Technology makes pilgrimage to Mecca possible at 48 degrees

tAs more than 1.5 million Muslims make the five-day pilgrimage in and around the city of Mecca, temperatures this year could reach an oppressive 48 degrees. Saudi authorities warned this week of “extremely hot weather conditions” that pose a “threat to the health of pilgrims.”

Hajj participants are advised to take appropriate measures against the heat, such as drinking enough water and using umbrellas against the scorching sun. The authorities themselves are also taking measures and providing innovative measures to make the heat more bearable.

Constantly cooled air flows

For example, all main streets and squares in the Muslim holy cities of Mecca and Medina are equipped with misting systems on high poles, which should provide some cooling to passersby. The air conditioning in the Grand Mosque of Mecca was also recently renovated. The air cooling system, known as one of the largest in the world, provides the place of worship with constantly cooled air flows, while the air is purified by ultraviolet radiation.

Another recent development is cooling sidewalks around holy places. A layer of heat-reducing paint was applied to an area of ​​almost 25,000 square meters around the Namira mosque in Arafat, on the pilgrimage route. According to a statement from the state news agency. Saudi Press Agencylocally produced white paint would absorb less sunlight and reduce the temperature by about 20 degrees.

Smart bracelet and pilotless air taxis

These measures are not an unnecessary luxury. Last year, some 8,400 pilgrims suffered from heat problems, the local newspaper wrote. Saudi Gazette at the time, although the real figure is probably higher, because not everyone was admitted to hospitals or clinics. The Saudi government has often been criticized in the past for its poor organization and insufficient security measures.

Now they seem to want to change that. In addition to innovations to combat the heat, the oil state has invested in other technological devices. In the field of crowd management and security, for example, advanced computer technology has been used to locate missing people. Pilgrims can also use an improved smart bracelet, which provides explanations and updated travel schedules of public transport on the route. Meanwhile, innovative transport options are also being worked on: a first test drive was carried out this week in Mecca with a pilotless air taxi.

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German-made electric planes will have to transport pilgrims between holy sites in the coming years. They will also be used to deliver goods and in medical emergencies. In a statement, Minister of Transportation and Logistics Saleh Al-Jasser emphasized that this “pioneering test” is part of the ministry’s goals to implement new transportation technologies and environmentally friendly transportation options powered by artificial intelligence. “Saudi Arabia is using innovative technologies to provide pilgrims with a seamless and sustainable pilgrimage experience.”

King Salman pays for the pilgrimage of two thousand Palestinians

The ongoing war in Gaza hangs like a dark cloud over this year’s hajj, which must be performed at least once by every practicing Muslim who can afford it. The 2,500 Palestinians from Gaza who were selected for the pilgrimage will not be able to attend due to the closure of the Rafah border crossing in May, when Israel expanded its ground offensive. Some have waited years to obtain permits, which are granted by Saudi authorities according to a quota for each country.

However, according to Palestinian authorities, 4,200 people from the West Bank participate in the hajj. Saudi King Salman has invited another two thousand Palestinians to participate in the pilgrimage free of charge. These are relatives of Palestinians killed, injured or held captive by Israel, who left Gaza before the borders were closed. The Saudi Ministry of Islamic Affairs is responsible for your travel and accommodation. With the invitation, Salman wants to provide “relief” to “what the Palestinian people are currently experiencing in Gaza.”

At the same time, Saudi authorities are trying to keep the focus on religion. The minister responsible for pilgrimages stressed last week that political expressions will not be tolerated during the hajj. However, many Muslims directed their prayers on Mount Arafat to Palestinians in Gaza on Saturday.

The hajj lasts until Wednesday. This year around 1.8 million pilgrims participate.

Also read:

They celebrate a Festival of Vegetarian Sacrifice: ‘I await God’s approval’

At the last moment, God intervened: instead of his son, Ibrahim was allowed to sacrifice a sheep. In memory, Muslims sacrifice a sheep, lamb or cow during the Feast of Sacrifice. Some Muslims opt for an alternative: a meatless sacrificial feast.

Saudi Arabia’s only source of income (oil) is endangering the other (the Hajj).

Mohamed bin Salman is young, he has a future, writes the Arabist Eildert Mulder in his column In the shadow of the minaret. But it could be discouraging. Discontent lurks.

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