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#4711 [Permalink] Posted on 10th October 2014 21:52
Umrah firms need SR2m bank
guarantee to serve pilgrims

Friday 10 October 2014

All Umrah companies now need to provide the government with a SR2 million bank-guaranteed check if they want to operate in the Kingdom.

This is one of several new regulations issued by the government recently to help regulate the industry.

Umrah firms must make out the bank-guaranteed checks to the Ministry of Haj. The guarantee has to be valid throughout the duration of the license period.

The ministry would be entitled to withdraw amounts from any party that fails to fulfill its obligations. A withdrawn amount would have to be covered immediately by a violating firm. A guarantee can only be canceled with the permission of the ministry, or when the license ends.

Criteria for granting licenses would be issued by the interior, foreign affairs and Haj ministries. The criteria include financial solvency, efficient management, experience in the field, the number of delays in pilgrims leaving the country, and previous sanctions.

If there are delays, then the government would deduct transport costs from a firm's account, or the money would be taken from the bank guarantee.

The new regulations also make provision for the establishment of a company that has to win a public tender process, to handle the documents of pilgrims when they enter and exit the Kingdom. This is aimed at easing the burden on Umrah companies. This company will be given a lump sum to offer the service, made up of fees collected from Umrah firms. The Ministry of Finance will be working with the other ministries to oversee this process.

In addition, companies that fail to ensure that their pilgrims leave as scheduled will not be allowed to use the automatic booking system for hotels and apartments.

The Interior Ministry has to implement several measures in accordance with the new regulations including punishing those who use Umrah visas for other purposes.

The Haj ministry is required to ensure that all Umrah firms have security permits approved by the interior ministry. It also has to ensure that it sends details of all visas issued at the embassies to the interior ministry.

The new regulations allow Umrah firms to extend pilgrim arrival and departure dates by a maximum of 30 days.

Before granting visas, the government requires Umrah firms to input all information related to pilgrims' residences, room numbers and travel reservations onto the Umrah electronic portal, which will be linked to the electronic reservation of hotels and furnished apartments.

The regulations also commit the government to ensure that a mechanism is found, with the ministries of interior and foreign affairs, to deal with foreign firms that do not have Umrah agents in their home countries. Licensed pilgrim companies and institutions often refuse to sign contracts with these companies.

All government agencies are required to coordinate their actions to ensure that pilgrims arrive and leave as scheduled.

Hajis on a shopping spree
Friday 10 October 2014

Hajis spent a whopping SR2.2 billion on gifts and souvenirs during the current pilgrimage season, an official from the Jeddah Chamber of Commerce and Industry (JCCI) said recently.

Each Haji spends between SR1,300 and SR1,600 during their journey, Ibrahim Batterjee, chairman of the JCCI's industrial committee, was quoted as saying by local media. The amounts spent by Hajis are determined by their incomes in their respective countries, he said.

He said the continued rise in commodity prices and falling exchange rates of currencies in some Arab and Muslim countries are among the factors considered by experts in calculating the average spending of Hajis.

Hajis normally flood stores to buy rosaries, prayer rugs, white shirts and jewelry as gifts for their relatives and friends, according to a survey conducted by the JCCI.

Batterjee said there has been a decrease in spending this year, largely due to the reduction in the number of pilgrims because of the expansion project currently underway. Over 2 million people performed the pilgrimage this year.

Store owners were quoted as saying that Hajis preferred buying gifts and souvenirs in Makkah and Madinah, although a few made purchases in Mina.
They preferred to buy gold in Makkah and Jeddah because stores are more reputable, dealers reportedly said. Gold makes up about 10 to 15 percent of gift purchases, one businessman said.

French envoy lauds facilities for pilgrims

STATELY HAJ MANAGEMENT: French Consul General Louis Blaine, left, and Abdul Wahid Burhan Saifuddin
at a meeting at the headquarters of the Tawafa Organization for non-Arab pilgrims.
Friday 10 October 2014

French Consul General Louis Blaine visited the headquarters of the Non-Arab Pilgrims’ Foundation of African Countries recently. He praised the efforts and facilities provided to them by the Kingdom during the Haj pilgrimage.

Blaine lauded the efforts of the government of Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah for providing excellent facilities to the pilgrims’ foundation for the maximum comfort and safety of the pilgrims.

Blaine also met with chairman of the Board of Directors of the Foundation, Abdul Wahid Burhan Saifuddin, and thanked him for the facilities provided to French pilgrims.

He said that he had visited the French pilgrims’ camps during the Haj and was very pleased with the facilities and level of comfort that were provided to them to complete their rituals in peace and safety.

Nearly 17,800 French pilgrims did Haj this year with 727 of them performing it with the Tawafa Organization for Pilgrims of non-Arab African countries while the rest performed the Haj under other foundations.

He expressed his satisfaction at seeing no cases of epidemics or quarantines for any of the French pilgrims.

He said the French Consulate follows up with the situation of the pilgrims during the Haj every year by visiting the pilgrims’ camps inside the holy sites. He noted that the Saudi government had made excellent arrangements for the Haj on a large scale as many big projects were going on simultaneously at the holy sites to facilitate pilgrims.

He also explained that the arrival of the French pilgrims were organized by 48 companies and tourist associations concerned with the affairs of Haj pilgrims, declaring that the French authorities were concerned with the public interest of the pilgrims.

Blaine said that there is a lot of difference between the Haj in 1985 and 2014 as there are stunning developments at the holy sites to provide services and facilities to the pilgrims.

He said that the pilgrimage represents a major challenge for the government of Saudi Arabia and its people to make it successful for millions of Muslims.
Saifuddin said that the government had provided all the necessary security and civilian personnel to ensure a successful pilgrimage.

He said that the inspection visit of the French consul general to the headquarters of the institution in Mina comes in the framework of cooperation and coordination between the institution and the French Consulate General, and he wished all pilgrims a safe journey home.

Loofah ‘can cut Mina aircon cost’

10 October 2014

The Haj and Umrah Research Institute has issued a patent for an invention using a fibrous plant that can cut the cost of running Mina's 200,000 air-conditioners, and reduce bacteria, fungi and unwanted odors

Atif bin Hussein Asghar, dean of the institute, said this is one of 21 patents issued that could make life easier for pilgrims and government agencies at the Haj.

Asghar said the air-conditioner invention uses loofah. This is the fruit of two species of tropical and subtropical vines. When it is ripe, the fruit is fibrous and the source of the scrubbing sponge used in bathrooms and kitchens. It is known for its osmotic qualities

He said that other liquids would be introduced into the air-conditioners to improve the smell of cold air. Ashgar said that there has also been a patent issued for special cooling containers to keep vaccines cold for long periods, especially when in transit.

He said 31 studies, scientific programs, and research initiatives on matters related to pilgrims were implemented during the Haj season. A committee has been formed to study and prioritize submitted research.

Pollution, flooding, housing and transportation topped the agenda of the studies conducted by the institute to improve facilities for pilgrims at the holy sites. Ashgar said the media can play a positive role in creating awareness of the problems facing pilgrims at the holy sites and the Prophet’s Mosque.

World’s tallest mosque gate opens at Holy Haram

Thursday, 09 October 2014

HOLY SITES — King Abdullah Bin Abdulaziz Gate in the newly expanded area of the Grand Mosque is considered the world’s tallest gate of a mosque. With its formal opening during this year’s Haj pilgrimage, the gate has become the main entrance to the Grand Mosque with two gigantic minarets on its top.

Designed in modern architectural style with Islamic decoration, the gate is adorned with huge lamps that attract the attention of visitors at the first sight. Its internal base, walls, and ceilings are decorated with Quranic verses. The main design resembles that of the old gates except that the new one is very tall and is located within the new expansion of the northern courtyards of the Grand Mosque.

It is close to the first ring road and most vital places such as the public transport stations on the west side of the Grand Mosque. It has become one of the favorite landmarks for the visitors who never fail to take its photos with their cell phones and cameras.

