Saudi tourism authorities to develop historic mountains of Mecca
Friday, 8 December 2017
The Saudi Commission for Tourism and National Heritage (SCTH) has reiterated its plans to rehabilitate the historical mountains of Makkah to woo pilgrims from different parts of the Islamic world to visit the sites.
Jabal Al-Noor, where the first verses of the Holy Qur’an were revealed, is among the few sites in Makkah still preserved from the Prophet’s time though it does not hold any importance in the religious rites of the obligatory pilgrimage.
In addition to this revered mountain, the Kingdom’s tourism authority has promised to develop three historic sites in the holy city, including Jabal Ghar Thawr, where the Prophet and his companion Abu Bakr hid from the enemies during their migration to Madinah.
The other two sites are Hudaybiyyah, where Muhammad (PBUH) signed a 10-year truce with the pagans of Makkah, and the path which the Prophet and his companion took for their historic flight from Makkah to Madinah, which came to be known as the Hijrah of the Prophet (peace be upon him).
Pilgrims form the bulk of Saudi Arabia’s 20 million annual foreign visitors, apart from workers and business travelers. Nearly 2.4 million came for last Haj, up from 1.9 million the previous year, and 7.5 million performed the lesser pilgrimage of Umrah in 2016.
Saudi Arabia plans to increase the number of Umrah and Haj pilgrims to 15 million and 5 million respectively by 2020, and hope to double the Umrah number again to 30 million by 2030.
An informed SCTH source disclosed the commission’s plan to establish a project to develop Jabal Noor and Jabal Thawr into tourist sites. Currently, illegal foreign workers are the ones who extend various serivices to the large numbers of pilgrims who visit the historic mountains.
Residents living in the area have urged the commission to carry out a number of projects to facilitate visits to the sites and to rid the place of illegal foreign workers.
“We’ll establish buildings in the foot of the two mountains. We’ll also set up a small exhibition center to display antiquities in Makkah. This project will be implemented shortly,” the SCTH source told Okaz/Saudi Gazette.
Nasser Abdul Rahman, a Saudi who lives in the neighborhood of Ghar Thawr, said more than 10 Asian workers live on the mountain. “These Asians use mules to carry foodstuffs to the mountain and sell them at high prices to visitors to the cave,” Abdul Rahman said while speaking to Okaz/Saudi Gazette.
An electric generator lights the top of the mountain where these illegal migrants have set up shops. “These illegal workers occupy this mountain evading security officers and municipality inspectors,” Abdul Rahman said while urging the SCTH to develop the area for the benefit of visitors.
He said illegal foreign workers also control the road leading to the Thawr Cave and neighboring areas. “They don’t speak Arabic and whenever they see a stranger, they will go up the mountain to hide.”
Ahmed Al-Saeedi, another resident, stressed the need to develop Jabal Thawr and neighboring areas by the commission to prevent illegal foreign workers from using it as a hideout. “The absence of SCTH from the scene has given illegal expats an opportunity to take control of the historic place,” he added.
Dr. Fawaz Al-Dahhas, professor of Islamic history at Umm Al-Qura University, said Jabal Al-Thawr has an important place in the history of Islam. "The Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon, stayed inside the Thawr Cave for three nights hiding from the Quraish of Makkah during his migration to Madinah. He and his companion Abu Bakr, may Allah be pleased with him, left the cave only after receiving information that the Quraish had abandoned their intense search to capture the Prophet,” he explained.
The Holy Qur’an refers to this incident in Verse 40 of Chapter 9, Tawbah (Repentance): “If you do not aid the Prophet -- Allah has already aided him when those who disbelieved had driven him out [of Makkah] as one of two, when they were in the cave and he said to his companion, ‘Do not grieve; indeed Allah is with us’."
The books of Traditions by Bukhari and Muslim cite Abu Bakr voicing his concern about the safety of the Prophet when the agents of the Quraish pursuing them reached the mouth of the cave. Abu Bakr said of the grave threat, "If any one of them bent down and looked, he would see us." The Prophet reassured him calmly: "Oh, Abu Bakr, of what do you worry about two (persons) when God is the Third (in their company)."
"And Allah sent down His tranquility upon him (the Prophet) and supported him with angels you did not see and made the word of those who disbelieved the lowest, while the word of Allah -- that is the highest. And Allah is Exalted in Might and Wise.” (Qur’an 9: 40)
The Thawr Cave is about 4 km south of the Grand Mosque. Nearly 750 meters above sea level, the cave is a hollow rock with two entrances and a height of 1.25 meters.
“This mountain has gained historical importance as the place from where the Prophet set off his historic journey to Madinah,” Al-Dahhas told Okaz/Saudi Gazette.
