Saturday, December 22, 2007

Pilgrims Leave Mina

Saturday, 22 December 2007
By Abdullah Al-Hariri and Adel Al-Malki
Saudi Gazette

MINA - The five-day Haj ended Friday as pilgrims left the tent city for Makkah after pelting the Jamrat.


The last day of Tashreeq (stay in Mina) had always been the most crucial day for authorities, because many stampedes in the past had occurred on this day. However, the new Jamrat project and proper safety measures made this an incident-free Haj.

Authorities have completed more than half of a massive infrastructure project which will cost more than $1 billion. Pilgrims can now throw stones on three levels and a fourth is under construction.

Policemen Friday imposed a strict one-way system, so that pilgrims who have completed the rite do not mix with those moving in the other direction. They also insisted that people leave their bags outside.

Major General, Saad Al-Khelaiwi, a Public Security official, said pilgrims started flocking to the Jamrat area from the early hours of Friday morning.

"Every thing went according to our plans," Al-Khelaiwi said. The rush hour was around 12 o'clock, but the presence of huge number of security forces helped organize the movement.

Minister of Health Dr Hamad Al-Manie said in a press conference Friday afternoon that the Haj was free of any epidemic diseases or other major cases.

Pilgrims were seen wiping tears and raising their hands in supplication to thank Allah after performing the fifth pillar of Islam.

"These are tears of joy," Fathi Mohammed, an Egyptian pilgrim living in Makkah, said, wiping the rivulets of briny liquid from his cheeks.

Fathi, who has performed Haj in the past also, said: "This year, it was a successful season if we take in consideration the great arrangements and the expansion in the Jamrat area."

Haj Souvenirs in Demand

Saturday, 22 December 2007
By Adel Al-Malki

Saudi Gazette

MINA - Zamzam water, a copy of the Qu'ran, unique rosaries, pictures of the Ka'ba, prayer mats and replicas of the Holy Mosques are the most popular souvenirs that pilgrims buy the end of Haj to give to their families back home.

Pilgrims say it doesn't matter if a souvenir is cheap or expensive as long as it is of quality and, more importantly, reminiscent of Haj and was bought at the holy sites.

"Some of these souvenirs are available back home," said Zobaidah Hassan, an Indonesian pilgrim.

"Even if a souvenir was made in Taiwan, China, India or Pakistan, what's important is that it was bought from here," he said.

Some companies and shops report that items named after the holy sites are also a big hit among souvenir hunters.

Abdu Saleh, a perfume vendor, said that one of this year's best-sellers is perfumes that bear the name of Arafat, Mina and Muzdalifah.

Hajis Throng Makkah for Farewell Tawaf

Friday, 21 December 2007
By Abdullah Al-Hariri and Adel Al-Malki

Saudi Gazette

MINA - Surrounded by well-planned security measures at the Jamrt area, about 2.5 million pilgrims performed Thursday the stoning ritual at all three walls symbolizing Satan.


The new measure to allot specific timings to different pilgrim establishments for the stoning ritual helped manage the flow of traffic. All seven gates that lead to the Jamrat Bridge were well-organized. Abdullah Al-Shaqiqi, an emergency officer, said all policemen in the area implemented the directive to prevent pilgrims from carrying their luggage onto the bridge. Five checkpoints were set up to seize any luggage.

Sami Hamed, who came to serve in Haj from Jeddah Police, said that there are some exceptions for those who carry necessary medicines in their bags.

However, most of the pilgrims preferred to perform their ritual from the ground floor to avoid the sun while local pilgrims made it after the Asr prayer.

More than 250,000 pilgrims from Malaysia and Indonesia requested their Tawafa offices to postpone the stoning until overcrowding ends.

Major Saleem Al-Hothali, head of the control at the Bridge, said there were more than 120 cameras to monitor the flow of pilgrims.

Al-Hothali said the second floor of the bridge was for pilgrims who came from Makkah.
He noted that the jam in the ground floor was due to the huge number of pilgrims who came from the east side of Mina.

Heath status of pilgrims in Mina was good, according to the daily report of the Ministry of Health. The report said more than 520 pilgrims were admitted to the ministry hospitals and centers.

More than 30 ambulances participated with other government bodies near Jamrat area to give medical assistance to pilgrims.

Makkah was once again flodded with pilgrims after two quiet days as thousands of Hajis moved to the holy city for farewell circumambulation.

Not Lost, but Put in the Lost Pilgrims Center

Friday, 21 December 2007
By Adel Al-Malki

Saudi Gazette

MINA - Many pilgrims abuse the Lost Pilgrims Center facilities by temporarily leaving their children at the center as lost ones so that they can perform the stoning ritual in ease.

Khaled Al-Zahrani, a boy scout, said parents tell employees of the center that they found the children on the street and insist that they be taken in. Some of the parents said they initially intended to bring their children along to Jamrat, but changed their mind once they saw the crowd.

Long exposure to the sun could cause illness to their children so they opt to leave them at a safer place.

Lost Pilgrims Center is air-conditioned with a playground and games, cartoon movies and gifts for the children.

The center recently started posting the names and photos of lost pilgrims online to make it easier for their families to find them.

56 Pakistan Pilgrims Die of Natural Causes


Friday, 21 December 2007
By Abdullah Al-Hariri and Adel Al-Malki

Saudi Gazette

MINA - Some 56 Pakistani pilgrims have died here and in Makkah from mid-November up to Tuesday, according to Tariq Masoud, supervisor of Pakistan Haj Mission.

A pilgrim in Mina and another in Arafat died while performing the Haj rituals, he said.
Shiekh Sanaullah, 10, was the youngest pilgrim who died in Makkah two weeks ago. Most of the deaths were registered among old pilgrims. The bodies were buried in Al-Ma'la cemetery near the Grand Mosque.
The Pakistan government has set up a center in Mina to oversee the arrangements related to Pakistani pilgrims.
The center has 20 staff members, including some from the medical field. It also has people to guide lost pilgrims and receive complaints.
Zahid Mahmoud, the assistant director of the center, said that they have received some 500 complaints about bad services.
He said all the complaints are studied before being forwarded to the Ministry of Haj that had already closed down some Haj offices that were sued by the Pakistani mission.
"The Ministry of Haj not only takes our complaints seriously, but acts on them," Zahid said.
Mohammad Hanif, 55, is one from a group of Pakistani pilgrims who has complained of bad service of office No. 48 located at the end of Mina.
Hanif said that they were forced to walk all the way to Arafat when the bus that was scheduled to take them there, did not come.
"We are also forced to buy drinking water from shops around the camp since there's no water in the camp," he said.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Iraqis look to a bright future

Friday, 21 December, 2007
By: Adel Al-Malki

Mina-
A year after Iraqi president Saddam Hussein was executed in Baghdad, many Iraqi pilgrims say they are more optimistic about the future of their country.

Husain Abdul Ameer, 56, said it was time to build a new Iraq through solidarity among its people.

"The Iraqi people have closed that page in our history" he said. "Our country needs to end conflict among its sons. We need to send the message to the world that the Iraqis are one people."

Abdul Ameer, another pilgrim from Iraq, used Haj to draw parallel with the situation in Iraq today. After the stoning ritual, the Iraqi pilgrims walked in one line toward their camps while chanting the same words he said.

"The dark age of Iraq died with Saddam" he said.

Tae'i Waliullah, 56, from Kurdistan, said violence in Iraq is limited to areas such as Al-Dorah and Al-Sediah. "The rest of Iraq is peaceful" he said.

Some of the pilgrims talked about recent events in Iraq involving a plan to divide the country in order to incite a civil war.

"There are people who target mosques in Iraq to incite sectarianism. Many Iraqis, however, realize that these are but covert forces out to destroy Iraq" said Kazim Al-Dori.

Sabri Al-Awi, 60, called on King Abdullah to stand by Iraq and support efforts toward its improvement.

Barbers use dirty razors

Thursday, 20 December 2007
By: Adel Al-Malki

Mina-
Some pilgrims have complained that certain barbershops here use dirty razors.

The pilgrims said that the zoning of barbershops in one location has resulted to over crowding, which leaves many pilgrims with no choice but go to less crowded ones albeit with unhygienic practice.

