Saudi Arabia has implemented new regulations ahead of the holy month of Ramadan. The Ministry of Islamic Affairs announced a ban on iftar meals inside mosques, citing concerns about cleanliness. Instead, imams and muezzins are instructed to find suitable locations for iftar in the mosque courtyards.

The government’s notice emphasized that no temporary rooms or tents should be set up for iftar purposes. Additionally, mosque officials are prohibited from collecting financial donations for iftar projects for fasting individuals.

Alongside the ban on iftar meals inside mosques, the use of cameras and photography within mosque premises is discouraged. Furthermore, prayers are not to be broadcast on any form of media, including online platforms.

Ramadan, the holy month, is scheduled to begin on March 10 and conclude by April 9 this year.

These measures are designed to ensure cleanliness and uphold the sanctity of mosques during Ramadan. The move reflects the government’s commitment to maintaining religious practices while addressing practical concerns.

In Saudi Arabia, Ramadan holds significant cultural and religious importance. It is a time for fasting, prayer, reflection, and community gatherings. Iftar, the meal that breaks the fast at sunset, is often shared with family, friends, and communities.

Mosques play a central role during Ramadan, hosting prayers and community events. However, concerns about cleanliness and hygiene have prompted the government to implement these new regulations.

By prohibiting iftar meals inside mosques, officials aim to prevent potential cleanliness issues that may arise from eating within the premises. Instead, offering iftar meals in mosque courtyards provides a more suitable environment while maintaining the spirit of communal dining.

The ban on collecting financial donations for iftar projects aims to ensure transparency and prevent any misuse of funds. This measure underscores the government’s commitment to accountability and fairness in religious practices.

In addition to the ban on iftar meals inside mosques, restrictions on photography and media broadcasts during Ramadan demonstrate a desire to preserve the sanctity of religious spaces. These measures align with cultural sensitivities and religious traditions in Saudi Arabia.

As the holy month approaches, Muslims around the world prepare for a period of spiritual renewal and devotion. Ramadan is a time for self-reflection, prayer, and acts of charity. The regulations introduced by the Saudi Arabian government seek to facilitate these practices while addressing practical considerations.

While some may view these measures as restrictive, they reflect a broader commitment to maintaining religious traditions and cultural values. As the world evolves, religious communities must navigate challenges while preserving their core beliefs and practices.

In Saudi Arabia, Ramadan is a time of unity and reflection, bringing people together in worship and community. The government’s efforts to ensure cleanliness and uphold religious practices during this sacred time reflect a commitment to serving the needs of its citizens.

As Muslims prepare to observe Ramadan, they will adapt to these new regulations while continuing to embrace the spirit of the holy month. In doing so, they reaffirm their commitment to faith, community, and shared values.

The Saudi Ministry of Tourism announced today that Saudi Arabia has achieved a remarkable milestone by welcoming over 100 million tourists in 2023, surpassing its 2030 target seven years ahead of schedule. This achievement has positioned Saudi Arabia as a leading global tourism destination and underscores its emergence as a tourism powerhouse on the world stage. Encouraged by this success, the Kingdom now aims to attract 150 million tourists by the year 2030.

Both the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) and the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) have extended their congratulations to Saudi Arabia for exceeding one of its key objectives outlined in the SaudiVision2030 initiative. This remarkable accomplishment reflects the collaborative efforts, innovative strategies, and clear vision for the future that Saudi Arabia has demonstrated in the tourism sector.

The ministry revealed that the total number of tourists, comprising both domestic and international visitors, reached 106.2 million in 2023. This marks a substantial 56 per cent increase over the figures recorded in 2019 and a notable 12 per cent surge compared to 2022. Specifically, international tourists numbered 27.4 million, reflecting a 56 per cent increase over 2019 and a remarkable 65 per cent rise compared to 2022.

Saudi Arabia’s achievement of welcoming over 100 million tourists in 2023 has been hailed by UNWTO as a testament to what can be achieved through collaboration, innovation, and a forward-looking vision. As Saudi Arabia continues its journey towards attracting 150 million tourists by 2030, UN Tourism reaffirms its commitment to supporting the Kingdom, celebrating its successes, and advocating for a more resilient, sustainable, and inclusive global tourism sector.