“We need a culture of tourism in order to have a keen interest and understanding toward historical places. We have to preserve them for coming generations. They represent part of the Kingdom’s rich heritage,” he added.
Hani Al-Harbi, a tour guide, urged the authorities to identify all historical sites in Makkah and neighboring areas and develop them with the support of private companies. He also proposed the establishment of a cable car system between Jabal Al-Noor and Jabal Al-Thawr to facilitate visits by pilgrims.
Four British people have died and 12 others have been hurt in a coach crash in Saudi Arabia, a travel firm says.
Those killed were from Blackburn and Preston, in Lancashire, travelling from Mecca on an Umra pilgrimage.
Blackburn-based Hashim Travel said that the coach was hit by a fuel tanker which then caught fire and set the bus alight on Saturday.
The Foreign Office says it is aware British nationals have been killed in an accident in Saudi Arabia.
The travel firm said relatives of those who have died - a man, a woman and a mother and son - had been informed.
It is understood that a young child is among the injured.
The crash happened near the start of their five-hour road trip from Mecca to Medina, near the town of Al Khalas.
The group were travelling as part of an Umra pilgrimage.
Hashim Travel says it specialises in Umra and Hajj and has been providing travel packages to people in north-west England for 15 years.
Passengers on the bus were from Accrington, Preston, Birmingham, Wolverhampton, Northampton and Blackburn.
"We are supporting the British families of those who have died and those injured following a serious road traffic accident near the town of Al Khalas, Saudi Arabia," a Foreign Office spokesperson said.
Ramadan Sight Ramadan crescent on Tuesday (For Saudi Arabia Only)
Monday May 14, 2018 / 28 Sha'ban 1439
Riyadh — The Supreme Court has called on all Muslims throughout the Kingdom to sight the crescent of the holy month of Ramadan on Tuesday evening (Shaban 29 corresponding to May 15).
In its announcement, the Supreme Court called on whoever sights the crescent by naked eyes or through binoculars to report to the nearest court and register his testimony or report to the authority of the region’s center in his area where he sighted the crescent.
Mataf to be reserved for Umrah pilgrims during Ramadan
Makkah — The Mataf (the circumambulation area around the Kaaba) area will be reserved for Umrah pilgrims during the holy month of Ramadan, according to the directives of Makkah Emir Prince Khaled Al-Faisal, who is also the Chairman of the Central Haj Committee and adviser to Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques.
Regular worshipers, who are not performing Umrah, will not be allowed to enter the Mataf area between Magrib prayer and the end of Taraweeh prayer.
However, during the last 10 days of Ramadan the Mataf area will be reserved for Umrah pilgrims until the end of Tahajjud prayer. Those who wish to perform prayers should go to the areas outside Mataf where prayers are permitted.
The basement floor has been allocated for Itikaf (an Islamic practice consisting of a period of staying in a mosque for a certain number of days devoting oneself to ibadah). Some of those observing Itikaf may be directed to other specific locations in the northern expansion if required.
These measures are being implemented for the comfort of pilgrims and visitors after the evaluation of the steps taken during the last Ramadan season.
Ramadan May 17 may be the first of Ramadan, says scholar
JEDDAH — Sheikh Abdullah Al-Manie, member of the Council of Senior Scholars, believes that Thursday (May 17) will be the first day of the holy month of Ramadan.
He said the crescent should be sighted on Tuesday which is Shaban 29 (May 15) as the month is usually of 29 days, according to the astronomical calculations.
"If the moon was not sighted on the night of Tuesday, then Wednesday (May 16) will be the 30th and the last day of Shaban," he said.
Manie said Tuesday (May 15) should be the last day of Shaban after which Ramadan should start but if the moon could not be sighted, the next day, Wednesday May 16, should be the 30th and last day of Shaban.
He asked all people to sight the Ramadan moon on Tuesday and not to differ on the advent of the fasting month if the moon was sighted.
"People do not usually differ on the days of Shaban but can disagree on the sighting of the moon," he said.
Manie said the sun will set at 6:52 p.m. on Tuesday while the moon will rise two minutes later at 6:54 p.m.
King to pay fees of first entry visa for Haj, Umrah pilgrims
By Khaled Al-Humaidi and Abdullah Al-Dahhas
MAKKAH — Minister of Haj and Umrah Mohammed Bin Saleh Bentin has denied that the Haj and Umrah pilgrims will bear the cost of their first visa and said Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman will do this on their behalf.
The minister made the statement during a coordination meeting on Sunday with the Presidency of the Affairs of the Two Holy Mosques.
"Our partnership is aimed at removing all the obstacles that may face the Haj and Umrah pilgrims and facilitate their arrival to the Two Holy Mosques in Makkah and Madinah," he said.
