Every Hajj season, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, KSA, dedicates tremendous financial and human resources to ensure that pilgrims enjoy five-star services that allow them to perform the hajj ritual safely and comfortably. Hajj is the fifth pillar of Islam and the most significant manifestation of Islamic faith.
Saudi Arabia considers serving the guests of Allah the Almighty an honor, and lines up vast manpower and financial resources to the proper conduct of the pilgrimage. Since the time of the founding father of the KSA, King Abdul Aziz Al Saud, it has spent billions of dollars to expand the Holy Mosque in Makkah and the Prophet's Mosque in Madinah, as well as establishing modern airports, seaports, roads, residences, communications, hospitals, and other amenities and security and safety services for the convenience of pilgrims.
The hajj authorities have announced that they had completed their preparations to welcome pilgrims, provide them with world-class services and make their journey to the holy lands comfortable, safe and successful.
Security agencies have announced that they are ready to welcome pilgrims through air, sea and land entry points.
The General Directorate of Civil Defence has announced that more than 33 government department and consultancy houses were involved in this year's hajj emergency plans to ensure the highest standards of safety and security of pilgrims.
It has prepared more than 17,000 strong civil defence personnel, supported by 1,500 volunteers. More than 5,000 cameras in the holy shrines provide the security agencies with blanket coverage to manage crowds of pilgrims to avoid any incidents.
Health-wise, the Saudi authorities have placed hundreds of hospitals and health clinics under the service of pilgrims. The Saudi health ministry said that a fully-manned and equipped four health centres had been prepared inside the holy shrine in Makkah. For emergency cases, preparations also included 180 ambulances and six helipads.
The Ministry of Hajj and Umrah has launched a translation app for non-Arab pilgrims to get Hajj-related information and guidelines to perform their religious rituals with ease and comfort. Another digital map app for holy sites has also been made available for pilgrims.
The establishment of these facilities by itself does not ensure a successful Hajj. To do so, the Kingdom has put into place a vast organisation supervised by the Supreme Hajj Committee, which reports to the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman bin Abdul Aziz, who traditionally is in Makkah during the pilgrimage.
The committee seeks to coordinate the activities of various government ministries and agencies and prevent redundancy.
Each of these organizations assumes responsibility for projects in its sphere of expertise. For example, the Ministry of Hajj and Umrah issues special booklets on the rites of the Hajj in many languages for distribution among the pilgrims.
The Ministry of Health oversees medical services while the Ministry of Information hosts journalists and members of the media from other countries to cover the pilgrimage, while at the same time arranging for live transmissions of the rituals by satellite throughout the world.