Hajj, the Muslim pilgrimage to Mecca in Saudhi Arabia begins today and the event, perceived as the “religious high point of a Muslim’s life”, sees every year millions of Muslims from all over the world to fulfill one of the five pillars of faith.
This year’s hajj is expected to fall between Oct. 2 and Oct. 7, based on the Islamic lunar calendar. Estimates are based on expected visibility of the hilal (waxing crescent moon following a new moon) and may vary according to location.
Saudi Arabia is making preparations to host 2.5 million Muslims as is the custom every year and 136,000 from India are visiting this year. There are 300 buildings in Mecca for Indian pilgrims, 100 buildings in Madina and 28 make-shift camps in Mina, said the Indian Consulate in Jeddah. In all, 1,36,020 Indians will perform Haj and 1,00,020 of them are through the Haj committee and 36,000 through private tour operators.
Indian Hajj Accommodation Locater App:
In addition, the Indian consulate in Jeddah has released the Indian Hajj Accommodation Locater App, a new locator app for Haj pilgrims in Saudi Arabai to guide them through the streets and the Indian consulate to help those stranded as it helps to loacate their accommodation immediately.
Indian Consul General B S Mubarak told PTI: “We have taken the coordinates of each of the building in Mecca, Madina and the camps in Mina and have linked it with the data of pilgrims who would stay in a particular building or camp. When we feed the pilgrim’s number or passport number in the software, it gives the details of the pilgrim and shows the location of his or her accommodation on the Google Map,” he said.
It was a huge hit with over 9,600 downloads so far from Google play and another 1,000 from iTunes, Mubarak said. Indian pilgrims are not familiar with the region and the language and often stray away from the route in Mecca, Madina and Mina.
Even if pilgrims do not have smartphones, volunteers and officials or other pilgrims with the help of the app can direct the stranded visitors to their exact location, Mubarak said. But the problem could be of different type this year as Saudi authorities upset with “Selfie Fever” are likely to deny entry to those with smartphones, which may defeat the purpose of the app.
Meanwhile, the visitors are jumping around with “Hajj Selfies” in Saudi Arabia, which is intriguing the Muslim clerics. As such, Saudi authorities forbid taking photographs at the Holy Mosque in Mecca and the courtyard around it. Still, many pilgrims usually sneak their phones in but this year, in view of the objection from the clerics, the entry could be denied for those with smartphones, said reports.