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December 2009 Issue 38 Vol 4

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Ambassador Nazer

Minister Khoja “HOLY SITE

AUSTRALIAN HAJJ EXPERIENCE Pages 2-3

PROJECTS ARE A STEP FORWARD” Page 3

Dr. Abdul Aziz bin Salmah: HAJJ MEDIA COVERAGE Page 8

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December 2009 Issue 38 Vol 4


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e Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, King Abdullah Bin Abdul-Aziz held at the Royal Court in the Mina Palace, an annual reception for prominent Islamic personalities and Heads of Hajj Mission, who were performing Hajj this year. In his adress the King stressed the efforts of the Kingdom to ensure the well being and security of all pilgrims stating that, “We (e Kingdom) will continue like so with the help of Allah to do whatever is possible within our power, sparing nothing, assisted only by the help of Allah.” “At the same time we will not allow anyone to tarnish this holy obligation or endanger the security of the pilgrims. Pilgrims security is a matter that we do not take lightly, and to preserve it we will act firmly and decisively, for their security is the cornerstone of our responsibility for which we allocate all possible human and financial resources, “ e King said. Later, the Minister of Hajj, Dr. Fouad Bin Abdul-Salam Al-Farsi addressed the gathering. Addressing the King, Dr Al-Farsi said "It is my honor to stand before you in this ceremony that is held under your patronage and in the presence of the distinguished guests comprising prominent personalities in the Islamic world

King Abdullah at the Mina Palace adressing the delegates on the progression of current Hajj projects who are welcomed in their second country that greets pilgrims who come here from all around the world to perform Hajj which we hope will be acceptable. Addressing the King, Dr Al-Farsi said " I must refer to your great efforts in the Two Holy Mosques as regards their huge expansions which extend to the holy sites, especially in the Jamarat area and the railway project which make more easier for pilgrims to perform their rituals comfortably.” At the Islamic and International arenas, please let me refer to what has been published by the American Forbes magazine about your selection as one of the most important leaders in the world in view of your great deeds in the international arena for peace and bringing closer different civilizations as well as your insistence on the importance of dialogue with others and support to international causes.

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(left) Minister Khoja with Dr Abdul Aziz bin Salmah

under secretary of culture and information and SPA Director Mr Abdullah bin Fahd Al Hussain

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he Minister of Culture and Information Dr. Abdulaziz bin Mohieddin Khoja has praised the current Holy site projects being carried out. Dr Khoja expressed his appreciation to the work of the Custodian of the two Holy Mosques, during a meting at the headquarters of the Ministry with guests including senior intellectual personalities, researchers and scholars from Arab and Islamic states and also attended by media personnel performing hajj this year. "What has been achieved in the holy sites through these giant projects, particularly the great project of development of Jamarat Area and the Mecca Train which' implementation started last month of Muharram, in addition to other projects being currently implemented in the Two Holy Mosques, embody the attention and care given to pilgrims by the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz Al Saud." He added that the King directly supervises over all sectors related to services provided for pilgrims for the provision

of the best services to enable pilgrims to perform their Hajj rituals easily and in a secure and stable environment. î “e Minister of Culture and Information commended Prince Naif bin Abdulaziz, the Second Deputy Premier, Minister of Interior, and Chairman of Hajj Supreme Committee for direct and continuing follow up of all sectors relating to Hajj services, also praising Prince Khalid Al-Faisal, the Governor of Makkah Region and Chairman of Hajj Central Committee for following up Hajj projects and movements of pilgrims in Holy Sites. Dr. Khoja also hosted a second meeting for Broadcasters participating in transmitting this year"s Hajj season. î “e Minister of Culture and Information pointed out that media personnel will witness in Hajj season the great achievements accomplished by the Saudi state since the era of late King Abdulaziz, and the following Kings, who have continued completion the track of construction, adding that the era of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz has witnessed new gigantic additions topped by Jamarat Project which will remain for the coming centuries a living witness of generous and unlimited giving to facilitate the performance of this great pillar.

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“AN AUSTRALIAN PERSPECTIVE”

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t may be a gruelling and at-times dangerous journey for Muslim pilgrims, but Brisbane man Omar Saghir says the Hajj last year was the most amazing experience of his life. Millions of Muslim pilgrims have already risked floods and swine flu this year on the annual journey to the Muslim holy cities of Mecca and Medina. But the 28-year-old wants to make the pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia again as soon as he can save up the money. "e experience for me, because I'm Australian-born and I've never really been outside of Australia, it was a very, very, very intriguing experience," Mr Saghir said. "It was very diverse and it was a once-in-a-lifetime experience because I haven't seen anything like it." Followers of Islam are required by their faith to try and make the pilgrimage once in their lifetime. According to the Muslim faith the prophet Abraham performed a series of rituals in Mecca thousands of years ago, and on a modern-day Hajj pilgrims follow in those footsteps. Over seven days the rituals include completing circuits of a building called the Kaaba in the centre of the Grand Mosque, throws stones in a ritual stoning of the devil, and drinking from the sacred Zamzam well. is year around 3 million people are converging on Saudi Arabia, and they have already battled widespread floods in Jeddah, the city where most pilgrims arrive by plane. And due to the huge numbers of pilgrims most Muslim travel

