Most Successful Hajj Ever in 1435AH
Dr. Mozammel Haque
More than two million pilgrims, including 1.4 million foreign Hajis, performed the annual pilgrimage on Friday, the 4th of October, 2014 on the plains of Arafat. A number of foreign heads of state, including Sudanese President Omar Bashir, Somali President Hassan Sheikh Mahmoud and Maldives President Abdulla Yameen arrived to perform Hajj.
Most successful Hajj ever
Saudi authorities have described this year’s Hajj as the most successful ever as more than two million pilgrims performed their religious rites with peace. “The Hajj 1435 was a big success,” said Makkah Gov. Prince Mishaal bin Abdullah. “I thank the Almighty for helping the pilgrims perform their Hajj rituals easily and comfortably,” he said.
Kingdom of Saudi Arabia hosts 1.4 million Hajjis this year
More than 1.4 million foreign pilgrims are expected to perform Hajj this year, said Hajj Minister Bandar Hajjar. “About 1.36 million pilgrims already arrived from different countries by Sunday night and we expect their number to cross the 1.4-million mark,” he said.
15,000 pilgrims arrives from Jeddah seaport
A total of 15,000 pilgrims arrived through Jeddah Islamic Port for this year’s Hajj, a senior official said. Capt. Saher Tahlawi, director general of the port, said most of the pilgrims came from Egypt and Sudanese territory. They started arriving on Sep. 9. Twenty vessels carried passengers, mainly from Sudan, he said.
The Ministry of Health has deployed 100 staff members to examine pilgrims coming through the port. The port was once the major entry point for pilgrims from all over the world. It is now the third-largest after Jeddah’s King Abdulaziz International Airport and Prince Moh ammed bin Abdulaziz International Airport in Madinah.
168,800 Indonesians performed Hajj this year
A total of 168,800 Indonesians performed Hajj this year. Indonesia normally sends about 200,000 pilgrims. The number has fallen this year because of the reduction in Hajj quotas stemming from the Grand Mosque expansion project. Indonesia sends the highest number of Hajj pilgrims to the Kingdom.
No Hajj without permit
Security forces have barred 98,000 people from entering Makkah because they did not have Hajj permits, the Interior Ministry said in a statement. The Saudi authorities did not allow 25,216 vehicles to enter the Holy sites because they were not licensed to carry pilgrims.
More than 345 sick pilgrims given assistance
to perform Hajj
A total of 345 sick pilgrims of different nationalities were given assistance in performing Hajj rituals on Friday. The sick included Saudi, Egyptian, Lebanese, Indian, Bangladeshi, German and other nationals. Among the sick pilgrims, there were 218 from Makkah, 32 from Madinah and 95 from hospitals in Arafat and Mina. They were taken to Arafat by a fleet of buses and ambulances organized by the Ministry of Health to fulfil the most important ritual of Hajj: The standing on Mount Arafat (waqaf). Standing on Arafat on this day is the most essential part of the pilgrimage, without which the Hajj is considered void.
Saudi Ministry of Health (MoH) spokesman Dr. Khalid Mirghalani said that assisting sick pilgrims in their Hajj has become a sort of tradition and is being implemented by the Ministry of Health. “In the past years, the MoH has assisted between 300 and 500 sick pilgrims,” he said.
New Pilgrim grouping centre set up on
A new pilgrim grouping control centre along the Makkah-Jeddah highway was inaugurated by Hajj Minister Bandar Hajjar to group pilgrims more efficiently and ensure that at least one pilgrim is served every three minutes. The grouping centre has a mosque with a capacity to accommodate approximately 500 worshipers, a prayer area for women and toilets.
The centre accommodates an office for Saudi Airlines, a medical clinic, which includes physicians from the Ministry of Health, and another association that presents gifts to the guests of Allah. Hajar asserted that Hajj plans and projects at Makkah and Madinah should be implemented swiftly. “Quality and services at the Hajj Ministry must know no limit. Improvement and development should be the policy within the framework and a strategy on which we rely.”
