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    Default Warning over Hajj pilgrimage rip-offs

    Warning over Hajj pilgrimage rip-offs


    Thousands of pilgrims perform night prayers at the Grand Mosque in Mecca during last year's Hajj.



    The government has warned British Muslims embarking on the Hajj pilgrimage to Mecca in Saudi Arabia this year to be on their guard against scams and rip-offs. Up to 50,000 Britons make the pilgrimage each year, but ministers have become concerned with the growing problem of unscrupulous travel agents cashing in on religious devotion.


    Hotel and flight deals can cost more than £3,000, and every year hundreds fall victim to a variety of scams: paying for a five-star hotel near the Masjid al-Haram (the mosque that is a focal point of the event), but getting a tiny room far from the centre of Mecca;visas and flight tickets not arriving; and in extreme cases agents disappearing with their money.

    Consumer affairs minister Gareth Thomas convened a conference of travel agents, community groups and consumer organisations last month, and told them that the government aimed to 'help pilgrims avoid booking with rogue travel agents, and to get redress when they fall foul of those who break the law'.


    The Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform is planning a poster campaign in community centres and mosques aimed at improving awareness of consumer rights, and stressing the need to check that a tour operator to December's Hajj holds an Air Travel Organiser's Licence (Atol), that any company booked with is a member of a trade organisation such as Abta and to keep all documents such as contracts and invoices in case of later problems.

    One of the groups that flagged up the problem, the Association of British Hujjaj, welcomed the move, saying the 'vast majority' of Hajj travel operators were one-man operations and 'simply opportunists who are looking for monetary gain by taking advantage of the vulnerable'. Last year, it handed a petition signed by 5,000 Hajj travellers to the government.


    Dr Nadim Nayyar, from Liversedge in West Yorkshire, booked last year through a Luton-based firm, Go4 Hajj. His party of nine paid for a luxury package costing £32,000. Just 48 hours before they were due to depart, Nayyar discovered their Saudi Arabian visas had not been obtained by the company. 'Our Hajj was over. I felt totally devastated,' he said.


    'The pre-Hajj seminar, where we were supposed to meet other travellers, kept on getting delayed. Then we found that our flights had been altered from scheduled to chartered, changing in Bahrain. Then we found out they couldn't get the five-star hotels they had promised, and we were being downgraded.'

    After learning that their trip was cancelled, Nayyar and 60 other pilgrims who had been let down were told the firm had no assets left to refund them, although he eventually recovered his money through Go4 Hajj's Atol cover.


    'This is not just a package holiday, but an obligatory religious visit, so people tend to be far too trusting,' said Nayyar. 'I think that's where we fell down.'


    Last edited by Muslim; Nov-14-2011 at 12:32 PM.

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    Default Medina Masjid news

    More Space for Women at Prophet’s Mosque

    Fatima Sidiya, Arab News

    JEDDAH, 17 November 2007 — Madinah officials are gearing up for the forthcoming Haj, where pilgrims visit the Prophet’s Mosque on their way to the pilgrimage.

    Abdul Wahid Hattab, spokesman at the Presidency of the Prophet’s Mosque Affairs, said that new arrangements are being drawn up to accommodate women in Al-Rawda area after night prayers.

    Al-Rawda is a very special area in the heart of the Prophet’s Mosque, which extends from the tomb of the Prophet (peace be upon him) to his pulpit.

    “During peak time women are getting a wider area in Al-Rawda,” Hattab said. “We have also added a night period to make it easy for women to go in at night. The night period starts after Isha prayer until 12 a.m. This is beside the morning period and the noon period.” The morning period is from 7 a.m. to 11 a.m. while the noon period is from 1.30 p.m. to 3 p.m.

    This year there would be 440 men and 450 women supervisors, said Hattab. The cleaning and maintenance workers will number 2,880 this year.
    Regarding accommodations for pilgrims with special needs, there are elevators and handicapped parking, as well as sign language interpreters for the prayers. There are also 2,000 wheelchairs available for use at Gate 7.

    Kadija, who has worked as a mosque staff member, recommends that the devout arrive well before prayer and take their time to leave after prayer in order to reduce pedestrian congestion and crowding. She also said pilgrims should avoid bringing superfluous baggage.

    “They should not bring mobiles, cameras or food to the mosque,” she said. “It would be better to keep their stuff in lock boxes. By doing this they help avoid clustering at entrances where bag checks take place.”


    Note:These time periods are important to remember for the sisters going on hajj so they know when they can go and pray in Al-Rawda (which is a garden from paradise in the masjid).


