Second Deputy Premier Prince Naif says number of pilgrims this year grew by 11.2% from 181 countries

Governor of Makkah congratulates kingdom’s leadership over successful hajj season

Kingdom’s Mufti asserts region looks forward to Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques to solve its problems

Ministry of culture and information celebrates its guest pilgrims

Prince Naif bin Abdulaziz, Second Deputy Premier, Minister of Interior and President of Hajj Supreme Committee, sent a cable to the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz Al Saud in which he announced the completion of pilgrims’ entry into the holy site in Makkah through air, ground and sea outlets.

The number of pilgrims coming to the Madinah through Prince Mohammed bin Abdulaziz International Airport and the reception stations amounted to 34389 pilgrims, while number of pilgrims departing Madinah reached 22079 pilgrims.

A report by Madinah Hajj Committee' Secretariat highlighted the proportion of pilgrims in terms of nationality, where the Egyptian nationality topped by 22572 pilgrims and the Iranian pilgrims followed by 18130 pilgrims and Syrian nationality by 12945 pilgrims.

In the presence of the Minister of Hajj Dr. Fuad bin Abdulsalam Al-Farisi, the Ministry of Hajj held its annual ceremony in honor of heads and members of Hajj missions for this year 1431 and awarded Prizes for Best Press Tasks in Hajj for the year 1430H.

Addressing the ceremony, Dr. Al-Farisi conveyed to the audience the greetings and congratulations of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah Ibn Abdulaziz Al Saud, the Crown Prince, and the Second Deputy Premier on their performance of Hajj rituals.

He expressed his thanks to and appreciation of all departments concerned with Hajj and pilgrims which have worked around the clock to provide best services and facilities to pilgrims to perform their Hajj rituals easily and comfortably. He also thanked the media for covering Hajj season professionally and objectively.

The Minister of Hajj, then, handed over Prizes for Best Press Tasks in Hajj for the year 1430H.

The Saudi Press Agency (SPA) won the Prize of Merit for its distinguished efforts in covering Hajj season. The prize was received by Director of SPA Office in Jeddah Ali bin Ahmed Al-Ghamdi.

The Arabic Newspapers Okaz, Al-Hayat, Al-Sharq Al-Awsat, Al-Nadwah, Al-Riyadh, Al-Madinah, Al-Yaum, and Al-Eqtisadiyyah won Prizes for Best Individual Press Task in Hajj, Best Human Topics, and Best Photographs.

The late Dr. Mohammed Abdo Yamani won the Prize for Best Press Article for a series of his articles entitled ' Talks on Hajj and its Ethics' published in Al-Nadwah newspaper.

The ceremony was attended by a number of undersecretaries and officials of the Ministry of Hajj, editors-in-chief of local newspapers as well as information personnel.

As many as 5000 cleaners equipped with more than 300 machines have started implementation of an operational plan of the Secretariat of Makkah City to clean the Holy Sites after Hajj season.

The Director General of Cleanliness Department Eng. Saleh bin Abdulsamad Izzsat has pointed out that the plan focuses on Mina, Arafat, Muzdalifah and all surrounding areas.

A number of Yemeni pilgrims expressed thanks to and appreciation of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, Crown Prince Sultan bin Abdulaziz, Deputy Premier, Minister of Defense and Aviation and Inspector General, and Prince Naif bin Abdulaziz, the Second Deputy Premier and Minister of Interior, for the interest and care they bestow on pilgrims of the House of God during Hajj.

In statements to the Saudi Press Agency (SPA), they lauded the services rendered by the Saudi authorities concerned for pilgrims, making their journey a complete success.

On their way home across the border with Yemen, the pilgrims also praised the departure procedure and treatment at Al-Towal land post.

The International Civil Defense Organization lauded the Saudi civil defense Hajj plan and performance, stating that the Saudi civil defense authority has taken all necessary measures to maintain the safety of pilgrims against all potential risks.

In a statement to the Saudi Press Agency (SPA), the Secretary General of the organization Nawaf Al-Saleebi praised the measures taken by the civil defense to face emergencies during Hajj, saying that the civil defense forces succeeded in the protection and control of a nearly three million crowd.

He attributed part of the control process to the giant service projects built by the Government of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in the Hajj area, citing Jamarat multi-floor bridge, fire-proof tents, and passenger train.

