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Islamic Lifestyle
Islamic lifestyle wrap: Saudi Arabia trials autonomous air taxi

Here's a roundup of key developments across the Islamic lifestyle ecosystem during the first two weeks of June

Editor's note: In a move designed to revolutionize pilgrim transportation, Saudi Arabia has tested its first pilotless air taxi during this year's Hajj season. Meanwhile, Qatar is leveraging frontier technologies to advance a preservation project.

Operational Developments


Halal Lechon Baka Festival highlights halal tourism

The first-ever “Halal Lechon Baka Festival” in Isulan captivated locals on June 18th, featuring over 50 halal-certified roast beef dishes to celebrate Eid’l Adha. Governor Datu Pax Ali Mangudadatu emphasized unity and promoted halal tourism, echoing President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.’s vision for international engagement. The event will now become an annual celebration across municipalities, promoting inclusivity amid cultural diversity in Sultan Kudarat. (PIA Sultan Kudarat)​.


ESG Developments

Saudi Arabia

Green Pilgrimage Initiative to reduce hajj's carbon footprint

Saudi Arabia has introduced the Green Pilgrimage Initiative aimed at reducing the environmental impact of the Hajj pilgrimage.


The initiative includes measures such as promoting the use of eco-friendly materials, implementing waste reduction strategies, and encouraging pilgrims to adopt sustainable practices. (Gulf News)



Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia trials first pilotless air taxi for Hajj pilgrims in Mecca

Saudi Arabia conducted a trial run of the world's first civil aviation-approved flying taxi, the EH216-S during this hajj season.


The electric vehicle aims to revolutionize pilgrim transportation during Hajj, offering efficient movement between holy sites, emergency response, and logistical support.


Authorities plan further trials to extend its range and speed. (Al Arabiya News)



Tech project aims to preserve Arabic language, Islamic heritage

Qatar’s Hamad Bin Khalifa University is spearheading the Fanar project, which aims to preserve the Arabic language using advanced AI techniques.


The project involves developing Arabic-centric language models capable of understanding and generating responses in various Arabic dialects.  (Wired Middle East)


Trade Developments


Boracay set to launch as Muslim-friendly destination

The Department of Tourism (DOT) has announced plans to reposition Boracay as a Muslim-friendly destination, aiming to attract more Muslim visitors.


Scheduled for September, the initiative includes private coves for Muslim women and enhanced amenities like prayer rooms and halal-certified dining options.


This effort underscores DOT's commitment to diversify tourism offerings and attract a broader international audience. (Qatar moments)



United States

Islamic Scholarship Fund expands film industry ties

The Islamic Scholarship Fund (ISF) has received a $500,000 grant from the Doris Duke Foundation’s Building Bridges Program.


The funding will support multi-year fellowships with the Sundance Institute, provide mentorship, and facilitate participation in key industry events. 


ISF aims to empower filmmakers keen to tell Muslim stories, fostering empathy and understanding. (IDA Editorial)

Islamic Lifestyle
Tourism businesses on the rise in Madinah

The number of tourism businesses in the Saudi city of Madinah have risen 15% over the same period last year, as the kingdom looks to increase the industry’s contribution to the economy. 

This included accommodation, travel agencies and trip organizers, state-run Saudi Press Agency (SPA) reported. 

Tourism-related businesses numbered 2,677 this March, from 2,322 reported in the same month last year, Madinah Chamber’s economic report for Q1 2024 stated. 

Tourism accounted for 2.6% of all economic activity registered with the chamber, SPA reported. 

The kingdom welcomed more than 106 million tourists in 2023, achieving its end-of-decade tourism milestone. This prompted the country to set a new target – welcoming 150 million tourists by the year 2030. 

Tourism is central to the country’s economic diversification plans to reduce its dependency on oil. 

Saudi Arabia welcomed around 1.833 million Hajj pilgrims this year, of which 63.3% came from Asian countries excluding Arab countries and 22.3% pilgrims were from Arab countries itself. 

