TRAVEL + LEISURE

SAUDI ARABIA ENHANCES TRANSPORTATION SERVICES FOR EASIER HAJJ EXPERIENCE

Ministry of Hajj and Umrah implements innovative solutions to facilitate pilgrimage logistics

29.06.2023
BY SUKSMAJATI KUMARA
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Saudi Arabia continues to prioritize the smooth organization of the annual Hajj pilgrimage, seeking to improve transportation services for the millions of pilgrims who visit the holy sites each year. Despite the country's previous successes in managing the event, accommodating the large number of pilgrims and ensuring seamless transportation remains a significant challenge.

Comparing the scale of transportation systems in other major cities provides some perspective. The Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) in New York City operates 5,780 public buses, transporting around 1.2 million passengers daily in an area many times larger than the combined space of the Mina Valley, Mount Arafat, and Muzdalifah in Saudi Arabia.

Similarly, Transport for London (TfL) in the United Kingdom commits to serving 5.7 million passengers daily with 9,300 buses, while Milan boasts one of Italy's largest railway networks, accommodating nearly 1.15 million daily travelers.

However, the challenges faced by the Saudi Ministry of Hajj and Umrah in managing transportation during the Hajj are far more complex. Their responsibilities include coordinating with multiple authorities, receiving pilgrims, and finding effective transportation solutions for the pilgrimage.

This task goes beyond providing transportation solely between the holy sites. The movement of 2.5 million pilgrims must adhere to a strict schedule aligned with the Hajj rituals, adding an extra layer of complexity.

To address these challenges, Saudi Arabia has made significant improvements to its transportation services in recent years. Notably, the introduction of the Holy Sites Train has been instrumental in facilitating pilgrim movement. In 2019 alone, the train completed 2,170 trips, as reported by Saudi media.

In a recent milestone, the Ministry successfully conducted a grouping simulation on May 23, 2023, under the supervision of Minister of Hajj and Umrah, Tawfiq Al Rabiah. The simulation involved the coordination of 3,000 shuttle and conventional buses, simulating the entire pilgrimage journey.

It encompassed the dispersal of pilgrims from their residences in Mecca to Mina, the ascent of Mount Arafat from the valley of Mina, the descent to the plain of Muzdalifah, the return from Muzdalifah to Mina, and the final journey to the Grand Mosque of Mecca for the farewell circumambulation.

These efforts demonstrate the Saudi Ministry of Hajj and Umrah's commitment to ensuring a safe and efficient transportation experience for pilgrims during the Hajj. By implementing innovative solutions and conducting comprehensive simulations, Saudi Arabia aims to enhance the logistical operations of this sacred pilgrimage, providing pilgrims with a more seamless and memorable journey.

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