Kamal Nour, a pilgrim from Egypt, said that people sometimes wait in line up to three hours just to get shaved.

"Many of the customers end up fighting each other for the services. There are three million pilgrims stoning the pillars; obviously, more barbershops are needed" he said.

Nour added that some customers look for less crowded barbershops even when these use dirty or the same razor on all the customers.

He said increasing the number of barbershops in different locations will put barbers with unhygienic practice out of business.

Some barbers not only use dirty shaving materials but they also shave pilgrims the wrong way resulting to nicks' heads.

Most of the barbers came from out of town and charge the pilgrims higher rates.

"I made SR 3,000 last year in just three days and I am confident I'll make more this year what with the high price of shaving tools nowadays" Said Ali Bramawi, 16. "This is better than begging".

He said that many of his customers do not bother to check if the tools he use are clean or have been used on others. He said that as a personal rule, he uses the same tool for customers who are from the same family. He cleans his shaving brush in a cup full of flaming liquids.

The expected gross of regular barber shops in Mina this Haj is SR 30 million.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Peaceful End to a Day of Three Rituals

Thursday, 20 December 2007
By Abdullah Al-Hariri and Adel Al-Malki


MINA - The first day of stoning ritual passed off without any untoward incident, Wednesday.
Prince Khaled Al-Faisal, Makkah Emir, said no major traffic or security incidents had taken place and no epidemic cases were reported.


This was the first real test for the third phase of the expansion project of the Jamrat which completed just few weeks ahead of this year's Haj. Authorities have built a third level on to the bridge complex to ease the pressure, allowing more than 200,000 pilgrims an hour to cast pebbles.

The three Jamarat pillars have been extended and turned into a large wall.
"We did our mission effectively," said Khaled Al-Shahrani, one of the security forces official, waving his hands urging pilgrims to move on.
"Alhamdulillah, as you see the situation now, it is really a huge project," he told the Saudi Gazette.

Ministry of Interior deployed more than 7,000 security personnel Wednesday to organize the flow of pilgrims. The number will be increased in the next two days to more than 10,000 security men.

Pilgrim batches, which came to the Jamrat area, were organized as there were seven gates leading to the bridge.

Tawafa offices cooperated with other government agencies as they managed the flow of pilgrims according to their allotted time.

Civil Defense personnel on the ground and its helicopters hovering overhead monitored the pilgrims' traffic.

Red Crescent ambulances were ready to deal with any emergency.
The Ministry of Health said 227,710 patients reported to hospitals and health centers in Makkah and the holy places.

According to the daily statement of the ministry, 60,515 patients reported at the health centers in Makkah and the holy places Tuesday. The health facilities in Arafat and Muzdalifah received up to 752 patients.

Sumayya, a Pakistani lady, delivered a child at one of the hospitals of the holy sites. The parents called their newly born child Ibrahim.

Director of Public Security Lt. General Saeed Al-Qahtani said no criminal cases were reported at the command and control center.

He said the traffic movement on all roads leading to the Jamrat zone went smoothly as planned.
He said the security men were preventing pilgrims from staying along the roads leading to the Jamrat zone. Mansour Al-Turki, spokesman of the Ministry of Interior, said the pilgrims journey to Mina was successful. "We registered no accidents and everything was perfect," Al-Turki said.

After the three main duties on Wednesday - the stoning ritual, the shaving and the sacrifice - pilgrims shaved their head and came out of the state of Ihram.

The two pieces of white cloth they put on when they went into a state of ritual purity on Monday morning.

Barbers set up shop in the street to shave the heads of pilgrims. Other pilgrims made do with a severe haircut, often carried out in the street with nail scissors plied by a friend or relative.

Gas Stoves Seized in Mina

Thursday, 20 December 2007
By Adel Al-Malki

Saudi Gazette
ARAFAT - Civil Defense personnel here seized some 200 gas stoves used by food vendors for cooking outdoors.
The stoves were brought in on motorbikes.
Many of the cooks, who use the stoves, arrived at the holy sites a week before the Haj to avoid being caught. It is an underground business, literally.


They bury their stoves and utensils underground to be dug up once the pilgrims arrive in Mina.
Mohammad Shawi, an African, said it is a family business. Many of the cooks come with their family members, including children, who help sell the food in many parts of the tent city.


Badly prepared and packaged food carries health hazards for pilgrims that those vendors seem to ignore. More than 5,000 bad meals were seized over the last two days in Mina.
A girl selling sauteed chicken for SR15, said it was fresh and clean despite its terrible tastse.

"We bought raw chickens five days ago and submerged them in ice to keep them fresh until they are cooked," said Khadijah Hawsawi, 12. "We only cook the food in the morning of the same day it is sold. At least a day-to-day business."

An African female cook, who has set-up business under the bridge that leads to Arafat, sells chicken, rice and sandwiches to pilgrims at high prices.
Her gas stoves and utensils are strewn all over the places.

Other food vendors sell sweets, fruits and fresh juice that have been exposed for long hours to flies and other insects.

350 Beggars Held in Holy Sites

Thursday, 20 December 2007
By Adel Al-Malki
Saudi Gazette
MINA -
Some 350 beggars were arrested in Makkah, Arafat and Mina in the last few days, according to Mansour Al-Hazmi, director of Makkah Anti-Begging Department.

Most of the beggars are foreigners. Some of them have stayed in the holy sites since their arrival for Umrah in Ramadan. Haj means fortune for beggars. Al-Hazmi said that during Haj a beggar may collect up to SR1,000 a day.

Thousands of these beggars position themselves near Jamrat. They go up to pilgrims with sob stories to gain sympathy, and more importantly, alms.
Beggars use a proven technique by approaching the pilgrims after the stoning ritual or when shaving their heads.

Adam Abdul Raheem, a pilgrim from Sudan, said he was stopped by a pilgrim from Asia who then began telling him something he could not understand.
"He was speaking in his own language, so I didn't get the real story, though I think he was trying to tell me that he lost his money," said Abdul Raheem.
"I know most of them are lying but I still give them money. It doesn't matter - what I'm after is rewards from Allah."

Some beggars use "key words" repeatedly to appeal to the pilgrims.
"More than five beggars approached me, saying words like ‘Haj Mabrouk.' I just found myself reaching into my pocket for some money," said Mustafa Fadhel, a pilgrim from Syria.
Other beggars show pilgrims expensive medical reports or medicine bills that they say are beyond their means.

Tears come on top of those sympathetic "presentations."
A pilgrim from Africa who sought help from a pilgrim from a Gulf country, said he lost his wallet and didn't have enough money to go back home.
After receiving alms from the Gulf pilgrim, the beggar jumped on four more pilgrims for extra money.

Some of the beggars say they are just doing their jobs. Surely, it doesn't get simpler in Haj.
"How can I buy medicines for my sick mother if I don't do this?," said a female beggar who claims to be the breadwinner in her family.
She said that she has tried looking for a job but couldn't find one.
" I think this is the best way and the best season to collect money," she said.

