UAE to issue travel NOCs for expats stranded in India in some cases

KT
June 30,2020

Dubai, Jun 30: The UAE Embassy in India on Tuesday urged expats stranded in India to procure travel approvals from the Federal Authority for Identity and Citizenship (ICA) in the UAE ahead of their travel to the UAE.

It has also assured UAE residence visa holders that a no-objection letter to travel would be issued on a humanitarian basis, as long as the resident meets all conditions set by the government of UAE.

The UAE Embassy in New Delhi tweeted Tuesday morning, "The @UAEembassyIndia would like to draw the attention of the valid UAE residence permit holders currently present in India, to the necessity of obtaining necessary approval from the @ICAUAE while ensuring that all conditions set by the UAE competent authorities are observed."

It added, "Please note that UAE will issue no objection letter to travel in some humanitarian cases only that meet all conditions and requirements."

The embassy also affirmed its commitment to the decisions of the Indian authorities regarding the continued closure of airports in India, and implementation of some restrictions that do not allow foreign airlines to carry passengers.

"We express our thank for your cooperation and your understanding of the current global situation, and in case there is any developments in this regard, we will publish it on the official platforms of embassy (sic)," the Embassy tweeted.

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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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Saudi Arabia says it has 'unprecedented plans' for Haj 2020

Agencies
July 22,2020

Dubai, Jul 22: Saudi Arabia's Minister of Haj and Umrah, Dr Muhammad Saleh Benten, has inspected the facilities and arrangement made for the Haj pilgrims in Makkah and the holy sites.

Speaking to the Saudi Press Agency after the tour, the minister said that the Saudi government has worked out unprecedented plans for the running of this year's Haj, enabling pilgrims to perform their rituals in ease and comfort.
 
This year's Haj, which has been scaled back dramatically to include only around 1,000 Muslim pilgrims as Saudi Arabia battles a coronavirus surge, will begin on July 29, authorities said Monday.

"The comprehensive, foolproof plans will be implemented by the security, health and service agencies. The plans include the provision of the best health services, and the most appropriate crowd control, strictly in line with the precautionary measures and preventive protocols, formulated by the Ministry of Health to ensure full safety of pilgrims from the coronavirus pandemic," Dr Benten said.

According to the Saudi Gazette, Benten emphasised the eagerness of the government of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, King Salman bin Abdulaziz of Saudi Arabia and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud to implement the Haj operation by following the highest health standards and precautionary measures in order to ensure the safety of the pilgrims.

Earlier, the minister inspected the arrangements and facilities for the reception and accommodation of pilgrims at Four Point Hotel in Makkah.

He was briefed by ministry officials with regard to receiving and accommodating pilgrims during the period from 4 to 8 of Dhul Hijjah before leaving for Mina.

Benten also visited the tents in Arafat and the facilities in Muzdalifah.

After that, his inspection tour visited the tent city of Mina, where he viewed one of the towers designated for the housing of pilgrims. 

According to the Saudi Gazette, he was impressed with the services and facilities being arranged for the accommodation and serving of food for the pilgrims.

To complete his visit, the minister watched a visual presentation of the mechanism for providing logistical services for the pilgrims during their travel from accommodation to Jamarat to undertake the stoning ritual.

Meanwhile, Maj. Gen. Mohammed Bin Wasl Al Ahmadi, assistant commander of the Haj security forces for the Grand Mosque and its premises, said on Tuesday that the security plan for this year's pilgrimage prioritises on organisational, security, humanitarian and health aspects.

He said the Haj security forces have installed entry and exit mechanisms from the Grand Mosque during Haj, with passages for pilgrims extending from the southern and western premises of venue as well as special passages around the circumambulation and Saey areas.

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Saudi Arabia's King Salman in hospital for medical tests

Agencies
July 20,2020

Riyadh, Jul 20: Saudi Arabia's King Salman has been admitted to a hospital in the capital, Riyadh, for medical tests due to inflammation of the gallbladder, the kingdom's Royal Court said Monday in a statement carried by the official Saudi Press Agency.

The statement said the 84-year-old monarch is being tested at the King Faisal Specialist Hospital. The brief statement did not provide further details.

King Salman has been in power since January 2015. He is considered the last Saudi monarch of his generation of brothers who have held power since the death of their father and founder of Saudi Arabia, King Abdulaziz.

King Salman has empowered his 34-year-old son, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, as his successor. The crown prince's assertive and bold style of leadership, as well as his consolidation of power and sidelining of potential rivals, has been controversial.

With the support of his father, Prince Mohammed has transformed the kingdom in recent years, opening it up to tourists and eroding decades of ultraconservative restrictions on entertainment and women's rights as he tries to diversify the Saudi economy away from reliance on oil exports.

The prince has also detained dozens of activists and critics, overseen a devastating war in Yemen, and rounded up top members of the royal family in his quest for power.

The Saudi king has not been seen in public in recent months due to social distancing guidelines and concerns over the spread of the coronavirus inside the kingdom, which has one of the largest outbreaks in the Middle East.

He has been shown, however, in state-run media images attending virtual meetings with his Cabinet and held calls with world leaders.

King Salman, who oversees Islam's holiest sites in Makkah and Medinah, was a crown prince under King Abdullah and served as defense minister. For more than 50 years prior to that, he was governor of Riyadh, overseeing its evolution from a barren city to a teeming capital.

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