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.


Al-Jubeir: Saudi-led coalition ‘working with UN to end Yemen conflict’

The Houthis should engage in the political process and respond to the will of the international community to end the war and end the coup against the legitimate government, said Saudi Arabia's foreign minister. (AFP)
Updated 16 November 2018
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Al-Jubeir: Saudi-led coalition ‘working with UN to end Yemen conflict’

  • Since day one, we said that the solution… is a political solution, says Saudi FM
  • Al-Jubeir: Saudi Arabia is the largest provider of humanitarian aid to Yemen, providing more than $13 billion since the start of the conflict

RIYADH: The Saudi-led coalition is working with UN envoy Martin Griffith to reach a political solution to the conflict in Yemen based on UN Security Council resolution 2216, the Gulf Initiative and the outcomes of Yemeni national dialogue, the Saudi foreign minister said on Thursday. 

“Since day one, we said that the solution… is a political solution, and the solution should lead to the restoration of legitimacy in Yemen,” said Adel Al-Jubeir.

“We support a peaceful solution in Yemen. We support the efforts of the UN envoy for the Yemeni cause,” he added.

“We are committed to providing all humanitarian support to our brothers there. We are also working on the post-war reconstruction of Yemen.” The Kingdom supports the envoy’s efforts to hold negotiations at the end of November, added Al-Jubeir.

Saudi Arabia is the largest provider of humanitarian aid to Yemen, providing more than $13 billion since the start of the conflict, he said.

In contrast, Houthi militias are imposing restrictions on Yemeni cities and villages, leading to starvation, he added. 

They are also seizing humanitarian aid and preventing Yemenis from getting cholera vaccinations, Al-Jubeir said. 

The Houthis fire ballistic missiles indiscriminately at Saudi Arabia, use children as fighters and plant mines across Yemen, he added. 

The Houthis should engage in the political process and respond to the will of the international community to end the war and end the coup against the legitimate government, he said.

Saudi Arabia did not want the conflict in Yemen; it was imposed on the Kingdom, Al-Jubeir added. 

Saudi Arabia worked with other Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) member states to develop the Gulf Initiative. 

This led to a transition from former President Ali Abdullah Saleh to the internationally recognized government headed by current President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi.

The Kingdom also worked to develop Yemeni national dialogue that led to a Yemeni vision regarding the country’s future.

A new Yemeni constitution was about to be drafted when the Houthis seized much of the country, including the capital. 

Yemen’s legitimate government requested support, and the Saudi-led coalition responded under Article 51 of the UN Charter.