Photo for illustrative purposes: General view from a plane window shows Muslims as they pray at the Grand mosque during the annual Haj pilgrimage, in Mecca, Saudi Arabia September 2, 2017. REUTERS/Suhaib Salem
Saudi Arabia - The holy cities of Makkah and Madinah are fully geared up with unprecedented arrangements to welcome millions of worshipers during the fasting month of Ramadan, set to start this week (most probably on Wednesday).
The authorities have completed preparations to facilitate the smooth flow of hundreds of thousands of pilgrims who are expected to flock the holy cities from all over the world during the holy month, which coincides with the annual summer vacation in many parts of the Arab and Muslim world.
In their Friday sermons, imams of the Grand Mosque in Makkah and the Prophet’s Mosque in Madinah urged believers to reap the fruits of the holy fasting month so as to be closer to Almighty Allah by engaging in doing more virtues and alleviating the suffering of people afflicted with war and miseries around the world.
The Makkah Emirate, Presidency for the Affairs of the Two Holy Mosques, mayoralties, Haram Security Forces Command, police, traffic, Civil Defense, and all other departments and agencies have swung into operation to offer the best ever services and facilities to the pilgrims and visitors to the Holy Mosques during Ramadan, which marks the peak annual Umrah season.
Prince Khaled Al-Faisal, emir of Makkah, advisor to Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, and chairman of the Central Haj Committee, reviewed the elaborate arrangements and preparations made by various government departments and agencies for the holy month. Chairing the meeting of the committee at his office in Makkah on Tuesday, the emir urged all concerned officials to ensure flawless arrangements and excellent services for the pilgrims and visitors to Islam’s holiest shrine in the holy month.
The meeting was informed that as of Sunday, a record number of 5.4 million pilgrims performed Umrah, and this figure is an increase of 195,000 pilgrims compared with the same period last year.
There are about 1,314 hotels, with total beds of over one million, readied to host the pilgrims.
As many as 82 transport companies will arrange more than 25,000 trips to the Grand Mosque on a daily basis. There will be shuttle services to transport as many as 40 million passengers to and from the Haram and various parts of the holy city for obligatory prayers as well as for performing Umrah during the holy month. Around 2,000 buses will be plying to transport eight million passengers thus reducing the number of small vehicles on all streets leading to the Haram. The authorities have arranged parking lots for 2.5 million vehicles at various spots in the holy city.
As part of the Ramadan plan, the Haram presidency has come up with a comprehensive program to enlighten and guide the pilgrims and visitors to the Two Holy Mosques with regard to performance of their rituals. It will supervise the performance of imams, hiring of scholars to offer Islamic lectures and guidance classes, and distribution of copies of the Holy Qur’an, Islamic books and leaflets. The presidency is also in charge of total supervision of the cleaning and maintenance of the Holy Mosques and their courtyards, as well as spreading out of prayer rugs, providing Zamzam containers, surveillance and guarding of the gates of the mosques, provision of wheelchairs for the worshipers with special needs, and making available of golf carts for carrying elderly and disabled worshipers.
The Civll Defense Directorate announced that it is fully geared up to serve the pilgrims and ensure their safety as it implements its general emergency plan for Makkah and Madinah during the holy month. Maj. Gen. Salem Al-Matrafi, director of Civil Defense in Makkah, said at a press conference on Thursday that Minister of Interior and Chairman of the Supreme Haj Committee Prince Abdul Aziz Bin Saud Bin Naif has approved the plan. It will be implemented in cooperation and coordination with 32 government agencies. Brig. Gen. Abdurahman Al-Harbi, director of Civil Defense Department in Madinah, said that the plan will be implemented in two phases – first from Ramadan 1 to 20 and second from Ramadan 21 to Shawwal 1.
The Haram Security Forces Command has completed all arrangements for crowd management amid the anticipated huge influx of Umrah pilgrims. The security agencies, represented by the special forces for the security of the Grand Mosque, Special Emergency Forces, and other forces have mobilized all their manpower and equipment to ensure smooth and safe flow of pilgrims and worshipers and enable them to perform their rituals in an air of serenity and spiritual ambience. Gen. Khaled Al-Harbi, commander of the Special Emergency Forces and the Umrah Security Forces, visited the police headquarters in Madinah on Wednesday to inspect the preparedness of the security forces for the holy month.
The mayoralties in Makkah and Madinah have readied their Ramadan plan and that included cleaning and sterilization of the outer piazas of the Harams and roads leading to mosques, and preventing street vendors from obstructing the flow of pilgrims. The Madinah mayoralty intensified the cleaning campaign of the souks and neighborhoods by deploying 3,439 workers equipped with 411 machinery.
The branches of the Ministry of Culture and Information in the holy cities will undertake the live transmission of prayers from the Holy Mosques over television and radio. The health affairs departments in Makkah and Madinah have readied all the hospitals and clinics in the two cities to offer the best ever possible health services for the pilgrims and visitors to the Holy Mosques.