JEDDAH – Saudi Arabian Airlineshascompleted itspreparationsforthisyear’s Haj, which include hiring 34 airplanes to fly pilgrims,to avoid any effect on regular flights, and made available all human, logistical and technical capabilities at all stations, Abdulaziz Bin Raheem Al-Hazmi, deputy director general of Saudia, said.
Speaking at the annual Haj meeting with representatives of airlines working in Saudi Arabia, he said flightschedulesforpilgrimsand otheroperational requirements have been finalized.
About 500,000 pilgrimswill beflown from 42international locations on flights designated for pilgrimsand on regular flights,Al-Hazmisaid,noting thatthisyear, pilgrims can obtain boarding passes in their countries for their flights to and from the Kingdom.
On Thursday, the first day of Dhul Qada, 8,000 young men will start work at Jeddah airport’s Haj Terminal Complex; 4,400 of will be assigned to transfer pilgrims’ luggage to the buses.
Another serviceforpilgrimsisrecruitingemployeesfrom their countries, including Indonesia and India, to work at departure terminals during the period of return, he added.
The serviceof weighing luggagewill beintroduced this year to Indian pilgrims, who represent 25 percent of pilgrimstransported by Saudia, and pilgrims from Indonesia and Malaysia,hesaid.
A total of 50 airlines will carry pilgrimsand 20,000 buseswill beused fortheir transportation during Haj, said Al-Hazmi, who is also the chairman of the Foreign Airlines RepresentativesCouncil in Saudi Arabia.
The first pilgrim flightwill arriveThursday,atKingAbdul Aziz International Airport, where all preparations were completed under the supervision and follow up of the Haj Central Committee.
The Committee, chaired by Prince Khaled Al-Faisal, is continuing its meetings to discuss all operational plans of government and private agencies, and follow up the implementation of these plans through the Executive Committee for Haj at the Emir’s Office, which is chaired by Emir’s Office Undersecretary, Dr. Abdulziz Al-Khudairi.
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Accommodations for pilgrims likely to generate SR5b
24 September 2011
MAKKAH – Several Haj missions have completed renting residential buildings for accommodating pilgrims this year as rent contracts were approved by relevant Tawafa organizations. Mansour Abu Raiyash, Chairman of the Makkah Chamber of Commerce and Industry’s Real Estate Committee, estimated that 8,000 hotels and rented residential buildings would generate a revenue of over SR5 billion, Al-Watan newspaper said. He said the average amount a pilgrim would pay for accommodation is SR3,000. The Central Zone (hotels and residential buildings) dominates the larger share of accommodation revenues, the official added.
JEDDAH: The first Haj flight will arrive at King Abdulaziz International Airport (KAIA) in Jeddah on Thursday, the national committee of airlines announced on Saturday.
It did not reveal where the flight would originate but said all arrangements were completed to receive the guests of God at the airport.
Sources at the Indian Consulate General in Jeddah said the first Haj flight from the country would arrive in the Kingdom on Thursday. Pilgrims from Pakistan and Bangladesh are expected to arrive from Friday.
Abdul Aziz Al-Hazmi, deputy director general of Saudi Arabian Airlines who chairs the committee of airline representatives, said 50 carriers would be transporting pilgrims to Saudi Arabia and more than 20,000 coaches would be transporting them inside the country during the Haj season.
Saudia alone will fly about 500,000 foreign pilgrims from 42 embarkation points on special Haj flights and scheduled flights.
Airport sources said the United Agents Office (UAO), the official agency responsible for internal transport of pilgrims, would depoly about 8,000 workers at the Haj Terminal to serve the pilgrims.
The workers include 4,400 laborers who will load pilgrims’ luggage to the buses that take them to Makkah or Madinah from the airport.
They said other employees would help complete arrival procedures, resolve any problems pilgrims might face at the points of entry and guide them to government departments, banks, airline offices and other services.
The UAO said it would explain to pilgrims their rights and duties and provide them with pamphlets indicating the services to which they were entitled and useful addresses and contact numbers.
