The Hajj is done.

The millions of people of all races and colours, rich and poor, young and old are beginning to head home – their obligation as Muslims to do one pilgrimage at least once in their lifetime fulfilled.

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Their last rites, the symbolic stoning of the devil, has been completed in Mina.

Thousands of people slept on cardboard on the streets
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Thousands of people slept on cardboard on the streets

The vast tented city, which is only used during the week of the Hajj, is eerily empty.

The air-conditioned tents are being cleared of debris.

An army of workers have begun the task of clearing the detritus left on the roads ready for next year.

But the problem of plastic remains in Saudi Arabia
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But the problem of plastic remains in Saudi Arabia

Discarded plastic bottles – probably in hundreds of millions – litter the holy site. An imaginative solution is needed to keep the Hajis watered without plastic.

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The millions who slept on cardboard, ate on cardboard, and prayed on cardboard or just bare pavements outside the tents have gone.

I detected very little resentment, if any, between the haves and have-nots. They were here for a reason and that was all that mattered.

The millions who descended are now going home
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The millions who descended are now going home

Looking back, the mind still boggles about how this event could even be contemplated – let alone happen – every single year.

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Lesson have been learnt from previous years when hundreds used to die in crowded choke points.

The Saudi army is out in force in these areas, directing crowds along safer routes and controlling their movement.

Just imagine what it’s like to move a city between the central Hajj sites of Mecca, Mina Arafat, Muzdalifa and back to Mina again in just a 24-hour period.

After days of crowds, it feels very different
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After days of crowds, it feels very different

And the Hajj is going to get even bigger – the Saudi authorities are planning to increase capacity to 10 million by 2030.

That will prove to be the mother of all logistical challenges.

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The infrastructure of more hotels, roads and more accommodation in Mina is already being built.

The streets are quietening down
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The streets are quietening down

The focus of Hajj, the Masjid al Haram, the big mosque in Mecca, already holds about 1.5 million – and it’s being expanded.

For Friday prayers, the mosque closes its doors at 9am because it is jammed to capacity. Prayers don’t start till 12.30pm.

Imagine 15 Wembleys shutting their doors three hours before kick-off.

75-year-old Mohammed Asim from Tooting is on his fifth Hajj
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75-year-old Mohammed Asim from Tooting is on his fifth Hajj

The Hajj now is now a far cry from what it was. Among our group is sprightly 75-year-old Mohammed Asim from Tooting.

He is on his fifth pilgrimage – his first was in 1964 when he arrived on a ship full of pilgrims from Pakistan.

“Back then everywhere was desert. No hotels or accommodation,” he said.

It leaves me wondering how Hajj 2030 will look like.

It’s already a wondrous and inspiring event on an unimaginable scale.

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