Saudi Arabia on Tuesday began large-scale tests of its transport system for Hajj pilgrims, as member nations of the Makkah Route initiative arrived in Jeddah.
Its Ministry of Hajj and Umrah is evaluating the capacity and capabilities of companies, as well as its technical systems, with an exercise involving 3,000 buses and more than 10,000 participants.
A first phase of testing, during which 1,300 buses were monitored over a period of three and a half hours, was carried out three months ago.
Thousands of buses are taking part in the second phase, which involves 57 transport companies testing 37 routes.
The journey that the buses will take over the Hajj season is on a route including Mount Arafat, Muzdalifah, Mina and a return journey.
Makkah Route pilgrims welcomed at airport
The first pilgrims from Bangladesh arrived in Jeddah on Sunday, through the dedicated Makkah Route initiative, at King Abdulaziz International Airport.
Pilgrims from Afghanistan and India followed on Monday. They were welcomed by the General Directorate of Passports and the chief executive of Flyadeal airline, Con Korfiatis.
Mr Korfiatis said this year the airline aimed to c more than 35,000 pilgrims on 182 international flights.
On Monday and Tuesday, Pakistani pilgrims arrived at Prince Mohammed bin Abdulaziz International Airport in Madinah.
Jeddah Health Affairs said preparations to provide pilgrims with medical and health services were complete. About 1,300 employees will be present throughout its medical, technical and administrative departments.
This year's Hajj is expected to return to pre-pandemic numbers. In 2019, before Covid-19, there were about 2.6 million pilgrims.
Health authorities said 30 teams were ready to provide 24-hour emergency, crisis and disaster management services. Another 75 ambulances are in place in Jeddah and its governorates, equipped with 18 teams to provide round-the-clock services for pilgrims.