Pilgrims stream out of Makkah

MAKKAH: The Grand Mosque in Makkah was overflowing with pilgrims in a hurry to return to their homes on Thursday.

Despite the pushing, jostling and slow pace of the tawaf (circumambulation around Kaaba), the pilgrims were happy as they had fulfilled their life’s dream of performing Haj in total safety and peace, the Saudi Press Agency reported.Many thousands were performing Tawaf Al-Widaa (the farewell tawaf performed on leaving Makkah which marks the end of one’s Haj rites) on the first floor and the roof of the Grand Mosque, as the mataf (the area yard around the Kaaba), which has a capacity of 70,000 pilgrims per hour, was jampacked. Thousands of pilgrims on wheelchairs were also doing their farewell rite on the top floor.

All the 176 gates, including the entrances to the first and second floors of the Grand Mosque, were opened to accommodate the simultaneous influx and outpour. Eighteen doors were reserved for pilgrims with special needs. More than 1,000 officials were regulating the flow of pilgrims at the gates.The Presidency of the Grand Mosque Affairs has also posted 6,000 workers at different locations in the Mosque to guide the pilgrims and regulate their entry and exit. No one was allowed to sit or stand in the passages leading to the mataf.

The masaa (the stretch of space between the mounts of Safa and Marwa where the pilgrims perform the ritual of Saie) was also equally packed.The officials were distributing pamphlets in different languages to enlighten pilgrims on the various remaining rites.Thousands of security men were working to reduce the crowding by watching the movements of pilgrims and directing them to less crowded areas. A green light will be blinking at the gate if there is any empty space in the area and a red light means no space.

More than 1,000 first aid workers of the Civil Defense were helping sick or exhausted pilgrims. There were 30 first aid points in the mataf, masaa and the courtyards.The total number of pilgrims in the current Haj is estimated at 2,927,717 registering a 5 percent increase compared to last year.The majority of the 1 million domestic pilgrims and a good number of foreign pilgrims returned on Wednesday and Thursday after completing Tawaf Al-Widaa.A large number of foreign pilgrims are yet to visit the Prophet’s Mosque in Madinah before their departure from the Kingdom.

The health centers inside the mosque are equipped to treat pilgrims suffering from various crowd-related illnesses.Hundreds of pilgrims are on their way to Madinah. The returning pilgrims leave after collecting cans of Zamzam water and copies of the Holy Qur’an.The foreign pilgrims who have visited Madinah before the Arafat standing return via King Abdulaziz International Airport or Jeddah Islamic Port. Under the supervision and guidance of the Kingdom’s top leaders, 239,000 employees deployed to serve the pilgrims. – Arabnews