Abdullal Al-Tumaih, director of Grand Mosque Gates, said the Presidency of the Affairs of the Two Holy Mosques has opened 150 gates and mobilized 1,000 staff to organize the entry and exit of pilgrims and visitors.
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#4712 [Permalink] Posted on 10th October 2014 21:53
Islamic History

Saudis retrace route of Abraha’s army
came to destroy Kaaba

Thursday 9 October 2014

A group of young Saudi history enthusiasts has retraced the path of the People of the Elephant who tried to destroy the Holy Kaaba centuries ago.

The Holy Qur’an, in a short chapter, briefly refers to the story of the army of elephants led by Abraha Al-Ashram, who was a governor of Yemen. God destroyed Abraha and his army that included 13 elephants, by sending flocks of birds that dropped small stones on them.

“There never fell a stone on a soldier except it dissolved his flesh and burst it into pieces … Abraha Al-Ashram fled while his flesh was bursting into pieces and died on the way back to Yemen,” said the 14th century scholar Ibn Kathir, an authentic Qur’an commentator.

During their tiring journey across mountains and rough terrain, the young Saudi men took photographs of important landmarks, beginning from north of Najran, to the east of Asir, and then east of Baha.

Some of the most important historical sites along the way included inscriptions of elephants on rocks in the Al-Qahr Mountain, southeast of Tathlith; an old well in Hafaer, east of Asir; and a paved road near Kara in Aqeeq principality in the Baha region.

Mohammed Al-Amry, head of the geology department at King Saud University, said he had seen the path of Abraha and his army in Tathlith and Baha. “The army had passed the Arabian shield region comprising rocks and there were writings in the Humairiya language on some mountains,” he said.

According to historical Islamic sources, Abraha, who was a Christian, had thought of building a church similar to the Kaaba in Sanaa. He wanted the Arabs to perform the pilgrimage in Sanaa instead of Makkah, with the intention of diverting trade and benefits to Yemen. He presented the idea to the then king of Ethiopia who agreed to it.

Abraha built the church but the Arabs refused to come for pilgrimage in Sanaa. This infuriated him, prompting him to form an army to invade Makkah and demolish the Kaaba. He defeated all Arab armies on the way until he reached Makkah where he was attacked by the flocks of birds sent by the Almighty.

Makkah: Beyond the Holy Mosque

Friday, 10 October 2014

History may never cease to ink its stories on our minds and hearts, but there is no history more precious and fascinating than the history of Umm Al-Qura (Makkah) and its holy valley by the Grand Mosque.

The social life that the people of Makkah had as well as their rituals and traditions have been of great interest to historians. The people of Makkah (known in Arabic as Makkawis) took it upon themselves to serve pilgrims during the Haj season. For the rest of the year, Makkah is filled with prosperity and the spirit of dedication.

There are some Makkawis who believe that it is the spirits of the first and last wives of Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, that make up the city’s soul as both are buried in Makkah, the Arabic-language Makkah daily reports.

Almilah graveyard, nicknamed paradise by the locals, is considered one of the most welcoming and relaxing areas in Makkah due to the presence of the Zamzam water well. The height difference between Sheibah Gate (the oldest gate in the Holy Mosque) and Almilah graveyard is 1,042 meters.

According to the Dutch Orientalist Christiaan Snouck Hurgronje, Makkawis live to serve their God, then themselves. “They go to Almilah not to mourn but to celebrate as they have turned it into a park where people can gather and spend the day,” he said.

The Orientalist converted to Islam and entered Makkah in 1885 and stayed there for six months to document the daily lives of the locals. Dr. Miraj Nawab Mirza, professor of geography, and Dr. Mohammad Mahmoud Al-Siriany translated and edited two of Hurgronje’s books for the King Abdulaziz Foundation in 1999.

Dr. Samir Ahmad Burqah, an expert in Islam and history, said Almilah graveyard, which is located to the northeast of Makkah, is still considered the biggest and most important graveyard in Islamic history. “All of the pilgrims who are blessed to be martyred during the Haj pilgrimage are buried here along with some renowned personas such as Sheikh Mohammad Safar and Fowziyah Bint Ibrahim Al-Juffali, may Allah bless their souls,” he said.

The Prophet’s first wife, Khadijah Bint Khuwailid, was buried in Makkah but there is no evidence that pinpoints the exact location of her grave. Some historians, however, believe her grave must not be too far away from Almilah graveyard. Details about the whereabouts of Khadijah’s grave were only available to historians around five centuries ago. Khadijah was married to the Prophet for 25 years before passing away at the age of 65 while the Prophet was 50.

Maimuna Bin Harith was the Prophet’s last wife and historians and religious scholars are mostly in agreement about the location of her grave. Dr. Samir Barqah said Maimuna’s grave is located on the left of the new Alhijrah road in Makkah. It is only 16 kms northwest of the Grand Mosque.

The area surrounding the grave is known as Saraf valley where the famous Alfatih Alshaheer Mosque lies. Historically, the Prophet and his army stayed overnight at the Mosque right before conquering the city of Makkah. Makkawis call the area Al-Nawariyah, a neighborhood that has been named after rock sediment found in the area. The neighborhood has gone through renovations but Maimuna’s grave remains intact and guarded with steel bars.

In the 1980s, the grave faced destruction due to plans to construct roads linking Makkah and Madinah, but King Khalid Bin Abdulaziz complied with the requests of the Makkawis and fortified the grave instead. Moreover, Dr. Barqah talked about an initiative, in which he is a founding member, called Muad, which works on liaising with the authorities to restore and maintain the grave as a means of preserving Islamic history and architecture.
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#4713 [Permalink] Posted on 12th October 2014 19:25
Arafat cemetery opens
to relatives of deceased Hajis

Saturday 11 October 2014

Some pilgrims returned to Arafat on Wednesday to visit their loved ones who died during the Haj over the past few years.

The undated cemetery is only open one day a year to bury the bodies of those who died while performing the holy rituals. Many do not know that the cemetery exists, even those living nearby. The cemetery is next to Arafat General Hospital.

Osama Zaytoun, head of the media and publishing unit at Makkah Mayoralty, said the cemetery only opens one day a year. He said 18 pilgrims are buried there, from India, Pakistan, Indonesia, Egypt, Thailand, Sudan, Syria and Yemen. Located on a 2,500-square-meter area, it has room for 300 graves.

Little is known about the cemetery, said Fawaz Aldhas, a historian at the University of Umm Al-Qura. He said scholars would soon begin gathering information on the graveyard.

Adnan Ahmed Al-Hamoud, who compiles statistics on deaths at the Foundation of Arab States, said that seven Arab pilgrims died at Arafat this year, from Sudan, Yemen, Algeria, Somalia, Egypt and Morocco.

These people died of natural causes, with the authorities sorting out all the paperwork, he said.

A group of pilgrims spent some time praying at the cemetery. Pilgrim Ahmed Rashid said he came to say a prayer for a few of his relatives who died over the past few years on Arafat. He had planned to visit the graveyard this year after the Haj.

133 Arab pilgrims died during Haj

Muslim pilgrims make their way to throw stones at a pillar, symbolizing the stoning of Satan in a ritual called "Jamarat,"
the last rite of the annual hajj, in the Mina neighborhood of Makkah, Saudi Arabia, in this Oct. 5, 2014 photo
Saturday 11 October 2014

A total of 133 Arab foreign pilgrims have died so far, while 213 others have been admitted to hospitals during this Haj season, according to a statistical report issued by the Tawafa Organization for Pilgrims from Arab Countries.

“We have advised seven pilgrims to return to their countries due to signs of psychiatric illness, preventing them from completing the Haj pilgrimage,” the report said, adding that four of the pilgrims came from Egypt, two from Jordan and one from Lebanon.

The highest number of deaths was reported among Egyptian pilgrims, with 14 cases of death and 81 hospitalization cases. Five Iraqis, four Algerians, and four Sudanese have also died, in addition to three Moroccans, three Somalis, two Yemenis, two Jordanians and one Mauritanian.

The Health Ministry, meanwhile, said 56 percent of deaths during the Haj season were caused by heart and lung diseases.

Hospitalized Arab pilgrims included 25 Iraqis, 20 Sudanese, 19 Somalis, 15 Moroccans, 10 Algerians, nine Yemenis, seven Syrians, seven Palestinians, seven Jordanians, six Libyans, five Tunisians and one Lebanese patient.

