By SIRAJ WAHAB | ARAB NEWS
MINA: Saudi Arabia, its leadership and people came in for special praise for the excellent service and impeccable organization of the largest gathering of Muslims every year.
At Arafat, the pilgrims instinctively raised their hands and prayed for the well-being of Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah, Crown Prince Naif and other members of the establishment for pumping billions of riyals into creating massive infrastructure at the holy sites. Those who have been here before say things have changed phenomenally, all for the good of the pilgrims.
Ayub Athman is a Kenyan Muslim. He has been to Haj before. He spoke to Arab News minutes after arriving in Mina from Muzdalifah via the newly introduced Mashair train service.
“This is unbelievable,” he said. “I came here seven or eight years ago. At that time everybody would talk about stampedes and getting stuck in truck for hours. I remember not being able to reach Muzdalifah for seven hours after leaving Arafat that year. We would run in circles and our driver had no idea what to do next. He them dropped us off in Mina and vanished. We had to go back to Muzdalifah on foot and collect the mandatory pebbles to complete the stoning of the devil ritual.”
That was then, he says. “It is a totally different story. Nobody would have believed that we would one day have a train service here. Who would have imagined that a train service could run in this massive throng of people? Who would have thought of these elevated train tracks? It is simply a modern-day wonder. I kept gawking at the overhead trains as they zoomed past Mina on their way to Arafat,” said Athman.