Holy Makkah is all set to welcome Hajj pilgrims
Dr. Mozammel Haque
The area of Grand Masjid, Masaa, Mataf and other holy sites such as Mina, Arafat, and Muzdalifah remains the same but the number of pilgrims is increasing year after year. The authorities who are responsible for Haramain have to think and ponder how to cope up with the ever-increasing number of pilgrims and how to accommodate them with the facilities so that they can perform their religious rituals with ease and comfort.
That’s why; the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques designed a Project of the Century for one of the largest expansions of the Grand Mosque and other holy sites, such as Masaa, Mataf, Mina and Arafat. The Saudi authorities employed all their resources and energies to provide all the necessary facilities for the performance of Hajj with east and comfort. It employed all its departments for the Health care, transportation, safety & security measures, etc.
Grand Haramain Expansion Project
Expansion of the Grand Mosque
The current expansion being implemented in the Grand Mosque was the largest of its kind with an area covering 400,000 square metres. Once completed, it will accommodate two million Muslims. The expansion projects consist of courtyards, bridges, health centres, a civil defence centre, and a polyclinic.
According to Sheikh Abdul Rahman al-Sudais, head of the Presidency for the Affairs of the Two Holy Mosques, Tipped as the ‘Project of the Century,’ the King Abdullah Expansion of the Grand Mosque is estimated to cost more than SR100 billion. The total area of the existing mosque is 356,000 square meters with a capacity to accommodate 770,000 worshipers while the new expansion will accommodate an additional 1.2 million. The project includes expansion of Mataf in order to increase its capacity from 48,000 to 130,000 per hour.
Mataf expansion: capacity now
70,000 per hour
The expansion of Al-Masaa can now accommodate 188,000 Muslims per hour and the Mataf area can accommodate 105,000 Muslims an hour. King Abdullah Construction Project focuses on crowd management and the development of public transport networks. Prince Khaled said this gigantic public transport project for Makkah will cost SR69 billion and will be implemented in three phases.
The Presidency of the Two Holy Mosques Affairs plans to open the newly constructed levels of the “MATAF” (area for circumambulating the House of God) on the ground and first floors to worshippers during the current Hajj season, bringing the Mataf capacity to nearly 70,000 per hour.
The first phase of the project to enhance the capacity of the Mataf will be fully opened for worshippers during Hajj. The width of the area parallel to the ‘Masaa’ on this level has been increased to 51 metres.
Director General of Projects and Studies at the Presidency, Abdul Mohsen bin Homaid said in a statement, since the upper level of the temporary Mataf had been allocated to disabled worshippers since Ramadan, the lower level will now be linked to the ground floor of the Mosque to facilitate the movement of the worshippers on the ground floor. It will ensure smooth movement between the first area of expansion and the areas coveted in the first phase of the current project.
Homaid also said the first phase of the Mataf ground floor was the most significant since there were frequent bottlenecks hindering the movement of pilgrims. A new bridge project would minimize bottlenecks occurring in the southern square between the royal palace walls and the walls of the southern Al-Safa dome. It will double the space available for movement with the addition of an upper level to it linking with the first floor, giving flexibility needed for crowd management and separation of crowd movement in opposite directions.
Completion of the bridge on the southern square will enable smooth crowd movement from the eastern square to the first floor through four entrances, including Al-Arqam Escalator, Safa Round, upper part of the Bab Ismail and the Ajyad Bridge, said Homaid.
MINA – Room for 185,000 more in Mina.
The move to shift government departments from Mina to a new administration complex in Muzdalifah would create 23 percent extra space in the tent city to accommodate 185,000 more pilgrims this year, said Sultan Al-Dossary, spokesman of the Makkah governorate.
The new building complex, located in Muzdalifah’s borders, will have13 buildings with 3,200 offices and housing units in addition to a helipad and a huge water tank with a capacity of 36,000 cubic meters of water.
The first phase of the complex has been completed on an area of 1 million square meters. Most of the non-essential government agencies would be shifted to the new facility, he said. The project’s second phase would be implemented in due course to move the remaining government agencies from Mina within a few years.
Jamarat Bridge: can admit
300,000 pilgrims per hour
Al-Jamarat Bridge has now five floors and can admit 300,000 pilgrims per hour and another seven floors will be built in the future to accommodate five million pilgrims. Around SR. 300 billion has been allocated for Makkah’s road projects, it is reported.
The Jamarat Bridge was constructed to have up to 12 storeys so as to accommodate the increasing number of pilgrims, said Prince Dr. Mansour Bin Miteb, Saudi Minister of Municipal and Rural Affairs. He said more storeys will be added if and when needed.
Besides the expansion and development of the Holy sites, the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah and his government have to arrange lot of things in order to make pilgrims perform Hajj with easy and comfort. These are the facilities such as health care; transportation, cleanliness, safety and security.
Health and Heath care
During Hajj when more than millions of pilgrims will be gathering in a very small place, health is always an important factor.
