Beirut, the fabled capital of Lebanon, has long resonated in the annals of history and the hearts of those who’ve meandered its labyrinthine streets. Yet beyond its celebrated landmarks, there are tales and nuances that many remain oblivious to. Here, we delve into five such enigmatic facets of the capital of Lebanon.
To truly fathom the depths of Beirut, one must move beyond the surface and delve into the hidden stories that make the capital of Lebanon a city of timeless allure.
Oman has nearly doubled the duration of paid maternity leave in a series of sweeping reforms put forth by the nation’s government.
Previously, women could enjoy up to 50 days of paid maternity leave, a figure which has now been revised to 98 days.
Additionally, the reforms herald the introduction of seven days’ paid paternity leave, a benefit that was non-existent in the past.
In a significant move, non-Muslim workers are now entitled to 14 days of paid bereavement leave if their husband passes away.
These reforms have been met with widespread approval from both employers and workers.
Mohammed Al Rahbi, employed in the oil and gas sector, commented on the positive implications, stating, “The new rights for employees, including those not from Oman, mark a tremendous stride towards achieving a balanced work-life dynamic.”
Moreover, the modified law now permits employees to avail study leaves for exams.
Mohammed Al Farsi, a legal associate at Decree, a firm dedicated to providing a comprehensive English database of Omani royal decrees and laws, remarked, “The current Labour Law has been crafted to protect workers’ rights while simultaneously offering an encouraging milieu for businesses.”
Mr Al Farsi pointed out that these laws were a rejuvenation of the 2003 legislation, encompassing subjects like contracts, wages, working hours, and penalties.
He further noted, “Distinct aspects of the new Labour Law could radically transform Oman’s employment scenario.”
A significant update in the Labour Law enables companies to end contracts with Omani employees who are not performing up to the mark.
Fatma Al Balushi, an Omani business proprietor, voiced her endorsement for this amendment. She opined that it would propel companies to uphold superior standards in their workforce.
Echoing her sentiment, Mr Al Rahbi expressed optimism about the potential prospects these changes could usher in for Oman’s job sector. He concluded, “The government’s commitment to fostering a just and inclusive working milieu is evident through these reforms.”
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A masterpiece in marble and pink sandstone, Abu Dhabi‘s first traditional Hindu temple will open its doors for prayers on 10th February after four years of tireless effort by artisans from both India and the UAE.
Confirming the temple’s inauguration, The National reports that a series of prayer ceremonies, part of a ‘festival of harmony’, will commence from 10 February 2024, leading up to the temple’s public opening for worship on 18 February.
Drawing individuals of various faiths and nationalities, the impressive white marble and pink sandstone edifice in Abu Dhabi’s Abu Mureikha area has already become a significant landmark. Over 2,000 craftsmen have been working diligently in India’s Rajasthan state, carving exquisite pillars and columns for this first-ever hand-sculpted Hindu temple in the Middle East.
On site in Abu Dhabi, the temple’s main prayer hall and ground level are nearly complete, with plans to erect towering shikhars, or spires, symbolic of each Emirati state, on the second level.
As per the schedule of inaugural prayer services, the 6pm ceremony on 10 February will exclusively welcome contributors to the temple’s construction. The following day, a 10am service will host prayers for couples who have supported the building project. A restricted prayer session for Hindu deities will take place on 14 February, from 8am to noon, catering solely to invited guests.
The temple doors will then open to the public for a two-hour dedication ceremony on 15 February, starting at 6pm. From 18 February onwards, the temple will be open for public worship.
President Sheikh Mohamed gifted the 5.4-hectare site to the Indian community in 2015. Supervised by the Baps Swaminarayan Sanstha, the temple’s construction welcomes all faiths and nationalities. The organisation has overseen the creation of roughly 1,200 temples globally.
In homage to ancient Hindu shrines, the temple has been constructed without the use of steel, iron, or reinforced concrete, instead opting for a layered compression technique involving granite, pink sandstone, and marble.
The completed temple, standing 32-metres high, will be adorned with over 200 intricate pillars and intricate exterior carvings depicting the lives of deities, promoting peace. A total of 20,000 tonnes of stone, including 5,500 tonnes of white marble and 14,500 tonnes of pink sandstone, have been used in the construction.
A temple spokesperson declared that Abu Dhabi would host “the biggest celebration of togetherness – the festival of harmony” on the temple’s website, mandir.ae. The celebration aims to highlight timeless art, borderless culture, and ageless values, marking the inauguration of this spiritual oasis for global harmony.
The temple, situated just off the main E11 Sheikh Zayed motorway connecting Abu Dhabi and Dubai, will feature an array of facilities. These include two parks, a community hall, a visitors’ centre, an amphitheatre, a food court, and welcoming areas, all crafted with a focus on fostering unity and harmony. Additionally, channels replicating three Indian rivers and seating areas overlooking the temple structure are being constructed.