Prayers of Unity in Arafat

Wednesday, 19 December 2007
By Abdullah Al-Hariri and Adel Al-Malki
ARAFAT -
Millions of Muslims - men, women, children, old and the infirm - spent the afternoon Tuesday in Arafat engrossed in prayers and supplication, marking the culmination of the five-day Haj rituals.
The Jabl Al-Rahma or Mount of Mercy, from whose foothills Prophet Muhammad delivered his last sermon, seemed to be draped in white as over-enthusiastic pilgrims climbed atop it. The 110,000-square-meter Namira Mosque and its 8,000-square-meter surrounding areas were completely filled with the pilgrims, who prayed a combined and shortened Dhuhr and Asar prayers in accordance with Prophet's teachings.
The prayer, attended by Makkah Emir Prince Khaled Al-Faisal, was led by Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdul Aziz Bin Abdullah Aal Al-Sheikh, who is also the Chairman of the Council of Senior Ulema and the Head of the Religious Researches and Ifta Department.
Delivering his Arafat sermon, the Grand Mufti warned the nation's youths against serving as a tool in the hands of the deviants to destroy their people and countries.
The Grand Mufti appealed to them not to use their country as a platform for executing their wicked designs and to sow discord.
He also urged Muslim leaders to fear Allah in dealing with their fellow countrymen and apply the Shariah in all the affairs of life.
He urged the Ulema to use their knowledge for the best interest of the Ummah.
Al-Sheikh called on Muslim preachers to enlighten their brothers - the pilgrims who came from all corners of the world - about the right principles of Islam, which advocate tolerance and moderation.
He also called upon the academics and teachers to adhere to the Islamic teachings when addressing their students.
Prince Khaled Al-Faisal, Emir of Makkah and the chief of the Central Haj Committee, followed up the pilgrims progress from Mina to Arafat.
He praised the efforts of the security forces and other government bodies who participated in transporting pilgrims to Arafat.
Unity of the Ummah was the top priority of many pilgrims, who included their parents in their prayers too.
"I have prayed for the victory of Muslims in all fields," Mohammed Yousuf, a Syrian pilgrim, told the Saudi Gazette.
Mohammed Jamal, a Bangladeshi living in Makkah, said he had come just to pray in the holy site.
Iraqi pilgrims took the opportunity to pray for their country and people.
"I prayed for my country and all Iraqis to live as brothers," Emad Hussain, an Iraqi pilgrim said.
Early on Monday morning, pilgrims left Mina to move 9-km southeast to Arafat, most arriving on feet. About 15,000 buses transported the pilgrims and most of them arrived before 9 a.m.
Motorcyclists took the opportunity to make a fast buck by charging between SR50-SR70.
All necessary services and facilities, including medical services, fresh water and foodstuffs, were available in Arafat.
Helicopters were hovering over the plains of Arafat to monitor the progress of the pilgrims while the security forces, traffic officials, civil defense and scouts were available to provide the pilgrims with all possible help.
Many trucks, parked by the sides of the roads, were distributing food and water free to pilgrims.
Pilgrims will be heading to Muzdalifah after sunset to camp overnight and collect pebbles for the stoning of the Jamrat in Mina.

1,000 Plainclothes Police in Mina

Wednesday, 19 December 2007
By Adel Al-Malki Saudi Gazette
ARAFAT -
Some 1,000 plainclothes policemen have been deployed here and in Makkah and Mina to catch pickpockets.
The policemen go around dressed as cleaning people or as pilgrims wearing Ihram. They are spread all over the city including Al-Rahman Mosque, Jabal Al-Rahmah and WC. Col. Khider Al-Zahrani, director of Investigation Department for Festive Occassions in the holy sites, said the police mingle with the pilgrims so as to closely guard them from pickpockets. An Arab pilgrim who was attempting to steal from a pilgrim's luggage was caught red-handed by a policeman in cleaning people's clothes. About 100 pickpockets were also nabbed near the WC.
The stolen items are turned over to the MInistry of Haj while the stolen licenses are brought to the Traffic Department in Makkah, Al-Zahrani said.
He added that the pickpockets are allowed to finish performing Haj inside security cars before they are jailed.

Jamrat Expansion Awes Many Pilgrims

Wednesday, 19 December 2007
By Adel Al-Malki Saudi Gazette
MINA -
"Many people, who see this for the first time, think it's a vehicle bridge, not for people," Kazim Ali, a pilgrim from Iraq, said describing the improvements in Al-Jamrat Bridge. Kazim who has been performing Haj for the last 15 years, said the enlarged three pillars and the expanded bridge will make it easier for pilgrims to move around and avoid overcrowding.
"I couldn't believe my eyes," he said. "I never thought pilgrims can eventually stone the pillars from three floors like this."
Kazim has come to perform Haj with his son this year. He said that his wife wanted to go with them but he dissuaded her.
"I told her I know the situation in Jamrat so I advised her to wait until next year," Kazim said.
Many pilgrims were seen inspecting the Jamrat Bridge ahead of the stoning ritual so as to acquaint themselves with the entrance and exit points.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Over 3 Million Pilgrims to Stand on Arafat


Tuesday, 18 December 2007
By Abdullah Al-Hariri and Adel Al-Malki
MINA -
Over three million pilgrims are expected to stand in Arafat Tuesday, marking the high point of Haj.
All government bodies have completed their preparations to host the Guests of Allah in Arafat where Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdul Aziz Aal Al-Sheikh will address the Muslims. A huge number of security forces took their positions in Arafat and conducted the last-minute drill on crowd management.
Ministry of Health also started operating the main hospitals in Arafat including the new project of Jebel Al-Rahma hospital.
Earlier on Monday, pilgrims streamed into Mina as they spent the whole day of Al-Tarwiyah in the city of tents.
Mansour Al-Turki, spokesman of the Ministry of Interior, said the general health condition of pilgrims was excellent.
In a press conference held at the Public Security in Mina, Al-Turki described the transfer of pilgrims from Makkah to Mina as "very good."
Everything is going according to the ministry's plans, he said.
Ministry of Health said the health condition of pilgrims was fine.
"No epidemics were registered in the ministry's records," Khaled Marghalani, spokesman of the Ministry of Health said.
He said there were a few sunburn cases.
He reiterated that Saudi Arabia was free from bird flu and that the ministry was taking all precautions in this regard.
Abdullah Al-Harithi, spokesman of the civil defense, said his department had completed the first phase of installing 800 kitchens in the holy sites of Mina, Muzdalifa and Arafat.
Al-Harithi said that civil defense has inspected 200 kitchens.
The first batches of pilgrims arrived in Mina just few hours before dawn. Journey to Mina was difficult especially for old pilgrims as they had to walk 15 km from Makkah.
Local pilgrims, who sneaked into Mina form Makkah, were the real problems in the holy site.
"We have strict directives not to allow anyone to sit near Al-Jamarat area. Unfortunately, some Saudi pilgrims who had no Haj permits created some trouble," Ahmed Abdul Wahed, a police officer said.
Security measures were tight.
Helicopters were seen hovering over the whole site to monitor the flow of pilgrims.
Civil defense has allocated 10 helicopters to participate in this year's Haj mission.
About 7,000 security personnel took part in organizing pilgrims' flow and guide them to their tents.
"It is my first lifetime journey and I was surprised at the great arrangements that have been done so far," Sulaiman Bin Yahya, an Algerian pilgrim, told the Saudi Gazette.
Weather condition forced some pilgrims to carry umbrellas after temperature reached about 39 degrees Centigrade.

Squatting still a Problem


Tuesday, 18 December 2007
By Adel Al-Malki
MINA -
Despite official orders against squatting on the streets in the holy sites, many pilgrims still camp out on the pavements and the sides of the main streets that lead to Mina.
Some pilgrims, who couldn't find space on the roads, pitched their tents on the government facilities, like the telecom and electricity department premises. Maj. Gen. Saad Al-Khelaiwi, deputy chief of Haj Forces, said they have at least 10,000 soldiers tasked to implement the directive against squatting and the carrying of luggage on to the roads.
They also formed a team to organize the pedestrians in the holy sites, and monitor groups going to Jamrat.
Fathi Hasanain, an Egyptian, said some pilgrims have no choice but to camp out on the road because their Haj companies didn't deliver on their promise to provide them with accommodation. To earn more, these companies bought more Haj visas than the capacity of camps, he said.
"I bought my Haj visa for a very high cost," Hasaneen said. "And though there was a bus that waited for us in front of the Jeddah Islamic Port, most of us did not have camps to sleep in when we arrived in Mina."
Pilgrims who are residents of Makkah or those who entered the holy sites illegally aim to squat near Jamrat.
"I tried booking for camp accommodation this year but couldn't find any for less than SR 4,000," said Adhwan Meshbab, a Saudi pilgrim.
Many squatters come to Mina with beds, food and small tents. They remove the fences that were put to organize the pedestrian movement.
Others sneak into the holy sites in the beginning of Haj season to bury gas-cylinder underground that they will dig up and use when they return.
One who spoke on condition of anonymity, said he entered Mina seven days before the season began while there were still no security forces to check on pilgrims. An owner of a Haj company said the problem of pilgrims squatting on streets will go on unless Haj officials close the markets all over Mina.

