MINA – Saudi Arabia does not take advantage of the Islamic gathering in the holy sites to interfere in the affairs of Muslims countries as the concept of Haj is worship only, Prince Khaled Al-Faisal, adviser to Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, was quoted as saying by Saudi Press Agency (SPA).
“During the Haj no other issue is discussed and the Kingdom does not have the right to discuss with any Muslim pilgrim — who is coming to this country for worship and to perform one of the pillars of Islam — the economic, political or social conditions in his home country. Our basic task in the Kingdom is to ensure the pilgrims’ comfort, tranquility and peace of mind so that he can devote his time to perform acts of worship, as ordained by Allah Almighty,” said Prince Khaled, who is also Emir of Makkah Region and chairman of the Central Hajj Committee, during a press conference here on Tuesday to mark the end of the Haj.
Prince Al-Khaled thanked Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman and Crown Prince Muhammad Bin Salman, deputy premier and minister of defense, for their supervision of the services extended by the authorities to pilgrims, making this year’s Haj a great success.
At the conclusion of the press conference, Prince Al-Khaled was asked about the Saudi-Emirati relations and he replied: “An Emirati is a Saudi and a Saudi is an Emirati.”
The Emir of Makkah said he is proud of every Saudi citizen who has contributed to serving the pilgrims and making this year’s Haj a success and every year, whether in the past or future. These include all the male and female volunteers.
He made special mention of the security staff who spared no effort to serve the pilgrims, including elderly pilgrims, women and children.
He reiterated the Kingdom’s keenness to see all the remaining Muslim countries joining the Makkah Route Initiative (MRI) so that every single Muslim is able to make the most of the initiative during his spiritual journey to the Kingdom. He said that the MRI system has become so efficient that it has reduced waiting time down to just about half an hour whether at King Abdulaziz International Airport in Jeddah or any Saudi airport.
Asked about the reason for varying prices for Haj on the basis of nationalities and countries, Prince Al-Khaled said the prices are fixed for each category. If there are any issues with regard to implementation of the agreements between the pilgrim and the Haj establishment, then the pilgrim can write to the Emir of Makkah seeking redress of the grievance because what is of concern to the Kingdom is the pilgrims’ comfort.
Prince Khaled thanked the local and foreign media representatives for attending this great occasion and for their efforts in this year’s Haj season.
He said that the number of pilgrims this year reached 2,489,406 — 1,855,027 from outside Saudi Arabia, and 634,379 from within the Kingdom.
He added that the number of pilgrims who have regular Haj permits has reached 336,000. He noted that the number of pilgrims who violated the Haj permit and entry regulations has reached 298,379, pointing out that their number this year has decreased by 29 percent compared to last year, when they stood at 383,000.
Prince Khaled stressed that the number of personnel providing services to pilgrims from all sectors exceeded 350,000, aside from 35,000 volunteers and 120,000 security personnel, 200,000 from various sectors, and 30,000 health practitioners.
He added that charities have distributed more than 26 million meals, the electric load capacity in Makkah and the holy sites reached 4715 KW, while 41 million cubic meters of water was pumped to Makkah and the holy sites, during this year’s Haj.
The Emir of Makkah said that 2,489,406 pilgrims were transported from Arafat to Muzdalifah in six hours including 360,000 pilgrims using the holy sites train, 100,000 using pedestrian passages and other pilgrims used 20,000 buses.
Speaking on the health sector, Prince Khaled said that health services were provided to more than 500,000 pilgrims. In this regard, some 400 hospitalized pilgrims were able to perform their Haj rites via the medical health caravan. They were transported to Arafat to complete their Haj rites while lying in the ambulances.
Several cases were unconscious, but were able to complete their Haj rituals. Sometime in the near future, God willing, they would see that they have been registered as having completed their pilgrimage.
As many as 173 hospitals, health centers and mobile clinics with a capacity of 5,000 beds were available to serve pilgrims. In addition, 336 open-heart operations and cardiac catheterizations and 2700 different operations were conducted, Prince Khaled said.
In the presence of Prince Badr Bin Sultan, deputy emir of Makkah Province, Prince Khaled distributed the Makkah Emirate New Media Prize to the winners in various categories. The prize highlights the efforts of the Kingdom in serving pilgrims and documents the spiritual journey for the pilgrims.
Asked about the development plans in Mina holy site, Prince Khaled said the matters on which the King, Crown Prince and Saudi government attach great importance is providing services to the pilgrim and Umrah performer and to make their spiritual journey comfortable.
He further said that last year, the Royal Commission for Makkah and the Holy Sites was established under the chairmanship of the Crown Prince. Among its powers and responsibilities is to develop the holy sites and Makkah. He said that the Royal Commission has started studying what has been referred to it by Makkah Region Development Authority (MRDA), municipalities and the services ministries. All of these bodies have referred the studies for developing the holy sites and Makkah to the royal commission.
Prince Khaled confirmed that there was a consensus in the Royal Commission for Makkah and the Holy Sites on the preliminary studies for development projects in the holy sites. The technical and executive studies are being carried out and they have reached their final stages.
The Emir of Makkah added: “We will begin immediately after Haj, God willing, construction of the first model for developing Mina. This includes the residences and camps. This model will be ready by next year to be presented on an experimental basis to see the efficiency of this project and whether it needs some adjustments, additions and deletions. What is important is that development has started.”
Prince Khaled asserted: “The state under the leadership of Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques and the Crown Prince is determined to transform Makkah and the holy sites into smart cities. This will be achieved, God willing in the next few years.”
As to the latest developments during this year’s Haj compared to last year’s Haj, Prince Khaled said: “Till now we don’t know exactly what has happened and what will happen until the end of the Haj. However, it is our policy at the Central Hajj Committee to discuss during the first week after resuming work the negative aspects that occurred during the Haj, so that we can avoid them in the forthcoming Haj.”
Prince Khaled has stressed that great efforts are being exerted throughout the year, especially before Haj so as to communicate with all the establishments in charge of Haj in the countries that have pilgrims. The objective is to explain all the regulations and the requirements for performing Haj, as required of a Muslim by his religion.
Prince Khaled expressed his hope that the Muslim countries would attach greater importance to this aspect.
Asked about the possibility of increasing the number of pilgrims to 15 million in the forthcoming Haj, Prince Khaled said the total number of pilgrims this year is just three million, including those from within the Kingdom. Therefore, he said he does not think 15 million pilgrims will come next year.
As to the possibility of increasing the number of pilgrims from Indonesia in the coming years, as it is the Islamic country with the biggest population, he said that the quota for each country was decided in an Islamic conference. If the population has increased, likewise the number of pilgrims will increase in line with the decided proportion.