Pilgrims praying upon Mount Arafat, amongst the final steps of completing the Hajj pilgrimage agents routinely warn their clients to prepare themselves for frustration, mental anguish, annoyance and anger. But difficulties such as these are trivial for the majority of pilgrims, who are determined to fulfil lifetime ambitions. For Omar Saghir last year it was more a spur-of-themoment decision than a case of a lifetime ambition fulfilled, although he says the trip inspired him beyond what he had expected. Mr Saghir, 28, had just seen a business venture on the Gold

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SA BULLETIN PAGE 5 A message from the Ambassador “More than 4000 Australian Muslims make the pilgrimage to Makkah to take part in the Hajj this year. In Saudi Arabia, we are truly blessed with the distinct honor and responsibility of being the custodians, stewards and servants of Islam’s most important holy places including the Two Holy Mosques in Makkah and Madinah. This is a blessing that we thank God for, and a responsibility which we do not take lightly. The Kingdom puts its responsibility to Islam first. It puts an immense human, financial and administrative effort into caring for these sites and for pilgrims visiting them from around the world including Australian Muslims” H.E Ambassador Hassan Nazer

Coast fall over and he and his business partner decided to put their capital towards a pilgrimage to the Holy Land. "ere were 12 days until the Australian delegation went overseas to Hajj, so we ended up making the quick decisions to go to Hajj and used our business money as Hajj money," he said. "You see people from all walks of life and it's very extraordinary because you'll see that there is no difference between the white man and the black man, the red man and the yellow man, the rich man and the poor man. "People are all humble together. You couldn't see the

difference if this man owned a million dollars or if he owned nothing. You'll see people from all walks of life." He says he would like to be able to make the trip once every two years, and is determined to complete the pilgrimage at least once every five years. Authorities have improved facilities to ease the flow of pilgrims, particularly around the area of the stoning of the devil, but the sheer number of visitors stretches authorities to the limit. Mr Saghir says he recognises the dangers but the risks are worth taking. If the worst was to happen he says he would be willing to die on a pilgrimage. "At some points you do feel things get very tough, but I wouldn't say it's to the extent that you think you're going to die or at a very large health risk," he said. "[But] In a place like that where it's very sacred for Muslims it would be a good place to die nevertheless." Melbourne travel agent Hamidah Rahman, who has helped organise hundreds of people's pilgrimages in recent years, has a similar view of the Hajj. "You always believe God is there and whatever happens is meant to happen, but precautions have been taken by the Saudi government anyway," she said. "Accidents sometimes happen but last year I went and nothing happened, two years ago my sister went and nothing happened." Dangers aside, there is no doubt the pilgrimage still exerts a powerful pull on millions of Muslims all over the world. "Being up close with the sacred mosque of Mecca or the Kabaa, that is unbelievable," Mr Saghir says. "I'm used to seeing it on TV or seeing pictures or hearing about it, actually being there amongst the millions and getting up close, that really touches your heart."

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What are some of the big projects that are taking place in the city of Mecca? Al-Bar: You know that Mecca has been changing, or started the journey of change, during the past two years. I think the project that will affect Mecca the most in the near future is the expansion of the Holy Mosque. is megaproject will add more than around 400,000 square metres. e first phase of this megaproject has been finished with the expansion of al-Massa. Al-Massa has been doubled in area, and also more floors, and that will ease the situation which was in the past. Now the capacity of al-Massa may be more than 100,000 pilgrims per hour, which will accommodate more hajis [pilgrims] in doing the sa'i [where pilgrims walk seven times around the hills of Safa and Marwha] without any problems. Also, there are megaprojects both in the civil side and in the public services and infrastructure, and also in the holy shrines of Mina and Arafat and Muzdalifah. If we're talking about the civil roads and megaprojects in housing and infrastructures, we have more than 40 projects in this field. Why does the kingdom feel compelled to expand the mosque? e problem was, you have the situation that Islam has been spread, Alhamdulillah [praise be to God], more and more everywhere, and the number of Muslims has been increasing - maybe doubling within three decades or something like that.Also information technology

Muslim pilgrims on their way to throw pebbles at a stone pillar representing the devil, during the Hajj pilgrimage in Mina near Mecca and the media have been expanded dramatically during the last decade. With all of the people that come to Mecca to perform Hajj and Umrah [a pilgrimage to Mecca, undertaken at any time of the year], the government should act to accommodate more hajis. If you see just in your report on Al Jazeera about Mecca during Hajj - if you see the number of pilgrims and the people around the mosque, in all the roads and surrounding areas, than it makes sense to expand al-Haram, the holy mosque, and all the shrines of alMassa, Arafat, Mina, Muzdalifah. Let me ask you about Hajj - how do you see it in 25 years time? Hajj is always the same - people come as a direct response to the call of Prophet Abraham. It's the fifth pillar of Islam, it's the special journey of the Muslim. He will always come to see the Kaaba