All Roads Lead to Mina


Monday, 17 December 2007
By Abdullah Al-Hariri and Adel Al-Malki
Mina - The valley of Mina reverberated with "Labbaik Allahumma Labbaik," as pilgrims started pouring into the tent city, Sunday.
Large numbers of pilgrims were seen walking down to Mina from Makkah as King Abdul Aziz Road which connects it to the Haram was jam-packed with buses. Only a few cars packed with pilgrims could reach the entrance of Mina. Those who reached the tent city on Sunday will spend two nights in Mina before moving to Arafat Tuesday for the culmination of the Haj.
Passports Department has put up three checkpoints on the Jeddah-Makkah highway to check the identity of pilgrims and ensure that local pilgrims hold the required Haj permission.
The weather in Makkah and holy sites was partly cloudy with maximum temperatures of 30 degrees Centigrade and minimum 22 degrees Centigrade. Humidity was 49 percent.
All government agencies, including civil defense and Haj Security forces, were seen checking out their preparations. Civil defense personnel also reviewed their Al-Jamarat Bridge plans.
The presence of huge security forces in the holy sites ensures that all arrangements have been completed to receive pilgrims in order to make their stay safe and comfortable. Saudi authorities have deployed more than 50,000 security personnel to ensure safety.
Major General Fahd Al-Bishr, Assistant Commander of the Haj Security Forces for Traffic Affairs, said 14,000 traffic policemen and 400 officers supported by 400 machinery participated in managing the flow of pilgrim traffic to Mina, Sunday.
Major General Saad Al-Khilewi, Assistant Commander for Haj Security for Administration and Organization of Pedestrians, said 10,000 security men have been distributed in Mina to organize the movement of pedestrians Monday as well as for the Jamarat stoning days to prevent squatting and unclog the congestion during the movement of pilgrims.
Khaled Marghalani, spokesman of the health ministry, said all health centers and hospitals in Makkah, Mina, Arafat and Muzdalifa are ready to provide any required health service. The ministry of health will deploy 9,000 doctors and nurses around the Haj areas this season. The motto of the Ministry for Haj 2007 is "pilgrims' health."
A total of 11,000 doctors, nurses and paramedics will be on hand to provide medical care, with 4,200 beds at 21 hospitals and 145 health centers in Makkah, Mina and Arafat.About 11,400 blood donation groups will be on standby and an additional fleet of 95 ambulances and 30 cars will be available for pilgrims, he said.
More than 1.6 million pilgrims had arrived in the Kingdom till Friday, the Saudi Press Agency announced in its daily update.
Of these, 3,3716 pilgrims arrived via the King Abdul Aziz International Airport, 2,257 via Prince Mohammed Bin Abdul Aziz International Airport, 3,777 via Halat-Ammar entry point, 947 via Al-Batha entry point and 1,732 via other entry points.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Naif Tours Holy Sites

Sunday, 16 December 2007
By Adel Al-Malki and Abdullah Al-Hariri
MINA -
Prince Naif Bin Abdul Aziz, Interior Minister and President of the Supreme Haj Committee, Saturday toured the holy sites to review the Haj preparations.
During the military show at the Emergency Forces Camp in Arafat, Prince Naif was briefed on the preparations, services, facilities and human resources provided by the relevant sectors to serve pilgrims. An estimated 50,000 security personnel are expected to be deployed during this Haj.
Prince Khaled Al-Faisal, Emir of Makkah Region and Chairman of the Central Haj Committee, as well as a number of ministers and officials attended the show and accompanied Prince Naif during the tour.
Director of Public Security Lt. General Saeed Bin Abdullah Al-Qahtani ensured that all government and security sectors were ready to serve pilgrims.
"Establishing a specialist security force for Haj is a proof that Saudi Arabia is taking care of pilgrims," he said.
More than 12 security sectors have completed their preparations to serve the Guests of Allah.
The Specialist Security Forces will participate for the first time in this year's Haj along with other sectors including Civil Defense, Emergency Forces, Special Security Forces, Traffic Police and Road Security.
After the military show, Prince Naif toured the new projects in Makkah and the holy sites.
He inspected the SR4 billion four-phase Jamarat Bridge Project.
Prince Naif also toured Jabel Al-Rahmah Hospital built at a cost of more than SR 44 million.
Earlier in a statement, Al-Qahtani urged pilgrims not to block pedestrian crossings. He also asked them to refrain from using traditional or plastic tents in Mina.
The government has installed fireproof tents in the Mina valley after some fire incidents in the past.
But those pilgrims who stay in Mina without making any prior accommodation arrangement through Haj operators put up their own tents on pedestrian walkways and hilltops, posing fire risk.
Al-Qahtani reiterated the importance of abiding by regulations and guidelines aimed at ensuring the safety of pilgrims.
Meanwhile, Minister of Health Dr. Hamad Bin Abdullah Al-Manei said that more than 1.1 million pilgrims, who have arrived in the Kingdom through the King Abdul Aziz International Airport in Jeddah, were free from any contagious diseases.
In a press statement after an inspection tour to the airport Friday, the minister said about 55 medical teams were working at 18 terminals of the airport to revise the vaccination certificates or to provide the pilgrims with required vaccinations in line with the health conditions approved by the Agency of the Preventive Medicine.
Primary health care center at the airport has been working round-the-clock to extend the required medical services to the pilgrims.
Dr Al-Manei highlighted the efforts of the medical teams accompanying the Haj missions and the adherence of the pilgrims to the preventive health conditions.
The minister inspected a number of health facilities along the Madina-Jeddah highway as well as some hospitals including the King Abdul Aziz and King Fahd hospitals and the tumor center.
So far 1,643308 pilgrims have arrived, of which 6,2788 arrived at the King Abdul Aziz International Airport in Jeddah.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Makkah Conference Opens Today

Saturday, 15 December 2007
By Adel Al-Malki
JEDDAH -
Prince Khaled Al-Faisal, the Emir of Makkah, launches Saturday the Muslim World League's 8th Makkah Conference. Sponsored by the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosque and held in Makkah the conference this year has the theme "Islamic Discourse and Today's Challenges."
Several scholars, intellectuals and university professors will present research papers during the three-day conference.
"MWL is looking forward to achieve a number of objectives through this conference, particularly defining the importance of Islamic discourse," said Abdullah Bin Abdulmohsen Al-Turki, MWL secretary general.
He said they chose Islamic discourse as the subject because it bears the great message of the teachings and values of Islam. The discussions would take into account the rapid changes in the international scene, he said.
The three main topics to be discussed are Islamic discourse and its importance, Islamic discourse between right and wrong interpretation of the revealed texts, and Islamic discourse between reality and hope
.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Tadawul Closes at 11,022 Points

Thursday, 13 December 2007
By Adel Al-Malki
JEDDAH -
Saudi stocks continued their ascent on Wednesday with the Tadawul All Shares Index (TASI) gaining 2.07 percent or 223.25 points to close at 11,022.65 points on strong buying. But in spite the record run up, analysts have cautioned of a possible correction before the long Haj holiday as investors cash in on the short term gains.
"I expect a market retreat before [the Haj vacation] as some investors will mop off the excess liquidity in the market, but the retreat may not be substantial for the index to go below the 10,000 marker," Fadel Albuainain, a stockmarket analyst with the King Fahd University, said.
Megbail Al-Thekair, an independent stock market analyst, added some unpleasant surprises may spring during the holidays such that investors may rather cash than be caught flatfooted.
"There may be a slight decline... for fear of surprises but there would be no serious retreat," he said.
Aggregate turnover on Wednesday was valued at SR18.79 billion with 461.64 million shares changing hands. A total 61 symbols were up against only 37 losing ground.
The index's restructuring, which freed up some corporate restrictions, may have also provided momentum to the bullish market sentiment, Albuainain said.

