Saudi King orders 3-month free extension of iqama, reentry visas of expats

News Network
July 5,2020

Riyadh, Jul 5: Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman has approved the extension of the validity of the expired iqama (residency permit) and exit and reentry visas of expatriates who are outside the Kingdom for a period of three months without any fee.

The iqama of expatriates inside the Kingdom as well as the visa of visitors who are in the Kingdom of which the validity expires during the period of suspension of entry and exit from the Kingdom will also be extended for a period of three months without any charge.

The validity of final exit visas as well as exit and reentry visas issued for expatriates, who are in the Kingdom, but were not used during the lockdown period will be extended for a period of three months without any fee, the Saudi Press Agency reported quoting an official source at the Ministry of Interior.

The ministry source said that these measures were taken as part of the continuous efforts made by the government of King Salman to mitigate the effects of the coronavirus pandemic on individuals as well as on private sector establishments and investors, economic activities in the Kingdom, following the adoption of the preventive measures to stem the spread of the pandemic.

The beneficiaries of the King’s order include all expatriates who are outside the Kingdom on exit and reentry visas, which expired during the lockdown period and after lifting of the lockdown.

These expatriates are not in a position to return to the Kingdom due to the enforcement of suspension of international flight service and temporary ban on entry and exit from the Kingdom.

The beneficiaries also include those expatriates who are still in the Kingdom after issuance of final exit visas or exit and reentry visas but could not travel because of the suspension of entry and exit from the Kingdom.

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In its first, UAE launches 'Hope' mission to Mars from Japan

News Network
July 20,2020

Abu Dhabi, Jul 20: The United Arab Emirates launched its first-ever interplanetary Hope Probe mission to Mars from Japan's Tanegashima Space Centre at 01:58 a.m. (local time) on Monday.

"United Arab Emirates (UAE) launches its first mission to Mars, the 'Hope Mars Mission' from Japan's Tanegashima Space Center," UAE Space Agency said on its Twitter page.

The spacecraft is expected to reach Mars orbit in about 200 days from now and then begin its mission to study the Red Planet's atmosphere, WAM news agency reported.

Once it enters Mars' orbit in the first quarter of 2021, the Hope probe will mark the UAE's 50th anniversary.

The probe will travel 493 million kilometres into space in a journey that will take seven months, and will orbit the Red Planet for one full Martian year of 687 days to provide the first truly global picture of the Martian atmosphere.

The Hope probe will be the first to study the Martian climate throughout daily and seasonal cycles. It will observe the weather phenomena on Mars such as the massive famous dust storms that have been known to engulf the Red Planet, as compared to the short and localised dust storms on Earth.

It will also examine the interaction between the upper and lower layers of the Martian atmosphere and causes of the Red Planet's surface corrosion, as well as study why Mars is losing its upper atmosphere.

Exploring connections between today's Martian weather and the ancient climate of the Red Planet will give deeper insights into the past and future of Earth as well as the potential of life on Mars and other distant planets.

The Hope Mars Mission is considered as the biggest strategic and scientific national initiative announced by UAE's President His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan and His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum in 2014. The UAE will be the first Arab nation to embark on a space mission to the Red Planet in a journey that contributes to the international science community as a service to human knowledge.

The interplanetary mission is the first by any West Asian, Arab or Muslim majority country.

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Muslims in UAE urged to perform Eid al-Adha prayers at home

Agencies
July 23,2020

Abu Dhabi, Jul 23: Muslims in the United Arab Emirates have been asked to perform Eid Al-Adha prayers at home even as mosques will be allowed to operate at an increased capacity of 50 percent from Aug. 3.

Mosques in the UAE have been operating at 30 percent capacity after they reopened on July 1.

Announcing the move, Dr. Saif Al Dhaheri, the official spokesman for the National Emergency, Crisis and Disasters Management Authority, stated that after assessing the situation and coordinating with the concerned authorities, it was decided that Eid Al-Adha prayers would be conducted in homes and takbeers broadcast through visual and audio means.

