At least 1.5 million Muslims from around the world are in Saudi Arabia for hajj. New security measures have been put in place to keep pilgrims safe.
CCTV’s Adel EL Mahrouky reports.
Saudi Arabia’s security officials are on high alert, with 100,000 troops deployed across Mecca. There’s at least one police car on every corner. Even the skies of the holy city are protected.
“Every year before hajj season, we look back at previous years to learn from our mistakes. The number of troops doesn’t matter, as long as they don’t hamper the flow of pedestrians. But if we need more, we’ll deploy as many officers as necessary – there are many more on standby,” Saudi Interior Ministry Spokesperson Mansour Al Turky said.
The potential threats are numerous. In July, coordinated bomb blasts shook the kingdom. It’s the first time a terror attack has taken place so close to the Prophet Muhammad Mosque in Medina, the second holiest site for Muslims after Mecca.
Authorities have realized that the hajj too could be targeted.
“We take every possible scenario seriously, particularly when its pilgrimage time, whether it’s terror threats or merely the day-to-day safety of pilgrims. For many years, terrorists have targeted the kingdom of Saudi Arabia. We have joined international efforts to counter terrorism and we take all precautionary measures to protect Mecca and the hajj,” Turky said.
Apart from providing a security presence, the police help to direct traffic and check visas. Seeing them in action makes visitors feel safe.
“I was quite worried before I left Sudan. But when I arrived I was impressed with how organized everything is. I’m so thankful to the custodians of the holy mosques — wherever I go, the roads are secure and I feel safe,” Sudanese pilgrim Hassan Ail said.
There is at least one police officer for every 30 pilgrims here in Mecca and more are standing by. So far it’s a smooth task, but the real challenge for the police starts on Saturday when the millions start moving. Fingers here are crossed; everyone is praying that nothing happens this year to ruin this huge Muslim peaceful gathering
Startup develops solar powered umbrella for hajj pilgrims
Making a pilgrimage to Mecca is something every Muslim adult is required to do at least once in a lifetime. The dates of the hajj vary, depending on the Islamic lunar calendar. But for at least the next ten years it will fall in the hot summer months from June through September. A Saudi-Palestinian company has come up with a high-tech way for pilgrims to keep their cool.
CCTV’s Katie Sargent reports.
Every year, millions of Muslims make the pilgrimage to Mecca to perform hajj. And every year hundreds of them are overcome by heat exhaustion, sun stroke or other heat-related illnesses after spending hours outside in the Saudi Arabian summer heat.
This phenomenon got Smart Umbrella Co-Founder, Kamel Badawi, starts thinking about what pilgrims need most.
His answer: an umbrella which does much more than providing shade from the sun.
“When we started thinking about this we found that we could install a built-in fan to keep the user cool. This is a great idea when you consider that the next twelve years will be extremely hot for pilgrims,” Badawi said.
Hot indeed, the forecast for the hajj this year is for temperatures well over 100 degrees Fahrenheit or 40 degrees Celsius each day.
In Cairo, Egypt, Smart Umbrella co-founder Manal Dandis showed how it will help keep things cool.
“The umbrella is equipped with solar panels. These solar panels absorb solar energy and transform it into electrical energy, which is stored in the handle,” Dandis said.
That’s used to power the fan as well as a flashlight and a GPS system.
The inventors said that last feature will make it easier for pilgrims to find each other.