MADINA - Brig. Samir Al-Asadi,DirectorGeneral of Road Security, said Thursday that his administration in cooperation with the responsible authoritieshasadopteda plan to setup flood sheltersforpilgrimsalong highways parallel to valleys.
The shelters will beused to accommodatepilgrimsin case the security authoritiesreceivereports from the Presidency of Meteorology and Environment (PME) about the possibility of a heavydownpourof rain and flash floods.
The Ministry of Haj has also tasked a team to follow up weather forecast reports so as to alert pilgrim bus drivers about the possibility of heavy rainfall and floods.
Al-Asadi said that field teams comprising representatives from the Ministry of Haj and Cars General Syndicate in Madina have been assigned to examine the tires of buses transporting pilgrims.
The teams have succeeded in discovering worn-out tires on eight buses allotted for the transportation of pilgrims.Transportation companies have been asked to replace the worn-out tires.
He also said that several accidents involving pilgrims' buses have been reported, most of which were caused by faultyor worn-out tires.
Dr. Fuad Bin Abdulsalam Al-Farsy, Minister of Haj, has instructed the authoritiesconcerned to investigatethecausesof thetrafficaccidents, especially the accident which resulted in the injury of 24 pilgrims who were on their way to Madina from Jeddah.
Al-Asadi said the teams tasked with examining bus tires check the manufacturing date of the tires, and if they find that the tires are old or worn-out, they report the matter to the authorities concerned.
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Taif to have modern airport to serve millions of Haj pilgrims
21 October 2011
TAIF - New planshavebeenannounced for the massive development of the city of Taif. Among the projects is a modern airport that will serve millions of Haj pilgrims and boost tourism in the region.
"The Higher Panel for the Development of Taif has taken expert advice for the development of Taif,"said the Emir of Makkah region Prince Khaled Al-Faisal, chairing a meeting. The panel has tasked the Ministry of Municipaland Rural Affairs under the Mayoralty of Taif to oversee the project.
"The executivecommittee will select a company to lay out a program for the gigantic infrastructural project and members of the higher panel will implement the plan very soon," said the Emir.
Prince Khaled examined a model of Al-Worood City, which is spread over an area of nine million squaremetersin north Taif.
He directed the authorities to finalize the project's licenses and to start construction work as soon as possible.
The Minister of Municipal and Rural Affairs, Prince Mansour Bin Mit'eb Bin Abdul Aziz, signed a contract with a specialized company to carry out a study on the development of Shafa and Al-Hada.
MULTAN, Pakistan - A Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) jet bound for Saudi Arabia with 508 people on board was forced to abort takeoff Thursday when fumes engulfed a terrified cabin, officials and passengers said.
The Boeing 747 on flightPK 3539carrying mostly pilgrims to Jeddah taxied toward the runway in the southern city of Multan despite concerns from passengers on board.
"When we boarded the plane, we noticed a strange smell and smoke inside. We complained to the crew but they ignored it and told us it was because of roasted meals," Shamshad Begum, a female passenger, said.
"The planewent fortakeoffbut stopped minuteslater when passengers protested strongly and there was chaos," she said.
PIA spokesman Sultan Hassan said there were 493 pilgrims bound for Makkah and Madina and 15 crew on board when takeoff was scrapped. "The hydraulic system of theplanefailed just before take-off and its fumes came inside the cabin. We off-loaded the passengers and sent them on another plane," Hassan said.
Local media has been rife with horror stories of technical faults and chronic delays blighting the ailing national carrier in recent weeks.
Last month, bomb alerts forced two PIA planes to land at Istanbul's Ataturk Airport and in Kuala Lumpur, but no bombs were found.
PIA operates special flightsevery year to transport thousands of pilgrims to Makkah and Madina for the Haj. This year, the company has dedicated seven jets to transporting passengers to Saudi Arabia.
The airline, which has been on the verge of bankruptcy, provides the only direct servicesfrom Pakistan to Britain, Europe and North America.
