Saudi Arabia Implements New Technologies In Anticipation For 2022 Hajj

Hajj is almost upon us, and with its highly-anticipated arrival, millions of pilgrims are getting ready to travel to Saudi Arabia to perform this once-in-a-lifetime Islamic ritual. Consequently, the GCC nation is implementing new technologies to welcome them.

The Islamic pilgrimage, also known as the Hajj, is a religious ritual and one of the five pillars of Islam, where pilgrims who are able both financially and physically perform once in their lifetime.

Ever since the COVID-19 pandemic started, events that include huge gatherings of people have become an issue due to the high transmission rate of the virus. In its aftermath, precautionary measures were put in place to protect everyone during these hard times. Of course, the Hajj was also affected in a huge way, since usually, two million people visited the Kingdom’s holiest sites every year, but in 2020 only 1,000 people were allowed in, and the ritual was restricted to locals who had to go through rigorous safety measures.

In 2021, stricter safety measures were implemented such as restricting visiting pilgrims to those who took the COVID-19 vaccination. Saudi Arabia also implemented apps and robots to help people during their pilgrimage thus accepting more people, that said, it didn’t welcome as many as it did before the pandemic.

However, things have drastically improved since then, with the Kindom announcing that it will accept a million pilgrims to the holiest sites in Islam this year thanks to last year’s success.

Saudi Arabia has everything set up and is ready to receive pilgrims from all over the world, not only by adding able-bodied male and female employees to help pilgrims arriving in the Kingdom but by implementing technologies to aid those pilgrims while they’re performing the Hajj too.

New Tech

Dr. Abdel-Fattah Mashat, Saudi Arabia’s Deputy Minister of Hajj told Al Sharq Al Awsat that there were several technologies developed for this year’s Hajj. He explained that the ministry developed a new technology named “Motawif”  in which citizens from these countries can apply to get into the lottery for Hajj selection. It’s dedicated to pilgrims living in North America, Europe, and Australia to help them get “approvals without the need for intermediaries”, something which “reduced prices by more than 30%.”

“The Ministry of Hajj deals with all relevant sectors at home and abroad to make the Hajj successful and provide the best care for pilgrims,” Dr. Abdel-Fattah Mashat, Saudi Arabia’s Deputy Minister of Hajj told Al Sharq Al Awsat.

One of the most important parts of Hajj is standing at Mount Arafat, and this year, pilgrims who don’t speak Arabic will be able to understand the sermon as it will be translated into 10 different languages including English, Farsi, and Turkish, via the Arafat Sermon app, available on iOS and Android

Hajj Robots Return

The ministry is also offering 2,000 new electronic vehicles to provide extra mobility for disabled pilgrims who will want to move throughout the Grand Mosque in Mecca. Last year’s Grand Mosque robots will be making a return, they have 21-inch touchscreens with the purpose of guiding pilgrims in the Mosque as well as answering any questions they might have about rituals and how to perform them.

Via AFP

Another robot that is making a return is the four-wheeled tray robots that move around the Grand Mosque and other holy sites during Hajj offering Zamzam water. According to The National, the Kingdom aims to distribute about three million bottles a day in Mecca’s Grand Mosque, and a million in other holy sites.

Beyond Hajj

While the Hajj lasts three days, many pilgrims tend to stay to pray in the holy cities of Mecca and Madina, with the Prophet’s Mosque being the main destination in Madina. 

Via SPA

According to the Saudi Press Agency (SPA), in anticipation of that, the Kingdom installed over 250 electric umbrellas in the Prophet’s Mosque courtyards to alleviate the heat from worshippers praying there. These umbrellas work in tandem with air conditioners, fans, and sprayers to spray droplets of water on the worshippers to combat the heat.

The SPA also stated that cold marble tiles were installed to keep temperatures low and make standing on them comfortable while praying.

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