Faisal Nouh, chairman of the organization, said that some of the hospitalized pilgrims have been released, while pilgrims who were unable to move to Arafat have been transported by ambulance to perform Haj rites.

More than 265,000 pilgrims from Arab countries arrived in the Kingdom to perform Haj this year. The majority of pilgrims (68,749) have come from Egypt, followed by Algeria, Morocco and Iraq.

Meanwhile, government-run hospitals in the holy sites have carried out a series of surgical operations on pilgrims, including five open-heart operations, local media said quoting data released by the Ministry of Health.

In a four-day period, medical teams from the ministry conducted other operations, including 82 cardiac catheterization and 349 kidney dialysis procedures and 23 binoculars, the ministry said.

Some 70,721 pilgrims visited health facilities in Makkah and Madinah in the last four days, the media said.

Tariq Al-Arnous, head of emergency and field medicine at the ministry, said field medical teams treated some 2,780 cases the day before Arafat, of which 76 cases were transferred to hospitals in the holy sites.

On Arafat Day alone, medical teams treated 3,638 cases on the spot, 93 of which were transferred to hospitals, he was quoted as saying. He said ambulance cars were deployed in areas leading to the Jamrat on 11th, 12th and 13th Dul Hijjah.

Ambulance cars are linked with the operations room at the emergency complex, where a team of experienced technicians guide these vehicles through the fastest and shortest routes.

90-year-old Hadhrami Cemetery
in Mina opens only during Haj

Sunday, 05 October 2014

HOLY SITES — To the South of Al-Jamarat Bridge lies a 90-year-old cemetery that has been primarily used by people who had come from Hadhramawt and settled in Mina plains long time ago. Only Hadhrami pilgrims get buried in the cemetery, which is surrounded by an old wall and guarded by an old man who has been working there for the last 30 years. On the top of the gate a sign says “Hadhrami People Cemetery”.

The guard told Al-Watan daily that this task was passed down to him from his father and that his father learned the job from his ancestors. When the reporter approached him for an interview, he was asked by the guard not to take his photographs or mention his name.

The guard gave the writer a quick historical background on the cemetery and how it had become among the sites supervised by the Makkah Municipality. His grandfather — later his father and now himself — had been living on the mountain near the cemetery together with some men who hailed from Hadhramawt. They were all there only to serve pilgrims.

But, one day, plague swamped that area leaving some Hadhrami people dead. Each one was buried in his place, thus the cemetery was named after them. When the Saudi state was founded, it took good care of the cemetery and even set up a department specifically to run the cemetery, which has a room for washing the body before burial.

“If any Hadhrami man, woman, or child dies in the holy sites, they get buried here. Never has the family of a pilgrim, who died in the holy sites, asked for the transportation of the body to the birthplace. They all give permission to the authorities here to bury their beloved one in the cemetery in the hope that the person will be resurrected on Resurrection Day wearing white clothes,” the old man said.

Every five years the graves are opened for sunlight and the remains of bones collected and placed in one grave in order to use other graves for anyone who dies there, he noted.

Many people in Makkah have never heard of the cemetery because it is only used during Haj and for certain people.

The reporter asked the guard why he throws lentil, barley and wheat seeds over the graves, the guard said he does it to prevent dust from reaching pilgrims who walk by the cemetery.

Officer probed for pushing pilgrim

Saturday, 11 October 2014

RIYADH — A security officer who appeared in a video pushing and shoving a pilgrim will be investigated for misconduct, according to Commander of Haj Forces. The investigation is in response to a video that was posted on social networking websites showing a pilgrim trying to remove one of the safety barricades near the courtyards of the Grand Mosque when an officer approaches and pushes him aside. The officer also appears to be shouting at the pilgrim.

Govt teams to check pilgrims’ boarding

Saturday, 11 October 2014

EDDAH — A number of government agencies have formed teams to prevent any attempt by pilgrims to forge boarding passes and get on different planes.

The teams will keep a close eye on all travel tickets and documents to make sure pilgrims board the correct flights.

Last year, several pilgrims were caught carrying travel documents that did not belong to them as they were trying to leave the country under fake names.

So far, 70 flights carrying 30,000 pilgrims have taken off from King Abdulaziz International Airport.

The Ministry of Haj has also urged all Haj companies to double-check the travel documents of all pilgrims and Umrah performers before taking them to the airport.

Indonesia seeks higher Haj quota

Friday 10 October 2014

Indonesia has urged the Kingdom to transfer the unused quota of Haj pilgrims by other countries to Indonesia to cut short its long waiting list. Many Indonesian citizens are waiting for nearly 27 years to perform Haj.

Indonesian Religious Affairs Minister Lukman Hakim Saifuddin said his countrymen have been waiting of over 25 years to take their turn for Haj. This is obviously adding to their problems related to age, illness and physical exhaustion.

As many as 126 Indonesians died during this year’s Haj season, higher compared to the previous year. Most of them were aged over 70 years with health problems.”

He added: “We have given priority to applicants of over 70 years during the recent Haj as they have been waiting for longer years to perform Haj.”

He stated that this year 168,000 Indonesian pilgrims preformed Haj and they started returning home from Thursday. He also added that most of these pilgrims hail from the East Java province.

Lukman said that 371 flights of Garuda, the national carrier of Indonesia, and Saudia are flying back the pilgrims to Indonesia.

The Indonesian minister described the Ministry of Haj’s electronic E-Haj as an effective system to manage Haj operations that are transparent and prompt.
He lauded the King Abdullah Expansion Project for Grand Mosque that is now accommodating more number of pilgrims than before as well as the infrastructure projects in Makkah. The train service at the holy sites has made pilgrims’ movement easy, he added.

In Indonesia, each prospective pilgrim is required to deposit about $ 2,500 for placing him or her on the waiting list. The Haj money at Indonesian banks totaled $914 million in 2013.

The Indonesian religious affairs ministry, which organizes the entire Haj program, including air transport, food and accommodation, has been under increased scrutiny after it got embroiled in a corruption case.

In May, Religious Affairs Minister Suryadharma Ali resigned after being named a suspect in a case that, according to the Corruption Eradication Commission, revolves around the use of aspiring pilgrims’ deposit money to pay for Haj expenses.
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#4714 [Permalink] Posted on 12th October 2014 19:30
Pilgrims staying back are acting
against the spirit of Haj


Saturday, 11 October 2014 - 17 Thul-Hijjah 1435

More than two million pilgrims from within the Kingdom as well as from all corners of the globe have performed Haj, the fifth pillar in Islam, in peace and comfort. Some of them have already returned home while others are now visiting the Prophet’s Mosque in Madinah. The remaining pilgrims are expected to leave the Kingdom after spending some more time in the vicinity of the Holy Kaaba, the House of God.

The Saudi government, via Haj-related organizations, has made elaborate arrangements to facilitate the return of pilgrims as per the schedule for their departure, according to a report in Al-Riyadh daily. They are also well set to prevent the phenomenon of overstaying by pilgrims, especially those from the countries where there is political turmoil. The authorities have instructed all concerned agencies to constitute committees to ensure the timely departure of pilgrims. They also warned pilgrims that those who overstay their visas will face penal actions, including imprisonment, fines and deportation. The security authorities have unveiled plans to launch an intensive campaign to catch those who overstay their Haj visas. Sick pilgrims who are still in hospital or those who were detained over security issues will be exempt from immediate departure rules.

Hatem Qadi, undersecretary for the affairs of Haj at the Ministry of Haj, said the electronic system introduced by the ministry makes it very difficult for pilgrims to overstay their visas. Pilgrims come to the Kingdom via Haj missions in their respective countries or under private tour operators. The ministry has an electronic file on all pilgrims, and this allows it to keep track of the status of pilgrims and whether they are in Makkah or Madinah or if they have left the Kingdom. According to Haj regulations, the passports of all pilgrims should be kept with their respective Tawafa organization. “These organizations are responsible for all pilgrims who come to the Kingdom through them, and penal action will be taken against them in the event a pilgrim overstays his/her visa. The electronic system used by the ministry and other high tech facilities as well as the punitive measures against Tawafa organizations have made it difficult for pilgrims to overstay their visas,” he said.

