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Saudi News:Umrah visa processing begins from Wednesday



Abdul Aziz Gazzawi
Okaz/Saudi Gazette

JEDDAH As the new Umrah season is around the corner, the Ministry of Haj has completed all preparations to receive around five million pilgrims from all over the world.

Issa Rowas, Deputy Minister of Haj for Umrah Affairs, said that the process of receiving applications for Umrah visa will start from the beginning of the season on Dec. 4 (Safar 1) and the pilgrims will start arriving by the end of the month.

During the coming Umrah season, pilgrims from 65 countries can benefit, for the first time, from an extended Umrah program by which their visas will be converted into tourist visas so as to enable them to spend some more time in the Kingdom and visit historical places and tourist attractions.

“Electronic registration of the contracts with foreign agents from various countries has already been made, and accordingly visa application processing will begin from Wednesday. A total of 5.3 million Umrah visas had been issued during the last season, and the number of service providers in the coming season would be similar to that of the previous season,” he said.

Rowas announced that the arrangements made during the last season to restrict the number of Haj and Umrah pilgrims due to the ongoing expansion of the mataf (circumambulation area around the Holy Kaaba) would continue in the coming season also. The ministry made 20 percent and 50 percent cuts in the number of foreign and domestic Haj pilgrims respectively while the period of Umrah visas was reduced from one month to 14 days.

According to the official, the major highlight of the new season will be the upgrading of the digitized system with high precision in order to ensure safety, comfort and departure of Umrah pilgrims. “Electronic deals will be formalized with the service companies with regard to the package of their services in addition to electronic registration, and the submission of data about the arrival and return of pilgrims,” he said. Meanwhile, the Haj terminal at King Abdul Aziz International Airport has readied 14 arrival halls for Umrah visitors.

Ban beggars from mosques, imams told

Saudi Gazette report

JEDDAHMosque imams have been ordered to ban beggars from mosques, according to new instructions from the Makkah Emir’s Office.

Al-Hayat newspaper reported on Sunday that the Ministry of Islamic Affairs has also called on imams to educate the general public about the importance of not giving beggars money, which can encourage such practices. Six government agencies, consisting of the Ministry of Islamic Affairs’ Makkah branch, Makkah Police, Makkah Municipality, Jeddah Municipality, Makkah Anti-Beggary Agency and the Jeddah Anti-Beggary Agency, will be working on the new instructions to ensure this practice stops.

The committees in charge of cracking down on beggary have been asked to intensify its field inspection trips to arrest beggars. They have been told to design plans and mechanisms to start their crackdown campaign immediately and increase their presence during the Haj and Umrah seasons. The letter sent by the Makkah Emir’s Office said text messages should be sent to the general public asking them not to give money to beggars.

‘Smart taxi’ app to be launched soon



JEDDAH: Arab News

Published — Sunday 1 December 2013

Last update 1 December 2013 12:28 am

A new “smart taxi” application will soon be available for download on smartphones to serve the citizens and residents of Jeddah. The service will become accessible on subscription. Muhammad Bejad Al-Wahtan, chairman of the Public Fares Committee at the Jeddah Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said subscription to smart taxi and GPS services is not obligatory. “The application will inform users of the nearest available taxi to where they are situated. Detailed information about the taxi driver will immediately appear on the user’s mobile. The customer can then send a text message to the driver, who will identify his location and provide a time frame to reach him,” explained Al-Wahtan. He said a website has been created for the service under the name “smart taxi.” The website would be activated when the service is launched in six months. “A meeting was held with limousine firms in Jeddah to float the idea,” he said. Employers and drivers, he said, largely welcomed the idea and expressed their willingness to subscribe to the service. He said prices would be the same as regular cabs. “There will be a meter inside these cabs. Consumers simply have the added advantage of being able to call for a taxi,” he said.

Al-Haramain rail project on track




Published — Saturday 30 November 2013

Last update 30 November 2013 12:42 am

The Al-Haramain High Speed Rail project is progressing well, according to Jabara bin Eid Al-Suraiseri, the minister of transport. He said technical and supervisory committees carry out tours on a weekly and monthly basis. The government is monitoring the performance of contractors through periodic reports and field visits, he said. The railway, which is 450 km in length, is being developed under the guidance of the Ministry of Transport and Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah, said Al-Suraiseri, during a tour of the project on Thursday. “The work of the first phase is going according to schedule,” the minister said.

He said work is taking place at a number of intersections in Jeddah, including the intersections on King Abdullah Street, Palestine Street, Tahliah Street and the Airport Road. Al-Suraiseri said that the second phase of the project involves the supply and installation of iron bars, signaling systems, communications systems, the electrification of the lines, and the supply of passenger trains and maintenance equipment. The minister was assured by the contractor that the work would be completed on time. The minister’s tour included an inspection of Madinah station to Rabigh station and the route from Jeddah down to the Makkah station.

The project includes the construction of four stations for passengers in Madinah, King Abdullah Economic City in Rabigh, Jeddah, and Makkah. Each station will include a main building, arrival and departure halls, a mosque, a Civil Defense center, helipads, passenger waiting areas, short and long-term car parking, VIP halls, shops, restaurants and cafes. These stations have been linked to the public transportation system through the provision of bus stops. So far, 600 out of 850 flood drains have been developed and completed, in addition to 102 out of 137 bridges.