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    Prophet’s Mosque Now Open 24-7

    P.K. Abdul Ghafour, Arab News JEDDAH, 9 October 2007 — The Prophet’s Mosque in Madinah, the second holiest mosque for Muslims, will be kept open 24 hours a day, seven days a week throughout the year on the instructions of Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah, according to Madinah Gov. Prince Abdul Aziz ibn Majed.

    “This gracious decision reflects the king’s care and keenness toward pilgrims and worshippers who visit the Prophet’s Mosque,” the governor said. “It will also help the faithful to spend long hours inside the mosque in worship and meditation.”

    Until now the mosque closed after the last prayer (isha) and reopened for the pre-dawn prayer (fajr).

    Prince Abdul Aziz said all departments of the mosque have been readied to carry out the king’s instruction. Sheikh Saleh Al-Hosain, head of the Presidency of the Two Holy Mosques, said from now on the Madinah Mosque’s doors would be closed only for routine maintenance services. “This is good news for all Muslims, especially for pilgrims who come from far off places in the Kingdom and other parts of the world,” said Mohammed Badahad, assistant secretary-general of the World Assembly of Muslim Youth.

    He said the move would help reduce overcrowding inside the mosque, as the faithful would receive extra hours for worship and prayers. The Grand Mosque in Makkah is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Like his predecessors, King Abdullah has shown special interest in the care and development of the two holy mosques. Recently, he allocated SR10 billion for the comprehensive development of the Grand Mosque in Makkah and the holy sites of Mina, Arafat and Muzdalifah.

    Note: Something FYI for those going to hajj this year. Both masajid are open 24-7 since last year.

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    Default Hajj awareness drive


    Khaled Al-Faisal launches Hajj awareness drive


    Badea Abu Al-Naja | Arab News

    MAKKAH: The government announced here yesterday that it would take tough action against pilgrims who try to enter Makkah and other holy places without Haj permits.

    “There is a legal system to perform Haj and people should know that being a pilgrim is not an excuse to violate regulations and cause problems to others,” said Makkah Gov. Prince Khaled Al-Faisal.

    He was speaking at the launch of a media campaign aimed at enlightening Saudis and expatriate workers on the need to follow Haj regulations. Entitled “Haj Is Worship and Civilized Behavior,” the campaign has been organized by the Makkah Governorate in association with the Ministry of Haj, Ministry of Islamic Affairs, Ministry of Culture and Information, Public Security Department and the Passport Department.

    Prince Khaled highlighted the government’s efforts to manage the annual pilgrimage and the huge amounts it spends on Haj-related arrangements. “The activities of some people in violation of regulations upsets the whole system, causing problems to legal pilgrims. I would like to emphasize the government’s resolve to prevent negative practices during Haj,” the governor said.

    Violators of Haj regulations and overstayers will be arrested and deported immediately. This measure will be carried out throughout the year, not only during Haj. We will intensify the campaign during Haj as we know that there are many people who overstay for this purpose.”
    He added: “This campaign has been organized to create greater awareness of the concept of legal Haj in the minds of the public.”

    The governor cautioned prospective pilgrims against making agreements with dubious Haj service firms and taking unauthorized vehicles to the holy sites, adding that tough action would be taken against companies that cheat pilgrims.

    Prince Khaled urged all related departments and agencies to efficiently manage the pilgrimage to create a good impression in the minds of pilgrims and enhance the Kingdom’s global reputation.

    Haj is an Islamic duty that is compulsory only once for Muslims who are physically fit and financially sound. But many Muslims, especially those in the Kingdom, repeat Haj several times, causing unnecessary congestion in the holy sites by squatting in public places and walkways.

    Thousands of Saudis and expatriates perform Haj every year without obtaining Haj permits and without contracting with Haj service agents. They sleep in public places, especially in the pedestrian path between Mina and Muzdalifah, and around the stoning area of Jamrat in Mina.

    Haj Minister Fouad Al-Farsy stressed his ministry’s efforts to improve Haj services year after year.

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    Hotels in Madina anyone?

    By Faraz Omar Saudi Gazette

    JEDDAH - A cool new service to find hotels in Madina has been launched. The link - www.haraj.net/madina - shows a satellite view of the city with the Prophet’s Mosque at the center. The hotels around it are marked in color.

    Simply moving your mouse over the hotels gives you the name of the hotel and the contact details. This gives people the option to see and choose hotels according to their proximity with the Prophet’s mosque.

    The website, still at its initial stage of development, promises to offer much more in the future.

    It plans to build an online market place for visitors to find any services they need, from the comfort of their homes or offices.


    Comment:

    Those going to hajj should definitely visit the site and see your hotel's location so you don't become lost on the first time back from the masjid....

