Thursday, 2 December 2010

Unparallel Successful Hajj 2010

An Unparallel Successful Hajj 2010

Dr. Mozammel Haque

Hajj 2010 was a record-breaking unparallel successful Hajj on many fronts: extraordinary turnout of pilgrims, major multi-million riyals developments including the Mashair Train and Al-Jamarat Bridge. The organisation, in terms of health, security, accommodation and transport, was also outstanding. Massive future developments are also under way which will see Makkah transformed into one of the most advanced cities in the world.

Hajj is one of the faith’s five pillars which require Muslims to undertake the pilgrimage to Makkah at least once in their lifetime if possible. World’s 1.6 billion Muslims obliged by religious duty to attempt the trip to the Holy cities but the host Saudi Arabia is only able to accept about 2.5 million a year due to the space in the surrounding areas of the holy places. Although the formal Hajj rituals only span five days, most go for a minimum of two weeks and some for up to two months, travelling to Madinah as well as to Makkah. However, beyond all the facts and figures, Hajj is an extraordinary spiritual exercise for all those seeking it.

Record number of Pilgrims
This year, Hajj 2010, there was an unprecedented number of pilgrims coming to complete the Holy Pilgrimage, as prescribed by Prophet Ibrahim and Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon them). The General Statistics Department announced that there were officially over 2.7 million pilgrims on Hajj this year, according to a report run by the Saudi Press Agency (SPA). This year’s Hajj drew a record 1.8 million foreigners from diverse regions of the world like Nigeria, Russia and Indonesia and the remaining 989,789 were from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, most of them residents. This is apart from the illegal pilgrims coming for the Holy journey. This was unlike last year when many pilgrims were kept away over Swine Flu fears.

Prince Naif , the Saudi interior Minister, said, it is reported, that close to 1.8 million pilgrims arrived in the Kingdom, the highest number ever recorded. The figure included 977,583 males representing 54 percent of the total, and 822,018 females representing 46 percent of the total of pilgrims. This was an 11 percent increase – 180,746 pilgrims – compared to last year. A total of over 1.6 million pilgrims came by air, 117,363 by land and 12,916 by sea, from 181 countries, reported in the press.

India, this year, sent about 175,000 pilgrims, Indonesia 220,000 pilgrims, Pakistan 160,000 and Bangladesh sent 94,000 pilgrims this year. 200,000 or more Saudi citizens and residents also joined this year Hajj.

Mashair Train in Holy sites
The operation this year of the multi-billion Riyal Holy Sites Train, also known in Arabic as the Mashair Train, reduced the traffic on the roads by a staggering 3,000 buses, according to the Hajj Committee at the Jeddah Chamber of Commerce and Industry (JCCI). So, the most significant and high-profile development for Hajj this year 2010 was the completion of the first phase of the SR.6.5-billion Holy Sites Train, also known as the Mashair Train or Makkah Metro Train. The Train operated without any incident on the first two days of Hajj.

The Chinese-built dual-track light railway, with an initial nine stations, connects the three holy sites of Mina, Muzdalifah and Mount Arafat – areas that see massive congestion during the five-day pilgrimages will replace 4,000 buses previously used for Hajj. On Sunday, 14th of November, 2010, the Mashair Train, also known as Makkah Metro, rolled out to serve pilgrims, a move which is likely to see a major reduction in traffic congestion. This year Hajj 2010 the Mashair Train has already effectively tackled “unbearable” traffic jams at the holy sites.

The SR.6.5-billion train project was only operated at 35 percent of its full capacity at the moment in the first phase. When the project is complete, there will be 20 trains operational carrying up to 72,000 pilgrims an hour. They are estimated to transport more than 500,000 pilgrims an hour. The Train will eventually be linked to Makkah. It is also reported that the Train’s project has contributed to the development of Muzdalifah and also made it possible for several pilgrims to spend the night there.

The Train initially will run only from Mina, to the east, and on to Muzdalifah and Mount Arafat further east. The nine-trains can transport 30,000 pilgrims an hour.
Completion of Al-Jamarat Bridge
The completion of the top level of Al-Jamarat Bridge has also considerably eased the movement of pilgrims from the Tent City to perform the ritual of stoning of the devil. The stoning of the devil ritual at the massive Al-Jamarat Bridge started without any incident in the early hours of Tuesday, the 16th of November. The Saudi authorities also provided more than 124 free electric vehicles to take the sickly and elderly pilgrims to the Al-Jamarat Bridge.

It is reported that The Ministry of Municipal and Rural Affairs allocated 124 free small electric ‘golf’ carts to serve the elderly handicapped and pilgrims with special needs at the entrance to the Al-Jamarat Bridge. Each vehicle accommodates 14 pilgrims, moving them to throw pebbles and returning them to their camps.

Accident-free Hajj/Healthcare
Everyone declared this year’s Hajj a resounding success. Hajj 2010 took place this year without any major incident. This is due to the organisation, in terms of health, security, accommodation and transport, which was outstanding.