MAKKAH - The Ministry of Municipal and Rural Affairs has announced plans to create thousands of jobs for Saudis in the Mashair train project.
Prince Mansour Bin Mit'eb Bin Abdul Aziz, the Minister of Municipaland Rural Affairs, said there will be a variety of different jobs including some for Saudi engineers who specialize in trains.
He made the announcement at the graduation ceremony of 4,000 Saudi youths who have been trained in crowd management and the transportation of pilgrims.
The Prince expressed "hishappiness over the great response by the youth to work in the Mashair train project".
The Mashair train will have the highest passenger capacity in the world. The train started operating last year at a rate of 35 percent and will be fully operational in this year's Haj. The express train has a high transportation potential, accommodating between 60,000-80,000 persons per hour compared to buses which carry only 10,000 persons an hour.
It is one of the most significant projects to be carried out in the service of pilgrims. The train has helped to massively reduce traffic of buses and vans used in transporting those performing Haj. In the past year, 1,200 Saudi youths received training for Mashair railway jobs, and it is hoped that Saudi youths will gradually take over all the jobs in its operation.
Prince Mansour expressed his appreciation for King Abdullah's concern for the Mashair railway project. The prince said that the King "has been devoting all his attention to the development projects in the holy sites and the two Holy Mosques to enable the guests of Allah to perform their rituals in ease and comfort."
Published: Oct 21, 2011 22:07 Updated: Oct 21, 2011 22:07
MAKKAH: Second Deputy Premier and Interior Minister Prince Naif has banned the use of liquefied gas for cooking at the holy sites during Haj for the second consecutive season.
"The ban on cooking gas is continuing because of its success in ending fire accidents during Haj in the past," Director General of Civil Defense Lt. Gen. Saad bin Abdullah Al-Tuwaijri said on Friday.
"There will be total coordination among all security departments to prevent any attempt to smuggle in cooking gas to the holy sites. A safety team from the Civil Defense will also make frequent inspections of pilgrim tents to ensure no gas cylinders or gas cookers are being used," Al-Tuwaijri said.
He added that the ban is applicable to all government buildings and offices at the holy sites without exception.
Penal measures against violators include fines and seizure of the appliances involved.
He also said the ban would not cause any inconvenience to pilgrims as a number of safe kitchens with access to all pilgrims are set up in the holy sites.
Signals alert worshippers about availability of space
By BADEA ABU AL-NAJA | ARAB NEWS
Published: Oct 21, 2011 22:07 Updated: Oct 21, 2011 22:07
MAKKAH: The 176 gates of the Grand Mosque will be able to tell worshippers if the mosque is full or not using a traffic light system, director of the department of doors at the Presidency of the Affairs of the Two Holy Mosques Talal bin Saleh Al-Thaqafi announced on Friday.
If there is space, a green light by the door will be lit but if there is none a red light will show. Al-Thaqafi said the arrangement was put in place to let pilgrims know if there was space for them inside the Haram or not so that they can pray outside in the plazas.
He said the gates, which will remain open around the clock, were being manned by 800 men and women guards.
Al-Thaqafi said 20 gates have been designated for people with special needs, including the King Abdul Aziz gate. "The Grand Mosque has been supplied with a number of escalators to ensure the easy movement of pilgrims coming in or going out of the mosque," he said.
He said guards at the gates would not allow entry of anything that might annoy pilgrims or impede their movement including baggage, food and drink.
Al-Thaqafi urged all worshippers to help ensure the cleanliness of the Grand Mosque and asked them to keep their valuables at special safes set up outside.
He also asked people coming to perform Umrah to avoid entering the mosque while worshippers were leaving after each prayer. "This will unnecessarily create congestion that could be avoided," he said.
Published: Oct 21, 2011 22:07 Updated: Oct 22, 2011 12:32
MAKKAH: The Ministry of Islamic Affairs, Endowments, Dawa and Guidance has deployed all its resources to provide services and facilities to enable pilgrims to perform the Haj rites in ease and comfort, according to a report issued by the ministry on Friday.
