circumambulation will not be allowed within an hour before and after the prayers.
There is an awareness and guidance plan in place for pilgrims before heading to the Grand Mosque to ensure that they wear the appropriate ihram and e-bracelets, as well as carry IDs.
There are 90 mutawwifs, divided into three groups of 30 each. Each group has a director, 30 mutawwifs and three monitors.
MAKKAH — The Ministry of Haj and Umrah has announced a 12-hour ban on grouping of regular pilgrims from their tents in Mina to the Jamarat area to throw pebbles at the pillars symbolizing Satan during the three days from Dhul Hijjah 10-12 (Sept. 11-13).
The ministry said the procedure was taken to ensure the safety of the pilgrims and prevent overcrowding.
According to the ministry, during the first day of the ritual, there will be no grouping of pilgrims to the Jamarat from 6 a.m. to 10.30 a.m while on the second day the ban will be from 2 p.m to 6 p.m. and on the third and final day it will be from 10.30 a.m. to 2 p.m.
The ministry said it has agreed on the procedure with the Tawafa establishments and the Haj companies.
The ministry’s undersecretary, Hussain Al-Sharif said the total capacity of the Jamarat area and the roads leading to it is 300,000 pilgrims per hour.
He said the grouping of pilgrims will be electronically monitored to prevent any violations. “This procedure will enable the pilgrims to throw stones easily and will prevent any stampede that may result from overcrowding,” he said.
The ministry has prepared 18,000 buses to transport about 1.5 million foreign pilgrims. The fleet also includes1,696 brand new cars.
It has also provided enough golf carts at King Abdulaziz International Airport in Jeddah and in the Grand Mosque to transport aged and disabled pilgrims.
Meanwhile, the coordination authority of the Tawafa establishments has asked all establishments not to allow their pilgrims to perform Tawaf-e-Qudum (arrival) circumambulation of the Kaba an hour before and after prayer in the Grand Mosque.
The authority said in this case the pilgrims will not be obstructed by the movement of the worshipers.
There will be about 90 mutawwifs working in shifts of 30 for 24 hours a day to guide the pilgrims performing tawaf.
On the other hand, the director of the branch of the Ministry of Islamic Affairs, Call and Guidance, Ali Salem Al-Abdali said Friday prayers will be held in 120 mosques in Makkah to reduce congestion in the Grand Mosque.
Meanwhile, the Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdulaziz Al-Ashaikh has warned against doing the pilgrimage without the official Haj permit.
“It is haram (against Islam) to disobey the established rules of the government,” he wrote on his Twitter account.
Al-Ashaikh said ignoring regulations to enter Makkah and other holy sites is a gross violation of the Islamic tenets. “Also it is totally against Islam to transport pilgrims to the holy sites without the official Haj permits,” he said.
The Makkah municipality has deployed 23,050 of its staff, seasonal workers, employees of the Ministry of Municipal and Rural Affairs, the Boy Scouts and other volunteers to serve the pilgrims.
The manpower consists of 13,000 cleaners equipped with about 600 vacuum cleaners to clean Makkah and the holy sites.
The manpower will be responsible for upkeep of 58 tunnels and 38 bridges in Mina in addition to 33,000 restaurants, groceries, bakeries, laundry shops and cafeterias. The municipality has also established barber shops in Mina with 1,110 chairs.
This cannot be undone and I am sure it will be greatly appreciated.
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