Pilgrims descend on Makkah for ‘smart Hajj’

Pilgrimage becomes increasingly hi-tech with apps to help the faithful navigate Islam’s holiest sites

GKNN
Makkah, Publish Date: Aug 18 2018 12:24AM | Updated Date: Aug 18 2018 12:26AM
Pilgrims descend on Makkah for ‘smart Hajj’Representational Pic

Two million Muslims gather in Saudi Arabia this week for the Hajj as the annual pilgrimage becomes increasingly hi-tech with apps to help the faithful navigate Islam's holiest sites.

This year the Hajj comes with the ultra-conservative kingdom witnessing an unprecedented pace of change, finally ending a ban on women driving while remaining firm in the face of any dissent.

One of the five pillars of the world's fastest-growing religion, the Hajj is expected to draw two million people from around the globe this year.

By Thursday, more than 1.6 million people had already arrived in Saudi Arabia for the pilgrimage, which runs from Sunday to Friday.

Thousands could be seen arriving in Makkah, with groups from different countries wearing distinct colours to set them apart.

Some pilgrims pushed their elderly relatives on wheelchairs while others stopped to call family members back home on video chat or buy ice cream as temperatures soared above 40 degrees Celsius (104 Fahrenheit).

For many, it is their first time away from home.

Every Muslim is required to complete the Hajj at least once in their lifetime if they have the means to do so.

Many were visibly moved to be so close to Islam's holiest site -- the Kaaba.

"I feel as light as a feather," said Senegalese Fame Diouf, who travelled from Amsterdam. Laughing, she recounted the story of how she couldn't stop crying near the Kaaba.

"This was my dream from childhood," said Raja Amjad Hussein, who made the trip to Makkah from Pakistan.

"I can't explain. I have no words," the 40-year-old told AFP. "For many Muslims this is the big, the biggest, dream of life, to see Kaaba and pray for yourself and the whole Muslim nation." 

No matter their race or nationality, for every pilgrim Hajj begins with "ihram", the donning of an all-white outfit.

For men, this is a seamless tunic worn over baggy pants; for women, a loose dress with only the face and hands exposed.

Pilgrims then perform rituals around the Kaaba and on the Mount Arafat plain east of Makkah.

The Hajj ends with Eid al-Adha, a three-day feast which starts with the "stoning of the devil".

Eid al-Adha also includes the slaughter of sheep, with the meat distributed to Muslims in need. The ritual symbolises Abraham's willingness to sacrifice his son, Ishmael, on the order of God.

The Hajj presents the Saudi authorities with major logistical challenges.

The Pew Research Center says the number of Muslims in the world is expected to rise from 1.8 billion in 2015 to three billion in 2060.

This year, the Saudis have launched a "smart Hajj" initiative, with apps to help pilgrims with everything from travel plans to medical care.

Asefny, for example, is an app launched by Saudi Arabia's Red Crescent to help pilgrims request emergency medical attention.

Authorities are able to locate those in need through the app.

The Saudi Hajj ministry also runs the Manasikana app, which provides translation for pilgrims who do not speak Arabic or English.

The 2018 pilgrimage comes amid a widening crackdown on political dissent in Saudi Arabia, an absolute monarchy aggressively pursuing a campaign to clean up its image as one of the world's most restrictive countries.

It also comes more than a year into the worst political crisis to grip the Gulf, pitting regional heavyweights Saudi Arabia and Qatar against one another.

Saudi Arabia -- the world's largest exporter of oil -- and its allies accuse Qatar of cosying up to extremists.

They have cut all ties with Qatar and banned all flights to and from Doha. Qatar denies the charges.

Qatari pilgrims are still permitted into Saudi Arabia for Hajj.

Iranian pilgrims are also in attendance this year. Tehran had temporarily suspended sending its citizens to Hajj following a 2015 stampede that left around 2,300 pilgrims dead, including hundreds of Iranians.