This year’s Hajj was given a clean bill of health. There was no outbreak of epidemic diseases and that the vast majority of pilgrims enjoyed good health. The Ministry of Health, it is reported, mobilized all its physical and technical resources to provide the highest standards of healthcare and to maintain the well-being of the Guests of Allah so that they could perform their religious duties with ease, comfort and peace of mind.

The Ministry of Health has implemented a number of preventive measures, including setting health requirements and updating them regularly based on scientific evidence and endorsement by the World Health Organisation (WHO). The Ministry has also ensured early detection of infectious diseases by implementing a strict surveillance process at all ports of entry for pilgrims arriving by air, land or sea.

The Saudi authorities during this year’s Hajj have an extensive network of hospitals and health centres, staffed by thousands of health workers to treat pilgrims. The Ministry of Health disclosed that there are 24 Health Ministry hospitals – seven hospitals in Makkah, 10 in Madinah, four in Mina and three in Arafat, with a total capacity of 4,005 beds. The Undersecretary of the Ministry, Dr. Muhammad bin Hamza Khushaim also said that 144 health centres in Makkah, the holy sites and Madinah were made readied for pilgrims. Of these, 127 health centres were in Makkah and the holy sites – 31 centres in Makkah, 46 in Arafat, 28 in Mina, six in Muzdalifah and 16 centres at the Jamarat Bridge. There were also 10 health centres at the Grand Mosque and its courtyards. The Secretariat of the Holy City of Makkah has assigned 12 pharmacies in Mina to provide medical services to the pilgrims.

Red Crescent Air Ambulances
Five air ambulances of the Red Crescent were flying over the holy sites as part of emergency services for the pilgrims, said the Director of the Saudi Red Crescent Air Ambulances organization’s air operations. A total of 140 personnel, including crew and medical staff, were ready 24 hours a day, with aircraft equipped with two beds and a mini emergency room. The aircraft was in a position to land at six hospitals with helipads, including Al-Noor, Hira, King Abdullah Medical City, Mina and Arafat, in addition to two other pads on the Jamarat Bridge.

A New Hajj Lab
The Saudi Health Ministry purchased for Hajj a world class laboratory that can detect over 10,000 viruses and other micro-organisms with its state-of-the-art technology. According to Dr. Abdullah Al-Rabeah, Saudi Minister of Health, the equipment can identify all kinds of microbes, bacteria, viruses, fungi and parasites. He said the laboratory will be essential in its bid to keep pilgrims healthy during Hajj, it is reported. A total of 135 consultant doctors in various rare specializations was on duty around the clock during Hajj.

The Saudi Ministry of Health for the third year set up a special toll free call centre for Hajj pilgrims needing information and advice on health issues. The number to call was 800-249-4444.

Security measures
Over 50,000 security officials were deployed on the roads leading from Makkah to Mina to oversee the safety and security of pilgrims this year’s Hajj, according to a report carried by the Saudi Press Agency. There was top-level security at the Grand Mosque this year for Hajj, with over 8,000 male and female officials on duty, according to the Commander of the Grand Mosque’s Security Forces. Security officers had also helped in guiding pilgrims to the upper stories of the Grand Mosque, especially during the second and third days of Tashreeq when hundreds of thousands of pilgrims poured into the Holy Haram to perform the Farewell Tawaf.

Saudi-trained barbers at work
Over 100 Saudi graduates of the Vocational Industrial institutes, an affiliate of the General Organization for Technical and Vocational Training, who attended an intensive training course in hair shaving and haircuts, participated in this year’s Hajj in the “Safe Shaving Program”. Makkah Mayoralty allocated a special area for the young barbers who rendered their service to the pilgrims at “Al-Baiya Yard” west of Al-Jamarat Bridge in Mina.

More than 6,000 labourers provided with 1,000 cleaning machines and 46,000 containers were working to keep the holy sites clean, said Director General of the Cleaning Administration at the Makkah Mayoralty.

More Women Scout Guides Next Hajj
The number of women guides will be increased for the next Hajj, according to Prince Faisal Bin Abdullah, Minister of Education. He said women scouts played a crucial role during Hajj. For this reason he wants to double the number in future. He added that plans are being drawn up to convert the scout society into a civil body, as ordered by the King. He said the King’s decision will contribute to the development and progress of the society which currently has 125,000 members. He also said it is a ‘noble mission’ and sends out a strong message to society, particularly the children about the value of voluntary work.

Million Meals on Arafat Day
The “Ishan wa Al-Takaful Al-Ijtima’i” – Good Deeds and Social Solidarity – Society in Makkah provided pilgrims with one million meals on Arafat Day, according to the charity’s director general. Each meal consisted of a bottle of water, fruit juice, baked bread garnished with cheese and dates, a pack of biscuits, and a napkin and waste container.

Future Developments Plan
Massive future developments are under way, which will see Makkah transformed into one of the most advanced cities in the world, as outlined by Prince Khaled Al-Faisal, Governor of Makkah. Makkah is also expected to see massive new developments over the coming years. The plan includes removing slums and old buildings around Makkah and replacing them with a new generation of housing and hotels. Saudi authorities also plan to build new hospitals and improve transportation and communication structure, said the Governor’s deputy, Abdulaziz Al-Khedheiri.

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