Hajj is back and Saudi Arabia hopes to make money

Despite the current high oil prices, the kingdom is aware of this and has begun to ambitious project diversify their sources of income for a post-oil future. One such source is pilgrimage, a perpetual monopoly with a potential market of almost two billion Muslims.
“Unlike [the energy sector]“Where Saudi Arabia always has to worry about future competitors, in the field of Hajj and Umrah, they are guaranteed no competition forever,” the report said. Omar Al-UbaidlI am the research director of the Derasat think tank in Bahrain.
Muslims from around the world are returning to Saudi Arabia this week to perform the annual hajj pilgrimage after a two-year hiatus caused by Covid-19 restrictions. This is an opportunity for Muslims to fulfill a once-in-a-lifetime religious duty, as well as a chance for the economy of Saudi Arabia’s holy cities to get a quick start.
Due to the pandemic, the number of Hajj pilgrims has increased. shrink to 1000 in 2020, but rose to about 60,000 in 2021, when the Hajj was only open to Saudis. This year, the kingdom allowed one million Muslims to perform rituals.
With crude oil prices near $100 a barrel, bringing in billions of dollars a day, experts say the economic benefits of the pilgrimage are negligible. But its vast, untapped potential could bring significant wealth to the kingdom in the long run.
“Religious tourism in Saudi Arabia may not have the same revenue-generating capacity as the oil and gas sector, but the religious significance of Mecca and Medina will never run out,” he said. Robert Mogelnicki, senior fellow at the Gulf Arab Institute in Washington. “It serves as an important foundation for the development of Saudi Arabia’s broader tourism sector and its promotion to local, regional and international audiences.”

The potential for expansion is significant, says Steffen Hertog, associate professor at the London School of Economics. He said pilgrims could, for example, be encouraged to extend their trips around the country to visit other religious sites or take part in recreation, especially during the year-round small pilgrimage, Umrah, when the bottlenecks associated with the Hajj can be avoided.

According to Mastercard’s latest Global Destination Cities Index, Mecca attracted $20 billion in tourism dollars in 2018, second only to Dubai.
Prior to the pandemic, pilgrimage revenues were forecast to average around 30 billion dollars a year and create 100,000 jobs for Saudis by 2022. According to official figures cited by Reuters, the kingdom annually attracted about 21 million worshipers during the 10-day Hajj and Umrah pilgrimage.

The number of pilgrims has dropped significantly during the pandemic, but the government plans to welcome 30 million pilgrims by 2030, an ambitious figure some analysts say.

According to Hertog, the pilgrimage drained public finances due to infrastructure, maintenance and security costs, but it generated a lot of money for the private sector.

Mecca’s skyline around the millennial pilgrimage site is filled with posh skyscrapers that house Western hotel chains overlooking the Kaaba, the cubic structure Muslims pray to five times a day. Night at the cult fairmont mecca The Royal Clock Tower, which overlooks the Kaaba, costs up to $4,000 for the most luxurious suite for this year’s Hajj season.
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But the government is trying to get a piece of the pie. In two years, the State Public Investment Fund plans to open Rua Al Haram Al Makki project just a mile from the Kaaba, with 70,000 new hotel rooms and 9,000 residential units. It is expected to contribute 8 billion riyals ($2.1 billion) to the Saudi economy.
In response to private travel agencies abroad organizing pilgrimages for Muslims in the West, the Saudi government this year announced a new booking platform that requires foreign pilgrims to register and pay for the process directly through a new state system under the name “Motavif”.
The system is meant to simplify the application process, but it has put overseas travel agencies out of business. In the United Kingdom alone, the sector is worth around $240 million and many hajj operators are currently on the brink of liquidation. Independent newspaper.

Saudi authorities did not respond to CNN’s request for comment.

The only threat to Saudi Arabia’s ambitions to capitalize on the pilgrimage “is the decline in religiosity around the world,” Al-Ubaidly said. “But as long as Muslims continue to want to visit these places, they will represent a huge economic opportunity for Saudi Arabia.”

Nadine Ebrahim of CNN contributed to this report.

