Makkah prepares for three million pilgrims ahead of Ramadan

Officials in Saudi Arabia say worshippers' journey will be their focus this holy month

Worshippers in Makkah during Ramadan. Authorities say preparations at the Two Holy Mosques in Saudi Arabia are complete. Photo: General Presidency of Haramain
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Saudi Arabia plans to accommodate nearly three million worshippers at the Two Holy Mosques in Makkah and Madinah during Ramadan.

Dr Abdulrahman Al Sudais, president of the General Presidency for the Affairs of the Two Holy Mosques, announced the launch of the largest operational plan for the holy month yet.

It focuses on the worshippers’ journey, from their arrival in the outer courtyards of the Two Holy Mosques to circling the Kaaba in the Grand Mosque and walking between the hills of Safa and Marwa, as well as directions to prayer areas and spaces for itikaf, or reflection.

Mr Al Sudais said that maintenance of the Kaaba's sound systems has been completed, and equipment for live broadcasts of the call to prayer is ready.

Ismail bin Abed Al Awaidi, assistant director general for digital awareness and director of Awareness Centres, said educational services and Ramadan programmes were also ready.

Last week, Mr Al Sudais published a list of the imams who will lead the Taraweeh, night prayers that take place during Ramadan.

Dr Al Anoud Al Abboud, adviser and assistant president for Women's Development Affairs at the Grand Mosque, said services have been prepared for female pilgrims during Ramadan.

She said that the agency is responsible for the cleanliness, safety and comfort of prayer areas, the provision of Zamzam water and development plans for women's services at the Grand Mosque.

Amjad Al Hazmi, under secretary of the King Abdulaziz Complex for the Covering of the Holy Kaaba, said the kiswah will be inspected on a daily basis and maintenance carried out by Saudi specialists if required.

Umrah during Ramadan

Communal iftar tables and performing itikaf, when pilgrims spend long hours at mosques, will resume for the whole month. The charity-sponsored iftar tables were banned for two years during the coronavirus pandemic.

Pilgrims can take dry food to break their fasts but free iftar spreads are available.

Only those with a valid permit issued through the government’s Eatmarna app (now called Nusuk) will be allowed to perform Umrah.

Ramadan will start on Thursday, Saudi Arabia's state media has announced, after observers were unable to spot the new moon on Tuesday, the sighting committee reported, meaning the holy month will not commence until March 23.

Updated: March 22, 2023, 4:16 AM