Saudi Arabia reveals final plans for Hajj 2021

Pilgrims will begin arriving in Makkah on July 17

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Saudi Arabia’s authorities revealed the final plans for Hajj 2021, which is scheduled to begin on Saturday, July 17.

Pilgrims will begin arriving in Makkah that morning, the authorities said on Wednesday.

"All pilgrims must head to four gathering points, where they will board buses for the holy mosque of Makkah to start their Hajj rituals," said Maj Gen Zayed Al Tuwan, commander of Hajj Security Forces.

To stagger the arrival of the 60,000 pilgrims making the journey this year, some will arrive on July 17 and others the following day.

A fleet of 2,500 buses will be used to make 26,000 trips between the kingdom’s holy sites, officials said.

“No one is allowed to use personal cars to go between the holy sites, even if they have Hajj permits. Everyone must use the assigned buses," Maj Gen Al Tuwan said.

To ensure social distancing, the tawaf circle in the Grand Mosque will have 25 lanes, each 1.5 metres apart.

The ground level can accommodate up to 4,770 worshippers at once, with space for 1,000 more on the second level, and 3,000 on the third.

After the tawaf al qudum - the custom of circling the Kaaba that all pilgrims travelling to Makkah from outside its borders must perform - the pilgrims will leave the Grand Mosque and head by bus to their allotted accommodation in Mina.

Groups of pilgrims will be colour-coded, either red, black, green or yellow, and each group has designated buses and separate accommodation.

In previous years, people could walk from Mina to Arafat then to Muzalifa while performing Hajj, but buses will be the only way to get around Makkah this year.

The authorities are working to ensure no trespassers can get into the Grand Mosque or the other holy sites.

"All entry points are secured with police cars and police officers. Even locations far from main streets and residential areas such as valleys and deserted mountains and other sites are secured," Maj Gen Al Tuwan said.

"Thermal cameras and surveillance cameras have been located in all the holy sites as well,” he said.

The fine for trespassing is 10,000 riyals. Jail time is possible.

Besides security points inside Makkah and at the entry points for the sites, members of a special security unit will be on duty at more than 100 locations around the city.

People are still allowed to enter Makkah if they are in not the state of Ihram - a state of spiritual purity which the faithful must enter before they embark on Hajj.

New technologies are also being used to confirm the identity of pilgrims this year. If an identity card is lost, a fingerprint machine will be used to confirm if a person is a registered pilgrim or not.

While electronic Hajj permits have been issued to pilgrims for several years, for those working to facilitate the pilgrimage, this is the first year they will also use an electronic permit, officials said.

Updated: July 18, 2021, 6:23 AM