Saudi Arabia has welcomed more than 600 million visitors since the launch of Vision 2030 roadmap, business consultancy Astrolabs said in a recent report. 

“The two holy cities of Makkah and Madinah are set to be a prolific center for more investments in the years to come and the catalyst for positive changes in the realm of tourism and hospitality, fueling the country’s rapid growth as a global hub for innovation and commerce,” Astrolabs said.  

Islamic Lifestyle
Islamic lifestyle wrap: Saudi introduces digital ID service for Hajj pilgrims

Here's a roundup of key developments across the Islamic lifestyle ecosystem during the first two weeks of May

Editor's note: Hajj season is round the corner, so its only fair that Saudi Arabia dominates the news. The kingdom launched a digital identity service to facilitate Hajj pilgrims, and aims to test flying taxis and drones this season.

Meanwhile, Hong Kong aims to become more Muslim-friendly by broadening its halal food offerings. 

Operational Developments

Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia launches digital ID service as Hajj draws near

Saudi Arabia introduces a digital identity service for Hajj pilgrims, aiming to enhance their experience through technological innovation aligned with the goals of Vision 2030.


Launched by the Ministry of Interior, the digital ID reflects the kingdom's commitment to leveraging digital transformation to serve pilgrims effectively. (Daily Pakistan)


Company News

United Kingdom

GymShark introduces sportswear hijab

Gymshark unveils its latest offering, a sports hijab, marking a significant stride in modest activewear and inclusive design. The scarf, available in cargo teal and sand beige shades, boasts sweat-wicking fabric suitable for gym and outdoor wear.


This launch continues Gymshark's trend of inclusive products. (Hypebae)



Trade Developments


DOT to further boost Muslim-friendly tourism

The Philippines' Department of Tourism (DOT) aims to enhance Muslim-friendly tourism, targeting Middle Eastern visitors.


At the Arabian Travel Market 2024, tourism secretary Christina Frasco engaged with 90 stakeholders from the region. This initiative follows the country's recognition as an emerging Muslim-friendly destination at last year's ATM event. (Inquirer)



Halal tourism fair in Izmir boosts sector prospects

The International Halal Tourism Congress in Izmir underscored the global surge in interest in halal tourism, with experts foreseeing substantial progress by 2030.


The event convened academics, industry leaders, and experts to deliberate on Halal tourism matters. (Daily Sabah)



Islamic Tourism Centre returns to the ATM 2024 to captivate Middle East region

The Islamic Tourism Centre (ITC), operating under Malaysia's ministry of tourism, arts, and culture, actively promotes the nation's exemplary Muslim-friendly tourism at the Arabian Travel Market (ATM) 2024 in Dubai.


ITC's participation, situated at the Malaysia Pavilion, underscores its commitment to showcasing Muslim-friendly attractions. (Zawya)


Hong Kong

Hong Kong seeks to expand halal food options to draw Muslim tourists

Hong Kong aims to become more Muslim-friendly by expanding its halal food offerings to attract tourists from Southeast Asia, the Middle East, and Muslim-majority regions in mainland China.


"We would like to attract more of the entire Muslim travel market… We hope they will come to Hong Kong, and then perhaps venture further into mainland China," said Hong Kong Tourism Board executive director Dane Cheng during a recent visit to Dubai. (Straits Time)



Philippines to develop halal travel offerings in top resort island

The Philippines is enhancing halal-friendly options in its resort island of Boracay to attract more Muslim visitors.


Boracay, located in Aklan province, is renowned for its white sand beaches and coral reefs, making it one of the world's most famous islands.


Tourism, a vital sector for the Philippines, is seeing efforts by the country to ensure Muslim visitors have access to halal products and services. (Arab News)


Taiwan / Malaysia

Taiwan expands Malaysia outreach, targets Muslim travellers

The Taiwan Tourism Administration’s Kuala Lumpur Office has expanded its promotional efforts in Malaysia, shifting from a focus on local Chinese communities to targeting Malaysia’s Muslim population, which makes up over 60% of the country.


