x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Haj goes high-tech to ensure pilgrims' safety

The annual Haj pilgrimage that draws millions of the faithful to Mecca has gone high-tech this year.

RIYADH // The annual Haj pilgrimage that draws millions of the faithful to Mecca has gone high-tech this year.

The Saudi authorities have incorporated the latest electronic aides to help control the vast crowds of worshippers.

Coping with the world's largest annual human assembly poses a security headache for Saudi Arabian authorities.

The ministry of religious affairs sends 3.25 million text messages each day to the mobile phones of pilgrims to inform them of correct procedures for the Haj rites so as to "prevent that which is harmful", according to ministry official Sheikh Talal Al Uqail, cited by the official SPA news agency.

The messages, managed by more than 3,000 clerics, translators and administrators, aim to correct "errors" made by some pilgrims, the report said.

At the same time, Saudi authorities follow and manage the movement of the swarms of pilgrims by means of electronic monitors which track each and every pilgrim during the five-day Haj, according to the Saudi minister of Haj, Fuad Al Farsi.

The religious police also posted videos and documents for the guidance of pilgrims on video-sharing website YouTube.

For the first time, the Haj was being streamed live on YouTube in cooperation with the Saudi government.

More than two million Muslims flocked to Mount Arafat and its surrounding plain on Saturday, which marked the peak day of the Haj.

There were no immediate reports of major incidents as security officials focused on crowd control. "Things are going well and according to plan," said an interior ministry spokesman, General Mansur Al Turki said.

The Haj is one of the five pillars of Islam and must be performed at least once in a lifetime by all those who are able to make the journey.