Saudi forces hold military parade ahead of Hajj pilgrimage in Makkah

Crowd management in Hajj is a critical concern due to the huge influx of pilgrims on the holy sites

Powered by automated translation

A military parade in Makkah has showcased security forces' readiness to ensure the safety of pilgrims during the Hajj pilgrimage.

Crowd management is a major concern during Hajj. More than 1.8 million Muslims performed the annual pilgrimage last year, according to official figures.

“The parade held in Makkah demonstrated the readiness of the security sectors … to provide the highest levels of security and safety for the guests of God so as to enable them to perform the rituals of Hajj in ease and comfort,” the Saudi Press Agency reported.

“Military displays and drills were also presented, which included a review of the most prominent modern mechanisms used in Hajj missions this year,” the agency said.

The parade, presided over by Prince Abdulaziz bin Saud bin Naif, Saudi Arabia's Minister of Interior and Chairman of the Supreme Hajj Committee, also featured air displays, including security aircraft that will be used to monitor crowds and equipment at the holy sites, it added.

Hajj, the annual Islamic pilgrimage to Makkah, is one of the five pillars of Islam, making it a fundamental practice for every able-bodied Muslim who can afford to make the trip.

Each year, millions of pilgrims from diverse backgrounds converge on Makkah to perform a series of deeply spiritual rituals, seeking forgiveness, spiritual renewal, and unity.

Talal Al Shalhoub, spokesman for the Interior Ministry, reiterated that the forces were ready to meet the Saudi leadership's expectations of ensuring a smooth and safe pilgrimage this year.

“The security forces are fully equipped to mitigate any threats to the pilgrims' safety,” said Lt Gen Mohammed bin Abdullah Al Bassami, director of public security and head of the Hajj Security Committee. “The current security strategies have been refined based on thorough evaluations of past plans.”

Dr Tawfiq Al Rabiah, the Minister of Hajj and Umrah, on Monday emphasised the critical role pilgrims play by adhering to Hajj regulations.

“We also launched an international awareness campaign in over 20 countries aimed at educating pilgrims on the importance of following Hajj regulations and cautioning against potential scams,” Dr Al Rabiah said.

Prince Abdulaziz also reviewed operations at the Civil Defence Command and Control Center in Mina.

Mina, known as the “City of Tents”, comes to life during the annual Hajj pilgrimage.

Covering over 20 square kilometres, it houses millions of pilgrims in thousands of air-conditioned, fire-resistant tents. This vast settlement, around 5km east of the Grand Mosque, provides temporary accommodation for worshippers performing essential Hajj rituals, such as the symbolic stoning of the devil during the last three days of the pilgrimage.

Saudi authorities have upped their security procedures following a stampede in the Jamarat area in 2015 that resulted in the deaths of at least 700 pilgrims, in one of the deadliest incidents in the pilgrimage's history.

Maj Gen Hammoud bin Suleiman Al Faraj, the acting director general of Civil Defence, presented the plan for this year’s Hajj which incorporates advanced technologies and artificial intelligence.

“These innovations include a smart platform equipped with surveillance cameras designed to detect smoke, fire, emergencies, and forecast risks, thereby enhancing the civil defence teams' response time and effectiveness in providing necessary assistance,” Mr Al Faraj said.

Dr Al Rabiah has urged pilgrims to get their required vaccinations to avoid the cancellation of their Hajj permits.

Pilgrims must ensure they get the meningococcal vaccine to prevent the spread of infections that are common in crowded conditions.

Updated: June 11, 2024, 3:46 PM