Holy Makkah is all set to
welcome Guests of 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. It is imperative for the prospective Pilgrims to be aware of the rites and rituals, rules and regulations of Hajj. Similarly, it is essential for them to take care of their health and to know about the safety and security matters.
Redouble efforts in service of Pilgrims,
King Abdullah directs officials
King Abdullah, Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, has directed all concerned officials to redouble their efforts to provide all necessary facilities to pilgrims to ensure that they are able to perform their Hajj rituals in ease and comfort.
Media campaign to spell out Hajj do’s and don’ts
The Governor of Makkah, Prince Khaled Al-Faisal, chairman of the Central Hajj Committee, inaugurated the fifth national media campaign for Hajj pilgrims. He said the Kingdom’s services to pilgrims are inspired by its sense of commitment and its awareness that serving the guests of Allah is a great honour.
The campaign aims to improve the quality of service offered by the people in the region, he said. The campaign underscores the importance of scrupulous adherence to Hajj regulations, so that a healthy balance between the number of pilgrims and the spatial capacity of the holy sites is achieved besides getting rid of the squatting, and easing the crowding at the Jamarat and Grand Mosque.
The campaign is based on major principles such as respecting the place and event of the Hajj, respecting the men who go for Hajj in a legal manner and the obedience to regulations governing the pilgrimage, he said. The campaign aims to warn those who go for Hajj without permit about the punishment involved in violating Hajj regulations.
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.
SAFETY AND SECURITY
Regulations governing pilgrims’ housing that were introduced four years ago have effectively helped in eradicating many malpractices in the field. Under this law no ramshackle house or aging building will be rented to any pilgrim. Moreover, the law has significantly contributed to the enforcement of safety conditions in 7,000 buildings used for pilgrims’ housing. It is reported that all licensed buildings are almost new, resembling five-star hotels.
26,000-strong force for security
The Civil Defence Department would deploy around 26,000 men, 6,900 equipment and devices and 19 helicopters in Makkah and other holy sites during this Hajj season to ensure the safety and security of pilgrims. The department’s Hajj plan aimed at taking all preventive measures to protect the guests of Allah, provide them safety from floods and accidents and ensure speedy intervention in case of emergencies.
The department would have more than 450 field units and teams in Makkah and other holy sites of Mina, Arafat and Muzdalifah to deal with dangers and accidents quickly, adding that they have been provided with equipment to fight fire and rescue people.
Large Helicopter fleet deployed for Hajj security
The Saudi authorities have deployed a bigger fleet of helicopters in Hajj security operations this year, it is learnt. The force comprises pilots, technicians, engineers, administrators and paramedics, totally reaching 360. The total number of helicopters is 19, as mentioned earlier. They will participate in Hajj security; mainly will be used in firefighting in crowded areas, such as tents and warehouses, in addition to rescue operations and airlifting of casualties to hospitals.
Female officers to combat crime
For the first time the Public Security Department has decided to deploy female officers and dispatch them to places where male officers cannot enter during the Hajj season.
Additionally, 21 patrol teams, 8 teams for detecting and removing explosives as well as teams who keep a close watch on pickpockets at crowded places have been set up. Surveillance cameras installed all over Mina and Arafat to provide pilgrims with safety and security and allow them to perform their rituals with ease and comfort.
HEALTH AND HEALTH CARE SERVICES
Saudi authorities have taken all precautions to prevent contagious diseases from spreading during the Hajj season, when nearly 2 million Muslims from all over the world flock to the Kingdom for the annual pilgrimage. Millions of people from different parts of the world living in a limited area for a number of days or weeks can easily spread infectious diseases and epidemics. Saudi government has astutely stepped in with compulsory vaccinations for all pilgrims.
Immunization during Hajj
All pilgrims are required to get immunized, 14 or more days before arrival in Saudi Arabia. The Meningitis vaccination was made mandatory following outbreaks of the disease in the country.
Pilgrims travelling to Hajj are given three vaccines: the meningococcal vaccine, which is mandatory for all Hajj travellers to protect against Meningitis; the seasonal influenza vaccine, which is required for people with heart, kidney and liver diseases to protect against pneumococcal diseases.
People at higher risk include those above 65 years of age, people with weakened immune systems, patients with chronic diseases, such as diabetes, lung, heart and kidney diseases and cancer.
The Saudi Ministry of Health has announced its readiness to provide pilgrims with the best preventive, diagnostic and emergency healthcare services, it is learnt. According to a report, a new hospital has been opened east of Arafat to provide the required medical services to the pilgrims this Hajj. The 236-bed hospital has been built as per the highest international standards. It has 50-beds in its Intensive Care Unit, and 30-beds to deal with emergency cases.
15 hospitals, 175 centres to provide services
One hundred sixty-six healthcare facilities spread in Makkah, Madinah and other holy sites will be enough to cover all the pilgrims. These facilities include 25 hospitals with a capacity of 5,250 beds (20 per cent for intensive care and emergencies) and 141 primary healthcare centres. Around 20,000 healthcare professionals, including physicians, nurses, paramedics, technicians and administrators have been mobilized to serve pilgrims at these facilities, reported in the press.
15 hospitals with a combined capacity of 3,886 beds will provide pilgrims with services this year. Eight hospitals will be working round the clock in the holy sites. These are in Arafat and Mina.
In addition to the hospitals, 175 primary healthcare centres will be offering their services to pilgrims. In Makkah, 75 healthcare centres will be operational while in Arafat 46 will be open. In Mina, there will be 44 healthcare centres, six in Muzdalifah and five inside the Grand Mosque.