Jeddah Residents Complain against ‘Towers of Trouble’

Thursday, 13 December 2007
By Adel Al-Malki
JEDDAH -
National Society for Human Rights is taking the help of the Presidency of Meteorology and Environment to monitor the level of electromagnetic radiation from mobile phone towers that have mushroomed in residential areas. The step was taken after residents filed complaints to the Society about the health hazard from these communication towers.
Many studies suggest that these towers are dangerous because of vibration and electromagnetic radiation, said Bandar Al-Hajar, the Head of the National Society for Human Rights.
Of late many communication towers have sprung up in densely populated neighborhoods. Some building owners have even allowed such towers to be put on rooftops.
Ali Al-Otaibi, a resident of Jeddah's Al-Marwah District, suggested the formation of a ministerial committee to decide on the distance of these towers from populated areas to minimize the health risk.
However, Jeddah Municipality said the presence of these towers in residential areas do not pose any health hazard. It based its announcement on a recent study by the King Abdul Aziz City for Science and Technology, which confirmed that the maximum range of electromagnetic field of these towers reach around 2 volts/m and do not pass a distance of 40 to 100 meters.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Tadawul Breaks Through 10,000 Level

Sunday, 09 December 2007
By Adel Al-Malki
JEDDAH -
The Saudi stock market finally broke through the psychologically-important 10,000-point barrier, ending days - even weeks - of speculation as to when the Tadawul Stock Index (TASI) will finally test a new support level. The TASI climbed as high as 10,179.11 midway through trading on Saturday before closing at 10,108.55, up 2.19 percent or 216.53 points, with about SR15.272 billion worth of shares changing hands. Losers however outnumbered gainers 60 to 38.
The banking sector index was up 3.91 percent to 26,707.23 points; industrial was 2.61 percent higher to 25,913.63; cement 1.32 percent up to 6,534.70; services gained lost 1.55 percent to 2,237.10; electrical was stable at 1,476.71; telecommunications hardly moved to 3,094.88; insurance shed 3.04 percent to 2,475.18 and agricultural dipped 1.91 percent to 4,234.68 points.
"The market finally overcame the psychological barrier after the collapse of the market in February last year," Asa'ad Jawhar, an economist and assistant professor at King Abdul Aziz University told Saudi Gazette.
Jawhar added the Gulf leaders' pledge for a common market launch next month likewise boosted the confidence of market investors bullish on prospects of smoother and broader liquidity flows.
"There have been large amounts of interest among Gulf investors [outside the Kingdom]... with the current market set-up and with the common market trading between Gulf stock markets will be facilitated," John Sfakianakis, chief economist with SABB, said in an interview.
"By all indications the day's run-up [to 10,000] is sustainable because of factor both here and abroad," Sfakianakis added.
Another factor for the bullish sentiment, according to stock analyst Salem Ba-Ajajah also of King Abdul Aziz University, were reports of a SR250 billion budget surplus by the end of the Kingdom's financial year.
The Kingdom is experiencing a windfall from high oil prices, which of late have hit record highs on the global market.
"Impressive corporate results likewise contributed to the day's rise," Ba-Ajajah said.
Among the day's gainers were SABB, which was up 8.19 percent to SR142; Arab National 7.94 percent higher to SR108.75; Al-Hokair which added 6.6 percent to SR56.50 and Saudi Fransi which padded 6.26 percent to SR93.25. Losing stocks meanwhile were Jabal Omar, which shed 7.21 percent to SR22.50; Saudi Indian which shed 6.66 percent to SR105; SAICO which lost 6.399 percent to SR150 and Almarai which retreated 5.95 percent to SR118.50.
Most actively traded were Jabal Omar with 98.243 million shares, Saudi Kayan with 40.697 million shares, MESC with 19.448 million and Emaar E.C. with 17.676 million shares. "If the market movers continue this run we might reach 10,300 before the Haj vacation... and a possible attempt at the 11,000 level after the vacation," Asa'ad commented.
Ba-Ajajah agreed, adding the index may even hit the 11,000 level even before the holiday with the way banking and industry stocks are trading right now.
Safakianakis meanwhile said that continued strong corporate results are luring investment funds into the market.
"We are seeing institutional inverts going into the market," he added.

Emir opens new Arafat Hospital


Sunday, 09 December 2007

By: Adel Al-Malki
MAKKAH - Prince Khaled Al-Faisal, the Emir of Makkah, officially opened a new SR44 million hospital in Arafat on Friday during a tour of the Holy City and ritual areas to inspect Haj arrangements.
The three-story Jebel Al-Rahmah Hospital is a single structure accommodating emergency and outpatient clinics, operation theaters, intensive care and sun-stroke treatment units, kitchen and dining halls, and housing for staff. It has 225 beds with an option of increasing the number to 400 in case of an emergency.
The Emir started the tour by inspecting Jamarat Bridge project and its SR480 million third phase.
The project aims to increase pilgrim capacity for the stoning of the Jamarat ritual. The multi-layered bridge will reduce density of pilgrims and allow for more services to be provided on the bridge. As part of the project, the surrounding squares have been expanded and pedestrian and vehicle movements separated.
Prince Khaled then moved to the Center of Command and Control in the General Security Compound after which he inspected the new buildings for pilgrim housing on the surrounding hillsides. The Emir inspected the pilgrim camp called "Model Square" which offers a quantum leap in accommodations in Arafat. Similar model squares will be built in all the ritual areas.
Stopping at the Mohammad Al-Amodi Charity Organization, the Emir launched a SR45 million project to distribute up to 5 million free meals to pilgrims.
At the transport center and bus service center, the Emir watched a video prepared by the Ministry of Haj about the many new pilgrim-service arrangements made this year.
The Ministry of Water and Sewerage has completed a number of new projects for additional toilets in the ritual areas. The Ministry of Transportation has asphalted the roads and expanded parking zones.
Minister of Health Hamad Al-Manie', Minister of Haj Fouad Farsi, members of the Central Haj Committee, heads of government sectors involved in pilgrim service, and security officials accompanied the Emir on the tour.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

People with Special needs to get Jobs


Saturday, 08 December 2007
By Adel Al-Malki
JEDDAH -
On the occasion of International Volunteers Day, Jeddah Chamber of Commerce and Industry (JCCI) on Wednesday witnessed the signing of an agreement to train and then employ people with special needs. The program begins with 30 people who will be given SR1,500 during their three-month training period, then hired for monthly salaries of SR3,000 each.
Half of the salaries for two years will come from the Human Resources Development Fund in JCCI.
Among the signatory companies to hire people with special needs are Jeddah Center for the Rehabilitation on Disabled, Taibah Drafting Company, companies dealing in gold and handicrafts, and the Human Resources Development Fund in JCCI.
"The aim is to open the doors of hope and opportunities to people with special needs. We can help eliminate the social discrimination against them if they are given equal respect and rights, and entrusted with duties," said Olfat Qabani, a JCCI member.

Phase 1 Glitch in Jeddah Cleanup


Friday, 07 December 2007

By Adel Al-Malki

JEDDAH - The completion of phase one of the Municipality's Jeddah cleanup project seems to have already met a glitch.The new blue plastic garbage bins are smaller than their orange metal predecessors.As a result, garbage spills out on to the street far sooner than before. The new blue bins are installed by Alwan cleaning company, one of three private companies recently contracted for city-cleaning operations - the other two being Dallah and Sadaqah.Under the contract, these companies have to deploy new equipment and undertake a whole range of cleaning work that is expected to dramatically improve hygiene in the city.However, now it appears that the bright blue bins are attracting more attention that before about the long-standing problem of garbage spilling over on to the streets and becoming breeding grounds for pests and disease.The first phase that's completed included putting in place a mechanism to regularly wash pavements, clean beaches, canals, bridges, tunnels and graveyards, collect bodies of dead birds and animals and clear or prevent water and sewage leaking on to the streets.The first phase covered central, north and south Jeddah, said Emaad Bukhari, suggested that things would improve as the project progresses."The work started on specific bases, he said. "Contractors of the new and old contracts are coordinating.There is daily follow-up and weekly reports about the progress."He said they are following a timetable for each region of the contract, and have alternative plans ready in case a need arises for replacement by default."The municipality formed two emergency teams to face the emergency situations during the replacement situation" Bukhari said.In central and north Jeddah, 1807 garbage containers were distributed, in addition to allocating 18 garbage trucks and 178 workers.In the south, 1,902 new garbage bins are in place and 547 workers on the job.In all, the first phase involved 1,600 workers, 55 supervisors and 96 units of new equipment."The second phase will involve the rest of Jeddah and will be completed in the end of this month" Bukhari added.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