“We have constantly introduced new services every year in order to ensure that the guests of God perform their rituals with ease,” he said. “The expansion of the Grand Mosque area and its surroundings and the introduction of the metro project are milestones within these achievements.” “Electronic grouping, the Umrah e-track and other electronic services are just a few of the new additions.”
The Saudi Minister of Hajj Hajjar launched a major Hajj seminar entitled “Respecting the Signs of Allah” in Makkah and said it was a historic tradition to hold such seminars during the Hajj season, with the participation of prominent scholars from around the world to exchange ideas for the benefit of the Ummah. The three-day seminar is being attended by thinkers, authors and media personalities from different countries. “We hope that you take the information you received from this seminar and its research papers to your societies to enlighten your Hajjis.” Hajjar stressed the need for educating pilgrims before they arrive in the Kingdom. “It will help reduce the many problems we are facing today. It will also help pilgrims avoid many mistakes,” the Minister said.
Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdul Aziz Al-Asheikh said respecting Hajj rituals means respecting Allah and his teachings. It will help pilgrims perform Hajj in the right way, he added. He commended the government’s efforts to expand the Grand Mosque and the mataf, or circumambulation area around the Holy Kaaba, saying it would help pilgrims perform their rituals easily and comfortably.
6.6 million meals distributed
The Saudi Ministry of Commerce and Industry has distributed 6.6 million hot and cold meals so far during the Hajj season this year. The project reportedly took place based on assessments by specialists and institutions that serve food to pilgrims at the Holy sites. The Ministry plans to increase the number of vehicles distributing meals, from the more than 2,000 currently operating. It also intends to increase the provision of coolers and refrigerators at the holy sites by 45 percent to 183.
More Electric Wheelchairs for the disabled
The Saudi Ministry of Municipal and Rural Affairs has provided 234 electric wheelchairs for use at the Jamarat (stoning area) and its vicinity to facilitate the Hajj rituals through safe and easy mobility. Wajdi bin Hassan Toulah, director of maintenance and operations in the Holy sites, said these electric wheelchairs “will serve more than 70,000 disabled pilgrims in addition to their companions which takes the number to 200,000.” The number of chairs were increased following the allocation of three more paths in addition to the existing five leading to the bottom of Mount Arafat. Toulah said that two more paths had been added to the pedestrian area in Aziziyah while an additional 50 carriers had been provided to further facilitate the disabled pilgrims.
Wajdi said the operational plan in Jamarat for serving the disabled, the elderly and the sick called for the allocation of a large number of drivers, supervisors and maintenance teams. There are around 232 drivers who work on 12-hour shifts in addition to 134 field supervisors and maintenance technicians who work around the clock to assist users and deal with technical issues.
Metro transport nearly 1 million pilgrims
The Saudi government has, for years, carried out development and construction projects to expand and improve services for Hajis. One of the best examples is the introduction of the Al-Mashaaer Al-Mugaddassah Metro Line at the end of 2011. Makkah’s state-of-the-art Metro have transported nearly one million pilgrims by the end of this Hajj season, said a top official. Just a couple of years ago, moving between Mina, Muzdalifa and Arafat took hours on end, but now, a trip between any of the three Holy sites does not take more than 15 minutes thanks to the introduction of the Al-Mashaaer Al-Mugaddassah Metro Line at the end of 2011.
More than 360,000 pilgrims have been issued electronic tickets to use the line between Mina and Arafat, passing through Muzdalifah, according to Saud Al-Zikri, head of projects at the Saudi Ministry of Municipal and Rural Affairs. “The tickets can be used multiple times to travel back and forth between the holy sites,” Al-Zikri said.
The SR6.7 billion service, launched in 2009, can accommodate 72,000 pilgrims between its different platforms per hour. A total of 20 trains were operational this season, with each train comprising 12 carriages and accommodating 4,000 passengers, according to sources. Pilgrims must buy tickets, worn as bar-coded bracelets that are read electronically as they enter the platforms. Since it has been put into service, the train project eradicated the need for more than 12,000 buses, greatly reducing traffic congestion.
