Monday, 31 October 2011

Holy Makkah is fully ready to receive Guests of Almighty Allah

Holy Makkah is fully ready to

receive Guests of Almighty Allah


Dr. Mozammel Haque

For the last four weeks I have been writing in this column about Hajj and what the British intending pilgrims have to do before going for Hajj. I think, now the time has come to inform the intending pilgrims about the rules and regulations, the facilities and arrangement on the ground in Makkah, Saudi Arabia.

Arrival of Pilgrims
All the preparation has been made in Makkah al-Mukarramah to receive millions of pilgrims in this year’s Hajj. Hajj flights started reaching in Saudi Arabia on 29 September and will continue until the end of October. The departure flights are supposed to start from 10th of November and end on 10th of December 2011.

The first batch of pilgrims for this year’s Hajj reached at King Abdul Aziz International Airport, Jeddah, on Wednesday, 28th of September. The batch consisted of two groups of South African pilgrims. The first flight carrying Indian pilgrims for Hajj reached Madinah al-Munawwarah on Thursday, 29th of September. A total of 170,491 pilgrims from India will perform Hajj this year. On the same day, the first batch of pilgrims, 284 in number, from the southern provinces of Thailand reached Jeddah. Some 13,000 pilgrims from Thailand will be coming for Hajj this year.

On Friday, 30th of September, the first batch of pilgrims, 205 in number from Pakistan reached Jeddah. A total of 180,000 Pakistani pilgrims will be going for Hajj this year. On the same day, the first batch of Chinese pilgrims reached Jeddah. A total of 13,800 pilgrims will leave China this year and they are expected to reach Saudi Arabia by 23 October.

All Hajj Pilgrims need to have vaccinated
The Saudi Ministry of Health has asked pilgrims to make sure that they are vaccinated against meningitis, cholera, yellow fever and dengue fever. It is learnt that disease-detection equipment has been deployed at the health centres of King Abdul Aziz International Airport and Jeddah Islamic Port. Specialised team will review the health certificates of passengers to see what vaccinations they have had. All the 16 entry points of the pilgrims into the Kingdom will be strictly monitored against any contagious disease.

All Hajj Pilgrims to be fingerprinted
It is also reported that all Hajj Pilgrims will be fingerprinted on their arrival in Saudi Arabia. Hajj plans are being implemented at King Abdul Aziz International Airport in Jeddah, Prince Muhammad Bin Abdul Aziz Airport in Madinah, Jeddah Islamic Port and other Makkah entrances.

Smart Cards for Pilgrims this year
Every pilgrim, on arrival at any of the Kingdom’s airports, seaports or border posts, will receive a digital smart card with all information of the pilgrim saved on it, it is reported in the press.

Shabab Book Satellite Programme
A satellite programme, titled, “Shabab Book” that is aired every Tuesday on Iqra Channel will be used this season to educate the youth about Hajj and its rites. This programme will be transmitted on 30 satellite channels. The Ministry is publishing information in 22 languages to reach Muslims around the world.

No cooking gas in Holy Sites
The Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, Prince Naif bin Abdul Aziz, the former Second Deputy Premier and Interior Minister, has banned the use of liquefied gas for cooking at the Holy Sites during Hajj for the second consecutive season. The ban would not cause any inconvenience to pilgrims as a number of safe kitchens with access to all pilgrims are set up in the holy sites.

Hajj Campaign
Prince Khaled Al-Faisal, Governor of Makkah region, launched a Hajj Campaign under the motto “Hajj is Worship and Civilized Behaviour” has pinpointed the problems which should be dealt with, in particular the phenomenon of sleeping in the open in Makkah and the Holy Sites and the cases of those performing Hajj without a permit. The campaign aimed at educating pilgrims about how to perform the rituals properly and how to avoid behaviour that is not allowed in Islam.

The major objective of the campaign, according to Prince al-Faisal, is to make certain that pilgrims follow rules and instructions during Hajj. The Makkah Governor said the Kingdom wants to ensure that there is no overcrowding at the Holy Sites, stop pilgrims from sleeping in the open, and reduce pressure on the Grand Mosque and Jamarat Bridge. He said people who perform Hajj without a permit, sleep on the roads and litter at the Holy Sites are transgressing the laws of Almighty Allah. All these malpractices make it more difficult for the government to serve pilgrims effectively.

