JEDDAH, Saudi Arabia, August 31, 2017: The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has announced the arrival of 2 million (1.8 million foreign) pilgrims to Mecca (Makkah). The annual Hajj pilgrimage which officially started yesterday, Wednesday concludes on September 4th.
A day earlier, Saudi Arabia announced tight security during the Hajj season, as it banned over 400,000 illegal pilgrims from entering Mecca, the holiest city for Muslims, for not having Hajj permits. The government said it had taken serious steps, including fine and jail terms against violators, to ensure smooth Hajj rituals for pilgrims.
Saudi Arabia shoulders the responsibility of organising and conducting the pilgrimage, under the supervision of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, King Salman bin Abdulaziz, as well as Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman.
“Hosting Hajj each year is an honour and a great responsibility for the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, one we hold dear to our hearts. We spare no effort when it comes to the well-being of pilgrims and our number one priority is to welcome individuals from all over the world as they seek to fulfil their religious and spiritual duty,” said HE Dr. Awwad Alawwad, Minister of Culture and Information.
During Hajj, over 2.64 million meals are distributed daily. More than 2,000 Saudi Red Crescent Authority personnel have been deployed in Makkah, Madinah and other holy sites to provide ambulance services for pilgrims.
According to the Saudi Ministry of Health, more than 2,100 free medical procedures have already been performed on pilgrims.
Beyond the impressive numbers and the logistical endeavour that managing the logistics around Hajj represents, the pilgrimage is both a deeply individual and a communal spiritual moment, as Muslims, regardless of their age and background, come together to observe their faith.
Photo: Muslim Pilgrims praying In Mecca
The Hajj incorporates modern technology to enhance the experience of pilgrims and ensure their safety and well-being. To this end, every pilgrim has been given an electronic identification bracelet containing personal and medical information to enable the Hajj authorities to identify individuals and provide necessary care.
The water-resistant and GPS-enabled bracelets that inform the pilgrims about prayer times also feature a multi-lingual help desk for non-Arabic speaking pilgrims.
Hajj is the most important ritual among Muslims in the world, as almost all Muslims are expected to perform it at least once in a lifetime, if they have the means to do so.