Many hotels, restaurants, and shops in Taiwan are now certified as Muslim-friendly, enhancing Taiwan's appeal as a destination for Muslim tourists from Malaysia. (Travel and Tour World)



Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia to test flying taxis, drones this Hajj season: Minister

During this year's Hajj season, Saudi Arabia's minister of transport and logistic services, Saleh al-Jasser, announced plans to test flying taxis and drones. 


Al-Jasser highlighted intense competition among transportation firms to offer viable solutions in the near future, signaling a potential shift in transportation methods for pilgrims. (Al Arabiya News)


Islamic Lifestyle
Southeast Asian countries, Saudi Arabia among top Muslim tourist hotspots

Indonesia and Malaysia have shared the top spot as leading destinations for Muslim tourists over the last 12 months, followed closely by Saudi Arabia, a report has revealed. 

A total of 145 destinations were analysed on factors of access, communication, environment and service in the 2024 edition of the Mastercard-CrescentRating Global Muslim Travel Index (GMTI). New metrics such as the availability of facilities and services for travellers with disabilities were also considered in this year’s study. 

The GMTI, now in its ninth year, ranked Indonesia and Malaysia first because of their “consistent focus on enhancing Muslim-friendly travel facilities, including widespread availability of halal food, extensive prayer facilities, and dedicated tourism services,” the report said. Both countries shared an overall score of 76. 

Saudi Arabia ran them close, shy of two points, scoring a total of 74 on the index. The kingdom continues to benefit from its religious tourism due to Hajj and Umrah pilgrimages, and is increasing diversifying its tourism offerings, the report added. 

Türkiye ranked fourth (score: 73), due to its “robust infrastructure for Muslim travellers and rich cultural heritage”. The UAE secured the fifth spot. 

GMTI 2024 Rank Change versus 2023  Destination  GMTI 2024 Scores
1 0 Indonesia 76
1 0 Malaysia 76
3 0 Saudi Arabia 74
4 +1 Türkiye 73
5 -1 UAE 72
Source: Mastercard-Crescentrating Global Muslim Travel Index 2024

Meanwhile, Singapore led among non-OIC (Organisation of Islamic Cooperation) destinations for the ninth consecutive year, owned to its commitment to Muslim travellers in terms of halal food availability, prayer facilities, suitable airport amenities, and Muslim-friendly accommodation.

“It is encouraging to see that the travel sectors in Indonesia, Malaysia, and Singapore not only maintained their rankings in this year's GMTI, but also improved their individual scores. This reflects a broader trend of increased consideration for Muslim travellers,” said Fazal Bahardeen, CrescentRating’s founder and CEO. 

Muslim travel market is expected to grow significantly this year, with global international arrivals potentially reaching up to 168 million. This figure would beat pre-pandemic levels by as much as 5%, the report suggested. 

Islamic Lifestyle
Islamic lifestyle wrap: Iranians head to Saudi for first Umrah in nine years

Here's a roundup of key developments across the Islamic lifestyle ecosystem during the month of April

Editor's note: In the run-up to the annual Hajj pilgrimage, countries are stepping up to ensure a smooth journey for their residents. Nigeria's hajj commission has inked agreements with local carriers to facilitate travel, Pakistan has commenced Hajj training, while Indonesia is securing banknotes to offer allowance to this year's pilgrims. 

Meanwhile, a group of Iranian nationals made their way to Saudi Arabia to perform Umrah after a nine-year hiatus, following an agreement between the two countries. Iran is also keen to step up cultural and tourism collaboration with neighbour Oman. 



Company News

Sri Lanka

Kirsche Capital unveils modest collection

Colombo's fashion landscape welcomes Kirsche Capital, a valuable addition introducing its latest collection, blending affordability, trendiness, and modesty in contemporary fashion.