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    2008 Hajj News Story
    11/06/2008
    Hajj preparations unveiled



    Chief of the Presidency for the Affairs of the Two Mosques Salih bin Abd-ur-Rahman Al-Hussein has announced a comprehensive plan to improve facilities for Hajj participants, the Saudi Gazette reported today. Three million pilgrims are expected to take part in the pilgrimage this year.



    The new plan calls for greater security, more convenient transportation, a constant supply of water and the availability of hygiene facilities for worshippers at the Grand Mosque. Thousands of booklets in several languages have been distributed to enlighten pilgrims on the correct rituals for the Hajj.


    A staff of 6,085 people, including 1,756 regular employees, 1,800 temporary employees and 2,500 skilled workers have been utilized to offer general and technical advice, as well as cultural and educational services. A labor force of 3,000 people has been tasked with keeping the Grand Mosque clean.
    Measures have been put in place to help the disabled, including the availability 100,000 of wheelchairs and 8 electric escalators.



    The security force around the ground mosque will more than double, with a security force of 700 guarding all entrances. Entryways and exits are being closely monitored by guards and cameras in order to avoid suffocation and overcrowding.


    The Kingdom is spending billions of dollars to assure pilgrims of a peaceful Hajj, noted Al Hussein.



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    2008 Hajj News Story - Hajj preparations unveiled


    Chief of the Presidency for the Affairs of the Two Mosques Salih bin Abd-ur-Rahman Al-Hussein has announced a comprehensive plan to improve facilities for Hajj participants, the Saudi Gazette reported today. Three million pilgrims are expected to take part in the pilgrimage this year.

    The new plan calls for greater security, more convenient transportation, a constant supply of water and the availability of hygiene facilities for worshippers at the Grand Mosque. Thousands of booklets in several languages have been distributed to enlighten pilgrims on the correct rituals for the Hajj.

    A staff of 6,085 people, including 1,756 regular employees, 1,800 temporary employees and 2,500 skilled workers have been utilized to offer general and technical advice, as well as cultural and educational services. A labor force of 3,000 people has been tasked with keeping the Grand Mosque clean.

    Measures have been put in place to help the disabled, including the availability 100,000 of wheelchairs and 8 electric escalators.

    The security force around the ground mosque will more than double, with a security force of 700 guarding all entrances. Entryways and exits are being closely monitored by guards and cameras in order to avoid suffocation and overcrowding.

    The Kingdom is spending billions of dollars to assure pilgrims of a peaceful Hajj, noted Al Hussein.

    http://www.saudiembassy.net/2008News...sp?cIndex=8198

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    Default Monorail in holy sites by 2010

    Plans underway for monorail to link Makkah’s holy sites

    04/04/2007

    Plans are underway to connect Saudi Arabia’s holy sites by monorail to facilitate transportation for Hajj pilgrims, the Arab News reported today. The $1.9 billion project involves building monorails in Makkah, Mina, Muzdalifah and Arafat.

    A monorail is a single rail, generally elevated, that is used as a track for passenger or freight vehicles. A key advantage is that monorails do not obstruct traffic on the ground, and they are environmentally-friendly. The monorail proposed for the Makkah-area
    project would have four to eight carriages and can transport 20,000 passengers an hour – nearly 800,000 pilgrims during the Hajj. The project also includes parking facilities so that pilgrims can park their cars at the entrance of Makkah and then board the monorail.

    The Saudi Arabian General Investment Authority (SAGIA), the Ministry of Transport and the Higher Commission for the Development of Makkah and Madinah have all reviewed a study of the project and welcome it. The study was prepared by the International Transport Projects Company, which is now contacting Saudi authorities to obtain the appropriate license to implement the project.

    The Makkah-area monorail is expected to be completed in four years. A
    similar project is under consideration for Madinah.


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    Monorail in holy sites by 2010

    06/06/2008

    MAKKAH: Haj pilgrims traveling between Mina, Arafat and Muzdalifa may be able to take advantage of the proposed monorail project by 2010, a local newspaper reported yesterday. Nine international companies have been invited to bid for the SR5-billion project.

    Dr. Habib Zainul Abideen, undersecretary for development projects at the Ministry of Municipal and Rural Affairs, said the winning company would be announced before September.

    He added that work would start before Haj this year to ensure the project’s completion in 18 months.

    Zainul Abideen said that a French consultancy is finalizing details and designs of the project, which will be duly provided to the bidding companies. He said that the train would run at heights of between eight to 10 meters in order not to obstruct the movement of vehicles and pedestrians on the ground.

    Residents of Makkah will be able to use the monorail to perform the stoning ritual in Mina, he added.