Faisal Bin Muhammad Nouh, chairman of the Tawafa organization for pilgrims from Arab countries, said Haj mission offices have signed agreements with the concerned authorities under which all pilgrims from countries that are experiencing political unrest have to leave the Kingdom as per their original departure schedule without making any changes to their travel plans.

Muhammad Al-Khatri, director of the Madinah branch of the Ministry of Islamic Affairs, said all citizens and expatriates in the Kingdom are also responsible for maintaining the nation’s security and stability.

“All of them shall play a major role in making it clear to pilgrims that they should strictly abide by Haj rules and regulations. They shall lend a helping hand to the security authorities by warning pilgrims against overstaying by explaining the penalties for overstaying as well as for giving shelter or transportation to overstayers,” he said while commending the pioneering role being played by the ministries of interior and Haj in this regard.

“What we have read or heard about the punitive measures will serve as deterrent for all the private tawafa organizations. The concession given to sick pilgrims to stay back until being discharged from hospitals shows the Kingdom’s magnanimity,” he added.

Masud Al-Olayani, a tawafa official, said this year’s Haj went smoothly despite the huge number of pilgrims. He underlined the need for an intensive campaign aimed at educating pilgrims not to overstay their visas under any circumstances. Muhammad Al-Sayyid, a pilgrim from Egypt, said Tawafa organizations had alerted pilgrims about Saudi Haj regulations, especially the terms and conditions that pilgrims must follow well before their arrival to the Kingdom. “A penalty for overstaying their visas was one of the important regulations,” he said.

The Directorate General of Passports has directed all pilgrims to leave the Kingdom in line with their schedule for departure. It warned that penal action would be taken against pilgrims who violate the regulations, as well as their Tawafa establishment. The penal measures include fines, imprisonment and deportation. The General Authority of Civil Aviation (GACA) has instructed all airlines to strictly adhere to the schedule of Haj flights. GACA warned that airlines which violate the regulations will be slapped with fines up to SR200,000.


Governor commends group’s
impressive services for Hajis

Friday 10 October 2014

Makkah Gov. Prince Mishaal bin Abdullah has commended the services being extended by the Haji and Mutamir Gift Organization (HMGO) to the guests of God during the Haj season.

“It sets a good example of Saudi hospitality,” he said.

The governor also praised HMGO’s innovative activities and impressive programs that have won pilgrims’ applause.

Mansour Al-Amir, director-general of the charity, briefed Prince Mishaal about his association’s programs and the various gifts it presents to pilgrims, including umbrellas, masks and food packets.

“Every year, our organization extends about 15 million various services to pilgrims,” Al-Amir said.

“This year, we welcomed more than 1.3 million foreign Hajis on their arrival,” he added. HMGO presents small gifts to the pilgrims.

“We serve pilgrims even after Haj by distributing Zamzam water, assisting the handicapped and seeing them off from Makkah and Madinah to their home countries,” he said.

HMGO coordinates with the various government and private agencies, including Tawafa organizations and security forces, Al-Amir said.

Mutlaq Saad Al-Maliki underscored HMGO’s services, saying they were instrumental in creating a good impression about Saudi Arabia and its people among the pilgrims.

He also noted Prince Mishaal’s remarkable role in making this year’s Haj a resounding success and praised him for his dedicated efforts to strengthen HMGO.

Pleasing the increasing number of pilgrims is no easy task.

“Here comes the significant role of HMGO in providing personal care to the pilgrims,” said Suhair Muthedath, who worked as a volunteer during this Haj season and distributed HMGO gifts.

He said pilgrims were very happy when they received the organization’s gifts.
“They used its umbrellas to get protection from the sweltering sun,” he said, adding that HMGO’s services would leave a lasting positive impression among Hajis about Saudi Arabia and its generous people.

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#4715 [Permalink] Posted on 12th October 2014 19:31
Makkah more than just a destination for pilgrims

Saturday, 11 October 2014

The Haj season is considered the most significant season in the Islamic calendar. It is when pilgrims gather from all over the world to perform the Haj pilgrimage and finally see the Grand Mosque here. Pilgrims share a special relationship with the city that goes beyond their religious obligations. There is an attachment and appreciation for the city’s historical landmarks, vintage souks and alleys.

All of the restaurants and souks in the city are a natural and living museum for pilgrims as they enjoy hearing stories dating back to the time of the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, and the dawn of Islam. All of this, however, was forgotten in the development plans of the Grand Mosque and its expansion.

Plans to expand the Grand Mosque meant constructing over these historical places and heritage sites. Pilgrims who performed Haj with memories of the beloved alleyways of Makkah still fresh in their minds, were surprised at all of the expansion projects taking place and how they erased a chunk of history.

Pilgrims stand in front of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques Expansion Project remembering the old Makkah and unsure of whether to express joy in regards to the renovations or remorse over the lost history, Al-Riyadh daily reports.

Husainah, a 50-year-old pilgrim from Morocco, said it has been exactly 15 years since the last time she came here to perform Haj. She said the map of Makkah has drastically changed, so much so that she can no longer locate the hotels that she stayed in with her parents before they passed away.

“I was shocked to see that entire neighborhoods and alleys have been destroyed and replaced by the expansion project. I can no longer recognize or find the old alleys and their souks such as the alleys of Alghaza, Souk Alail, Shaab Amer and Alshamiyah,” she said.

Yaseen Muneer, a Tunisian pilgrim, said the last time she performed Haj was 18 years ago. He said many pilgrims took photographs of the alleyways and streets of Makkah and these pictures are now more valuable than ever as they show the city before sprawling skyscrapers took over the skyline.

“The old neighborhoods are not just about history and names, but they effused spirituality and holiness that pilgrims took home with them. I remember Alazizyah restaurants that used to swarm with pilgrims and Aljowdriyah souks and the street sellers in front of them,” he said clutching a photograph he had taken 18 years ago of the city.

Minad Umran, an Algerian pilgrim, last came to the Kingdom to perform Haj 21 years ago. He said while it pained him to see that the old hotels and alleys of Makkah had been erased from the city, he was proud to see the new Makkah with all of the expansions and improvements.

“Makkah is now at international standards in regards to its gigantic hotels and unique services provided. I had a special connection with Alshamiyah and Alfalaq alleyways as I would always walk through them. The hotels and houses that were in these alleyways and neighborhoods were truly historic.

“However, Makkah is an international city that attracts pilgrims and tourists from all over the world. Such potential for investment should not be overlooked and the Kingdom must not let it slip away from its fingers. Renovations and developments to envelop a larger capacity of people must be done in order to keep up with the expectations and demands of the city,” he said.

Samer Wadan, an Iraqi pilgrim, said the changes taking place in Makkah are meant to serve the long-term interests of pilgrims and the city. “All of the pilgrims are talking about the old days and sharing their stories of the city. This shows how significant Makkah is in comparison to any other city in the world. This also shows the dedication of the Saudi government in taking care of the Grand Mosque and its guests by developing it to best serve the increasing demand and needs,” he said.

Makkah in the Past

A bird’s eye view of Mecca and surrounding hillsides, August 1917

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#4716 [Permalink] Posted on 12th October 2014 19:33
5,000 security men organize
pilgrims’ movement in Madinah

Sunday, 12 October 2014

Security men stand as a barrier to prevent crowding at the Prophet’s Mosque in Madinah. Some 5,000 security men have been deployed to organize pilgrims’ movement at the Prophet’s Mosque.

Pilgrim influx benefits Madinah businesses

Rosaries make up 35 percent of Haj gift purchases.
Sunday, 12 October 2014

MADINAH – The head of the Tourism Committee and member of Madinah Chamber of Commerce and Industry (MCCI) said pilgrims are expected to spend SR24 billion in Madinah this Haj season.

He noted that these expenditures include hotel accommodations, airfare and general shopping in Madinah stores and commercial centers.

Madinah has been witnessing an influx of pilgrims who have completed their Haj rituals and now want to visit the Prophet’s Mosque and pay their respects to the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him.

Madinah's central area is receiving the bulk of pilgrims due to the availability of various services and the close proximity to the Prophet’s Mosque. The northern part of the central area is the most preferred area for hotel accommodations where a number of stores are located in the eastern and western residential towers that directly face the Prophet's Mosque.