The report said as part of this year's Haj plan, the ministry supplied government departments in various areas in Makkah provinces with enough copies of the Holy Qur'an and large quantities of prayer rugs to distribute among the 9,255 mosques under its supervision in the province.
It said 16 maintenance teams were formed consisting of 46 technicians to repair sound systems and air-conditioning units in any of these mosques. It added that each team consists of an electrician, a welder and a technician specialized in air conditioning.
The ministry said it was giving special attention to mosques in the meeqat points where pilgrims change into their ihram (the cloth all Hajis must wear before performing the Haj rites). These include Yalamlam, Al-Johfa, Qarn Al-Manazil, Wadi Muharram, Al-Taneem and Al-Juaranah, as well as the mosques at the car parks where the entry points of Makkah are.
The ministry said it has prepared Makkah's 200 mosques for pilgrims to pray in when the Grand Mosque is full or they are unable to reach it.
The ministry said long before the Haj season started, maintenance teams carried out all required repairs in the mosques of Mina, Arafat and Muzdalifah.
It said it has appointed two imams and two muezzins for each of the four mosques in Mina, Arafat and Muzdalifah. These include the Al-Khaif and land pilgrims' mosques in Mina, Namirah mosque in Arafat and Al-Mashar Al-Haram mosque in Muzdalifah.
Published: Oct 21, 2011 22:08 Updated: Oct 21, 2011 22:08
MAKKAH: Pilgrims exchange between SR35 million and SR45 million every day in Makkah, Madinah and Jeddah during the Haj season, Makkah chief of exchequers Adel Maltani told Arab News' sister paper Al-Eqtisadiah on Friday.
He added by the end of the season a total of SR5 billion will have been exchanged. "This is 20 percent less than last year's Haj season," he said.
Maltani attributed the drop in the number of exchanges to the Arab Spring. "The number of pilgrims has dropped due to the ongoing political upheavals in a number of Arab countries," he explained.
Maltani noted that though pilgrims have assembled in the Kingdom for about a month now, exchange operations have not yet picked up.
He, however, hoped that large amounts of money would enter the Kingdom during this year's Haj season so that the exchange market would flourish.
Asked about the possibility some exchange offices might take advantage of the ignorance of some pilgrims and offer them uncompetitive rates, Maltani admitted that this trend existed about two years ago.
He said at that time authorities closed down a number of exchange offices, encouraging the establishment of illegal businesses run by foreigners who would not hesitate to cheat on pilgrims.
"I do not think that this phenomenon exists any more especially as there is now a large number of legitimate exchange offices," he said.
Maltani asked the Saudi Arabian Monetary Agency (SAMA) to allow the establishment of exchange offices in all regions. "The regulations do not permit this now," he noted.
SAMA has warned bank branches and exchange offices along the borders and at entry points to be watchful for forged currency. It said anyone caught exchanging forged currency would be imprisoned and fined.
Published: Oct 21, 2011 22:08 Updated: Oct 21, 2011 22:08
JEDDAH: More than 30 government and private departments have mobilized their resources to implement a campaign aimed at preventing anyone without a Haj permit from entering Makkah or the holy sites, Undersecretary of the Makkah Governorate Abdul Aziz Al-Khodairi announced Friday.
Khodairi, who is the chairman of the executive and preparatory Haj committees, said all ministries concerned and private sector establishments involved in the pilgrimage have geared up to provide consummate services and facilities that would enable the guests of God to perform the fifth pillar of Islam in ease and comfort.
The "Haj: Worship and Civilized Conduct" campaign was launched three years ago by Makkah Gov. Prince Khaled Al-Faisal in a bid to cut down the number of illegal pilgrims. Under the campaign, local pilgrims including Saudis will have to obtain special Haj permits in order to be allowed to proceed to Makkah.
Al-Khodairi said public and private establishments involved in Haj services have gained enough experience over the years, especially in the management of huge crowds. "Haj is a unique event which has no comparison in the world. More than 3 million people assemble in a small area at the same time to perform the Haj rites," he said.