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    Work on SR20bn Makkah monorail to begin after Haj

    P. K. Abdul Ghafour | Arab News

    JEDDAH: Work on the first phase of an SR20 billion Makkah monorail project will start in December soon after the Haj season to facilitate transportation of pilgrims between the holy sites of Makkah, Mina, Arafat and Muzdalifa. The project is designed to transport five million pilgrims.

    “An agreement will be signed with the winner of the contract to implement the project soon after Haj,” said Dr. Habeeb Zain Al-Abidine, deputy minister of municipal and rural affairs and secretary-general of the Commission for Development of Makkah, Madinah and the Holy Sites. Five specialized international companies, which were short-listed from 10, are competing for the multibillion dollar project, he said, adding that a meeting chaired by Prince Miteb, minister of municipal and rural affairs and chairman of the commission, would be held tomorrow to open their tenders.

    Zain Al-Abidine said a feasibility study conducted by an international company had proposed five monorails linking the holy sites. Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah has given his approval to the project that will ease transportation of more than three million pilgrims between the holy sites.

    “The feasibility study suggested the second monorail be built two to three years after the construction of the first one,” he said, adding that a single monorail would cost SR4 billion. The first monorail beginning from Mina will transport nearly one million pilgrims including 360,000 Arab pilgrims.

    Monorail, which is a single rail serving as the track for a wheeled or (magnetically) levitating vehicle, has been rapidly paving its way as a modern urban transit system, providing the most-sought-after transportation solutions for a built-up congested city. The Makkah monorails will be 8 to 10 meters above the ground to ensure smooth flow of pedestrians and vehicles.

    Zain Al-Abidine said the implementation of the project in the holy sites would help withdraw 25,000 buses from a total of 70,000 used by domestic pilgrims as well as pilgrims who come by land from neighboring countries. He said the system would help transport at least 500,000 pilgrims within six to eight hours.

    According to the present study, monorails will have a station west of the stoning area in Mina in order to transport pilgrims to the second and fourth levels of the high-tech Jamrat Bridge.


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    Default Hajj News updates

    Fatwa centers deployed in Holy Sites

    By Abdullah Al-Dani


    Over 800 religious guides and 180 interpreters have been deployed in the holy sites and at pilgrim entry points in Jeddah and Madina to assist pilgrims with their language needs and religion-related questions, said Tawfiq Al-Sudairi, deputy minister at the Ministry of Islamic Affairs, Daw’a, and Guidance. The services of the Ministry have been extended to provide 123 field centers for fatwa throughout Makkah and Madina to answer all Haj-related questions, in addition to 18 main centers in the city of Makkah and 44 across the holy sites of Muzdalifah, Arafat, and Mina, he said.

    The Ministry has also provided a toll free number 8002451000 to answer Haj-related questions.

    As the devotees from all over the world have now started heading to Makkah for their pilgrimage, the Haram central area has been turned into a spiritual center for sermons and instructions on Haj performance and its true spirit, he said.

    The Islamic ministry, in cooperation with the Islamic Development Bank, has been tasked with supervising the Saudi Project for Utilization of Sacrificial Animals, Al-Sudairi said.

    The Project acts as the agent of pilgrims in carrying out on their behalf the slaughtering of all types of offerings they make and the transport and distribution of the meat, all in accordance with the principles of Shariah.

    The Ministry has also participated in enforcing the “No Permit, No Haj” law and educating the public about the Haj through a media blitz launched on over 20 satellite TV channels and in-flight TVs on Saudi Arabian Airlines, the major carrier of pilgrims, Al-Sudairi said. Upon their arrival in the Kingdom, the Ministry provides pilgrims with pamphlets in different languages containing all the instructions they need to perform a valid Haj, he said. – Okaz/SG

    Last edited by Muslim; Nov-14-2011 at 12:29 PM.

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    Virtue Cops assigned to guide pilgrims

    By Abdullah Al-Dani

    Over 450 members of the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice have been assigned to serve as pilgrim guides inside the Grand Mosque in Makkah during Haj.

    They have been deployed throughout the area of Tawaf, corridors and roofs of the Grand Mosque, mainly to guide pilgrims towards areas that may be relatively less crowded and convenient, said Dr. Khaled Bin Muhammed Al-Subai, supervisor of the Commission at the Grand Mosque, Makkah.

    In collaboration with the Holy Mosque’s Security and Women’s Affairs Unit, the members will monitor the flow of pilgrims. They will also monitor the yards surrounding the Mosque to prevent smoking and possible harassment of women.

