JEDDAH: P.K. ABDUL GHAFOUR
Published — Friday 3 October 2014
Saudi authorities are planning to introduce a barcode system for Mina tents to help stranded pilgrims identify their tents with the assistance of Google maps.
“A technology has been already developed for this purpose,” said Mohammed Al-Ruwaished, head of the information technology committee at the Youth Welfare Presidency’s scout camp.
He said Tawafa organizations for pilgrims from different countries would be asked to use the technology for issuing barcodes. “Every pilgrim will be given wrist straps containing his personal barcode and if any pilgrim loses his way, scouts will be able to guide them using this barcode easily,” he said.
Al-Ruwaished said new roads and gateways in the holy sites of Mina, Arafat and Muzdalifa are being added to Google maps to help pilgrims make printouts of these maps from anywhere in the world.
In a related development, Eissa Rawwas, deputy Haj minister for Umrah affairs, said the application of the electronic Haj gateway system would be made mandatory from next year. The system will be linked with Haj visas. “We have applied the first phase of the system this year,” he said, adding that the next phase would start on Rabiul Awwal 1, 1436 (Dec. 23). He said the ministry has deployed 1,500 employees to ensure the smooth movement of pilgrims from their tents to Jamrat for the stoning ritual. Rawwas said the ministry would ask all Tawafa organizations to keep 50 percent of their pilgrims in Mina on 13 Dhul Hijjah in the coming years to avoid overcrowding at the “mataf,” or circumambulation area around the Holy Kaaba in Makkah. “Last year, we noticed that only 300,000 pilgrims remained in Mina for the third day of stoning at the Jamrat,” he said.
As this year’s Arafat Day falls on Friday, a large number of pilgrims are expected to join the annual pilgrimage. Hatim Qadi, Haj ministry spokesman, said his ministry was not afraid of the large turnout of pilgrims on Friday because arrangements have been completed to host the guests of God.
“The government has taken measures to prevent the entry of illegal pilgrims who do not carry valid Haj permits,” he said, adding that stiff punishment would be imposed on such violators. “People should think several times before violating the country’s rules and regulations,” he added.