With increased number of pilgrims, Saudi authorities strive to ensure incident-free haj

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz inspected security arrangements at the holy sites parade to mark the start of the haj season.

2017/08/27 Issue: 121 Page: 1

The Arab Weekly
Amine Ben Messaoud

Mecca- Thousands of daily flights to King Abdulaziz Inter­national Airport in Jeddah and Prince Mohammad bin Abdulaziz Airport in Medina are ferrying hundreds of thousands of pilgrims to Mecca to perform the haj.

For the 2017 pilgrimage season and after the completion of the sig­nificant expansion of the two Holy Mosques, Saudi officials allowed for a sizeable increase in the number of pilgrims and people performing the umra, an Islamic pilgrimage that can be undertaken any time of the year.

Following a decision by Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, Saudi Arabia will be accommodating an ex­pected 2.6 million pilgrims this year, compared to 1,862,909 last year.

The Saudi kingdom has focused efforts on ensuring the safety and comfort of the huge number of pil­grims, who are said to come from 178 countries. Saudi airspace will be closed to traffic August 28, which corresponds to the fifth day of Dhu al-Hijjah, the final month of the Is­lamic calendar, in preparation for the beginning of haj rituals.

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz and Chair­man of the Supreme Haj Committee Prince Abdulaziz bin Saud bin Nayef inspected security arrangements at the holy sites and attended a military parade to mark the start of the haj season.

The kingdom has completed major expansion projects in the holy sites of Mina, Muzdalifah, Arafat and the Holy Mosques of Mecca and Medina. Abdul Rahman al-Sudais, president of the General Presidency for the Af­fairs of the Two Holy Mosques, said the northern expansion of the Holy Mosque in Mecca would increase its capacity. The mosque’s terraces will be used and pilgrims will be able to complete their rites with ease and comfort.

The holy site of Mina, where pil­grims will be spending three full days, has undergone maintenance and development work. A pedestrian bridge was built near Mina Al Wadi Hospital.

Saudi Arabia has implemented 14 projects directly related to haj opera­tions. Sahl al-Sabban, deputy min­ister of haj for Transport, said the Ministry of Haj installed specially designed software to track buses car­rying pilgrims in Mecca and the holy sites. The system will make it pos­sible for the ministry to monitor the movement and performance of the buses and guide them through traffic.

The 2017 haj season will also see the replacement of the traditional fabric tents with new, heat-resistant large tents equipped with high-per­formance air conditioners.

Through their preparations, Saudi authorities are aiming for an inci­dent-free haj.

Amine Ben Messaoud is a Tunisian writer.

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