    They will also help pilgrims to perform proper rituals, manage crowds in the area of Tawaf to ensure a smooth flow of pilgrims, guide pilgrims to health and Fatawa services at the Mosque, and advise them to refrain from acts that violate Islamic teachings, Al-Subai added. – Okaz/SG


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    Pebble bags, another first

    Saudi Gazette report



    JEDDAH – During this year’s Haj, pilgrims will, for the first time, be provided with pebbles for stoning of the Jamrat thanks to a project supervised by Al-Siqaya and Rifada (Watering and Assistance) Committee in Makkah Governorate and carried out by Al-Amoudi Charity (Mabarrah).

    The project aims to prepare pebbles for over 1.5 million pilgrims. Over 500,000 pebble bags manufactured from carpet material have been distributed at different places in Muzdalifa. Each bag contains enough pebbles for three pilgrims for the three days of stoning (Ramy) in Mina.

    Dr. Muhammad Bin Aboud Al-Amoudi, member of the Siqaya and Rifada Committee, said the idea of the project is in line with the directives of King Abdullah, Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, and Crown Prince Sultan Bin Abdul Aziz to provide everything necessary to enable the pilgrims to perform their Haj rituals with ease, comfort, security and safety, SPA said on Saturday.

    He added that the idea of the project was encouraged and supported by members of the Siqaya and Rifada Committee after obtaining a ruling (Fatwa) approving the project.
    Al-Amoudi also lauded the great support provided by Prince Khaled Al-Faisal, Emir of Makkah Region.


    He said the project for preparing the pebbles for stoning ritual aimed to facilitate matters for the pilgrims especially the old among them, who reach Muzdalifa exhausted after the attendance in Arafat. Pilgrims will be provided with sterilized pebbles in attractive bags made of carpet material.

    Al-Amoudi said the first step in the project starts with collection of pebbles, which the Makkah Mayoralty transports to Muzdalifa after ensuring that the pebbles have been cut to a certain size. The preparation process includes cleaning by washing seven times, drying under the sun and removing pebbles that are unfit for throwing at the Jamrat. After confirming that the pebbles are ready, skilled workers place them in bags made of carpet material to be distributed at the gathering points of pilgrims and in buses during their stay in Muzdalifa so as to enable them to devote their time to prayer and supplication.

    Al-Amoudi stressed that the project is being implemented for the first time this Haj. It is a pioneering charitable project aimed at serving the pilgrims, he said


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    Emergency meet in Cairo to tackle swine flu

    RIYADH: Health Minister Dr. Abdullah Al-Rabeeah will lead the Saudi delegation at an emergency meeting of the Arab health ministers in Cairo on Wednesday, the Ministry of Health announced here on Monday.

    The meeting will discuss the procedures and precautionary measures to be taken to combat swine flu and reduce its spread during Haj and Umrah this year.

    The other members of the Saudi delegation include Health Ministry spokesman Dr. Khalid Al-Mirghalani, Ziad Al-Memesh, assistant deputy minister of health, and Thaha Melbari, director general of international affairs at the Ministry of Health.

    The emergency meeting has been organized by the Cairo-based Regional Office of the World Health Organization for the Eastern Mediterranean (EMRO).

    Al-Mirghalani told Arab News that 22 countries in the Arab world would discuss issues related to swine flu and its spread in the region.

    He said that the Saudi team would present the 15 recommendations concluded at the recent workshop held in Jeddah at which swine flu experts from the World Health Organization and the Atlanta-based Center for Disease Control (CDC) exchanged opinions concerning the virus.

    The recommendations of the workshop are not to send pregnant women pilgrims, children under five and elderly people who are suffering from chronic diseases for Umrah or Haj.

    It was recommended that all pilgrims should take the stipulated vaccines at least two weeks prior to their departure for the holy cities.

    The workshop also decided to inform the countries that send pilgrims to organize health education programs for their pilgrims in order to create awareness among them.

    In a related development, the Ministry of Health announced yesterday that it would no longer send daily reports on the incidence of swine flu in the Kingdom. Since May 29, a total of 294 cases have been reported in the Kingdom and the ministry reiterated that it would keep the public informed.



    http://www.arabnews.com/?page=1&sect...tegory=Kingdom

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    Haj bar move ‘a logistical nightmare’



    Haj authorities in India and Pakistan are gearing up for a logistical nightmare after the Arab health ministers’ decision in Cairo on Wednesday to restrict the elderly and children from performing Haj this year.

    Egypt too expected a drop by 30 to 40 percent in the number of people performing Umrah and Haj this year following the Cairo recommendations.

    The ministers unanimously agreed at the emergency meeting in the Egyptian capital that people over the age of 65 and children under the age of 12 and those with chronic illnesses should be excluded from undertaking the pilgrimage to Makkah.