Saudi Arabia has drawn harsh criticism for a crackdown on political dissent since the appointment last year of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, whose modernisation campaign has grabbed headlines around the world.

More than a dozen women's rights campaigners were detained and accused of undermining national security and collaborating with enemies of the state in recent weeks. Some have since been released. AFP

 

Latest News

  1. Gunfight breaks out in Sopore; Internet suspended
  2. Gunfight breaks out in Sopore; Internet suspended
  1. Corruption is Jammu and Kashmir's biggest problem: Governor Malik
  2. Corruption is Jammu and Kashmir's biggest problem: Governor Malik
  1. Governor Satya Pal Malik accepts resignation of BB Vyas
  2. Governor Satya Pal Malik accepts resignation of BB Vyas
  1. Mirwaiz visits Hiba at SMHS hospital as she undergoes second eye surgery
  2. Mirwaiz visits Hiba at SMHS hospital as she undergoes second eye surgery
  1. Traffic movement on Srinagar-Jammu suspended after fresh snowfall in Banihal
  2. Traffic movement on Srinagar-Jammu suspended after fresh snowfall in Banihal
  1. Family members of constables slain in Shopian attack share memories
  2. Family members of constables slain in Shopian attack share memories
  1. Forces launch search operation on Sopore outskirts
  2. Forces launch search operation on Sopore outskirts
  1. Why googling 'idiot' brings up Trump photos, Congresswoman asks Pichai
  2. Why googling 'idiot' brings up Trump photos, Congresswoman asks Pichai
  1. Governor administration lists its major initiatives during past five months
  2. Governor administration lists its major initiatives during past five months
  1. Rahul Gandhi deserves credit for Congress’ victory in three heartland states: Omar Abdullah
  2. Rahul Gandhi deserves credit for Congress’ victory in three heartland states: Omar Abdullah
  1. Missing Handwara student traced in Mumbai
  2. Missing Handwara student traced in Mumbai
  1. Congress will emerge as single largest party in JK assembly elections: Mir
  2. Congress will emerge as single largest party in JK assembly elections: Mir
  1. 759 stone pelting incidents in Jammu and Kashmir in 2018: MHA
  2. 759 stone pelting incidents in Jammu and Kashmir in 2018: MHA
  1. Pakistan will try for peace despite India's negative attitude: Official
  2. Pakistan will try for peace despite India's negative attitude: Official
  1. SP offers support to Congress to form govt in MP: Akhilesh Yadav
  2. SP offers support to Congress to form govt in MP: Akhilesh Yadav
  1. Massive Marriott data breach traced to Chinese hackers
  2. Massive Marriott data breach traced to Chinese hackers
  1. Pakistan rejects listing as violator of religious freedom by US
  2. Pakistan rejects listing as violator of religious freedom by US
  1. Facebook building in California evacuated over bomb threat
  2. Facebook building in California evacuated over bomb threat
  1. Congress to form MP government as Shivraj Singh Chouhan resigns
  2. Congress to form MP government as Shivraj Singh Chouhan resigns
  1. Forces lay siege to Kilora-Malikgund village in south Kashmir's Shopian
  2. Forces lay siege to Kilora-Malikgund village in south Kashmir's Shopian
  1. BSP to support Congress in Madhya Pradesh: Mayawati
  2. BSP to support Congress in Madhya Pradesh: Mayawati
  1. Palestinian child dies of wounds after border clash: Gaza ministry
  2. Palestinian child dies of wounds after border clash: Gaza ministry
  1. Netanyahu threats Hezbollah with 'unimaginable blows'
  2. Netanyahu threats Hezbollah with 'unimaginable blows'
  1. Minimum temperatures continue to fall in Kashmir
  2. Minimum temperatures continue to fall in Kashmir
x
This site uses cookies to deliver our services and to show you relevant news and ads. By using our site, you acknowledge that you have read and understand our Cookie Policy, Privacy Policy, and our Terms of Service.That's Fine