KSA to Host 1.5m Pilgrims from Abroad


Thursday, 06 December 2007
By Adel Al-Malki
JEDDAH -
The Minister of Haj announced that the number of pilgrims this year performing Haj has increased by more than two million, with 1.5 million coming from abroad.
The figures were announced by Fouad Farsi , the Minister of Haj, at an event that included participation by several government bodies to discuss the grouping of pilgrims on Jamarat Bridges. "This year the total number of pilgrims will reach to 2,500,000 , with only 200,000 pilgrims from Saudi Arabia and the rest from all over the world." Farsi said.
The pilgrims this year should go to Jamarat following a schedule prepared by the governmental bodies to facilitate movement of the pilgrims on the bridge.
"This year there are six entrances to Jamarat. The ground floor has 2 entrances and 4 exits, the first floor has the 2 entrances and 4 exits and the second floor has 2 entrances and one exit,"Ali Al-Ghamdi , the Director of the Media Department in the Ministry of Haj said. There will be a special program for grouping this year which the pilgrims can inquire about to the policemen or their group leader.
The Ministry of Haj asked the pilgrims to avoid the rush hour during the Jamarat ritual from midday to sunset.
"The Ministry of Haj will allocate six stations for luggage in Mina and Muzdalifa under the supervision of Ministry of Municipal and Rural Affairs and Central Directorate for Development of Projects for the Makkah Municipality," Al-Ghamdi added.
These stations will take SR 10 as rent for 24 hours and the pilgrims will get a card allowing them reclaim their belongings in cases in which the security officers confiscate the belongings on the way to Jamarat.
The Police Traffic Department asked people who don't have pilgrimmage permission not to go to Makkah.
"The traffic plan will start on the first day of Haj month. Traffic will be directed to the east side of Mina to Muzdalifa then to Arafat from morning time to 3 P.M.," Colonel Fahd Al-Besher the Director General of Police Traffic Department said.
He added this year there will be for the first time two lanes for cars and buses. Also for the first time there will be traffic lights in Arafat to control the movement through the intersections.
There will be 12 separation points between pedestrian and car movements in the central region designed to prevent the entry of vehicles to the central when pilgrims move to the Holy Mosque or return from it.
"The traffic police will prevent private cars from loading and unloading passengers by making sure that people take the special buses arranged for this reason," Al-Besher added.

40,000 Unsafe Buildings, 50 to go Now

Wednesday, 05 December 2007
By Adel Al-Malki
JEDDAH -
The municipality will start tearing down at least 50 dilapidated buildings here within a few days, a city official said Tuesday. The action follows the findings of at least 50 survey reports that put the city's number of rundown buildings - many of them still in use and endangering the lives of their occupants - at 40,000, said Mohammad Ajaj, the Municipality's director of Emergencies and Government Relations Department.
"The demolition was finalized after a committee inspected the buildings and took samples of soil and concrete and analyzed them to determine whether they needed reinforcement or removal," said Ajaj.
The 40,000 buildings are in more than 48 districts that grew haphazardly.
Ajaj said a contract has been awarded for the demolition, which will be done in a way as to pose no threat to adjacent buildings and pedestrians.
The buildings targeted are divided into three groups, according to severity. Group A buildings are in serious danger, Group B mid danger and Group C low danger.
The Mayor has in a notification to owners of these buildings, asked for evacuation within 15 days. Some building owners, however, have not been located and the municipality needs the help of the public to track them down.
"Call the number 940 if you have any information about the missing owners of dilapidated building in your locality," Ajaj said.

Jeddah adds Color to New Effort against Sewage Stink


Tuesday, 04 December 2007
By Adel Al-Malki
JEDDAH - Even as city authorities persist with digging up roads and putting in place pipes to complete a long-awaited sewage network - the first ever in Jeddah - they are addressing residents' complaints about the stink that sewage tankers raise when they dump their contents anywhere at will.
The municipality is deploying its teams out on the streets to track these tankers and ensure that they dump their loads only where authorized. "The municipality has formed 24 teams for this purpose to cover the south, east and North of the city," said Abdullah Al-Soulami, director of Control Management.
Trucks that violate
Violators will be fined SR5,000 and the tankers impounded for two weeks, he said.
For decades, Jeddah residents have been suffering the pang for being at the mercy of these tankers without which garbage would pile up and toilets overflow.
The municipality would, of course, act every now and then to prevent the mindless dumping but eventually the stench would return, flies and rats would gather, and disease would spread, said Zubaidi, a watchman of a set of apartment buildings in Al-Rehab district.
Zubaidi's primary tasks are to run from pillar to post to regularly get the sewage tanks cleared and the water tanks filled up. He also has to clear the spilled-over garbage and dirty cats from the dumpster facing his room, and get the street sprayed with pesticide when the residents of the area can't bear the flies and rats anymore.
Now, in the municipality's latest effort, its teams would also strive to prevent leakage from sewage tankers on the roads, Al-Soulami said, noting that the monitoring covers water tankers and garbage trucks as well.
Residents will find it hard to miss the municipality's latest effort to keep the city clean because, as Al-Soulami said, " The system requires the owners of wells, water tankers and and sewage tankers painted with identification colors allotted by the municipality."
He said 513 violations were recorded in the last two months.
Between 2,000 and 2,200 sewage tankers serve areas of Jeddah that are still not linked to the sewage network. The Municipality has also set up a monitoring point at the entrance of the garbage and sewage tanker yard. These tankers would be painted yellow, he said.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

British College Visits Jeddah

Wednesday, 05 December 2007
By Adel Al-Malki
JEDDAH -
The General Organization for Technical and Vocational Training in Jeddah will soon receive a delegation from the British Brighton College. The visit comes as part of a joint cooperation between Saudi Arabia and the United Kingdom in the field of technical and vocational education.
"It takes advantage of the exchange of knowledge and experience which will be of benefit to both sides," said Dean Mansour Al-Maiman. He added that there might be a possibility for the implementation of a joint cooperative training programs in the future.
The joint cooperation raises awareness among trainees about the different cultures and enables them to participate in training workshops, he said.
Trainers also benefit by being introduced to modern equipment in their field of expertise.
Last year a Saudi delegation visited the Brighton College for ten days with the same objectives.

JCCI attracts Canadian Investors

Wednesday, 05 December 2007
By Adel Al-Malki
JEDDAH -
The Jeddah Chamber of Commerce and Industry (JCCI) organized a meeting on Sunday with a Canadian trade delegation that included 19 companies representing various sectors. Mustafa Sabri, secretary general, said the meeting aims to further boost trade and investment ties between Canada and Saudi Arabia. He added the strong relations were clearly manifested at various levels of political, economic and educational sectors.
The Saudi business delegation, on the other hand, included more than 40 businessmen who visited Canada in June this year.
"The meeting witnessed a number of agreements signed in the areas of training and research as well as investment opportunities available in both countries," Sabri said.
The volume of Canadian investments in Saudi Arabia reached more than $1.23 billion. Saudi exports to Canada increased significantly in recent years.
About 6,500 Canadians live in Saudi Arabia while more than 1,000 Saudis stay and study in Canada.
"The government encourages Canadian firms to invest in the Saudi market and to provide investment opportunities for them," Sabri added.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Defect – Design change in Major Jeddah Project




Tuesday, 04 December 2007
By Adel Al-Malki
JEDDAH - The Municipality has suspended a near-finished project of multiple flyovers to ease traffic congestion at the busy intersection of King Fahd Street and Palestine Road, a Municipality official revealed Monday.
Ahmad Ba-Nafe'e, director of Projects Department said a technical defect necessitates a change in design. He said construction defects from design flaws were found, forcing the municipality to task a commission of specialists to come up with appropriate solutions.
The designer and a consultant specialized in bridge design are in the committee, which is using special computer programs to find a way to overcome the technical defects.
Ba-Nafe'e did not specify what went wrong.
All he said was that "the committee made some adjustments that were immediately implemented by the contractor assisted by a company specialized in bridge redesign."
The intersection regulates as many as five traffic streams and is a perennial rush-hour bottleneck at one of the city's main arteries. The main and complex structural design appears to be completed and it's unclear where further alterations, if needed, can be made.
Despite the design flaw and temporary work stoppage, the project is progressing on schedule, Ba-Nafe'e said.
Flyover Curve No. 1 located in northwest of the bridge is expected to open to traffic movement a few days before the Haj starts, so as to serve pilgrims moving from east of Palestine Street to the south by taking King Fahd Street. Curve No. 3 located northeast of the bridge and No. 4 at its southeast is scheduled to be opened after three months.
Curve No. 2 at the southeast is expected to be ready within six months.

