Hajj pilgrims stay overnight in Muzdalifah

Agencies
July 31, 2020

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Jeddah, Jul 31: Hajj 2020 pilgrims arrived in Muzdalifah Thursday night to rest after spending the day in Arafat.

Earlier, the pilgrims scaled Mount Arafat to pray and repent, as a highly unusual Hajj approached its climax. They listened to a sermon delivered by Sheikh Abdullah Al-Manea and prayed Dhuhr and Asr prayers together at the Al-Namirah Mosque in Arafat.

This year’s pilgrimage is the smallest in modern times, after the number of participants was greatly restricted to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. 

Tight security was in place around the foot of the rocky hill outside Makkah, also known as Jabal Al-Rahma or Mount of Mercy, in preparation for the high point of the annual ritual.

Video footage shown on state television showed the pilgrims setting off on their climb to the summit. They wore face masks and observed strict social-distancing rules imposed by Saudi authorities.As sprinklers sprayed water on them to provide relief from the summer desert heat, the pilgrims raised their palms as they climbed the slopes of the hill — the site of Prophet Muhammad’s last sermon. When they reached the top they recited holy verses and prayed for forgiveness for their sins.

Earlier, the pilgrims were taken in buses from Mina to Mount Arafat. Strict precautionary measures were in place, with each group accompanied by security teams, ambulances and civil defense vehicles. 

When they arrived, their temperatures were checked before they entered Namirah Mosque to hear a sermon that was translated into 10 languages.

“The camps were set up for pilgrims in Arafat early on,” said Minister of Hajj and Umrah Muhammad Salih Bentin. The sermon at Namirah Mosque was delivered by Sheikh Abdullah Al-Manea, who led the pilgrims in noon and afternoon prayers.

“During Hajj this year, we reiterate that it is essential for pilgrims, as well as everyone assisting them, to adhere to the precautionary regulations that have been implemented,” Al-Manea, a member of the Council of Senior Scholars, said during his sermon. “This is to be done for their own safety.

“Precautions have been put in place to protect lives against the damage that the pandemic can cause, and also to actualize Islam’s teachings pertaining to safeguarding human life by Allah’s permission.”

The stay in Arafat is described as the pinnacle of Hajj and Muslims around the world reflect the actions of pilgrims by asking for forgiveness and praying for their deepest desires.
Pilgrims left Arafat in coaches for Muzdalifah after sunset and will pray the Maghrib and Isha prayers there.

After sunset prayers, the pilgrims made their way down Mount Arafat to Muzdalifah, where they will spend the night before the final Hajj ritual, the symbolic stoning of the devil. 

This year, each pilgrim received sanitized pebbles in advance of the event on Friday, which is the first day of Eid Al-Adha.
This year the Kingdom faced the unprecedented challenge of ensuring pilgrims attending Hajj were protected as much as possible from the risks of the coronavirus.

They will then sleep, pray the Fajr prayer there tomorrow and then leave for Mina.

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Agencies
September 27,2020

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Dubai, Sept 27: The Dubai-Sharjah intercity bus service, a major lifeline for commuters who travel between the emirates daily for work, has resumed.

Two of the routes started today, while the third will begin two weeks later.

"The first of the three routes, E303, starts from the Union Metro Station in Dubai and heads to Al Jubail Bus Station in Sharjah. The second route, E307A, starts from Abu Hail Metro Station in Dubai and heads to Al Jubail Bus Station in Sharjah as well. These two routes start operation on Sunday, September 27. The third route, E315, will start from Etisalat Metro Station in Dubai and head to Muwaileh Bus Station and will start after two weeks, Sharjah," said Adel Sharkri, Director of Planning and Business Development, Public Transport Agency, RTA.

"The three routes are vital for the integration of public transport networks between Dubai and Sharjah. These routes are transitional to riders returning to Sharjah starting their journey off three metro stations in Dubai (Union, Abu Hail and Etisalat). They will ease the mobility of commuters between the two Emirates, especially those living in Sharjah and working in Dubai," he added.

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News Network
September 23,2020

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Sharjah, Sep 23: An Indian expatriate cannot believe that he can finally go home after 20 years, with Dh750,000 of fine waived off by Sharjah authorities.