Health regulations for pilgrims
The Saudi Ministry of Hajj has reiterated its people above 65 years of age, those with chronic diseases and with immune deficiency, malignancy and terminal illnesses, pregnant women and children under 12 years of age to postpone Hajj and Umrah this year for their own safety.
To curb the respiratory infectious disease, the Ministry advised all intending pilgrims to comply with common public health guidelines like frequently washing hands with soap and water or disinfectant, using disposable tissues when coughing or sneezing and disposing it of in the waste basket, avoiding as much as possible hand contact with the eyes, nose and mouth, avoiding direct contact with people with symptoms of infection such as cough, sneeze, expectoration, vomiting, and diarrhea, wearing masks, and maintaining good personal hygiene.
Make Hajj epidemic free
The Saudi Health Ministry recommended that international pilgrims as well as Saudi Arabia’s residents planning to perform Hajj should be vaccinated against seasonal influenza. It also said that in accordance with the International Health Regulations 2005, all travellers arriving from countries or areas at risk of yellow fever must present a valid yellow fever vaccination certificate showing that the person was vaccinated at least 10 days before arrival.
SR12m cash injection to keep Hajjis
In good health
The Saudi Ministry of Health (MoH) has allocated SR12 million for stocking up on medicine for the treatment of Hajj pilgrims in Makkah and Madinah, according to a top official. Yacoub Al-Mazroa, undersecretary for supplies and engineering affairs, said his department was ready to get emergency patients admitted to hospitals after administration of first aid.
Huge quantities of medicine and vaccines have been stocked up to meet demand, he said, adding that vaccination against meningitis was mandatory for all pilgrims. Vaccination should be administered 10 days before departure and is only active for a period of three years.
Steps taken to tackle MERS in Hajj
The Saudi Minister of Health, Dr. Abdullah al-Rabeeah, said that the Ministry has mobilized all its resources to make its Hajj plan a resounding success. About 22,500 staffers, equipped with all necessary facilities and 50 ambulances, will be engaged in health services for pilgrims, the Saudi Press Agency (SPA) reported. The Ministry has allocated SR10 million for making available highly advanced facilities at health centres and hospitals at Holy sites.
All precautionary measures have been taken to prevent the outbreak of MERS-coronavirus during Hajj. The Minister Dr. Al-Rabeeah also explained the measures taken by the Ministry to deal with MERS and swine flu viruses. “The Ministry won’t prevent any pilgrim from performing Hajj. However, it advises the elderly and the chronic patients to postpone their plan for Hajj this year,” he said.
Hospitals in Makkah ready for pilgrims
The Saudi Ministry of Health has made all arrangements to provide quality health care to Hajj pilgrims this year. The Ministry has readied 25 hospitals in Makkah, Madinah and the holy sites with a total of 5,250 beds. These include seven hospitals in Makkah, nine in Madinah, and four each in Mina and Arafat, in addition to King Abdullah Medical City. There are also 141 permanent and temporary health centres, including 43 in Makkah, 80 at the holy sites and 12 in Madinah, besides 17 emergency centres on Jamrat Bridge. Some 16,000 blood units consisting of all blood groups have been made available. There are four helipads at the hospitals of Hera, Al-Nour, Arafat and Mina Emergency to attend to emergency cases.
Prompt steps ensure pilgrims stay healthy
The Saudi Ministry of Health (MoH) has been closely monitoring the health condition of incoming Hajj pilgrims from all parts of the world, a senior MoH official said. Health officials are monitoring pilgrims at 14 ports of entry, said Mohammed Hamzah Khosheim, deputy health minister for planning and development. “They are expected to take preventive and curative measures to keep infection in check.”
MERS safety: Pilgrims must wear masks
The Saudi Ministry of Health advised Hajj pilgrims to wear face masks in the Holy cities to protect themselves from the deadly MERS virus. Dr. Nazreen Sherbini, a specialist in infectious diseases and influenza, said MERS is transmitted through droplets from coughing and sneezing. “Pilgrims should wear protective masks that cover the noses and mouths in crowded places and follow basic health etiquette while sneezing or coughing, she said. To prevent MERS spreading in the holy cities, she said the Ministry has asked the elderly with chronic diseases to postpone their Hajj.
MoH mobilises 22,500 workers for Hajj
The Saudi Minister of Hajj, Dr. Abdullah Al-Rabeeah said that the Ministry has mobilized 22,500 medical and administrative workers to implement its Hajj plan. He said that there are 25 hospitals and 141 health centres in Makkah and Madinah to serve pilgrims. These hospitals have 5,250 beds, including 500 in intensive care units, 4,200 in special departments, and 550 in emergency divisions, the Saudi Press Agency reported.
Al-Rabeeah said the hospitals include seven in Makkah, nine in Madinah, four in Mina and Arafat, in addition to King Abdullah Medical City. There are 43 health centres in Makkah, 80 at holy sites, 15 in Madinah, and 17 emergency centres on Jamarat and health centres at the Makkah Haram.