Al-Saleebi also paid tribute to the prestigious treatment extended by the civil defense personnel for pilgrims.

He suggested that the world organizations in charge of running crowds or groups are to be invited to benefit from the Kingdom's experience in controlling the world's largest congregation ever.

Prince Khalid Al-Faisal bin Abdulaziz, Governor of Makkah Region and Chairman of Hajj Central Committee, congratulated Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz Al Saud; Crown Prince Sultan bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, Deputy Premier, Minister of Defense and Aviation and Inspector General; and Prince Naif bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, Second Deputy Premier, Minister of Interior and Chairman of Hajj Supreme Committee, on the success of the Hajj season of this year. Prince Khalid Al-Faisal also congratulated all pilgrims on completing this pillar of Islam and performing Hajj rituals easily and comfortably.

This came during a press conference held in Mina by Prince Khalid Al-Faisal and attended by local and international media and Hajj media missions.

Prince Khalid Al-Faisal emphasized that there are plans to eradicate the practice of squatting as well as performing Hajj without obtaining Hajj permission from the authorities concerned. Such plans were implemented since last year and had led to decreasing the proportion of illegal pilgrims by 20% compared with the year before, Prince Khalid Al-Faisal added.

Responding to a question on the decision to prevent small vehicles from entering the holy places and whether the buses will not be allowed to enter the holy sites after the introduction of Mashair Train, Prince Khalid Al-Faisal said 'I do not think that the buses will be prevented from entering the holy places because the buses will be a key element in the transport for a long time until introducing an alternative. We are very satisfied with the success of these regulations, including the prevention of small vehicles from entering the holy places.'

The Governor of Makkah Region stressed that the government and people of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia spare no effort to develop ways and means of servicing the pilgrims in the holy places, emphasizing that the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia under the leadership of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques will make every effort to make Hajj journey easy and comfortable.

With respect to developing the projects of the Grand Mosque, Prince Khalid Al-Faisal said that a plan including a comprehensive development of Makkah City and the holy sites is expected to be completed during the next few months prior to being submitted to the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques for final approval.

Prince Khalid Al-Faisal also said that there is a considerable coordination between the Ministry of Hajj and the ministries and institutions of Islamic countries that are concerned with Hajj and pilgrims. Such coordination aims to upgrading the awareness of pilgrims about how to perform Hajj rituals.

Regarding the number of pilgrims this year, Prince Khalid Al-Faisal said that the officially announced number of pilgrims is 2.8 million in addition to what we think is a large number of illegal pilgrims.

With regard to limiting the number of pilgrims, Prince Khalid Al-Faisal said 'For pilgrims coming from outside Saudi Arabia, there is an agreement and a plan agreed upon among the Islamic countries specifying a quota for each country according to its population. But the problem is that this percentage is increasing every year due to increasing population growth in those countries. I do not know how long we will be able to receive such increase in each year. The other problem that must be resolved quickly is illegal pilgrims from inside the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.'

Prince Khalid Al-Faisal said that there are a number of issues that need to be solved, including the practice of squatting, infiltrators, illegal pilgrims, wastes, housing and transport. 'The most important issue that must be solved quickly and that is of interest to the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques is the problem of congestion when pilgrims leave Mina for Makkah as well as the congestion around and inside the Grand Mosque', Prince Khalid Al-Faisal added.

With regard to Hajj fictitious companies, Prince Khalid Al-Faisal said 'An owner of such fictitious companies was arrested. The penalties imposed on the owners of these companies are less than the desired level. We will not tolerate whoever neglects the regulations or uses fraud to blackmail the pilgrims.'

On the cost of Hajj and whether the private sector is sharing the Saudi government this burden, he confirmed that, except the contribution of Mobily communication company in the illumination campaign that was adopted by Makkah Governorate this year, all the costs were shouldered by the Saudi government.

He said the government spends imaginable amount of money in the service of pilgrims, citing the erection of fire-proof tents, building of hospitals and roads, construction of the train which are estimated to have cost billions of Saudi Riyals in addition to costs of electricity, water and wages of thousands of personnel who were recruited to control and serve the pilgrims.