Yet one more challenge remains, which is facilitating movement back to Mina after pilgrims have completed their stoning rituals at the Jamarat area. To address the challenge the government announced in 2012 plans to complete building tracks to be linked with the Makkah Metro project. The government announced plans to build this metro, officially known as the Makkah Mass Rail Transit, in 2012. According to the plans, work is expected to commence in 2016. The announcement said that the entire expansion project would take up to 10 years.
Jamarat Bridge can hold 500,000 pilgrims
The newly expanded Jamarat bridge in Mina can accommodate 500,000 pilgrims per hour during the Hajj season, said Prince Mansour bin Miteb, Saudi Minister of Municipal and Rural Affairs. “The streets leading to Jamarat, however, cannot hold these many pilgrims. As a result, only 300,000 pilgrims can use the bridge per hour now,” he said. Prince Mansour said the Jamarat expansion would help pilgrims perform the “Satan-stoning” ritual easily without risking being stampeded.
The government implemented the SR4.2 billion multilevel hi-tech Jamarat bridge project a few years ago to facilitate the stoning ritual in Mina, which used to witness stampedes, causing several deaths in the past. “The expansion of Mina streets will enable Tawafa organizations to send large numbers of pilgrims to the Jamarat in coming years,” the Minister said. He said the Jamarat Bridge has been handed over to specialized companies for its operation and maintenance after the completion of works.
Barcode to help locate Mina tents
Saudi authorities are planning to introduce a barcode system for Mina tents to help stranded pilgrims identify their tents with the assistance of Google maps. Mohammed Al-Ruwaished, head of the information technology committee at the Youth Welfare Presidency’s scout camp. He said Tawafa organizations for pilgrims from different countries would be asked to use the technology for issuing barcodes. “Every pilgrim will be given wrist straps containing his personal barcode and if any pilgrim loses his way, scouts will be able to guide them using this barcode easily,” he said.
Al-Ruwaished said new roads and gateways in the Holy sites of Mina, Arafat and Muzdalifa are being added to Google maps to help pilgrims make printouts of these maps from anywhere in the world.
Eissa Rawwas, Saudi Deputy Hajj Minister for Umrah Affairs, said the Ministry has deployed 1,500 employees to ensure the smooth movement of pilgrims from their tents to Jamarat for the stoning ritual. Rawwas said the Ministry would ask all Tawafa organizations to keep 50 percent of their pilgrims in Mina on 13 Dhul Hijjah in the coming years to avoid overcrowding at the “mataf,” or circumambulation area around the Holy Kaaba in Makkah. “Last year, we noticed that only 300,000 pilgrims remained in Mina for the third day of stoning at the Jamarat,” he said.
1.5m cubic metres water distributed to Mina
The Saudi National Water Company (NWC) distributed over 1.5 million cubic metres of water to the Holy sites on Sunday and Monday, an official of the company revealed. The company’s spokesman, Khalid bin Abdulaziz Al-Museibih, the executive director of branding and corporate communications, said that extensive planning had gone into managing the water systems for this year’s pilgrimage. The NWC set up a system of services operating at the highest level of professional standards and efficiency. He said there was also quality control of the toilets. The system is designed to control water flow along 763,000 metres of pipes, and sewage networks in Mina along 84,000 metres of pipelines.
Women of Makkah provide pilgrims with Zamzam water
The women of Makkah broke into the male bastion of Zamazemah this Hajj season to provide pilgrims with Zamzam water and other facilities right at their doorstep through an elegant and sophisticated work system bringing to an end men’s decades-old monopoly of the profession. The women performed a significant role through the formation of women’s committees that were established at the offices of the Zamazemah United Office. Besides offering Zamzam water, they also arranged hospital visits for women pilgrims undergoing treatment in the Holy city.
The Zamazemah United Office is one of many sectors set up to serve pilgrims. Its mission involves serving the guests of God from the moment they set foot in the Kingdom until they leave according to modern technological plans and mechanisms. The office receives pilgrims at the awareness centres where they are offered a 320mm plastic bottle of cool fresh water. The office also sends one litre of water to the pilgrims’ lodging, and offers them the same volume of bottled water as a gift when they leave. Zamazemah is a traditional profession handed down the generations and inherited by 120 families of Makkah keen on offering Zamzam water to pilgrims free of charge.