The Mashaer Railway network linking Makkah to Mina, Arafat and Muzdalifah helps immensely in reducing traffic bottlenecks during the peak season. The railway transports pilgrims between the holy sites to reduce congestion caused by buses and cars during the Hajj. Local authorities estimate that the railway has replaced around 50,000 buses, promising a safer and more comfortable pilgrimage.
The Hajj affairs transport department official said: “There are 20 trains, each 300 meter long and with a capacity of 3,500 pilgrims per trip. The trains will be transporting about 72,000 pilgrims in an hour, and over six hours 500,000 pilgrims from Makkah to Mina and then from Mina to Arafat. The official said that there are about 4,000 job opportunities for them to work as and administrators to provide support to pilgrims during the peak season.
“The Ministry of Hajj plans to reduce the capacity of trains to 377,000 pilgrims this year as part of its measures to avoid repeating travel delays and other issues that arose last year,” reported in the press.
The Director of Projects at the Ministry of Municipal and Rural Affairs, Saud bin Hamdan al-Dikri, said a series of measures have been taken to avoid stampedes at the Mashaer Railway stations at the Holy sites. We have contracted a specialized company to board pilgrims onto the Mashaer trains in an orderly way and supervise its electronic gates, Al-Dikri said. There is also a plan to build barriers at railway stations to control the movement of passengers. He said illegal Hajjis would not be allowed to squat in public places close to the stations.
Pilgrims utilizing Mashaer trains during this year's Hajj will have camps designated near the train station in Arafat and Mina. The head of the Makkah branch of the Ministry of Hajj, Yaseen Fatani, said a special route will also be designated for these pilgrims, leading from their camps to the train stations. These procedures are meant to ensure the safety and security of the pilgrims. The Ministry will make sure that the pilgrims in the camps have train tickets and teams have been formed for this purpose. The team members will have special uniform to distinguish them.
Zamzam for pilgrims .
The head of the Presidency for the Affairs of the Two Holy Mosques, Sheikh Abdurrahman al-Sudais said more Zamzam thermos containers have been made available inside the Grand Mosque and its courtyards. “More than 300 tons of Zamzam water is being transported to Madinah on a daily basis and there are 13,000 containers that have been set up at the mosque and its courtyards, he said.
Saudia’s Zamzam Gesture for Hajjis
Saudi Arabian Airlines will airlift gallons of Zamzam water for Hajj pilgrims ahead of their return to home country for the first time this year, said a top airline official. “We have made arrangements to collect and distribute 200,000 gallons of Zamzam water during this Hajj season,” said Essam Fouad Nour, executive general manager of the carrier at King Abdulaziz International Airport.
Hajj flights that return without passengers will be used to transport Zamzam gallons. Pilgrims will be given a gallon of water each on arrival at airports. The Saudia manager said the Jeddah station would handle 976 Hajj flights of the national carrier this year, including scheduled flights, adding that they would carry more than 200,000 pilgrims from international stations and nearly 18,000 domestic pilgrims.
Golf carts to transport pilgrims
The General Presidency for the Affairs of the Two Mosques has begun using three golf carts at the peripheries of the Central Area to transport elderly pilgrims, Umrah performers and the disabled round the clock from three points — the northern courtyards, eastern courtyards and the courtyards opposite King Abdul Aziz Gate.
Women staff to help pilgrims
The Ministry of Hajj plans to employ women in Makkah, Madinah and Jeddah to help process pilgrims arriving for Umrah and Hajj, according to an official from the Ministry. “The women will work on programs for the reception of pilgrims, support all administrative programs, transcription programs, and translation duties,” said Abdullah Marghalani, assistant undersecretary and director general of the Ministry’s branch in Jeddah.
Collection of waste during Hajj
The Makkah Municipality is deploying 23,050 seasonal workers for this year’s Hajj, with 7,800 specifically allocated to work in Mina, Arafat and Muzdalifah, according to the city’s Mayor. Osama Al-Bar said in a statement released recently that the city’s cleaning teams work around the clock. In the central area, over 10,900 workers are deployed in 670 teams. The Municipality is making logistical arrangements for the collection of 14,000 tons of waste during this Hajj. It has already dispatched 1,025 pieces of cleaning equipment to the holy sites, said Al-Bar.
The Mayor said that the government would get assistance this year from volunteers including Saudi scouts and students from universities, colleges and public health institutes.
More than 1,500 toilets will be constructed, bringing the total number of toilets to 6,000 in the area between Dar Al-Tawhid to the north and the former Ajyad hospital to the south of the area. This is in addition to the construction of 13,000 additional toilets in the northern squares, which will be partly commissioned during the current Hajj season, it is reported.
There were the final preparations of the second phase of a project to build an additional 36,000 toilets in the immediate areas around the holy sites, in addition to 22,000 new toilets at Mina, Muzdalifah and Arafat.