    “The total number of pilgrims will not be restricted,” Health Minister Dr. Abdullah Al-Rabeeah was quoted as saying by news agencies. “We will not change the quota of any country. We have agreed to change certain rules” in an effort to contain the spread of the H1N1 flu virus, he said. Representatives of the World Health Organization (WHO) also attended the meeting.

    Although the Arab health ministers’ decision has to be ratified by their governments, WHO Regional Director Hussein Gezairi told news agencies it would likely be OK’d by the Saudi government. “The Saudi government will make (these conditions) a requirement ... No one will get their visa unless these requirements are fulfilled,” Gezairi told AFP.

    In June, Saudi Arabia had called on the elderly, ill and other unfit Muslims to postpone the journey to Makkah due to fears over the swine flu virus.

    “If those above 65 are not be allowed to undertake the journey to Makkah for health reasons then this is bad news for almost 35 percent of our pilgrims,” said Hafiz Naushad Ahmed Azmi, a member of India’s Central Haj Committee (HCI). Speaking to Arab News from India by telephone, Azmi said all those Indians whose Haj applications have been approved are in a celebratory mood. “For them the countdown has already begun. Their preparations are complete in all respects. The money for the once-in-a-lifetime journey has already been deposited with the Haj agencies. They are now only waiting for the Haj visa to be stamped on their passports. All those above 65 will be very disheartened. This will break their hearts,” said Azmi.

    Of the 115,000 Indians whose Haj applications have been approved by the HCI, nearly 20 percent are above the age of 65.

    “However, those above 65 will not be traveling alone. Some of them are to be accompanied by sons, daughters or other family members. If a man or woman above 65 is now not allowed to undertake the journey then those who were to go along with him or her will also drop their pilgrimage plans,” said Azmi. “So it will affect a large number of intending pilgrims.”

    India’s Haj quota is in the excess of 1.5 million. Most of the pilgrims come through the government-supervised Haj Committee while the rest come through private travel operators. Those applying through the Haj Committee plan their journey months in advance. This year, nearly 400,000 Indians applied for Haj through the committee. Of them, only 115,000 were selected as per the quota through a draw of lots.

    “Now if those above 65 are to be canceled then we will have to go back to those on the rejected list and approve them. What else can we do? We would like to use our quota to the fullest. To compound the problem we are just three months away from Haj,” said Azmi.

    Indian Haj Consul B.S. Mubarak said he was aware of the recommendations made in Cairo regarding Haj visas. “However, it is too early to comment on something that is still in the stage of recommendations,” he said. “We are in constant touch with the Ministry of Haj and with the Haj Committee of India. We are keeping them informed on the swine flu-related guidelines. Unless and until, we get something in writing, we can’t do much,” he added.

    Mubarak admitted that if the Cairo recommendations are approved then it would entail huge logistical challenges. “It will be a very cumbersome and painful process ... to reject those who have already been given the green signal before,” he said.

    Pakistan faces similar challenges. “If you ask me, nearly 50 percent of our pilgrims are above the age of 65. In the past we have had an overwhelming number of pilgrims in that age group. This year will be no exception,” said Behrullah Hazarvi, the Jeddah-based Pakistan Haj director.

    In the Subcontinent, Haj is always undertaken during life’s golden years. “A large number of people in Pakistan wait for their end-of-service benefits before undertaking the pilgrimage. They ensure that they are free of all responsibilities before they head to Makkah. For many, these responsibilities include marrying off their sons and daughters. This has been the convention in the Subcontinent,” he added.

    Hazarvi said Saudi Arabia has world-class health care facilities, and it should be able to let everyone in for Haj. “For our people, the decision to perform Haj is taken years in advance. It is not an overnight decision,” he said. “For the elderly, this will be very painful ... one that will shock them beyond words.”

    A majority of Pakistanis undertake the pilgrimage under the supervision of the Ministry of Religious Affairs. “We have a quota of 80,000 and we have received 86,000 applications. Another 40,000 travel to Makkah through private tour operators. The draw of lots for government-administered quota will take place on Aug. 6. If the directions come beforehand then it will make our task easier. We can avoid considering the applications of those above 65,” said Hazarvi.

    Hassan Gamal Eddine, undersecretary at the Egyptian Tourism Ministry, told Arab News that if the recommendations of the Arab health ministers are accepted, the number of Egyptian pilgrims will fall considerably as pilgrims above 65 years constituted 40 percent of Haj pilgrims and 30 percent of Umrah pilgrims.

    An Egyptian Haj and Umrah tour operator, Barkat Sab of the Baron Travel Agency, said the latest decision is somewhat comforting to the tourism industry in Egypt as the general impression was that the Haj and Umrah season would be canceled this year. “The ministerial decision gave the workers in the industry new hope,” he said.

