Mecca development for Saudi leaders ‘top priority’

Published May 22nd, 2015 - 12:04 GMT
A general view shows muslim pilgrims praying at the Grand Mosque in the Saudi holy city of Mecca. (AFP/Mohammed Abed)
A general view shows muslim pilgrims praying at the Grand Mosque in the Saudi holy city of Mecca. (AFP/Mohammed Abed)

Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman arrived in Jeddah on Thursday for his first visit since ascending the throne on Jan. 23, where he would outline efforts to further develop the region and improve services for pilgrims.

Mecca Gov. Prince Khaled Al-Faisal, adviser to the king, Jeddah Gov. Prince Mishaal bin Majed, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Naif, deputy premier and minister of interior, and Madinah Gov. Prince Faisal bin Salman, were present to meet the monarch at the airport.

A large number of princes and senior government officials were also present. The king was accompanied by senior princes and officials including Prince Muqrin.

Jeddah’s streets were decorated with more than 1,000 Saudi flags, photographs of the king, huge banners and lights. “Citizens and residents all over the city are happy to receive King Salman,” said Jeddah Mayor Hani Abu Ras.

“The first instruction I received from the king as governor and adviser was to put the welfare and progress of Mecca residents and pilgrims on top of my priority list,” Prince Khaled said in an interview.

“The royal visit provides a golden opportunity to learn about the king’s vision for the region’s overall development,” the governor said.

“Mecca concerns not only Saudis but also Muslims across the world,” he said. The governor hinted that the government plans to correct the legal status of foreign communities living in Mecca, like the Burmese.

King Salman plans to perform Umrah and pray at the Grand Mosque, where he would seek strength and guidance from the Almighty to carry out his responsibilities, Prince Khaled said. He would also pray for peace and prosperity for Muslims across the world.

“King Salman is a strong believer and is emotionally attached to Mecca and its people.” Prince Khaled said the king is familiar with the city and region’s streets and families, and “knows its spiritual and historical value.” 

He said King Salman has always been keen to listen to people and get their views first hand. 

“We cannot forget his visit to Jeddah last Ramadan when he met with people and attended some events. This reaffirms his close relationship with people of the region.”

Prince Khaled urged citizens to be proud of their country. “Our biggest problem is that we do not know the value of our country and do not give it the status it deserves, especially at a time when the whole world appreciates us more than we do ourselves.”

He highlighted the Kingdom’s economic strength and stability. “Over the past 10 years, we have seen many countries going through deep recession but the global economic crisis did not affect the Kingdom. On the contrary, it supported the global economy. This demonstrates the Kingdom’s global importance.”

“Forty years ago, when I was studying in America and Britain, many people there did not even know the location of Saudi Arabia on the map. Now you can see the strong presence of the Kingdom at all levels, with our increased participation in political decision-making, global economic stability and development, and the fight against terrorism.”

Prince Khaled commended King Salman’s leadership role in Operation Decisive Storm to restore the legitimate government in Yemen. “The UN support for the Yemen operation reflects the Kingdom’s international reputation and credibility,” he added.

The governor disclosed his plans for massive development of the region, especially Mecca, Jeddah and Taif, by setting up comprehensive public transport systems including metros and developing underdeveloped residential districts.

Referring to stalled government projects, Prince Khaled stressed the need to promote a culture of responsibility and good management across all departments through direct and daily communication. “King Salman is personally interested in this vital aspect and is eager to ensure government agencies meet citizens’ requirements quickly and efficiently,” he added.

Prince Khaled commended Saudi youth and students for winning awards at global events in the fields of innovation and science. Steps would be taken in coordination with ministers to provide them with good opportunities and jobs, he said.

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