The meeting watched an audio-visual presentation which reviewed the services being extended to the pilgrims including the warm welcome on arrival, the promotion of the guidance services, the advancement of the voluntary work and the modern technological services to keep pace with the Kingdom's 2030 Vision aimed at consolidating the values of Islam including moderation and tolerance.
Sheikh Abdul Rahman Al-Suidais, chairman of the presidency, praised the consummate services being provided to the Haj and Umrah pilgrims by the government of Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques and said both the presidency and the ministry would double efforts for the welfare of the pilgrims and visitors.
"The presidency and the ministry are keen to consolidate the noble Islamic values through the guidance and enlightenment services and the offices to direct the astray pilgrims," he said.
The ministry set Shawwal 20 (July 4) as an initial date for the Haj and Umrah local companies to receive their tents in Mina and said these companies will receive their seasonal licenses on Ramadan 12 (May 27).
It said Ramadan 23 (June 7) will be the last date to receive the bank guarantees for the programs of the general, the facilitated and the low-cost Haj.
The ministry said the transport companies should enter their data in the computer and document their contracts latest by Shawwal 15 (June 29) .
It also said the last date for the accommodation providers to submit their necessary documents is Dhul Qada 25 (Aug. 7).
The ministry asked the local Haj companies not to make any changes in the tents without its approval and that of the Public Investment Fund of the Finance Ministry, the Ministry of Water and Electricity and the Civil Defense.
Small crane collapses in a work area in the Grand Mosque
An arm of a mobile crane has fallen in a work area in the Grand Mosque
May 21, 2018
MAKKAH: Part of a mobile crane being used for construction work at the Grand Mosque in Makkah toppled to the ground on Sunday.
The driver of the crane was slightly injured in the incident, but no one else was hurt.
The Makkah Governorate said the area of the Grand Mosque where the crane collapsed was not dedicated for prayer, and was far from visitors and worshippers.
“An arm of a mobile crane has fallen in a work area in the Grand Mosque, and the necessary measures are being taken. The site is dedicated to work not to prayer, and away from the path of visitors and pilgrims. The driver of the crane has been slightly injured,” the governorate said. Spending boost The Presidency of the Two Holy Mosques explained in a statement that “at 2:30 p.m. on Sunday, a small, overloaded crane’s arm deviated from its track and collapsed in an isolated work area near Gate 160 at the third Saudi expansion project of the Grand Mosque.”
Saudis on social media dismissed the significance of the incident and called on others to refrain from spreading exaggerated rumors.
“A crane’s arm fell and people are making a big deal out of it! The country is spending billions on projects for the Grand Mosque and you are spreading news about such a minor incident,” said one Twitter user (@Drtogomori).
At least 107 people were killed and about 400 injured on Sept. 11, 2015, when a crane toppled over near the Grand Mosque in Makkah amid stormy weather, just days before Hajj.
MAKKAH — The Presidency for the Affairs of the Two Holy Mosques has provided as many as 8,700 electric carts and wheelchairs free of charge in the Grand Mosque for the use of old, sick and disabled pilgrims to do their rituals in ease and comfort.
The presidency’s department of transport services is also closely monitoring the authorized wheelchair pushers to stop any exploitation and manipulation by them.
The department has as many as 209 regular and seasonal workers who work in shifts around the clock.
The carts are being distributed at various points covering all major roads leading to the Grand Mosque.
The carts in the western and southern plazas are being distributed at the King Abdul Aziz gate, while pilgrims coming from the northern plazas can take the carts at gate No. 64 and those using the eastern plazas can get these in front of Al-Salam door.
More than 300 Saudi youths have been hired to push the wheelchairs, said Director of the department of transport services Saleh Mohammed Ali Hawsawi.
He said they are coordinating with the general security responsible for the management of the crowd so as not to obstruct the movement of pilgrims.
Thunder and sand storms forecast for Makkah and Jeddah
Thunderstorms forecast for many areas across Saudi Arabia, as worshippers continue rituals of the Muslim pilgrimage.
JEDDAH: Early warning systems have forecast moderate to heavy thunderstorms in Makkah, accompanied by cool showers and active winds that limit horizontal visibility.
The Saudi General Authority for Meteorology and Environmental Protection released the code red warnings and live alert updates on its official Twitter account.
Radar images show rain clouds with expected showers in eastern Jeddah, which is also expected to be affected by rising dust, according to a statement released by the meteorological authority.
Another code red warning was issued forecasting sandstorms across Jeddah, obscuring visibility to a minimum. Meanwhile, Jeddah Health Authority has raised the level of preparedness in all its hospitals and health facilities, and has completed all preparations for the sandstorm that has already started sweeping the city.
The local health authority confirmed that all emergency departments in Jeddah’s hospitals were ready to receive any cases resulting from the current dust storm.
