JEDDAH: FOUZIA KHAN
Published — Thursday 6 February 2014
Last update 8 February 2014 5:52 pm
The vast expansion of the Grand Mosque at Makkah has made it difficult for pilgrims to find their way around the area or even reach the Kaaba.
Arab News toured the city and found that first-time pilgrims get lost easily owing a lack of information points and signposts.
Many can be seen praying and performing Umrah rituals in the wrong direction because they are unable to see the Kaaba from afar.
Arab News spoke with Turkish pilgrims, who complained that this was their first time and that they encounter difficulty getting to the Kaaba.
Fatima from Istanbul said: “Large crowds and extensive construction work have made entire groups lose their way and pray in the wrong direction. We need more signposts in various languages both inside and outside the Grand Mosque area to solve this problem. Multilingual staff should be appointed to help guide the masses,” she said.
According to official estimates, 750,000 pilgrims performed the Umrah in a single month, a record compared to last year. The figure is expected to reach 6 million by the end of the season.
Pilgrims also find themselves being ripped off by taxi drivers, who charge extra during peak times and traffic congestion.
“The government should put up boards with taxi fares at taxi stands near the Grand Mosque. Otherwise, drivers will continue to demand SR20 for short distances and take advantage of pilgrims who are unable to use buses,” said Abdul Rahman, a visitor to Makkah.