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.


Communication challenges in digital age focus of Riyadh conference

Experts at MEPRA discuss ways to keep the communications industry relevant in today’s world. (AN photo by Ali Aldhahri)
Updated 27 min 4 sec ago

Communication challenges in digital age focus of Riyadh conference

  • Fahad Bahdailah, vice president of corporate communications at Saudia, discussed the power of partnership between Saudia and Formula E, and the export potential of a Saudi brand

RIYADH: The KSA Middle East Public Relations Association (MEPRA) Leadership Majlis explored how communications professionals can remain relevant in a time of change for the industry.
MEPRA included speakers from the UK government, the Red Sea Development Co., the Center for Government Communication, Arab News, Saudi Arabian Airlines (Saudia) and Page.
The conference, held on Monday at the Hyatt Regency, brought together senior communications professionals to address the industry’s biggest challenges, trends and opportunities.
The 2019 KSA MEPRA Leadership Majlis covered the theme “Impact and Influence” through presentations and panel discussions on the Saudi brand and changing perceptions of the country.
Faisal Al-Zahrani, executive board member of the International Public Relations Association, discussed some of the challenges and changes in the communications field that Saudi Arabia is experiencing.
“The internet revolutionized the public relations and communications industry, traditional skills like writing, crisis management and public speaking are not adequate anymore. We need to have an enhanced expertise in social media content.”
During the panel discussion on “Shaping Perceptions of Saudi Arabia,” Sultan Al-Bazie, chairman of the Arab Network for Communications and Public Relations, said that the Vision 2030 reform plans are not presented as they should be. “There is a lack in communication and the only person who was able to convey that was Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman,” he said.
Al-Bazie added that the Saudi government’s communications are not able to convey the right message.
He argued that these entities must be more open to the audience and more able to communicate directly and professionally.
Noor Nugali, senior correspondent at Arab News, was part of the “Changing Face of Modern Media” panel discussion, where she discussed an important topic that most journalists appreciate: Speed.
“From a journalistic point of view, we have to be the first, however, most importantly we have to be accurate and this is something we pride ourselves on.
“Everybody wants to be the first. Everyone wants to have that person of information. Obviously this is important but it is not as important as accuracy and getting the full truth. It may not be easy, but it is something that we pride ourselves on,” she added.
Nugali also discussed how the quality of information is essential but challengeable, especially when spokespersons do not cooperate, she said: “This is something journalists in Saudi Arabia or around the world might complain about.”
Fahad Bahdailah, vice president of corporate communications at Saudia, discussed the power of partnership between Saudia and Formula E, and the export potential of a Saudi brand.
When Bahdailah was asked of how to reduce the lack of communication between the government and the public, he said: “A lot of people have this misperception about spokespersons. The spokesperson should not be in the media all the time. He should be in the media when there is a need for him to be in the media.”