The hospitals have been alerted to receive and provide necessary medication for such cases, where the number of patients with respiratory diseases is increasing.
Jeddah Health advised citizens and residents with chest diseases and allergies not to go out in these conditions unless necessary, as the dusty atmosphere usually causes irritation of the bronchial airways. It also warned drivers and motorists to drive slow due to low horizontal visibility and urged the need to exercise caution while driving to prevent traffic accidents.
The statement urges the public to take full care and caution and abide by the provisions of the civil defense.
It also called on people, particularly worshippers visiting the Kingdom for Muslim pilgrimage, to remain vigilant over the risks of weather fluctuations in the region.
The weather conditions will be updated regularly via the authority’s official website and social media pages.
Jeddah — A total number of 19,079,306 pilgrims performed Umrah in 2017, according to statistics released on Tuesday by the General Authority for Statistics (GaStat).
The statistical report quoting the registered data of the Ministry of Haj and Umrah said that 6,532,074 Umrah pilgrims came from outside Saudi Arabia while 12,547,232 domestic pilgrims (Saudis and non-Saudis) performed Umrah in 2017. The data showed that 46.9% Saudis and 53.1% non-Saudis residing in the Kingdom performed Umrah last year.
Male domestic Umrah pilgrims accounted for 64.3% as compared to 35.7% of female Umrah pilgrims.
The GaStat Umrah statistics bulletin for 2017 also showed that Ramadan is considered a top season during which Umrah is performed by people from inside Saudi Arabia, as 53.6% of total pilgrims performed Umrah in the holy month of fasting.
King Abdulaziz Airport in Jeddah registered 62.5%, the highest percentage of Umrah pilgrims’ arrival in the Kingdom from abroad.
It was followed by Prince Mohammed Bin Abdulaziz Airport in Madinah which registered 25.7% of Umrah pilgrims’ arrival from abroad.
The GaStat report contains many Umrah-related indicators and results which have been taken from the Umrah survey for domestic pilgrims and the registered data from the Ministry of Haj and Umrah regarding foreign Umrah pilgrims. Through this report, GaStat and its related partners want to create a database of all domestic and foreign Umrah pilgrims to support decision and policy makers to further improve services provided to pilgrims.
Pilgrims to enjoy comprehensive insurance Minister of Haj and Umrah Muhammad Saleh Benten
Wednesday , May 30, 2018
JEDDAH — Haj and Umrah pilgrims will be offered a comprehensive insurance during their visits to the Kingdom by next year, Minister of Haj and Umrah Muhammad Saleh Benten has announced.
“Pilgrims visiting the Kingdom to complete their religious rituals will be taken care of by the government in all aspects, such as baggage loss, medical insurance, travel insurance and any kind of incident afflicting the visitor,” he said. “It will be a comprehensive system of medical and travel insurance”.
This is one part of the ministry’s plans toward enhancing the pilgrimage experience to international standards under Vision 2030, he said.
Speaking at a motivational talk event titled “I’m Possible” earlier this week here, the minister said, “We need game changers during this period of transformation in our country. Saudi youth need to think about what their role is going to be in making a positive impact toward achieving Vision 2030.”
He added: “In less than a decade from now, we need to think about the ultimate experience a pilgrim can have and how technology will play a role in creating that experience. This involves transportation options, accommodation, ease of performing rituals at the best services and standards.”
The ministry will require volunteers to be fully dedicated and provide their qualifications in various specialties. Last year, the number of volunteers during Haj reached around 7,000.
Speaking about opportunities for youth during the event, several speakers shared experiences and insights to the audience.
Former Saudi ambassador to Japan Dr. Abdulaziz Turkistani was inspired as a child to see a translator accompanying King Faisal during the former leader’s meeting with the Japanese emperor. He recounts that later on in life, he focused on education and learned the Japanese language, eventually moving on to become the first Saudi to pursue his higher education studies in Japan. Later in life, he become ambassador and translator for late King Abdullah.
“To do the impossible starts with being confident in yourself and believing you can do it,” he said.
While reading is an essential habit in life, writing is one of the most important practices he learned from the Japanese culture. “We need young people to read more outside their field of study,” he said.
Saudi entrepreneur Loay Nasseem who invented the fashionable “thobe” for men, recounts a venture that seemed impossible in the early days. While thobes were traditionally one form and one color, changing a culture was challenging and was met with critique.
Many people need to look for their hidden talents and excel in hobbies, not just in school, he said.
Dr. Zuheir Bakhsh says leaving a secure government job to co-found a private dental clinic was a risky decision but ended up being worth it. “Unfortunately many graduates prefer to wait for a government job. This is a lot of wasted talent. It’s important to look at what makes you happy and what’s right for you."
This cannot be undone and I am sure it will be greatly appreciated.
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