Tuesday, 27 November 2007
By Adel Al-Malki
JEDDAH - The Ministry of Haj has banned so-called "five star" Haj pilgrim camps, saying the wasted space used by luxury pilgrims is putting too much of a crunch on the record pilgrim base expected this year. The guide released by the ministry for this year's Haj included a directive that the number of pilgrims in each camp should be no less than 70 percent of the officially approved capacity, specifically aiming to reduce the number of five-star camps this year - some of which entertain far fewer than the new limit.
"These camps set aside large tracts for wealthy businessmen who wish to perform Haj ... the rule also prevents institutions from accepting additional unscheduled individuals," the guide said.
Another directive prevents the use of buses licensed by companies to transport pilgrims for private purposes such as a charter for wealthy individuals. The plan identifies each bus authorized to shuttle during Haj and, more directly, the personal information of the pilgrims, to greater regulate the industry and cut down on luxury Haj.
On the other hand, the guide set requirements for all Haj buses, from "one star" up. All buses must be mechanically checked and certified able to perform the shuttle and each bus should have a guide familiar with the process who can ensure that the pilgrims perform the steps and return home at night safely.
"The buses should have all means of safety and comfort for passengers, including that the side windows should be of the type that can be opened and shut easily," the guide stated. "Posters should be draped on all sides of the bus, but especially the left side, that show the name of the company licensed to serve pilgrims and its license number."