Mina witnessed heavy rains Sunday, two days before pilgrims
start descending on the tent city for Haj. Saudi authorities have
already taken measures against flash floods.
Pilgrims have been arriving in droves in Makkah unfazed by events
in Syria or elsewhere.
“I don’t expect pilgrims or the
pilgrimage to be affected by what is taking place elsewhere,
whether Syria or any other place,” Minister of Interior Prince
Ahmad told reporters Saturday.
Thursday marks the high point of Haj
when all pilgrims assemble in the Arafat plain, supplicating and
seeking mercy from Allah.
“It’s my first time in Makkah for
pilgrimage. I can’t wait to pray in Arafat,” said 32-year-old
Koara Abdulrahman, a businessman from Burkina Faso.
Inside the Grand Mosque, scores of
pilgrims continually circumambulate the Kaaba.
“Right now, I’ve got all the good
feelings you can think of,” said an Iranian pilgrim, her voice
quivering and tears welling up in her eyes.
Authorities said more than 1.6
million foreign pilgrims have already arrived and the numbers are
set to grow by Wednesday.
Around 750,000 domestic pilgrims are
also expected to take part in Haj. Every Muslim country has a Haj
quota of 1,000 pilgrims per million inhabitants and the biggest
contingent – 200,000 pilgrims – is coming from Indonesia.
The Saudi envoy to Lebanon said last
week that the kingdom will also grant visas to Syrians in Lebanon,
Turkey and Jordan, where thousands of refugees who have fled the
violence are being accommodated.
Prince Ahmad also warned that Riyadh
will not allow the Haj to be “politicized.”
The authorities have deployed a
25,700-strong civil defense force with 6,600 vehicles and 19
helicopters for the safety and security of pilgrims.
Saudi authorities have also taken
measures to deal with any epidemics that may break out during Haj.
Some 20,000 health workers, 320 of them medical experts in rare
specializations, have been mobilized to cope with any emergency
and 80 large ambulances have been readied to transport patients
between health facilities as well as 95 smaller ones.
Development projects worth more than
SR1.1 billion have been implemented in the three holy sites of
Mina, Muzdalifah and Mount Arafat.
About 2.2 million bottles of Zamzam,
taken from a spring inside the Grand Mosque complex, will be
distributed to the faithful this year. Three-hundred tons of
Zamzam water will be supplied daily to the Prophet’s Mosque in
More than six million books, films, brochures and tapes will be
handed out to pilgrims coming from inside the Kingdom, while 12
million copies of the Qur’an and similar handouts will be provided
for those coming from abroad.
Media outlets using 32 different
world languages will also provide information and guidelines for
The Grand Mosque , which can
accommodate more than 1.5 million worshippers, has seen its ground
floor capacity increase this year to accommodate an additional
300,000 people and work is underway to further expand it.