Digest

Iran makes demands for nuclear talks, US says

Iran has added “unrelated” demands to the discussion table during the latest round of talks on its nuclear program, US Special Representative for Iran Robert Malley said.help on tuesday in an interview with National Public Radio, adding that the company has made “alarming” progress in uranium enrichment that would allow it to build a nuclear weapon “in a matter of weeks.”
  • Background: The latest round of indirect talks between Iran and the US took place in Doha, Qatar. last week with the mediation of the European Union. The talks were the last hope that both sides would reach an agreement that would revive the 2015 nuclear deal aimed at curbing Tehran’s nuclear weapons capabilities. However, the two-day talks stalled, with Mulley calling them “a waste of time”.
  • Why is it important: Iran is gradually approaching the level of enrichment needed to build a nuclear bomb, and Malli said it would only take them “a few weeks” to reach it. “Sooner or later they will have to make a decision,” Mulley said, “because at some point the deal will be a thing of the past.”

Ben & Jerry’s sues Unilever to block sale of Israeli business

Ben and Jerry is suing parent company in an attempt to cancel the sale of its business in Israel to a local partner who would continue to distribute their products in the West Bank.
  • Background: On Tuesday, a Vermont ice cream maker filed a complaint in US District Court in New York, where it is seeking an injunction against Unilever “to protect the brand and social integrity of Ben & Jerry’s, which took decades to build.” Last week, Unilever announced that it had sold Ben & Jerry’s Israeli business for an undisclosed amount to American Quality Products (AQP), which distributes ice cream in Israel.
  • Why is it important: Since 2021, Ben & Jerry’s has been vehemently opposed to selling its products in the West Bank, saying it would be “incompatible” with the brand. Ben & Jerry’s has been doing business in Israel since 1987 but has come under pressure in recent years for selling in West Bank settlements, which is considered illegal under international law.

Nazi war criminal Eichmann heard bragging about his role in the Holocaust in audio recordings

Audio recordings of Nazi war criminal Adolf Eichmann bragging about his role in the Holocaust have surfaced. Recordings made in 1957 show Eichmann hailing his role in the Nazi attempt to exterminate the Jewish people.

  • Background: Eichmann was captured by Israeli secret agents in Argentina in 1960 and brought to Israel, where he stood trial for crimes against humanity. In his defense, he claimed that he was only following orders and that key decisions were made by other, more senior Nazi leaders. Eichmann was tried and executed in 1962.
  • Why is it important: The recordings, which have lain in German archives for decades, have been shown for the first time as part of a new documentary about Eichmann called Confessions of the Devil. He can be heard saying that denying that the Nazis did anything wrong would be contrary to his most intimate beliefs. “If we killed 10.3 million Jews, I would say with satisfaction: “Okay, we have destroyed the enemy.” Then we would have fulfilled our mission,” he said.

By region

Tunisian tennis player Ons Jaber made history on the grass courts at Wimbledon on Tuesday, when she became the first Arab woman to reach the semi-finals of a Grand Slam tournament.

The third racket of the world overcame a nervous start and beat Marie Buzkova 3:6, 6:1, 6:1 on Center Court.

Reaching the final four, she said that for her personally it was a long time ago.

“I have long hoped that I could get to this stage. Several times I fought in the quarterfinals,” Jabeur told reporters afterwards.

“I had a little talk with (former world number 22) Hisham Arazi and he told me, ‘The Arabs always lose in the quarter-finals and we’re sick of it. Please break it down,” she added.

The 27-year-old will face a friend who won the semi-final for the first time. Tatiana Maria for a place in the final.

Ben Morse

Time capsule

Troops of the National Liberation Army, the armed wing of the National Liberation Front, march in the Medea region of Algiers, Algiers, September 1962.

This week, Algeria celebrated 60 years of independence from France after a bloody war of independence that has yet to heal.

France began its rule of Algiers in 1830. The city of Algiers was initially taken by the French as a military measure, but as more settlers began to arrive under French protection, France’s borders continued to expand.

In 1954, the Algerian National Liberation Front (FLN) was formed as a partisan group to liberate the country from the colonialists. This started an uprising that lasted for the next seven years, known as the Algerian War, which led to France granting independence to Tunisia and Morocco in exchange for the militarization of their borders with Algeria.

On March 16, 1962, an agreement was signed in France promising Algerian independence before a national referendum was held, and on July 5, Algeria celebrated independence from France.

After independence, most of the one million Europeans returned to their countries. Over 100,000 Muslims were killed in Algeria during the seven-year war. Algeria says that over 5.6 million people were killed over 130 years of colonization. French President Emmanuel Macron last year accused Algeria ofrewriting historywhich prompted the North African nation to recall its ambassador in Paris. To this day, France has not apologized for its role in the colonization of Algeria. There will be ‘no remorse, no apology’, Macron’s office said last year.

Mohammed Abdelbari

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