The office said in view of the large number of pilgrims arriving via KAIA, it has assigned special gathering points for each flight to make it easier to direct pilgrims to their buses waiting outside the terminal.
The office, under the supervision of the Haj Ministry, annually serves more than 2 million pilgrims. It has branch offices established at all other air, land and sea inlets.
There are 16 points consisting of three air, 11 land and two sea inlets (Jeddah Islamic Port and Yanbu Seaport).
JEDDAH – The Unified Agents Office, a Tawafa institutions working under the supervision of the Ministry of Haj, said it has 4,000 jobs for Saudi youths in different sectors – administrative, field, bill collection, accounting, transport, reception, guidance, auditing and follow-up.
Dr. Abdul Ilah Bin Muhammad Jada’, member of the Board of Directors and Supervisor of Public Relations and Information, said that besides launching the seminar’s program, job applicants were acquainted with the nature of jobs, so as to help them gain the required skills and raise their level of competence in serving the pilgrims at the country’s entry points.
Jada’ said the Unified Agents Office serves pilgrims by facilitating entry procedures at Saudi borders in coordination with concerned authorities.
This is apart from welcoming, helping, guiding and enlightening the pilgrims; providing care for people with special needs; and collecting fees for Tawafa establishments, tents at the holy sites, pilgrims’ transportation, safekeeping of passports and their baggage.
Jada’ said that like every year, even this year the Unified Agents Office will seek help from only Saudi youth. He added that this year’s Haj operation plan will be more realistic and ambitious after detecting some negative aspects during the past years.
This is besides developing several administrations and departments, so as to achieve high quality services for the pilgrims.
Two Muslim pilgrims pray as tens of thousands of Muslim pilgrims move around the Kaaba, the black cube seen at centre, inside the Grand Mosque, during the annual Hajj Mecca, Saudi Arabia.
September 27 2011
MORE than 5 000 South African Muslims have been denied permission to visit Saudi Arabia next week to perform their compulsory Hajj pilgrimage. Local travel agents say they have lost millions of rand.
Shaheen Essop, secretary-general of the South African Hajj and Umrah Council (Sahuc), said 8000 South Africans had applied to go on the holy pilgrimage this year, 79% of whom were first-time applicants. Only 3000 were allowed to go. “The whole Hajj industry in South Africa is in turmoil,” said Essop.
The Hajj is a religious journey to Mecca. With three million visitors, it is the largest pilgrimage in the world and a religious duty that must be carried out at least once by every able-bodied Muslim who can afford to do so.
Essop said the quota was based on how many Muslims the Saudi government believed were in South Africa, which was 2.5 million.
But these figures were believed to be based on the 2001 census, he said.
“Census 2011 may help to correct these figures if the question of religious following is asked.”
Flywell travel agency owner Abu-baker Ahmed said his company has lost more than R15m.
“From an agent’s point of view it’s frustrating. We budgeted on 800 people and accommodation is prepaid 18 months in advance. Now we don’t even have 200 places,” he said.
“The Saudis must increase our quota. I agree with quotas. The holy cities of Mecca and Medina do not have limitless space and there is a lack of infrastructure for everybody to come at once.”
The pilgrimage has experienced safety issues such as stampedes because of uncontrollable volumes.
Ahmed said the government did not get involved in religious matters, but he believed the Department of Foreign Affairs had the negotiating power to secure more places.
Mohammed Waza, 33, of Mpumalanga was one hopeful pilgrim.
He will reapply next year.
Johannesburg resident Afzal Moola shares the disappointment.
“I am 42 years old and wanted to go with my wife.”
He paid a deposit of R40 000, which he has yet to recover. He has high blood pressure and wants to go now, “while I still can”.
PATNA: The Haj pilgrims this time will have to spend less compared to the previous year, thanks to the fall of the value of Saudi Riyal. The expenditure, particularly on boarding and lodging in the holy cities of Mecca and Medina, during the 40-day Haj rituals will be less than what had been estimated.
