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Khalid al-Faisal to Asharq Al-Awsat: Spiteful Parties Are Undermining Saudi Role in Holding the Hajj

Khalid al-Faisal to Asharq Al-Awsat: Spiteful Parties Are Undermining Saudi Role in Holding the Hajj

Wednesday, 29 June, 2022 - 06:45
Prince Khalid al-Faisal inspects the Hajj preparations. (Asharq Al-Awsat)

Prince Khalid Al-Faisal, Advisor to the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, Governor of the Makkah Region and President of the Central Hajj Committee, is overseeing the preparations to hold this year’s holy Hajj pilgrimage.


He presided over a meeting of the Central Hajj Committee at Mina, extending his gratitude to the Saudi leadership in maintaining the Two Holy Mosques and providing the best services to the pilgrims.


In an interview to Asharq Al-Awsat, Prince Khalid slammed parties that are critical of Saudi Arabia’s role in organizing the Hajj, saying they are politically motivated.


“One must not listen to these spiteful voices because we are busy in carrying out our noble duties,” he stressed.


Hajj plan


Prince Khalid stressed that the government is keen on providing the best and finest services to the pilgrims every year it holds the Hajj.


“God almighty has blessed the Kingdom with the holy duty of serving the pilgrims. Nothing else compares to this honor,” he said.


The Central Hajj Committee is tasked with carrying out the directives of the Kingdom’s leadership, which constantly stresses the need to exert the greatest of efforts to service the pilgrims, continued Prince Khalid.


As a result, the committee holds meetings throughout the year to discuss plans and assess services offered to the pilgrims.


Over 41 government agencies are working tirelessly to serve the pilgrims. All of their human and financial resources have been dedicated to this noble duty.


Prince Khalid said over 2,300 permits have been issued to buildings that will accommodate 1.5 million pilgrims in Makkah.


He spoke of the development of the region surrounding Jabal al-Rahma, which spans 200,000 square meters. The project will include the establishment of public parking for buses and cars.


The ambitions to develop the holy pilgrimage and make it smoother for the pilgrims are “limitless”, he said.


The concerned parties are working constantly to develop the entire Hajj system, including the development of the camp area in al-Mina. The new project will span 500,000 square meters.


Efforts are also underway to develop the infrastructure at Arafat. The first phase of the project is underway.


Health measures


A million pilgrims are expected to perform the Hajj in 2022, a sharp drop from previous years as the coronavirus pandemic still weighs heavily on the world.


The number of pilgrims allowed to perform this year’s holy journey was approved at the recommendations of the concerned health authorities to ensure the safety of the worshippers.


Prince Faisal said the Kingdom, through its wise leadership and awareness of the people, has proven its great ability in confronting the pandemic.


He noted that even at the height of the pandemic, when the entire world came to a halt, the Hajj still continued and Muslims were able to perform the holy journey without any infections being reported, all with God’s grace.


Technology at the Hajj


Saudi Arabia has made strides in technology, which has been put to use at the Hajj.


Prince Khalid said: “We have for years dedicated advanced technology to better serve the pilgrims.”


All procedures related to their arrival in the Kingdom until their departure have been digitized.


Among these measures is the issuing of a Hajj smartcard that was made available years ago and which is constantly being developed and improved.


The smartcard holds information about the Hajj camps, dates of transportation and gathering, crowd management and others.


A million cards will be issued and they will hold new features, including the personal information of the pilgrim.


The move will help crack down on illegal pilgrims.


Transportation


Over 35 trains, each with the capacity to transport 415 passengers between Makkah and Jeddah, have been prepared. Thirty trips will be carried out per day.


At the holy sites, the train has the capacity to transport 210,000 pilgrims and 16,000 modern buses will transport 790,000 pilgrims.


The Health Ministry has set up 18 hospitals at Makkah and the holy sites. They are equipped with 3,700 beds and backed by 171 centers.


Illegal campaigns


Prince Khalid stressed that authorities are dealing firmly with any illegal campaigns that deign to manipulate the pilgrims.


“There can be no leniency in dealing with any scammers,” he added.


Security agencies are cracking down on scams and false advertisers that aim to deceive the pilgrims with illegal Hajj campaigns.


Prince Khalid said the dedicated Eatmarna app lists all the authorized Hajj companies and pilgrims are free to choose from the available packages.


He revealed that 30 violators have so far been arrested for attempting to scam pilgrims.


Skeptics


With advent of the Hajj, said Prince Khalid, arise the voices of skeptics, who express their doubts over Saudi Arabia’s role in organizing the Hajj.


“We are not surprised with their criticism. They level it every year and their actions are purely politically motivated,” he told Asharq Al-Awsat.


Those seeking to undermine and belittle the Kingdom’s efforts are fully aware of the massive efforts and services that are provided to the pilgrims, he continued.


All sectors are working around the clock to constantly develop the services and “nothing will deter us from forging ahead in this duty,” he stressed.


“We will not listen to those spiteful voices as we are busy performing our noble message, which is serving the pilgrims to the holy sites and providing all the means so that they can have a smooth journey,” he added.


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