Sun. Jun 4th, 2023
MOUNT ARAFAT, Saudi Arabia: Huge crowds of robed Muslim pilgrims prayed on Saudi Arabia’s Mount Arafat on Friday, the climax of the biggest Hajj pilgrimage since the pandemic forced drastic cuts in numbers two years in a row.
Groups of worshippers, many holding umbrellas against the fierce sun, recited verses from the Qur’an on the rocky rise, where the Prophet Muhammad is believed to have given his final sermon.
Prayers on Mount Arafat, also known as the “Mount of Mercy,” are the highlight of the pilgrimage, capped this year at one million people including 850,000 from abroad after Covid greatly reduced numbers over 2020 and 2021.
Pilgrims, many of them in simple white robes and chanting “Oh God, here I am,” reached Mount Arafat on foot or in buses from the tents nearby where they spent the night.
After sunset, they will journey the short distance to Muzdalifah, where they will sleep under the stars before performing the symbolic “stoning of the devil” ceremony on Saturday.
“I am so happy to be here, like everyone else. This is the biggest Hajj in the coronavirus era, but it isn’t big enough yet,” Egyptian pilgrim Saad Farhat Khalil, 49, told AFP.
“There are one million here today, but if the Saudis allowed more, 10 million would have came,” he added.
Entry roads were packed with worshippers as helicopters buzzed overhead and volunteers handed out bottles of water and collected rubbish in green plastic bags.
“Let’s keep the purest of all lands clean,” read a sign on a large garbage container.
The Hajj, usually one of the world’s largest annual religious gatherings, is among the five pillars of Islam and must be undertaken by all Muslims with the means at least once in their lives.
In 2019, as in previous years, some 2.5 million Muslims from around the world took part, a figure that dropped to a few thousand in 2020 and 60,000 in 2021.
Even though the crowds are back, Covid fears remain and the Hajj is taking place against the backdrop of a resurgence in the region, with some Gulf countries tightening restrictions to keep outbreaks in check.
All participants were required to submit proof of full vaccination and negative PCR tests. On reaching their white-tent encampment at Mina on Thursday, they were handed small bags containing masks and sanitiser.
The pilgrimage can be physically draining even in ideal conditions, but worshippers this year have faced an added challenge: scorching sun and temperatures rising to 42 degrees Celsius (108 degrees Fahrenheit).
Islam forbids men from wearing hats once the rites start, and many have been seen shielding themselves with umbrellas, prayer mats and even, in one case, a small bucket filled with water.
Women, meanwhile, are obliged to cover their heads with scarves.
“We can tolerate (the heat). We are here for the Hajj. The more we tolerate, the more our pilgrimage is accepted,” Laila, a 64-year-old Iraqi pilgrim who gave only her first name, told AFP in Makkah, where the rituals started.
Saudi officials have touted their preparations for the extreme conditions, highlighting the hundreds of hospital beds allocated for heatstroke patients and the “large number of misting fans” they have provided.
A truck has also been allocated to distribute umbrellas, water bottles and small fans.
Nevertheless, the National Center for Meteorology, which has set up an office in Mina, is sending warnings to pilgrims on their mobile phones, urging them to avoid outdoor rituals at certain times of the day, especially at noon.
On Saturday, Muslim pilgrims will take part in the “stoning,” the last major ritual of the Hajj which has previously led to deadly stampedes, as hundreds of thousands of participants converge on a small space.
After the stoning ritual, pilgrims return to the Grand Mosque in Makkah to perform a final “tawaf” or circling of the Kaaba, the cubic structure draped in a gold-embroidered black cloth that is the focal point of Islam.
Eid Al-Adha, the feast of the sacrifice that begins on Saturday, marks the end of Hajj.
MAKKAH: Madinah Gov. Prince Faisal bin Salman launched the first edition of the Prophet’s Holy Mosque Architecture encyclopedia, which documents the architectural development at the pilgrimage site from the time of the Prophet until the Saudi era.
It includes an extensive scientific study of the mosque’s properties and architectural details.
Prince Faisal said that the publication reflects the Saudi leadership’s interest in the Prophet’s Mosque and the documentation of its architectural details.
He said that the encyclopedia is part of Al-Madinah Al-Munawwarah Studies and Research Center’s attempts to develop an architectural reference documenting the mosque’s features and architectural developments since its construction.
The encyclopedia also highlights the Saudi state’s efforts to care for the mosque’s architecture, expansion, repair and restoration, as well as the aesthetic aspects of Islamic architectural arts.
Work on the encyclopedia began with laser scanning to document all two-dimensional and three-dimensional architectural details with high precision.
The second phase included the model documentation, and work concluded with a photography phase to convey a realistic image of the mosque’s architectural details.
The encyclopedia is based on conceptual modeling of the mosque using laser scanning and photographic technologies.
It features photographs, literary documentation records, analytical articles and architectural studies, along with engineering drawings and three-dimensional abstract forms.
Fahad Al-Wahbi, director-general of Al-Madinah Al-Munawwarah Research and Studies Center, told Arab News that the encyclopedia initiative was launched by King Salman during his visit to Madinah in 2018.
The initiative is continuing under the supervision of the center, chaired by Prince Faisal.
