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.


  • 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)


When West meets East at Misk Global Forum

Updated 5 min 12 sec ago

When West meets East at Misk Global Forum

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia is the world’s most misunderstood country, Kevin O’Leary, chairman of O’Shares ETF Canada and star of the TV show “Shark Tank,” told Arab News at the Misk Global Forum in Riyadh on Thursday.

“This is the best conference I’ve been to in terms of deal flow,” he added.

O’Leary said that his message to those who do not know anything about the country was to come and see it for themselves.

“You have to come here, put your feet on the ground, meet the people, eat the food, walk outside at night, and you will leave completely with a new mindset,” he said.

“If more investors come to Saudi Arabia and spend just three days here, there is going to be a tremendous amount of capital flowing into this region. This is really quite an eye-opener,” O’Leary said.

In an exclusive interview, both O’Leary and Prince Khaled bin Alwaleed bin Talal, founder and CEO of KBW Ventures, discussed the future of investment in Saudi Arabia.

Prince Khaled said that his No. 1 investment in the Kingdom is entertainment.

“Entertainment has been one of the lacking sectors here, sadly, but now obviously everything’s opening up. You see the desire from all the population to be entertained. So entertainment would be number one for me,” he said. 

He also said that esports is a good investment and agrees with O’Leary that real estate is a “must” in Saudi Arabia.

“I would definitely do pharmaceuticals and health care, number one. No. 2, I love real estate. No.. 3, entertainment. Those are my three. I’ll put money into those three,” said O’Leary when asked which Saudi sectors he would choose to invest in.

The businessman was surprised by the Kingdom’s youthful population and believes health care and pharmaceuticals both have great potential. 

This is the best conference I’ve been to in terms of deal flow. Kevin O’Leary

Kevin O’Leary, chairman of O’Shares ETF Canada

“I didn’t realize that the demographic was so interesting until I got here.”

He said real estate is his second investment option. “There are not enough hotels here. There needs to be more hotels, there needs to be more development around recreation. Clearly for decades Saudi people would go to Dubai or Bahrain for the weekend. Well, why leave home? Why not just develop?” O’Leary said.

“Where I went last night was a lot of fun. The ‘Boulevard’ was fantastic experience to walk at 11:30 at night, meet all these people. Everybody was having a great time and it was the middle of the week. If investors create experiences where people can enjoy themselves, why would they leave Saudi?” he added.

The two judges of the Entrepreneur World Cup (EWC) at Misk Global Forum both said it will be a huge challenge to decide who wins the award.

“It’s a huge responsibility to think of which company is going to walk away the winner. I’m definitely doing my homework. I’ve read about the companies a few times. I listened to the pitches obviously a few times. It’s a tough position to be in, but I’m honored to be here,” said Prince Khaled.

O’Leary is used to judging entrepreneurial contests around the world “but they tend to be regional in nature,” he said.

“I have never seen a global platform like this before … to have a hundred thousand plus applications from over 127 countries, no one’s ever done that. I was immediately attracted to it,” O’Leary added.

He believes that there is a potential for EWC to become a global annual event. “It could be something that people flock to,” he said.

O’Leary was impressed with the quality of the deals in EWC competition, saying he listened to the pitches and was amazed.

Prince Khaled pointed out the investment in youth where Saudi Arabia has almost 70 percent of the population under the age of 30. “The important thing to notice is that the penetration of technology; mobile phones here are absolutely enormous.”

He said that Saudi Arabia is the number one user of Snapchat in the world. Moreover, the Kingdom is one of the top five users of Twitter. And YouTube is one of the biggest social media platforms for Saudis who use it “to educate people on what Saudi is, who they are and different types of businesses that they’re doing. So, Saudi is very tech Saudi,” he said.

“We’re blessed to have forward-thinking leaders that are really putting a lot of their bidding on the youth with all sorts of programs, from Munshaat, SBC, and different types of government programs to enable entrepreneurship here in the region,” he added.

O’Leary said that one reason for his success was his knowledge of other cultures and societies: “Half Lebanese, half Irish, I think it’s the right combination for Saudi Arabia.”

He said that as an investor he was not scared to invest in Cambodia in real estate after the French left because he understood the value of tourism that would happen in some of those locations since he lived there before.

“That has been one of my greatest investments because if you understand that culture and understand the people, then you can make risk-adjusted investments on a knowledge base that others don’t have because you’re not going to know that unless you go there,” he said.