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SA BULLETIN PAGE 7 Hajj Pilgrims making the journey through Mount Arafat

THE MECCA TRAIN The soon to be implemented Mecca train will pass from Mecca to Mina, Arafat and Muzdalifah, assisting Muslims whilist on their pilgramige. This project is set to be completed in time for Hajj 2010 and will stretch over 17.7 km and have a capacity of 72000 passengers per hour per direction in the Hajj season. Each train supplied by the Chinese rolling stock manufacturer CNR Changchun Railway Vehicle Company will carry up to 3,000 passengers. The line will have a total of nine stations, three of which will loop around the holy site. Each train will consist of 12 cars and travel at a speed of 100km per hour. [Islam's holiest shrime], he will always come to do tawaf [when pilgrims walk round the Kaaba seven times], sa'i and go to [Mount] Arafat on the 9th day of Dhul-Hijjah [the month of pilgrimage]. So this is how the special journey will always be the same. What will change is surfaces, what will change is the transportation modes, what will change is what will ease the situation for people, will accommodate more people, in a very good environment to perform the Hajj, inshallah [God willing], in safe and good health and a very good situation. ere're some criticisms with all of this development that Mecca is losing some of its history, that maybe everything is becoming too modern. Do you think that criticism is fair? I don't think so, because, the area of Mecca in older days - for centuries - is still almost the same area of the holy mosque now. You have to balance how you can accommodate more people, more hajis coming to Mecca to do the fifth pillar of Islam. With these very narrow roads and very historical areas, you cannot.e most important things are the holy mosque and the holy shrine, and that will be kept as is. e Kaaba will be kept from the time of Prophet Abraham until now; centuries, thousands of years. e massa is the same, the mountains of Safa and Marwa, from when Hagar, the wife of Prophet Abraham, and his son Ismail came to Mecca and were asking for water, Zamzam [the well said to have been uncovered by Hagar in her search for water] - these kinds of things will be kept for centuries, until inshallah the end of life. But the situation should change for people - for the ease of public services, transportation modes, housing modes. How can you accommodate people in old houses and expect they will be safe in them? You cannot do that.

Constructions occuring around the “Masjid al Haram” in Mecca So, you should do what Saudi Arabia did in the last decade, and what they will continue to do, inshallah. Do you have an estimate of how much all these projects cost? We talked about, I think, just the projects in the last two years. I think it's around 100 billion Saudi riyals [$26.6bn]. What we need, or what we plan to do, within the next ten years, I think will range around 500 billion Saudi riyals. So we're talking about $125bn, something like that, over the next decade. Over the next decade ... for infrastructure? For infrastructure, yes, for megaprojects in housing, for megaprojects in transportation modes, for megaprojects in roads, and some kinds of infrastructure.

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(below) Dr Salmah with Information and Culture Minister Dr Abdulaziz Khoja observing the Hajj pilgrimage

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nternational TV channels and news agencies such as CNN, BBC, ABC, NBC, Associated Press, Agence France Presse and Reuters have sent their reporters and crews to cover the annual pilgrimage this year. Other major media organizations taking part in the Haj coverage include Al Jazeera of Qatar, SCTV of Malaysia, Al Arabiya, MBC, Islam Channel of Britain, KBC of South Korea, Japans NHK television, Russia Today TV and Indonesian Television. e Ministry of Culture and Information has established full-fledged media centers in Jeddah, Makkah, Madinah and the holy sites of Mina and Arafat for the use of foreign journalists and media organizations, said Dr. Abdul Aziz bin Salmah, Under secretary of culture and information minsitry for foreign information. “We have provided all facilities for the foreign media or-

Dr Salmah discussing the current media situation with television crews and reporters filming the Hajj pilgrimage in Mina ganizations to give coverage of the Haj events”, Dr Salmah said. ey are also provided with high-speed Internet services in addition to telephone and fax facilities. e ministry also organises special tours for foreign journalists. Dr Salmah told "e SA Bulletin" that media delegations had enjoyed full freedom in reporting and there was no instance of any media organization being prohibited from covering anything in particular. e only thing we wanted from them was total objectivity in their reporting," Dr Salmah said. “e present Hajj season has seen extraordinary coverage by international media channels, including newspapers, radio, television and other news agencies, ” he added. He has confirmed that more than 500 reporters and Media crews have covered the annual pilgrimage this year.

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38-Bulletin December 2009 Issue 38  

Minister Khoja “HOLY SITE PROJECTS ARE A STEP FORWARD” Page 3 Page 8 www.saudiaustraliaonline.com December 2009 Issue 38 Vol 4 Ambassador Na...

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