All aboard: The bus project that transformed Hajj transport in Makkah

An aerial view shows buses parked after dropping pilgrims off near Mount Arafat, also known as Jabal Al-Rahma (Mount of Mercy), southeast of Makkah. (AFP/File)
Updated 30 August 2018
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All aboard: The bus project that transformed Hajj transport in Makkah

  • The project is one of the pioneering ideas developed and launched by the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques Institute of Hajj and Umrah Research over the years

MAKKAH: Shuttle buses to the holy sites in Makkah were introduced 23 years ago to help Hajj pilgrims get around, increase capacity and reduce traffic. 

The project is one of the pioneering ideas developed and launched by the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques Institute of Hajj and Umrah Research over the years.

Dr. Othman bin Bakr Qazzaz, head of the Research and Studies Department at the institute, said King Salman’s government makes every effort to help pilgrims perform Hajj with ease, peace, safety and security. The institute was established to assist with this, and has carried out many studies and research projects, the most important of which resulted in the shuttle buses being introduced in Makkah.

The bus project

The initial bus project took place in 1995, he added, involving the National Tawafa Establishment for Pilgrims of Turkey and Muslims of Europe, Americas and Australia. It was designed to find a way to reduce traffic on the roads used by pilgrims to travel from Arafat to Mina, and protect pedestrians from the risks posed by vehicles. 

Special bus routes were set up to help pilgrims quickly move from their camps to Muzdalifah, Mina and Arafat. The project was a great success, Qazzaz said, in helping pilgrims travel safely and quickly from Arafat to Mina. 

It was subsequently expanded to the National Tawafa Establishment for Pilgrims of Non-Arab African Countries, the National Tawafa Establishment for South Asian Pilgrims and the National Tawafa Establishment for South East Asian Pilgrims.

He said the service not only connects pilgrims’ camps with the holy sites but other parts of the city as well, and operates during Hajj and Umrah seasons.

This year, the buses began transporting pilgrims from Arafat to Muzdalifah on Aug. 20. 

The shuttle bus center has space for 2,000 buses, while the roads are closed to other traffic and no vehicle can enter without authorization. 

Pilgrims are transported from Arafat to Muzdalifah in less than 20 minutes and the total trip, including loading and unloading, takes less than 50 minutes. 

Previously, the journey could take between four and five hours, given the millions of people traveling at peak times. The buses also help the environment, reducing air pollution by restricting the number of vehicles on the roads.


King Salman to inaugurate Saudi Arabia’s Haramain high-speed railway

Updated 1 min 16 sec ago
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King Salman to inaugurate Saudi Arabia’s Haramain high-speed railway

  • The 450 kilometer train line connects the holy cities of Makkah and Madinah with stations at Jeddah, King Abdul Aziz International Airport, and King Abdullah Economic City
  • This giant project has been implemented in three stages by a number of national and international companies

JEDDAH: Saudi Arabia’s King Salman will inaugurate the Haramain high speed rail project on Tuesday ahead of the start of commercial operations next month.
The 450 kilometer train line connects the holy cities of Makkah and Madinah with stations at Jeddah, King Abdul Aziz International Airport, and King Abdullah Economic City.
Saudi Minister of Transport, Dr. Nabil bin Mohammed Al-Amoudi, expressed his gratitude to the King for his patronage of the ceremony as well as his support for national projects.
Al-Amoudi said King Salman gives great importance to the transportation projects in Saudi Arabia as they represent the Kingdom’s efforts in serving citizens and visitors, specifically pilgrims.
He also said the King and Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman are always committed to provide the highest quality services to pilgrims, to fulfill Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030, which aims to increase the number of pilgrims.
This giant project has been implemented in three stages by a number of national and international companies.
The project can carry 60 million passengers a year with a fleet of 35 trains containing 417 seats each.
Dr. Rumaih bin Mohammed Al-Rumaih, chairman of the Public Transport Authority, said the project is the region’s first high-speed electric train.
The designs of the stations of the Haramain rail were inspired by the unique Islamic architecture of the cities of Makkah and Madinah.