Hajj Feb04




Dear Sir,


As one of the pilgrims performing Hajj in Saudi Arabia this year, I would like to express my sincere condolences to the families of the 244 pilgrims, crushed to death in Mecca by the undisciplined crowd.


Over 2 million people, from more than 120 countries, came for this year's Hajj, the annual Muslim pilgrimage which requires the pilgrim to visit seven different sites over an area of five square miles, within a strictly defined five day period. The logistics of receiving, verifying registration papers, transporting, accommodating, feeding and maintaining security of this number of visitors, is phenomenal.


Despite the very comprehensive security system put in place by the Saudi authorities to maintain crowd control, with a transient mass of 600,000 people per square mile, it is surprising that so few people are injured every year. Due credit should be given to the authorities for their efficient management of the Hajj, as they provide sanitation facilities and accommodation, with no evidence of disease or terrorism.


The pilgrims come voluntarily to Saudi Arabia. They neither pay for the visa nor for the facilities which are provided for them by the Government. The Saudis invest an enormous amount of money in the infrastructure and transport, including 30,000 buses, to allow the pilgrims to perform Hajj. The King even provides a free food parcel to the pilgrims every day. It is a great achievement for the Government and the people of Saudi Arabia to be able to host such an event each year.


Almost all pilgrims respect and cherish their experience and return safely home. The deaths this year are a tragic loss, but it should not undermine the efforts, generosity and goodwill of the Saudi nation that does so much to uphold the sanctity of the most pious place for Muslims worldwide.