A number of store owners and workers in the central area said they are selling significantly more products as pilgrims want to buy presents for their families and loved ones before they leave the Kingdom. The manager of a commercial center, Talal Al-Amri, expects commercial complexes and commercial markets to witness and realize the most sales of the year during this period.

The owner of a store in the central area, Fadl Ahmad, said the central area is witnessing a 60 percent increase in customers with pilgrims from Iran making up the majority of shoppers, followed by the Turkish.

Chief of rosary retailers in Makkah, Fayiz Al-Zahrani, said rosaries make up 35 percent of Haj gift purchases, making them the second-most popular gift after Zamzam water. This Haj season, rosary sales in Makkah, Madinah and Jeddah markets were valued at SR80 million. The price of rosaries start at SR1 and can reach SR500, depending on the type of gemstones used.

The majority of rosaries or about 75 percent are made of glass and plastic that are imported from China, Al-Yaum daily reported.

Low price vendors a pain in the govt’s neck
Sunday 12 October 2014

Pilgrims continue shopping at unauthorized stalls despite a clear warning from the Ministry of Health and the Makkah Municipality to do so, for this blocks pedestrian routes and prevent security forces from carrying out their duties.

Customers often approach them for easy accessibility to the vendors and their requirement.

Akrami Ai from Pakistan, who is currently on Haj in the Kingdom, said he prefers shopping at these stalls due to their proximity to the grand mosques and the lower prices of items as compared to other retailers.

Likewise, Hussein Mohamed, an Iraqi, says the crowded market places in the areas have made him seek out small vendors and stalls who have virtually no waiting time.

Unlicensed fruit and vegetable stalls have continued to attract many pilgrims in Mina, near the Jamrat, and inside Makkah. However, many customers still prefer shopping at the licensed and larger shops for food products due to the higher quality control and better hygienic condition of the items.

The Ministry of Trade and Industry has intensified its inspection tours to ensure that commercial establishments are in compliance with the set regulations. The ministry’s inspection teams recently seized and destroyed about 10,000 products and food items which posed a serious health risk to consumers.

The Makkah Municipality has also stepped up measures regarding environmental health by monitoring markets and shops selling food in order to ensure all items meet health requirements. Inspection teams are working to ensure shops are in good condition and offer comprehensive safety measures for workers.

The municipality has formed several regulatory committees to follow up on commercial markets and overcome any irregular activities, in coordination with a number of government agencies including the Committees on Pricing, Water Sanitation, Food Inspection and Poisoning, and others.

Fewer pilgrims, unstable economies hit Haj sales
Sunday 12 October 2014

s the Haj season draws to a close, thousands of pilgrims are flocking to shops in Makkah to do some shopping for friends and relatives before heading home.
Besides, souvenirs and other items to remind them of their journey to the holy land, pilgrims also buy large quantities of fabric from Makkah and Jeddah to sell back home.

Most pilgrims avoid visiting the malls or expensive stores and instead are on the look out for cheap bargains. The choice of items is varied with fabrics, clothes, watches, perfumes, particularly oud and musk, mobile phones and other electronic gadgets and dates making the bulk of pilgrims’ purchases.
Aziz Ruhmani from Algeria who completed his first Haj with his wife said that he got various products at competitive prices which he will sell for a profit when he goes back to his country.

Fatma Shawkat, an Egyptian pilgrim, said she plans to visit Jeddah’s gold market to take advantage of the current drop in gold prices.

Osmat Khan, a Pakistani pilgrim who was on his third Haj in 10 years said: “I did a lot of shopping in Jeddah and Makkah after completing the pilgrimage but this year I only bought traditional and the bare essential items.”

The Haj 2014 season registered 2 million pilgrims arriving in the Kingdom to perform Haj. All countries had to comply with the reduction in their pilgrim quota owing to the expansion projects under way in Makkah.

Pilgrims this year spent an estimated SR2 billion on gifts and other products, Abdullah Radwan, an economist, told Arab News. “Most pilgrims spend money according to their purchasing power. But high prices of items in many stores in Makkah and Jeddah have dampened the sales owing to a limited number of pilgrims especially from the conflict-ridden Arab countries who were unable to make any substantial purchases,” he added.

Echoing the sentiment, Subhi Al-Faraj, a fabrics store owner in Makkah, told Arab News: “Most pilgrims like to buy clothes and fabrics in huge quantities to sell back home, but this year the spending is not as high as previous years due to the lower number of pilgrims and poor economic situation of their countries.”

Saleem Asaad, a businessman who owns several shops in Makkah, said pilgrims tend to buy gold from Jeddah and Makkah because they trust the jewelers in these cities. He added that gold comprises 25 percent of gift items bought by pilgrims during the pilgrimage seasons.

Pilgrims rush to buy gold
Sunday 12 October 2014

Pilgrims who have completed the Haj pilgrimage are flocking into downtown Jeddah, a major commercial hub, to buy gold.

Business is brisk at the gold market and in Kandarah, while many pilgrims will be traveling to Madinah before heading home.

Sales are on the increase thanks to a decline in gold prices and an increase in the number of designs, according to traders.

Gold prices have dropped to a 15-month low of SR138 per 22-carat gram and SR129 per 21-carat gram.

“Our shops in Jeddah and Makkah have reported a 40 percent increase in gold sales,” said Abdul Gafur, regional sales manager of Malabar Golds & Diamonds, a gold ornaments giant in the region.

Promotions are also boosting gold sales, he said.

“Sales are picking up after Haj thanks to demand from pilgrims, who feel safer making valuable purchases after the pilgrimage since they don’t have to carry it around or risk having it stolen from their tents,” said Abdullah Hashedi, another trader.

Gold shopping is rampant among Asian pilgrims in particular, who are keen to buy their loved ones back home valuable tokens from their journey of a lifetime.

Asian pilgrims often buy rings, bangles, bracelets and necklaces as gift items.
Other traders have rebutted claims that sales, whether of 21 or 24-carat gold, are on the decline, but have admitted that previous years saw much higher activity.

Still, sales have improved overall, especially since this year’s wedding season, which was surprisingly docile, said traders.

“Haj is costly for us, not only because of Haj charges, but because we have to include gold shopping in the budget,” said Mohammed Saleem Ansari, an Indian pilgrim who had come from Makkah to purchase gold.

“The designs that are available in the Kingdom are not easily available in our country for common customers,” said Rasheeda Khatun, a Pakistani piglrim buying gold for her grandchildren.

Although the gold market in Kandarah is larger than the market in downtown Jeddah, the latter continues to enjoy more demand, thanks to its proximity and wider variety of goods.
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#4717 [Permalink] Posted on 12th October 2014 19:36
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#4718 [Permalink] Posted on 12th October 2014 19:38
400 million phone calls
made during pilgrimage

Sunday 12 October 2014

This year’s Haj season heralded a new era of increased IT usage giving pilgrims a choice of many different kinds of telecommunication.

According to experts, Haj 2014 registered a bumper increase in phone calls with nearly 400 million mobile calls made from the holy sites to pilgrims’ families at home during the period Dul Hijjah 8 to 12 .

With a 98.82 percent connection success, the performance was remarkable considering the high density of users inside the limited geographical area.
Governor of Communications and Information Technology Commission Abudllah Darrab said that preparations for the pilgrimage season regarding the telecommunications and information technology sector were smoothly carried out.

He added that these preparations included plans to run communications networks and information technology, and plans to restore services in emergency situations under the supervision of the Communications and Information Technology Commission in coordination with the licensed telecommunications services and information technology providers.

The commission will verify the level and quality of provided services by visiting contact centers and customer care providers and directly view the systems and reports as well as obtaining performance-related information. Their work includes analyzing the data and finding the reasons behind any problem.

The commission will also direct companies according to regulations of the commission, in addition to conducting field assessments through one of its academic and research bodies within the commission’s program to cooperate with academic institutions to verify the performance of mobile networks and the service quality in a number of different sites in the Kingdom. The sites will include the the two holy cities and the holy sites during the last ten days of Ramadan and the Haj season.

He indicated that coverage was provided for all important installations at the holy sites.

Also, providing wireless Internet services such as the Wi-Fi technology has helped in improving the performance of data traffic in spite of the large increase in data usage. He added that the service providers deployed advanced networks to achieve the greatest possible continuity of service, increase its capacity and quality, and the use of virtual divider technology that can move traffic to other units if there was congestion or a breakdown in one unit.