    Egyptian Consul General in Jeddah Ali Al-Asiri said the decision of the ministerial meeting was taken in the best interest of the pilgrims.

    It is estimated that 1.2 million Egyptians perform Umrah and 80,000 the Haj pilgrimage annually.





  16. #16
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    KSA puts limits on pilgrims

    RIYADH – Saudi Arabia will require the millions of pilgrims who flock to the Kingdom to provide a health certificate showing that they do not have a chronic disease, as part of country’s efforts to battle swine flu, a Health Ministry official said Wednesday.

    The country will also ban adults over 65 and children under 12, and require pilgrims to show proof they’ve received flu shots at home, said Khaled Al-Merghalani, the ministry spokesman.

    “These conditions came after consultations with top international experts in the field,” Al-Merghalani told The Associated Press. “No one will be able to get a visa without fulfilling these new rules.”

    Al-Merghalani said the restrictions will apply to the Haj, which this year takes place in late Nov., and to Umrah, which can see up to three million visitors during the holy fasting month of Ramadan, which begins later this month.

    Al-Merghalani said the government will start implementing the rules once they are approved by top Saudi authorities.


    Minister’s appeal

    Health Minister Abdullah Al-Rabeah told the Saudi Press Agency on Wednesday that the conditions are “balanced, fair and scientific.”

    He urged the pilgrims to wear masks in crowded places, to sanitize their hands and to seek medical help if they have any flu symptoms.

    Al-Rabeah, who’s on a visit to Tunis, said the new measures will not affect the countries’ Haj quotas. A limited number of pilgrims from each country is allowed to attend the Haj every year.

    The conditions Saudi Arabia plans to impose are similar to those adopted by Arab health ministers at a meeting in Cairo two weeks.

    Egypt’s highest religious authority, Grand Mufti Ali Gomaa, has said that anyone who disregards the ministers’ decisions will be considered a “sinner.”

    Saudi Arabia has taken steps to allay fears that the mass gathering could speed the spread of swine flu, including hosting experts from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the World Health Organization, and others in June to examine its measures to prevent the spread of the disease during Haj.



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    Default LIVE web cams in al-Masjid al-Haraam

    LIVE web cams in al-Masjid al-Haraam, Makkah

    http://live.gph.gov.sa/index.cfm

    It was officially announced that 4 live web cams have been activated inside al-Masjid al-Haraam in Makkah, as follows:

    i) the tawaaf area and the yemeni corner (ar-rukn al-yamaani);
    ii) the door of the ka’bah and the hajr ismaa’eel (the semi-circle wall next to the ka’bah);
    iii) a view from the inside and outside of king abdul-azeez gate;
    iv) a view from the inside and outside of king fahd gate.

  18. #18
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    Makkah gears up for Haj

    Badea Abu Al-Naja - 26 October 2009 (08 Dhul Qa`dah 1430)

    MAKKAH: The Presidency of the Affairs of the Two Holy Mosques has begun preparations to implement its plan for this year’s Haj season, which will begin on Nov. 3 until Dec. 18.

    A total of 6,058 persons — including 1,756 regular staff members, 1,800 temporary employees and 2,502 male and female laborers — will be working under the presidency.

    Presidency staff will also be guiding pilgrims to enable them to perform Haj rituals correctly. The presidency’s plans also include increasing the number of muftis and study circles in the Grand Mosque, and completing the expansion of the Masa (the chamber between Safa and Marwah).

    The presidency is also working on completing the bridge that leads from the Masa to the bus terminal, preparing the eastern courtyard to accommodate more worshippers, setting up more drinking water points, keeping up with cleanliness, completing studies to determine the hydraulic specifications of the well of Zamzam in collaboration with the Geological Survey Department, and developing the sterilization system of Zamzam water.

    Under the rules made by the presidency, no food, drinks or bags will be allowed into the Grand Mosque. It also called on pilgrims not to use Zamzam water for ablution, not to sleep inside the Grand Mosque and to dispose of garbage in bins.

    The presidency asked pilgrims to send their observations, complaints or suggestions by fax no: 02 573 9992 or via its website: www.gph.gov.sa


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    China to build Makkah monorail

    11 February 2009

    RIYADH: Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah held wide-ranging talks with Chinese President Hu Jintao, who arrived here yesterday with a mission to strengthen strategic ties between Riyadh and Beijing, especially in the oil and petrochemical sector. The Kingdom and China later signed five bilateral agreements.

    During the meeting, King Abdullah highlighted the strong friendly relations between the two countries and peoples. He expressed his desire to further strengthen Saudi-Sino relations. “China was the first country I visited after becoming the king,” Abdullah told the Chinese president.

