From the news desk

Mina now a ghost city, awaits next year’s pilgrims

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As curtains came down on this year’s Haj pilgrimage, more than 160,000 tents in Mina have been dismantled. These tents housed close to two million pilgrims for about 144 hours.

With tears in eyes at leaving the city of tents, about 500,000 pilgrims departed Mina for Makkah on Sunday, the last day of Tashriq, for their accommodation on their way homes or to Madinah to pay homage to Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) and pray in his mosque.

Mina, which was bustling with life with millions of pilgrims spending about five days in it, now looks deserted and much more like a ghost city than the cosmopolitan it had been though short-lived.

More than 13,000 workers began cleaning the holy sites from the residues and the leftovers to keep them neat until next year.

Close to 600,000 pilgrims have now assembled in Madinah while about 70,000 have left the Kingdom for their respective homes until Sunday on board 210 flights.

Turki Al-Dheeb, director of information and public relations of Saudi Arabian Airlines, said on Saturday, Saudia operated 66 flights to various countries carrying 20,000 pilgrims and on Sunday it flew 144 flights carrying about 50,000 pilgrims.

He said the 14 lounges in the Haj Terminal have been converted into departure facilities to accommodate the large number of departing pilgrims.

Dheeb said the terminal can accommodate a daily average of 91,000 pilgrims and operate about 312 flights. “There are about 7,000 employees in the terminal consisting of security men and Passports Department (Jawazat) personnel serving the pilgrims and completing their travel procedures in a very short time.

Meanwhile Jawazat has warned pilgrims against overstaying and said anyone caught in the Kingdom after the expiry of his/her Haj visa will be punished according to the rules and regulations.

The Jawazat also warned Haj companies that they would have to pay a fine of SR100,000 for each overstaying pilgrim. It said the overstaying pilgrims will be fingerprinted and sent to Al-Shimaisi detention center for deportation.

The General Authority of Civil Aviation (GACA), on its part, warned Haj companies against tampering with the travel schedules and said this would only be accepted at times of emergencies and bad weather conditions.

It also asked them to make sure that the gathering of departing pilgrims at the airports should not exceed three hours. Saudi Gazette

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