Jeddah, September 01: With cameras to guarantee pilgrim’s safety, buildings to accommodate more worshippers and a monorail to ease the faithful’s movement, Saudi preparations are in full swing for the spiritual journey of hajj.
“Fixed and mobile cameras have been established in various parts of the holy sites to monitor the movement of pilgrims in order for the security forces to intervene whenever required,” the Supreme Hajj Committee said in a report.
It said a number of “experimental” buildings have been constructed near the holy sites in Makkah to accommodate more pilgrims.
“These buildings, with a capacity of 25,000 pilgrims, were constructed with the objective of accommodating more pilgrims in the holy site of Mina.”
The Jamrat Bridge has also been equipped with state-of-the-art technology to help authorities intervene in case of any deadly stampedes during the stoning ritual.
In 2006, 364 people were killed in a stampede at the entrance of the Jamarat Bridge.
Saudi authorities have also installed a new advanced fire-fighting system to extinguish possible fire during the peak days of the soul-searching journey.
The system includes powerful water pumps operated by electricity and diesel, which can pump 1,500 gallons of water per minute.
Nearly three million Muslims pour into Makkah every year from around the world to perform hajj.
One of the five pillars of Islam, hajj consists of several ceremonies, which are meant to symbolize the essential concepts of the Islamic faith, and to commemorate the trials of Prophet Abraham and his family.
Every able-bodied adult Muslim — who can financially afford the trip — must perform hajj once in their lifetime.
Saudi authorities are also carrying out a multi-billion project to link the holy sites by monorail, a single rail serving as the track for a wheeled or levitating vehicle.
“Work on the project began in Muharram (December 2008) and will be ready for use to 35 percent of its capacity during the Hajj season of 1431 HA, (2010),” the Supreme Hajj Committee said.
The SR6.5 billion project, which will link Makkah with the holy sites of Mina, `Arafat and Muzdalifah, will be operational with full capacity in 2011.
The monorail will pass by three stations in Arafat, Muzdalifah and Mina.
The last station in Mina will be on the fourth flour of the Jamrat Bridge.
The monorail will help transport at least 500,000 pilgrims within six to eight hours, in addition to ending traffic congestion in Makkah during hajj.
“The monorail project will help withdraw about 53,000 buses and other vehicles being used by pilgrims coming by land from within the Kingdom and neighboring GCC countries,” the report said, referring to the Gulf Cooperation Council.
Studies are also underway to extend the monorail to a station close to the Grand Mosque in Makkah in order to link it with the Haramain Railway that connects the two holy cities of Makkah and Madinah.
“The monorail will be distinguished for its speed as well as closeness to the pedestrians.”