Transportation Complexities and the Complications of Hajj Management

  May 27, 2021   Read time 2 min
Transportation Complexities and the Complications of Hajj Management
Transportation is one of the key concerns of the Hajj officials. Three million pilgrims have to be transported through determinate destinations and this is truly difficult and no one can deny it. This is a real challenge.

The complex mass movement of private and public transport during the Hajj is one of the biggest issues. Approximately 19,000 government vehicles took part in 2016. These buses are guided and controlled by Saudi pilgrim guides called Mutawiffun. On arrival, the pilgrims are first taken from Jeddah to Makkah or from Madinah to Makkah, and mostly depart in the same order as they arrived. On the ninth of the Hajj month, pilgrims are transported directly to their tents in Arafat or left in the open. Then they load the pilgrims and take them to Muzdalifa before sunset.

Apart from government buses, there are 50–60,000 private vehicles participating in Hajj operations to leave Arafat. Mobbing develops, which takes hours to clear. There are reports of vehicles waiting 12–17 hours with their engines running to operate the air conditioning and covering only a distance of 6 km. The mass departure of the pilgrims to Madinah or Jeddah on the 12th day of the Hajj month again starts with an extremely chaotic traffic jam. Since this involves another exhausting circuit through the one-way system, it means that actual traffic volumes are higher than anticipated.

To overcome this, Saudi Arabia has built a widespread network of roads, bridges, crossings, motorways and other traffic features in the holy venues to overcome congestion. Additionally, a high-speed rail link is planned between Makkah and Medina, supported by a local mass rapid transit within Makkah linking the holy places of Mina, Arafat and Muzdalifa. Further planned developments include a new Hajj terminal for pilgrims, a new seaport terminal for pilgrims and the extension of the holy mosque Al-Haram. The 18 km southern line of the Al-Mashaar and Al-Mugadassah metro opened in 2010, with nine stations connecting the holy places of Mina, Muzdalifah and Arafat. Additional extensions to the mass-transit system will link with the Grand Mosque of Al-Haram with four further lines under construction including a Jeddah airport link to Makkah.

However, despite these mega-facilities to ease movement of pilgrims and vehicles, risk cannot be mitigated, though the probability of accidents can be decreased through effective crowd management and understanding of crowd behaviour. Recent evidence reveals that most catastrophes occurring during the Hajj are due to crowd behaviour.

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