Over two thousand pilgrims braved the crippling heatwave stress during this year’s hajj, as per Thursday’s reports from Saudi officials. The temperatures had surged to an excruciating 48°C in the apex of the Saudi desert summer, as around 1.8 million Muslim worshippers participated in the days-long outdoor event.
This year, a significant number of elderly participants were observed, since the age ceiling, which was previously introduced during the Covid era, was removed. Approximately 1,700 instances of heat stress were logged on Thursday, according to the Saudi officials. This is in addition to the 287 cases that were reported prior.
The health ministry of Saudi Arabia has advised people to avoid direct sun exposure and ensure sufficient hydration. “As of today, we’ve recorded 1,721 cases of heat stress,” the ministry commented.
While no specific death toll was disclosed by the officials, independent data from various countries suggests that at least 230 pilgrims died during the hajj. A notable portion of the deceased were Indonesian citizens, with the country’s consul general reporting 209 Indonesian casualties.
Eko Hartono, the consul general of Indonesia, refuted the idea that these fatalities were predominantly due to heat stroke. “Most causes of death were related to cardiac and respiratory conditions,” Hartono stated. However, he conceded that some pilgrims had indeed fainted due to the intense heat.
Among the victims, Iran’s oldest pilgrim, who was 114 years old, died of a heart attack, according to Iran’s semi-official Fars news agency. Other countries, including Algeria, Morocco, and Egypt, have also reported casualties.
Heart-related health emergencies were rampant, with several individuals, including a 78-year-old Filipino man, undergoing successful open-heart surgery in Mecca, as reported by the health ministry.
However, it is believed that the actual number of heat stress cases, which encompass heatstroke, exhaustion, cramps, and rashes, may be significantly higher. Many sufferers may have opted not to seek hospital or clinic assistance.
Heat-related struggles were conspicuously common, especially post the day-long outdoor prayers at Mount Arafat. Instances of overheating phones shutting down and scarcity of shade were reported.
Historically, the hajj has been marred by calamities like crowd crushes and militant attacks, but this year, the scorching temperatures posed the most significant challenge. In response, the kingdom deployed thousands of paramedics and established field hospitals to manage the risk.
In the face of an escalating climate crisis, the United Nations’ intergovernmental panel on climate change warned in 2021 that parts of the Gulf could become uninhabitable by the century’s end due to global warming. Experts predict that gruelling summer temperatures reaching 50°C could become an annual phenomenon in the region by the close of the century.
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In what is anticipated to be the largest Hajj pilgrimage in recorded history, over 2.5 million Muslims are expected to participate this year, as Saudi Arabia relaxes the stringent Covid-19 restrictions that have been in place since 2020.
The annual pilgrimage, one of the Five Pillars of Islam obligatory for all able-bodied and financially capable adult Muslims, commenced on Sunday in Mecca with the tawaf – the ritual of circumambulating the Kaaba, the cube-shaped structure at the heart of Islam’s most sacred site.
A representative from the Saudi Ministry of Hajj and Umrah announced, “This year, we will witness the largest Hajj pilgrimage in history”. The increase in attendees marks a significant rise from the severely reduced numbers of the past few years due to the pandemic: a mere 10,000 in 2020, 59,000 in 2021, and a capped one million in 2022.
For some, such as 65-year-old Abdelazim from Egypt who managed to amass the $6,000 required for the pilgrimage over two decades, these are “the most beautiful days” of their lives.
Following the initial rites at the Kaaba, the faithful will journey to Mina, approximately 8km from Mecca’s Grand Mosque, al-Masjid al-Haram, and subsequently to Mount Arafat, revered as the location of Prophet Muhammad’s final sermon.
Preparations have been made in Mina to accommodate the crowds, with necessary provisions in place and security forces on the ground. However, this year’s Hajj presents an additional challenge, as pilgrims are set to endure the sweltering heat of nearly 45 degrees Celsius, the dates for the pilgrimage being dictated by the lunar calendar.
Saudi authorities have mobilised more than 32,000 health professionals and an extensive fleet of ambulances, poised to respond to instances of heatstroke, dehydration, and exhaustion.
The Hajj pilgrimage, a journey both physically and emotionally strenuous, serves to purify believers of their sins and cultivate a closer connection with God. This year, the pilgrimage takes place between 26th June and 1st July, with the celebration of Eid al-Adha scheduled for 28th June.
Despite the costliness of the journey, it fosters hope amongst many who, despite living in areas ravaged by conflict, poverty, or occupation, diligently save whatever funds they can to afford the pilgrimage. Among the participants this year, groups have journeyed from Gaza, whilst pilgrims from northwest Syria have travelled through Turkish border crossings, and Yemenis have boarded the first direct flight to Saudi Arabia since 2016.
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