Still, the number of pilgrims from Bihar could not exceed 5,200 this year, as against the official quota of 10,000. The departure of pilgrims will start from here on September 29. "Everyday two flights will take the pilgrims from here to Delhi and they will be ferried to Jeddah the same evening," said Bihar Haj committee chairman Maulana Anisur Rahman Qasmi.
There are three categories for lodging facilities in Mecca and Medina: Azizia, white and green. While the total cost, including travel expenses, for each pilgrim opting for Azizia will be Rs 1.05 lakh, for white it will be Rs 1.15 lakh and for green it will be Rs 1.25 lakh.
RIYADH: Strained Saudi-Indonesian relations will not affect the ambitious Haj plan of the Indonesian government, which is preparing to send 211,000 pilgrims this year, said an Indonesian Embassy official in Riyadh on Monday.
Ties between the two countries have been affected by abuse cases victimizing Indonesian housemaids and a demand from Jakarta to implement tighter regulations when recruiting laborers from the country.
Hendrar Pramutyo, a citizen protection official at the Indonesian Embassy, said the Saudi side was extending "all support to the Indonesian government and pilgrims."
Pramutyo, who spoke about ongoing bilateral negotiations on labor issues with special reference to Haj, said: "The two countries were discussing a range of issues to boost cooperation in the manpower sector."
He said some progress had been made especially after the visit of a presidential task force to Saudi Arabia recently. “But, we are working to set up a mechanism in which full protection to our workers can be guaranteed," he added.
Jakarta is also under pressure to hold fruitful negotiations with Riyadh in order to resume the recruitment of women workers after reports that Indonesia would lose about SR1.3 billion annually because of the moratorium on labor exports to the Kingdom that became effective from Aug. 1 this year, said a report published in Indonesian English daily The Jakarta Post recently.
The potential losses each year are expected to amount to around 5 percent of the total amount remitted by Indonesian expats, it said.
Referring to the negotiations between Indonesia and Saudi Arabia, Pramutyo said "there was no breakthrough as yet, but we have not given up hope."
He also pointed out that the Indonesian diplomatic missions in Riyadh and Jeddah had been trying to save around 40 Indonesian workers, mainly housemaids, who are on death row in Saudi Arabia.
"We are closely working with Saudi government agencies on the death row cases," said Pramutyo, while also referring to two maids who were pardoned and successfully repatriated.
He said that Garuda Indonesia and Saudi Arabian Airlines would carry Indonesian pilgrims this year. National flag carrier Garuda will operate 14 wide-bodied aircraft to fly pilgrims from Oct. 2, it said in a press statement. The number of Indonesian pilgrims allowed by the Saudi government is reportedly 211,000.
Since last year, the Indonesian government offered private airlines to transport pilgrims. However, Lion Air and Batavia Air, which wanted to bid for the tender this year, could not fulfill the government’s stringent requirements.
King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz's announcement that women are theoretically to be given the same opportunities for political participation as men is potentially the most important advance for Saudi women's rights in decades, and underscores the king's reformist stature.
The new opportunities offered by the king seem groundbreaking. But, some observers say, in practice they may be limited by restrictions imposed by the Saudi interpretation of Islamic law.
Those restrictions include the guardianship system under which women need permission from a male relative to participate in public life.
Still, the royal declaration made in a speech before the Shura Council, an advisory body of appointed members, was hailed as historic by many Saudis, both male and female.
"I haven't been able to take my breath," said Hatoon al-Fassi, a university professor and women's rights activist in Riyadh.
"We're so excited. We believe it's the response to our demands, the first step in our long struggle to get our rights."
"I'm very happy about it," said Mohammed al-Zulfa, a former member of the Shura, who has long sought greater freedoms for Saudi women.
"The king knows what the silent majority thinks and today he told them: 'I know what you are thinking and I'm saying it now.'"
King Abdullah's reformist stance, especially in regard to women's rights, has been evident since he ascended the throne in 2005.
