The holiest site in the Islamic faith is preparing for more than two million worshippers to gather for one of the world’s largest annual pilgrimages.
Mecca, on Saudi Arabia’s Red Sea coast, has announced it has finished preparations for the hajj, a mandatory journey in which every Muslim must visit the holy city.
More than 30,000 workers, guides and security staff have been drafted in to the city to manage the huge influx of visitors, who will be arriving via 14,000 domestic and international flights to be greeted by temperatures of up to 44C.
The city, with a population of around two million itself, will almost triple in size as hotels are filled and additional air-conditioned tents are set up in the desert to accomodate guests from every continent.
The official Saudi Press Agency (SPA) revealed the operations in place, notably ‘the presence of more than 17,000 civil defence officers and more than 3,000 mechanisms to deal with all threats to public safety.’
Khalid bin Faisal Al Saud, Governor of Makkah Province, said that ‘the Kingdom and all its governmental and civil institutions have harnessed all possibilities and equipment to offer service and comfort to the pilgrims.’
According to agency, 300 different calls to prayer will be received through 100 preachers and 27 interpreters.
The Great Mosque itself has also had to expand, with the creation of 210 doors and 28 escalators being installed to help with a steady flow of worshippers moving anti-clockwise around the Mosque.
Even for ‘hygiene’, the government have increased the number of workers to more than 13,250 workers in Mecca and other holy sites, to work 24 hours a day.
Despite the huge number of pilgrims attending every year, the Hajj can be an extremely expensive journey to make.
Low-cost pilgrimages from inside the Middle East can start at around $800, but some travel groups operating from the US offer 5-star packages for a 12-day trip at $11,900.
The Hajj season begins this year in early August.