Further, to cater to the needs of specialised needs of pilgrims, it is learnt, a heart surgery unit at King Abdullah Medical City in Makkah has been provided with the latest state-of art equipment. More than 16,000 blood units have been secured to use them in case of injuries and operations, while more than 175 ambulance vehicles have been mobilized.
These services come in line with the comprehensive plan to serve pilgrims, mobilized all the human resources to provide exquisite medical healthcare services to pilgrims.
First aid course for women
Fifteen female volunteers from South Asia Tawafa Establishment have taken an intensive first-aid course in preparation for this year’s Hajj. The course trained the volunteers to provide first-aid services to pilgrims during emergencies. The first-aid course focused on cardiopulmonary resuscitation skills, how to deal with epileptic cases, diabetic comas, wounds, fractures, sunstrokes, burns, cardiac arrests and others.
It is learnt that the Aziziah flyover is connected to Jamarat this year, whereas in the past only the King Khalid flyover was the only connection. Saudi Arabia has spent SR7 billion on the five-level Jamarat Bridge that has 24 gates to avoid overcrowding on the bridge.
Mashair Train capacity increased
It is reported that Al-Mashair Train capacity will increase this year to 500,000 pilgrims, up from 250,000 last year, to reduce the number of buses. This year’s plan will ensure vehicular traffic and pedestrians are kept separate from each other.
Pakistani Pilgrims will use Mashair Train
Around 180,000 Pakistani pilgrims will be able to use the Mashair Train this Hajj season due to the efforts exerted by the Pakistani Hajj mission and its negotiations with Hajj authorities in the Kingdom. Pakistan is the first country whose pilgrims will use the Mashair Train instead of buses this year.
Vehicle tracking technology
Traffic police for the first time this Hajj season, it is learnt, will test mobile technology to electronically identify vehicles by placing cameras connected directly to the database of the National Information Centre on the roads and main entrances to Makkah. Monitoring will be completely electronic and will identify the vehicles, their projected route, how many have entered, and passengers’ names.
Taif Airport for Pilgrims
The Shoura Council of Saudi Arabia has approved the use of Taif Airport for the arrival and departure of Hajj and Umrah pilgrims, it is learnt. The use of Taif Airport will help reduce the pressure on King Abdul Aziz International Airport in Jeddah. Taif Airport is located 30 km to the east of Taif and 70 km from Makkah.
Transporting all pilgrims between Makkah and Madinah this year will require 35,000 bus trips and each bus will need to carry out on average seven trips each.
CLEANLINESS IN THE HOLY SITES
The number of pilgrims coming from abroad is 1.7 million, and in coming years 4 million pilgrims will join them from within the country. All of them will head to the same place at the same time; therefore there is a need to put into place more plans to serve them.
Ensuring cleanliness in the holy sites
The main challenges that arise during Hajj, including ensuring cleanliness in the holy sites, were discussed at King Abdul Aziz University (KAU) in Jeddah recently. The meeting discussed management strategies for Hajj and recommended increasing the number of toilets and providing food from outdoor camps to prevent possible fires. There are 14 different bodies that work together to serve pilgrims.
MEALS TO BE DISTRIBUTED TO PILGRIMS
Over 5 million meals will be distributed to pilgrims, who will be occupying three quarters of Makkah’s available accommodation this Hajj season, it is reported.
1 million free meals for pilgrims
It is also learnt that more than 4,000 volunteers, both male and female, in the Eastern Province of Saudi Arabia will prepare around one million meals for Hajj pilgrims. The initiative was the brainchild of two local organisations in Dammam. A booklet written by Yusuf Estes, a former American minister who reverted to Islam in 1991, about the Prophet (peace be upon him) will be distributed with each meal.
EDUCATING THE PILGRIMS
This year, the Saudi Ministry of Islamic Affairs, Endowments, Call and Guidance has focused more on using electronic advertising boards at main squares and streets in Makkah and Madinah to educate pilgrims on the Hajj.
Six million books to educate pilgrims
Over 6 million books, films and pamphlets in different languages have been compiled for domestic pilgrims. For overseas pilgrims, the ministry has made 12 million Holy Qur’an copies and recordings in 32 languages. The ministry is also cooperating with 90 satellite channels as well as local Saudi TV and Radio to air educational programmes about the Hajj.
The main purpose and objective of this effort is to make the pilgrims understand the obligations and rulings related to Hajj and perform the rituals in the simplest way possible.
Upon arrival through land, air and sea entry ports, each pilgrim will be provided with two Hajj books, a copy of the Holy Qur’an and a Hajj CD. Upon departure, each pilgrim will be given four Hajj books.
Voluntary Medical Team in Holy Sites
On 18th of October, 2012, a voluntary Medical team under the British Hajj Delegation (BHD), a newly formed charity organisation, left for Saudi Arabia for the purpose of serving the British pilgrims, Lord Adam Patel, leader of the British Hajj Delegation, told me in an interview. The medical team consists of nine doctors; all of them are GP practitioners.
There will be two surgeries and one waiting room. The clinic will be effective from 19th of October and will be located in Makkah at the Burj Al-Sultan Hotel, Ibrahim Al-Khalil Street, Makkah and in Mina, the voluntary medical clinic of the BHD is set up in the tents near the Saudi Clinic No. 10 in the Europa Zone in Mina. It will be operative from 8th to 12th of Zil-Hijjah, Lord Patel said.
The clinic is usually open for around 14 to 16 hours every day. The clinic will be in Mina and Makkah for 5 days.
For contact, the following numbers in Saudi Arabia will be active from 19th of October, 2012 (Within Saudi Arabia; 0557 437 100 & 0557 440 200.)