In his short speech on Sunday, interrupted by several standing ovations, he made this crystal-clear. Muslim women, he said, had given "opinions and advice since the era of Prophet Muhammad".
The king added: "Because we refuse to marginalise women in society in all roles that comply with sharia, we have decided, after deliberation with our senior clerics... to involve women in the Shura Council as members."
The king said women's participation in the council would begin in the next session, in about 18 months' time.
In addition, he said women would "have the right to nominate themselves" as candidates in elections for municipal councils and to vote in those elections when they are held in four years' time.
Women, however, will not be allowed to vote in the current municipal council elections, which start on Thursday and will be held over several days. More than 5,000 men are competing as candidates in that poll.
The delayed implementation of the royal decree is likely to dampen the initial enthusiasm and excitement of many women.
But current Shura member Osama al-Kurdi said: "You have to look at the positive side of things. Women have waited [for their rights] since the early 1960s when they first began being educated. Everyone is excited here at this big news and implementation is going to happen at the right moment."
Sociologist Khalid al-Dakhil praised the decisions as "good steps in the right direction".
But, Mr Dakhil added, the moves "don't live up to the expectations of people at this time" which aim to have the Shura become an elected body with powers similar to a parliament.
He said it is likely that ultra-conservatives "will be out of their minds" with anger at the king's announcement.
But, anticipating this, the king placed his decision squarely within sharia law and Islamic history. "He's doing this in accordance with real Islam, as we know it," said Mr Zulfa. "Real Islam is getting women's rights and being full members of society."
Undoubtedly, King Abdullah's decrees will be seen as a consequence of the pro-reform movement that has rumbled through the Arab world this year.
The uprisings in Egypt, Libya, Tunisia, Yemen, Syria and Bahrain have rattled Riyadh, which has sought to dampen discontent among its citizens by disbursing financial benefits.
However, a growing slice of Saudi society still wants political and economic reforms, especially an end to corruption. It is likely that the king had this slice in mind when he made his announcement on Sunday.
It is also possible that the recently launched grassroots campaign to have the ban on women drivers lifted may have encouraged the king.
That campaign, which began in June, is continuing as individual women take to the wheel to do errands.
One of the campaign's supporters, Khulood al-Fahad, 33, a businesswoman and women's rights activist in the Eastern Province, says the king's speech caught women off-guard.
"We are all surprised by this today because we are waiting for the right to drive a car," she said. "We didn't expect this."
Ms Fahad says the royal decree only brings closer the day when Saudi women will be able to drive, because it makes the ban even more untenable.
A Saudi woman, she observes, will soon be able to sit in the Shura, "but she can't drive her car?" However a royal decision on that, Ms Fahad believes, "will not take more than a year" to emerge.
Caryle Murphy is a fellow at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, DC. She worked in Saudi Arabia as a freelance journalist in 2008-2011.
MAKKAH: The first group of pilgrims for the upcoming Haj arrived at King Abdulaziz International Airport (KAIA) in Jeddah early Wednesday. The group consisted of 184 South Africans.
Supervisor of the reception committee of the Tawafa Establishment for Non-Arab African Pilgrims Hani bin Hashim Nasser welcomed the pilgrims at the airport, provided them with hospitality meals and drinks and wished them a happy stay in the Kingdom.
Nasser said another 163 pilgrims would be coming from South Africa Thursday, while a group of 38 pilgrims from the country would be arriving the same day at Prince Muhammad bin Abdulaziz International Airport in Madinah.
Meanwhile, chairman of the establishment Abdul Wahid bin Burhan Seifuddin said all arrangements were completed to receive pilgrims and enable them to perform the fifth pillar of Islam in ease and comfort. "The establishment has deployed all its human and material resources to serve the guests of God," he added.
Seifuddin said field service groups were formed to extend all facilities to the pilgrims and enable them to perform the Haj rites in peace and security.
He said the establishment's reception office at the airport was manned by capable human cadres and supplied with computers and scanners to help expedite passport procedures.
