Features & Reports
Due to the COVID-19 crisis, this year Ramadan in the Saudi Arabia and the entire Muslim world will not be the same.
On 10 April, the government in Saudi Arabia announced it what it considers the last in a series of restrictions which it has imposed on the nation to combat COVID-19, even before the first case was reported in the country. The holy cities of Makkah and Madinah will shut down completely. In addition, no prayers will take place in the holy mosques of Makkah or Madinah, or any other mosques in the country. People may only move within their district, from 8 AM to 3 PM, and only to shop for food or medicines.
At first, I could not grasp the depression that overcame me with the gradual lockdown. I tried to reason with myself, but still continued feeling trapped.
Like many other cities in the world, Dubai went into lockdown. The closure happened gradually, making it easier for citizens to adjust overtime in anticipation of the upcoming situation, thus avoiding the shock of an instant shutdown.
In the siege of Makkah in 1979, many of Juhayman’s followers were theology students at the Islamic University of Medinah. There, Juhayman had joined a fundamentalist Salafi group that was headed by the renowned Sheikh bin Baz. The group’s followers preached for a return to Islam in its original form in mosques in Saudi Arabia fearing no arrests; the government was reluctant to confront religious extremists underestimating the danger of this group. When Juhayman, al-Qahtani and other group members were locked up as troublemakers in 1978 for the first time, the religious authorities investigated them for heresy, but decided that they were traditionalists and should be released and no serious allegations to keep them jailed.
On 20 November 1979, about 300 heavily armed men assaulted the Grand Mosque of Makkah, the Masjid Al Haram. Within minutes, they had transformed the holiest place in Islam into a fortress and taken thousands of worshippers hostage. The siege shocked Saudi Arabia to its core throwing it into decades of extremism. It is less known and understood than it should be because it had a deep influence on the thinking of religious extremists for years to come.
JAC (Jeddah Autism Center) celebrated its 25 years anniversary on April, 2nd 2019. At that time there was little awareness and acceptance of autism in society. Today, it is a different picture.
In 2009 I visited the JAC at its first location. The center was located in a small villa with less than 20 staff members. There, I met with a handful of employees from the JAC and administration staff from the Al-Faisaliya Welfare Society. The atmosphere was full of enthusiasm for the new project, as it was the first of its kind in Saudi Arabia with huge demand. But the plan seemed to be incomplete at that time; it was not fully organized and many questions such as resources, educational system etc. seemed to hang in the air.
This month, I came across a book on my shelf that I had bought many years ago but never read. It is called “Saudi Arabia: Biography and Nation”, written by Abdulaziz AlKhedir. The book is only available in Arabic, no English version. I found this book very informative on Saudi society and would like to share it with my readers.
My colleague blogger and fellow journalist Sabena Saddiqi wrote this post exclusively for Saudi Times on the occasion of the visit of Crown Prince Muhammad Bin Salman to Pakistan this week. She comments and analyses the visit from a Pakistani perspective.
At this year’s Arab Media Forum I met Muteib Alhadeif, the photographer. At the age of 6, he got the title “Youngest Photographer in the Middle East”.
He famously started after he met with Prince Muteib bin Abdullah at a horse riding event who admired this talent and gave him camera equipment as a gift. Today, he is 10 years old and dreams to pursue a career as a cameraman and a photographer.
The many royal Saudi decrees announced last week made some wonder if this is still Saudi Arabia. The latest is that the Kingdom is to host the first Arab Fashion Week in Riyadh this month and females between the age of 25-35 can apply for soldiers in the army. All announcements reflect the government’s efforts to reach economic prosperity through implementing proper social freedom. Not only to gain economic growth but also to give the stolen rights back to the society.
On many fronts, Saudi Arabia could be described as one of the most interesting places in the world. With a young visionary transforming the country, and 70% of the people below the age of 30, many from around the world find themselves intrigued to pay this country a visit.