The Governor of Makkah said the campaign is meant to make pilgrims aware of negative and incorrect behaviour. This includes travelling without permits, sleeping in places that hamper the movement of pedestrians, machinery and cars, and littering.

Breaking the law for Hajj is a sin
Sheikh Saleh Aal Al-Sheikh, Saudi Minister of Islamic Affairs, said the campaign is meant to inform pilgrims about the importance of sticking to the rules made by the government and it is aimed at providing the best services to the Guests of Allah.

The Grand Mufti of Saudi Arabia said the Hajj Campaign launched by Chairman of the Hajj Central Committee, Prince Khaled Al-Faisal, is part of the government’s plan to make sure all pilgrims can perform the rituals like the Prophet (peace be upon him) did.

Health Hotline service for Hajj Pilgrims
The Saudi Ministry of Health will start a phone-in-service for Hajj pilgrims to obtain Health advice instantly. This service, known as “Saha Ziyufur Ar-Rahman” (Health for the Guests of Allah) is running for the seventh consecutive year, has proven successful in the past. This service will be available on the toll-free number 8002494444 and will greet the caller with ‘Allah Humma Labaik’ before diverting him or her to a medical officer. The medical team comprises consultants, cardiologists, medical specialists, pharmacists and dentists. The programme is handled by a group of Saudi women who work in the ministry and its city hospitals.

Signal Alerts for Availability of Space
The Grand Mosque has 176 gates. Now if there is space in the Grand Mosque, then a green light by the door will be lit but if there is none a red light will show. This arrangement is put in place to let pilgrims know if there was space for them inside the Haram or not so that they can pray outside in the plazas. These gates, which will remain open around the clock, were being manned by 800 men and women guards.

20 gates have been designated for people with special needs including the King Abdul Aziz Gate. The Grand Mosque has been supplied with a number of escalators to ensure the easy movement of pilgrims coming in or going out of the mosque.

Transportation
This year it is learnt that the General Syndicate of Cars has a new transport plan to ensure pilgrims perform their Hajj rites with ease, comfort and peace of mind. The Syndicate plans to operate 120,000 trips for pilgrims between the Holy Sites and Makkah and Madinah during the pilgrimage season. The plan will be put into operation by nearly 30,000 supervisors, members of administrative and technical committees, drivers and maintenance workers. For this reason, the Syndicate has secured 20,000 buses to transport pilgrims between Makkah and Madinah’s Holy Sites. 17 transport companies will provide 20,000 buses during this Hajj season.

Saudi women volunteer to serve female pilgrims
Over 25 female volunteers at the Tawafa Establishment of South Asia will look after 250,000 women pilgrims from South Asia. The volunteers will carry out activities and visit residences to educate pilgrims on the performance of Hajj and will also guide them at the Holy Sites. The volunteer will also ‘distribute tens of thousands of awareness brochures to pilgrims printed in different languages along with CDs that focus on Hajj rituals, it is learnt.

Toilets and service centres at Jamarat
It is also reported that there are plans to set up toilets and service centres in the towers of the Jamarat Bridge for emergency cases. The emergency forces presented a working paper on plans for crowd management at the Jamarat Bridge and other emergencies.

Last minute reminder for the British Pilgrims
The Foreign Office is urging Hajj pilgrims to get comprehensive travel insurance and essential vaccinations before embarking on their journey: The Foreign Office said:
- it is compulsory for travellers to the Hajj to have a Meningococcal Meningitis vaccination certificate in order to obtain a Hajj visa
- we strongly recommend that you have a seasonal influenza vaccination prior to embarking on your trip
-you should take out fully comprehensive travel insurance in advance
-check the Foreign Office travel advice for the latest on the situation in Saudi Arabia.

The Foreign Office will provide the full range of consular services and will be sending a delegation of consular staff. Pilgrims should ensure they look after personal belongings and should take particular care with travel documents, tickets and other valuables.

The delegation will be located at the Elaf Al Khalil Hotel, Makkah. You can find contact details and information on what the delegation can and can’t do in our travel advice for Hajj pilgrims. Ms. Nagina Akhtar, an experienced Consular Officer from the Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO) will be leading this year British Hajj Consular Delegation.

Please visit the following websites as a last minute :
http://www.fco.gov.uk/en/travel-and-living-abroad/your-trip/hajj-pilgrims

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