Al-Wahbi said that work began with a study of the architectural elements in the Prophet’s Mosque under a supervisory committee with more than 650 members.
“Each element was later organized by alphabetical order, then studied historically and architecturally: When was it updated? How was it developed in our modern times?” he said.
Al-Wahbi said that the encyclopedia relies on model documentation to show how the Prophet’s Mosque appeared during the Prophetic era, the Rashidun Caliphate, Umayyad Dynasty and Abbasid Caliphate.
“The whole mosque was scanned and specialized devices were used, which required two years of work,” he added.
The center took more than 60,000 photos inside and outside the mosque, which were merged to create panoramic images that visitors can now view inside the site.
RIYADH: The first International Conference on Accounting Education organized by the Saudi Organization for Chartered and Professional Accountants will begin in Riyadh on Tuesday.
The three-day conference is being held under the patronage of Majid Al-Qasabi, minister of commerce and SOCPA chairman, and aims to empower young Saudis and build their capacity to compete globally, promote their work culture, develop their skills, and support a culture of innovation and entrepreneurship.
The forum will be held under the theme “Early Preparation for the Labor Market,” and will take place at the Riyadh International Convention and Exhibition Center.  
It aims to highlight promising opportunities in the profession, as well as review and exchange local and international best practices.
SOCPA CEO Ahmed Al-Meghames said in a statement that the organization had signed numerous agreements with universities and other bodies to support the accounting profession and students.
“The accounting sector, which is rich in national competencies in its various fields, has been witnessing great mobility in recent years, and this has been reflected in the quality of the sector and the achievement of many advantages that contribute to raising the national economy,” he said.
Al-Meghames told Arab News that the organization will launch an accounting “hackathon’ during the conference, introducing innovation in technology to find accounting solutions.
According to SOCPA’s official website, the conference will feature 67 local and international speakers in the field of accounting education.
International, government and private entities, as well as local and global accounting education companies and institutions, will also take part.
The event will target 44 universities and colleges, more than 700 academics and 35,000 students, the statement said.
The conference will also witness the launch of accounting initiatives and more than 40 activities, including eight discussion sessions and 24 specialized workshops.
RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s National Center for Meteorology has warned that severe weather would continue until Friday with torrential rains that could be accompanied by hail, fog with low visibility, and high waves along the coast.
“Thunderstorms will continue in most areas in the Kingdom starting from Sunday, Jan. 1 to Friday, Jan. 6, 2023,” the center tweeted. 
The NCM raised an alert, forecasting heavy rains in Makkah, Madinah and the Northern Borders region starting from Sunday evening. In-person classes remain suspended on Monday and Tuesday in all schools in Makkah, Jeddah and Rabigh. 
In its daily report on Monday, the NCM said: “Moderate and torrential thundershowers accompanied by active winds are forecast to fall on some parts of the Asir, Baha, Makkah and Madinah regions, extending to some parts of the Qassim, Hail, Tabuk, Northern Borders and Jouf regions.”
Skies will be partly cloudy with a chance of thunderstorms accompanied by active winds in some parts of Riyadh and the Eastern Provine, as well as some parts of the Najran and Jizan regions, the NCM added. 
The center also reported that the heights of the Tabuk region and the northern parts of the Kingdom could witness snowfall.
Urging residents to be cautious amid severe weather, the Civil Defense Directorate in Riyadh sent a message on Monday saying the region could witness heavy rains from Sunday to Wednesday.
“The Civil Defense calls on everyone to take precautions, abide by its instructions and stay away from valleys, torrents, dams, water pools, lampposts and electric control rooms. Your cooperation is our support, and your safety is our goal,” it added.
RIYADH: The General Presidency of the Two Holy Mosques mobilized equipment and manpower to deal with wet weather conditions at the Grand Mosque in Makkah on Monday.
The Mataf, prayer areas, entrances, and exits have been prepared to deal with rainfall, and efforts have been intensified to ensure that rain water is drained away and floors dried to ensure the safety of worshippers and pilgrims while they perform their rituals.
Rain is seen as a sign of mercy in Islam.
Saudi Arabia’s National Center for Meteorology has warned that severe weather would continue until Friday with torrential rains that could be accompanied by hail, fog with low visibility, and high waves along the coast.
“Thunderstorms will continue in most areas in the Kingdom starting from Sunday, Jan. 1 to Friday, Jan. 6, 2023,” the center tweeted. 
The NCM raised an alert, forecasting heavy rains in Makkah, Madinah and the Northern Borders region starting from Sunday evening. In-person classes remain suspended on Monday and Tuesday in all schools in Makkah, Jeddah and Rabigh. 
RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Center (KSRelief) ended 2022 on a high note with its continued humanitarian work for disadvantaged individuals across the world.
At the Waalan camp in Hajjah governorate of Yemen, KSRelief provided medical consultations and treatment for 242 people with various health conditions while 121 patients were prescribed free medicine.
In Sudan, 5,774 individuals benefited from the 1,100 food baskets in the past week.
The emergency food aid provided by the Kingdom targeted residents who were badly hit or displaced by the recent floods in the country.
Meanwhile, more than 2,050 Syrian and Palestinian refugees and the most-needy families from the host community in Lebanon received winter clothing as part of the ‘Kanaf 2022’ project of the Kingdom, through KSRelief.


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