Mecca worshippers adhere to physical distancing during Ramadan prayers | AFP

Muslim worshippers pray while respecting the social distancing restrictions next to the Kaaba in Mecca’s Grand Mosque. Saudi Arabia partially lifted its curfew but said it would maintain a round-the-clock lockdown in the holy city of Mecca.

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rump says Saudis, Russians ‘getting close’ to oil production deal | AFP

US President Donald Trump tells reporters at the White House that he just spoke with Russia and Saudi Arabia about oil production and OPEC, and says they are “getting close to a deal.” IMAGES

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Coronavirus: Deserted roads in the Saudi holy city of Mecca | AFP

Drone images show the roads of the Saudi holy city of Mecca deserted during the novel coronavirus pandemic. Saudi Arabia’s health minister warned of a huge spike in coronavirus cases of up to 200,000 within weeks, state media reported. The warning came after the kingdom extended the duration of daily curfews in multiple cities, including the capital Riyadh, to 24 hours in a bid to limit the spread of the deadly virus.

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Coronavirus: Streets leading to Mecca’s holy sites still closed | AFP

Streets leading to the Islamic holy sites of Mecca in Saudi Arabia remain closed, to help stem the spread of the coronavirus.

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Coronavirus: Macron in videoconference with G20 counterparts | AFP

Emmanuel Macron exchanges with his G20 counterparts during a videoconference chaired by King Salman of Saudi Arabia. A virtual summit to try to provide a coordinated response to the coronavirus epidemic crisis. IMAGES

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See an Empty World Cleared by Coronavirus

The coronavirus pandemic is shutting down museums, theaters, and clubs. It’s forcing fashion shows to reschedule and talk shows to play to empty seats. Broadway’s going dark, March Madness is off, and politicians are rallying to audiences made up solely of their own aides. On March 12, an Olympic gold medalist lit the torch for a small, private audience then ran through trees alone.

The virus seems to be showing us what’s important: not sports or glamor, but health and family; not politics, but political action. It’s shutting down events that used to symbolize our connection as citizens and fans, while showing us how connected we have always been. We can see now visualize that what happens to one of us in Wuhan can derail traders in New York and kill leaders in Iran.

But our response is also shutting down services that perform a vital function. It’s pushing an estimated fifth of the world’s students out of classrooms and shutting down the places we need most in times of crisis. Italy’s ban on public gatherings mean a ban on funerals. Saudi Arabia suspended pilgrimages to Mecca, and both the Catholic Church in Rome and the Governor of Kentucky called on churches to close doors that have stood open through flood and famine. The Pope, meanwhile, is holding an audience from the comfort of his plush, private library. We are left to mourn alone.

The mental cost is real. A 2020 report on social isolation by researchers at the National Academies of Sciences found that older people who keep to themselves develop a “significantly” higher risk of dementia. Life won’t be much easier for younger generations kept apart and forced to live on screens, whose affect on mental health we don’t yet understand. The pandemic is forcing our society to take a hard reckoning of what is essential, and what we can do without. But the costs of those cuts can never be tallied.

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Saudi Arabia suspends entry for pilgrims over coronavirus | AFP

Worshippers pray in Mecca as Saudi Arabia suspends visas for visits to Islam’s holiest sites for the “Umrah” pilgrimage, an unprecedented move triggered by coronavirus fears that raises questions over the annual hajj.

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The five pillars of Islam | AFP Animé

Videographic on the five pillars of Islam. Saudi Arabia on Thursday suspended visas for visits to Islam’s holiest sites for the “umrah” pilgrimage, an unprecedented move triggered by coronavirus fears that raises questions over the annual hajj. VIDEOGRAPHIC

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India aims to boost arms exports | AFP

India is targeting defence exports worth $5 billion in the next five years in a bid to boost local manufacturing, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has said. The country is the world’s second-largest arms importer after Saudi Arabia, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, but Modi wants to turn that around under an ambitious “Made in India” initiative.

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Rescued sheep await adoption in Romania after surviving capsize | AFP

180 rams, saved by an NGO following the capsize of a ship, are cared for in an animal shelter near Bucharest while awaiting adoption. The cargo ship Queen Hind capsized last Sunday as it left the southeastern port of Midia with 14,600 sheep bound for Saudi Arabia. Romania is the third biggest producer of sheep in the European Union and has exported millions in the past two years, in particular to Jordan and Libya.

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US sending home Saudi cadets after shooting

The United States is removing nearly two dozen Saudi military students from a training program and sending them back to Saudi Arabia after an investigation into a deadly shooting by a Saudi aviation student last month. (Jan. 13)

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US sends home 21 Saudis after army base shooting probe: Justice Dept | AFP

Attorney General William Barr announces that the US is sending home 21 Saudis after a probe into the December 2019 shooting at Pensacola Naval Air Station. After learning of ‘derogatory materials’ possessed by those 21 personnel says Barr, “the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia determined that this material demonstrated conduct unbecoming an officer…and will be returning to Saudi Arabia later today.” SOUNDBITE

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‘Ring of fire’ eclipse wows across Asia | AFP

Skywatchers from Saudi Arabia and Oman to India and Singapore were treated to a rare “ring of fire” solar eclipse. Annular eclipses occur when the Moon is not close enough to the Earth to completely obscure the Sun, leaving a thin ring of the solar disc visible. de la progression de l’éclipse et des spectateursN°1NB249N°1NB3Y5

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UN official: Justice not done for Khashoggi

The UN official who investigated the killing of Jamal Khashoggi says justice for the journalist has not been done after a court in Saudi Arabia sentenced five people to death for the killing of the Washington Post columnist and royal family critic. (Dec.23)

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Islamic leaders gather for summit shunned by Saudi Arabia | AFP

Leaders of Muslim nations, including Saudi rivals Iran, Turkey and Qatar, attend a summit in Kuala Lumpur, which analysts say is aimed at rivalling the OIC, a 57-member pan-Islamic body headquartered in the Saudi city of Jeddah. The Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) on Wednesday mounted a veiled attack on the summit, saying such gatherings would weaken Islam. IMAGES

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Saudis resist ‘throwaway’ culture of food waste | AFP

The plate is designed to make a meal look bigger — a gastronomic illusion and an innovative way to tame Saudi Arabia’s pervasive throwaway culture which results in colossal food waste. Across much of the Gulf lavish displays of food are seen as a cultural totem of generosity and hospitality.

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Trump on shooting, impeachment, prisoner exchange

Just months after senior U.S. officials delivered substantial military aid to Saudi Arabia to counter threats from Iran, America’s relationship with the kingdom is being tested by a Saudi Air Force student’s shooting spree at a U.S. Navy base. (Dec. 7)

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