Saudi government praises Malaysian pilgrims for being cleanest

Sofea Chok Suat Ling

MAKKAH: The Saudi Arabian government has praised Malaysian haj pilgrims' civic mindedness and called on other countries to emulate them.

Saudi vice minister of haj and umrah Dr Abdulfattah Suliman Mashat said Malaysia was the only country which cleaned up its tents in Arafah and Mina, and the open area in Muzdalifah where pilgrims spent half a night during Masyair.

He had requested for photos from Tabung Haji (TH) so that it could be used as a sample for other countries to follow in subsequent haj seasons.

"Keeping clean is part of our duty as Muslims. We would like to thank TH and Malaysian pilgrims for making this possible.

"We are also in discussions with TH on how to implement a green concept next year," he told Malaysian media after meeting with top TH officials at the ministry here.

(File pix) Malaysian pilgrims cleaning up their tents in Mina. Pix courtesy of TH

Present were 6and Deputy head (pilgrims’ welfare) of the 1439H Malaysian haj season Nurrin Anuwar Shamsuddin.

TH had launched a cleanliness campaign and massive gotong-royong exercise during Masyair. Many pilgrims participated headed by TH volunteers called Sahabat Maktab.

The cleanliness campaign aimed to ensure tent and open sites occupied by Malaysians served as an example to be emulated by other countries.

Masyair refers to the massive movement of pilgrims from Makkah to Arafah for wukuf, onwards to Muzdalifah for half a night to pick up pebbles, and then Mina for the stoning ritual.

On the Kingdom’s future plans for the pilgrimage, he said that it would employ information technology and develop the holy sites.

Abdulfattah said the transformation of the haj and umrah formed part of Vision 2030 of Saudi Arabia.

Vision 2030 includes a strategic and comprehensive plan to develop the sector to allow the largest number of Muslims possible to perform haj and umrah.

Abdulfattah said the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman Abdulaziz al-Saud and Crown Prince Mohammed Salman, under Saudi's Vision 2030, wanted to make the haj and umrah easier for all and provide pilgrims with high-quality services.

A plan, he said, has already been drafted to develop the Mina, Muzdalifah and Arafah sites.

(File pix) Malaysian pilgrims left their tents in Mina as clean as they found it. Pix courtesy of TH

The other initiatives include improving relevant infrastructure, and building public transportation.

He said the new high-speed "Haramain Express" train would start commercial operations next year.

"The pre-operational trips have been very successful."

The Haramain high-speed rail project, also known as the "Western railway" or "Makkah–Madinah high-speed railway", is a 453km-long high-speed inter-city rail transport system in Saudi Arabia.

It links the cities of Madinah and Makkah via King Abdullah Economic City (KAEC), as well as Jeddah's King Abdulaziz International Airport (KAIA), using 449.2 km of main line and a 3.75km branch connection to KAIA.

The service is expected to carry up to 60 million passengers a year, including millions of haj and umrah pilgrims. Construction started in March 2009.

Using electric propulsion that will drive the trains to an operating speed of 300kph, the express train is expected to cut travel time between the cities of Makkah and Madinah to under two hours, instead of six hours by bus.

Abdulfattah said the Kingdom would be encouraging pilgrims to use the Haramain Express when it was fully operational. © New Straits Times Press (M) Bhd