How Saudi Arabia cleans up after 2.5m Hajj pilgrims

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The cleaning happens in three cycles: before, during and after the Hajj pilgrimage. (AN Photo/Huda Bashatah)
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With nearly 2.5million pilgrims there’s a lot of waste that has to be collected. (AN Photo/Huda Bashatah)
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The Hajj site area is the equivalent to about 80 football pitches. (AN Photo/Huda Bashatah)
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Saudi Arabia spends more than SR2 billion ($530 million) on maintaining the holy sites of Makkah, making it the Kingdom’s largest environmental maintenance program. (AN Photo/Huda Bashatah)
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The cleaning begins before the pilgrimage starts. (AN Photo/Huda Bashatah)
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Updated 16 August 2019

How Saudi Arabia cleans up after 2.5m Hajj pilgrims

  • The clean-up at the holy sites begins before the pilgrims arrive
  • Nearly 2.5 million people fill a site the equivalent of 80 football pitches through the pilgrimage

MINA: Hajj authorities in Saudi Arabia face the daunting task of cleaning up after 2.5 million people as the holy pilgrimage comes to an end.   

Rubbish bins and the streets around Islam’s holiest sites overflow with empty plastic bottles and other trash during the short Hajj season.

Some believe that most of the mess is caused by undocumented pilgrims – those without official permits. Those living and working in Makkah say that some people manage to slip through the pilgrim paperwork checkpoints set up by authorities. 

The undocumented pilgrims are usually without bookings or places to stay, instead setting up camp on sidewalks or secret locations.

But there is also the issue of density. 




All areas in Makkah are cleaned before the pilgrims’ arrival, during the Hajj itself and once more after the pilgrims have left. (SPA)

All the holy Hajj sites are closely located to each other and the whole area covers eight kilometers square. Maintaining cleanliness among a population of millions on the move becomes a huge feat. 

Saudi Arabia spends more than SR2 billion ($530 million) on maintaining the holy sites of Makkah, making it the Kingdom’s largest environmental maintenance program.

“The city of Makkah is not big, but the work that goes into it is massive,” Abdullah Al-Sibai, president of the Institute for Hajj and Umrah Research, told Arab News.

Mahmoud Al-Saati, general manager of hygiene at the Holy Makkah Municipality, said there were three cleaning phases that took place in the holy sites. All areas are cleaned before the pilgrims’ arrival, during the Hajj itself and once more after the pilgrims have left.

“Before pilgrims arrive, we ensure that all areas are completely cleaned. During their stay, we try as much as possible to keep the place clean during the six days. Once they leave, we do a final clean and transport the waste outside the cities,” Al-Saati told Arab News.

The municipality has around 138 ground warehouses and more than 1,300 waste compressor boxes across the holy sites. During the Hajj, waste is stored underground and overground. It is later transported 30 kilometers out of the city to landfills at the end of the pilgrimage




The authorities also have a fleet of cleaning machines, as well as feet on the ground.  (AN Photo/Huda Bashatah)

The ground storage containers can hold up to 70 cubic liters of waste and are distributed between the kitchens in Mina's tents, as well as roads and intersections.

Al-Saati also said a recycling initiative was under way.

The greener Hajj idea dates back to 2010 and aims to create litter-free environments and contribute to clean waste mechanisms.

This year there were four colored containers in the National Guard camps. Black containers were to collect organic waste, green for metal cans, yellow for paper and cardboard, and blue for plastic.

The filled containers are discharged into a larger container that separates, squeezes and cuts the waste. It is then transported to another machine for the waste to be recycled.

“In the long term, the initiative aims to contribute to finding practical solutions to manage waste at the holy sites, benefit from waste and recycle it,” Al-Saati said.


Two new academies to boost Saudi arts, heritage and music

Updated 19 August 2019

Two new academies to boost Saudi arts, heritage and music

  • One academy specializing in heritage and traditional arts and crafts will start receiving applications in autumn 2020
  • A second academy dedicated to music will receive 1,000 students and trainees from 2021

JEDDAH: Saudi Arabia is to set up arts academies, including two in the next two years, offering a step toward academic qualification and enlarging the Kingdom’s footprint in heritage, arts and crafts, and music.

The initiative is part of the Ministry of Culture’s Quality of Life program. 

The minister, Prince Badr bin Abdullah bin Mohammed bin Farhan, said investment in “capacity building” was one of the most important elements in encouraging the cultural sector, which enjoyed unlimited support from King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

The Kingdom was rich in diverse arts, talents and artistic production, Prince Badr said, and the academies would be a first step toward academic qualification in the arts within the Kingdom.

One academy specializing in heritage and traditional arts and crafts will start receiving applications in autumn 2020, targeting 1,000 students and trainees in long- and short-term programs. 

A second academy dedicated to music will receive 1,000 students and trainees from 2021.

The music academy in particular will be “the core of music production and talent development in Saudi Arabia,” Saudi musician, composer and producer Mamdouh Saif told Arab News.

The music industry was a large and diverse field, Saif said, and education was crucial. 

“The academy is the right place to launch the music industry in Saudi Arabia, and it will have a significant impact on Saudi youth, and young people in surrounding countries,” he said.

He expects “a very high turnout” for the academy among young Saudis. 

“Due to my expertise in this area, I receive many questions from people who want to learn music, but through private lessons,” he said.

“But the availability of an academy for this purpose, that teaches music in a methodological way, will be the right start for those interested in music.”