Jamarat: Crowd management at the heart of Hajj

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Security officers are posted everywhere to ensure smooth flow of pilgrim movement. (AN photo by Essam Al-Ghalib)
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Every camp has a worker dedicated to them. They make sure the pilgrims’ schedule is kept. (Reuters)
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Every camp has a worker dedicated to them. They make sure the pilgrims’ schedule is kept. (AN photo by Essam Al-Ghalib)
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Every camp has a worker dedicated to them. They make sure the pilgrims’ schedule is kept. (AN photo by Essam Al-Ghalib)
Updated 12 August 2019

Jamarat: Crowd management at the heart of Hajj

  • Fatal stampedes have marred "stoning of the devil" ritual during previous pilgrimages
  • Plan in place these days to ensure the smooth flow of 300,000 pilgrims per hour

One of the biggest showpieces of Hajj infrastructure is Jamarat Al-Aqaba, constructed at a cost exceeding SR 4.2 billion ($1.12 billion) and capable of handling a flow of 300,000 pilgrims per hour.
The 950-meter long and 80-meter wide structure is designed to support 12 floors and accommodate five million pilgrims in the future if needed. It is at this site that pilgrims throw seven pebbles at a wall in a ritual that symbolizes the stoning of the devil.
According to Islamic tradition, Prophet Ibrahim was on his way to sacrifice his son Ishmael at Allah’s request when he was tempted by the devil on three occasions. Each time the prophet threw stones at the devil to drive him away.

RITUAL FACTS

  • Jamarat refers to three stone pillars in the city of Mina. The pillars are Al-Jamarah Al-Sughra; Al-Jamarah Al-Wusta; and Al-Jamarah Al-Kubra or Jamarat Al-Aqaba.
  • According to Islamic tradition, each time the devil tried to divert Prophet Ibrahim’s attention while en route to make a sacrifice, the Prophet would throw seven stones at the devil.
  • The stoning is carried out from the 10th to the 13th day of the Islamic month of Dul Hijjah.
  • On the 10th day of Dul Hijjah, Eid, only Jamarat Al-Aqaba is pelted with stones. During the subsequent days, all three are to be pelted with stones.
  • The stone throwing must be completed within the allotted timeframe or a penalty will be due.

Fatal stampedes have marred this ritual during Hajj several times in the past. This year the Saudi Ministry of Hajj, in collaboration with other government bodies, has put in place an elaborate plan to prevent the conditions that could lead to a stampede.
To ensure that all goes to plan, crowd-control personnel have been enlisted from the police and Saudi Civil Defense.
“Every year we develop a program for crowd-management and control,” Amro Maddah, advisor to the Minister of Hajj, said.




Pilgrims performing the al-Aqaba (stoning of the devil) ritual at the Jamarat Bridge outside of Makkah on Aug. 11, 2019. (AN photo by Essam AL-Ghalib)


“Each camp for each country has a number and a specific crowd-management worker. These people are all following the operational plan of the ministry."
Maddah said each crowd-management worker has a specific plan based on the schedule. “The pilgrims will throw their stones and go back to their designated camps," he told Arab News.
"To make sure that the schedule is properly followed, we use crowd-control cameras and smart IDs.”
“Every camp has a worker dedicated to them. That person is responsible for making sure that the pilgrims follow the schedules provided to them.
“If the schedule is not met and the person did not do his job, the office that he works for will end up getting a note from the ministry and then a huge penalty.
“We have more than 8,200 group leaders that are responsible for the movement of pilgrims,” Maddah said. “They are from Saudi Arabia, they are trained for this job and are highly reliable.”




Pilgrims performing the al-Aqaba (stoning of the devil) ritual at the Jamarat Bridge outside of Makkah on Aug. 11, 2019. (AN photo by Essam AL-Ghalib)

In order to not repeat the previous incidents and to maintain a healthy environment, Maddah said that this year’s crowds will be better controlled.
The Jamarat Bridge is vital for streamlined crowd management. The bridge is constructed around three vast pillars with multiple entrance and exit points at different levels.
The facility includes all the services needed to aid pilgrims, including an underground tunnel that separates vehicles from pedestrians; 11 entrances; 12 exits; a helipad for emergencies; and a sophisticated cooling system.
The Kingdom’s leadership was keen to implement the project to ensure pilgrims’ safety and security, as well as eliminate risks at the stoning area and avoid problems caused by overcrowding.
The Jamarat area project had four broad objectives: reorganizing the surrounding area; facilitating access to the bridge by splitting it into different directions; organizing the areas around the bridge to avoid crowds and congestion; and tackling the problem of people sleeping around the bridge.
The area also features underground tunnels for vehicles and evacuation exits through six emergency towers connected to the ground floor, tunnels and airfields.
The design of Jamarat and its elevation both improves movement and increases bridge capacity, helping to reduce the risk of stampedes and overcrowding.