    On his part, Hu commended King Abdullah’s efforts to strengthen relations. “We appreciate the continuous contacts between leaders and officials of the two countries,” he added. The two leaders called for a just and comprehensive Middle East peace settlement that would ensure the Palestinians an independent state.

    King Abdullah received Hu at the Riyadh airbase, where a number of high-ranking Saudi officials including Foreign Minister Prince Saud Al-Faisal also greeted the visiting Chinese president.

    The agreements signed yesterday included cooperation in oil, gas and mining; in the field of health; on quality inspection and standards of goods and services; an MOU to set up a chapter of King Abdulaziz Public Library in China and the Makkah railway project.

    The agreement on the Makkah monorail project was signed by Prince Miteb, minister of municipal and rural affairs, with China Railway Company. The project will link the holy sites of Makkah, Mina, Arafat and Muzdalifah.

    It will cost SR6.65 billion and will be implemented in two years. Thirty-five percent of the project’s capacity would be used during the Haj of 1431H and full capacity by the Haj of 1433H.

    The agreements were signed in the presence of King Abdullah and Hu.
    Diplomatic sources said Hu would meet with Secretary-General of the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) Abdul Rahman Al-Attiyah today to discuss cooperation between China and GCC member states.

    The talks and the dinner banquet hosted in honor of Hu were attended by several members of the royal family and high-ranking Saudi and Chinese officials, including Prince Abdul Rahman, deputy minister of defense and aviation; Prince Miteb; Prince Saud Al-Faisal; Prince Abdul-Ilah, adviser to the king; and Prince Muqrin, chief of General Intelligence.

    On the sidelines of the summit-level meeting, senior Saudi and Chinese officials held talks with a focus on trade and investment relations with special reference to new markets for Chinese goods and workers.

    Hu’s entourage includes more than 125 high-ranking Chinese officials and businessmen including Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi, Minister of Commerce Chen Deming and Minister in charge of the National Development and Reform Commission Zhang Ping. “The visit of President Hu Jintao shows the great importance the Chinese leaders attach to the Sino-Saudi relations,” said Chinese Ambassador Yang Honglin.

    In a statement, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Jiang Yu said that Beijing was interested in strengthening energy ties with Saudi Arabia.

    “We value the role it plays and look forward to strengthening cooperation in this field,” Jiang said. “Trade with Saudi Arabia has more than doubled since 2005, rising 65 percent last year alone.”

    China’s economic growth has pushed up its demand for oil and raised the importance of the relationship between the two countries.

    At the airport reception, King Abdullah was introduced by the Chinese president to 12 schoolchildren, survivors of the May 2008 earthquake in Sichuan province that killed or left missing 87,000 people. The children offered the king their thanks for the Saudi donations in support of the victims.

    During his three-day trip, Hu would visit a cement production project constructed by Chinese companies in Riyadh.

    More than half of China’s oil exports come from the Gulf, mainly from Saudi Arabia, which exported 36 million tons of oil to China in 2008. Oil and oil products dominate bilateral trade worth about $42 billion.


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    SR7.5b Makkah project incorporates Light Rail



    MAKKAH – A 4.5-km dual-track Light Rail service with a load capacity of 60,000 passengers per hour has been approved to ease traffic congestion in Makkah.

    The light train will run all year from Shesha to Ghazza, said Munir Hasan Abbas Sindi, general manager of Doroob Company that has initiated the service as part of a massive project adjoining the Grand Mosque.

    Called Darb Al-Mashair, the gigantic SR7.5 billion project includes development of a 1,185,000-sq.km area from Bin Dawood Shesha to Pedestrian Street leading to Mina.

    To be developed by 2012 for multipurpose use, including the Light Rail service, the zone will have two 50-story buildings covering 150,000 sq. m., a domed shopping mall of 278,000 sq.m., a 292,000-sq.m. area for hotels, and 293,000 sq.m. for car parking.

    Train stations will be built at Shesha and Ghazza, covering 37,000 sq.m. and facing the Holy Mosque, Sindi said The track will be fenced off and pass through pedestrian tunnels. For an uninterrupted stretch of the track, bridges will be built for the rail line to pass over roads. Sindi said the project includes two-way electrically operated beltways, known as travelators, running up to the doors of the Holy Mosque.

    Darb Al-Mashair project has been approved by the Supreme Council for the Development for the Two Holy Cities and Makkah Mayor Osama Fadl Al-Bar, with the consent of Makkah Emir Prince Khaled Al-Faisal.

    To be executed in partnership of the Makkah Municipal Corporation, the project is the fruition of the civil authorities’ endeavors to engage the private sector in addressing the growing traffic problem in the holy city. – SG



 

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