Monday, December 3, 2007

10-year Plan for Coastal Development

Monday, 03 December 2007
By Adel Al-Malki
JEDDAH-
Twenty-four government and business establishments, including Jeddah Municipality and the General Presidency of Monitoring and Environmental Protection (GPMEP), have teamed up for a 10-year plan for coastal development. A meeting in this regard was held earlier this week to determine how coastal development projects can serve environmental, social, security and economic needs. It was decided that further meetings and workshops be conducted to prepare a thorough report on the coastal areas in the region. Osama Gorban, the GPMEP's Manager for Monitoring, presented a demonstration of the nature of the study, its goals and expected results. Saeed Madani represented Jeddah Municipality at the meeting.

Private Sector Helps Develop Burial Grounds

Monday, 03 December 2007
By Adel Al-Malki

The Municipality is involving the private sector in developing burial grounds as part of an extensive program to address complaints that cemeteries in the city are mostly neglected, inadequate, poorly staffed and lacking even basic services. As a first step, contracts have been signed to develop eight out of the 15 graveyards in the city," said Khaled Aqeel, Undersecretary for Services at the Mayoralty. All cemeteries will be fenced, their rooms for washing and halls for condolences will be renovated, staff trained and services upgraded through an e-link with the Ministry of Health so as to standardize death reports, he said.
The municipality has also begun distributing a booklet that has the steps of burial, names and telephone numbers of graveyards and hospitals linked to them, and also telephone numbers of specialists to facilitate the process of burial.
Additionally, 10 vehicles have been allotted to transport the dead. Aqeel refuted citizens' complaints that Jeddah has a dire shortage of burial space. Jeddah's graveyards can take 23,000 bodies annually though the need is only 8,000 .

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Jeddah Kicks off “Gateway” Plan

Saturday, 01 December 2007
By Adel Al-Malki
JEDDAH -
This city will once again take steps to become the "Gateway to the Holy Cities" by implementing an intensive improvement plan for the benefit of pilgrims and visitors during Haj season. The plan primarily beefs up the municipality's role in cleaning and maintaining sites frequented by pilgrims, including markets, hotels and the Corniche area.
Of particular interest this year is enhancing overseeing of food shops, vendors and slaughterhouses, said Jeddah Mayor Adel Faqih.
"Municipal functions also include control of the Pilgrim City ... in the departure and maintenance work of the roads and pilgrims' paths, as well as the control of food factories there" said municipality spokesman Ahmad Al-Ghamdi.
He added that municipality officials will chair an Executive Committee of various agencies to closely monitor restaurants and shops inside the Pilgrims City, and take swift action if necessary.
As usual, a committee will be formed to prevent cooking inside the city during the season.

Many Expats in Smashed Terror Plan

Friday, 30 November 2007
By Abdullah Al-Hariri and Adel Al-Malki
JEDDAH -
Some 40 percent of the 208 terror suspects whose arrests were announced by the Ministry of Interior Wednesday were non-Saudis, a security source told the Saudi Gazette Thursday. The source also disclosed that the leader of a group of 18 people planning to smuggle eight missiles into the Kingdom to carry out terrorist operations was a Yemeni national. The Yemeni rocket expert had sneaked into the Kingdom across its southern frontier with Yemen.
Ministry of Interior spokesman Mansour Al-Turki told the Saudi Gazette that the six terror cells busted over a period of time were not linked to each other.
"All the arrested terrorists shared the same ideology, but there was no relation between them in the filed," he said.
Al-Turki reveled that the arrests came as a result of security operations performed in the last few months.
"It was not a one-day operation. We kept following their plans for a while and as soon as we accomplished our mission, we made the announcement," he said, adding that the security forces were expecting to make more arrests after investigations from the arrested terror suspects are completed.
Al-Turki denied media reports that there was a link between the ministry's announcement and the Haj season.
"Timing of the ministry's announcement has nothing to do with Haj security as the investigations showed that suspected terrorists had no plans to carry out attacks during the Haj," he said.
The ministry spokesman disclosed that initial investigations proved that there was no intent to kill a certain Saudi scholar.
Some Saudi scholars revealed that they had received threatening massages from unidentified sources on their phones and e-mails.
Shaikh Mohammed Al-Nejaimi, member of the Advice Committee which helps relocate the deviants back to the right track, said he and Sheikh Sa'ad Al-Buraik, another scholar, received many threats from unknown sources.
"One day when we were on a live program on Saudi TV, Al-Buraik received a fax asking him to stop abusing Al-Qaeda leaders. Immediately after the program I received a call from an unknown person threatening me that I would pay the price if I continue my mission in the Advice Committee," Al-Nejaimi told the Saudi Gazette.
The Kingdom announced Wednesday it had arrested 208 suspected terrorists in six cells, of which some were planning to carry out attacks against oil installation in the Eastern Province.
The Interior Ministry listed six separate arrests in its statement, including the capture of 18 suspects led by a non-Saudi missile expert.
Among terror plots the ministry referred to in its latest announcement were planned attacks on oil installations, smuggling of fighters, and assassination of the Kingdom's scholars and security officials.
The Kingdom has been battling suspected Al-Qaeda militants since they launched a wave of shootings and bombings, many targeting Westerners, in May 2003.
In April this year the interior ministry said 172 terror suspects had been rounded up in one security operation, along with weapons and cash. Some of the militants were allegedly plotting airborne attacks on oil facilities and army bases.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Terror cells Busted

Thursday, 29 November 2007
By Adel Al-Malki
JEDDAH -
Security forces Wednesday announced the arrest of 208 people for involvement in several terrorist cells planning attacks on an oil installation as well as scholars and security forces. A cell of eight suspected militants led by an expatriate planning an attack on an oil facility in the Eastern Province was busted.
Another cell - consisting of 22 people advocating and promoting deviant thought - was busted in the ongoing security operation, the source disclosed. Part of the arrested people had formed teams to target scholars and security men.
Another cell was busted led by an infiltrator who is an expert in missile launch. They planned to smuggle eight rockets into the Kingdom. Eighteen people belonging to this cell were caught.
Another 112 people were arrested in different parts of the Kingdom linked to circles abroad engaged in facilitating traveling of the suspects to troubled areas.
In view of the danger of financing of suspicious activities within and outside the Kingdom, the security forces succeeded in monitoring them and later on arrested 32 people - Saudis and expatriates - active in securing financial support to adopt deviant ideology, the security source said.
In Madina, 16 people - who formed a media cell to promote deviant thought and instigate criminal activities - were arrested.
The security source said the cell issued a bulletin which they named the "Echo of the Euphrates" as a replacement for previous publications while another group coordinated the traveling of a group of brainwashed people to fight in areas that witnessed military conflict.
Within these security operations, the security forces seized different communication tools.
Saudi Arabia has foiled at least two major plots since 2006 to hit major oil facilities in the Kingdom.
In April this year, authorities said that more than 170 people were arrested for planning attacks on oil and industrial facilities, including some who had been training as pilots in preparation for possible suicide operations.
Five of the men played a role in an attempt to storm a major oil facility at Abqaiq in February 2006.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Art Expo opens Today at Italian Consulate in Jeddah

Wednesday, 28 November 2007
By Adel Al-Malki
JEDDAH -
A two-day art exhibition titled "Continue to History," opens Wednesday at the Italian Consulate here. Sixty works are on display, including canvasses by six Saudi artists.
Jeddah Mayor Adel Faqeeh will inaugurate the exhibition being held under the auspices of Makkah Emir Prince Khaled Al-Faisal. It was organized in view of the Emir's keen interest in the cultural, artistic, spiritual and aesthetic aspects of the progress of nations and civilizations, said Ahmad Felemban, supervisor general of the event.
Participating Saudi artists are Dhia'a Aziz , Kamal Al-Moualim, Ahmad Felemban, Mohammad Al-A'ajam, Othman Al-Khozaim, Mohammad Al-Saga'abi. They are all in the forefront of fine arts in the Kingdom.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

