Saturday, December 22, 2007

Pilgrims Leave Mina

Saturday, 22 December 2007
By Abdullah Al-Hariri and Adel Al-Malki
Saudi Gazette

MINA - The five-day Haj ended Friday as pilgrims left the tent city for Makkah after pelting the Jamrat.

The last day of Tashreeq (stay in Mina) had always been the most crucial day for authorities, because many stampedes in the past had occurred on this day. However, the new Jamrat project and proper safety measures made this an incident-free Haj.

Authorities have completed more than half of a massive infrastructure project which will cost more than $1 billion. Pilgrims can now throw stones on three levels and a fourth is under construction.

Policemen Friday imposed a strict one-way system, so that pilgrims who have completed the rite do not mix with those moving in the other direction. They also insisted that people leave their bags outside.

Major General, Saad Al-Khelaiwi, a Public Security official, said pilgrims started flocking to the Jamrat area from the early hours of Friday morning.

"Every thing went according to our plans," Al-Khelaiwi said. The rush hour was around 12 o'clock, but the presence of huge number of security forces helped organize the movement.

Minister of Health Dr Hamad Al-Manie said in a press conference Friday afternoon that the Haj was free of any epidemic diseases or other major cases.

Pilgrims were seen wiping tears and raising their hands in supplication to thank Allah after performing the fifth pillar of Islam.

"These are tears of joy," Fathi Mohammed, an Egyptian pilgrim living in Makkah, said, wiping the rivulets of briny liquid from his cheeks.

Fathi, who has performed Haj in the past also, said: "This year, it was a successful season if we take in consideration the great arrangements and the expansion in the Jamrat area."

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