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)


Saudi minister hails ‘special relationship’ with Japan

Updated 22 October 2019

Saudi minister hails ‘special relationship’ with Japan

  • “We share common values,” said Majid Al-Qasabi

TOKYO: Saudi Arabia has a “special relationship” with Japan, which is “reliable strategic partner and friend” of the Kingdom, the Saudi Minister for Commerce and Investment Majid Al-Qasabi said on Monday.

The minister was speaking at the launch in Tokyo of the Japanese-language online edition of Arab News, in the latest stage of its global expansion. The event came on the eve of Tuesday’s ceremonial enthronement of Emperor Naruhito in the Japanese capital. “This is a great opportunity, a moment in history,” Al-Qasabi said.

The news website, published in Japanese and English, will focus on enabling the exchange of information between Japan and the Arab world in business, current affairs, and arts and culture. “It will be good to have news in Japanese so many Japanese can read about the Arab world,” Japan’s Defense Minister Taro Kono said at the launch.

Common values

“We share common values, we have a high respect for the elders and we think that the family is very important … to me we are friends and I think we need to work together.

“In order to do that we need to know what people in the Middle East are actually thinking, what is happening on a daily basis, and we haven’t got the source for that — but now Arab News is in Japan.

“This is a very good means to exchange information between the Middle East and Japan, so I am very much looking forward to it.”