Road-cooling tech will provide Hajj pilgrims with respite from heat

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Jeddah - Yasmine El Tohamy - MAKKAH: Each year, large numbers of Saudi youths from all regions of the Kingdom come together to support Hajj pilgrims on their spiritual journey, with a wide range of initiatives ensuring that worshippers are treated as honored guests.

Pilgrims witness the creativity and dedication of the volunteers as they work tirelessly, utilizing their expertise, skills, and talents, alongside the accumulated experience of their supervisors, to deliver high-quality services to worshippers.

As part of Saudi Vision 2030, the Kingdom is encouraging volunteer activity with the goal of reaching 1 million volunteers by 2030.

Volunteering in Makkah involves a wide range of services, including guiding pilgrims to and from the Grand Mosque, distributing water bottles and free meals, and interpretation for non-Arabic speakers. (SPA)

Volunteering in Makkah involves a wide range of services, including guiding pilgrims to and from the Grand Mosque, airport transportation, distributing water bottles and free meals, translation for non-Arabic speakers, and overseeing all pilgrim services.

Nawaf Khayyat, chairman of the Makkah Guests Association, told Arab News that over 30 associations serve pilgrims.

The association, in its fourth year, has the support of Saudi authorities and provides wide-ranging services to pilgrims. It has launched more than 40 initiatives, with the number volunteers on the national platform rising to more than 1,700.

FASTFACT

Year-round programs focus on training tour guides and qualifying female workers to serve pilgrims during Hajj.

Khayyat said that the focus during this year’s Hajj season is on three key programs. The first, “Qiladah,” aims to educate bus drivers transporting pilgrims with the participation of university academics. The second is an enrichment program designed for tour guides, offering various educational initiatives.

The third program involves cultural guides working with domestic pilgrim companies in cooperation with the Coordination Council for Domestic Pilgrims. This program is developed in partnership with Umm Al-Qura University, the Hajj and Umrah Gift Association, and several other entities. It is designed to equip cultural guides with extensive knowledge and skills for interacting with the pilgrims, with over 200 cultural guides in attendance.

Year-round programs also focus on training tour guides and qualifying female workers to serve pilgrims during Hajj.

Ali Al-Youbi, a member of Al-Houda Charitable Association, said that their activities are centered at Al-Juhfah, a designated location for pilgrims entering a sacred state of Ihram. Preparations began at the end of May to welcome worshippers arriving from King Abdulaziz International Airport.

Over 150 buses, carrying pilgrims from Iraq, Syria, and African countries such as Niger and Nigeria, were received by the association. They provided essential services to pilgrims, including water distribution, refreshments such as coffee and tea, as well as flowers, sun-protective umbrellas, and containers to keep water cool.

Al-Youbi said that the association has constructed a photography gate based on a proposal from the Ministry of Hajj and Umrah. The gate serves to commemorate the memories of arriving pilgrims, and features greetings in English, French, Arabic, and Persian.

During the Hajj season, the association focuses on feeding and providing water to pilgrims in Muzdalifah, Arafat, and Mina, in coordination with the Sqaia and Rvada Committee in Makkah. Their goal is to distribute 1 million water bottles and an equal number of meals over the course of six days. Additionally, they offer guidance and assistance to lost pilgrims.

Many professionals, such as doctors, teachers and engineers, join voluntary associations during Hajj to serve pilgrims in Makkah, attending to their needs, treating health issues, and providing the necessary amenities for a comfortable pilgrimage.

Jameela Al-Hathli, a female volunteer, said that voluntary work in Makkah has its own special character. She has been volunteering for three years, caring for pilgrims, providing gifts, attending to their health, educating them about rituals, and working in tourist guidance.

She said that initiatives designed to serve pilgrims provide round-the-clock care, guidance, and support. This includes answering queries, taking worshippers on tours inside and outside Makkah, and directing and helping them overcome obstacles they may face in the holy sites. Volunteer teams also provided courses in first aid and CPR, she added.

By offering this comprehensive assistance, the initiatives aim to enrich the pilgrimage experience, and extend a helping hand throughout the journey.

Al-Hathli said that voluntary work should come from a place of love and not merely for appearance or recognition. Volunteers focus on creating a warm and welcoming atmosphere for the pilgrims, ensuring that they feel appreciated and cared for.

To bridge language barriers and showcase authentic Saudi hospitality, the initiatives rely on volunteer translators proficient in various languages. This enables effective communication, and demonstrates the genuine spirit of welcome and hospitality that pilgrims can expect to receive. From the moment they arrive until their departure, pilgrims are accompanied, supported, and treated as honored guests.

 

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