He said the government and private Haj service establishments constantly endeavor to improve their performance year after year by avoiding the mistakes of previous years.
Al-Khodairi said a special security unit was established to prevent pilgrims without permits from entering Makkah and added that 400 security personnel would be watching around the clock all branch roads leading to Makkah and the holy sites.
The chairman said traffic police will not allow vehicles with less than 25-passenger capacity from entering Makkah and added that many checkpoints were established for the purpose.
He also said traffic police will not allow any vehicle to enter the central area around the Grand Mosque half an hour before and after each prayer.
Al-Khodairi said the Civil Defense would deploy 22,000 officers and soldiers using more than 5,900 pieces of equipment and 19 helicopters to deal instantly with any possible hazards including fires.
He asked local pilgrims to browse the Internet for names of Haj campaigns to join and revealed that the Haj Ministry will implement a low-cost Haj in partnership with 21 companies and establishments with prices ranging between SR1,900 and SR3,900.
Al-Khodairi said the Mashair train will transport about 500,000 pilgrims and added that tickets will be available from Tuesday.
He said the Ministry of Islamic Affairs, Endowments, Dawa and Guidance would employ more than 2,000 preachers and interpreters to guide pilgrims on the correct path to perform the rites. He added that the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice (Haia) will deploy 700 of its staff to do the same work.
Al-Khodairi said the Ministry of Health has completed all arrangements to serve pilgrims. He said more than 120,000 doctors, nurses and technicians from all parts of the Kingdom will be implementing the ministry's plan. According to him, the Saudi Red Crescent has provided five air rescue planes manned with 150 doctors, nurses, technicians and administrations to carry out rescue operations in Makkah and the holy sites. He said the Ministry of Education would provide more than 3,000 boy scouts to guide stray pilgrims.
Al-Khodairi said Saudi Arabian Airlines would operate 1,244 Haj flights to transport 356,556 pilgrims from abroad and 94 domestic flights for 27,122 local pilgrims.
Published: Oct 21, 2011 22:24 Updated: Oct 22, 2011 12:34
RIYADH: The Ministry of Health will start a phone-in service Saturday for Haj pilgrims to obtain health advice instantly.
The "Saha Ziyufur Ar Rahman" (Health for the Guests of Allah) service will be formally launched in the presence of the ministry's senior health officials at its call center in the capital.
"This is a program which we are conducting for the seventh consecutive year that has proven successful in the past," Health Ministry spokesman Dr. Khalid Al-Mirghalani told Arab News on Friday.
"The service is available on the toll-free number 8002494444 and will greet the caller with 'Allah Humma Labaik' before diverting him or her to a medical officer."
The Arabic-language service is open to the public from 8 a.m. to 2.30 p.m. until Dul Hijjah 8 (Nov. 4), Al-Mirghalani noted, adding that it is a toll-free line open 24 hours, but officials will be available during the day only.
The spokesman explained that callers can leave their questions and their contact numbers during out-of-office hours and the ministry will get back to them the following day.
"We have a team of experts who will give instant replies to callers seeking medical advice during their pilgrimage." The medical team comprises consultants, cardiologists, medical specialists, pharmacists and dentists. The program is handled by a group of Saudi women who work in the ministry and its city hospitals here.
"We assure all callers strict confidentiality of the information they provide," he said, adding that men suffering from chronic ailments such as diabetes and hypertension are free to ask questions about their dose of medicines and how they should store their insulin during the pilgrimage, while women could inquire about vaccines and matters concerning their menstrual cycle and how to manage it during Haj.
In the past the spokesman said most of the calls focused on diabetes, hypertension, renal and cardiac diseases, which are categorized as noncommunicable.
This year, he added, the ministry is concentrating on educating the pilgrims on personal hygiene, drinking bottled water and requesting them to keep away from the sun at noon to avoid sunstroke.
