MAKKAH: The care and comfort of pilgrims is a top priority for authorities in the Saudi Arabia. Each year the Ministry of Hajj and Umrah works with the companies that organize Hajj trips to develop plans and introduce measures that can help to better serve pilgrims, in an effort to make what can be a physically demanding experience as easy and comfortable as possible.
One such service that was introduced some years ago was the option to hire a cushioned camp bed for use during certain stages of Hajj, including the outdoor overnight stay in Muzdalifa after a long day dedicated to prayer at Mount Arafat. This is the third phase of Hajj, during which pilgrims perform Maghrib and Isha prayers and begin to collect the stones they will use in Mina during the stoning of the pillar.
Normally only a small proportion of the millions of pilgrims have a bed. The vast majority rest or sleep as best they can on the ground. But this year, with the number of Hajj pilgrims restricted to only 60,000 people living in the country to prevent the spread of COVID-19, every one of them was provided with one free of charge.
Many were were not aware they were even an option and so were surprised to find a bed waiting for them. Many other Muslims around the world also learned about the beds for the first time as videos and photographs were shared on social media by pilgrims documenting their 2021 Hajj experience.
“I was very surprised to find sofa beds and blankets prepared for us, along with the dinner,” said Asaad Alesa, an expatriate pilgrim from Jordan who lives in Jeddah. “This has really made my day as we have been standing the whole day at Mina.
“I feel really blessed to be among the 60,000 pilgrims for this Hajj season and so far, thankfully, the services have been more than excellent.”
Badi Alshareef, the leader of a Hajj group at Muzdalifa, told Arab News: “The camp cushion beds have been available for more than 20 years now. They are very comfortable for pilgrims and available at the three holy sites.
“These beds are foldable and portable, don’t require a large space to store them, and are fairly well priced. Pilgrims usually sit on these foldable beds during the daytime and then use them as a bed. Some of the sofa beds feature storage areas where pilgrims can keep their personal belongings. It is basically a full unit used by pilgrims as a chair, bed, phone charger and storage area.”
“This service is available to all Hajj companies, and different types and levels are available depending on the company.”
Saad Alsaeagh, the operations manager of Bshaer Hajj Camping, which was also working with pilgrims at Muzdalifa, told Arab News: “To offer pilgrims an exceptional Hajj experience in this exceptional year, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Ministry of Hajj and Umrah has set a new technical mechanism for registration and the management of Hajj campaigns.
“This has helped us, as leaders and managers, a lot in developing many services accordingly, including better-quality Hajj experience for pilgrims and better managerial performance by campaign leaders.”
He added: “Since the very beginning of the season, we have been well prepared to receive pilgrims and help them to perform Hajj in the best way possible.”