Did you know that the Hajj is one of the largest human gatherings in the world? More than 2 million Muslims pilgrims perform the Hajj annually, says an article on CNN. However, almost every year, there are hundreds of casualties and injuries, mainly due to stampedes. In fact, in 2016, Iran restricted its citizens from travel to Mecca due to the lack of security.
Hajj is the third largest source of revenue for Saudi Arabia, after oil and gas. Therefore, in order to make the local Hajj pilgrimage safe and peaceful, some effective steps have been implemented by the Saudi government.
An influx of 2 million people all at once can definitely be a huge challenge for any nation. Here are a few ways in which the Hajj program is made safer.
In 2018, Saudi Arabia launched a high-speed railway, a $16 billion project, which takes to and fro between Mecca and Medina. This saves eight hours of travel time because the train can pick up speed to 300 kms per hour. It covers 450 kms through Jeddah’s Red Sea Port. The total travel time between the two holy cities takes just 2 hours with this train. This rail system expects to transport 60 million travelers annually. There could be extensions to the rail in future, likely connecting Jeddah and Riyadh.
The Saudi Arabia Ministry of Hajj and Umrah declared that they will be able to use Artificial Intelligence (AI) by 2030 to manage the pilgrimage process better and ensure a safe gathering. The Hajj pilgrim needs to apply through an app, after which they will receive a kit containing earphones, a bracelet and an electronic card. The entire visit will be directed through these devices.
The card will help clear all formalities at the airport and the Haramain train. The hotel where the pilgrim will be staying will be registered with the card and the train will drop them to their respective destinations.
The bracelet will use powerful technology to keep a count of the rounds taken around the Ka’aba. During Al Sai, the bracelet will notify the pilgrim to start jogging wherever required. In case they lose a friend or family member, they can track them through the information on the card.
Lastly, the earphones will play the “duaa,” which needs to be chanted by the pilgrims at various points.
The Ministry of Health of Saudi Arabia has launched a technology, wherein a robot is able to provide medical services to pilgrims, enhancing the entire local Hajj experience. Oncologists, cardiologists, etc., from Riyadh and Jeddah will be linked to the robots. They will be able to control the robots to check the pulse or body temperature of a patient. These robots are connected to 4G technology and will provide assistance to pilgrims in Arafat, Muzdaliffa and Mina. These robots will be capable of roaming around the hospitals and go to any bed and offer help. Thanks to this technology, patients can also be treated on the spot, without having to transfer them anywhere else.
The Crisis and Disaster Management Centre has been well equipped with human resources and technology. In fact, 150 towers in Mecca have been furnished with cameras for crowd management and about 1,000 HD cameras have been installed at Masjid-al-Haram, the grand mosques of Mecca and Mina. Also, six transmitting stations, containing 350 sensors, have been installed in Mina, to monitor the movement of the crowd. Anyone can connect with the management centre by dialing 911 in times of crisis. The security facilities are known to be of international standards and offer excellent services to make the Hajj safer for everyone.
The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has reduced the timings for various local Hajj rituals, such as stoning and so on, in order to cut down on accidents and injuries. The Jamarat timing has been cut down by almost 12 hours. It will not be allowed between 6:30 am to 10:30 am on Dul Hijjah 10 and 2 pm to 6 pm on the 11th day. On the 12th day, the timings have been restricted to 10:30 am to 2 pm. This has been stressed as a national mission, keeping in the mind the safety of the pilgrims. With this rule, pilgrims will be allowed to return to safe places through particular numbers and specific routes to prevent excessive crowd flow. Also, nobody is allowed to take rounds of the Kaaba one hour before prayer time.
The “pilgrimage without a bag program” will help pilgrims transport their bags from their place of accommodation to the airport terminals. The Smart Hajj card will store all the information, including medical or accommodation details, of each pilgrim. This card can be scanned by electronic scanners to retrieve the information, whenever required. This will help locate the individual, in case he is lost. In addition, a Hajj Bank card allows travellers to deposit their cash at the local bank, to help prevent theft.
While all these safety measures will definitely make the local Hajj experience much more convenient and secure, it is best to seek the services of an experienced agency, like Rapid Visa, to ensure a completely smooth and hassle-free experience, right from applying for the visa to guidance regarding the dos and don’ts in Saudi Arabia.