The chairman said the South African pilgrims were transported to office No. 27 of the establishment in Makkah where they were welcomed by the office head Mutawif Tariq Qattan. He said the pilgrims were taken to their accommodation and from there to the Grand Mosque where they performed Umrah at the start of their Haj rituals.
Seifuddin said receptionists working for the establishment were rigorously trained on passport procedures to help process pilgrims quickly. He said the airport reception office is working round-the-clock over three shifts of 15 staff each.
Pilgrims from India and Bangladesh are expected to arrive in the Kingdom on Thursday, diplomatic sources said on Wednesday.
About 3,000 Indian pilgrims will arrive in Jeddah and Madinah on Thursday aboard 11 chartered flights operated by Saudi Arabian Airlines and Nas Air, India's Jeddah-based Haj Consul M.S. Mubarak told Arab News. Ambassador Hamid Ali Rao will receive the pilgrims arriving at the Haj Terminal in Jeddah on Thursday.
More than 170,000 Indians are expected to take part in the upcoming pilgrimage.
Bangladesh Ambassador Mohamed Shahidul Islam will receive the first group of pilgrims from his country at the Haj Terminal Thursday afternoon. He said more than 107,000 Bangladeshis will perform Haj this time.
Mohamed Tarek, press consul of Pakistan, said 205 Pakistani pilgrims will arrive in Jeddah on Friday. Ambassador Naeem Khan will receive the maiden group arriving from Quetta, the capital to Balochistan province. A total of 180,000 Pakistanis are expected to perform Haj this year.
The first group of 420 Sri Lankan pilgrims will arrive in Jeddah by a special Saudi Arabian Airlines flight from Colombo on Oct. 6. According to Sri Lankan Consul General in Jeddah Adam Bawa Uthumalebbe, the island nation will send around 3,800 pilgrims for Haj this year.
The king of Saudi Arabia will proceed with the £13bn expansion project in Mecca.
Wednesday 28 September 2011
The king of Saudi Arabia has said it is his religious duty to expend "whateverwealth and effort" were necessary to improve facilities for Muslims going on the Islamic pilgrimage, despite growing concerns about the scale of development in Mecca.
King Abdullah,who also bearsthetitle of custodian of thetwo holy mosques,told the MajlisAl-Shura,or cabinetsession, at the Al-Yamamah Palace in Riyadh this week that Allahhad blessed Saudi Arabia with the holy cities of Mecca and Medina and that this generosity was "a duty, prestige, an honour and a prerequisite this country and its leadership"should abide by.
Some organisations, such as the Islamic Heritage Research Foundation, have repeatedly expressed alarm over the destruction of historic sites to make way for skyscraper hotels and shopping malls.
Although Saudi authorities have never directly addressed these concerns, the king's comments make it clear that the ambitious $21bn (£13bn) expansion programme – the largest in Mecca's history – will proceed regardless.
He said: "We are proceeding on the kingdom's religious responsibility; subsequently, we have laid down the foundation stone for expanding the Grand Mosque [and]inaugurated a number of improvement projects in the Two Holy Mosques. That also is only a duty we owe to Allah."
Last month the king attended a stone-laying ceremony for the construction project, which covers 400,000 square metres and will accommodate an additional 1.2 million people.
Pilgrims who fail to secure a spot in the Grand Mosque or in its immediate courtyard worship in the streets and tunnels leading up to it, especially on a Friday when pilgrimswill arrivein the early hours to ensure a place for the afternoon prayer.
Currently the maximum numbers performing the Hajj hover around the 4 million mark, with millionsmore visiting Mecca throughout the year.
The restricted capacity of Mecca means that the majority of the world's Muslims will never be able to perform the Hajj.
The first Turkish group of pilgrims,numbering 2,422 people, set out for Mecca in Saudi Arabia on Thursday for the annual Islamic pilgrimage.
