Minister of Interior and Chairman of the Higher Pilgrimage Committee Prince Nayef bin Abdulaziz has ordered the period for issuing permits to citizens to perform Hajj this year to be extended up to Friday March 2, 2001. The stipulation remains that performance of Hajj is restricted to once every five years for all pilgrims resident in the Kingdom.
Meanwhile, a number of facilities for Hajj 1421 are in place, including eight locations that pilgrims can telephone for assistance, and a number of guidance centers concerned with ritual. Around 1,000 wheelchairs are available to enable the elderly and indisposed to perform tawaf [circumambulation of the Holy Ka'abah] and sa'ee [transit between Safa and Marwa]. Over 1.6 million pilgrims can now be accommodated in fireproof tents that are fully equipped with fire extinguishers as well as air conditioning and lighting. Makkah has 1,897 hospital beds, and in an emergency can increase that number to 2,710. There are 877 hospital beds at Mina that can be increased to 1,227, and 484 at Arafat, that can be increased to 1,417. In addition, the Red Crescent Society has ready 2,000 personnel and 317 ambulances.
Saudi Television is ready with a number of pilgrimage news, religious awareness and guidance programs on both its channels. Channel One will have 24-hour live transmission featuring the tarwiyah [water collection day], the ascension to Mount Arafat, and all the attendant rituals. Channel Two will cover the Day of Standing at Arafat starting at 8 a.m. in the morning, in various languages. Transmissions will be sent by satellite to networks all over the world, with simultaneous translation into English.
Saudi Radio has already begun its Hajj coverage, and is offering special programs in many languages, including English and French. These will also be carried by a number of other Arab and Islamic radio stations.