04 Aug 2013
The Haj Ministry has been working to ensure the number of pilgrims from outside the Kingdom to match the 500,000-capacity of mataf (the circumambulation area around the Kaaba) at all times, according to Issa Rawas, undersecretary of the Ministry of Haj and Umrah Affairs. Rawas said the number of remaining pilgrims coming from abroad does not exceed 450,000 pilgrims.
The drop in the total number of the pilgrims coming from abroad during this pilgrimage season amounted to more than 51 percent per night compared to last year. He added that these measures are to maintain the pace of the expansion projects in the Holy City. Rawas said 5.2 million pilgrims came from abroad. The plan provides the opportunity to a large number of pilgrims to arrive, but requires that they leave within 15 days in view of the existing large-scale expansion projects.
Last season, pilgrims coming from abroad amounted to more than one million per night, while total numbers have not exceeded 450,000 pilgrims during the current season. Ahmed Bafaqeeh, vice chairman and managing director of Mashaar Company for Tourism Development and an economics specialist of Haj and Umrah, said that the Ministry of Haj adopted a plan to control the crowds by adjusting the numbers in coordination with Umrah companies.
He also said that the Ministry of Ha will implement the plan until the completion of the mataf expansion, which is aimed to raise its capacity from inside and outside the Kingdom. Following completion of the current projects, the number of pilgrims from inside and outside the Kingdom will double in numbers, especially in Makkah. According to Mohammed Radi, director of Operations in the Umrah sector, the expansion projects in Makkah will raise the capacity of the pilgrims in the coming years and will be better reflected in the Haj and Umrah sector.
Accordingly, Umrah companies, since the beginning of the season in coordination with the Ministry of Haj, were keen to maintain the numbers of pilgrims coming from outside the Kingdom in order to match the existing setup with the expansion of the Grand Mosque. Haj Minister Bandar bin Mohammed Hajar has confirmed the success of the operational plan for the Umrah season of this year.
He pointed out that the ministry is collaborating with other sectors of government and various institutions to eliminate the phenomenon of overstaying pilgrims after Umrah and Haj seasons. He also noted to the role of field teams affiliated with the ministry is to help and guide 25,000 lost pilgrims and hand them over to the their Umrah companies. ARAB NEWS