The scene looked majestic, as we climbed the Abraj Al Bait hotel chain near the Al-Haram Mosque, and when we reached the “Mecca Clock” at more than 600 meters above sea level, Mecca stretched to the horizon with all its prestige and brilliance.
By APA correspondent in Mecca, Ahmadou El Hassan
The neighborhoods and homes of Makkah embody the diversity of the Islamic world, permeate the mountain reefs, grow on black rocks, and its people celebrate their pilgrims.
Nearly one million Muslims made the pilgrimage this year.
They painted the streets of Makkah white as they made their way to the Al-Haram Mosque, a point of light that captures the hearts of Muslims around the world.
Pilgrims returned to Makkah after a two-year absence due to the Covid-19 pandemic. The change has been significant in infrastructure, management and services; the Saudis took advantage of the time of the pandemic to get to work on the hajj's proper organisation, as confirmed by an official of the Ministry of Hajj.
“Our aim is to make the Hajj more comfortable and safe,” he said.
Services for pilgrims
The biggest change in the service for pilgrims has been in the teams that monitor the smooth running of the haj. The teams are made up of Saudi youth and the presence of Saudi girls was remarkable, in the different stages of managing the hajj process.
They guide and advise in all the languages of the world, and accompany the delegations in the difficult moments and high temperatures, which characterize Mecca in these summer periods.
An Egyptian journalist who has been working in the Gulf for 15 years says that a few years ago, it was rare for the escort to be Saudi, but of Arab and Islamic nationalities. This year, all the escorts are young Saudis, most of whom have degrees in communications.
At Jabal al-Rahma (magnanimous mountain), the temperature exceeded 40 degrees, while our veiled escort stood in the sun to facilitate our pilgrim shoots on the mountain. She refused all the facilities and help offered to women in such circumstances.
The number of young Saudi volunteers serving pilgrims this year approached three thousand, thanks to the “Be Helping” program launched by the Saudi Ministry of Hajj, to benefit from the efforts of volunteers and ensure the quality of service to pilgrims.
In a statement, the ministry said the volunteers underwent training, before being assigned a number of tasks, including “reception,” “health and ambulance services,” “watering and escorting,” “translation and guidance,” “assistance to the elderly,” “reduction of food waste and management of surplus food” and “escorting and administrative support.”
The number of pilgrims coming from outside Saudi Arabia was 780,000.
The Saudi Ministry of Hajj and Umrah published 13 guides to orient pilgrims during the performance of rituals, written in 14 international languages.
On the other hand, there were 300 pilgrims with special needs, as part of an initiative launched by the Saudi Ministry of Hajj for the benefit of people with disabilities from all parts of the kingdom, a novelty in this year’s Hajj.
Meeting the challenge
The Haj rituals were performed without any incidents or recorded outbreaks of a disease, according to the Advisor to the Custodian of the Holy Places and Head of the Central Hajj Committee, Prince Khaled Al-Faisal.
In a statement, he stressed that “the successes we witness in every pilgrimage are not born by chance. Rather, it is thanks to the leadership of this country since the era of the founding king Abdelaziz bin Abdul Rahman and his sons until the prosperous reign of the servant of the holy places, King Salman bin Abdulaziz.”
He added that “God has given the Saudis the privilege of serving these holy places, and they will continue to work tirelessly to be a unique and distinguished model.”
For his part, Saudi Health Minister Fahd bin Abdul Rahman Al-Jalajil announced that the Hajj health plan was a success as no epidemics or infections were recorded.
More than 230 health facilities served pilgrims this year, through a large number of health points spread across the holy sites.
The Saudi Minister of Health said that 130,000 pilgrims received health services; ten open heart surgeries were performed and more than 187 cardiac catheterization surgeries, in addition to 447 dialysis sessions.
On the other hand, the virtual health hospital provided more than 2,000 consultations to the pilgrims, with the contribution of more than 25,000 health practitioners and 2,000 volunteers.
The challenges were great, managing crowds of pilgrims is a complex process, but the Saudis succeeded, as no incidents of jostling were recorded during the gathering of pilgrims.