He added that ministry officials would also distribute to each family a packet of literature and brochures about personal hygiene to advise pilgrims on the precautionary measures to be taken during their stay in the holy cities. He said the ministry is making every effort to provide a safe and secure Haj for pilgrims.
"The ministry is carefully implementing a series of health education programs among pilgrims to prevent the spread of infectious diseases at the holy sites," the spokesman said.
Medical professionals participating in the program include family and community medicine advisers Dr. Munira Bazara and Dr. Anwar Faqiha, gynecologist Dr. Nasser Al-Dosary, nutritionist Amal Kinano, cardiologists Dr. Nazreen Sherbini and Dr. Mujeeb Abdullah and diabetes specialist Dr. Fakiha Sherbini.
JEDDAH - To prevent overstaying in the Kingdom, airlines will have to provide financial guarantees that they will transport Haj pilgrims to their home countries by Muharram 15, 1433H (approximately Dec. 10, 2011), Dr. Fuad Bin Abdulsalam Al-Farsy, Minister of Haj, told Okaz/Saudi Gazette Thursday.
He said this measure will be implemented by the General Authority of Civil Aviation (GACA) because it is the body responsible for air transport. The measure was recommended by committees consisting of several authorities, including the Ministry of Haj.
Speaking at the sixth workshop held to organize and manage stoning of the Jamarat this Haj, Al-Farsy said his ministry has made all the necessary preparations for pilgrims to perform Haj from countries undergoing political upheavals and changes in their regulations. Pilgrims from these countries, which include Egypt and Tunisia, have already arrived in the Kingdom. In addition, a memorandum has been signed for the passage of Libyan pilgrims.
The minister said 1.8 million pilgrims are expected to come for Haj this year.
Al-Farsy urged domestic pilgrim companies to set aside a percentage of their allocation for the Facilitated Haj (Al-Haj Al-Muyassar) Program, launched by the ministry two years ago. The program is being monitored by Prince Khaled Al-Faisal, Emir of Makkah region.
Meanwhile, Dr. Habib Bin Zain Al-Abideen, Undersecretary of the Ministry of Municipal and Rural Affairs for Development, said there are plans to set up toilets and service centers in the towers of the Jamarat Bridge for emergency cases.
Maj. Gen. Muhammad Al-Qarni, Commander of the Civil Defense forces in Haj, presented a working paper highlighting the plans and programs approved by the Directorate of Civil Defense for the Haj season. The emergency forces presented a working paper on plans for crowd management at the Jamarat Bridge and other emergencies.
Participants at the workshop included Public Security, Traffic Department, Presidency of Meteorology and Environment, Ministry of Transport, Makkah Mayoralty, Zamazima Office, United Agencies Office, General Cars Syndicate, Domestic Pilgrims' Tawafa Establishment, and Tawafa establishments for pilgrims from Southeast Asia, Africa, Arab countries, Europe and America.
MAKKAH - Over 180,000 Haj permits will be issued to local pilgrims from Saturday, said Saad Jameel Al-Qurashi, Chairman of the National Committee for Haj and Umrah.
He said local transportation has been solved for pilgrims at the holy sites starting from Friday. "A total of 1,600 buses are scheduled to enter the holy sites. Of these, 1,000 buses are from Turkey, 250 from Lebanon and the rest from Egypt," he was quoted as saying in Al-Madina Arabic daily newspaper.
He said about 18,000 pilgrims will perform Haj at the expense of businessmen and charities. Al-Mashair Train tickets will be distributed from next Tuesday to Haj companies and establishments, but only after these firms send certified bank checks, said Al-Qurashi.
He said 20 companies providing low-cost Haj packages - between SR1,900 and SR3,900 - have stopped accepting applications from pilgrims. These companies will provide food and housing to this group of pilgrims for a period of four days starting from Al-Tarwiyah Day and their move to Arafat, Muzdalifa and then Mina to stone the Jamarat.
He said local expatriate pilgrims who intend to perform Haj must get the consent of their employers otherwise they will not get Haj permits.