Pilgrims not allowed to carry
Zamzam bottles into aircraft

Sunday, 12 October 2014

JEDDAH — Piles of Zamzam water bottles have accumulated in the lounges and passages at the Jeddah airport as authorities stopped pilgrims from carrying these into the aircraft.

General Authority for Civil Aviation (GACA) regulations bar passengers from carrying Zamzam bottles on board aircraft, Director of King Abdulaziz International Airport in Jeddah Abdulhameed Aba Al-Ari was quoted as saying in a section of the Arabic press.

Pilgrims can, however, check in officially-packaged 5-liter Zamzam water bottles.

“I came to the airport carrying a 10-liter bottle of Zamzam water. The Saudia employee at the counter prevented me from taking the bottle aboard the aircraft under the pretext that directives bar passengers from carrying these bottles on board. The employee suggested that I purchase 5-liter bottles that are sold for SR9 each,” Tariq Al-Ghamdi, a passenger, told Makkah daily.

The KAIA director said all local and international airlines operating from the airport have been informed of the regulations.

“Water bottles of an unknown source will not be accepted. This is in implementation of the decision barring passengers from carrying liquids or gels aboard aircraft,” he said.

2.5m animals sold during Haj
Sunday, 12 October 2014

JEDDAH — Over 2.5 million animals were sold during this year’s Haj season, according to Suleiman Bin Al-Jabri, chairman of the Livestock Traders’ Committee at the Jeddah Chamber of Commerce and Industry (JCCI).

Al-Jabri said his company imported 1 million animals during the pilgrimage season and a further 200,000 from reserve farms in Makkah. “A significant number of animals were received by the Jeddah Islamic Port before Eid Al-Adha, with the coordination of Saudi Livestock Traders Committee at JCCI and supported by the Ministry of Agriculture,” he said.

Al-Jabri added that his company has to fulfill the needs of the markets in various regions of the Kingdom in order to maintain stable livestock prices.

“We supply full-contracted quantities of animals under the supervision of the Islamic Development Bank and, because of this, prices of livestock will remain at their regular levels during the coming period,” he said.

Al-Jabri praised the efforts of the Ministry of Agriculture to allocate facilities that allow importers and traders to import such large quantities of livestock.

Grand mufti slams nasty tweets on Haj
Sunday 12 October 2014

Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdulaziz Al-Asheikh, chairman of the Council of Senior Ulema and the General Presidency of Scholarly Research and Ifta, criticized tweeters who are focusing only on the negative issues of Haj 2014 without seeing the pluses, describing such social network users as "
mean and ill-mannered."

During his sermon on Friday at Imam Turki bin AbdulLah Mosque, the grand mufti said humans are not perfect and mistakes are bound to happen. “The human mind has its limitations and it is wrong to assume that it has full knowledge of everything,” he said, adding that owing to this limitation, humans can be right about something while at other times they may totally miss the point.

He stressed that true believers and those who have faith in Islam are able to see both sides of a picture: the positive and the negative.

“It is unfair to point to a small error and overlook the great efforts having been made for a successful Haj season,” he said, adding that tweeting using bad language is wrong and shows that the tweeter has no ethics or principles.

Holy sites to have courts near police stations

Saturday 11 October 2014

Minister of Interior and head of the Supreme Haj Council Prince Mohammed bin Naif has approved the establishment of independent circuit courts next to police stations at the holy sites, starting from the next pilgrimage season. The courts are expected to accelerate and facilitate judicial proceedings.
The proposal was initially submitted by Mubsher Al-Ghurman, member of the Supreme Judicial Council and supervisor of the judicial circuits, after an inspection of the headquarters of the Supreme Council on the second day of Eid.

Al-Ghurman also inspected the judicial services participating in the Haj in Mina, which consists of three judges and 18 employees, in order to define the needs of judges and listen to issues they wish to raise to the minister for a resolution.

He also visited the Fourth Circuit in Almaasim, where the chairman of the General Court in Makkah and the supervisor of these judicial circuits, Mansour Al-Rashed, is based. During the visit, the most prominent issues, observations and needs were discussed, especially comments regarding the location of these circuits, modifications and equipment needed for next year.
The recommendations will be presented to the minister of justice for review.
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#4719 [Permalink] Posted on 13th October 2014 17:59
126 mosques to be razed for Madinah expansion

Monday, 13 October 2014

MADINAH — Some 95 properties and 126 mosques will be demolished to carry out the expansion work of the Prophet’s Mosque in Madinah, said director general of the Madinah branch of the Ministry of Islamic Affairs and Endowments Dr. Muhammad Al-Amin Al-Khatri. Several of these buildings have been vacated while work is ongoing to vacate the others.

He said specialist committees have been formed to purchase other housing units which will be demolished within and outside the Central Area.

In July, the Council of Ministers approved a SR1.98 billion joint-stock company at the Madinah Municipality. The Headquarters Company for Development will promote developmental programs for remote and underdeveloped areas in Madinah and other areas which required development according to urban priority.

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#4720 [Permalink] Posted on 13th October 2014 18:05
Rains reveal body of Haji died
four years ago in Muzdalifah

October 2014

The recent heavy rains that struck the holy sites led to the discovery of the decomposed body of a pilgrim who had died on a Muzdalifah mountain four years ago.

Lt. Col. Aati Al-Qurashi, Makkah police spokesman, said the body was found on Saturday.

Criminal investigation officers found the skull and bones of the dead pilgrim, which had fallen to the valley from a Muzdalifah mountain following heavy rains during the past two days.

“Forensic tests later showed that the body belonged to a pilgrim who died about four years ago,” he said, adding that an investigation has been launched to find out the man’s identity and the reasons for his death.

“While inspecting the body, we found a wristband, which is usually given to Hajis for identification purposes,” said the spokesman, adding the body has been kept at the King Faisal Hospital morgue in Shesha.

Bloggers who responded to the news urged the Civil Defense Department to comb the holy sites of Mina, Arafat and Muzdalifah soon after the Haj season to find any stranded pilgrims or bodies.

However, one blogger said it would be difficult to find such pilgrims because of the mountainous terrain of Makkah and the holy sites.

“Security helicopters hover over Makkah and holy sites during the Haj season to report on accidents, criminal activity and traffic congestion,” he said.


Pigeons of Grand Mosque spreading peace

Monday 13 October 2014

he feeling of safety and security overwhelms not only the visitors to Makkah, but seems also to percolate to the pigeons that fly around the Grand Mosque.

They confidently walk in the courtyards of the mosque in a scene that competes with the most famous pigeon squares around the world.

Once the pilgrim approaches the Grand Mosque, he faces flocks of pigeons flying and wandering around the mosque and its minarets. As the pilgrims step into the mosque, pigeons seem to welcome them.

The spectacle of the pigeons roaming around the Kaaba and worshippers without fear soothes the eyes. The pigeons have become one of Makkah’s famous sights.

Pictures of the mosque’s pigeons taken by pilgrims circulate through social media sites and frequently figure in exhibitions and photography competitions.
Pigeons of Al-Hema, as they are called by the residents of Makkah, have created many stories and good memories shared by visitors. These lovely birds have lived along the sidewalks, streets and the roofs of buildings waiting for the pilgrims’ pouches full of feed. Pilgrims feed the pigeons asking for reward from Allah. They have become part of every pilgrim’s story that he shares in his country and thus circulating around the world.

The pigeons roam the sky of Makkah and land confidently among pilgrims who feed them as part of the tradition of people of Makkah.

Abdul Razzak Muhammad, a Makkah native, said: “Pigeons and pilgrims have shared food and love. We have stories with pigeons in which they have consumed our food and water. After every dawn prayer, I go to the roof of the house to give them food and water. I love to look at them, meditate and listen to their sounds. I became familiar with them.”

Muhammad added: “We have never feared pigeons since our childhood. We have got used to them through our parents who encouraged us to love pigeons by serving food and water outside our house, the sidewalks or the square.”

The 80-year-old man said that he noticed how the pilgrims are surprised by the pigeons’ lifestyle and the way they coexist with the people of Makkah.
The Grand Mosque’s pigeons, gray-colored with shades of green, are protected by a law that prohibits their killing, Anyone who kills a pigeon is fined.