Giving examples, he said there are more than 20,000 workers in the field of health services, more than 140,000 in the field of security in addition to other free services at the inland posts, sea ports and airports and along express roads inside the country.

Prince Khalid Al-Faisal disclosed that work on the pilgrims lounge at Jeddah King Abdulaziz International Airport (KAIA) was completed. He described the facility as one of the state-of-the-art of its kind in the world, reducing the time for a pilgrim between disembarking the plane and boarding the bus to take him/her to their temporary residence from between four to five hours to from 40 to 45 minutes.

He went on to say that this period could further be reduced to less than half an hour once the pilgrim's personal information were electronically taken by Saudi embassies and consulates abroad, hoping that this service would be introduced next year or the year after.

He hinted to a plan to implement an aggressive development for KAIA to put it in the level of the world's most advanced airports.

On the phenomenon of air carriers who violate their agreements with pilgrims, leaving them lagging behind in airport corridors, he pointed out to the penalties prescribed by the same agreements, a matter he said is common even in daily flights.

On the new Mashaer train experiment, he quoted some passengers as expressing their pleasure of the facility and he described it as very successful as it managed to reduce the journey from a place to another from a trek one to a few-minute travel, disclosing that this year the train was operated at a capacity of not more than 33 % to 35 % which will turn to 100% next year.

In response to a question on ways to end the sufferings of pedestrians in Hajj areas, he withheld to say whether it could be solved in one shot. What I could say is that a study including comprehensive developments in Makkah and the Mashaer places would soon be completed and submitted to the monarch for approval, the Governor of Makkah and Chairman of Hajj Central Committee said.

The Governor of Makkah and Chairman of Hajj Central Committee expressed thanks to and appreciation of all personnel who worked in Hajj, giving good examples for Saudis who put themselves at the disposal of the guests of Allah Almighty.

The press conference was attended by Prince Bandar bin Khalid Al-Faisal; Prince Sultan bin Khalid Al-Faisal; Prince Saud bin Khalid Al-Faisal, and senior officials.

Meanwhile, Kingdom's Mufti Sheikh Abdulaziz bin Abdullah Al Al-Sheikh, who is also Chairman of the Senior Ulema Commission, the Religious Research Administration and Ifta expressed pride of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia for the giant projects it has built in the service of pilgrims.

In an interview with Al-Ikhbariya (News Report) TV channel, Al Al-Sheikh lauded the speech delivered by Prince Naif bin Abdulaziz, Second Deputy Premier and Minister of Interior, who is also Chairman of Hajj Supreme Committee.

Al Al-Sheikh urged the media representatives taking part in this year's Hajj to show strict and fair coverage.

This country has exerted unprecedented efforts in history, so we request the Ministry of Culture and Information to help the foreign media to personally watch these two holy mosques' projects and reflect what they have seen to their readers, listeners and viewers.

In Jeddah, in the presence of the Minister of Culture and Information, Dr. Abdulaziz bin Muhaydin Khoja and Prince Turki Ibn Sultan Ibn Abdulaziz, Assistant Minister of Culture and Information, the Ministry of Culture and Information held a reception ceremony in honor of its guests of the mass media who are participating in the coverage of Hajj rituals.

In an address at the ceremony, Dr. Khoja said that thanks to the directives and the patronage of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, King Abdullah Ibn Abdulaziz Al Saud, the Crown Prince, and the Second Deputy Premier for the success of this year's Hajj season.

He stressed that that the service of the Two Holy Cities as well as pilgrims come on top of the missions which the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has the honor to perform.

The Minister of Culture and Information said, 'What enhances the positive impact of the media is to take advantage of the technological revolution in the field of mass media. Allah Almighty has blessed us by the establishment of the two satellite channels one for the Holy Qura'n from the Holy Mosque of Makkah and another one for Prophetic Sunnah from the Prophet's Mosque in Madinah . The two channels were established in implementation of the King's order a year ago. Since their inception, the two channels have been linking Muslims in various parts of the world to the Two Holy Mosques around the clock''.

He noted that the King has directed to increase the broadcasting hours of ''Islam Call Radio'' from 4 to 12 hours daily as of the upcoming lunar month of Muharram, 1432H., adding that special waves will be assigned for this Radio to broadcast for 24 hours in the near future.