500 security women hired to help pilgrims during Haj
19 October 2011
Riyadh: Some 500 securitywomen have been hired to help women pilgrimsand prevent crimes such as pickpocketing and theft atwomen's prayer areas during the current Haj season.
Speaking to reporters on Tuesday, Maj. Gen. Nasir Al Arfaj, commanderof HajSecurityForces, said that their duties also include serving women at the Haram Mosque in Makkah, the Prophet's Mosque in Madinah as well as at the holy sites of Mina, Arafat and Muzdalifa, besides guiding them, especially those who stranded and lost their way.
"Some would also be deployed at the entry points to Makkah to help the passport officials to accelerate the travel and security procedures," he said, adding that the securitywomen would also closely monitor the situation to prevent any thefts and begging.
On Monday,a mock drillwasheld attheHaram Mosque as part of the elaborate security arrangements. Senior commanders were present at the drill aimed to ensure the preparedness of the Special Haj Emergency forces to prevent any possible terrorist threat as well as to ensure the safety and security of pilgrims.
The drill attains special significance in the wake of deteriorating bilateral relationsbetween Saudi Arabia and Iran following the latter's plot to assassinate Saudi ambassador to the US. In the past, Iranian pilgrimshad created headache for Saudi security forces when they tried to politicise the annual gathering by staging anti-US and Israeli protests during Haj.
In the drill,a numberof people organised a sit-in the area between the Hajar Al Aswad (Black Stone) and Rukn Al Yamani in the Mataf (area for circumambulation)) while pilgrimswere performing tawaf around the Holy Kaaba. The emergency forces were able to end the sit-in in a record time without hurting any of the pilgrims inside the mosque.
During the exercise, emergency forces were asked to use machine guns and fire live ammunition at certain targets, which they achieved with accuracy.
In another scenario, a force was asked to storm a building where a number of "terrorists" were hiding. Using megaphones, the officers asked them to surrender but they refused and started firing. After an exchangeof fire,thebuilding was destroyed and the "terrorists" were forced to surrender.
Commander of the special emergency forces Maj. Gen. Ali Al Ghamdi, Director of Makkah Police Maj. Gen. Ebrahim Al Hamza and Commander of the Haj security forces Brig. Khaled Qirar were among the officials attended the drill. They praised the outstanding work of the emergency forces and their well-preparedness in preventing any untoward incident during the annual Haj, which is due in the first week of November.
Meanwhile, Col. Abdullah Al Hamrani, spokesman of the Border Guards in the southern Asir Region, said that his forces have foiled recently a number of smuggling attemptsacrosstheborder with Yemen. "A total of 1,864 infiltrators have been arrested. The seized items included four AK 47 rifles, 68 revolvers, 26 guns and 10932 Kalashnikov bullets," he said.
Bracelet is an important sign that must be worn all prospective Hajj pilgrims from Indonesia. 22 October, 2011
Bracelet is useful as a marker if the lost pilgrims in Mecca or Medina, Saudi Arabia. Thecommitteewill beeasyto recognizeand returnof pilgrims to the lodge because of the bracelet there is identity of name, kloter, and the owner of the passport number.
Head of PublicRelationsof theMinistryof ReligiousAffairsin EastJava,FatchulArif,said thebracelets are also able to facilitate the pilgrims when worship in the Holy Land. The reason they do not need to carry a passport when traveling that is feared could be lost.
The bracelets are made by artisans from monel Jepara, Central Java.Butthey do itatSurabaya Hajj Sukolilo. This year PPIH embarkation Surabaya provide as many as 40,667 bracelet for 91 kloter.
Meanwhile, according to crafters bracelet monel, Muhammad Badri, the day it was completed 900 to 1600 bracelets. Process of the bracelet has been started since a month ago.
Making the pilgrimage marker bands using monel or white metal materials imported directly from factories in the Holy monel, Central Java.
Any embarkation got bracelets pilgrim markerswith differentcolors, code embarkation, kloter, passport number, and the eagle emblem. For pilgrims who were in embarkation Surabaya, brownbracelet with embarkation code SUB.