The Saudi Press Agency (SPA) reported that both international and domestic tourists collectively spent more than 250 billion Saudi riyals ($67 billion) in 2023, contributing over 4 per cent to the Kingdom’s total GDP and 7 per cent to its non-oil GDP.

Saudi Tourism Minister Ahmed Al-Khateeb attributed the significant increase in tourist numbers to the National Tourism Strategy launched five years ago. He emphasized that the tourism ecosystem continues to align with the national tourism strategy, focusing on developing diverse tourist destinations, enriching visitor experiences, and enhancing hospitality facilities and services for both local and international tourists.

In summary, Saudi Arabia’s achievement of surpassing 100 million tourists in 2023 represents a historic milestone and a significant step towards establishing itself as a global tourism hub. With ambitious targets set for the future, Saudi Arabia is poised to further enhance its position in the global tourism landscape while contributing to the sustainable development of the sector.

Seven women were killed by their partners or ex-partners across Turkey on Tuesday, as reported by the television station Habertürk.

“In total, seven women were savagely killed in İzmir, Bursa, Sakarya, Erzurum, Denizli, and Istanbul,” Habertürk reported, listing the country’s major cities.

“The suspects were either their current spouses or spouses from whom they were separated,” said the broadcaster, which listed the names of the victims with their photographs on its website.

The women, aged between 32 and 49, were shot or stabbed to death. At least three of the assailants took their own lives, two were arrested, and one who was wounded while being detained later died.

The fate of the seventh, who had escaped prison to kill his wife, remains unclear.

In 2023, the women’s rights NGO We Will Stop Femicide recorded 315 murders of women, 65% of whom were killed in their own homes. An additional 248 cases of “suspicious deaths”, described as “suicide” by authorities, have been attributed to a third party by feminist groups, which note the rise of defenestration incidents in Turkey.

The country withdrew in 2021 from the Istanbul Convention, the Council of Europe convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence which requires authorities to investigate and punish violence against women.

“In 15 years, the only year when the number of femicides decreased was in 2011, the year which the Istanbul Convention was adopted,” the NGO said.

A lawsuit filed against We Will Stop Femicide by the Istanbul prosecutor in 2022 over alleged “immoral activities” was dropped last September.

In a recent fixture between Al-Nasr and Al-Shabab in the Saudi Pro League, Cristiano Ronaldo, the renowned football star, found himself at the centre of controversy once again. The match, which ended with a 3-2 victory for Al-Nasr, saw Ronaldo scoring the opener with a penalty kick in the 21st minute, followed by a late brace from Brazilian Talisca to secure the win for his team.

However, the post-match celebrations took an unexpected turn when video footage surfaced on social media, depicting Ronaldo allegedly making an obscene gesture directed towards the Al-Shabab fans. The gesture, which involved cupping his ear and making a pumping motion in front of his pelvic area, ignited a firestorm of criticism and debate within the football community.

In the backdrop of Ronaldo’s actions, chants of “Messi” could be heard, alluding to his long-standing rivalry with Argentine football legend Lionel Messi. The incident, though not captured by television cameras, quickly became the subject of discussion among pundits and fans alike, prompting calls for disciplinary action against the Portuguese star.

The Saudi National Football Federation (SAFF) wasted no time in responding to the controversy, announcing an investigation into the incident. The move reflected the seriousness with which the Saudi authorities regarded Ronaldo’s behavior and its potential impact on the integrity of the league.

Prominent Saudi writer and television host, Waleed Al Farraj, weighed in on the controversy, emphasizing the importance of maintaining decorum and respect in professional football, regardless of one’s fame or stature. Al Farraj’s sentiments echoed those of many who believed that Ronaldo’s actions had crossed a line and warranted appropriate sanctions.

This was not the first time Ronaldo had found himself embroiled in controversy during his tenure with Al-Nasr. In a previous match against Al-Hilal, Ronaldo was captured on camera appearing to grab his genitals as he made his way to the dugout following a defeat. The incident had stirred similar outrage and had raised questions about Ronaldo’s conduct on and off the field.

Adding fuel to the fire, Ronaldo’s response to a thrown Al-Hilal scarf during a recent match further exacerbated tensions. The act of picking up the scarf, placing it in his shorts, and then discarding it as he walked off the pitch was interpreted by many as a disrespectful gesture towards his opponents and their supporters.