He also announced that the Emirates Fatwa Council has recommended that donations and sacrifices should be to official charitable causes in the country only.

Al Dhaheri advised the public to donate during this time to the official charitable bodies in the country with sacrifices and donations, through smart applications concerned with sacrifices or through slaughterhouses outlined by the local authorities that guarantee the application of precautionary and preventive measures and provide remote services without the need to enter livestock markets or slaughterhouses.

Al Dhaheri stressed the need to avoid family visits and gatherings, and replace them using electronic means of communication or phone contact, as well as refraining from distributing Eid gifts and money to children and individuals during this occasion recommending to instead use of electronic alternatives.

Al Dhaheri pointed out that it is necessary to avoid visiting pregnant women, children and those with chronic diseases who are most vulnerable to COVID-19 and not to allow them to leave the home and avoid going out to public places to preserve their health and safety.

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Pilgrims converge on Mount Arafat for peak of hajj

Agencies
July 31,2020

mount 1.jpg

Mount Arafat, July 30: Muslim pilgrims converged Thursday on Saudi Arabia's Mount Arafat for the climax of this year's hajj, the smallest in modern times and a sharp contrast to the massive crowds of previous years.

A tight security cordon has been erected all around the foot of the rocky hill outside Mecca, also known as Jabal al-Rahma or Mount of Mercy.

Pilgrims, donning masks and observing social distancing, were brought in buses from neighbouring Mina, state television showed, as Saudi authorities impose measures to prevent a coronavirus outbreak.

They were subject to temperature checks and attended a sermon -- which state media said was translated into 10 languages -- before they set off on the climb to the summit for hours of Koran recitals and prayers to atone for their sins.

The scene was strikingly different to last year's ritual when a sea of pilgrims ascended Mount Arafat, marshalled by tens of thousands of stewards in a bid to prevent any crushes.

After sunset prayers, pilgrims will make their way down Mount Arafat to Muzdalifah, another holy site where they will sleep under the stars to prepare for the final stage of hajj, the symbolic "stoning of the devil".

It takes place on Friday and also marks the beginning of Eid al-Adha, the festival of sacrifice.

The hajj, one of the five pillars of Islam and a must for able-bodied Muslims at least once in their lifetime, is usually one of the world's largest religious gatherings.

But only up to 10,000 people already residing in the kingdom will participate in this year's ritual, compared with 2019's gathering of some 2.5 million from around the world.

"You are not our guests but those of God, the custodian of the two holy mosques (Saudi Arabia's King Salman) and the nation," Hajj Minister Mohammad Benten said in a video released by the media ministry on Wednesday.

Security cordon

A security cordon has been thrown around the holy sites to prevent any security breaches, an interior ministry spokesman said.

Riyadh faced strong criticism in 2015 when some 2,300 worshippers were killed in the deadliest stampede in the gathering's history.

But this year, those risks are greatly reduced by the much smaller crowd.

The pilgrims have all been tested for the virus, and foreign journalists were barred from this year's hajj, usually a huge global media event.

As part of the rites completed over five days in the holy city of Mecca and its surroundings, the pilgrims converged on Mount Arafat after spending the night in Mina.

A district of Mecca, Mina sits in a narrow valley surrounded by rocky mountains, and is transformed each year into a vast encampment for pilgrims.

They began the hajj on Wednesday with their first "tawaf", the circumambulation of the Kaaba, a large structure in Mecca’s Grand Mosque towards which Muslims around the world pray.

The Kaaba is draped in a black cloth embroidered in gold with Koranic verses and known as the kiswa, which is changed each year during the pilgrimage.

Pilgrims were brought inside the mosque in small batches, walking along paths marked on the floor, in sharp contrast to the normal sea of humanity that swirls around the Kaaba during hajj.

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