Pilgrims performing the al-Aqaba (stoning of the devil) ritual at the Jamarat Bridge outside of Makkah on Aug. 11, 2019. (AN photo by Essam AL-Ghalib)

During the 1436 Hajj season, the west square of Jamarat was expanded by about 40,000 square meters from the north to form an exit toward Makkah.
The dimensions shifted, with the length extending to a kilometer and the width exceeding 70 meters.
Streets around the Jamarat have been reorganized in line with the expansion project, including Hajj Street, Prince Majed Street and the Grand Mosque Street.
The expansion has also meant that vital roads have improved connections, so there is a smoother flow of pilgrims exiting the facility.
The Jamarat Bridge has undergone a number of development and expansion works since it was established in 1974.
In 1982, the bridge was expanded in width and length from the north. There was a second expansion in 1987, increasing the width to 80 meters and the length to 520 meters.
The boarding ramp was extended to 40 meters in width and 300 meters in length. Five new service bridges were added, as well as signage, lighting and ventilation. Its total area reached 57,600 square meters.
The Jamarat Bridge underwent redevelopment in 1995, and again 10 years later.
These included modifications in the bridge structure and modifications to the shape of the basins from a circular to oval shape.
Other changes involving creating new emergency exits, installing signage with information and warnings in case of overcrowding, and connecting screens and signage directly to pilgrims’ camps.

(With Saudi Press Agency)

 


Concerns rise over fake gold in Saudi Arabia

Local gold markets have seen stagnation in recent times, because of the increasing price of gold on international stock markets. (Photo/Shutterstock)
Updated 22 February 2020

Concerns rise over fake gold in Saudi Arabia

  • Accusations fly as pilgrims targeted by sellers of counterfeit precious metal

JEDDAH: A video posted on Twitter by a member of the Precious Metals Committee explaining the ways some gold manufacturers manipulate weight of gold and diamonds has attracted significant attention in Saudi Arabia, raising the question of the authenticity of gold in the Kingdom.

In the video, Mohammed Azooz said cover-ups have made many Saudi gold sellers lose power over the market, and that industry was being controlled by non-Saudis.
In the video, he explained how some people circumvented customs and sneak gold into the country, especially during the Hajj season to target pilgrims.
The Arabic translation of #cheating_in_jewelry has been trending in Twitter for a few days, and several people posted about the issue, blaming those who were selling fake gold to pilgrims as pure gold.
This is not the first time the fake gold issue has been raised. The World Gold Council previously suspended its activities in the Kingdom following claims that some jewelry manufacturers mixed glass with gold. Former Minister of Commerce and Industry Abdullah Zainal rejected the accusations at the time, described them as “grave and dangerous.”
Local gold markets have seen stagnation in recent times, because of the increasing price of gold on international stock markets.

FASTFACTS

• Types of gold depend on the percentage of gold per kilogram. For example, 24k gold, which is considered the best in quality, is 99 percent gold mixed with 1 percent of precious metal such as silver or copper. This type of gold is considered pure, and not used for adornment.

• For a kilogram of 22k gold, 125 grams of precious metals are added to 875 grams of pure gold; 150 grams of precious metals are added to 850 grams to make a kilogram of 21k gold, and 18k gold has 250 grams of precious metals per kilogram.

The price of one kilogram of 24 karat (k) gold in the Kingdom can reach SR185,000 ($46,700).
Gold and economic experts say that the movement in gold prices depends on numerous factors such as political and economic events around the world, the price of the US dollar in banks, black markets, as well as the supply and demand trends in global stock markets.

Types of gold depend on the percentage of gold per kilogram. For example, 24k gold, which is considered the best in quality, is 99 percent gold mixed with 1 percent of precious metal such as silver or copper. This type of gold is considered pure, and not used for adornment.
For a kilogram of 22k gold, 125 grams of precious metals are added to 875 grams of pure gold; 150 grams of precious metals are added to 850 grams to make a kilogram of 21k gold, and 18k gold has 250 grams of precious metals per kilogram.

Opinion

This section contains relevant reference points, placed in (Opinion field)

The Kingdom has launched an initiative, the first of its kind, authorizing authorities to launch a Shariah-based gold investment fund to enrich investment products through the Saudi Stock Exchange (Tadawul).
Moath Alkhasawneh, CEO and board member of FALCOM Financial Services, said the FALCOM Gold Fund was officially licensed by the Capital Market Authority. The fund aims to add value to Tadawul through a Shariah-based investment fund, as gold trading transactions are considered a good investment and a high-quality commodity with low risks in investment portfolios.
“Gold retains its value compared to banknotes — their value decreases because of inflation. The high demand on gold in light of the shortage of supply can drive the prices of gold higher in the long run,” said Alkhasawneh.
“The gold investment fund focuses on investment in pure and precious gold, and the investment transactions will take place at the Switzerland Gold Market under the supervision of the higher authorities in Switzerland. This will make it safer and more flexible.”