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Ministers launch new and enhanced Hajj and Umrah services

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MAKKAH: Saudi authorities on Tuesday launched a number of initiatives and enhanced services designed to improve and enrich the experiences of Hajj pilgrims.

Eight projects were unveiled by Minister of Hajj and Umrah Dr. Mohammed Salih Bentin and his deputy, Dr. Abdul Fattah Mashat. They include: a smart Hajj platform; a service-supervision initiative to improve housing by adding additional living space and organizing bus trips; a pilgrims grouping program that uses an electronic system to manage and monitor crowds; a project to increase capacity as part of which a site in Mina has been cleared to house fully equipped tents; and an initiative to improve food services and expand the provision of ready meals at holy sites.

In addition, a “Be an Assistant” initiative encourages people to volunteer to help pilgrims, while an electronic system has been developed to measure the readiness of holy sites to welcome and serve visitors. Finally, a “pilgrimage without a bag” program will make life easier for pilgrims by transporting their luggage from their accommodation to the Hajj terminal at King Abdul Aziz International Airport.

Bentin said that under the leadership of King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, Saudi Arabia is undergoing great advances in many fields as part of the Vision 2030 national transformation plan, and that the ministry of Hajj and Umrah is contributing through the launch of its new projects and initiatives.

He highlighted the smart Hajj platform, which offers a range of advanced and enhanced services to help pilgrims, including an online electronic visa-application process that removes the need to visit an embassy. The platform also includes a “Smart Hajj” card that holds a pilgrim’s personal, medical and housing information, and can be quickly and easily read using electronic scanners. The card also uses near-field communication to provide assistance to pilgrims who are lost and control entry and exit to Hajj tents.

Hajj Bank cards, meanwhile, will be issued by a local bank, allowing pilgrims to deposit money when they arrive in the Kingdom. It will be accepted by all local traders, and help prevent money being lost or stolen.

In a first at the holy sites, Internet of Things technology has been implemented. It consists of six transmitting stations and 350 sensors places throughout Mina and at the Jamrat bridge. This network will gather and analyze data about overcrowding and the movement of pilgrims. Crowds and movement will also be monitored by a network of high-definition cameras. They data that is collected by these systems will be analyzed at a dedicated monitoring center.

(Source: Arab News)

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