Despite the controversies surrounding his behaviour, there is no denying Ronaldo’s impact on the pitch. With 22 goals in 20 appearances, he currently leads the scoring charts in the Saudi Pro League, underscoring his importance to the Al-Nasr team. His prowess as a goal-scorer has endeared him to fans around the world, but his actions off the pitch have often courted controversy and divided opinion.

As the investigation into Ronaldo’s alleged gesture unfolds, the football world waits with bated breath for the outcome. The incident serves as a stark reminder of the responsibility that comes with being a global icon in the world of football and the importance of upholding the values of sportsmanship and respect, both on and off the field.

In the end, Ronaldo’s legacy will be defined not only by his extraordinary talent as a footballer but also by his ability to navigate the challenges and controversies that come with fame and success. Only time will tell how this latest chapter in his storied career will shape his reputation in the eyes of fans and critics alike.

Image Credit: AP Photo/Jon Super

In a bold stride towards establishing its presence as a formidable entity within the global sports arena, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has officially declared its intent to bid as the host nation for the 2034 FIFA World Cup. The revelation, conveyed through the state news agency SPA on a recent Wednesday, not only underscores the Kingdom’s ambition in the realm of international sport but also reflects its broader objectives of transformation and development.

The Saudi minister of sport, Prince Abdulaziz bin Turki Al Faisal, disseminated his sentiments through the Saudi Press Agency, articulating a vivid dream: “Hosting a FIFA World Cup in 2034 would assist us in realising our aspiration of emerging as a pivotal nation in global sport and would delineate a notable milestone in the nation’s transformation.”

He added, “As a nascent and hospitable home for all sports, we believe that hosting a FIFA World Cup is an intuitive subsequent phase in our football journey.”

The initial interest of the country was piqued for the 2030 competition. Nonetheless, the latter is projected to be a multi-nation spectacle, with Spain, Portugal, and Morocco potentially serving as hosts for matches. Additionally, the preliminary matches are scheduled to be held in Uruguay, Argentina, and Paraguay. Consequently, Saudi Arabia has turned its sights towards 2034, with visions of hosting the esteemed tournament autonomously, crafting an event that would symbolise a landmark in their sporting journey.

This announcement coexists with past interactions between Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Greece, where dialogues centred around a collaborative bid to host the tournament. Nonetheless, the recent proclamations point towards Saudi Arabia’s plan to single-handedly host the 2034 event.

Yasser Al Misehal, the President of the Saudi Arabian Football Federation (SAFF), conveyed a message of optimism and dedication through a statement on the SAFF website: “We believe the time is ripe for Saudi Arabia to host the FIFA World Cup.”

He further stated, “Our bid is motivated by a fervent love for the game and a wish to see it burgeon in every corner of the world. We want to celebrate our football culture and share our nation with the world.”

Saudi Arabia’s journey towards this point is steeped in its embrace for innovation and growth, forming the backbone of their bid for the tournament. “The Kingdom’s transformation journey is the driving force behind our bid,” Al Misehal remarked. Commitments towards hosting an exemplary event, one that celebrates the sport, enthralls players and fans alike, and ignites the imaginations of future generations, are evident.

Illustrating a historic backdrop, Saudi Arabia has qualified for the World Cup on six previous occasions, with their inaugural appearance tracing back to 1994. A notable triumph was marked when they bested the world champions, Argentina, with a scoreline of 2-1 at the 2022 World Cup hosted in Qatar.

Amidst these developments, the Saudi Pro League has witnessed a surge in profile and popularity. Big names in world football, including the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo, Neymar, and Karim Benzema, have made transitions to play in the Saudi Pro League in the preceding year, bolstering its reputation and stake on the international stage.

In a nutshell, the Kingdom’s leadership has exuded full-fledged support towards this bid, demonstrating an unwavering commitment to propel the nation forwards, and unveil new horizons of opportunities and engagements in the world of sport. Saudi Arabia, through its intentions to host the 2034 FIFA World Cup, does not merely aim to be a spectator but envisions being a pivotal player, shaping the narratives and experiences in the global sporting domain.

The prospect of the 2034 FIFA World Cup could perhaps be a chapter where the world witnesses the union of sporting spirit and innovative transformations, amalgamated seamlessly in the desert landscapes of Saudi Arabia.

AP Photo/Jorge Saenz