Kirsche Capital is the brainchild of CEO and co-founder Dr. Sarah Fazy, a fashion enthusiast committed to merging fashion with pioneering designs. (Newswire)


United Kingdom

Bradford Bulls become first UK rugby club to sign up as Muslim Friendly Employers

Bradford Bulls has become the first rugby league in the UK to sign up as Muslim Friendly Employers.


In a statement on April 3, the club affirmed its commitment to fostering an environment of inclusivity, where everyone feels valued and respected.


Humayun Islam BEM BCAc, CEO of Muslim Friendly Employers, praised the Bulls' initiative, emphasizing genuine inclusion over mere tolerance. (Telegraph & Argus)



Qalbox to enrich Islamic learning for children

Qalbox, an initiative by the creators of Muslim Pro, has collaborated with NoorKids and Durioo+ to enrich educational resources for Muslim children globally.


This partnership integrates education and entertainment, catering to the unique needs of young Muslim audiences.


NoorKids, recognized for its captivating Islamic educational content, and Durioo+, acclaimed for its Islamic cartoons and animations, have joined Qalbox to enhance the quality and availability of Islamic educational materials. (Global Newswire)



Trade Developments


Hajj 2024: NAHCON signs contract with air carriers

The National Hajj Commission of Nigeria (NAHCON) has inked agreements with Nigerian carriers Max Air and Air Peace to transport Hajj pilgrims to and from Saudi Arabia this year.


NAHCON chairman, Malama Jalal Arabi urged the airlines to deliver excellent services to Nigerian Muslim pilgrims. (Leadership)



Russia seeks to attract medical tourists from Islamic nations

The 15th International Economic Summit, themed "Russia-Islamic World: Kazan Forum," is set to commence on May 25 in Kazan, with a significant focus on health tourism.


Russia aims to attract tourists from Islamic nations for medical purposes, marking a strategic move. Halal medical tourism, previously launched in Russia, is now under development. (Nour News)


Oman / Iran

Tehran, Muscat to step up cultural, tourism collaboration

Iran’s minister of Cultural Heritage, Tourism, and Handicrafts met with Oman’s Minister of Social Development, emphasizing the need to enhance tourism and cultural ties between the nations.


Ezzatollah Zarghami highlighted the importance of strengthening bilateral relations, especially in tourism, given the shared maritime boundary, which offers opportunities for social cohesion. (Tehran Times)




Saudi Arabia / Iran

Iranians head to Saudi for first Umrah pilgrimage in nine years

Iranian pilgrims embarked on their first Umrah pilgrimage in nine years, traveling from Iran to Saudi Arabia through Tehran's Imam Khomeini airport.


The journey follows a recent agreement between Tehran and Riyadh to restore diplomatic ties brokered by China.


While Iranians were permitted to participate in the Hajj pilgrimage last year, Umrah had been inaccessible until now. (Al Arabiya News)





Pakistan launches second phase of Hajj training nationwide

The Ministry of Religious Affairs and Interfaith Harmony in Pakistan has initiated the second phase of Hajj trainings nationwide in preparation for the annual pilgrimage, scheduled for June this year.


Saudi Arabia reinstated Pakistan's pre-pandemic Hajj quota of 179,210 pilgrims last year, lifting the age limit of 65 years. (Arab News)





Govt procures $41m banknotes for Hajj pilgrims' allowance

The Indonesian Hajj Fund Management Agency (BPKH) has allocated more than 159 million Saudi riyals (US$40.96 million) in Saudi riyal banknotes to support the living expenses of more than 200,000 Hajj pilgrims traveling to Saudi Arabia this year.


Each pilgrim under the regular program will receive 750 riyals ($199) in cash at their final embarkation or transit point before departure.


BPKH official Sulistyowati expressed hope that this support would enhance the comfort and safety of the pilgrims' Hajj journey. (Antara News)

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