400 million phone calls made during pilgrimage
This year’s Hajj season heralded a new era of increased IT usage giving pilgrims a choice of many different kinds of telecommunication. According to experts, Hajj 2014 registered a bumper increase in phone calls with nearly 400 million mobile calls made from the Holy sites to pilgrims’ families at home during the period Dul Hijjah 8 to 12 .With a 98.82 percent connection success, the performance was remarkable considering the high density of users inside the limited geographical area. Governor of Communications and Information Technology Commission of Saudi Arabia, Abudllah Darrab, said that preparations for the pilgrimage season regarding the telecommunications and information technology sector were smoothly carried out.
French envoy lauds Hajj facilities
French Consul General Louis Blaine visited the headquarters of the Non-Arab Pilgrims’ Foundation of African Countries. He praised the efforts and facilities provided to them by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia during the Hajj pilgrimage. Blaine lauded the efforts of the government of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah for providing excellent facilities to the pilgrims’ foundation for the maximum comfort and safety of the pilgrims.
He said that he had visited the French pilgrims’ camps during the Hajj and was very pleased with the facilities and level of comfort that were provided to them to complete their rituals in peace and safety. Nearly 17,800 French pilgrims did Hajj this year with 727 of them performing it with the Tawafa Organization for Pilgrims of non-Arab African countries while the rest performed the Hajj under other foundations. He noted that the Saudi government had made excellent arrangements for the Hajj on a large scale as many big projects were going on simultaneously at the Holy sites to facilitate pilgrims.
Pakistan leader hails Hajj arrangement
Pakistan Federal Minister for Religious Affairs Sardar Mohammed Yousaf expressed his gratitude to the Saudi government for making excellent arrangements for the Hajj 2014. The Minister met with Bandar bin Mohammed Hajjar, Saudi Minister of Hajj at his office. King Abdullah, Crown Prince Salman and Hajj Minister Bandar Hajjar for taking special care of the pilgrims in general and Pakistani pilgrims in particular. The Pakistani Minister said that most of the suggestions discussed by the Ministry of Religious Affairs regarding the welfare of Pakistani pilgrims were accepted by the Hajj Ministry.
Nearly 143,368 Pakistani pilgrims performed Hajj this year with the Pakistan Hajj mission providing all the facilities and services to the pilgrims.
900,000 meat parcels sent to 23 countries
Meat of 900,000 sacrificial animals was distributed among beneficiaries within the Kingdom and 23 other countries, according to a high-ranking official at the Islamic Development Bank (IDB). Ahmad Mohammad Ali, President of IDB, said that the Kingdom’s Adahi project has completed rituals on behalf of pilgrims who signed up for the programme this year. “This is in addition to 1,500 heads of cows and camels, which were distributed after being examined by veterinarians and ensuring that rituals were Shariah-compliant,” he said.
The distribution of sacrificial meat to the less fortunate began on the first day of Eid Al-Adha in Mina and the Holy sites and continued around the Grand Mosque on the second day, according to Ali. “The rest will be distributed to charities inside the Kingdom and frozen meat will be shipped by land and sea to 23 countries in accordance with this year’s Hajj plan,” he said. He said Muslims all over the world were able to apply through the website to offer sacrifice during Eid.
Pilgrims begin to fly home
More than 4,000 flights are scheduled to transport one million pilgrims back to their home countries within the next few weeks, said Khalid Al-Harbi, director of Saudi Hajj services at King Abdulaziz International Airport (KAIA) in Jeddah. “There are 20 percent more departing flights than arriving flights,” he said. “This is due to the fact that thousands made an early arrival at the Madinah airport and will leave through Jeddah’s airport.” Authorities operated about 80 regular and chartered flights to different parts of the world on Tuesday to transport pilgrims out of the country, according to officials.
(Based on information from the Saudi newspapers.)