The pilgrims' friends and familiessaw them offatairports,and farewell ceremonies were organized for them. At Ankara' Esenboğa Airport, the ceremony began with a Quran reading, after which the deputy director of the Religious Affairs Directorate, Ekrem Keleş, addressed a group of 700 people who were leaving for Mecca. In his speech Keleşhighlighted thatthisisnot an ordinary journey, but a journey to the center of the universe, from which the pilgrims will return without sin.
The deputy director of the General Directorate for Hajj and Umrah Services, Ergun Yücel, stated that 286 groups will make the hajj this year under the auspices of the Religious Affairs Directorate, and another 145 groups will set out on privatetours.
Pilgrims will continue to leave for the hajj until Oct. 31. The period for their return starts on Nov. 11 and ends on Dec. 10.
Pakistan: PIA Hajj flights operation to kick off from 30th
29 September 2011
KARACHI: Pakistan International Airline(PIA)hasfinalised arrangements for carrying over 109,000 Hajj pilgrims to Saudi Arabia from seven major cities of Pakistan.
The PK 1901 is expected to depart at 6:30 PM of Pre-Hajj airline operations will begin Quetta on September 30, 2011 and the intending Hajjis will beseen offby Managing DirectorPIA,Nadeem Khan Yousufzai,thespokesman said on Wednesday.
The first flightfrom Islamabad PK 1401is expected to leave Benazir Bhutto International Airport early morning 1:00 AM on October 1, from Karachi PK 1701 at 1:50 AM and Lahore PK 1201 at 2:20 PM on the same day.
These inaugural flightsfrom the major cities will carry a total of 1,737 intending pilgrims to Jeddah. The Pre-Hajj flights from Sialkot and Multan will commence from October 9 and October 13, 2011 respectively.
The Pre-Hajj operation will becompleted on October 31, 2011 through 305 flightsto Jeddah carrying over 109,000 intending pilgrims. PIA will undertake 10 flightsdaily.PIAwill operate 78 Pre-Hajj flights from Quetta carrying 15,190 intending pilgrims, 66 flights from Peshawar carrying 19,100 intending pilgrims, 46 flights each from Islamabad and Lahore will carry about 21,810 intending pilgrims respectively. PIA will operate38flightsfrom Karachi carrying 16,722 intending pilgrims. While,from Sialkot and Multan PIA will operate 7 and 24 flightscarrying over 3,320 from Sialkot and over 11,378 intending pilgrims from Multan. A total of 07 aircrafts will beutilised fortheHajj operations, which include 3 Boeing 747s, 2 Airbus A310s and 2 Boeing 777s while 2 Boeing 747 aircraft are being kept as a standbyto immediately replace an operational aircraft if it develops fault.
PIA spokesman said that keeping in mind maximum comfort to intending pilgrims, an integrated Hajj operation has been chalked out in close coordination with Saudi Agencies such as General Authority of CivilAviation (GACA),KingAbdul Aziz International Airport (KAIA),Ports ProjectsManagement and Development Company (PPMDC), General Intelligence Department (GID) etc as well as Pakistaniauthoritiessuch as CAA,ASF, ANF, Customs, Immigration etc.
The spokesman said PIA along with other stakeholders carried out numerous brain storming sessions and has made travelling arrangements to better facilitate the intending Hajj pilgrims from Pakistan. The waiting time for the pilgrims before commencement of their journey has been reduced to half by eliminating processing at Hajji camps, from 16 hours to 8 hours and processing of travel documents would be done only once at the airports of Karachi, Lahore, Islamabad, Peshawar, Sialkot and Quetta. Only at Multan, due to shortage of space as construction work is ongoing at the airport; the Hajjis will haveto reach theHajji Camp where the check-in and baggage acceptance will bedonewhiletheremaining processing of their documents will be at Multan Airport.
PIA has prepared an information CD for the Hajjis in which PIA policies, correct filing of travel papers and clearance from immigration have been explained. The CD also explains the intending pilgrims of the articles they may be allowed to carry in their hand baggage.
PIA’s post Hajj operation will commence from November 10, 2011 and conclude on December 10, 2011. PIA spokesman concluded. staff report