No 5-star Camps this Haj

Tuesday, 27 November 2007
By Adel Al-Malki
JEDDAH -
The Ministry of Haj has banned so-called "five star" Haj pilgrim camps, saying the wasted space used by luxury pilgrims is putting too much of a crunch on the record pilgrim base expected this year. The guide released by the ministry for this year's Haj included a directive that the number of pilgrims in each camp should be no less than 70 percent of the officially approved capacity, specifically aiming to reduce the number of five-star camps this year - some of which entertain far fewer than the new limit.
"These camps set aside large tracts for wealthy businessmen who wish to perform Haj ... the rule also prevents institutions from accepting additional unscheduled individuals," the guide said.
Another directive prevents the use of buses licensed by companies to transport pilgrims for private purposes such as a charter for wealthy individuals. The plan identifies each bus authorized to shuttle during Haj and, more directly, the personal information of the pilgrims, to greater regulate the industry and cut down on luxury Haj.
On the other hand, the guide set requirements for all Haj buses, from "one star" up. All buses must be mechanically checked and certified able to perform the shuttle and each bus should have a guide familiar with the process who can ensure that the pilgrims perform the steps and return home at night safely.
"The buses should have all means of safety and comfort for passengers, including that the side windows should be of the type that can be opened and shut easily," the guide stated. "Posters should be draped on all sides of the bus, but especially the left side, that show the name of the company licensed to serve pilgrims and its license number."

Friday, November 23, 2007

Chamber launches Greek Show

Friday, 23 November 2007
By Adel Al-Malki
JEDDAH -
The Secretary General of Jeddah Chamber for Commerce and Industry recently launched the first Greek catalog exhibition that aims to introduce the investment opportunities and various industries in Greece. The exhibition will continue for two days, and also aims to strengthen economic relations that are growing day by day between Saudi Arabia and Greece.
Mustafa Sabri, the Secretary General of Jeddah Chamber for Commerce and Industry, pointed out the importance of investments in the Gulf region for the Greek capital, and large presence of Arab capital in Greece, which called for the establishment of this exhibition, which is playing a role in providing information to investors.
Among the exhibition activities were signing a bilateral cooperation agreement between the Jeddah Chamber of Commerce and the Chamber of Arab Greeks that enhanced opportunities to further discuss joint cooperation and provided valuable services and support to economic figures invested.
Sabri said Catalogs exhibits are the latest means to strengthen economic and commercial cooperation among different countries, especially in light of the difficulties that may prevent the opening of offices or external exhibits.
"The two sides discussed ways to promote trade cooperation covering joint where the companies participating in the exhibition many areas, including communications products and high-tech electronic goods," Sabri said.
The value of trade exchange between the Kingdom and Greece was in 2006 more than $606 million.

Cover discussed for Grand Mosque

Wednesday, 21 November 2007
By Adel Al-Malki and Kholood F. Al-Rhamah
MAKKAH -
The General Presidency for the Two Holy Mosques is studying plans for the installation of sunshades in the Al-Tawaf area and the outer areas of the Holy Haram to protect the pilgrims from the sun's heat, especially in summer days. An official for the Presidency said that the project will include the areas located on the side of Ajyad and Sheab Ali.
Sources say that the project needs in-depth study by authorities and might have the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques Institute for Haj Research conduct studies on the feasibility of the project.
"The project will be implemented after the completion of the studies and the budget is released. The installation of the sunshades will allow many of the visitors to perform prayers in the squares and special noon and morning prayers, thus, easing the congestion inside the mosque," said a source who spoke on condition of anonymity.
With the development the world is going through, the increase in the number of Muslims, growth in people's income and the development in transportation, performing Haj and Umrah has become easier for both Saudis and expatriates.
And although there are no official statistics that show the number of pilgrims who suffer from sunstroke when visiting the the Ka'aba, thousands of worshippers have in fact become sick from the heat.

Projects under way to Develop Jeddah

Thursday, 22 November 2007
By Adel Al-Malki
JEDDAH -
The city's Company for Development and Real Estate Improvement, an undertaking of the Municipality, has signed contracts to develop Jeddah neighborhoods over the next six months.
The contracts focus on four main points aiming to solve the sensitive problems of the city. "The execution of the projects will start six months from now," said the company's chairman, Tariq Telmasani. "The project aims to improve ramshackle areas, housing and infrastructure."
He added the cost of the projects reach into the millions of riyals.
The company is working to involve the private sector through the development and implementation of strategic plans flexible to respond to the current needs and future of the city.
"The company has adopted a clear-cut strategy that would develop districts, add physical balance, and make the city distinct and provide all the of local and global competencies and skills, drawing from the experiences of companies with a global lead in this field," Telmasani said.
The Jeddah Company for Development and Real Estate Improvement was established by Royal Decree two years ago, in response to the requirements of economic and architectural development taking place in Saudi Arabia.
"The company will operate to achieve the vision of the Municipality in Jeddah to reinforce the status of the unique gateway to the Holy Shrines in order to become a center of Islamic culture, and commercial and tourist destination distinct environmentally and human aspects," Telmasani said.

Inside the 5-Star Jail

Tuesday, 20 November 2007
By Mohammed Al-Kinani and Adel Al-Malki
BURAIDAH -
The Buraidah Jail Department has allocated a cell that relatively speaking, is of five-star status for prisoners who behave well. According to prison officials, the idea is to further motivate prisoners change and improve themselves. "Any prisoner can join that particular ward no matter what his wrongdoing was," said an official at the Buraidah Jail.
There are rules an inmate must adhere to, though, when inside the five-star jail. Among these are performing prayers on a regular basis, quitting smoking, and, of course, exhibiting exemplary demeanor.
Jail officials also supply the inmates different sources of knowledge. "We give prisoners religious lectures and lessons. We have also designated an area for teaching detainees different abstract courses," he said.
Detainees also get advice from well-qualified scholars as Hamad Al-Saqa'abi, who prisoners look at as a father.
A prisoner said they benefit from the programs being implemented in the five-star cell. "I thank all the people who are behind this idea. I have memorized the whole Qur'an during my stay here - something made possible by the psychological comfort we find here," he said.
Buraidah Voluntary Store that finances the section, has spent over SR2 million on making the five-star jail not only an example on how such places should - or could - be, but also how prisoners must behave.
Maj. Gen. Ahmed Al-Zahrani, Director of Jeddah Prison, said that Saudi jails are not like any other prisons in the world.
"Islam urges us to treat man gently wherever he is found," he said.
"The government of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques expects us to be nice to those who committed a wrongdoing, believing that they can be rehabilitated to become effective members of society," he added.
Al-Zahrani confirmed that all prisoners they receive are exposed to the programs of the five-star jail.
"A prisoner undergoes a health checkup when he comes to us, then we investigate whether his family needs any assistance. If so, we coordinate with the appropriate authorities to lend them a hand," said Al-Zahrani.

JCCI: Use Women’s Funds for Education

Monday, 19 November 2007
By Adel Al-Malki
JEDDAH -
The Jeddah Chamber of Commerce and Industry (JCCI) has called for the investment of some SR50 billion funds of women in banks on productive projects especially relating to education.
The funds are "frozen" in bank accounts since women cannot use this without permission from their husbands. Saleh Al-Turki, Chairman of the JCCI, said that because of lack of work opportunities for female graduates, there is a general impression that education is not a wise investment to make. This belief partly causes an increase in living dependency up to 70 percent, he said.
Al-Turki said there is a need for an equitable distribution of opportunities for women who want to seek work in sectors other than health and education. "We have to review and expand the educational system in order to meet the needs of the labor market, taking into consideration how it would open up opportunities to our female graduates and the expected increase in population of the Kingdom in the next 10 years," he said.
The budget for girls' education this year is estimated at SR34 billion.
Women represent 56 percent of university graduates, 14 percent of the Saudi labor force and 30 percent of those who work in government.
About 20,000 women own commercial establishments and 21 percent run them, with consent from their elders.
The education sector employs 85 percent of total working women. Others are employed in the health sector.
Al-Turki said there is also a need to open the way for businesswomen to invest in the industrial sector in particular to further boost the economy.