They have become the highlight of the pilgrimage experience that is engraved in the memory of the pilgrims during these blessed days of the year. Flocks of pigeons land and walk in confidence among the people performing their prayers. This does not happen with other types of birds that live outside Makkah.

Visitors of to the Grand Mosque make sure they scatter bird feed in the Haram’s courtyard where the pigeons come to pick it up. Usually, the pigeons build their nests in holes of the old Rawasheen. The pigeons have become a familiar sight of Makkah in which the pilgrims witness their flocks circle the Holy Kaaba, and the squares and minarets of the Grand Mosque.

Haram’s pigeons enjoy a breathtaking beauty and a safety that they are envied for. There are tales aplenty about the pigeons. There are various tales about the origin and the source of these pigeons. Some believe them to be the descendants of two white doves that lived at the entrance of Thor cave during the migration of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) with his companion Abu Bakr (may Allah be pleased with him) to Madinah. Others have speculated that they originally came from Europe.

Training body devotes over
78,000 manpower hours to pilgrims

Monday, 13 October 2014

JEDDAH — The Technical and Vocational Training Corporation has participated in the Haj season for the 11th year in a row by providing training hours for its students who worked during the pilgrimage by repairing cars for pilgrims, providing shaving services; and working with the Red Crescent, the Civil Defense, the hotel sector and scout teams.

Governor of the TVTC Ali Al-Ghafis said a recent final report issued by the corporation’s Support and Quality Control Office in Makkah revealed 78,372 manpower hours were provided.

Around 7,200 hours were dedicated to providing aid to the Red Crescent by fixing machinery.

TVTC students also provided over 3,000 hours to help fix cars near the Makkah entrances and main roads.

This not only served pilgrims but also provided students with intense training and served as a corporate social responsibility program, stated the report.

For the first time TVTC has linked up with the Civil Defense to provide regular checks and repairs on rescue equipment. Almost 1,100 hours were provided.

The students have also been working in the hotel sector due to its demand for more staff during Haj.

Some 4,450 working hours have been provided to the sectors. A total of 150 students have worked in an allocated place at Mina in cooperation with the municipality to help shave pilgrims.

This helped the students to benefit from this season financially and increase their experience in working under pressure as well as maintaining health and safety.

The students provided 4,800 hours. Fifteen scout teams from the TVTC served during this Haj season. The students have been supervised by international leaders specialized in providing aid to pilgrims.

Over 4,800 hours have been provided by TVTC scout teams to pilgrims in Makkah.

Bus overturns, injuring 19 pilgrims
Monday, 13 October 2014

ABHA — Nineteen pilgrims returning from Jeddah after performing Haj in Makkah sustained different injuries when a bus carrying them overturned at Saidat Al-Sawalha, Asir. Eight of the victims suffered serious injuries. Red Crescent paramedics and Ministry of Health teams took most of the victims to hospital. One case was treated on the spot, acting spokesman for the Asir Red Crescent Muhammad Al-Shihri said.

Pickpocket caught inside Grand Mosque
Monday, 13 October 2014

MAKKAH — Undercover security officers at the Grand Mosque caught a pickpocket of Asian nationality stealing from pilgrims red handed. He tried to escape but policemen managed to apprehend him. They found huge amounts of cash in various currencies, six bank cards and five wallets in his possession.

Tsunami orphans thank king
for sponsoring their pilgrimage

Monday 13 October 2014

For several Indonesian under-18s, who were orphaned by the disastrous 2004 tsunami, this year’s Haj turned out to be a dream come true as they performed the annual pilgrimage as guests of Custodian of Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah.

The victims of one of the world’s worst natural calamities, who were hosted for Haj at the invitation of the king, left Sunday for their home country.

“We are unable to express our joy of performing the recent Haj. It was a dream that became true for us,” said Badriah bint Nurdin. “When people in our country have to wait for more than 20 years for their turn for Haj, we consider ourselves grateful and indebted to the king as we could perform the pilgrimage at our young age,” she added.

“We thank the Islamic Development Bank (IDB) and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) for their utmost cooperation during our stay in Makkah, Madinah and Jeddah,” said Salmi bin Musa Ilyas, another orphan. “We are fortunate enough to have had the patronage and care of none other than King Abdullah. We pray for the king’s health and the Kingdom’s prosperity,” he added.

“Witnessing the Kaaba at the Grand Mosque was a unique experience, which we will cherish life long,” Sri Mustina bint Jeelani said, hoping that the king’s noble gesture will continue in the future enabling all other orphans to perform the pilgrimage.

This year 105 orphans — 44 male and 61 female — were invited by King Abdullah to perform Haj as his guests.
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#4721 [Permalink] Posted on 13th October 2014 18:07


Hajj Season 2014

September 2014 - by Orhan Durgut


Old Pilgrimage

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#4722 [Permalink] Posted on 13th October 2014 18:10
Next Umrah Season

KSA prepared to host over 6m Umrah pilgrims

Monday 13 October 2014

More than six million Muslims from across the globe are expected to perform Umrah next year, according to Haj Minister Bandar Hajjar. He reiterated his ministry’s readiness to host huge numbers of Umrah pilgrims.

He added that the ministry is currently working on the final draft of a new executive bylaw for Umrah in coordination with the ministries of interior and foreign affairs. “We’ll announce this bylaw soon after it is finalized,” he said.

He said the newly amended Umrah law, which has been approved by the Council of Ministers, would be applied on pilgrims.

The meeting, held between the ministry’s undersecretaries and other agencies, discussed several reports evaluating the level of services offered to Hajis and ways to enhance amenity standards, such as tents, electricity, water, sewage, air conditioning and the overall level of hygiene at the sites.

The Haj Ministry will send recommendations to Interior Minister Prince Mohammed bin Naif, chairman of the Supreme Haj Committee, and Makkah Gov. Prince Mishaal bin Abdullah, head of the Central Haj Committee.

Hajjar also chaired a meeting with the ministry’s undersecretaries and a committee following up on a 25-year strategic plan for Haj and Umrah requested by Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah to cope with the continued increase in the number of pilgrims year after year.

The strategic plan will cover Haj and Umrah requirements for the next 25 years. A detailed study on this project, to be conducted by consultancy firms, will take nine months to complete.

Only Jeddah, Madinah airports
to receive Umrah pilgrims

Prince Muhammad Bin Abdulaziz International Airport in Madinah

Monday, 13 October 2014

TAIF — The General Authority of Civil Aviation (GACA) has asked all airlines to transport Umrah pilgrims to either King Abdulaziz International Airport (KAIA) in Jeddah or Prince Muhammad Bin Abdulaziz International Airport in Madinah.

A source told Al-Madinah daily that GACA had noticed a number of passengers carrying Umrah visas arriving at King Khalid International Airport in Riyadh and King Fahd International Airport in Dammam without having connecting flights to Jeddah or Madinah.

“GACA noticed that these Umrah pilgrims did not hold tickets to continue their trips to Jeddah or Madinah and wanted to complete their arrival procedures in Riyadh and Dammam airports in clear violation of regulations,” the source said while adding that GACA will take all necessary measures to punish violating airlines.

GACA had previously announced that a total of 1,041,439 Haj pilgrims had arrived at King Abdulaziz International Airport.

It said arriving flights were distributed between the two airports according to each airport’s capabilities.

Madinah airport received 38 percent of incoming pilgrim flights while Jeddah airport received 62 percent of flights.

GACA also stressed that the two airports have finalized their operational plans for the departure of pilgrims who have completed their Haj rituals.

Prince Mohammad Bin Abdulaziz International Airport, Madinah

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#4723 [Permalink] Posted on 13th October 2014 18:13
Saudia begins its massive
operation to fly Hajis home

LOGISTICS FEAT: Saudia will operate 1,531 international and
76 domestic flights to transport pilgrims to their destinations

Monday 13 October 2014

Saudi Arabian Airlines (Saudia) has begun operating more than 1,600 Haj return flights to all destinations from King Abdulaziz International Airport in Jeddah and Prince Mohammed International Airport in Madinah following the end of the annual pilgrimage.

