Minister of Pilgrimage Iyad Madani announced on Saudi Television today the completion of all preparations for the upcoming 1424 Hajj pilgrimage. He added that Iraqi pilgrims continue to receive special attention from the Saudi authorities. Four thousand are expected to arrive overland through the Ar’ar border post, and more than 12,000 entry visas have been issued in Kuwait to Iraqi pilgrims traveling by air. In his television interview, Minister Madani confirmed that studies are under way to set up tents on hilltops in Mina in order to accommodate more pilgrims, but for the moment, he said, there is no way to increase Mina's capacity unless pilgrims agree to stay outside the valley toward Aziziya, which although legally an extension of Mina, is not acceptable to many religious scholars.
The Ministry of Health is dispatching three health teams to the Holy Sites to monitor the situation of infectious diseases, see to the sanitary environment, and organize effective health education programs among the pilgrims arriving for the 1424 Hajj. The most common health problems faced by pilgrims are food poisoning, influenza and meningitis. The Ministry is distributing pamphlets in 17 languages to inform pilgrims of basic hygiene measures and to advise against extended stays in overcrowded areas in order to reduce the spread of respiratory diseases. Visas and permits for pilgrimage are only issued on production of valid vaccination certificates. Vaccination against meningitis is valid for three years, but must be taken at least 10 days before departure for the pilgrimage.
Meanwhile, Saudi Arabian Airlines (SAA) will carry about 921,000 pilgrims on 3,107 flights from 68 cities around the world. This is an increase of 22 percent over last year, and includes some 93,000 pilgrims from nine Iranian cities. Also, the Ministry of Pilgrimage has announced awards for the best media coverage, the best investigative report, and the best photograph of this year’s Hajj; and awards for the three best field service groups under the tawafa (guide) organizations, and the three best agents serving domestic pilgrims.