Hajj 2018: More than 2 million pilgrims begin journey of a lifetime

1 / 4
Muslim pilgrims walk on a street in the holy city of Makkah on August 18, 2018, ahead of the start of the annual Hajj pilgrimage. (AFP / AHMAD AL-RUBAYE)
2 / 4
A man pushes the wheelchair of a fellow pilgrim in a street in Makkah on August 18, 2018, ahead of the start of the annual Hajj pilgrimage. (AFP / AHMAD AL-RUBAYE)
3 / 4
A pilgrim is pushed in a wheelchair on their way to offer prayers in the Grand Mosque in Makkah Aug. 18, 2018, ahead of the annual Hajj pilgrimage. (AP Photo/Dar Yasin)
4 / 4
Muslim pilgrims on their way to offer prayers in the Grand Mosque in Makkah Aug. 18, 2018, ahead of the annual Hajj pilgrimage. (AP Photo/Dar Yasin)
Updated 19 August 2018
0

Hajj 2018: More than 2 million pilgrims begin journey of a lifetime

  • Massive safety and security operation swings into action as annual Hajj begins
  • The Hajj is an unparalleled logistical operation, with statistics to match. The Saudi Ministry of Health alone has employed nearly 30,000 physicians, pharmacists, nurses and technicians to provide health care to the pilgrims

MAKKAH: The number of pilgrims in Saudi Arabia passed two million on Saturday, Saudi security chiefs said, as the country finished preparations for the annual Hajj pilgrimage to begin on Sunday.

A final tally will be announced at the beginning of Eid Al-Adha on Tuesday, said Interior Ministry security spokesman Maj. Gen. Mansour Al-Turki.

The pilgrims have flown in from almost every country in the world, but all had a similar story to tell — this is the experience of a lifetime.

“This is the first time I have seen the Grand Mosque and the Kaaba. It is the best feeling of my life to be able to perform the Hajj,” said Hisham Mostafa, 50, an accountant from Aleppo who fled the war in Syria five years ago and now lives in Turkey.

Nayef Ahmed, 37, from Yemen, sold a plot of land to be able to afford to travel to Saudi Arabia for Hajj. “Because of the war the cost was very high. But being here I feel comfort and peace and I pray to God for the war to end,” he said.

Najwa, 59, from Tunisia, said: “I came for Umrah in 2007 and today after 10 years of registering and waiting, I am here. I cannot describe the feeling. I cry every day.”

Over the next few days the pilgrims will retrace the steps of the Prophet Muhammad 14 centuries ago — and their safety and security are a Saudi priority.

“We will prevent any actions that are not part of the Hajj ritual and any act that may impact the safety of pilgrims or their ability to perform the rite,” Al-Turki said.

To ensure their safety, pilgrims will wear electronic identification bracelets, connected to GPS. “There is a comprehensive electronic agenda for every pilgrim and we have provided many apps that offer guidance,” said the Minister of Haj and Umrah, Mohammed Salih Bentin.

“We have a fleet of more than 18,000 buses, all of them linked to a control system that tracks their path.”

The Hajj is an unparalleled logistical operation, with statistics to match. The Saudi Ministry of Health alone has employed nearly 30,000 physicians, pharmacists, nurses and technicians to provide health care to the pilgrims.

The Saudi Red Crescent is operating 127 emergency centers, 361 ambulance cars and 20 emergency motorcycles, with nearly 2,000 staff on duty in Makkah and Madinah.

There will be 22 operational hospitals in Madinah and the holy sites, and 15 temporary emergency centers, supported by a fleet of nearly 90 ambulances and more than 650 paramedics.


Saudi envoy highlights Coalition’s support of humanitarian operations in Yemen

Updated 21 September 2018
0

Saudi envoy highlights Coalition’s support of humanitarian operations in Yemen

  • UN official briefd on the plans and projects of the Saudi Development and Reconstruction Program for Yemen

JEDDAH: Mohammed bin Saeed Al-Jaber, Saudi ambassador to Yemen and executive director of the “Isnad” Center for Comprehensive Humanitarian Operations in Yemen, met on Thursday with UN Special Envoy for Yemen Martin Griffiths.

During the meeting, Al-Jaber highlighted Saudi Arabia and the coalition states’ support of humanitarian operations in Yemen in light of violations committed by the Houthi militias.

He also briefed the UN official on the plans and projects of the Saudi Development and Reconstruction Program for Yemen, affirming its support in accordance with three references (Gulf Initiative and its executive mechanism, outputs of the national dialogue and Security Council Resolution 2216).

Griffiths highlighted his efforts with the Iran-backed Houthi militias to return to the negotiating table.

Earlier, Yemeni Vice President Ali Mohsin Saleh met with Griffiths. They discussed the latest developments in the Yemeni arena and efforts for peace there.