“We will operate 1,531 international flights and 76 domestic flights to transport pilgrims to their destinations,” said Saleh bin Nasser Al-Jasser, director-general of the national flag carrier, which plays a significant role in the country’s massive Haj operation.

He said Saudia extends integrated services to pilgrims in coordination with various government departments, including the General Authority of Civil Aviation, the Haj Ministry and the Passport Department.

“Saudia’s strategic plan to transport Haj pilgrims from 100 foreign and domestic destinations was a big success,” the director-general said, adding that the plan aims at transporting 818,000 pilgrims.

He said the newly purchased Boeing and Airbus aircraft, as well as 29 rented planes, enabled the airline to offer the best services to the guests of God. “We have achieved high rates for on-time performance in Haj flights and ensured 100 percent security for pilgrims,” he added.

Saudia transported baggage without delays. “We have deployed senior executives at major stations to supervise Haj flights and raised awareness about safety regulations to pilgrims. We have also set up a special operation room to monitor Haj flights.”

The appointment of employees who speak the same languages as pilgrims coming from Indonesia, India, Malaysia and Bangladesh was another measure that won the applause of customers.

“We sent Zamzam water bottles for Indonesian, Indian and Malaysian pilgrims to their countries in empty return flights during the first phase of the Haj operation.”

“We issue boarding passes for return flights in advance so that pilgrims need not visit our offices in Makkah and Madinah to make return bookings and are able to focus on worship and Haj rituals.”

The airline appointed cabin crew members who speak the language of pilgrims, supply meals to suit all tastes and screen Haj documentaries during flights.

“We provide city check-in services to Indonesian and Malaysian pilgrims at the Ain Al-Aziziya building in Jeddah and for Indian and Iranian pilgrims in Makkah,” Al-Jasser said.


Women end men’s monopoly
of serving pilgrims
Monday 13 October 2014

The women of Makkah broke into the male bastion of Zamazemah this Haj season to provide pilgrims with Zamzam water and other facilities right at their doorstep through an elegant and sophisticated work system bringing to an end men’s decades-old monopoly of the profession.

The women performed a significant role through the formation of women’s committees that were established at the offices of the Zamazemah United Office. Besides offering Zamzam water, they also arranged hospital visits for women pilgrims undergoing treatment in the holy city.

Nawak Kappli, head of the women’s committee at the United Office said that the women were working on implementing the objectives of the office.

“Zamazemah United Office aims to provide Zamzam water to the pilgrim at his doorstep without his needing to go anywhere. Women pilgrims will now no longer have to crowd at Zamzam water outlets to get water. This will also help us to eliminate the black market in the sales of Zamzam water by female violators,” said Kappli.

The Zamazemah United Office is one of many sectors set up to serve pilgrims. Its mission involves serving the guests of God from the moment they set foot in the Kingdom until they leave according to modern technological plans and mechanisms.

The office receives pilgrims at the awareness centers where they are offered a 320mm plastic bottle of cool fresh water. The office also sends one liter of water to the pilgrims’ lodging, and offers them the same volume of bottled water as a gift when they leave.

Zamazemah is a traditional profession handed down the generations and inherited by 120 families of Makkah keen on offering Zamzam water to pilgrims free of charge.

Sudanese expresses awe at Madinah’s tranquility
Monday 13 October 2014

A Sudanese pilgrim has expressed his awe of the peaceful tranquility surrounding the Prophet’s Mosque.

“I feel a deep sense of peace and tranquility while inside the Prophet’s Mosque; I wish I could stay here longer,” Abul Qasim Hammad told Arab News on Monday.

“God has blessed me with an opportunity to perform Haj and visit the holy sites and the Prophet’s Mosque, greet the Prophet (peace be upon him) and visit other locations associated with the early history of Islam,” the pilgrim added.

He said this was his first visit to the Kingdom and that he had been anxiously awaiting the pilgrimage for a long time.

He lauded the Saudi authorities for the vast facilities made available for pilgrims, in addition to the warm welcome they are given at the airport and the speedy completion of immigration formalities.

He was also amazed by the large number of huge hotels and other impressive urban facilities in the central zone in Madinah and Makkah, besides the economic progress achieved by the Kingdom.

“Almighty Allah has granted the peace-loving and likable Saudi people the privilege of serving the guests of God, who flock to the holy cities of Makkah and Madinah annually,” he said, adding that he was impressed by the huge expansion works undertaken with the sole intention of serving the pilgrims.

The awe-struck pilgrim added that foreign pilgrims and visitors testify that the Kingdom has devoted every effort to the service of the pilgrims. The gigantic expansion projects, the Mashair Railway and the Haramain Railway linking Makkah and Madinah with bullet trains are but a few testaments to these efforts.

Hammad did not consider the travel charges from Sudan to Saudi Arabia unaffordable. He said he has bought many gifts, such as Ajwa dates, to take back home with him.
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#4724 [Permalink] Posted on 13th October 2014 18:35
Masjid al Haram updates

October 2014

Mataf expansion - Phase 2

Tawaf way

October 2014

Mataf expansion - Phase 2-3

Phase-2 is not completed yet ... miss the upper part with the bridges

Phase 3 in yellow

Phase 3

Phase 3:Last part of the old Ottoman Porticos to be demolish

Mataf expansion Phase 2 ... not completed yet

October 2014


5 October 2014

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#4725 [Permalink] Posted on 13th October 2014 19:03
Selfies ‘distracting, boastful’

Scholar advises worshippers to stay away from un-Islamic practices

A prominent Saudi Islamic scholar has urged pilgrims not to indulge in taking infamous “seflies,” saying the new rampant phenomenon distracts worshippers from completing the rituals they came for.

“People often do it to show off, potentially disqualifying their entire act of worship and affecting the divine reward they would get for coming here,” said Ali bin Abdul Aziz Al-Shibal, a member of a Haj awareness committee and lecturer at the Majmaah University.
“Taking photos to let others know where you are or to show that you are engaging in good deeds affects the purity of intention and simply defies the purpose,” he said.
“That is not to mention the fact that other pilgrims will inevitably show up in the photos, violating privacy and rights and creating potential security issues.”

According to Al-Shibal, Islam prohibits Muslims from imitating such forms of non-Muslim culture and traditions.

“Muslims should be proud of their own culture,” he said, quoting a Prophetic “hadith” reported by Jabir bin Abdullah saying: “Those who imitate other nations belong to them.”
Several Islamic scholars have agreed that digital photography is prohibited except for essential purposes, such as taking photos of important events, exposing criminals, issuing ID cards, teaching students and publishing useful media programs, he said.
“The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said that photographers are among those who will be severely punished on Judgment Day. In another hadith, he says that photographers and painters will be asked to give life to their works on the day,” he added.
 Publishing photos in print media is less problematic because the images are stagnant, “but painting individuals and animals, as well as caricatures, is prohibited,” he pointed out.
Abdullah bin Abbas, a companion of the Prophet (pbuh), told a man who said he draws for a living not to “draw living creatures.”

Asked whether there would be any campaigns against selfies in Haj and Umrah seasons, Al-Shibal said: “Our campaigns are aimed at educating pilgrims and other Muslims to keep them away from un-Islamic practices.”
“Islamic scholars spread awareness among pilgrims on basic Islamic teachings, including monotheism, the need to respect Prophetic teachings and adhere to the five pillars of Islam,” he said. “We also enlighten them on mistakes made before, during and after Haj. We reiterate the importance of good behavior and discuss other family-related issues.”
The committee, nevertheless, also cautions pilgrims against new phenomena such as this one.

“There are rules and regulations for all contemporary issues in our religion and this shows the universality of Islam and its applicability in any era.”

He said the Ministry of Islamic Affairs would continue conducting Islamic awareness campaigns throughout the year for the benefit of pilgrims, as well as the general public.
A fatwa program is available throughout the year, while toll free calls can be made around the clock for 45 days during the Haj season to inquire about various issues. The service, he said, is available in major languages.
“This year’s translation service was available in 14 languages. We also distributed pamphlets on Haj and its rules in 34 different languages,” Al-Shibal said.
The scholar opposed using Qur’anic verses as ringtones, saying it shows disrespect for the divine book.

“This is prohibited,” he said. “Worshippers can, however, listen to Qur’an or prayers on their devices.”
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