What's in a name? Even a letter matters, says Thanavel Mathiazhaagan, an Indian worker in the UAE who is set to return home after being granted a waiver of nearly Dh750,000 in overstay fines, reports Gulf News.

The man from the Indian state of Tamil Nadu claims that he could not avail amnesty opportunities in the UAE in the last 20 years as his identity verification was not cleared from India due to a mismatch in his father's name in documents back home and that shown in his passport. As it turns out, there was a spelling error in his father's name in the documents in India.

Mathiazhaagan, 56, said he himself realised this (the reason for not getting the clearance) only after his latest request for repatriation was taken up by two social workers in the UAE after he sought their help to return home during the Covid-19 pandemic.

He told media that he had landed in the UAE in 2000 after paying Rs 120,000 (Dh6,048) to a recruitment agent for a job in Abu Dhabi. This could be verified from the stamp on his employment visa entry permit -- the only document that Mathiazhaagan has preserved, apart from a copy of the last page of his passport.

He said the agent had taken his original passport, claiming that his residence visa would be stamped in the passport once he gets the medical fitness certificate issued.

"I took the medical test and waited for my employment visa. But, the agent kept delaying it and later I got to know that the company, which was supposed to hire me, had shut down." Eventually, he said, the agent stopped answering his calls and could not be traced at all later.

"I stayed in a room with some people from my native place. I lived there for eight months with no job. After that I came to Sharjah and started doing odd jobs."

Mathiazhaagan said he illegally stayed in the UAE to feed his family by doing part-time jobs for various households and companies.

He claimed that he did try for returning home during the previous visa amnesty offers in the UAE and lost more than Dh10,000 to people who promised to help him with clearance of his documents that never came through.

Prior to the fine waiver announced till November 17 this year for people with expired visas or who had their visas cancelled before March 1 during the Covid-19 pandemic, the UAE government had granted visa amnesties in 2003, 2007, 2012 and 2018.

Gulf News could not independently verify if Mathiazhaagan had indeed applied for an emergency certificate (EC), a one-way travel document issued to Indians without a valid passport, in order to facilitate their return home, during the earlier instances of amnesty.

However, A. K. Mahadevan and Chandra Prakash. P, who helped Mathiazhaagan get an EC through the Indian Embassy in Abu Dhabi, said he had failed to get identity clearance from India during the pandemic. They said they found out the reason behind the rejection only after Mathiazhaagan met Mahadevan, seeking help to return home.

"His name is Thanavel Mathiazhaagan as per the copy of the last page of his lost passport and the UAE entry permit," said Prakash, the Vice-President of Indian People's Forum, a community organisation that also pitched to get a travel clearance for Mathiazhaagan.

"Unfortunately, the documents sent by Trichy Regional Passport Office to the Senthurai Police Station for his identity verification showed his father's name as Thangavel whereas his father's actual name is Thanavel -- according to all other records. The additional letter 'g' in the name created the problem," said Prakash.

The duo said they approached the Indian Embassy and the local departments in Mathiazhaagan's village to rectify the mistake and process his documents. "Indian Ambassador to the UAE Pavan Kapoor took special interest in solving this case after the issue was taken up with him," said Prakash.

Mahadevan said he was happy that Mathiazhaagan would be flying home soon and meeting his youngest daughter, who had not even been born when he left India for the UAE.

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Agencies
September 13,2020

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Muscat, Sept 13: The Sultanate of Oman on Sunday welcomed the initiative of the Kingdom of Bahrain in view of the joint tripartite declaration on relations with Israel.

Oman News Agency quoted a statement issued by the Sultanate as reading, "The Sultanate welcomed the initiative undertaken by the Kingdom of Bahrain, as part of the Kingdom's sovereign rights, in view of the joint tripartite declaration on relations with Israel.

"The Sultanate hopes that this new strategic approach espoused by some Arab countries will be a practical step towards establishing peace based on the termination of the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories and the setting up of an independent Palestinian state, with East Jerusalem as its capital.

"This embodies the two-state solution as stipulated by UN charters and Arab decisions and, at the same time, reflects the expectations and demands of all Arab countries and peace-loving people aspiring for fair, final and comprehensive peace in the Middle East and the world at large."

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