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

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.


Preserving heritage means securing the future, says Princess Haifa

Updated 57 min 23 sec ago

Preserving heritage means securing the future, says Princess Haifa

  • Saudi Arabia is at the 209th session to discuss international issues related to the fields of education, science and culture

PARIS: Princess Haifa bint Abdul Aziz Al-Muqrin, the Kingdom’s permanent representative to UNESCO, said that changes can only be faced with global efforts to achieve the common goals of promoting peace, building cultural bridges between nations, and empowering societies to guarantee a better future.

Saudi Arabia recently participated in the 209th session of the UNESCO Executive Council at the agency’s Paris headquarters. The Kingdom was represented at the session by Princess Haifa and a team of 26 Saudi experts from different sectors that have activities related to the scope of UNESCO’s work, such as education, culture, energy, environment, and training.

Princess Haifa said: “Despite our different cultures and languages, we share our belief that education is a right for everyone, that preserving heritage means securing the future, and that innovation and science are the bridge that will pull us out of this pandemic the world today is living.”

She said that the Kingdom supported African countries and was ready to share its experiences in various UNESCO fields, in addition to supporting action plans related to developing islands as one of its priorities in exchanging experiences, especially since the Kingdom is one of the most advanced countries in the world in the field of water desalination.

Reference was made to the Kingdom’s support for international growth and stability through the G20 presidency, specifically with regard to ensuring the continuity of education in crises, the continuation of efforts to achieve climate adaptation worldwide, and solidarity with the members of the G20 in fighting the COVID-19 pandemic.

As a member state of the UNESCO Executive Council, Saudi Arabia is at the 209th session to discuss international issues related to the fields of education, science and culture. These will be evaluated and decided upon, and the executive decisions assigned to them will be voted on, in cooperation with the council’s member states.

The Kingdom’s participation in the meetings of the UNESCO Executive Council also comes as part of its permanent presence in the international cultural and educational organization since its foundation in 1946.