MoH may hire Chinese nurses


Published — Friday 29 November 2013

Last update 29 November 2013 2:29 am

The Health Ministry plans to recruit a large number of health professionals including doctors and nurses from various countries, including China, for new hospitals across the Kingdom. “We need a lot of qualified health professionals,” said Khaled Mirghalani, spokesman of the ministry. However, he did not say how many doctors, nurses and paramedic staff the ministry would recruit in the coming months. He downplayed the impact of a proposal made by Migrante, a Filipino migrant rights group, urging the Manila government to reduce the number of workers sent to Saudi Arabia because of the Kingdom’s latest Saudization campaign. “We have not received any official confirmation about the Philippines’ plan to reduce manpower exports to the Kingdom,” Mirghalani told Arab News. He said the proposal would not affect existing Filipino health workers at Saudi hospitals and health centers.

Asked about plans to recruit Chinese nurses, he said: “The ministry wants to diversify its sources of manpower, especially after Migrante said there is a need to cut the export (quota) of Filipino workers. We are ready to recruit qualified health professionals from any country where there is a lack of Saudi citizens to meet our needs.” Mirghalani said the demand for health workers would grow in the coming months due to the opening of new hospitals. In a recent statement, Migrante’s coordinator John Leonard Monterona said around 120,000 overseas Filipino workers (OFW) have been sent home since 2010 because of Saudization. “There are 40,000 to 60,000 documented OFWs in Saudi Arabia who will be directly or indirectly affected by Saudization, especially those working in sales, marketing, banking and other office-based job categories, which will soon be occupied by Saudis,” Monterona said.

Over 71,000 illegal workers deported


Published — Thursday 28 November 2013

Last update 28 November 2013 1:03 am

The General Directorate of Passport has deported 71,118 illegal workers since the labor raids began on Nov. 4. Maj. Gen. Sulaiman Al-Yahya, director general of the directorate, conceded that there were delays. “The reason behind most of the delays was that most of the illegal workers did not have identity documents. In such cases, we had to coordinate with their embassies to issue the necessary papers. This took time,” he said. “There are many violators, but we can deal with them easily and speedily because we have trained staff working around the clock in coordination with other government authorities, including the police and prisons,” he said. Al-Yahya said he had received directives from Minister of Interior Prince Mohammed bin Naif to speed up the deportation process.

He said the various categories of violators include those facing criminal charges, who entered the Kingdom illegally, those without documents, and others who surrendered to the authorities. There are different procedures for each category, he said. Al-Yahya said the passport department was recording the biometric details of all illegal workers, and that officers would step up efforts in areas with many violators. He said the government would continue to carry out raids until all illegal workers are deported. “The campaigns will go on to find and locate those who are in violation of residency and labor regulations. There is no deadline for this,” he said.

Al-Shammari leaves hospital


FEELING GOOD: Fahd Al-Shammari shows visible improvement before his discharge from King Fahd Medical City in Riyadh. (SPA)


Published — Tuesday 26 November 2013

Last update 26 November 2013 1:49 am

Eighteen-year-old Fahd Al-Shammari, a Saudi obese patient who was receiving treatment at King Fahd Medical City in Riyadh, left hospital on Monday after showing tremendous improvement in his condition. Al-Shammari weighed 295 kg when he was admitted to the Riyadh hospital. Doctors succeeded in removing 20 kg from his body and they said his condition was stable. “There is remarkable improvement in Al-Shammari’s condition,” said Dr. Ayed Al-Qahtani, consultant in laparoscopic surgery and obesity and the head of the medical team treating the patient. Al-Shammari will continue to follow a special nutrition regime and physical exercises at home and would return to hospital after a month for a check up, Al-Qahtani said. Al-Shammari has been suffering from obesity since childhood. Al-Shammari’s father thanked Al-Qahtani and other doctors at the hospital for giving his son specialized care.

Pilgrims can don tourist hats after performing Umrah


JEDDAH: Miteb Al-Rouqi | Arab News/Al-Eqtisadiah

Published — Wednesday 27 November 2013

Last update 26 November 2013 1:57 am

An “Extended Umrah” program will be launched next month by the Saudi Commission for Tourism and Antiquities allowing pilgrims from 65 countries to make use of their visas to visit major tourist destinations in the Kingdom. “We have signed agreements with the Ministries of Interior, Foreign Affairs and Haj to provide this service,” said Prince Sultan bin Salman, president of SCTA. He added that licensed companies would provide the service. He said Umrah companies that have obtained tourism permits would also be entitled to provide the new service. More than six million foreign pilgrims are expected to perform Umrah during the coming season.

Speaking about the agreement he signed on Monday with the Economic Cities Authority, Prince Sultan highlighted the significance of King Abdullah Economic City in Rabigh in terms of attracting investment and boosting tourism. He stressed the SCTA’s plan to promote tourism in economic cities as well as other tourist centers across the Kingdom. Meanwhile, Abdullatif Al-Othman, governor of Saudi Arabian General Investment Authority, said his organization has plans to set up tourism and entertainment projects in order to develop economic cities. “We’ll allocate adequate space for such projects by international companies,” he said when asked whether SAGIA has plans to set up theme parks at economic cities.


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