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Weary hujjaj elated

18 Oct 2013

The fifth and final day of Haj on Thursday drew 2 million pilgrims from nearly 200 countries in what is regarded as one of the most successful seasons ever. Trains ferried pilgrims to the holy sites with few problems and thousands of volunteers, including 150 Saudi women staffing the trains, made sure that Haj 2013 was trouble-free.

On the last day, pilgrims arrived at the Jamarat complex early to throw their seven pebbles each at the three concrete structures to defy Satan. Military men joined in to help the children perform their rituals. Many pilgrims returned to their temporary quarters in Makkah and Jeddah before taking flights back to their home countries this week.
Illegals down

On a related note, there were 65 percent less illegal pilgrims in Makkah and the holy sites this year, according to a study by Al-Eqtisadiah newspaper. The study found that 484,000 pilgrims violated regulations this year, compared to 1.4 million last year. The illegal pilgrims were able to avoid six checkpoints leading to Makkah and several others on dirt roads to the holy sites.

Meanwhile, the Central Department of Statistics and Information revealed that 1.98 million pilgrims performed the pilgrimage this year — 1.38 million foreign pilgrims and 600,718 domestic pilgrims, mostly expatriates. There were only 117,000 legal domestic pilgrims this year. Last year, the department said that 3.2 million pilgrims performed the holy rituals. However, the Makkah municipality dismissed this figure and said 4 million pilgrims performed Haj, with 38 percent of this total violating regulations.

The department said there was a 37.4 percent reduction in pilgrims this year compared to last year. It compiled its statistics by counting Saudi and non-Saudi pilgrims arriving in Makkah from inside the Kingdom at six points. A total of 31.6 percent of pilgrims arrived by Al-Sail Road, 27.4 percent by Madinah Road, 26.8 percent by Jeddah Highway, and 14.2 percent via the South, Taif and Old Jeddah roads.

The data showed that 88.2 percent of domestic pilgrims arrived in Makkah on the first three days of Dhul Hijjah (Oct. 6 to 8). The department said government agencies were able to cut down the number of illegal pilgrims with the use of fingerprinting devices at the holy sites. The other reason was the reduction in foreign and local pilgrims — 20 percent and 50 percent respectively — because of the expansion works under way in Makkah.

At security centers at the entrances to Makkah, government officials arrested and deported illegal expatriate pilgrims, while Saudis were sent home with warnings they would face prosecution later, the department said. There were other security checks about three kilometers from these centers. Makkah Gov. Prince Khaled Al-Faisal recently revealed that 95 illegal Haj firms were closed down, with 120,000 violators arrested and 46,000 vehicles impounded. ARAB NEWS

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